Lefty Resource Library

Posting articles as I go

Getting subjective to see the Objective for what it is

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.


Collectivising v. individualising risk

Risks once borne by corporations and the government, Hacker noted, like unplanned health costs, are now the responsibility of Mom and Pop. Transferring risk from the collective to the individual, though, ends badly for everyone. Family affliction, like banker “contagion,” is tricky to sequester: if Larry and Terry get bankrupted by bad luck, their misfortune cascades, dragging down creditors, neighbors, and especially their children. The reason liberals like insurance is that it helps diffuse risk throughout society. Pooling risk, one might say, is the essence of the progressive social contract.


Philosophy and economics serving status quo power

Utilitarianism challenged the aristocracy. Philosophy conveniently intervened to devalue this challenge, and enabled the development of modern econ, including justifications for the common thinking that redistribution to the poor is wrong but redistributing to the rich is right:

“what really upset the applecart was the specification, “each one to count for one.”  The problem, you see, was that the principle gave the same weight to the pains and pleasures of peasants as it gave to those of aristocrats … there were so many peasants and so few aristocrats!

“seemed ineluctably to lead us to an endorsement of a far-reaching redistribution of income

“Philosophy came to the rescue, this time by discovering the problem of Other Minds … Capitalism was saved, and economists could go back to elaborating elegant mathematical structures confident that in so doing they would not be burning the house down

“Apologists for capitalism, which is to say professional economists, showing a positive genius for propaganda, call this state of affairs “efficient.”  I mean, who on earth could be against efficiency, especially in America?  So the present distribution of wealth and income is efficient, so long as taking a dollar away from a billionaire and giving it to a poor man makes the billionaire even the slightest bit less happy.  Unless, of course, the transfer has the all-round happy effect of somehow increasing the total output of the society so that the billionaire can be given his dollar back [or, more likely, a million dollars back] while also leaving enough to give the poor man an extra crust of bread, which will, ex hypothesi, move him a tad up his indifference curve.  [They give Nobel Prizes for this stuff.  I think astrologers should complain.]”

Implications for other ways in which theory is used to distance the privileged from oppression.


Creating racial categories to divide and conquer

Exploitated white and black workers were rising up together in the US in the 17thC. The government reacted by outlawing slavery of white people but not black people. This was a strategy used to quash uprising and placate the underclasses in a way that would allow exploitation to continue efficiently because “The great thing about the divide-and-conquer of creating white-skin privilege is that you don’t have to give people thusly bought off anything more” – having power relative to some others is enough.

Similar ‘divide and rule’ approaches were used throughout the colonial project:

As the aristocrats and their successors traveled around the world through the colonial age, Europeans all over would find or define a group within the colonial territory and elevate it above the other groups, give it some privileges, though never enough to challenge the intruding rulers. In exchange for this slightly elevated status, the rulers would make those people do the colonial dirty work, and usually keep them slightly more well off than their fellows. Over time, these slightly elevated people often tried to keep their European masters in power even after the people realized how evil colonialism was, maintaining the system both to keep above their fellows and out of fear of retaliation for the dirty work they’d done.

God made the whites to serve kings, and everyone else to serve whites. 

View story at Medium.com

Government policy creating segregated neighbourhoods: Ferguson case study

Government policy did much of the work in creating the segregation and inequality of today’s US (with potential implications for the power of government policy and institutional change in general).

Points out that often seemingly integrated neighbourhoods today are actually just in transition from mostly black to white or vice versa.

Some tools used:

Racially explicit zoning decisions that designated specific ghetto boundaries within the city of St. Louis, turning black neighborhoods into slums;
Segregated public housing projects that separated blacks and whites who had previously lived in more integrated urban areas;
Restrictive covenants, excluding African Americans from white areas, that began as private agreements but then were adopted as explicit public policy;
Government subsidies for white suburban developments that excluded blacks, depriving African Americans of the 20th century home-equity driven wealth gains reaped by whites;
Denial of adequate municipal services in ghettos, leading to slum conditions in black neighborhoods that reinforced whites’ conviction that “blacks” and “slums” were synonymous;
Boundary, annexation, spot zoning, and municipal incorporation policies designed to remove African Americans from residence near white neighborhoods, or to prevent them from establishing residence near white neighborhoods;
Urban renewal and redevelopment programs to shift ghetto locations, in the guise of cleaning up those slums;
Government regulators’ tacit (and sometimes open) support for real estate and financial sector policies and practices that explicitly promoted residential segregation;
A government-sponsored dual labor market that made suburban housing less affordable for African Americans by preventing them from accumulating wealth needed to participate in homeownership.


