I’m escaping into outer space at the end of this week

I’m ready to play a game.

It’s the end of my first full week of classes, and I need to unwind, so let’s explore strange new worlds on Friday evening. I’m thinking we’ll just take off in our starships from this location in Euclid to a nearby unexplored system and investigate whatever planets we can find…or kill pirates or strafe the surface, if you want to go that way. If you’ve got the game, you know how to use those mysterious glyphs to teleport to a planet I’ll be hanging out on at the beginning. If anyone else shows up, we can talk about what we should do, otherwise I’ll just zoom out alone into the void.

There are rumors of a big new update coming along at some time in the future, so if that drops on Friday or earlier, I’ll obviously have to change my plans.

Status report

It’s the 2nd day of the 2nd week of the semester and I’m already broken. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are my in-person class and lab days, and it’s going to take a little getting used to again.

Also, it doesn’t help when I come home for lunch and Mary greets me with a bottle of disinfectant. Unclean, unclean, unclean!

Socialism with slavery?

Gosh, I guess I can learn something from a troll. I was cleaning out the spam trap and noticed a message from a particularly persistent and mostly incoherent troll, and I made the mistake of reading it and learned about someone peculiar.

Why have you never said a word about George Fitzhugh, and his very effective argument that slavery is inherently socialistic?! If Capitalism is the cause of racism and inequality, why not rebut his work?! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fitzhugh

I’ve never said a word about Fitzhugh because this is the first I ever heard of him, simple as that. Fitzhugh was an antebellum crank, a fierce defender of slavery, not the kind of guy I tend to look to for information, but sure, I looked at his Wikipedia entry.

George Fitzhugh (November 4, 1806 – July 30, 1881) was an American social theorist who published racial and slavery-based sociological theories in the antebellum era. He argued that the negro “is but a grown up child” who needs the economic and social protections of slavery. Fitzhugh decried capitalism as practiced by the Northern United States and Great Britain as spawning “a war of the rich with the poor, and the poor with one another”, rendering free blacks “far outstripped or outwitted in the chase of free competition.” Slavery, he contended, ensured that blacks would be economically secure and morally civilized. Nonetheless, some historians consider Fitzhugh’s worldview to be fascist in its rejection of liberal values, defense of slavery, and perspectives toward race.

Fascinating. It’s a very strange perspective on socialism, or what Fitzhugh considered socialism, which was a very confused subject in his mind. He doesn’t argue that slavery is socialistic; quite the contrary, he argued that the North was afflicted with an “alarming” degree of socialism, while simultaneously claiming to be a socialist. So to figure this out, I skimmed his book, Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters, looking for some clarity. I didn’t find it. But boy, is that a trip.

What is his argument? First, one part I can agree with: he considers capitalism to be an oppressive system in which elites profit from the labor of workers. He deplores the Northern system which, he argues, puts white workers in a position worse than that of a black slave. This is practically a pamphlet for communism, except that he also deplores communism, and thinks the Northern capitalist economy is implicitly socialistic. I tried to sort that out, and couldn’t, but can at least confirm that he’s anti-capitalist. Which is anti-socialist. I’m lost.

Probably, you are a lawyer, or a merchant, or a doctor, who have made by your business fifty thousand dollars, and retired to live on your capital. But, mark! not to spend your capital. That would be vulgar, disreputable, criminal. That would be, to live by your own labor; for your capital is your amassed labor. That would be, to do as common working men do; for they take the pittance which their employees leave them, to live on. They live by labor; for they exchange the results of their own labor for the products of other people’s labor. It is, no doubt, an honest, vulgar way of living; but not at all a respectable way. The respectable way of living is, to make other people work for you, and to pay them nothing for so doing—and to have no concern about them after their work is done. Hence, white slave-holding is much more respectable than negro slavery—for the master works nearly as hard for the negro, as he for the master. But you, my virtuous, respectable reader, exact three thousand dollars per annum from white labor, (for your income is the product of white labor,) and make not one cent of return in any form. You retain your capital, and never labor, and yet live in luxury on the labor of others. Capital commands labor, as the master does the slave. Neither pays for labor; but the master permits the slave to retain a larger allowance from the proceeds of his own labor, and hence “free labor is cheaper than slave labor.” You, with the command over labor which your capital gives you, are a slave owner—a master, without the obligations of a master. They who work for you, who create your income, are slaves, without the rights of slaves. Slaves without a master! Whilst you were engaged in amassing your capital, in seeking to become independent, you were in the White Slave Trade. To become independent, is to be able to make other people support you, without being obliged to labor for them. Now, what man in society is not seeking to attain this situation? He who attains it, is a slave owner, in the worst sense. He who is in pursuit of it, is engaged in the slave trade. You, reader, belong to the one or other class. The men without property, in free society, are theoretically in a worse condition than slaves. Practically, their condition corresponds with this theory, as history and statistics every where demonstrate. The capitalists, in free society, live in ten times the luxury and show that Southern masters do, because the slaves to capital work harder and cost less, than negro slaves.

