Open Thread And Link Farm: Don’t Hurt The Ducks Edition

  1. The Pencilsword: On a plate – The Wireless Excellent cartoon by Aussie cartoonist Toby Morris, about how our birth (or, rather, who we’re born to) determines our life chances.
  2. Lawsplainer: What the Supreme Court Didn’t Decide About True Threats in Elonis | Popehat
  3. What would a reasonable religious freedom law look like? | Kelly Thinks Too Much
  4. I’ve been gently arguing with some Sad Puppies about Ms Marvel (the hugo-nominated superhero graphic novel about a Mulsim teen who gains superpowers) on TL Knighton’s blog.
  5. My daughter dressed like Elsa from “Frozen” for 23 days — and it was amazing –
  6. The Columbia rape denialists are straight up conspiracy theorists And, a related link: I Am Not a ‘Pretty Little Liar’
  7. Sorry, evolutionary psychology buffs. A new paper suggests that our caveman ancestors were egalitarian. The title is an exaggeration, but there’s still stuff of interest here.
  8. Tim Minchin – If I Didn’t Have You – Full Uncut Version – YouTube I wish I were married to Sarah Minchin.
  9. The Bristol Board : Photo I love this Pogo strip from 1959. I pretty much love it anytime a great cartoonist plays with word balloons.
  10. My Cartoons At A May Day Festival In Israel!
  11. Against Being Against Manspreading The mostly feminist campaign against “manspreading” has led to fat-shaming and to giving police another excuse to harass minority men.
  12. “States with the highest number of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes and least supportive policies for women and children….” | Center for Reproductive Rights
  13. Birth Control That Works Too Well | The Nation “A Colorado program to give low-income teens long-acting contraception dropped the teen abortion rate dramatically. But conservatives refuse to fund it.”
  14. Families don’t balance their budgets, and neither should the federal government – Vox
  15. Snowden and the NSA – The Atlantic
  16. All (hopefully) of the bad arguments about rape on Game of Thrones debunked, and Another major character is raped on Game of Thrones. This time, it works for the story., both written by Amanda Marcotte. I’m sort of late on posting this, because I only just watched it, but I agree with most of Amanda’s take.
  17. The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking” – Vox
  18. I will have fedoras and never apologise to anyone | anthropolatry From the title, I was expecting this post to be a defense of wearing fedoras – and yes, I realize that the hats people call fedoras are often actually trilbys – and a pushback against the practice of fashion-sneering at people who wear fedoras/trilbys, and I clicked on it for that reason, because I loath fashion-sneering. But it’s actually about something else – arguing that people on all sides should be willing to give other people a break when they say something terrible in an angry rant – but I thought that was interesting, too.
  19. Study: Each new immigrant creates 1.2 new jobs – Vox
  20. Paid Leave Goes from Progressive Pipe Dream to Political Reality | The New Republic
  21. Hook-up culture vs. rape culture: The conversation we’re not having
  22. 4 Reasons Why Feminism Is for Men — Medium


Posted in Link farms | 127 Comments  

Effective Altruism


Effective altruism reading material for busy people is a useful link-list for people who’d like a quick guide to the Effective Altruism (also called EA) movement.

Here’s a quote from an EA primer by Scott Siskind, which is included in the link-list:

But they are decidedly not natural when facing a decision about charitable giving. Most donors say they want to “help people”. If that’s true, they should try to distribute their resources to help people as much as possible. Most people don’t. In the “Buy A Brushstroke” campaign, eleven thousand British donors gave a total of ÂŁ550,000 to keep the famous painting “Blue Rigi” in a UK museum. If they had given that ÂŁ550,000 to buy better sanitation systems in African villages instead, the latest statistics suggest it would have saved the lives of about one thousand two hundred people from disease. Each individual $50 donation could have given a year of normal life back to a Third Worlder afflicted with a disabling condition like blindness or limb deformity..

Most of those 11,000 donors genuinely wanted to help people by preserving access to the original canvas of a beautiful painting. And most of those 11,000 donors, if you asked, would say that a thousand people’s lives are more important than a beautiful painting, original or no. But these people didn’t have the proper mental habits to realize that was the choice before them, and so a beautiful painting remains in a British museum and somewhere in the Third World a thousand people are dead.

