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Nov 15 2011

Warning: this story is full of win

Sometimes the stuff I blog about gets me pretty down. There’s a lot of ugliness in humanity, and a lot of things to despair about. The ever-persistent stain of racism, rampant and unabashed misogyny, the easy lies of conservatism… it’s enough to wring a tear from even my stony gaze, and I have to reach for my supply of otter pictures.

Then again, sometimes a story comes along and completely cheers me up:

Poland’s first transsexual member of parliament has been sworn in, in what has traditionally been a socially conservative country. Fifty-seven-year-old Anna Grodzka was previously a man, known as Krzysztof, before having surgery in Thailand.

Okay, that’s pretty cool. Poland has made a progressive milestone by electing someone who, no matter how qualified, would not have been able to serve in office a generation ago. That’s pretty cheering. But wait, there’s more…

Poland’s first openly gay MP was also sworn in, following the general election in October.

Oh wow! Two major milestones. Poland has certainly made major strides, considering the immense social pressure that must be stacked against any openly gay person in a place as blighted with churches as Poland is…

Analysts say the electoral success of the party they both represent is a sign of the waning influence of the Church. The party, the Palikot Movement, has taken a strong anti-clerical stance, criticising Roman Catholic priests who get involved in politics.

It surprised many observers by winning 10% of the vote in the general election, making it the third largest political grouping in the Polish parliament.

There is a major political party in Poland with a strong anti-clerical stance? There isn’t a major political party in Canada with that kind of platform, and we are a fairly irreligious bunch. Ooh, there’s a party in my pants, and my anti-theism is invited! What other delights could this magical article possibly contain?

Palikot campaigned for the legalisation of abortion, gay marriage and marijuana.

If this article was a dude, I would gay marry it, get high with it, and then refuse to carry the resulting pregnancy to term (somehow… science will catch up). Women’s reproductive rights, sensible drug policy, and equal protections for LGBT people? In Poland? I love it.

Is it weird that stories like this make me stupidly happy? When you spend your days poring over the hateful, spiteful and stupid aspects of humanity, you’ve got to take your wins where you can find them. It is a rare occasion when this many come as part of the same story.

What the hell, we’ll do an otter picture anyway:

“I always KNEW you were mom’s favourite… :(“

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27 comments

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  1. 1
    PSG

    “If this article was a dude, I would gay marry it, get high with it, and then refuse to carry the resulting pregnancy to term (somehow… science will catch up).”

    Hahahaha… Most excellent. After coming from Greta’s, I needed a good laugh. And some otters. :)

  2. 2
    Ringo

    I know it’s a quote, but it’s not very respectful to bring up transgender people’s former names. We’ve gone through a lot to distance ourselves from those former names and lives, and while Anna seems to be open about her transgender status, honestly, it just rubs me the wrong way. Why does it matter what her name used to be?

    Other than that quibble it’s nice to hear some good news. I’d sign up for that party in a heartbeat.

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    I don’t know if Anna made her life as Krzysztof a part of her campaign (if my name had that many ‘z’s in it, I would), or if she has a particular aversion to associating with her old life. If that’s not the case, and she really was looking to ‘re-start’ her life, then you’re absolutely right it is quite rude. Providing her former name might not ‘matter’ in an objective sense, but it provides a bit of colour to the story (not that it really needs such enhancement, I suppose).

  4. 4
    Leo Buzalsky

    Completely off topic, you probably don’t even pronounce the z’s in that name…well, maybe the second one, but not the first. (So, it’d be like Kriz-tof.) Because I have a Polish name and grew up in a community around other Polish descendents, I know that there must be rules (though I don’t know what those rules are!) for when you pronounce the z’s and when you don’t. …Anyway, great for Poland!

  5. 5
    Brian Macker

    “the easy lies of conservatism”

    What about the easy lies of communism and socialism?

  6. 6
    Crommunist

    There are no communists or socialists currently forming major world policy. While I recognize your right to be a contentious dick, I wish you would go do it elsewhere.

  7. 7
    otrame

    Love the otters. And Brian, honey, you need to get out more.

  8. 8
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Such as….. ?

  9. 9
    martha

    Me too. Ginormous grin.