It would help if I knew what his definition of socialism was. I searched the book for a clue, and this as close as I could come: Socialism is the same as Abolitionism and 19th century Republicanism, which I guess means that Abe Lincoln was the American version of Chairman Mao. So sorry, Mr Troll, how can you claim that he argues that slavery equals socialism if he thinks that abolition equals slavery? Now I’m even more confused.

We wish to prove that the great movement in society, known under various names, as Communism, Socialism, Abolitionism, Red Republicanism and Black Republicanism, has one common object: the breaking up of all law and government, and the inauguration of anarchy, and that the destruction of the family is one of the means in which they all concur to attain a common end.

At the same time, Fitzhugh claims to be a socialist, and also opposes a free society.

We (for we are a Socialist) agree with Mr. Carlyle, that the action of free society must be reversed. That, instead of relaxing more and more the bonds that bind man to man, you must screw them up more closely. That, instead of no government, you must have more government. And this is eminently true in America, where from the nature of things, as society becomes older and population more dense, more of government will be required. To prevent the attempt at transition, which would only usher in revolution, you must begin to govern more vigorously.

The whole book is an exercise in paradox. He goes on and on about how capitalism is exploitive and awful, and damn those Yankees with their population of white slaves creating an industrial machine, while also telling us that socialism is anarchy and must be stopped, while also announcing that he is a socialist. I’m sorry, Mr Troll, this isn’t an effective argument for anything. These are the rants of a confused old man who retired to a Southern mansion and spent his time firing off incoherent screeds at newspapers.

There is one thing he is consistent on, though: black slavery is a benign institution, and we ought to expand it to allow white laborers to be enslaved, too. They’ll all be happier under the kindly hand of a master.

The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself—and results from contentment with the present, and confident assurance of the future. We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep. They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and exploitate them. The free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. We know, ’tis often said, air and water, are common property, which all have equal right to participate and enjoy; but this is utterly false. The appropriation of the lands carries with it the appropriation of all on or above the lands, usque ad cœlum, aut ad inferos. A man cannot breathe the air, without a place to breathe it from, and all places are appropriated. All water is private property “to the middle of the stream,” except the ocean, and that is not fit to drink.

Uh, yeah. I think he has built his twisty sociological edifice atop some extraordinarily fallacious premises.

Still, he was a fascinating hate-monger and kook, but not someone to look to for an insightful analysis of 19th century American society…or any society for that matter. I wouldn’t even recognize him as a socialist, since he’s not arguing for any kind of placement of any degree of ownership in the means of production to workers — he wants an authoritarian government of hereditary elites who strip all benefit from the workers’ labors and place it in the hands of hypothetically benign slave-owners. Far from being an effective argument that slavery is inherently socialistic, he’s really just a racist arguing that slavery is good.

Also, he later changed his mind.

He reversed course on capitalism’s pernicious effects, arguing that “the monopoly of property, or capital, by the few” was “the only means of begetting, sustaining and advancing civilization.”

Browsing his book, I recognize that what he really is is a predecessor to the Neo-Reactionary Movement, or the Dark Enlightenment, that libertarian wet dream of replacing the American government with an absolute monarchy in which the rich have total control. I don’t think I need to waste time any further with that horrible racist, Mr Troll: I don’t see anything coherent or true that I need to rebut.

Boiling down stupid to its essence

Mano quotes a study that shows that creationism is in decline.

The public acceptance of evolution in the United States is a long-standing problem. Using data from a series of national surveys collected over the last 35 years, we find that the level of public acceptance of evolution has increased in the last decade after at least two decades in which the public was nearly evenly divided on the issue. A structural equation model indicates that increasing enrollment in baccalaureate-level programs, exposure to college-level science courses, a declining level of religious fundamentalism, and a rising level of civic scientific literacy are responsible for the increased level of public acceptance.

I believe it. I’ve been seeing the same phenomenon — there’s a declining overall interest in creationism. It’s also creatively dead. I rarely see any new arguments, and even the recent books, like the crap from Nathaniel Jeanson, are not original at all, just rewarmed Genesis Flood nonsense spiced up with science buzzwords, poorly explained. It’s a dying cult…just, unfortunately, a slowly dying nonsense.