If you are to “love your neighbor as yourself”, then you should be as careful in maximizing the benefit to others when donating to charity as you would be in maximizing the benefit to yourself when choosing purchases for a polar trek.

This is the sort of thing I find tremendously alienating, because it sets up supporting the arts, or supporting historic artifacts, as a bad thing. This is pretty common among EA rhetoric, I suspect because many EA people genuinely don’t care about art – especially “high” art – and think that people who do care are just preening for attention.

It’s true, of course, that money is fungible and therefore ten bucks donated to preserve a painting could instead have been used to protect three to six people from malaria for six years. But the same could also be said about the money spent on a video game, or on internet access, or on taking a trip, or eating out with friends, or on going to a movie, or anything else that EA folks might like doing. There isn’t an either-or choice between giving to help the needy and supporting the arts, any more than there’s an either-or choice between giving to help the needy and occasionally going out to a movie. Most people in a position to give to charity, can do both.

Unless the expectation is that 100% of every person’s money beyond the bare minimum needed for survival must be spent on saving lives, it seems weird that EA people often pick on the arts in particular. To be honest, this is the sort of thing that made me go “fuck EA!” when I first heard about it.

Nonetheless, I do like giving money to help people in need. And, given that this is one of my goals, I definitely want to give that money in a way that will be the most helpful possible. I think EA’s evidence-based approach is great, and I’m glad sites like The Life You Can Save and Givewell exist and can help me make decisions.

I don’t think I’d like it if EA guided everyone’s donations to charity. I don’t feel certain that the metrics they use are necessarily correct. Evidence-based is good, but sometimes evidence-based thinking is vulnerable to the streetlight effect. A scattershot approach, in which people use a zillion different approaches to deciding what charities to give to, is less vulnerable to the streetlight effect than a focused approach.

But in the real world, not everyone uses EA’s approach, and it’s not realistic to worry that everyone will. And so I find EA a useful and positive movement. And I do think that it’s a good idea for a large number of people (but short of everyone) to give to charity based on where their money can do the most good for the greatest number of people.

Anyway, as it happens, I’ve been put in charge of giving away $5000 to the charities of my choice. I was thinking of using The Life You Can Save’s Best Charities to Donate to page as a guide, probably giving the largest amounts to Against Malaria and to The Fistula Foundation, and smaller amounts to some other charities there. But I’d be interested in anyone’s else’s thoughts or suggestions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments  

This is a Remarkable Story

I will let the video speak for itself.

Posted in Iran | 2 Comments  

“Because You Have Been a Feast for Me” is Part of the 2015 LitBulb Literary Festival

litbulb festI am thrilled that my poem, “Because You Have Been a Feast for Me” has been included in the 2015 LitBulb Festival, an international, online gathering of literary work. Rather than gather all the included works onto one website, each author will be hosting her or his own work, with a link you can follow to read the other writers whose work has been included. It’s a chance to take in some of what’s being written all over the English-speaking world. Meanwhile, here’s my poem.

Because You Have Been A Feast For Me

Those yellow roses on the piano,
gift from last night’s guest,
wilted while we slept, prisoners
waiting for their morning execution.
Across the table, your face shines
diamond hard, but when you stand
to get our tea from the kitchen,
your body is a barely clenched fist
raised trembling against the blood they took,
and the urine, and what you’re waiting
to hear them tell you today
they already knew they would find.

We manage to avoid words,
spread silence between us like a net
over which we keep our fear in play,
hitting it back and forth
with a smile or a nodded head
or the raised eyebrows we each hope
will pull the voice from the other’s mouth.
I am hungry to feed you, to offer
at the boundary my skin is
between the mechanisms of who I am
and the air shaped by these four walls
whatever I can to nourish the bloom
withered in you by those fluorescent lights
they refused to let us sit together beneath.

Forget the nurse who missed four times
searching for a vein, the cold
the doctor who would not look you in the eye
probed you with, the accent you could not understand
when the office manager told you
to call for the results in a week.
Remember instead how yesterday,
on the roof of the green building across the street,
the solitary antenna we’ve pitied for its loneliness
held back from the height it strived for,
by the blue tail trailing in the wind,
the orange helium balloon
escaping from the party
we were not invited to
in the garden below us.

Look now. See?
The tail’s still there.
The balloon is gone.