  10. 10
    abeille

    Baby Otter!

  11. 11
    Robert B.

    As I understand it, it would also be considered rude and even inaccurate to say that Ms. Grodzka “used to be a man.” The trans folk I know or whose writings I’ve read would phrase it more like “she used to be biologically male” or “she was raised as a boy.” (I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, Ringo, since I gather that you’d know it better than I do, except that it came to mind when I read your comment.)

    On the other hand, since Ms. Grodzka is a politician, maybe her former name is relevant because she was known as a public figure or published influential writing under that name. That’s just a guess, though. It could also be that the journalist is just insensitive, or ignorant of the etiquette.

  12. 12
    Jadehawk

    yeah, you don’t pronounce those z’s; they’re part of a two-letter sound (like sh in english)

  13. 13
    Jadehawk

    Leo, the “rules” are simply that the following digraphs stand for one sound: ch, cz, dz, dź, dż, rz, sz

  14. 14
    Aliasalpha

    Okay so poland has excellent internet connections, progressive government and gog.com… yeah fuck living in australia anymore, I’m moving!

  15. 15
    Brian Macker

    “There are no communists or socialists currently forming major world policy.”

    Do you actually believe that statement?

    You can’t think of any socialists that are in power even in the country you choose to write about, Poland? You are unaware that all of Europe is in the grip of an undemocratic socialist structure called the EU, and that many countries there are on the brink of economic collapse precisely because of socialist policy? You aren’t aware of Venezuela, China, or North Korea?

    “While I recognize your right to be a contentious dick, I wish you would go do it elsewhere.”

    One persons “contentious dick” is another persons skeptic. I’m skeptical of a lot of the stuff you *seem* to embraced as true here at your blog, like communism, and privilege theory. Stuff that as far as I can tell is just plain wrong. Also stuff that has been polluting the skeptic community as of late. So I like to debate such claims.

    I’m just trying to determine what you believe here. You are the one doing the communicating on this blog. Your language has a lot of implicit hate of certain out-groups to your in-groups, for things that politicians of all persuasions tend to do. In fact, politicians lie for known reasons. It’s next to impossible to get elected when you tell you true beliefs because hot button issues are so varied. Thus most lie, even if by lies of omission, and even the honest ones.

    I’m not even sure if the area of this particular article requires lies from certain conservatives. Some of them honestly believe that god doesn’t like homosexuality. It’s not like they secretly know the truth and are faking it.

    On the other hand there are pro-gay conservatives, and your language would tend to alienate them. They are not conservatives because they believe in easy lies. It’s way more sophisticated than you imagine. I think in part because you are totally ignorant of their actual ideological positions, and instead seem to be working against some caricature.

    Socialists and communists taken world-wide aren’t exactly non-racists and pro-gay either. Che was famously a racist for example. Communist China is notoriously racist.

    There is a vast quantity of information that you seem not to even be aware of, so I can sort of understand why you have the opinions you do. On the other hand some of the stuff, like that politicians all lie, should be quite apparent to you. If you were fair minded you wouldn’t use that to single out one side.

  16. 16
    Brian Macker

    Are you serious? Just read any statement by a representative of the EU on their economy, or anything coming out of Chavez’s mouth. That’s just scratching the surface. Ever hear of a place called North Korea?

    I could go on for a very long time with this.

    It’s not just the politicians either. The ideologies themselves are packed with “easy lies”. Since ideologies don’t have the ability to believe or not, I’m using “lie” here to mean falsehood. Communism, for example, contains the lie that there is a distinct class of capitalists vs. workers, when in fact people are actually both to one degree or another. It is only by an artificial separation that Marx is able to come to the ridiculous conclusions he came to, and ones that when put into practice lead to mass starvation.

  17. 17
    Brian Lynchehaun

    “You are unaware that all of Europe is in the grip of an undemocratic socialist structure called the EU, ”

    While I disagree with Ian that there are no socialists currently forming major world policy, your above statement is a lie.

    As a European, as a citizen of Ireland, you are going to need to provide me with some serious citations and references in order to explain how the EU is undemocratic.

    “that many countries there are on the brink of economic collapse precisely because of socialist policy?”

