Category Archives: Politics

Let’s call our senators and representatives once again

Because once again, Republicans are trying to repeal ACA.  Apparently this bill is even worse than before.

One feature of the bill is that it takes some of the money that went to states that did the Medicaid expansion and channels it to states that didn’t. As a payoff, presumably. As NC will be losing money, it should be a no-brainer for our senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. To date, they have voted consistently to put party over their constituents’ well-being, so I’m not placing any bets.

Speculation online ranges from “still not likely to pass” to “slam-dunk” for various reasons. It’s best not to take any chances and do what we can, now.

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Thoughts from Jack Kirby (#SFWApro)

So I recently started reading Jack Kirby’s Fourth World stuff for DC (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods, Mr. Miracle) in the order of publication (worth doing as Kirby doles out portions of the Big Picture gradually). In Jimmy Olsen he introduces the Hairies, genetically engineered supergeniuses who’ve withdrawn from human society to do their own thing. They’re quite obviously an analogy for the hippies/counterculture (as were the Forever People) and in his third issue, Kirby muses on what they (and by extension the counterculture) means for us. While he was optimistic about the impact on society, I do find his vision surprisingly inspiring. So here it is. All rights to content and to the printed page remain with their current holders.

 

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I’m not so sure “being blocked from FB hurts my profits” is a free speech stance

A blog called Chicks on the Right claims to be a very strong proponent of free speech on college campus, which, according to them, is being stifled by the leftists, who refuse to allow robust, vigorous debate in favor of protecting themselves from hateful speech that hurts their feelings. Oh, but they’re also celebrating that a professor who tweeted Irma was “instant karma” for Texas got fired for that remark. Apparently hateful speech is a bad thing, when it comes from liberals; their post on the topic makes no mention of the countless Bible-thumpers who’ve blamed past storms on The Gays, The Feminists, The Abortions (and I doubt the Chicks will freak out over them making the same claims for Irma).

This is why I’m invariably skeptical about right-wingers who claim a deep devotion to free speech: they’re frequently lying. The same people who loudly criticized the government under Clinton and Obama also condemned anyone who dared criticized George W. Bush — don’t they realize he’s our president? Criticizing him in a time of war is treason, so First Amendment doesn’t apply (note: questioning the president is not treason). And besides, liberals are evil, and we’re righteous, so it’s totally different if we do it!

In fairness, plenty of people on all sides feel there are limits to free speech. I’ve seen lots of liberals in recent weeks argue banning Nazi protests and speech is just fine with them. I disagree (with exceptions noted at the link). However lots of right-wing bloggers and pundits set limits based purely on who’s giving and receiving the speech. If liberals say the same things about a Republican Republicans said about Obama, that’s unacceptable. If they spit out their loathing for gays/feminists/immigrants, that’s fine, but it’s wrong to criticize them back. Or identify them as Nazis.

And as Facebook, Twitter and other social media try to do more to rein in trolls, people who normally defend the rights of private companies to do whatever they want have suddenly decided that if what they want is blocking right-wing bullshit and hate speech, that’s not fair! Maybe we should start regulating Facebook and Twitter as public utilities so they have to provide a fair platform for everyone! And Google too!

I do not believe, for a minute, they want a fair platform — they just want to cover their own asses. Which is why we have National Review‘s Jeremy Carl suggesting that “if I can’t get access to the 2 billion people on Facebook because Facebook doesn’t like my politics, my rights of free expression are greatly curtailed.” Um, no. Your chance to promote yourself and sell your books/articles/whatever would be greatly curtailed, but that’s not the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, getting shut off from FB or Twitter is a big deal (Screen Rant gets most of its readers through FB). And it’s certainly possible it could be used against people who don’t deserve it. The power of Internet companies to shut down the Daily Stormer could likewise be abused. At the same time, businesses are free to discriminate, within the usual limits. They can’t refuse service based on race, gender, religion, disability, etc. but they can refuse people for being jerks, Nazis, liberals, conservatives, etc., etc. Likewise customers and employees can refuse to work for someone who supports David Duke. To say you can’t refuse anyone for any reason is a radical step, and completely opposite most right-wing/libertarian positions on free business!

But then of course, conservatives have been shrieking for years that government should Do Something about sex on TV, regardless of their normally stated belief that the market is always right. So this is nothing new. And I don’t believe for a minute they want the same protection for left-wing ideas or anything they disapprove of.

