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Concerns about Russ Nelson (Resolved)

squiggleslash (241428) writes | more than 9 years ago

User Journal 52

Third update: My response to Nelson's resignation and the eWeek story is here. Tom Hudson cached the actual comment that attracted the controversy here - please remember on reading it that Nelson has (a) withdrawn it and (b) acknowledged it was poorly worded (and presumably, by implication, feels it means something that was not intended.) - S. Feb 8th/9th 2005.Third update: My response to Nelson's resignation and the eWeek story is here. Tom Hudson cached the actual comment that attracted the controversy here - please remember on reading it that Nelson has (a) withdrawn it and (b) acknowledged it was poorly worded (and presumably, by implication, feels it means something that was not intended.) - S. Feb 8th/9th 2005.

Second update: I've just seen that Russ Nelson has withdrawn the article that was the topic of this discussion. I think this is the right thing to do, and FWIW I thank him for doing so. - S. 11.00am EST Feb 10th 2005

Interesting comments from Russ Nelson, recently appointed OSI president. I'm not sure what to make of it. If I wanted to be charitable, I'd say he's trolling, but for f---'s sake, why? Reading the rest of his blog (which I hoped would address some of the issues many of us have with the OSI that Nelson refused to address in public), it doesn't look like he's trolling, unless it's a fairly sophisticated spoof of right wing libertarians.

If I wanted to be slightly less charitable, I'd say Nelson is a classic "student debater", wording what he thinks is a plausible argument in the most controversial way possible. Then, once people respond angrily and with genuine hurt, he can easily blow away some emotional arguments with clear, reasoned ones. Except you have to start with a plausible argument. Nelson doesn't ever justify the headline - he comes up with half-arsed "explanations" that rely upon you accepting the headline as true to begin with, but he's really lost it if he thinks there's anything resembling a coherent argument there.

The final option I can think of is that Russ Nelson is a racist, which, despite the apparent disclaimer at the end (which doesn't really justify an unjustified statement) is a conclusion justified by the literal words used. It's hard to know for sure because Nelson doesn't give reasons.

And either way, none of these three situations bode particularly well for the OSI.

  • A leader of a software advocacy group shouldn't be trolling.
  • There's a reason people stop debating using emotionally charged language to rile opponents once they've done it a few times: those opponents get the support and you look like an obnoxious ass. Take it from me, I am an obnoxious ass. (The good news is that when I'm obnoxious in public these days it's genuinely felt, FWIW. But I wouldn't ask the OSI to appoint me President and if an advocacy group - well, at least, one I support - suggested they were considering me, I'd be pretty vocal in suggesting it's a bad idea.)
  • And, well, I definitely wouldn't want an advocacy group I'm involved in to have an individual who makes racist generalizations in public in charge. I don't care how relevant it is to the topic, it undermines the group, driving away good people and tarring the group with an image it doesn't deserve.

Couple this with Nelson's first act as OSI President, and I seriously question the wisdom of appointing him.

And therein is the irony. Open Source was invented in part to remove a "stigma" associated with Free Software that, supposedly, it was all about ideology. In practice Open Source has always been more ideological than FS, but the consensus has always seemed to me to be that it isn't because OS advocates argue "practical" benefits to the model whereas FS advocates just whitter on about "Freedom".

Much of this has to do with the way in which the case has been presented, but much has to do with the demonizing of RMS with the simultaneous ignoring of faults of the figureheads of the Open Source movement. With RMS being a committed socialist and a very poor public debater, the figureheads of Open Source being associated with "libertarianism" (usually the right wing variant), and the average American geek's general relative position on these issues, that's not overly surprising.

But FOSS-supporting geeks who think like this need to wake up a little. If the complaint is that the leadership of one group is too political, and too poor an advocate, then you can't improve matters by creating a replacement group whose leaders are also highly politicized, and also poor advocates.

In many ways, it doesn't really matter what Nelson's intentions are. The truth is he looks like a racist, he wrote an article that will appear racist to the vast majority of its readers. Whatever complaints are levied at the Free Software movement and RMS are pale in comparison. If the OSI wants to be taken seriously, they need to rethink their choice of President.

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Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618027)

Nelson is a highly ignorant loose cannon. It was a stupid move by OSI to pick him up for the job, and this is further proof.

I don't think it's racist, however. A racist would have taken the time to construct a tighter argument than just "blacks are lazy because once they were slaves and now they're making up for it". He presented a weak idea, didn't provide any evidence to back it up, and wrapped the whole thing in sloppy writing techniques that would embarrass a ninth grader turning in a term paper.

No, I think Nelson just has a lot of strong opinions on things that he just arbitrarily took sides on, and he's too lazy (ironic, that...) to actually go think about or research the truth behind his conclusions.

Watch for Nelson to continue torpedoeing himself in the future. It's going to be a fun time watching him sink slowly to the bottom....

BTW: I submitted this to Slashdot.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618086)

I was considering submitting it too, but I wanted the benefit of having others look at it in case there was something "obvious" I wasn't seeing - Nelson's Angry Economist blog being some kind of subtle satire or something.