    Reality, we appear to have a disconnection. Please try again.

    Problem caused by bullshit mortgages, and banks being over-leveraged due to a *lack* of regulation (also known as “lassiz faire capitalism” or “not socialism”)

    “So I like to debate such claims.”

    Asserting a denial, in stark contrast to reality, is not debate. It’s mere denial. It’s skepticism like Loose Change is skepticism: complete bullshit.

    “Communist China is notoriously racist.”

    China has never been communist. By definition, a communist state is a state in which there is a single class of people. China has had, for a very long time, at least two classes (the haves and the have-nots). Ergo, China was not communist.

    “There is a vast quantity of information that you seem not to even be aware of, so I can sort of understand why you have the opinions you do.”

    Teach us, O Wise One. Share your Secret Hidden Wisdom!

  18. 18
    Brian Lynchehaun

    It is only by an artificial separation that Marx is able to come to the ridiculous conclusions he came to, and ones that when put into practice lead to mass starvation.

    1. I think you’re confusing Marx with Hegel. Marx is basically repackaged Hegel, and pretty much all of Marx’s terms come from Hegel, as does the bulk of his philosophy.

    2. Marx doesn’t require a stark contrast to make his argument. Even if people are in a mixed position, his argument holds.

    3. Um, what? His principles have never been put into practice. Sure, Stalin (and the rest) *claimed* to be putting those principles in the practices. But since when do people take Stalin at his word? A cursory examination shows that Stalin was instituting state capitalism, not communism.

    But hey, if you don’t know the philosophy, it’s unsurprising that your economics, politics and history are also incorrect…

  19. 19
    Crommunist

    You seem to be labouring under the misconception that I am advocating communism, or that because I am not discussing the harms of every single world view that I am not being “fair and balanced”. I have written, on several occasions, about why conservatism in any form is flawed. While I may not have explained myself in depth enough for your liking, I’ll somehow manage to cry myself to sleep over the fact that I was unable to satisfy the “skepticism” of an obsessive nutjob on the internet.

    I am not criticizing conservative politicians in this post (again, a complete derailment of what this post is about, but you don’t seem to care about staying on topic unless you’re the one deciding the topic – go get your own blog perhaps?) – it was a one-off statement in which I bemoan the strength of conservative ideology, when evidence is stacked against its efficacy. Yes, politicians lie, and there are several posts in which I criticize ostensibly liberal politicians for doing just that. Conservatism is based on lies (or at least false premises). And despite Brian’s (tongue in cheek response) I have no wish for you to mistake this as a platform to teach anything.

  20. 20
    Brian Macker

    Otrame,

    It is very likely that, I accomplished a lot more than you did in the same period of time I’ve been commenting on this blog. I work a full time job, plus maintain a house. I fixed a dehumidifier, mowed a lawn, cleared a 300 ft driveway of leaves twice, repaired the snow blower on my tractor, ate out at two restaurants, took a hike in a nature preserve with my wife, and so forth, all in the time you seem to think I was shut in on the internet. I also went to physical therapy a couple times because I’m doing all this physical activity with a injury. I’m also reading a book.

    My friends just don’t understand how I am able to accomplish all the projects and hobbies I have.

    Of course, you are just trying to demean me like any bully would, and for the many of the same reasons.

  21. 21
    astrosmash

    Yeah, but the article was ABOUT electing previously unelectable people and about the way-cool strides Poland has taken. Ms. grodzka is a politician/ public figure now and is well aware that her past is an open book. The fact that it IS open AND she still got elected is what’s so great. Would you rather have not known of her past and what significance this election has had for Poland and indeed the world?

  22. 22
    Paddy

    Hey, it certainly keeps the hope from being completely beaten out of me.

    I realize social change takes time….but our lifespans are so short! I want sensible, normal, non-theistic society now, before I’m too old to enjoy it.

    That article was quite the trifecta :)

  23. 23
    NatalieB

    Hi hi!

