I just can’t stop talking about academics and the culture wars with @ayjay:

While the form of Dr. King’s letter may be what RK recommends, its content is the opposite. She argues for patience:

To tolerate the injustice of sexism now, as Gray did then, in order to bring about some gradual melioration for the sake of long-term institutional preservation is itself an intolerable injustice.

Dr. King asserts:

Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.…We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

As I quoted before RK endorses the quiet approach:

Confronted in a gentle way with objections to institutional rules whose modification would not imperil these purposes, their revulsion against scandal led them to gradually abandon these rules.

Dr. King tells the moderates:

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily….We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Are these not opposing views on how social change happens? Would Dr. King have addressed the issue of South African divestment via task forces and closed debates? I think his approach would be to lead a non-violent protest to shut the university down. His anti-war work was certainly not confined to committees and personal discussions. Yet that is what RK recommends: quiet, private, civil discussion.

I agree that Gray’s toolkit is necessary. RK seems to be saying it’s sufficient. My sticking point is that she seems to be arguing that disruptive public protest is always wrong. Can you point me to a passage where she endorses direct action? Or any public protest?

I can’t shut up about academics and the culture wars with @ayjay:

I may be focusing on separate areas of the essay than you are, but I don’t think I’m reading things into it. Koganzon seems to be arguing against much more than simply snarking on Twitter:

Confronted in a gentle way with objections to institutional rules whose modification would not imperil these purposes, their revulsion against scandal led them to gradually abandon these rules. The alternative is, obviously, public protest, which works precisely to outrage and inflame, so that the university’s internal workings are submitted to public derision and its self-governance is thereby undermined.

This reads like a pretty blunt statement that public protest is not good for the academy. Rather scholars should confront injustice “in a gentle way”.

She makes another ridiculous claim about how inequity is overcome:

Institutional perversities can be rectified from within and with minimal disruption by focusing on and exploiting commonalities and agreements—as Gray did with Heston—instead of inflaming disagreements.

Integrating universities in the American South was never going to happen with “minimal disruption”. It took federal troops to allow James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi. If the men at Harvard reacted as the whites at Ole Miss did, Gray would have never gotten a chance to become a scholar—she’d likely have been killed first.


I also think the comparison of Hanna Gray to MLK Jr. fails. King was anything but gentle and minimally disruptive. He aimed to performatively disrupt the surrounding society—he wanted to get images of whites attacking blacks on TV and in the papers. In Chicago, he would pressure Daley by threatening to march into Cicero and provoke a riot. All the criticisms used against BLM were used to attack him too. He worked for coordination within the movement, but was uncompromising and impatient in his demands for change. I would argue that his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is a direct counterargument to Koganzon’s essay—it’s all about the fierce urgency of now that she doesn’t want to infect the university.

I agree that simply snarking on Twitter is no substitute for substained movement building. On the other hand The Women’s March began with a Facebook post and is now doing a ton of organizing and direct action. If anything, scholars should be backing up their snark with public action, not quiet policy making. Gray would have never been accepted to Harvard if it hadn’t been for the disruptive work of the Women’s Rights movement in the decades before her birth. There’s an uprising of energy in our country right now. A lot is coming out in pretty silly ways, but much is also acting as a catalyst for social change. I think this is a moment to ride and embrace that energy, not to tamp it down. Lenin did a lot of organizing, but part of the reason the October Revolution succeeded is that he wasn’t hesitant to act.

More on academics and the culture wars with @ayjay:

I don’t think Koganzon supports naming the college after Calhoun, but she certainly criticizes activists at Yale calling for broad public agitation to change the name. I think it’s an example of how she minimizes the importance of some issues and does not give radical protest its due. Of actions like the Calhoun protest, she says:

Some individuals always benefit from these scuffles, but institutions always suffer.