Posted in Writing | Leave a comment  

Black Unemployment and the Minimum Wage

Summary: There is a lot of racism in the history of the US minimum wage – but the most important way that racism has been expressed is through exemptions to the minimum wage law which have kept workers of color from being protected as well as white workers. And evidence suggests that the minimum wage law does not increase unemployment amongst black workers.

On another thread, Jut wrote:

And, let’s face it: minimum wage laws were designed to price black people out of the labor market; why should we be surprised that they accomplished that goal?

It’s true that the history of the minimum wage is shot through with racism, including occasional examples of racists wanting a universal minimum wage in order to price non-whites out of the labor market. But the main way racists in the US have effected minimum wage law is by making exemptions for jobs that are primarily held by workers of color.

The first federal minimum wage law in the US was the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. But racist Southern Democrats lobbied heavily to exclude some classes of workers, especially agricultural workers, from the FLSA. For example, Florida Representative J. Mark Wilcox, debating the FLSA in 1937, said:

Then there is another matter of great importance in the South, and that is the problem of our Negro labor. There has always been a difference in the wage scale of white and colored labor. So long as Florida people are permitted to handle the matter, this delicate and perplexing problem can be adjusted; But the Federal Government knows no color line and of necessity it cannot make any distinction between the races. We may rest assured, therefore, that … it will prescribe the same wage for the Negro that it prescribes for the white man. … [T]hose of us who know the true situation know that it just will not work in the South. You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it. Not only would such a situation result in grave social and racial conflicts but it would also result in throwing the Negro out of employment and in making him a public charge.

As historian Juan Perria wrote (pdf link, long but excellent):

Specifically, southern congressmen wanted to exclude black employees from the New Deal to preserve the quasi-plantation style of agriculture that pervaded the still-segregated Jim Crow South. While they supported reforms that would bring more prosperity to their relatively poor region, they rejected those that might upset the existing system of racial segregation and exploitation of blacks.

President Roosevelt and his legislative allies recognized that in order to pass any New Deal legislation at all, it was necessary to compromise with Southern Democrats intent on preserving white supremacy. The compromise position was race-neutral language that both accommodated the southern desire to exclude blacks but did not alienate northern liberals nor blacks in the way that an explicit racial exclusion would. An occupational classification like agricultural and domestic employees, excluding most blacks without saying so, was just such race-neutral language.

In the decades since, anti-racist activists in the US have fought long and hard to reduce and eliminate those occupational classifications, with some success.

But what about Jut’s second claim – “why should we be surprised that they accomplished that goal?” Have minimum wage laws actually priced Black workers in particular out of the labor market?

Good empirical studies haven’t supported Jut’s assertion. From John Schmitt’s overview of the research (pdf link):

As Allegretto, Dube, and Reich note, however, a theoretical case can be made that minimum wages might instead improve the relative employment prospects of disadvantaged workers: “An alternative view suggests that barriers to mobility are greater among minorities than among teens as a whole. Higher pay then increases the returns to worker search and overcomes existing barriers to employment that are not based on skill and experience differentials.”62 A higher minimum wage could help disadvantaged workers to cover the costs of finding and keeping a job, including, for example, transportation, child-care, and uniforms.

Allegretto, Dube, and Reich’s (2011) own research on the employment effect of the minimum wage on teens looks separately at the effects on white, black, and Hispanic teens. For the period 1990 through 2009, which includes three recessions and three rounds of increases in the federal minimum wage, they find no statistically significant effect of the minimum wage on teens as a whole, or on any of the three racial and ethnic groups, separately, after they control for region of the country. Using a similar methodology, Dube, Lester, and Reich (2012) detect no evidence that employers changed the age or gender composition in the restaurant sector in response to the minimum wage. In a study of detailed payroll records for a large retail firm with more than 700 stores, Laura Giuliano (2012) found that teens from more affluent areas increased their labor supply (and employment) after the 1996-1997 increases in the minimum wage, while employment of teens in less affluent areas experienced no statistically significant change in employment.

We can also look at this in a cruder way: Does Black unemployment actually move up and down with the value of the minimum wage? Here are three graphs: A graph of Black unemployment, a graph of the minimum wage, and then an overlay showing the two graphs together.

