A Masterclass of Whataboutism

Another YouTuber that I have unsubscribed from is Second Thought. It was after his latest video We Need To Talk About “Authoritarianism”. I am not going to link to that video because it is a piece of shit and it does not deserve views. If you are interested in its contents, I recommend Vaush’s critique (see further after I have my say).

What Second Thought is doing in this video is nothing but an elaborate form of the nonsensical syllogism (The USA = BAD)=>(The USSR = GOOD). I hate this shit with a burning passion because I have actually either first-hand or at most second-hand experience with many of the things this world-class twit talks about. I mean, however bad the US police is, however bad the US surveillance state is, it really cannot hold a candle to what the USSR has done or what China is doing.

To anyone reading this who might not be a regular on this blog, I have a whole series of blog posts “Behind the Iron Curtain” where I write about my experience with the regime. I was 13 when it collapsed, and the regime was mellowing towards the end, so I did not personally witness the worst things. Yet there is still one visceral fear that people had that I do remember personally, a fear that I feel confident is not widely spread in the USA. The fear that when kids say something wrong in front of the wrong person, their parents can go to jail. My father was in the communist party and even I was told that I must not say some things in public because it could put someone in my family in jail. Children were taught to say one thing at home and a different thing in public. Even though the time of the 1968 invasion was long in the past and the worst of the totalitarian shit did not happen anymore, people still feared to criticize the regime. One day my father came home from a local party assembly and he told my mother “I might go to jail, we will see”. And why did he fear that? Did he steal something? Did he kill anybody? No, he did what he was, in principle, supposed to do at the assembly. He raised valid points of critique at the wealthy oligarchs in the party leadership and said that they should actually listen to what people really need and want and do something about it. Luckily for him, it was towards the end of the regime and as I said, it was starting to mellow a bit at that point. Still, that he even considered that he might be going to jail, despite being a lifelong communist, says a lot about the regime and the culture of fear it fomented.

And now this sheltered, privileged WEIRD WASP asshole is equivocating between the USA and the USSR as if they were both similarly totalitarian but somehow when the USA does a thing, it is bad, but when the USSR did it, it somehow, magically, becomes good and necessary! WTF? I must have been blind to not spot the signs in his previous videos, but this is what here, in the former USSR sphere of influence, gives leftists a bad name. It is already difficult to explain to even highly educated people that the things that were bad about the previous regime were not socialism, but authoritarian oppression. Assholes like this one make it really easy for opponents of socialism here, because he actually says, albeit covertly and obliquely, what those opponents preach – that socialism is inextricably linked with authoritarianism. (I wrote about this in the Behind the Iron Curtain series too -click-).

Further, this clueless clown is using his public platform to critique (mostly validly!) the regime in which he lives and at the same time sings praises of a regime that would have him at best imprisoned and at worst outright killed for criticizing it in even much, much milder form! And he totally fails to spot the irony when he accuses the USA, where he lives, of being worse.

Alas, it is apparent now that he is a tankie and a leftie American exceptionalist I have no track with either. Saying that if the USA does a thing it is bad but when the USSR does the very same thing it is good and necessary is not a moral stance. And to top it off, I have also learned that he actually condoned Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, again applying the same “logic” – when Israel does a bad thing, thing bad, when Hamas does the same thing, thing suddenly good. The reality which this fucking piece of amoral shitstain fails to grasp is that sometimes it really is possible that both sides in a conflict can be bad and differing only in a degree. His political principle is not to help the common people around the world, his main political principle is the USA bashing and the USSR glorifying. That is not coherent leftist policy, that is edgy leftist posing. He can do that without me watching his videos.

If you have spare time, you can listen to Vaush’s excellent rebuttal. It is rather long, I listened to it whilst cleaning my room today.

I do not like everything about Vaush, for example, he uses way too many ableist slurs and comes off as arrogant, but the essence of what he is saying here is IMO sound.

No, Sabine, Capitalism Is Not Good and Your Explanation Is Nonsense.