So they may bite me.

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Assorted writing-related links, mostly about copy (and related) rights issues (#SFWApro)

Not all related to writing though. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that cheerleader uniforms can be copyrighted, which is a big break from past. Though I admit the difference between “copyright the design elements” and “copyright the uniforms” still isn’t clear to me.

•A bong-maker must pay Starbucks almost a half-million for its use of “Dabbacino.”

•Lucasfilm is none too happy with the operator of the Lightsaber Academy.

•Bob Segar’s albums aren’t staying around physically, there’s no digital versions — will his work fade away?

•No, a printer company’s patents do not give it the right to tell you which toner cartridge you use.

•A National Review writer says the Bechdel test for movies (are there more than two women in the film? Do they talk to each other? About something other than the hero?) is as silly as rating a movie by whether it has cowboys in it.

•A federal court has rejected one patent troll’s claim that they own the rights to podcasting.

•Atari says Nestle ripped off a classic videogame for a TV commercial.

•Has Google become a generic term?

•A racist YouTube video used a Marvel cosplayer’s image without their consent.

•A streaming service that lets you edit out cussing/bare boobs/etc. to your own taste doesn’t have the right to make those cuts.

•I’ve heard of books gaming the bestseller lists before, but this is an extreme case.

•I didn’t realize San Diego Comic-Con claims a trademark on Comic-Con and apparently variations of the name.

•The creator of Pepe the Frog shut down a publisher using Pepe in racist children’s books. Said publisher will have to pay the settlement in the case to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

 

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Rush Limbaugh, turd in human form

I suppose I should have some respect for Rush Limbaugh, that blackhead on the face of our species. Lots of conservatives are explaining how Hurricane Harvey shows the greatness of those independent Texas conservatives, the vileness of liberals or how the storm proves men must be the boss. Limbaugh takes it up a notch by explaining that advance warnings about hurricanes and attempts to track them are just liberal propaganda.

How so? Limbaugh lays it out for you:

  • Hurricane warnings make us scared.
  • Fear makes us more susceptible to bullshit claims about global warming.
  • Fear makes us rush out and buy supplies. So it’s actually a conspiracy between liberals and stores like Home Depot to sell crap!
  • The media always predict the storm could hit a major population center! Obviously that’s just to scare us more!

Tell you what Mr. Limbaugh, why not just walk out when the storm comes and stand there. Show us how to face a storm without fear. I triple-dog dare you.

I will agree that the buying panic can get intense pre-hurricane, particularly when it comes to keeping the gas tank filled. But that’s not so irrational. I’ve lived in areas after a hurricane and it’s crazy. No gas. No food in stores. And not because everyone bought it all up in a panic (though that can contribute).

As for major population centers, well that could have something to do that America keeps building up its coastlines. More people keep moving there. More people live there. Cities like Miami sprawl out. It’s a lot harder than a century ago to hit the U.S. and not hit a major population center.

I’d like to say Limbaugh’s stupid, but I don’t think so. He’s what Harry Frankfort calls a bullshit artist: he’ll say whatever gets him results, regardless of truth or falsity (if reality was on his right-wing side, he’d happily stick to the truth). This presentation pushes the worldview he’s been pushing his entire career. You can’t trust government. You can’t trust the media (except him). Everything is a vast conspiracy directed against real Americans. As David Neiwert has pointed out, it’s fascist themes (the Zionist Occupied Government is conspiring against you!) scrubbed for mass consumption.

And I’m sure the implications that Republicans cutting the budget for FEMA and for hurricane tracking is no big deal, and that global warming is a myth, are bonuses.

 

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Heroism redux

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hurricane Harvey pounding Houston has led some conservatives to start up the blather about how men are men and women are girls, and what women want is a Real Man.

Courtesy of LGM, I discovered that right-wingers Jesse Kelly and Matt Walsh have both Tweeted photos of male first responders in Harvey with the point that This Is What Women Want (and in Walsh’s case, What They’re Supposed To Want). Kelly specifically contrasted a responder with a photo of “pajama boy,” the very non-macho looking guy shown in some of the early Obamacare ads signing up online (an image that by sheer lack of machismo coupled with the Evil Kenyan Tyrant’s healthcare plan whipped some conservatives to a frenzy at the time).