Minimum wage and black unemployment in graphs

There are major periods (marked in blue in the overlay) in which black unemployment and the value of the minimum wage seem to be moving together. But there are also major periods (marked in pink) in which they seem to actually be opposites. Overall, it’s hard to argue, looking at this, that the correspondence is anything more than chance.

Furthermore, there are two big problems with arguing that the areas of correspondence shows that black unemployment is being drive by the minimum wage. First of all, Black and white unemployment rates virtually always move up and down together (although the Black unemployment rate is always higher). So it’s hard to argue that the minimum wage is causing unemployment amongst Black but not white workers.

Secondly, and more importantly, look at those gray bars in the chart of Black unemployment over time. Those mark recessions. And when you look at that, it becomes obvious that changes in unemployment rates are overwhelmingly driven by recessions. During recessions (including the time before and after the recession), and at no other time, unemployment rises steeply. After recessions, and at no other time, unemployment drops. The longer the time between recessions, the longer the drop.

Once you notice the link to recessions, it’s hard to see how the minimum wage can be the driving force behind black unemployment.

But maybe looking at Black unemployment is my mistake. If the idea is that higher minimum wages cause employers to favor white employees more, wouldn’t it make more sense to look instead at how the minimum wage corresponds with the ratio of Black to white unemployment? Yes, it would. But:


Again, no support for Jut’s theory there.

P.S. I just added a minimum wage category to “Alas,” for those who are interested.

Posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like, Minimum Wage, Race, racism and related issues | 9 Comments  

Robert’s New Book, About Avoiding Prison, Is Available On Amazon

A message from Robert Hayes:

Dear Alas friends –

stayoutofprisonAfter almost a year of incarceration, I have finished my book on why getting incarcerated is a Poor Life Strategy ™ and how to avoid making the mistakes I made. The book is for sale on Amazon, in e-book form; a printed version will be coming in the next few days.

I would really really really really really appreciate it if you (a) bought the book (it’s $2.99), and – at least as important – wrote a lovely glowing review of it on the site. (If you don’t think it deserves a glowing review, then please tell me why so I can fix it.)

Thank you in advance,


Posted in Bob Behind Bars, Prisons and Justice and Police | 7 Comments  

I Disagree With People On Tumblr About Dr. Horrible And About The Minimum Wage

I disagree with people on Tumblr: Is Dr. Horrible A Sexist “Nice Guy” Narrative?

I disagree with people on Tumblr part 2: Why We Should NOT Abolish The Minimum Wage

Posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like, Men and masculinity, Minimum Wage, Popular (and unpopular) culture | 32 Comments  

My cartoons at a May Day festival in Israel


An Israeli reader very kindly showed me this photo, of “May Day in Israel. At the working and studying youth movement festival.”

There are two of my cartoons (flipped left to right and translated into Hebrew) visible in this photo:
Bitch If You Do, Broke If You Don’t” and “How The Feminist Revolution Wasn’t Completed

I love seeing stuff like this!

P.S. Obligatory Patreon link blah blah blah.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | Leave a comment  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Buildings In The Middle Of The Street Edition


Top image is from Mattias Inks. Click on the image to see it bigger.