After her misguided video about trans people, I was still willing to remain subscribed because I interpreted it more as poorly thought out than malicious, but the latest video by Sabine Hossenfelder made me unsubscribe, it is garbage and I do not want to waste my finite time on her. She might be an accomplished and competent physicist, but outside of that she talks bull – and I am not all that interested in astrophysics.

It is not garbage in the sense that it contains all invalid information (AFAIK). Still, it is definitively garbage in the sense that the conclusion – as summed up in the title – does not follow from what is being presented. It is disappointingly intellectually lazy and poorly argued.

I am not going into an in-depth analysis, I will try to be as concise as possible.

She is basically saying a bunch of good things that temporarily coincided with capitalism being the predominant economic system, declared a causal relationship between those good things and capitalism (completely failing to prove for example that it was capitalism that caused the Industrial Revolution and not the other way around), and called it a day. Several times she mentioned that there were and are bad things happening too, but she either handwaved them away with “that’s another story” or explained them away with “it means we are doing capitalism wrong”.

That is what made me so angry because the same line of reasoning can be used to prove that “socialism is good” too. In fact, that is exactly what some tankies are doing  – they point out the good things that happened in the USSR sphere of influence, handwave the genocides and human rights abuses away as “doing socialism wrong” and call it a day too. I am not willing to give them a pass for this spurious reasoning, and I am not going to give a pass for it to someone arguing against them either.

This line of reasoning could also be used to prove both that capitalism and socialism are bad, just by switching things that are talked about and that are waved away.

As someone who experienced firsthand both “badly performed” socialism and “badly performed” capitalism, I am of the opinion that both words are so broad that without excessive contextualizing they are both essentially meaningless.

This video is a study of cherrypicking.

Ehm, Akshually Hrdlička…

The WaPo pieces mentioned by PZ about Aleš Hrdlička are damning. I cannot comment on their veracity since I do not have access to the evidence those articles are based on, however, there is no reason to doubt them, not really. His appalling ghoulish behavior is consistent with the time in which he lived, unfortunately. He was representing the rule, not the exception. What I find curious is that with all the illicitly amassed evidence, he almost, but not entirely arrived at the correct conclusion (emphasis mine):

“In 1898, Hrdlicka published a study of 908 White children and 192 Black children at the New York Juvenile Asylum and the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York. He measured and compared their body parts, including genitals. He wrote that “inferiorities” in the children were probably the result of neglect or malnutrition, not hereditary. But he noted “remarkable” physical differences based on race.”


So he did not find any inherent differences between the races that were more than superficial physical characteristics, like skin color, hair texture, etc. Yet he still persisted in holding racist views, which makes him a bad scientist – even if one were to wave away the immoral way in which he gathered data by stealing human remains (which I am not inclined to do so, although it appears to be standard for anthropologists of the time) he still has done shit science with it.

When I read PZ’s first article, I immediately looked up Hrdlička. I do not remember ever learning about him at the university, I studied biology, chemistry, arts, and psychology, not anthropology. He might have been mentioned at some point in biology, but the name definitively did not ring any bells.

And when I looked him up, all Czech sources that I could find online in the little time I was willing to give venerated him as a staunch anti-racist, in direct contradiction to the articles in Washington Post. I think this is for several reasons.

Firstly, we Czechs do suffer from a “small nation inferiority syndrome”. We feel so insignificant and ignored on the world stage that we latch onto any success achieved by any of our compatriots abroad and we are unwilling to let go. I think that it will take years, if not decades, for the true ghoulish nature of his research and his racist views to find their way into Czech media, and there will be a lot of resistance.

Secondly, I doubt that any Czech sources have had ready access to the same evidence that WaPo was using. There are inevitable limits to what can be learned about any Czech individual who lived most of their life outside of Bohemia, even if one were not inclined to ignore unfavorable evidence and overstate anything positive due to the first point.