I don't know if he's racist. The argument itself, as far as I can see, is racist whatever Nelson's intent might have been. And to some extent, more to the point from the "OSI President suitability" point of view, Nelson must have been aware when writing it how it'd have been taken by the majority of readers.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618165)

Aye, perhaps. However, satire doesn't work well on the net and if he's going to be a major figurehead in an entire "movement", then he's going to have to be accountable for putting a respectable face foward to the public. Even if this is satire and I'm not getting it either, it was still a pretty stupid thing to write as head of OSI.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 9 years ago | (#11626968)

The argument, as far as I can tell, is that if societal racism means that blacks earn less money for the same work, they'll work less. This is the exact same argument for eliminating progressive taxation because the rich will simply laze away and live comfortable lives of leisure instead of creating jobs for the working class and being busy beaver capitalists. That idea has been a bulwark of center-right thought for decades and, like it or not, the only thing that would be racist would be to *not* apply it to blacks along with everybody else.

Russ Nelson can be a bull in a china shop (I've argued with him several times on those grounds) when it comes to approaching things tactfully but the argument itself is not racist. When I read the article, my own reaction was that he was trying to take the sting out of an old stereotype, which is very hard work for the colorblind ideal. Your reaction shows why it's such hard work.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11628841)

The argument, as far as I can tell, is that if societal racism means that blacks earn less money for the same work, they'll work less.
The concern is two fold. The first, that Nelson's column actually says blacks are working less (not merely that an abstract group might work less if discriminated against), and presents this using the prejudicial term "lazy". The second is that someone is accusing blacks of being lazy in public who's also representing the OSI.

The "logic" of Nelson's argument for why a group might work less if discriminated against is really another issue. Personally, I think it's simplistic in the extreme. But that's not what I'm concerned about.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 9 years ago | (#11629013)

If you have any data that shows that standard eco 101 principles don't apply to blacks I'll be all ears. Please remember me in your Nobel acceptance speech. You seem to be arguing that economists should not take their field too seriously and apply it to real life.

This was an anti-racist post explaining the real perception of black laziness is an artifact of real racism which will disappear as a color-blind society takes hold over generations.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11629923)

If you have any data that shows that standard eco 101 principles don't apply to blacks I'll be all ears. Please remember me in your Nobel acceptance speech. You seem to be arguing that economists should not take their field too seriously and apply it to real life.
Ah, so you're arguing that Russ doesn't actually know if Blacks are Lazy or not, he's just saying that in theory they are, therefore, ergo, they are? And you're criticising me for having a problem with that logic? This is the kind of thing that gives certain economists a bad name. Describing the world in terms of the theory, misrepresenting the real world if necessary if it doesn't act according to the theory.
This was an anti-racist post explaining the real perception of black laziness is an artifact of real racism which will disappear as a color-blind society takes hold over generations.
No, it was a post that starts with a racist assumption, and then tries to find a reason, and ends up pretending it's anti-racist by asserting racism is the cause.

The logic is simplistic. The "real perception" is Russ's.

LOL - Story Rejected in Less Than Five Minutes (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618184)

I don't think they even bother reading my submissions... someone else ought to try it. BTW, I mirrored the entry here [gh-sts.com] in case it mysteriously vanishes.

Re:LOL - Story Rejected in Less Than Five Minutes (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618392)

I'm going to wait a day before submitting it. I'll write to Nelson this afternoon so he can clarify his comments here if he wants to.

Re:Don't Jump To Conclusions.... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11622318)

Hey, look, he responded! (in the blog entry.)

This is BS (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 9 years ago | (#11618167)

He is sub-human. We don't stand for this shit from nobody - not even Bill Cosby.

Is this consistent with his other opinions? (1)

XopherMV (575514) | more than 9 years ago | (#11621535)

I'm wondering if he got hacked. So, is this the same old rant for him or something out of the blue?

Re:Is this consistent with his other opinions? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11621732)

Hard to tell. I've emailed him (about four hours ago) and I don't see anything new occurring. Then again, he might just not have checked his mail. The other thing is his entry has been up since yesterday morning (according to the date, at the latest yesterday afternoon given it was then that I noticed), so it's been up an awfully long time without him noticing, if he's been hacked.

One thing I noticed while Googling is that ESR has had accusations of racism thrown at him too. Cite [slashdot.org] . Are Open Source Libertarians trying to out-non-PC each other?

Re:Is this consistent with his other opinions? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11622059)

Oops, I keep thinking today is Tuesday. It's been up since Monday, according to the site at least.

Also he's semi-responded. Given it's just the usual "I'll be happy to discuss this via email" message, rather than a "My site was hacked!", I think it's safe to say the message is genuine. The message is still up there with a new, somewhat wierd, message about the "N" word.

Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11621696)

I'd be happy to discuss this via email. nelson@crynwr.com.
-russ

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11621771)

You're more than welcome to respond to the email I sent you (my Slashdot nick at yahoo.com); I'm sure more people than just me would be interested in the answers however.

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625022)

This deserves a public response.

There are a few problems with the "analysis".

If someone is paid less, they have to work more hours to cover the basic necessities of life, so that means they're working more, not less.

