Black Reconstruction Reading Club

Book clubbing is back. Click the image to jump in.

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The Western Gender Binary

I also did a bit of thinking, and asked Bing/GPT4 for some help. My prompt was:

Please evaluate the following statement and tell me if it is logical: The gender binary in the west is a specific social construct that defines men and women as opposites. It’s a western social construct, and differs from the gender binary in other societies. Some societies don’t have a binary, but more than two genders. Thus, the western gender binary excludes, in addition to trans and nonbinary people, even cisgender people who exist in non-western social contexts within the west.


Making a Graduated Cylinder Measuring Cup from a Jar

Have you ever needed a measuring cup, but didn’t want to use your cooking measuring cups, because you were going to measure something like an automotive fluid?


Hot Dog Water Ice Sculptures

I hate art like this, but this makes good points about the relationship between wealth, capitalism, charity, and art.

The artist made ice sculptures of hot dogs from hot dog waste water, sold them, and mailed them out.

♬ original sound – Sunday Nobody Art

I think it’s a good demonstration of how a lot of “charity” is based on excess money from destructive or useless capitalist industrial processes.

It also shows how “art” is a consumer product which is valued, in part, on not being the object of charity, or of indirectly supporting charity. (The charity art auction, for example.)

The subtext of a machine shop, is the industrial role that’s part of the “defense” industry, or the production of machines to kill people. (The artist is a motion graphics artist. Presumably doesn’t make parts for weapons.)

The machine shop is also a reminder of the industrialized food production that created the hot dog.

I thought the “free hot dogs” sign on canvas, printed and filled in by hand, was a nice bit. The one element that might recall “Art” is mechanized, and signs of “humanity” are removed.

The comments are mostly confused, bemused, or impressed. A few people are angry.


Why does a candidate sometimes win the popular vote, but lose the Electoral College vote?

There are some misconceptions floating around about this. I’ll note them in parentheses in my explanation below:

The people’s votes do not directly choose the president. The Electoral College (EC) makes the final decision, following its own rules and the laws of each state. The EC gives a number of votes to each state based on how many representatives and senators it has in Congress. The representatives are roughly based on the state’s population, but the senators are fixed at two for each state. This means that less populous states have more influence per person than more populous states like California. (Misconception is that this is the main reason why Trump won – it was the less populous states.)

Most states have a rule that whoever wins the most votes in their state gets all their EC votes. This makes the dominant party in each state stronger.

This rule also creates “safe states”, where one party is almost sure to win the state’s votes. For example, California has many EC votes and usually goes to the Democrats. Texas has many EC votes and usually goes to the Republicans.

This rule also creates “battleground states”, where the state has a lot of EC votes and could go either way. Pennsylvania and Florida are often battleground states, because they have many EC votes and are not loyal to one party. (This is a key point that people may miss – the battleground states have a lot of power, because small shifts in their popular vote can turn into big wins in the EC. It’s both the fact they’re not way over into one side or other, combined with the large number votes they control.)

Smaller and less populated states tend to favor the Republicans, so they usually get many small states with few EC votes, but there are a lot of them. Urban areas tend to vote Democratic, and if they dominate a state, will give the state’s votes to the Democrats.

Because of these factors, it is possible that the EC picks a different candidate than the people’s votes. But this does not happen very often.

The above was rewritten by Bing Chat, and I modified it and annotated it. Below is a brief essay arguing against the existence of the Electoral College

An Argument for Electoral College Abolition

The EC is anti-democratic, and should be abolished.

It’s not merely that it gives more power to small states — if that were the only thing it did, it would be objectionable, but not necessarily evil, because it’s a form of Affirmative Action to protect underrepresented states — it’s that it also creates safe states and battleground states, by implementing what’s called “first past the post” or “winner take all” situations in nearly all the states.

A Little History

In the 2016 Election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but it was by a few million votes — not much, and a 2.1%age point margin.

Donald Trump won the EC vote, but by a big margin — 304 to 227, a 20% margin.

The people wanted Clinton, but Trump won, via the EC.

However, as many would say, in most elections the EC vote matches the popular will. True, but even then, it distorts.

In the 1984 Presidential, the popular margin was around 18%age points for Reagan, a big win. The EC was 525 to 13 (Reagan got nearly 50x as many EC votes).

In the 1992 Presidential, Ross Perot got 18% of the popular vote, but 0 electors. Clinton got 43%, Bush 37.5%, a difference of 5.5%age points. The EC was 370 to 168 (Clinton got over double the EC votes as Bush).

This is not a partisan issue: it’s an issue of basic democracy — the decisions of the representatives, in this case the EC, should reflect the actual will of the people.

The EC election results, even when they match the popular will, appear as a grotesque deformation of it.

Reforms Proposed

One way to reform the EC would be to mandate proportional representation in all states, remove the Senatorial seats from the EC count, and maybe double or quadruple the number of electors, so the proportional representation won’t replicate “winner take all” situations for states.