And thirdly, it seems he was kinda anti-racist, just in a wrong, racist anti-racist way. From what I was able to find he did fight against anti-slavic racism. This is real racism and it still exists today – its latest consequential demonstration was Brexit, which was in part motivated by racism against Polish and Czech immigrants. The sentiment nowadays is not as prevalent and strong as it used to be, but there were times when the Slavs (and the Irish and probably some other nationalities) were not considered “white” in the same way as Anglo-Saxons and/or Aryans and were seen to be inferior. Apparently, Hrdlička was arguing – correctly – that all European people have common origins and he argued that they belong to the same racial group. The anti-racism bit was thus arguing against the discrimination of Slavs, and the racist bit was that he did not argue that all people are equal but that Slavs in fact are part of the “superior” race. This kind of reasoning makes his legacy even more susceptible to being spun positively if one has the bias mentioned in the first point, not to mention that there still is a lot of Czechs who argue the same.

However, I also peeked at the discussion under the WaPo article and I noticed in there one “anti-Hrdlička” argument that I strongly disagree with. Apparently, he was one of the proponents of the theory that humans arrived in the Americas via the Bering Strait Land Bridge and this theory was called “racist” and “bogus” by one of the commenters. That, to my mind, is nonsense.

Even if Hrdlička was proposing the theory for some racist reasons, that does not make the theory automatically wrong. And to my knowledge (which I admit is not completely up-to-date with modern science) there is a lot of evidence that at least some of the ancestors of North American Indians really did cross Beringia into the Americas. This includes studies of genetic markers of extant populations.

It is absolutely indisputable that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and spread from there to all the other continents in multiple migration waves. It might be that there was more than one migration wave to the Americas and it might be that some of those migration waves did not come over Beringia but sailed from Polynesia. It also might be true that humans arrived in the Americas much sooner than previously thought. But some very probably did arrive through Beringia no matter what other migration routes might have been taken. And as much as I think that Native American cultures, languages, and creation myths are just as worthy of preserving and studying as any others, they do not constitute hard evidence for how humans got to the Americas, because humans are just too good at making shit up and then believing it – even today people make nonsense theories whole cloth and believe them despite the evidence contrary, after all.

And there is simply too much other evidence that multiple migrations through Beringia happened, for both animals and plants. Just a few examples:

Bison and Wisents are so closely related that they still interbreed and produce fertile offspring despite being different species. The bovids, incidentally, originated in Africa too. American Grizzly is still the same species as the European Brown Bear. North American and Eurasian willows create a near continuum of hybridizing taxa that are a nightmare mess to untangle. Junipers on both continents are very similar to each other in appearance. And Juniperus communis is actually a circumpolar species. And a personal anecdote to underline the point – the flora of North America and Eurasia are so closely related and eerily reminiscent of each other that when I was in the USA, I confused native Heracleum maximum for invasive Heracleum mantegazzianum they are so similar. (edit – corrected accidentally swapped species)

This similarity between the ecosystems of North America and Eurasia, which is not present between any other two continents, is the biggest proof that there were easy-ish ways to migrate between the two in the not-so-distant (geologically and evolutionary-speaking) past. Saying that the theory that people migrated to North America this way is racist and somehow disproven because of it thus seems foolish to me.

It might not be complete, but no theory truly is, science is about refining our knowledge by finding things, not about having complete and inconvertible “truths” by fiat.

A pro-gun Leftist?

I encountered Vaush on YouTube through his pro-LGBTQ+ videos and it was I guess just a matter of time before I stumble upon these as well:

I am torn on this issue. I have argued in the past on this blog that overzealous weapons regulations and indiscriminate bans are nonsense (-click--click-). For example, there is no practical purpose to be served by banning the sale and/or possession of some knives. I have also argued that liking firearms for their aesthetics or technology or enjoying exercising the skills needed for their use is not, in itself, a sign of a pathological personality (-click-). But I am also a proponent of proportionate regulation of weapons – the more dangerous a weapon, the more difficult it should be to obtain it for private use, and the barriers should not be financial ones or at least not purely financial ones. There should be some basic proficiency and background check for guns, as well as mandatory psychological exams and licensing for them. I do consider my home country (Czech Republic) to have a good and sensible legislature in this regard.

On the other hand, I do recognize that in the USA there are two strong barriers against the implementation of such laws and Vaush mentions them both.