Once the first zoning ordinance was adopted, City Plan Commission meetings were consumed with requests for variances. Race was an important consideration. One meeting in 1919 was devoted to a proposal to reclassify a single-family property from first residential to commercial, because the area to the south had been “invaded by negroes.” Bartholomew persuaded the commission to deny the variance because, he said, keeping the first residential designation would preserve homes in the area as unaffordable to blacks, and thus stop the encroachment. On other occasions the commission changed an area’s zoning from residential to industrial if black families began to move into it. In 1927, violating its normal policy, the commission placed a park and playground in an industrial, not residential area, in hopes that this placement would draw black families to seek housing nearby.


Called “restrictive covenants,” the first in St. Louis was recorded in 1910.28 Later, covenants were promoted nationwide by the National Association of Real Estate Boards, which provided model language. In St. Louis, the Real Estate Exchange provided a “Uniform Restriction Agreement” for neighborhood associations to use. By 1945, about 300 neighborhood covenants were in force.29

The legal instruments took two forms. In one, homebuilders attached clauses to property deeds committing the first and subsequent buyers of a house never to sell that property to an African American or permit the property to be occupied by one. Exceptions were typically made for live-in domestic servants. In the other, associations of homeowners in particular neighborhoods signed mutual agreements that no member of the association would sell to, or permit occupancy by, an African American – again, with a similar exception. The second form was easier to enforce, because any signatory had standing to compel compliance. The Real Estate Exchange itself was typically a signatory, and it frequently initiated litigation to prevent a breach.

Suggests many things about the relationship between contemporary government decision making and history, e.g. seemingly deliberate ahistoricism that refuses to take past policy into account in decision making about service provision and discrimination. All subsidisation decisions are probably deeply steeped in this approach, not only in regard to race, but also other discrimination. Governments should not pretend they have no responsibility for the actions taken by previous governments. Ahistoricism in policy is the enemy (or, one of the enemies).

Although policies to impose segregation are no longer explicit, their effects endure in neighborhoods segregated by race in the North, South, East, and West. When we blame private prejudice and snobbishness for contemporary segregation, we not only whitewash our own history, but avoid considering whether new policies might instead promote an integrated community.

Various thoughts

designated zones for future industrial development if they were in or adjacent to neighborhoods with substantial black populations

– Health and standard-of-living discrimination with ongoing effects

– ALL slums in the developed world created, with varying degrees of intentionality (including, of course COMPLETE intentionality) by policy?

– ALL zoning decisions generally racist and classist?

Even accounting for home improvement investments that owners of these homes have made since 1952, the capital gain for white homeowners, and their heirs, endures. The federal government’s support for residential segregation in the mid-20th century is largely responsible for the fact that while the median family income of African Americans is now about 60 percent of whites’ income, the median household wealth of African Americans is only about 5 percent of whites’ wealth.47 This enormous difference translates into differences between blacks and whites in the security and comfort of retirement (and in the obligations of adult children to divert their incomes to support elderly parents), in the ability of young people to attend college, and in the selectivity of the colleges they can afford to attend.

– Restricting social services and subsidies to some groups gives those groups massive demonstrable intergenerational advantage

Whites observed the black ghetto and concluded that slum conditions were characteristic of black families, not a result of housing discrimination. This conclusion reinforced whites’ resistance to racial integration, lest black residents bring slum conditions to white communities.51 Thus, to the extent we attribute segregation of the contemporary St. Louis metropolitan area to white flight, government policy bears some responsibility for creating conditions that supported the racial stereotypes fueling such flight.

– cf. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples


White privilege: a comic


Beyonce, Emma Watson, and feminism

“So, can we please stop trying to make Emma Watson the new feminist icon of the universe? She’s not there yet. She’s still learning, I think, just like Beyoncé, who, by the way, rarely even gets the benefit of the doubt from white feminists, let alone hailed as feminist queen of all things, when her feminist expressions are less than perfect. (Imagine if Beyoncé got up at the UN and gave a speech that centered men in the fight for gender equality. The white mainstream feminist skies would rain down hellfire upon us all. Well, some of us, anyway.)