And the same argument goes for "white trash". When you're underpaid, you HAVE to work harder and longer and still you end up with less.

This whole thing is a slap in the face at anyone who's ever known want.

Sure, if someone's pulling down a million a year, they're not going to bother if the extra hours don't result in enough extra incremental income to make it worth it - but that argument doesn't hold for most of the population, who have to put a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs, and who can't "afford" the luxury of saying "gee, I'm paid less - I'll work less".

Whoever wrote this needs to try working alongside the working poor. Colour doesn't count. Economic hardship and happenstance are colour-blind.

PS: I'm reposting in my journal, along with links. This is disgraceful.

Re:Discuss? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625360)

If someone is paid less, they have to work more hours to cover the basic necessities of life, so that means they're working more, not less.

That's actually not correct at all, particularly within the framework Russ is using (economics).

A person places a certain value on their free time. They will only work if what is gained from turning that free time to some other activity exceeds that value.

Economic hardship and happenstance are colour-blind.

I think you actually mean 'finanical' hardship. AFAIK, there is no such thing, within the realm of Economics as 'economic' hardship. This is the frame of reference Russ is using.

When you're underpaid, you HAVE to work harder and longer and still you end up with less.

No, you don't. You can choose not to work. You can choose to scrape by at some subsistence (sp?) level and not work. This choice is not necessarily a concious one.

There are problems with Russ' writings, particularly as mouthpiece for the OSI, and there are some problems with his analysis, but I'm afraid you haven't touched on the latter in any sort of meaningful, academic, value-neutral manner.

(And yes, I had to choke down the bile to actually write that last phrase:)

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625796)

This doesn't apply when people are at the minimum-wage level, or lower (yes, there are people who work for less than minimum wage: see footnote 1).

Also, there are many areas where there is either no minimum wage, such as Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona (unless you're working on a federal project) or the minimum wage is way below subsistence level [dol.gov] - Kansas - $2.65/hr, or Ohio - as low as $2.80/hr.

At those wage rates, even holding down two jobs won't give you any sense of security - you'll always be prey to being out on the streets or sleeping in your car if you get sick or lose one job or have an expense that you can't meet.

For these people, there is no "balance" or "trade-off" to be made between free time and work. "Lives of quiet desperation" is still true today. Here's a thought: Try working at your job and living in your car for just one week. How are you going to keep up appearances? Keep clean? Shave? Shower? Keep your clothes presentable? This is what happens when people have to choose between food in their stomach or a place to sleep, when, not through laziness, but life's capriciousness, shit happens.

There is no "choice" in such cases - it's work yourself to the bone, and hope that one day you get a break, while your health degenerates over the long term from malnutrition. Half of all people admitted to hospitals in the US are malnourished. See footnote 2 for quotes and link.

These are people who are below the minimum subsistence level. A lot of them are the working poor, those who have fallen through all the cracks in the social safety net, or for who there is no safety net.

These peoples "financial hardship" is caused, not by laziness, but by "economic hardship" - for example, downturns in the economy that force large layoffs, so people take jobs that were formerly "beneath them", bumping those people lower down in the ladder, in a chain reaction that sees the lowest fall off the ladder entirely.

And then there are times when there are no jobs to be had - the economy is bad, everyone who has a job is clinging to it, so there is no "churn", and government aid programs are stretched past their limits. You get 14,000 people applying for less than 100 jobs, as happened in Ontario during the "made-in-Canada" recession. During those times, it's foolish to say that "everyone who wants a job can find work".

These people were scared. Financial worries caused homes to break up, people to kill themselves, etc. To imply that there was any choice for these people is wrong. They saw thousands of people ahead of them in line, knew their odds were practically zilch, but they applied anyway. They were not lazy. Just scared. And reasonably so.

And others whose wages were cut were working two jobs at lower pay so they'd continue to be able to eat and keep a roof over their heads. Taking Nelson's analysis to its logical conclusion, it's not worth it to do that. But they did. And that's why Nelson's analysis is wrong. It isn't supported by any real-world evidence; it's a gloss over the real problems caused by poverty - "they're lazy" is a mean, self-serving lie that can only be spoken by people who have either never experienced real poverty, or who think everyone gets what they deserve.

Footnotes:

  1. Yes, there are people who work for less than minimum wage. People whose income is dependent upon their production (piecework); those on call who don't get enough hours; those who pay some or all of their work expenses as "independent contractors" - drivers for small courier companies, coders who are just starting out; people who are desperate and will take anything.
  2. Malnutrition in the US - first a definition [emedicine.com] :
    The term protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) applies to a group of related disorders that include marasmus, kwashiorkor, and intermediate states of marasmus-kwashiorkor.
    Note the rate of malnutrition in those hospitalized in the US:
    Frequency:

    In the US: PEM is the most common form of nutritional deficiency among patients who are hospitalized in the United States. As many as one half of all patients admitted to the hospital have malnutrition to some degree. In a recent survey in a large children's hospital, the prevalence of acute and chronic PEM was more than one half.