  1. Guns in the USA are so ubiquitous that any ban or legislature will have negligible practical effect. They might stop impulse-buying a gun just before a mass shooting, but not much else. Anyone wishing to get their hands on a gun and ammo will probably be able to do so for a looooooong time in the good’ole USA. I do not have a response to this argument. The USA might well really be beyond the tipping point when the issue can be reasonably addressed.
  2. The problem in the USA is not the availability of guns alone, but mostly the culture surrounding them.  I wrote about this too in the past (-click-). The USA is in dire need of a culture shift. The current fetishization of guns and violence and of gun violence is harmful and it can only get worse if nothing is done about it. I do not know what to do about it though, the gun culture in the USA is extremely pervasive and strong.

So it is not simply possible to look around the world at what works there and implement it in the USA. The issue is, unfortunately, much more complicated than that.

If Vaush likes guns and wants to shoot them at the range or enjoy them aesthetically or both, I have no issue with it. Those are perfectly valid reasons to own guns in my book, and I think mentally healthy people should have lawful options to indulge in.

I also agree that some amount of packing heat on the left is reasonable, otherwise, there is nothing to stop the American right to have their version of Nacht des langen Messer and eventually Kristallnacht in the near future, it’s not as if parallels to these did not happen in the American history ample times in the past. And the armed right needs to be counterbalanced with something and flowers simply won’t do. Although I do fervently hope that it never comes to actual shootouts between neonazis and leftists in the USA. If the situation deteriorates that much, there probably won’t be a way to stop the civil war and the odds are that the police, army, and judiciary would side with the nazis – there are recent precedents for that too.

I do completely disagree, however, with one of his stated reasons – that having a gun might be useful in the case of a widespread societal collapse. In my opinion, in case of a widespread societal collapse in the USA or EU, not having a gun would be the least of the problems for most people. The topmost will be keeping yourself fed and warm, and guns can only help very little with that. Our current society is heavily dependent on infrastructure, logistics, and division of labor. In case of societal collapse, no electricity, no food and medication distribution, and no clean water will probably kill most people. Having a gun in such a scenario might marginally increase one’s short-term chances of survival, but without farming the land and distributing the food, any modern country will quickly starve. There is not enough wildlife left for those with guns to get sustenance by hunting. And stealing from others by force will be only of very short-term benefit. Bushcraft is a nice hobby but it can’t keep alive dense populations of hundreds of people per square km. Not to mention that I won’t live long without prescription medication and no amount of gun-waving will give it to me if pharmaceutical companies stop producing it. And in the case of Vaush personally, as well as millions of others – if he breaks or loses his glasses and there is no infrastructure to get him a replacement, his guns won’t help him with that either.

Other than this one thing I find his videos, especially on LGBTQ+ issues, reasonable.

Intersection of DnD and Social Justice

Today I was etching blades and listening to the YouTube channel LegalKimchi and I must recommend it so far. I especially liked his last video:

But his other videos that I managed to see today were good too. I haven’t yet seen everything and I am unlikely to see everything he has made, but so far he seems to be on the side of social justice, especially with regard to people of color.

Crypto, Scams & Ableism

Since the Scam Banking Fraud fiasco in the crypto world, I have looked a bit more into cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Not much, just to satisfy some curiosity. That curiosity brought me to the YouTube channel Coffezilla (which I recommend). And today I would like to mention a bit unsavory and unfortunate thing that crops up in just about every discussion about cryptocurrencies and associated scams – comments along the lines of “People this stupid deserve to be scammed”. Sentiments akin to this are very prevalent and I must say, I disagree with them now although I do have an inner tendency towards such thinking too and I have to reason myself out of it in some specific cases and I would possibly say these things too about twenty-five years ago.

Why is that? I mean, why is this sentiment so prevalent? I do not know of course, but I can speculate.

I think it is in part because a lot of people in the west are conditioned to believe in the Just World Fallacy. In most fiction, the villains get their just desserts and the good guys more often than not win. We are taught that hard and honest work is rewarded and that crime does not pay. This cultural bias is everywhere and unavoidable. And it is inherently ableist because no matter how difficult it is to actually meaningfully measure intelligence, it does exist, it does wary among people and some people are innately, with no fault of their own, less capable and thus more susceptible to being hoodwinked. There is a reason why so many e-mail scams have appallingly bad grammar and spelling and why so many phone scams are targeting elderly people.