At no point does Koganzon acknowledge that direct action and intensely public protest can be useful and are sometimes necessary. She criticizes: “The urgency of the now that animates movement politics has colonized higher education.” She says Gray was correct to tolerate injustice in the present to ensure change in the future. Yet, she does not acknowledge the dangers and difficulties of the “go slow” approach—it has historically been used to deflect change and it asks those who are suffering to bear the pain in civil silence to not offend their oppressors. Koganzon may be right that doing so may be the best tactical approach, but, if one is going to argue that, one must also admit one is asking people to do something incredibly hard. Such civility is demanded by pragmatism not ethics.

I just read about “A Protest Pee-In On The Harvard Yard” and it’s a wonderful contrast. In comparison to Gray’s quiet action, Flo Kennedy led a crowd to dump fake urine on the steps of Lowell Hall to protest women having to leave the building if they wanted to use the restroom during exams. That sounds like something Koganzon would deplore (or at least criticize), yet it did lead to real change and let women express their valid anger.

On academics and the culture wars with @ayjay:

Koganzon brings up some good points and I want to read Gray’s book. But she does not acknowledge the viewpoint of those on the outside enough. Gray’s quiet dignity pushed against Harvard’s institutionalized sexism, but I doubt the same strategy would have worked for James Meredith.

Her citing the Calhoun College controversy is telling. Calhoun was a white supremacist who fought like hell to enshrine the enslavement of African Americans. A college named after him sends the same message to Black students as a Joseph Goebbels College would send to Jewish Students.

There are certainly excesses of political correctness in academia, but declaring that it is no longer acceptable to honor a man who would have broke our country rather than accept any limitation on owning other human beings is not one of them. The true horror there is how long it took for Calhoun College to become a scandal.

Koganzon is right that change requires institutionalists like Gray working within the system, but she misses that the protestors at the gates are just as important. Often it is the fear of revolution that gets those in power to listen to the institutional reformer’s voice of reason.

Though this might be worse:

Two books added to the pile: 📚

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, by Jamie Holmes.

“If there’s any takeaway, it’s that we’re programmed to get rid of ambiguity, and yet if we engage with it we can make better decisions, we can be more creative, and we can even be a little more empathetic,” Holmes told Science of Us. -From The Bad Things That Happen When People Can’t Deal With Ambiguous Situations | Jessie Singal, NYMag

Enchanted America: How Intuition And Reason Divide Our Politics, by J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood

People’s beliefs — particularly their most emotionally charged, politicized beliefs — don’t come from a place of cold empirical logic. Something else is going on, and the complexity of that something else has stalled experts’ attempts to help people understand the world in a more accurate, less conspiracy-addled way. -From Can a New Book on ‘Intuitionism’ Explain America’s Political Crisis? | Jessie Singal, NYMag

More on politics with @ablaze:

Ah. It’s not really clear in your piece about what “small scale identities” means. There are plenty of critics of “identity politics” that do mean women or people of color and I assumed* that you were using the same definition.

I do take your piece to be claiming: “People spend too much time fighting over the small stuff.” Which, especially in the current political environment, seems pretty off. Most of the political activity and anger I see is directed at big issues. Even when I disagree with the solutions (blocking development to prevent gentrification), the problem is real and important.

What I find frustrating is that many people (not you) seem to want to redefine big issues as small ones. And I brought that assumption* to your piece.

On the other hand, I’d challenge you on the definition of “small”: changing the name of a park can be an important fight. Think about changing a Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to a Medgar Evers Park. Or “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day”. On a small scale, the same fight could take place within a community wanting to rename a park after an important community organizer.

I think this ties into your point about how much everyone has going on underneath the surface. The small fights over what identities our communities acknowledge and celebrate are indeed worth it. There is real good and power to seeing our own histories represented in a public space. Those affirmations can also help bring up feelings of universal love.

* Making an ass of me.

Politics and Mindfulness with @ablaze:

I read your post as saying that many of our political conflicts are minor and tribal. I think that actually very few of our conflicts are. It’s important to acknowledge that our two political parties have pretty extreme differences, like, say, actually doing something, anything about catastrophic climate change.

I think people should be enraged over the current political environment. Over global warming, over separating refugee families, over the assault on voting rights, over the systematic injustices of our criminal justice system, over #metoo.