However, the quantitative decline is made up for with increasing fanaticism among a shrinking minority. The ignorance is being distilled into ever more toxic forms. For instance, Tucker Carlson might once have fit into a model of semi-secular conservativism, is now finding common cause with Ken Ham and QAnon, and accusing the Left of being Satanic. Meanwhile, Ken Ham thinks the movie Cats is some kind of evilutionist plot.

It’s all converging on anti-vax/anti-immigration/anti-climatology/transphobic/anti-science BS. So while the absolute numbers of these dangerous loons are declining, they are becoming increasingly nasty and stupid. We’re not going to be rid of this poison for some time to come.

What Bill Maher and The Chair have in common

I’d like to know where Marty Essen has been for the last decade or so, because he has written an essay about how Real Time with Bill Maher has become unwatchable. Has become? It’s been ground zero for the worst liberal takes for what seems like ages. At least now he has finally seen the light.

Years ago, my wife, Deb, and I used to arrange our Friday nights around watching Real Time with Bill Maher, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he performed his show from home, he became (to use his term) “a whiny little bitch.” He was so unwatchable that we made other plans for our Friday nights.

Knowing that Maher was back in front of a live audience, we gave him another shot last night. He just made us angry. First, he whined about vaccinations, saying he “took one for the team,” but doubted he’d get a booster. And that led into his nightly diatribe about how if Americans only ate better food we wouldn’t have so many health problems. Sure, many Americans would be better off if they got in-shape and lost some weight, but I can’t remember the last episode where Maher didn’t make the same point—over and over and over.

But what really pissed me off was when he and Andrew Sullivan pontificated about colleges being too woke. I have likely spoken at more colleges in the past 15 years than Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan put together. The difference is that they speak at select elite colleges and I speak everywhere else. For instance, next week I speak at Hastings College in Nebraska.

I agree with Essen on all that: the vaccination hesitancy, to be as generous as possible, the contempt for American eating habits, and just the fact that he still has Andrew Fucking Sullivan on as a guest all the time should be clues that Maher is a tired old bore. The derision he aims at colleges and college students has also been around for a long time — he’s one of those “comedians” who doesn’t want to do college gigs because the audiences there don’t find him funny, which is obviously their fault, not his.

That brings me to The Chair, that Netflix comedy-drama about a liberal arts college that everyone has been telling me to watch. I unwound from our trip last night by seeing what it was all about.

I hated it. Sincerely, deeply, angrily hated it.

Why were people telling me this piece of shit was any good at all? It wasn’t realistic at all, nothing like any university I’ve worked at, and the writer was just puking up conservative cliches about universities. There are nasty internal politics that go on in university departments, but nothing like what was portrayed on the screen. The English department in that show was portrayed as a nest of doddering deadheads with no interest in education, resistant to any new ideas, determined to subvert any fresh new faculty. Individuals like that exist, but it’s not an accurate representation of how any department works. I can grant that a show like this would exaggerate stereotypes for comic effect, but I didn’t see anything that rang true, and it was clear that the writers knew nothing about the real foibles of a university.

My biggest gripe, though, is with the major conflict at the heart of the story, which was pure anti-wokist garbage. The story is about a bumbling, but presumably charismatic English professor who staggers into an upper level class with pretty much no plan, no idea of what he’s going to talk about, and only a course title, “Modernism and Death”, to guide his structureless ramblings. He sleeps late, he gets drunk, he misses classes, and only seems to occasionally find his way into the classroom — you know, the conservative stereotype of what college professors are like.

One day, he snaps briefly into awareness and tries to deliver some ideas to the students, and starts lecturing on the contrast between absurdism and fascism, and as he mentions fascism, briefly illustrates it with a Hitler salute as he’s talking about how under fascism all meaning is ascribed to the state, to mock the idea of a supreme leader. Nothing in this snippet of a poorly framed lecture suggests any sympathy for fascism, he goes on to talk about the 85 million dead, and segues to discussing Camus and Beckett, who both fought in the resistance. In a fraction of a second, he quotes “Heil Hitler”, students capture it on their phones, it gets edited out of context, and the core conflict of the show is about woke students trying to get a Nazi fired.

This is exactly the myth that conservatives try to promote with that “cancel culture” bullshit — that students are so hypersensitive that they go on full raging alert at even innocent, harmless mentions of their shibboleths. The show works very hard to make the offense trivial and obviously misinterpreted, and the student reaction to be over the top and ridiculous. Boy, those college kids sure are stupid. When the professor tries to explain, all the feminists and brown people listening to him ask leading questions and make extreme accusations and shout him down, because that’s what the writer thinks wokists do.