    In a survey focusing on low-income areas of the United States, 22-35% of children aged 2-6 years were below the 15th percentile for weight. Another survey showed that 11% of children in low-income areas had height-for-age measurements below the 5th percentile. Poor growth is seen in 10% of children in rural populations.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11626951)

We're talking about two different things. I'm talking about economics, and you're talking about finances. No small wonder we disagree. If you want to talk about my economics, I invite you to send me email. nelson@crynwr.com.
-russ

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11628932)

You made your statements in a very public fashion, and my response will be in the same manner, thank you.

Since when is economic policy divorced from the reality of individual finances? Last I looked, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" worked through individuals. Also, your argument spoke about individuals and their motivations.

Here's what you said:

If everything else is the same, a black person is less likely to want to work as hard as a white person.
"A black person". "A white person". Individuals.

IOW, you believe that if we could control for all the variables except skin colour, we could prove that white-skinned people want to work more than black-skinned people. So, care to add your opinions about yellow-skinned, red-skinned, and brown-skinned people? Enquiring minds really want to know.

You said they would "not want to work as hard". When you speak of "wants", you can only be speaking about individuals, and their wants. Cultures don't have wants - the people who make them up do. "Races" of people don't have wants - individuals do. Or are you into "racial memory" and "collective consciousness" too?

That you claim this is an economic analysis won't avail here. John Meynard Keynes would disagree with you. Just to refresh your memory:

Keynes became a celebrity before becoming one of the most respected economists of the century. What gained him his celebrity status was his eloquent book The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Keynes wrote it to object to the punitive reparations payments imposed on Germany by the Allied countries after World War I. The amounts demanded by the Allies were so large, he wrote, that a Germany that tried to pay them would stay perpetually poor and, therefore, politically unstable. We now know that Keynes was right.
These war reparations had to be paid by taxes that were borne by the German people - just like everywhere else. Economic policy had a direct link to the German people's individual finances, their health, their livelyhood, and ultimately this economic policy laid the seeds for a second world war.

It cannot be argued that economics is divorced from individual actions, if only because of the requirement of governments to finance themselves by some sort of revenue stream - taxes. And who ultimately pays every cent, either directly or indirectly? People. Even corporations pay their taxes from revenue generated by sales to people, or to other businesses who ultimately sell to people. Or haven't you heard about one of the major economic indicators - the consumer confidence index.

Anyone arguing that economics is disconnected from individual people's finances is disconnected from reality. People lose their jobs when economic policies change for the worse. They didn't suddenly become lazier and decide they don't want to work.

Lets look at your next howler:

Actually, come to think about it, we had about 150 years of black slavery, and it hasn't even been 150 years since the Civil War. It wouldn't surprise me to find that blacks are still taught to value their leisure time more highly than whites. When their forebears were slaves, their leisure time was very precious to them. Cultures change slowly.
"It wouldn't surprise me to find that blacks are still taught to value their leisure time more highly than whites." - in other words, you don't know what the current situation is, you have no research to back it up, and this is speculation at best and mindless drivel at worse.

There is also an implied claim that blacks USED to be taught to value their leisure time more than whites. Do you have a single study to back that up? Was there a course somewhere that only blacks were signed up for that taught "hey, bro, chilling is more important than working for the man"? Or was this mysteriously passed on from father to son? Or by "racial memory".

Your claims are ridiculous on their face: looking at them closer reveals just how much of a brain-fart they were.

The disclaimer at the bottom is lame:

Disclaimer: Everyone is an individual, and you cannot pre-judge the characteristic of an individual from the characteristics of a culture or race. From that mistake comes prejudice. My brother-in-law is a highly paid lawyer and he works sixty hours a week if he works a day. But that just makes my point: stop (actually) being racist and blacks will stop being (perceived as) lazy.
Look more closely here:
... you cannot pre-judge the characteristic of an individual from the characteristics of a culture or race. From that mistake comes prejudice.
Remember, you said
a black person is less likely to want to work as hard as a white person.
You ascribe certain traits to individuals based on their skin colour - then you disclaim doing that very thing. Your own words condemn you as a bigot. Do everyone a favour and think, really think, about what you wrote.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11631337)

The fact that you have so badly understood my point says that I must have written badly. I have consequently withdrawn that posting. Sorry if it offended you.
-russ

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11632098)

The fact that you have so badly understood my point says that I must have written badly. I have consequently withdrawn that posting. Sorry if it offended you.
Instead of just claiming that it's a misunderstanding, why not explain why?

Show us some proof, some controlled studies that show the relationship between skin colour and "economic laziness", for example.

Or you could respond to the specific points I've made and enlighten us as to how those who disagree with you have it wrong.

You could start with explaining why you believe that individual finances have no connection with economics. All the people who believe economic policy affects their wallets would certainly be interested.

Russ, this isn't going to go away. Removing the post "because it was badly written" comes across as excuse-making and refusing to take responsibility for what you believe. I'm sure I'm not the only one who saved copies of both the original and the "Disclaimer"ed post.

Only someone with a serious disconnect from reality would fail to see that your original post was race-baiting. You've done more damage to OSI with that one post than Redmond has done over the years.