Another reform could simply be to give one elector per some large number of people.

A Quick Demo of Reforms

Here’s what a reform could look like, if it just reapportioned by population, keeping the “winner take all”:

Reformed Electors (1/100k)4006

If we retain winner-take-all, then California gains 345 votes, and Wyoming gains 3. It looks like a huge victory for Democrats!

However if we implement proportional representation, and say CA votes 70% Democratic, and Wyoming votes 70% Republican, the results look more like this:

280 Dem, 120 Rep2 Dem, 4 Rep

That is a total of 282 for Democrat, and 124 for Republican.

That’s still an impressive victory for Democrats, but… not anything like 354 to 3. It’s more small-d democratic.

That’s looking at the extreme cases of California and Wyoming, which were brought up in so many memes.

Added up across all the states, the actual results would total up to look a lot closer to 50%/50%.

Reform the EC to be Less Chunky

This above reform to use a 100k chunk of people would give us around 3,314 electors, but still give smaller states a little opportunity to pick up an elector due to rounding off.

To improve the resolution, maybe we should reduce the chunk size from 100k to 10k. So you get one elector per 10k. You’d have a total of 33,140 electors.

What about one elector per 1,000 people?

What about one elector per 100 people?

Which brings me to my conclusion: we should get rid of the Electoral College entirely.


Stockhausen vs. Zorn

I thought this would be a matchup of dissonance, but it’s not feeling this way at all. It feels like classical versus jazz/rock, and it’s difficult to compare.

More on this later, when I figure out which is going to win this. Zorn has the edge.

This setup was just a bad idea. I just like Zorn more. He’s easier on my ears – and his stuff can be harsh. It’s reminiscent of rock, which I’m familiar with.

Stockhausen reminds me more of classical music.

Zorn for the win.


Study Page for Feasibility and Strategy

I went down a rabbit hole after I needed to learn about feasibility; so this is a self-education page about that, organizing, and strategy. Since I don’t have expertise in this, I’m just listing some things I’ve found, or recalled.

I’m including business and community and political organizing resources. If you aren’t up for reading, videos are at the end.


I had to learn about feasibility, and thought I’d paraphrase:

From the article:

  • Does a company have enough resources (human, financial, material) to complete the project?
  • Will the delivered product/services be in demand on the market?
  • Is it possible to get the expected ROI given the existing constraints and possible risks?
  • Will the project outcome be aligned with a company’s business objectives?

In organizer terms:

  • Capacity: do you have the people, money, skills to execute?
  • Effect: will this have the effect you want?
  • Environment: is this possible in the existing social condition?
  • Strategy: does this contribute to the end goal, and the middle stage goals, that are part of the strategy?


Chartered Management Institute page on Strategy

Resident and Tenant Organizing, from NILC

9 Types of Political Strategies from iEduNote, a business education site.

Organization Development for Social Change: An Integrated Approach to Community Transformation, from the Movement Strategy Center

Video Education

Jane McAlevey videos about power and strategy. McAlevey operates in the labor movement.

Kim Bobo videos. Bobo wrote the popular Organizing for Social Change. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.


Racial Capitalism or Capitalism Creating Racism

I asked Bing Chat to tell me which was more popular today, “racial capitalism”, that capitalism is inherently racist, or that capitalism creates racism, to divide the working class. I don’t know enough about the variations in ideas by the listed writers, so I cannot evaluate if this article is accurate.

Here’s what the AI wrote:

That’s an interesting question. There is no definitive answer to what the current Marxian thought on race and capitalism is, as different schools of thought may have different perspectives and interpretations. However, some possible approaches are:

Racial Capitalism

This is the idea that capitalism is inherently racialized and that racism is a product and a tool of capitalist exploitation. According to this view, capitalism creates and maintains racial hierarchies and inequalities to divide and rule the working class, extract surplus value from racialized labor, and justify colonialism and imperialism. Some proponents of this approach are Cedric Robinson, Robin D.G. Kelley, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Angela Davis

Capitalism Creates Racism

This is the idea that racism is not essential to capitalism, but rather a historical outcome of its development and expansion. According to this view, capitalism generates racism as a way of legitimizing the oppression and dispossession of certain groups of people, such as indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, immigrants, etc. Some proponents of this approach are Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, W.E.B. Du Bois, Eric Williams, and Oliver Cromwell Cox


This is the idea that race and class are not separate or mutually exclusive categories of analysis, but rather intersecting and mutually constitutive systems of oppression. According to this view, capitalism cannot be fully understood without taking into account how it interacts with other forms of domination, such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. Some proponents of this approach are Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Nancy Fraser, and David Harvey

These are not the only possible ways to think about race and capitalism from a Marxian perspective, but they are some of the most influential and debated ones. I hope this helps you explore this topic further.


Comparing “Uncle Tom” and the “Model Minority” Stereotype

This was written by Bing Chat.

I asked it to compare the two, and format it as a table. That specific prompt, to form it as a table, caused ChatGPT to find more parallel comparisons than it found without the request for a table.