“I hope that as Emma Watson continues to grow into her feminism she’ll chuck these unfortunate approaches. But, frankly, it’ll take a lot more than that for me to see her as the “game-changing” feminist she’s being called. Where’s her analysis of racial justice and its necessity in ending gender inequality? What does she know about misogynoir? Does she understand that wealthy white women like her are often oppressors of women of color and/or poor women in the world? Where’s her understanding of transfeminism? Can she explain to the UN, or anyone else, why violence against trans women needs to be centered in our work against misogyny? Does she know and can she articulate that ableism is woven into not only gender inequality, but every form of oppression that exists? And, importantly, does she understand that as a white woman she is granted access and taken seriously by mainstream feminism in ways that a woman of color wouldn’t be and why, then, it’s necessary for her to step aside and make room for women of color to be heard if gender inequality is ever to be eradicated?”


Trigger warnings, collectivised healing, and movement-building

the larger context from which trigger warnings emerged. In particular, this intervention emerged from the recognition by many of us in the anti-violence movement that we were building a movement that continued to structurally marginalize survivors by privatizing healing.

trigger warnings cannot be viewed in isolation. Rather, they are part of a larger complex of practices designed to de-privatize and collective healing. They came out of the recognition that we are not unaffected by the political and intellectual work that we do. These practices also recognized that the labor of healing has to be shared by all. Trigger warnings are one of many practices that insist that one does not have to be silent about one’s healing journey – that one’s healing can occupy public and collective spaces. And healing can only truly happen when we take collective responsibility for creating structures and practices that enable healing.

The intervention of trigger warnings also often shifts from asserting a public space to organize around trauma to creating a safe space from it 

[emphasis mine].

what are the organizing practices and strategies for building movements that recognize that settler colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy and heteropatriarchy have not left us unscathed? How do we create spaces to experiment with different strategies, as well as spaces to openly assess and change these strategies as they inevitably become co-opted? How do we create movements that make us collectively accountable for healing from individual and collective trauma? How do we create critical intellectual spaces that recognize that intellectual work is not disembodied and without material effects? How do we collectively reduce harm in our intellectual and political spaces? And finally, how can we build healing movements for liberation that can include us as we actually are rather than as the peoples we are supposed to be?


Solid summary of the income penalty of ‘being female’

‘While many aspects of working life have changed in recent decades, the inequality of outcomes experienced by male and female employees has been remarkably resistant.

‘Proponents of the “merit” argument would have us believe that the dearth of women in leadership roles is an accurate reflection of the proportion of “women of merit” in the workforce – that they aren’t just MIA (and easily locatable by a good search party), but rather they’ve willingly gone AWOL, choosing to work less hours, being less ambitious, failing to “lean in”, and so on.

‘I could expend many thousands of words refuting these “explanations” but I won’t – they are just part of the smokescreen that keeps us focused on the “faults” of the female workforce. To understand the continuing levels of disparity evident in Australian workplaces we need to scrutinise the institutional and societal structures that underpin the inequity. A good place to start is with an examination of the factors contributing to the gender wage gap.

‘Currently, the gender wage gap sits at 17.1%. This means that, on average, women earn 82.9 cents to every dollar earned by men for the same or equivalent work. At its narrowest, in 2005, the gap was 15.1%. Since then it has been widening, eroding progress to the point that the current gap is now larger than it was 20 years ago – in 1994 it was 16.2%.

‘So, we have two graduates with no experience and the same qualifications, but the male gets paid $5,000 more on average than the female. This alone should dilute any support for the idea that the gap is simply circumstantial and not sexist. Further evidence is available from an extensive study completed in 2010 by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra, The impact of a sustained gender wage gap on the Australian economy.

‘After accounting for differences in male and female work patterns and experience, qualifications and so on, the researchers found that 60% of the gender wage gap was due to “being female”. To be clear here, this means that most of the gap is not related to choice of occupation or sector of employment, having dependent children or a uni degree, or any other such variation. It’s just about being female. In their modelling, this “being female” penalty equated to a deficit of $3,394 a year on average.

‘Further evidence of the “being female” penalty is demonstrated in studies investigating decision-making around hiring and promotion. The most compelling of these studies use matched curriculum vitaes, which are identical in content, except for gender. A good example by Rhea Steinpreis and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee involved the comparison of CVs for two job applicants who were going for their first job after completing graduate school.