You have the right to your beliefs. You have a right to state them openly and without fear. We have the right to state that you have come across as a bigoted racist. At least extend us the courtesy of telling us why we're wrong in that impression. Some hard facts, some studies, to back up your original statements, would help.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11762653)

Only someone with a serious disconnect from reality would fail to see that your original post was race-baiting.

Nope. I wasn't race baiting. What I was doing was making a very small and specific point about economics and racism. To wit:
  1. That there are racists.
  2. That racists cause blacks to be paid less than whites.
  3. That everyone prefers leisure to work if all else is the same.
  4. That blacks have less of an incentive to work than whites.
  5. That racists will then conclude (based on partial evidence) that blacks are lazy.
  6. That economics, being a science, comes up with surprising conclusions: that racist conclusions were based on accurate observations but incomplete analysis (e.g. the kind of conclusion one might make upon seeing a posting that starts "Blacks are lazy": I did make that statement but it wasn't my point.).


I don't think blacks are lazy.

I do think that racists are lazy: intellectually lazy. They cause blacks to suffer, and then blame them for reacting rationally to that suffering. All racist stereotypes are based on exaggerated reality. There are Jewish American Princesses. There are Italian mobsters. There are lazy blacks. None of them are representative of their societal groupings, but they exist. Racists see those individuals and generalize on an insufficiently large sample.

Now, one thing you have to understand about economics is that Austrian-school economics is created without reference to facts. First you come up with a theory based on logic and assumptions. Then and only then (that is, a priori) do you reference the real world to see if your theory is true. So you don't start with studies, with facts, with numbers, if you want to do good economics. You start with a theory and see if it makes proper predictions. Otherwise you're just curve-fitting your theory to the past and it has no power to predict the future. From this kind of economics comes all the jokes about "A room with ten economists in it has eleven opinions."

These days, racists are very much looked down on, and their influence on society is quite small. If you go looking for "lazy blacks", you will have a hard time finding them in excess of lazy whites or any other ethnic grouping. That absence says nothing about my conclusion, since you can look at each one of my steps and they logically follow from the previous step.

So why all the furor? Because I wrote badly. Because I chose an unwise headline and URL. Because some people came to this party with an anti-OSI agenda. Because I wanted to point out that when freed slaves controlled their own labor, they didn't work as hard as when they were being beaten into working. Because it's easier to judge than to think. Because people (for whatever reason) give power to racists to shock, by being shocked by words. When I was a kid, we used to chant "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

That's not true anymore. They've hurt me.
-russ
p.s. thanks for actually talking to me about this. A lot of other people are pressuring my friends to disavow me, and yet they are not willing to engage me in conversation. They are cowards. You are brave and a man of principle.

Re:Discuss? (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 9 years ago | (#11627025)

Actually, while you have to work harder to meet your basic requirements, you'll tend to work less if the level of work needed to meet those requirements is nowhere near the maximum work you could put out. A black and white worker at McDonalds will both work for every penny just to get by but a black who's in the middle class will, on average, fight less hard for overtime at the plant than his better compensated white co-workers when he's gotten beyond hand-to-mouth economics but not economic Jim Crow.

At root, the argument is one for the capitalist class to work hard to eliminate racism on economic grounds as investing in a color blind corporate culture will tend to produce more output from their black workers. If that's racism, let's have more.

Re:Discuss? (1)

joe_plastic (704135) | more than 9 years ago | (#11622387)

Also license-discuss@opensource.org [opensource.org] has a thread going about it. Doesn't seem to be archived [crynwr.com] yet though.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11622762)

Doesn't come up in the topic list but does if you go to "Messages by date". Here's the start [crynwr.com] .

Re:Discuss? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11624060)

Did someone get an article posted? It seems to be suffering a 500 error now when you click off of that page. There is no story that I see on the front page, but something is waiting for subscribers.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11624951)

I'm not having any problem accessing the site. To the best of my knowledge, no story has been published.

I'm not sure how worthwhile it would be to publish one. Right now, everyone - me, certain OSI people, Russ, etc - are very heated about this. Nelson's response seemed to sound rehearsed to me, "I'll write this, and I know exactly what I'll write if someone accuses me of being racist!" which is probably why he ignored what I actually wrote. When everyone sits down and looks at the situation, perhaps they'll see the point - that if you're going to be the public face of an organization, you watch what you write in public.

I'm going to draft a response to some of the comments on the mailing list and leave it at that for now. This shouldn't have to degenerate any further.

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625257)

These people are idiots:
If others similarly "misunderstood" then it certainly does matter.
Communicating with clarity is a virtue.

--- David

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Lance Taylor [mailto:ian@airs.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 12:49 PM
> To: Stephen Pollei
> Cc: license discuss
> Subject: Re: [OT] Russ Nelson's public relations
>
> Stephen Pollei <stephen_pollei@comcast.net> writes:
>
> > http://slashdot.org/~squiggleslash/journal/97860 has
> complaints about
> > what Russ wrote at
> > http://angry-economist.russnelson.com/blacks-are-l azy.html
> . It might
> > make the news and reflect poorly on OSI.
>
> But since squiggleslash apparently did not understand Russ's
> short essay, it's hard to see how it matters.
>
> Ian
>
The problem is we "misunderstood". Aww. Stupid us.