  1. Black Widow, Scarce Resources And High-Stakes Stories Linda Holmes argues – and I agree – that the biggest problem with sexism in the new Avengers movie is that Black Widow is the only female lead character, which makes whatever they do with her character feel like a statement about women in general.
  2. The Unit of Caring on misandry and structural power: “I tag ‘misandry cw’ for hatred/contempt of men expressed specifically in a way that exploits systemic power dynamics. So a woman abusing a man isn’t misandry, but dismissal of men who have been violently abused because ‘men are always the abuser’ or ‘women can’t be violent’ or ‘what are you, weak and pathetic?’ reflects harmful attitudes toward men that are a consequence of structural power.”
  3. Study finds fat acceptance blogs can improve health outcomes (From 2012, and not proof positive of anything, but might be a useful link next time someone tells you fat acceptance is about people wanting an excuse to lie on the sofa eating McDonalds take-out all day, not that there’s anything wrong with that).
  4. The Myth of Wealthy Men and Beautiful Women – The Atlantic
  5. The conclusive, expert guide to saving Twitter from its trolls – The Washington Post
  6. debate about free expression on campus, between lefty professor Angus Johnston and Reason magazine writer Robby Soave. Although some of Johnston’s points seemed questionable to me, on the whole it seems to me he had by far the stronger case. But then again, I’m biased.
  7. A Response to Christina Hoff Sommers | (Speaking of Angus Johnston.)
  8. This idea for how to create more housing in cities with enormously high demand, like San Francisco – basically, open up what are now streets for development into residential or multi-use buildings, turn the sidewalks into European style avenues, and let the free market sort out parking – seems wonderful to me.
  9. Basic parenting gets fathers a gold star, and other things I learned on paternity leave – Vox
  10. Enough With the Holocaust Books for Children! – Tablet Magazine
  11. Restorative Justice: The Evidence — Report Draws Attention to RJ in the UK. “Restorative Justice” is an alternative approach to adversarial trials and to punitive responses to crime. I don’t think it’s right for every case, but it should in of our society’s toolbox, because there are loads of cases where it makes sense.
  12. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution Really interesting interview with an Egyptian feminist activist and writer.
  13. Rape Culture? What Rape Culture?
  14. How We Justify Shaming, Harassment, and Abuse
  15. A List of Ways I Have Used Trigger Warnings
  16. Quinnspiracy Blog – Risky Business Zoe Quinn talks about how anti-feminists have successfully perpetuated a blacklist.
  17. The Debate Link: Inexplicable Sentiments A North Carolina prosecutor says that for immigration purposes, violence doesn’t count if it’s Latino-on-Latino.
  18. The health benefits of breastfeeding have been VASTLY exaggerated. Think of how much completely needed trouble, trauma and guilt among mothers has been caused.
  19. Racism Is Destroying the Right to Vote | Demos
  20. Stop Comparing The Black Widow SNL Sketch And The Supergirl Trailer | The Mary Sue What would be funny and out of character for Black Widow is fine for Supergirl.
  21. Veronica Straszheim — “Half of the captions had been written by men, and half by women. When not told who wrote what, the participants judged them almost equally funny….”
  22. Stop all that reckless breathing! A local Republican legislator worries that people on bikes are destroying the Earth with their exhaling and stuff.
  23. ‘We must be careful about what we pretend to be’: How tribal cheerleading creates new tribal dogma and changes the tribe to conform to it. Also about what ridiculous poll results really indicate.
  24. 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Civil Rights Heroine Diane Nash
  25. Racial segregation was not the unintended effect of benign policies.
  26. ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: First Convict the Perpetrator. On True And False Rape Accusations
  27. Think Twice Before Calling the Cops on the Mentally Ill – The Atlantic
  28. “You mentioned neurodiversity in your blog description – what does the term mean to you?” in The Unit of Caring
  29. Why you should never, ever play the lottery – The Washington Post What I found most interesting about this was the proposal for “a lottery with no losers” – Prize-Linked Savings. “It’s a system where instead of each person earning interest on their savings, all the interest is pooled together and then raffled off. So in the worst case, people have saved money that they otherwise would have lost on lottery tickets, and in the best they won a nice little cash prize on top of their little nest egg.”
  30. The nail salon crisis is not about your middle class guilt
  31. The Debate Link: Neither Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are “affirmative action picks.” Sheesh!
  32. One-liner that cracked me up: “My milkshakes bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
  33. Sentencing Law and Policy: “Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail” “In addition to being unjust and unnecessary, pretrial incarceration can have harmful consequences. Not only do those who are in jail before trial suffer the trauma of confinement, but in comparison with their bailed-­out counterparts, they are also more likely to be convicted at trial.”
  34. Obama Is Not The Foe Of Wall Street He Claims To Be
  35. Why I Don’t Read The News Anymore | Thing of Things
  36. Why white kids in Baltimore get more second chances than black kids – Vox I really need to do a cartoon on this topic, because it’s essential.
  37. Woman Held Hostage Uses Online Pizza Hut Order To Send Messages Asking For Help – Consumerist


Posted in Link farms | 79 Comments  

Cartooning process: Sweet, Sweet Denial

Here’s an image showing my process on a political cartoon I did years ago about the chocolate industry. I really like seeing process posts from other cartoonists, so I hope people enjoy seeing this.

I’m doing this partly to support my new Patreon. If the Patreon does well enough, then I’ll be adding a fourth stage to this cartoon after all these years – color! Fingers crossed…


Hope y’all enjoyed that!

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 1 Comment