Mindfulness is an important part of balancing that rage, of not burning out or letting it become destructive. But anger and rage have been behind all of our movements towards a more perfect union.

Pushing back against affronts against “small-scale identities” is an essential part of these struggles too. It is an important human need to be recognized as equal. To not sit in the back of the bus, to be able to vote, to not risk arrest by going to a bar, to use the bathroom of your gender. Those fights can’t be separated from the greater threats.

Or, as Rachel Lark sings in Free The Nipple:

Oh no, look at me, I’m dismissing other women who are working towards equality.

The “little” fight to replace laws against women going bare chested in public is part of the bigger fight for full gender equality.

Hey New Yorkers! Schumer has caved again on fast tracking Trump Judges. It’s like he has amnesia about McConnell during the Obama years. 😡

Let’s give him and Gillibrand a piece of our mind!

Feels a little funny to go to a concert and be a person “with the band”. 🙃

An even more subtle metaphor, @simonwoods.

Oh Amtrak/NYC. The Spuyten Duyvil Bridge was stuck open and my train was delayed for two and a half hours. Still got 50 minutes to go and I really need some coffee. 😢

A friend called me today after a hard weekend dealing with mansplaining. She said she really appreciated me as a feminist man in her life. I teared up and listened.

We Don’t Teach American History

John Gruber on the immigration jail horrors:

These conditions would be deplorable anywhere in the world, but to have this going on in the United States of America is just astounding.

How the South reconstituted slavery as prison labor:

Some American camps were far deadlier than Stalin’s: In South Carolina, the death rate of convicts leased to the Greenwood and Augusta Railroad averaged 45 percent a year from 1877–79.

[Emphasis Added]

I’m really glad Gruber brought our current criminal treatment of immigrants to his audience. But it is sadly not astounding that those crimes are happening in our country and in our name.

Took a look at the XS today and it’s definitely too big for me. My thumb started to ache after maybe a minute. Guess I’m stuck praying to the Great Ive to deign to design a full screen SE. 😢🙏📱

Politics with @smokey, @ayjay, @JohnPhilpin:

While I do have my biases, I think a big part of the problem is the ripping up of norms have been one sided. I can’t think of anything the Dems have done like Merrick Garland or Red Map or the NC legislature stripping the governor of powers when a Dem was elected. Or the extreme obstruction starting from the beginning of Obama’s presidency or the farce of the Republicans Health Care “Reform”. They clearly campaigned against the ACA without any plan of how to replace it. Everything they falsely claimed the Dems did to pass the ACA, the GOP did trying to repeal it.

The Dems can’t change the GOP by setting a good example. They tried with judicial Blue Slips and as soon as Trump took office the Republicans got rid of them again. I don’t see a way out unless the Democrats play Constitutional Hardball of their own. Which will escalate things but I’m sort of hoping for a California scenario where the GOP hard right turn eventually hit the changing demographics and turned the state deep blue. Tit for Tat until the GOP is willing to honor norms again or until the party is destroyed and a new conservative party rises from the ashes. One that accepts science and the modern world. Not one that what’s to repeal the New Deal and go back to the Gilded Age.

We should nuke the filibuster entirely. While it’s sometimes been a last wall against the erosion of rights, it has far more of a history of blocking progressive change. If we get the trifecta in 2020, admit DC and Puerto Rico as states. Maybe go really crazy and split California into as many states as can be counted to remain blue. While I’m scared of packing the Court, the current one is the most conservative since pre-New Deal. What happens if a Dem Congress and President pass Medicare-For-All and the Court strikes it down? Or the Court uses the First Amendment to grossly empower corporations the way the Lochner era Court used the 14th? Or if the Court creates a religious exemption from public accommodation laws? I don’t see how you logically can hold anti-gay discrimination is valid if backed by religious belief if you don’t apply that standard to racial, gender, etc discrimination as well. The same arguments used in Masterpiece Cakeshop were used to defend private racial segregation.