These people's egos are the problem. Not anyone "misunderstanding". We understand all too well. I'd love to have an hour of tv or radio time to debate them, one-on-one, face-to-face.

Re:Discuss? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625333)

Well, ONE (out of a half-dozen) "gets it" and sees this as more than "just a misconstruing" or "tacky": her [crynwr.com]
Subject: Re: [OT] Russ Nelson's public relations
From: Mike Wattier <geek@devcompany.com>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 13:24:19 -0700

Hi,
> As a rule, I don't feel it is my place to pass moral judgements on others.
> I also am a strong believer in innocence until proven guilt, free speech,
> and Voltaire's contention. I most certainly do not believe in pre-emptive
> condemnation based on opinion.

Yet, you would not let michael jackson babysit your child nor would you let
scott peterson take your wife fishing now would you?

There is a huge difference between "innocense until proven guilt" and "hold
on, wtf did you say?" Anyone who thinks free speach should be without
consequence is off his rocker. Take this list for example.. if something is
not viewed as proper, several members on the list will let you know about
it .. sans any type of compassion to the writer.. should we have seperate
rules for "leadership" ?

Personally.. the article was a feeble attempt to attack several groups.
Mindless dribble from yet another ivory tower dweller.

Mr. Nelson's attempt to justify the perception that black people are lazy is
evidence of his own ignorance to what the modern problems of racisim are.

my 0.02

Re:Discuss? (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11623311)

You've made a public statement and you are, now, a very public face in a public movement. I think it would be more appropriate to discuss it in a public forum, don't you?

I had planned on e-mailing you a letter about it, but it seems to me that your posting is little more than the poorly informed ranting of a pompous baboon, and you're not so much a racist as you are a lousy persuasive writer and incompetent debater. I came to this conclusion after realizing that you had done nothing but present a premise which seems obvious to you, while failing to present any of the evidence (if there is any) that actually holds that premise up.

Regardless of whether you're a racist, a lousy writer, or incapable of making and defending a point, I think this is another shot going into your temple in your little game of Russian roulette, and I can't wait until you finally squeeze off enough rounds to have OSI kick you out the same door you just came in. Raymond may have been an idealogical kook, but with your recent statements, you're proving to be a plain old-fashioned idiot.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11626888)

You've made a public statement and you are, now, a very public face in a public movement. I think it would be more appropriate to discuss it in a public forum, don't you?

No, I don't. Rude people are generally a lot more polite when they're speaking directly to someone. I'd like to have a polite conversation with you. Are you going to LWE next week? We could talk about this subject there.
-russ

Re:Discuss? (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11630115)

Alas, I am not. I am neither a fan of Linux, nor am I available to attend if I were.

I note, however, that you've pulled the article stating that it was not well written. That's sufficient for me, and I'm happy to see that it was

1) a mistake
2) a mistake you admitted to

and not something worse. My main problem here is that as a figurehead in the "open source movement" you no longer have the freedom to go around half-cocked like the rest of us and you need to be more tactful when you write things that go public. Almost like a politician running for office, you don't want to have dirty laundry lying around that people can pick up and throw at you.

At any rate, I'm satisfied with the outcome and that you are not, in fact, a racist.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643229)

Almost like a politician running for office, you don't want to have dirty laundry lying around that people can pick up and throw at you.

Yeah, well, there's always Google and alt.sex. Just as every everybody currently running for political office smoked marijuana in college (and some of them DID inhale), soon everybody running for office will have posted to Usenet, or a mailing list, or forum, or blogged. The media will have a witch-burning.

At any rate, I'm satisfied with the outcome and that you are not, in fact, a racist.

Thanks; I'm glad that you have stated that.
-russ

Re:Discuss? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11623807)

Reading your blog entry again, it seems that the problem is with the word 'lazy'. The rest seems to be perfectly accurate from an economic analysis: blacks paid less, therefore they work less. Classic economic discussion about value of leisure time ensues.

Perhaps you could have started by pointing out that 'crime doesn't pay' is a load of rubbish.

Re:Discuss? (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11624906)

Classic economic discussion about value of leisure time ensues.

I get the impression that was his "point", but he presented it in such a loose, poorly-articulated, and undefended manner that the whole thing just comes off as highly ignornant, and once you make that conclusion, it's not hard to jump straight into the assumption that he's being racist.

I'm beginning to think the problem here is that Mr. Nelson has no tact, and isn't very good at articulating his points clearly, or defending his arguments sufficiently. Needless to say, this is still a pretty big problem considering his "executive" OSI position.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625031)

once you make that conclusion, it's not hard to jump straight into the assumption that he's being racist.
Well, the other problem is that never is it explained why Nelson considers blacks lazy to begin with. Or at least, if his argument is his reason, then he's acting like a classic economist from a joke about economists - inventing a world to fit the logic rather than vice versa.