    Have to agree with above points about references to prior names and “used to be a man” being a tad insensitive. I REALLY don’t like the notion that stories on transgender people always include these unnecessary little tidbits of info, like “Sandra, who is a post-op trans woman, now runs an apple pie shop on W. Broadway in Kits. Sandra, who used to be a man by the name of Rolf Fricke, has been a colourful addition to the vibrant, trendy neighbourhood. Sandra, who was born male but has since transitioned to female, finds that the key to ‘her’ success is quality apple pies”.

    Imagine if stories about cis people went like this:

    “Greg, a cisgender non-op man from Maple Ridge, who was born biologically male but identifies as male, has recently gone on record as not caring much for apple pies. Greg, who has not changed his name, and despite being born XY has chosen to not take hormone therapy or undergo genital reconstruction surgery, just finds the time-honoured dessert to be cloying. Greg’s family refused to comment on his cisgendered status.”

    You know the same day Pakistan just approved voting rights for trans folk? Hurray! Heck of a day, yeah?

  24. 24
    Brian Macker

    1. So your reasoning is that even though I made a truthful claim about Marx’s position that I’m confused because Marx wasn’t an original thinker. I don’t see what origins have to do with it. I’m sure Hegel repeated mistakes made by prior thinkers himself. Many of Marx’s mistakes are original. In fact, they are the typical mistakes made by folk economists. I’m aware of Hegel and it’s not important to my point, and certainly doesn’t make me confused.
    2. No, Marx’s arguments do not hold. They are fallacious for many different reasons.
    3. This laughable argument is a non-starter for many reasons. One being that you can’t use it to decide between utopian theories since they can all make the claim of not having been tried. The reality is that ideologies, like Marxism, are collections of theories, and these can independently be tested. Marxism fails on all accounts where it has anything original to say, and much of it isn’t original.

    Marx’s notion, put simply, was that capitalists misappropriated (stole) the capital the own because labor produces all capital. This simplistic conclusion is only true if these are two separate groups. They aren’t.

    As a simple example of capitalism. I could live as a fisherman, save up a month’s worth of dried fish by working harder than I need to survive. That month’s supply of fish is capital.

    I can then convert those capital goods (the dried fish) into other forms of capital goods by adding labor or time, or some combination of the two. I can produce a fishing net while living off the fish for a month. Now that I have the net my productivity goes up during fishing. For the same amount of time fishing I can catch more fish. I am in fact earning from my capital goods at that point because part of my extra earnings is due to the capital goods. Note that the extra is due to the goods not any extra labor. It requires no exploitation.

    If I decide to rent my net out, or hire others to work my net I still deserve a portion of the extra earnings due to savings from my past labor embodied in the net. The only way I can lure them to work for me is if I pay more in fish for their time than they can catch on their own without the net. If having a net means three times as many fish are caught then normal then we could split the catch down the middle. The person I hire instead of earning a normal quota of fish for an hours labor will be getting 1.5 times as much fish. I get the remainer. Two thirds of the increase is due to the capital yet I must trade some portion of that to get the laborer to work for me. So, in fact, under this form of trade laborers get more than they would earn without the capital goods. Which is why laborers of today earn vastly more than in the past when there was little capital.

    Now it doesn’t matter if I actually built the net or not either. If I saved the fish to feed the worker who built the net it is the same thing. This is not the same as buying the net either, since in this case I am providing the fish up front. If someone sells me a net then he (or someone else) must act as a captialist in providing the original capital to fund the period of production of the net.

    Marx gets this totally wrong. He gets lots of other things totally wrong. For example he totally misunderstands the purpose of property rights, and the problems that having property rights solves. In fact, in a sense he doesn’t even understand what property rights are, since in reality someone must hold property rights for any level of economy whatsoever. Someone must hold the right of control over resources. If not the individual then it must be the dictator, or some form of oligarchy. All communist societies are arranged this way, and Marx didn’t originate the idea. Many voluntary communist ideologies (normally patriarcal) existed prior to anything Marx thought up. The problem with most Marxists is they are involuntary communists. They want to force others to follow their choices.

  25. 25
    Brian Macker

    I meant to write, “Many of Marx’s mistakes aren’t original.”

  26. 26
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Your responses to my three points are mere assertions, without anything to back them up. Yawntastic.

    That month’s supply of fish is capital.