It is not all though. Another part of this is in my opinion that a lot of people enjoy the warmth of a slightly smug feeling of being superior to someone in some way. “Haha, how those poor suckers could fall for THAT.” This is understandable to some degree in insecure people who are still finding themselves but not appropriate for well-adjusted adults. As for myself, today I have plenty of personal experiences to put me down from my pedestal whenever I feel like climbing one – the most recently my tribulations of obstinately plugging the wrong cable into the wrong hole for two days and wondering why things do not work. I know I am not completely stupid and still, my brain sometimes does things that a duckling would deem daft. Not to mention the GIGO principle, which can lead even the best of the best minds astray.

And even when one knows that the world is not just and that smart people can do daft things for a variety of reasons, I guess many people also know at least someone who is definitively willfully stupid and simply cannot be reasoned with because they refuse reason on principle. The most egregious examples of these people are all those creationists, flat-earthers and Q-anoninsts out there. But is it OK to say that someone deserved to be scammed because they ignored warnings and information given to them?

I still don’t think so. If they really were given credible warnings and ignored them for example, then they are to be blamed at least in part for their misfortune in such a case, but they do not deserve it. Saying that someone deserves to be scammed implies that scamming is an act of justice.

It is not. It is an act of malice, a betrayal of trust, and nothing is gained by it. The victim may become less naive and trusting as a result, but that is only a good thing in a society where there are scammers. And whilst being naive and trusting is unwise in our world, it is not malicious or harmful, and punishing it thus makes no sense. A scammer deserves to be judged and locked up. A scammee deserves help.

Leftists Gone Bad

I am a subscriber of a number of leftist YouTube channels, but over time I have also unsubscribed from one rather quickly. Because I have realized that the author very carefully curates an untrue vision of history, and his audience is all for it.

I am not going to link to the channel in question because I do not wish to direct any traffic to it. They might have changed their tune and the way they run their channel and its comment sections since. I do not know. I do not care. I am not one of those who hold a grudge and hate-watch/hate-read (more on that later too). So I am only going to give you the gist of the situation. You are free to not believe any of it if you are inclined to distrust my word.

The channel got my attention with a video about scientific racism, which was rather good. I have watched several other videos of theirs that were recommended via the algorithm, and those were about world hunger and poverty and they were good too. So I subscribed and next time when I got a video recommended, I watched it. And I was rather taken aback. It was an entirely uncritical piece about pre-WW2 USSR, singing the praises of the regime, how it gave people education and lifted people from poverty, etc. I have briefly pointed in the comment section that whilst the regime did have positive sides for some people, it also had a rather ugly underbelly. And as examples, I have pointed out the Holodomor and the Genocide of Crimean Tatars since these two examples spring most readily to my mind.

Shortly after that comment, I have unsubscribed from the YouTuber and I have disabled any notification regarding that comment section. Because I have been immediately dogpiled by people who either outright denied that the two above-mentioned atrocities happened at all, or they were blaming them on the people who were their targets. They did not even bother with whataboutism and went straight to denial and victim-blaming! This was my first experience with “Tankies“. I had several more encounters since then, and I sometimes get these vibes even in comments here on FtB, although thankfully not as explicit and overt (and maybe I am being too sensitive about this issue, having lived behind the Iron Curtain?).

That is one example of lefties gone bad – people who refuse to learn from history and are willing, nay, eager, to repeat its mistakes. They are no better than the Holocaust deniers and neo-nazis on the right. We must not forget that many of the things that today are leftist issues – like LGBTQ rights and environmentalism – were most emphatically NOT seen as leftist in that regime. And sure, USSR was not racist towards black people the way the USA was at the time, but it is easy to proclaim you are not a racist towards a minority that is all but non-existent in your country. There were more than a few cases of systemic racism within the former Eastern bloc too.

These and many others are the main reasons why many people here in CZ are reluctant to actually call themselves leftists, or vote openly leftist parties, even though when asked about specific policies they most definitively are leftist. The existence of leftist extremism is real and it serves no useful purpose to deny it and the harm it has done and keeps doing to progress.