Here is a table layout that compares the character of “Uncle Tom” and the “model minority stereotype”:

Uncle TomModel Minority
A Black person who is overeager to win the approval of whites by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals
A minority group or a member of such a group that is assumed to have achieved a high level of educational, economical, and professional success
A term that comes from the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who was a pious and faithful Black slave who uses nonresistance and gives his life to protect others who have escaped from slavery
A term that originated in the 1960s as a way to contrast Asian Americans with other minorities, especially Black Americans, who were seen as troublesome, lazy, and dependent on welfare
A term that is used to criticize and shame Black people who are seen as subservient, cooperative, or traitorous to their own race
A term that is used to praise and reward minority groups or individuals who are seen as conforming, assimilating, or contributing to the dominant culture
A term that has a negative connotation and implies a lack of agency, dignity, and resistance
A term that has a positive connotation but masks a lack of recognition, diversity, and inclusion

I left out some of the preliminary language.

Below is the result of the query, without asking for a table:

The character of Uncle Tom and the model minority stereotype are both examples of how racialized groups are portrayed in ways that serve the interests of the dominant white culture. However, there are also some differences between them. Here is a possible comparison:

  • Uncle Tom is a fictional character from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was published in 1852 as an anti-slavery work. The model minority stereotype is a social construct that emerged in the mid-20th century as a way of praising Asian Americans for their perceived success and assimilation.
  • Uncle Tom is depicted as a loyal, obedient, and Christian slave who refuses to resist or rebel against his white masters, even when they abuse or kill him. The model minority stereotype portrays Asian Americans as smart, hard-working, and self-reliant individuals who achieve high levels of education, income, and social status without complaining or demanding rights.
  • Uncle Tom is seen by some readers as a sympathetic and heroic figure who sacrifices himself for the sake of others and exemplifies Christian virtues. The model minority stereotype is seen by some observers as a positive and flattering image that recognizes the contributions and achievements of Asian Americans.
  • Uncle Tom is also seen by many critics as a submissive and spineless character who betrays his own people and reinforces the legitimacy of slavery and white supremacy. The model minority stereotype is also seen by many scholars and activists as a harmful and misleading myth that erases the diversity and challenges of Asian Americans and serves as a tool of racial oppression and division.


Today, the term “uncle Tom” is used as an insult, to criticize people who are subservient to white society, and go along with the system, rather than fight the system.

The criticism of “Uncle Tom” personalities, since the 1960s, has to be understood within the context of history.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (UTC) was the second most popular book of the 19th century, after the Bible.

UTC was a powerful anti-slavery work that exposed the horrors and cruelty of enslavement to a wide audience. Stowe used characters and scenes to appeal to the emotions and conscience of her readers. She wanted them to empathize with the enslaved people and to support the abolitionist cause. Her novel sparked a lot of controversy and debate, and it influenced the public opinion and politics of her time. It also inspired other writers and activists to speak out against slavery and injustice. Stowe’s novel is considered one of the most influential books in American history.

UTC was written by a white woman author, for a white, Northern audience. The character was a kind of “model minority” invented to appeal to white, Christian Northerners. It was a counter to the dehumanizing ideas about Black people common at the time.

Was Uncle Tom a “house slave”?

Technically, no. He was a head slave in the field, but not a house slave. So he was like a supervisor. That’s somewhat like a house slave — but Tom wasn’t an asshole. He wasn’t hated by the people he supervised.

Tom was sold by a “kind master” to a “cruel master”, Simon Legree.

At Legree’s, Tom helped two slaves escape. When he was found out, Legree ordered two slaves, Quimbo and Sambo, to whip Tom to death.

The two who aligned with the white master were Quimbo and Sambo, not Tom.

So, were radicals wrong to use “Uncle Tom” as an insult?

I don’t think so. The book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was popular with white people, specifically because it had this “noble, suffering slave” stereotype, that elevated a specific type of Black person as a kind of “model minority”.

Uncle Tom’s non-resistance to violence against him was reminiscent of white demands for nonviolent protest, and against self defense or armed resistance.

The novel didn’t reflect the slave or rebellious slave’s perspective.

So, with time, criticism of the book, and criticism of the characters, and criticism of actual people coalesced into “Uncle Tom” as an insult.

It might be useful to deconstruct the Model Minority myth by looking at its origins, and how it’s applied to actual people, and how it’s used as an insult. I won’t do it here, but it’s one way to think about how we use the term today.


Handel vs. Mendelssohn

Handel often sounds like the song from Masterpiece Theater. I feel like I’m listening to the monarchy.

Mendelssohn is more exciting and fun. Let’s get the party started.

This is a toss up for me, but I give the win to Mendelssohn.

Classical Music Tournament

Classical Music Bracket

I’m doing some music appreciation.

I’m doing a personal “tournament” of composers or musicians, and figuring out which I like the most. To implement this, I’m using an app at

Updates will be in the Classical Music Tournament category.