    And we’re done.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    ‘Capital’ is the ‘means of production’. This does not mean food. Furthermore ‘capital goods’ are ‘durable goods’, which are used to promote, enable, or enhance production. ‘Dried fish’ are not durable, nor are they used in production at all.

    It doesn’t matter the quantity of words that you use (and you seem to like to use a lot): talking out of your ass is talking out of your ass.

  27. 27
    Brian Macker

    The dried fish in the example were in fact an input into the production of the net. I could not have produced the net without feeding myself during the production of the net. Not only that but the savings had to happen before construction on the net, either in whole or piecemeal.

    There are many different forms of capital. For example, I can pay someone to educate me on some topic that makes me more productive. I pay to feed him from my savings and he helps me convert that capital, into another form of capital, productive knowledge. That is why we speak about human capital.

    Durable goods are but one form of capital. In fact, the drying of the fish actually makes them more durable. However, the savings that is required before production doesn’t necessarily have to be in durable form. It need only last long enough for the period of production. I could for instance have given my extra production of fish on a daily basis to another person to produce the net. Regardless of how I do it I funded the production of the net that even you have to admit is a durable capital good.

    I know you don’t understand any of this and it is precisely because you probably never picked up an economics book other than one by Marx or Keynes. Marx was an absolute ignoramus when it came to actually understanding economics and the results of implementing his ideas show it.

    Regardless of whether you want to label these various forms of savings as “capital” or not, it is quite clear that this example destroys the ridiculous notion that capitalists steal from labor.

    What is clear however is that someone who labels the many failed experiments in Marxism as state capitalism is delusional.

    Capitalism includes the concept of private property and private profit among others, and none of these so called “state capitalist” systems had either of those. Socialism is in fact defined as state ownership of the means of production, which is exactly what “state capitalism” is.

    I betcha you don’t even understand what ownership is. The reason I have to write so much for a guy like you is that you are so ignorant that one has to start from scratch. Everybody and their brother understands these ideas at least at a gut level. It think it is more than just ignorance though. It also involves a lot of ahistorical brainwashing.

    I’m still shaking my head that you are calling countries that were clearly organized as socialist economies (where private property was abolished and private profit punished by jail time) by the term state capitalism.

    I betcha that you think a potato in the field, a potato in a silo, a potato in a grocery store, a potato in a restaurant pantry, and a potato served on a restaurant plate are all the same economic good. They aren’t and good economists recognize this fact. Of course Marx wasn’t a good economist.

    Labor, and capital goods are used to convert the potato during the different stages into the different goods. We don’t bother to give them different names because context matters. However at each stage there is a conversion. No one goes into a restaurant, orders a potato, and then gets told to drive 50 miles to the nearest potato farm to get his meal. What actually happens is that the evil capitalists at each stage use their savings in the form of capital goods to fund the conversion to the next stage of production.

    The farmers cleared land, his stored planting seed, his tools, his equipment, his buildings, etc. are all capital goods that he either has to save himself (and thus act as his own captial provider) or borrow from others who had already saved them.

    He initially produces the potato but even after it is produced it needs to be dug up, shifted from rocks and dirt, transported from the field, and stored. A potato in a silo (concentrated with other potatos) is a different good than it was in the field. It can now be sold to the next person in the chain of production, who has his own capital goods that are specialized for his stage.

    The next guy has no shovels, or tractors, he has trucks, sorting and washing machines, warehouses. He picks up the potatoes at multiple farms with his own capital goods, transports them to a central location, and sorts and washes them. He sorts them into high quality potatoes and low. The low quality ones are not shipped very far because it costs capital to do so. They are instead used in local factories to produce things like powdered potatoes. The high quality ones get shipped to supermarkets and far away cities.

    I could continue an show how a potato in a store is different than one in a warehouse, etc. For example, a potato in a store being in proximity to other goods that a shopper wants is in fact a form of transformation.

    In fact many transformations are just a matter of arrangement. The atoms in your living body are the same exact ones as in a watermelon, just with a different arrangement.

    This just scratches the surface of the understanding of a real economist as opposed to junk economists, the kind who turned the “great socialist” countries like communist China and the USSR into basket cases. All by following the quite false economic ideas of Marx.

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