The second example about which I wish to say just a little bit is the case of Lindsay Ellis. I have not watched her videos regularly and I was not a subscriber. But I did watch her videos about transphobia last year and they were good. So I was surprised to learn that in December last year she has given up on YouTube – which was her job – and has claimed to be canceled by the left. I have looked into it as much as my time has allowed  – which included watching her video Mask Off in several sessions (it is very long) – and I have concluded that she was indeed canceled, and unlike J. K. Rowling, it was over a triviality that was misinterpreted and totally blown out of proportions.

There seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the internet who obsessively hate-watch and hate-read people they dislike and hoard anything that might be interpreted unfavorably by the purist left to have ready-prepared lists of transgressions to dump on the internet in case their favorite hate target gets in the spotlight by putting a foot wrong. I know for a fact that there were such people reading Affinity for example, and Slymyepiters are a rather famous example of these people with regard to Pharyngula. I must say that I find it rather creepy when someone has a ready-to-go list of someone’s years-long deleted tweets/video clips etc. I also find it disconcerting that there seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the left who immediately jump to the least-favorable interpretation of something taken out of context and gleefully join a dogpile with the intent to hound someone off the internet without bothering to first get the facts right and/or consider that people might 1) just make mistakes and/or 2) change over time so a “transgression” from a decade ago might not be indicative or relevant to who they are today, even if not stripped of proper context and interpretation.

I really do not know what to make of it all, but today I was re-reading Terry Pratchetts’ Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum and the following quote seemed really appropriate:

The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.

Restorating the Kitchen Table and why “Sustainability” Can’t Work Within Capitalism

Everybody in a long term relationship knows the horrors of buying furniture. You may have been together for a decade, have basically the same interests, plans in life, you combined your families and friend circles, and then you need to buy furniture. Suddenly your beloved looks like a total stranger. How can the person you love more than anybody else like that couch? If your relationship survives the first round of furniture shopping, you may survive as a couple. And then you are together for so many years that you have to do it all again. Especially when you have children. Especially when your children are alien monsters in a cute disguise.

Last year around autumn the little one managed to actually break the legs off a chair. The other ones weren’t very stable either any more, so we needed to go out and buy new ones. And the table looked horrible as well. 14 years of eating, crafting, living had taken their toll on the plates. Nevertheless, while we could agree quickly on new chairs, we could also agree quickly that the tables were not an option. Our table needs to be large and extendable. For some reason, the large tables all had a plate that is split lengthwise, and at that point (apparently they changed since) , could only extended by inserting a plate lengthwise, which doesn’t make sense, since it doesn’t sit more people, but make sitting down and getting up  difficult since the table is too wide now.

The only one available at the big Swedish furniture shop that suited our needs was the exact same one we already had… so i decided to restore that one instead, which only took me about 10 month to get done.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is how the table looked before. The varnish has basically disappeared in the areas most used, there are big scratches and dents. I seized the opportunity to get a random orbit sander and got to work. I removed the old paint and nasty scratches at 60 grit.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Then I did a second round at 150. In the image below one half is already sanded, the other half is not. People who work with wood can feel the image.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Last round was done at 220 grit and off we went for varnishing.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I used varnish for wood floors/stairs, since that is the most durable, and you saw what already happened to the table once.

I applied a total of three layers of varnish, giving them ample time to dry in between.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A first coat of varnish. I lightly sanded in between applying the coats, but by hand and with a 800 grit. One thing about the varnish is that it doesn’t “pull even”. It keeps a bit of a structure, and if you look closely, you can see it (though not in this pic). It also hides dirt until it’s dried and it’s too late…

The legs got some repairs where needed. Down at the feet, where you stub your toes, ant the bars where you put your dirty, sweaty feet. I had to do that inside, it was not nice.

Table legs in the kitchen

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Finally, here we are. The two plates have been sanded and painted. The middle extension isn’t done yet, but we don’t need it every day.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved With bonus husband running into the pic

Now, what does my little project have to do with capitalism? It’s easy when you think about it: Capitalism wants me to buy a new table. Capitalism needs me to buy a new table. Capitalism makes it impossible for most people to not buy a new table. A new table would have been around 300€. The materials for restoring the old one were 80 bucks for sanding discs and varnish and brushes, and 150€ for the tools (though I still have those, but they lost about half their resale value the moment I carried them out the door.) That’s 230€ with no guarantee that this would work.