I also have to put hope in large social movements like The Poor People’s Campaign. Rev. William J. Barber II has called for a Third Reconstruction. Mass non-violent action. Support the new teachers’ strikes and movements. Fight voter suppression as much as possible. Bring the tensions to the surface and throw sand into the gears. The women disrupting the Senate and getting arrested is a start. ACT UP was effective because they refused to be civil. As much as we revere Dr. King today, during his life many, many people viewed him like the BLM movement today. If we are going to avoid descending into violence, I think it will be throw aggressive non-violent direct action in the streets and hard nosed politics in government.

I don’t know if that will be enough. I fear we’ll end up with an illiberal democracy like Hungary or Poland or Turkey. If the Republicans weren’t so ideologically committed to cutting taxes for the wealthy, they could make it happen. If instead of trying to repeal the ACA, they had deficit funded more benefits and rebranded it TrumpCare; if their tax cut had focused more on the non-wealthy—I think the Dems wouldn’t have a chance this November. But they aren’t delivering any butter and trickle down economics doesn’t work. Relying primarily on white identity politics leaves an opening for the Dems.

Dear Upstate Traffic Gods,

I heartedly repent for You have made Your fury known. I dared to sinfully contemplate the ease of travel between Stockbridge and Hudson, a route with hardly a traffic light. Your message of slow drivers, trucks in low gear, slow drivers, oversized load convoys, slow driver, accidents, slow drivers, construction, slow fucking drivers, and drivers who see fucking invisible stop signs is clear.

I will give You thanks before every trip to and from the train. Thank You for Your grace.

And thanks for getting that one slow driver to finally fucking let me pass.

Sincerely, Misplaced NYCer.

I find the liberal freak out over the Presidential Alerts to be a bit like the right’s freak out over Jade Helm: there’s a far simpler explaination for what’s happening.

The system of which the new alert is a part was created by legislation back in 2006. The government has just been very slow implementing the unblockable alerts. The actual big deal is the system didn’t work. I and a whole bunch of other people didn’t get the text. If a Democrat were President, Fox News would be having a hay day with it.

There are just so many more effective ways for Trump to do what we all fear. A State of Emergency crackdown would be more effective if he tells the cops, National Guard, and military before the rest of us find out. Our notice will be the authorities setting up checkpoints, instituting curfews, and rounding us up.

As for campaigning, Fox News and Twitter are far better tools for reaching his base. Why risk motivating Democratic voters by pissing us all off with an unblockable text?

This system is for an imminent disaster when it makes sense to reach as many people as possible. If a tsunami is on its way to Seattle, we don’t want some people to not get the message because they opted out of receiving alerts.

Occam’s Razor.

So I’m working on learning a skill with an instructor. We’ve started out pretty simple. I’m considering a project and am going to bring in a super complex version for my lesson tomorrow. Let’s see how that goes! 🙏🤞

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes seems like an appropriate painting for these days.

For NYS Dems, Anna Kaplan is apparently the best bet to flip our state senate (finally!). Her campaign would be a good use of extra time or money.

Book Recommedations for @GR36:

The following are mostly SF as that’s what I’ve been reading recently. The Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin is intense and brilliant. The Craft books by Max Gladstone aren’t as intense, but create a compelling world with a lot of resonance to our own. The Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie is a great exploration of AI and identity. LA Confidential by James Elroy is a fever dream of the Los Angeles crime world in the 1950s. The Fall of Ile-Rein by Martha Welles is an awesome retelling of the First World War if there were multiple dimensions and magic. Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks. Very different from the rest of The Culture novels and Banks keeps upping the game. If you’re up for a web serial that will consume your life Worm redefines the Godzilla Threshold so many times by the end, your head will be spinning. A word of warning, it’s over 1,500,000 words and gripping: a black hole to consume all your reading time. 📚

If Collins, Flake, and Murkowski really are meeting with Manchin, Kavanaugh might actually be sunk. Manchin has been consistently polling far ahead of his challenger, so he can probably afford a no vote, especially if several Republicans join.

Ignoring everything else, Kavanaugh disqualified himself today by demonstrating an extreme bias against one of our political parties. There is no way to even pretend he will be impartial on the bench.