‘The CVs, identical except for the applicant’s name (Karen Miller or Brian Miller), were distributed to 238 US psychology academics. Among other things, the academics were asked to assess the quality of the candidates’ work experience (teaching, research and service), and to state whether they felt the candidates should be hired. The study results showed that, irrespective of the gender of the participating academic, they were more likely to rate the male job candidate higher than the female candidate on each of the aspects of work experience assessed.

‘They were also more likely to recommend hiring the male candidate than the female candidate. So, to be explicit: two candidates with identical CVs achieved different outcomes. As the researchers concluded, “The present findings indicate that at the fledgling stages of the career of a young professional, gender is seen as an indicator of success”.

‘Experimental research provides clear evidence of stricter standards for women than for men when both perform at the same level and performance evaluations are objective – but can nevertheless be interpreted as either conclusive or inconclusive evidence of competence. Double standards provide the mechanism for those differences in interpretation.

‘However, such judgments are affected by gender stereotyping, such as expectations about what women are like and how they should behave. Therefore, when a female applies for a job or a promotion into a position that has been traditionally seen as a “male” job, her perceived attributes don’t fit well with the male-type template of perceived job requirements.

‘She is therefore viewed as being less likely to succeed in such a position, leading to being less likely to be hired/promoted into it. Given that the vast majority of occupational roles, and leadership roles in particular, have been traditionally viewed as “male” jobs, this is where the “being female” penalty occurs. Thus, as per the double standards for competency, to get the job or promotion, she will have to demonstrate, indisputably, that she is more qualified and competent than a male would have to be to get the same job.

‘Thus, females doing “female-type” work were not penalised because they were perceived to be a good fit when evaluated against a female template of job performance, while females performing “male-type” work were judged more harshly because they were perceived to be a poor fit with the male template of job performance. An additional finding of the study was that, overall, females had to receive higher job performance ratings to gain a promotion than did their male colleagues, indicating the competency double standard.

‘Evidently, any time taken out of the workforce will have an adverse impact on an individual’s career progression, including lifetime earnings. However, even when women take a minimal amount of maternity leave, say 12 weeks, they are penalised for it in a way that does not happen for men or women who take a similar amount of leave for other purposes (e.g. long service leave).

‘From a financial perspective, this ‘motherhood penalty’ adds to the pre-existing “being female” penalty affecting the gender wage gap. Ian Watson’s study on managers also included an investigation of gender wage differences in relation to the parental status of the managers. Examining the data for managers with thirty years of work experience, he found that males with no children earned approximately $120,000 a year on average. For men with children, each child they had acted to increase their earnings by $2,000–$5,000 a year, resulting in a salary of about $130,000 for managers with three or more children.

‘In contrast, the base rate (no children) for females with equivalent work experience was around $95,000, which decreased by $2,000–$7,000 per year for each child, to an annual salary of approximately $77,000 for managers with three or more children. Thus, the combined “being female” and “motherhood” penalties mean that, in comparison to a male with equal years of experience and number of children, an Australian female manager with thirty years work experience earns approximately $35,000 less per year if she has a single child, $40,000 less if she has two children and a massive $53,000 less per year if she has three or more children.’


Great summary of flaws in the way Conservatives have misinterpreted Moynihan (re: universal minimum wage research)

‘Gobry is right that the negative income tax experiments are the best test we have of this policy to date. But “best” does not equal perfect. My concern is that Gobry reads the experiments to be saying more than they are in fact saying, given both flaws and limitations in their methodologies and other conclusions they came to that Gobry failed to mention. Here are a few concerns worth raising.

1. “Worked less” sometimes means “the results were underreported.”

2. “Worked less” does not necessarily mean “dropped out of the labor force forever”

3. “Worked less” sometimes means “got more education”

4. “Worked less” is sometimes a good thing

5. You can only know so much from short experiments

‘So here’s my takeaway: a negative income tax or basic income of sufficient size would, by definition, eliminate poverty. We still don’t know if there’d be much of a cost in terms of people working and earning less. If there is, the effect is almost certainly small enough that a negative income tax can offset the lost earnings and remain affordable. The worst case scenario is that we eliminate poverty but see a modest decline in employment. The best case scenario is we eliminate poverty at even lower cost and don’t see much of an effect on employment. That’s a gamble I’m willing to take.’