It also took me almost a full week. I have an outdoor space for sanding, but of course that required the rain to stop occasionally, and an indoor space for painting and drying. Also a separate living room with a separate table we could eat on in the meantime. And most importantly: I had the time AND skills to do this and it’s actually something I enjoy. Nobody who dislikes crafting would do this to save maybe 100€. Unless you’re completely poor and have to hope that somebody else throws away their perfectly usable but pretty shabby table.

Now imagine we built our world not around consumption, but around community. Imagine community repair centres. There are tons of people, especially elderly people who can’t / don’t want to do a full work day, but who will happily work a few hours a week. Imagine such a centre where you can go and together (or without you) you can restore your furniture, repair your bike or learn how to fix your leaky sink. Imagine having the time to do so. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Art of …

… posters, by Ridwan Adhami, Shephard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal, Ernesto Yerena, Delphine Diallo, Ayse Gursoz, and Arlene Mejorado.

They were  commissioned by The Amplifier Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises the voices of grassroots movements through art and community engagement.

Today seems like a good day to wave hi to the U.S.A. and show off some of her best modern artists.


Poster series We the People by various artists. Image from NBC, courtesy of The Amplifier Foundation

“American identity starts with Native resistance. In this artwork, Ernesto Yerena honors Helen Red Feather of the Lakota tribe during her bravery and resilience at the Standing Rock reservation in 2016. She was originally photographed by Ayşe Gürsöz while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation.

Ridwan Adhami decided to photograph a Muslim woman wearing an American flag as a hijab for the five-year anniversary of 9/11. They stood at the site of the World Trade Center, capturing the iconic image, without knowing just how far it would eventually go…More than a decade later, Adhami and Shepard Fairey reincarnated the image for Amplifier’s We the People campaign. As the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban continues to wage a war on Islamic faith, the artwork’s message will keep ringing loud and clear. There is no room for fear, only freedom.” Words and Image from The Amplifier Foundation.

“This piece from artist Jessica Sabogal focuses on the love, affection, and inspiration that will continue to persevere through the darkness.”Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation.

“At a time of so much discrimination and injustice, this photograph taken by French and Senegalese artist Delphine Diallo and converted into an illustration by Shepard Fairey reminds us of the power of youth and the world we’re building around them.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation

“…this photograph taken by Arlene Mejorado and illustrated by Shepard Fairey is a crucial part of the We the People campaign. Mejorado, a photographer and documentary-maker from California, describes herself as “the daughter of migrants, brown, queer, multi-ethnic, and aspirant of beauty and truth.” The image depicts Xicana activist Maribel Valdez Gonzalez, described by the artist as “an incredible queer, first gen, muxerista, educator who constantly pushes my politics.” The final artwork was carried by thousands at the Women’s March for the 2017 inauguration.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation

The Art of …

… political protest, billboard-style

Just in time for the American election, a billboard project is being held in New York City.In October, Art at a Time Like This Inc., in collaboration with SaveArtSpace, borrows the moniker “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” to present 20 artists on 20 billboards around New York City, providing “a platform for artists to comment on the current state of US politics and increasing polarization just in time for the election,” according to a press release.

The twenty artists have been chosen, and below is a small sample of what the installation will include.

Mel Chin’s billboard imagery for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” (all images courtesy of SaveArtSpace)

Dread Scott for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

Shirin Neshat for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

Marilyn Minter for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

The billboards will be placed around the 5 boroughs of New York, and there will be a digital map allowing viewers to plan self-guided tours. The full story is at Hyperallergic.



An Important Petition from Iris

Iris at Death to Squirrels has a post up regarding the cruel treatment and unjust imprisonment of a young bi-racial girl with mental health problems. It’s an ugly story about a family looking for help and finding horror instead. It’s not only an indictment of the American mental health system but another urgent example of why Black Lives Matter really does matter. The more I read, the angrier I became, and I encourage you all to go read the story and get angry, too. Then, go sign the petition. I did, but I’m not an American, and the petition needs American voices – lots of them. At the very least, it will let this family know that they are not alone, but maybe collectively, we can get this child the help she desperately needs and offer her a future. Thanks.