If he were posting entitled something like "Possible reasons for high unemployment amongst blacks", with a little link to a census page reporting that 99% of blacks are unemployed as opposed to 0.027% of whites, when that'd be one thing. But the thing starts of with an accusation of laziness, and then nothing. If the argument is to be considered internally consistant, Nelson is supposed to have observed that many blacks are discriminated against, and suffered awfully before 1860, and drawn the conclusion, from that, that they're probably lazy.

And there's a conclusion to draw from the likelihood of someone coming up with such logic and I'm not sure I want to fan the flames any further by stating it.

Re:Discuss? (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 9 years ago | (#11627120)

This is the part you've completely, embarassingly missed.

They're [blacks are] not [lazy]; it's an economically-ignorant idea to say that they are. They're just rationally valuing their leisure time at the same rate as whites, getting paid less for the same work, and deciding to work less because of it.

Go back to the original article [russnelson.com] and verify the context. Then you'll see that he's attempting to dismantle the racist justification of a longstanding stereotype, that blacks are lazy. His ending paragraph should have clued you in even if you hadn't read the above section right

stop (actually) being racist and blacks will stop being (perceived as) lazy.

You were just too busy getting mad to actually read and think through what the guy's talking about.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11628523)

This is the part you've completely, embarassingly missed.
They're [blacks are] not [lazy]; it's an economically-ignorant idea to say that they are.
The actual quote (for one moment I thought that Nelson had edited his blog entry) is:
I think that is what led people into the mistaken idea that blacks are lazy--as a characteristic of being black. They're not; it's an economically-ignorant idea to say that they are.
In your version he's saying they're not lazy. In the original version, he's saying they are, but not for the reason "people" think. Perhaps you could explain why you edited that out.
stop (actually) being racist and blacks will stop being (perceived as) lazy.
And this one comment, at the end, is supposed to neutralize the entire article, how? It's not as if the "perceived as" actually negates the fact that he's explicitly stated several times that blacks actually are lazy.
You were just too busy getting mad to actually read and think through what the guy's talking about.
Russ Nelson says, repeatedly, without explaining why he believes it, that blacks are "lazy". Period.

Regardless of what he meant to write, that's what he did write. How I read it is how most reasonable people will read it. The head of the OSI is writing stuff that looks, to a reasonable person, like a bunch of racist generalizations, and insulting racist generalizations to boot. It begins with an explicitly racist assumption, never backed up, and worded about as obnoxiously as possible.

Should an advocacy body be concerned about their President trolling or, at least, deliberately using the worst, most obnoxious, methods possible to put across arguments? Should an advocacy body be concerned about their President apparently making racist statements in public? Yes, I think so too.

Re:Discuss? (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 9 years ago | (#11629063)

You are as sure as I am that our respective interpretations is how "reasonable" people will read it. Both positions are assertions of ego, not fact. In your world, people see bad words, shut down their brains, and think and say mean thoughts without any real effort to actually ensure that the writer truly conforms to their prejudice. While a statistically significant portion of the population that reads it will have, and has had, that reaction, I'd hardly call them reasonable. In fact, they're quite the opposite.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11630023)

No, my position is one of fact. The fact is that Russ Nelson says, repeatedly, that people of a certain skin colour are "lazy". You actually had to edit his words, to actually lie about what he wrote, to get him to say the opposite, to fit the argument you wanted to make. You stated that he'd written that people of a particular skin colour weren't lazy. He had, actually, written that they are. His entire post is about why he "thinks" they are.

I don't care whether Russ thinks he's not being racist because he's blaming that laziness on racism or not. The fundamental fact is he makes an assertion that he doesn't justify, a snide, and negatively prejudiced assertion.

If I said dbrutus is an idiot, and then came up for a rational explanation of how someone who's lived the life you have would end up being an idiot, I suspect you'd probably consider it a nasty insult. You wouldn't turn around and say "Well, people reading this will merely take this as a lesson in education, and either I am an idiot, or the fact I'm an idiot was never Squiggie's point."

The last thing you'd do is think I'd make a great choice to be the public face of an advocacy organization.

Re:Discuss? (1)

Cattywampus (19657) | more than 9 years ago | (#11657631)

The actual quote (for one moment I thought that Nelson had edited his blog entry) is:

I think that is what led people into the mistaken idea that blacks are lazy--as a characteristic of being black. They're not; it's an economically-ignorant idea to say that they are.

In your version he's saying they're not lazy. In the original version, he's saying they are, but not for the reason "people" think. Perhaps you could explain why you edited that out.
Look closely at what you yourself quoted. Where in that statement does Russ Nelson say that blacks are lazy?
stop (actually) being racist and blacks will stop being (perceived as) lazy.

And this one comment, at the end, is supposed to neutralize the entire article, how? It's not as if the "perceived as" actually negates the fact that he's explicitly stated several times that blacks actually are lazy.
That comment isn't supposed to neutralize the entire article. It's supposed to support it.

Russ Nelson says, repeatedly, without explaining why he believes it, that blacks are "lazy". Period.
That's true. However, I think that's more indicative of stupid writing than of racism.

The head of the OSI is writing stuff that looks, to a reasonable person, like a bunch of racist generalizations, and insulting racist generalizations to boot.
I would consider myself to be a reasonable person, and that isn't what it looks like to me. He should be removed from his position as the head of the OSI not because of racism, but because of incompetence.