The fundamental disrespect for students was appalling. The lazy portrayal of college professors was disturbing. The plot was loaded with discursive elements that were never resolved, and the central storyline seemed to be all about those goofy liberals being hoist on their own petard. If you are sympathetic to the idea that liberal arts colleges are bad, you will like this series, because it will confirm every bias you’ve got. I’m not at all sympathetic to that kind of bullshit, so I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Mission accomplished

Hey, I’m home again, and exhausted after a long day of travel. We accomplished much, however.

Here’s Skatje and Iliana (she’s in the pink raincoat with bunny ears) at La Push, Washington. It was a perfect day: overcast grey skies, a continuous drizzle of rain, and gusty winds blowing off the ocean. This is one of my favorite places on Earth, and it was a delightful day with all conditions exactly as I would have dreamed for.

The major goal of the trip was to see Connlann promoted to Major. It has been done.

For him, what this means is a whole bunch of new responsibilities. He’s part of the army response team handling the integration of tens of thousands of Afghan people into the United States, and last we left him he was preparing for a mission to airports out east. It turns out that if you need a sudden surge of people needing food and shelter, the Army is the outfit with all the tools to do that.

Now my mission is not accomplished: I have to rewire my brain and buckle down to preparing for classes tomorrow.

Scenes from newly opened universities in a pandemic

I fly back to Minnesota tomorrow! It’ll be nice to get back to a normal routine.

Except, my first in-person classes are on Tuesday! I hope I would have the courage of this college professor.

During Irwin Bernstein’s second class of the semester, the student, who was not present on the first day of class, arrived at the 25-person class unmasked and was asked by Bernstein to retrieve one from the advising office. The student was given a spare disposable mask from a peer but did not wear it over her nose.

Bernstein asked the student to pull her mask up to wear it correctly, but she said she “couldn’t breathe” and “had a really hard time breathing” with the cloth over her mouth and nose.

Written on the board at the front of the classroom was, “No mask, no class,” according to fourth-year psychology major Hannah Huff.

The 88-year-old psychology professor explained to the student that he could die from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and age-related problems, Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black.

Only about 15 minutes into the Tuesday lecture, which consisted of Bernstein taking the student attendance, he asked the student to pull her mask up again, but this time, the student did not respond.

So he walked out and quit.

If I found myself in similar circumstances this week, I don’t think I’d have to quit: my university has a mask requirement, unlike the University of Georgia, a state with a spineless, stupid Republican governor. I would not look kindly on a student who tried to pull that bullshit about not being able to breathe. That’s a lie. I wear a mask all the time in public, and no, it does not significantly impair breathing. That girl was an immature whiner trying to make a stupid protest.

UMM is at least not like Liberty University, which tried to pull off a completely laissez faire policy: no required masks, no social distancing, and no vaccine requirement. Look what happened there!

Liberty University announced a campus-wide quarantine on Thursday due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The evangelical Christian school’s office of communications said the “temporary mitigation period” would occur between Monday and Sept. 10, with all residential classes moved online and large indoor gatherings suspended.

There are 159 known active cases of the coronavirus at Liberty, according to the Lynchburg, Va., college’s COVID-19 tracker, the highest number since last September when 141 individuals tested positive for the virus.

Out of the 159 known cases, 124 are among students.

That was entirely predictable.

I can’t whole-heartedly laugh at stupid ol’ Liberty U, though, since my university only implemented the predictable, necessary, and obvious requirements to protect students and staff the week before our school opened.

Shut the f*k up, Aubrey

Aubrey de Grey does it again: he posted another long sanctimonious screed on Facebook about how no, he isn’t the harasser, someone else was doing the harassing, and there’s a conspiracy that is gaslighting his accuser and making her think he was harassing her, which is a really weird defense to make. Here’s just one sentence from the mess to give you an unpleasant taste.

My current best guess, based on the still somewhat fragmentary data available to me, is that these matters were kept from me by others who DID have those anti-Celine, pro-harasser intentions, because they realised that if I were informed of the situation I would act very swiftly (subject to hearing his side of the story!) to excise the harasser from the community for good.

It’s not very interesting, except as a sharp example of how you should shut up when accused of this sort of thing, it doesn’t help your case at all, especially when all you can muster of conspiracy-theory-mongering. What’s also somewhat interesting, though, is that he’s clearly pandering to his groupies, who are falling all over themselves to agree with his wacky stories.