Portland – Required Reading

A lot is happening in Portland, and Big Media reports are often unreliable or outright false. Our very own Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has been on the ground risking her health and well-being to report the reality of the situation to us. This morning her report, Still a step away from Pinkerton’s, but it’s badis especially gut-wrenching, and it should be required reading. Please, if you haven’t already, head on over and share your support.

For some perspective on the reference to Pinkerton’s, Marcus at Stderr shares a historical look at labour protests in the U.S. with an essay titled How to Riot. It’s an in-depth look at the history of how the American government has handled civil unrest, and it’s frightening.

To round out your reading, I recommend Iris Vander Pluym at Death to Squirrels, whose essay A.G.Barr: Crip Dyke is a “violent rioter and anarchist” hijacking the Portland Protests, brings some insight into why what Crip Dyke is doing is so vitally important. The American government is lying to the public, and it is the on-sight reports from citizen journalists that tell the real story.

I share my thanks to all of these voices for the clarity they bring to a complicated issue.

Crip Dyke, please stay safe.


Rediscovering the Words of Frederick Douglass

Library sciences have come a long way since the days of card catalogues and racks of periodicals. Most records are now kept digitally, and many historical records have been converted to digital files. It’s because of all those digital files that historian Scott Sandage was able to track down the full copy of Frederick Douglass’ words regarding a monument in Lincoln Park that should be removed.

The statue in Lincoln Park, known as the Emancipation Memorial, depicts the 16th president beside a Black man who, depending on how you see the piece, is either kneeling or rising. It’s supposed to commemorate the end of slavery—but in any interpretation, the Black man is physically lower than Lincoln himself, leading critics to see the statue as a paean to Lincoln’s generosity, and not a testament to Black Americans’ own roles in their liberation. “Statues teach history,” says Glenn Foster, an activist with the Freedom Neighborhood, who wants to see the statue removed. The Black man in this statue “is in a very submissive position,” he says, adding that that’s not “respectful to our community, or to anyone in general.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, two historians, Scott Sandage of Carnegie Mellon University and Jonathan White of Christopher Newport University, were recently debating what ought to be done with the statue, and they wanted to know whether the social reformer and statesman Douglass had, in fact, criticized it directly. Douglass died in 1895, but posthumous reports of his comments on the subject have been circulating since 1916, when a book stated that he had been critical of the statue at its unveiling. In his prepared speech for the event, Douglass challenged the nascent Lincoln mythology, calling him “preeminently the white man’s president …,” but it wasn’t clear whether, in an alleged aside, he also criticized the new statue itself. The two scholars disagreed over the account’s reliability, so Sandage set out to more firmly establish the abolitionist’s position.

It was Douglass’s ability to turn a phrase that helped the historian finally locate the relevant text. It had been reported that Douglas had referred to the black man on the memorial as “couchant.”

Using “couchant” as the keyword in his search—and experimenting with a few combinations of other words—Sandage identified three newspapers that ran the entirety of a letter Douglass wrote about the statue, a few days after speaking at its dedication. “Admirable as is the monument by Mr. Ball in Lincoln park [sic],” writes Douglass, “it does not, as it seems to me, tell the whole truth …” He credits Lincoln for following through on emancipation, but adds that “the negro was made a citizen” by “President U.S. Grant,” under whose administration the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. (In theory, the Amendment enfranchised Black men with the right to vote. Of course, enforcement of that right has been a long-standing issue.) He concludes by suggesting that “[t]here is room in Lincoln park for another monument,” and that that space ought to be filled out with works that could help complete the historical picture.



Sandage and White have proposed an “emancipation group” of statues to fill out the park and note that it would not affect the reputation of Lincoln one bit to remove the existing monument, as there is another more significant tribute to Lincoln nearby. There are other proposals for the park from leaders in the black community, and you can read the full story at Atlas Obscura.