Re:Discuss? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11659402)

Look closely at what you yourself quoted. Where in that statement does Russ Nelson say that blacks are lazy?
Be careful about context. My sentence saying it does imply that existed in a specific context (arguing against someone who'd deliberately edited it to say the opposite), and the sentence itself also exists in a wider context. The sentence under question is merely one in a large paragraph that begins:
Black people are lazy in that they work less hard than whites. Not only that, but they are rational to be lazy! After black slaves were freed, they worked less. The value of their leisure time (highly valued after a lifetime of slavery) exceeded the pay from their work. Also, ongoing American racism has caused blacks to be paid less than whites. If everything else is the same, a black person is less likely to want to work as hard as a white person. I think that is what led people into the mistaken idea that blacks are lazy--as a characteristic of being black. They're not; it's an economically-ignorant idea to say that they are.
ie, without even speaking in hypotheticals, Nelson has accused Blacks of being objectively lazy three times before this particular sentence. The sentence itself continues this, arguing that "people" are mistaken as to the reason why this laziness supposedly exists.

This is what I pointed out to an individual that deliberately misquoted Russ Nelson (to the point of changing words to mean the exact opposite of what was written.)

Listen all those trying to explain this away using similar arguments: I know you want to believe someone wouldn't post this kind of racist stuff, but it was published. It was objectively racist. Nelson himself may or may not be a racist, he may even have been blaming racism for the laziness he perceives in blacks, but he most certainly is accusing blacks of being lazy. Period. Bottom line. And that accusation is not backed up with facts.

Most "explainers" here are making an argument I don't think even Nelson would claim right now. They're claiming that because he's justifying hypothetical laziness, and because he's blaming that hypothetical laziness on discrimination, ergo, he's not saying anyone's lazy.

But that's simply not logically consistant and more to the point ignores the words and phrases Nelson uses.

That's true. However, I think that's more indicative of stupid writing than of racism
I suspect this is correct. That isn't to say that I don't think Nelson wrote an essentially racist article, but I think there's a difference between that and actually being an all out racist. I doubt, on the basis of his article, that Nelson would discriminate against someone on the basis of skin colour. But I also don't doubt the article was nasty, perpetuating negative stereotypes and insulting a large group at the same time.

Russ has withdrawn the article, and it's clear that whether he understands why or not, he's going to be more careful in future. I don't particularly like the fact he's OSI president, I think there are more competent people out there to do the work, but I'm personally not going to be demanding he be kicked out (at least, not unless he pulls a stunt like this again.)

Re:Discuss? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11625331)

FWIW, this is exactly what I'm trying to say.

I think it also assumes facts not in evidence. He makes the unwarranted assumption that blacks are 'lazy' and then proceeds to explain why.

A true WTF moment (1)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11622672)

Hard to believe that someone who is trying to position themselves as a credible spokensmen for any community would post something so obviously inflammatory, and sure to engender hostility, knee-jerk or otherwise, for no apparent purpose. I'm sure conspiracy theories will abound.

I think we can mark this day, as the day when OSI becomes more of an in-joke than a respectable part of the open source landscape.

The Angry Economist (1)

mark (495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11626492)

My opinion, in a nutshell and for whatever it's worth: Russ Nelson is an idiot, his angry economics are intellectually corrupt, and the OSI is irrelevent.

He consistently starts from flawed assumptions and then makes flawed arguments to back them up. It's barely worth discussing, though his racial baiting is extraordinarily distasteful (even for an idiot).

The OSI has always been flawed, ideologically and in practice. Nelson's presidency is unlikely to change this. Let it slide into the cesspool of politics and irrelevancy that it deserves (much like the original OSI!)

Re:The Angry Economist (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11627465)

The OSI has always been flawed, ideologically and in practice.

Are you going to Linux World Expo next week, or FUDCon? I'd be happy to talk to you to find out why you feel this way. Send me email and we'll set up a time to meet. nelson@crynwr.com .
-russ

Re:The Angry Economist (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11630811)

Don't piss off The Angry Economist [russnelson.com].
Maybe you can give a speech telling everyone how many shares of SCO Microsoft promised you in return for discrediting the next release of the Hallowe'en Documents.

Pissed off yet?

If you want to debate your whole "blacks are lazier than whites" soi-disant "economic analysis" in public, let me know next time you're in town. I'll even give you a two-for-one advantage in terms of debate time.

Getting Rid of Russ (1)

110010001000 (697113) | more than 9 years ago | (#11626833)

Is it possible to move the OSS community in an effort to get rid of Russ Nelson from OSI? I think he is a loose cannon, and a racist. At the very least he does not make a good spokesman for OSS. What can we do? Can we petition the OSI's board of directors to get rid of him? We need to do something quickly before our movement is damaged by his antics.

One must assume... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 9 years ago | (#11627590)

... that you are one of the people who thinks that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be banned because it's obviously racist.

Re:One must assume... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11628457)

Erm, no. I don't ask for anything to be banned, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn isn't, IMHO, racist.
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