This is something we’ve seen before, in the aftermath of 9/11. As Susan Faludi noted a few years later, the media showered us with scenes of heroic men rescuing helpless women on 9/11, even though most victims were men and some responders were women. It ties in to the idea that heroism is supposed to be uniquely male, and that men should be protecting women even if they’re incompetent at it (if I’m dating Black Widow or Black Canary, then it’s my responsibility to fight off an attacker, even though they’re better at it).

And it is, like most Undead Sexist Cliches, wrong. For starters, there’s the assumption that What Women Want is a single thing common to everyone with two X-chromosomes: all women must desire the same thing in a man. Which in the eyes of Kelly and Walsh is, unsurprisingly, a big strong man who will protect them (and I imagine Be The Boss away from the crisis).

And some women do want that. Other women might like to hit that, but not marry that. Other women go for Pajama Boy. Or something else entirely. If my wife wanted big and strong, I’d still be single. Heck, Walsh probably would be too: if you click through from LGM, you’ll see his photo. He looks like Pajama Boy with stubble. Which is a perfectly fine thing to be, but he doesn’t seem to live up to his own standard of What Women Want. Nor is he rushing down to Texas to do some manly heroism, as far as I know. Perhaps, as George Orwell said of warhawks, he figures talking the talk is a substitute for walking the walk.

Then there’s the underlying assumption of a total, black-and-white dichotomy. Men are the savers. Women are to be saved. Men are other successful manly male or they’re PJ-boy wimps.

Only there are women first responders (cops, EMTs, paramedics) and women in the National Guard (many state guards are going to Houston). Possibly there are none working Hurricane Harvey but it’s not as if men really get all the heroism to themselves. Would Walsh and Kelly suggest that if a woman rescuer pulls a guy to safety he should resist and insist on doing it himself?

And there’s no reason Pajama Boy couldn’t be fully trained in krav maga, or have a life membership in NRA. Or that the manly rescuers in Harvey can’t be going home to their husbands, or spend the evening reading Keats’ poetry.  But thinking like that goes against traditional gender roles, which pushes panic buttons for some right-wingers. They desperately want to believe (or want their audience to believe) that those gender roles cannot change except when feminists brainwash people into doing gender wrong.

I’m all in favor of heroism. If TYG were in danger, I sincerely hope that short and nonmuscular though I am, I’d take a bullet for her. But if the tables were turned and she had to save me, I’d be proud of her for doing it.

 

 

 

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Delusions of Gender

DELUSIONS OF GENDER: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine (cover design by Kelly Blair, all rights remain with current holder) was one I had on the list of research of Undead Sexist Cliches: the book. I’m not sure it told me anything I had not heard at some point, but putting it all together makes it that much more compelling.

Fine’s point is that the belief gender is fixed and immutable (gender skills, gender roles, whatever) doesn’t hold up. Specifically the assorted tests and science “proving” women can’t X doesn’t pan out, and most of the evidence can be explain by the items in the subtitle:

Minds: Our minds swim in a sexist sea where gender rules and roles are everywhere. So it’s not surprising at some level they’re waiting to burst out when prodded. People who take tests measuring gender abilities in different skills are influenced by knowing that, say women aren’t supposed to be good at this (advanced math) or have a natural flair (empathic reading of other people’s feelings). The counter evidence is that if the tests are framed differently, performance changes. Matching and comparing 3D images, for instance, is something men usually do better at. Scores of both genders can be influenced by describing the skill as one used in “male” fields (architecture, engineering) or female (fashion, decorating). Men’s performance on empathy tests goes way up if they’re told things like “women find empathic men who can pick up on their feelings very attractive.” (go figure).

Society. One of the standard arguments for gender differences is that even kids raised gender neutral conform to them. Fine shows (much as I’ve always suspected) that it’s next to impossible to block out the gender messages society, and other children, send. By two, kids are aware of the differences men and women display; by four, they’re typically following the script. But again, the script can be shuffled: a My Little Pony tricked out to look dangerous becomes a boy toy, pretend guns with satiny coverings are for girls.

Neurosexism: Fine goes into detail how must neurological theories demonstrating men and women just don’t think the same way (men can’t express emotion, men are more logical, whatever) have gaping holes. And the typical magazine and newspaper reports on them are even weaker, battening onto whatever conforms our stereotypes (I’ve seen “men want to get laid, women want love” tossed off as a proven scientific truth a hundred times).

It’s a good book, and adds a couple more ideas to my own work.

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