Category Archives: Politics

Florida, my old home state (and other political links)

Back when Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, right-to-lifer Randall Terry informed him that if he wanted right-to-life support for any presidential bid (everyone knew it was coming eventually) he’d have to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Despite the years of court hearings and the special representative for Terri all finding that yes, her husband was acting appropriately in having her life support turned off, Jeb intervened.

Now he’s bragging about it in his campaign ads, promoting it an an example of his commitment to pro-life values. Not mentioned: that he was in office for years without doing anything and only acted when Terry pitched him. And that his actions only affected the Schiavo case—he didn’t attempt to actually change the law to protect others in the same boat (as the right to die law has strong support in the state, that might have cost him, politically).

•Under current governor Rick Scott, Florida is being run like a business: save money by slashing services and staff. At the link, Miami Herald looks at how Scott’s vigorous cuts to public health may have contributed to Florida being the state with the highest rate of new AIDS cases.

•Speaking of “run like a business”: executives running a major coal company steer it into bankruptcy. So naturally they get massive bonuses while the retired miners lose their benefits. At the link, Scott Lemieux discusses similar examples of the double standard—executives need constantly higher and higher pay to retain them, but workers? Similarly my former employer, Freedom Communications  (which is filing bankruptcy for the second time in several years) cut pay across the board the year I left, while giving publishers and higher-ranked executives bonuses because they were “valued employees” (I’d always suspected reporters weren’t).

•So Marco Rubio was caught drinking while underage back in his teens. No big; I loathe his politics but it’s no more significant to his fitness for president than Jeb Bush’s inability to name a favorite super-hero. Proving that when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right-winger Mark Judge decides to use this as an example of how we (i.e., feminazis) are repressing masculinity. Because this is so much male behavior, and it’s about “passion and lust and adventurousness,” not anything as mundane as getting buzzed. More mockery of Judge at the link. Commenters point out that right-wingers show remarkably little enthusiasm for drug use among people who aren’t favored Republicans (e.g., Bill Clinton, Obama) or for Clinton’s sexcapades. It’s almost like there’s a double standard …

•More on the anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood group that a grand jury indicted in Texas.

•President Obama is making changes to the federal prison system including banning solitary confinement for juveniles.

•Ever see those ads for Devry University? The government says the university fudges statistics on all the graduates who get jobs after graduation.

•Echidne of the Snakes on the women of the “Vanilla Isis” movement (which appears to be breaking up)

•A conservative writer says he’s very, very worried that Trump’s success is turning the conservative movement into a “populist, white identity thing” as if it’s never been about race before. I think said writer, Matt Lewis, is just trying to distance himself and the Republicans from the obvious racism of Trump (which probably won’t play well in the election) but at the link Digby suggests right-wingers may really have convinced themselves that tort reform is the kind of thing their base cares about. And now they’re seeing it’s not …

Jeb Bush’s donors are unhappy with the way he’s spending money (though as noted at the link, it’s more about being a big spender with nothing to show for it).

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Undead Sexist Cliche: She’s a Man in Drag

During one of the panels at Illogicon this month, one writer commented that when writing women, one thing to avoid is simply writing them as a man with boobs.

On the one hand, I agree with that. I have seen characters where I thought that was an apt description. On the other hand, “that character is really a man” and “she wants to be just like a man” are such old rules of gender policing I can’t but recoil from using them.

John C. Wright, for instance, considers any woman who does more than protect her family or support her man to be a man with boobs. On the other side of the political aisle, there were feminists in the 1970s who argued any female super-hero was automatically a man in drag: real women never resort to violence to solve problems.

In the real world, “feminists want to be men” is a staple of sexist criticism. The NYT’s Maureen Dowd, for example, remembers the start of second-wave feminism thus: “Women were once again imitating men and acting all independent: smoking, drinking, wanting to earn money and thinking they had the right to be sexual, this time protected by the pill. I didn’t fit in with the brazen new world of hard-charging feminists.” Decades earlier, one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters (speaking in the 1930s) dismissed The Modern Woman as no different from men—smoking, drinking, sexually aggressive, at least by Burroughs’ standards (it’s a fictional character speaking but I’ve read too much Burroughs not to think it’s the author’s own view).

Dowd’s analysis (and ERB’s too, of course) is like a lot of her work detached from facts. Women, even stay-at-home housewives, smoked and drank, even in the oh-so-gendered 1950s. Women worked, too: maids, cooks, housekeepers, waitresses. Poor and working-class women have worked from necessity even when it was unfashionable for middle and upper-class women (though some of them worked too, even in the 1950s).

But beyond that, the idea that wanting your own income or wanting to enjoy sex are naturally male attributes is ridiculous, though both assumptions — women “naturally” want to stay home and be baby machines, and “naturally” want love, not sex — are still around (case in point). More generally, the line between “man with boobs” and “non-stereotypical female character” is blurry — I suspect it’s pretty much “I know it when I see it.” So I’m not sure how useful a measure it is in figuring out how to write believable women.

Society’s fondness for gendering particular attributes is always a problem in writing fiction. It forces us to debate whether princesses can be feminist, or kick-ass warriors can be girly. For some people, the girly stuff is stereotyping; for others it’s girly stuff because a lot of girls like it; for some, being girly makes it inferior. All of which makes it hard to think clearly about who we’re writing, or for a female character to be just a character, rather than a marker or a statement about What Women Want or Should Want.

Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll get to higher clarity any time soon.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

More on the Internet of Things (and other political links)

I blogged a while back about possible problems with the Internet of Things, where all your appliances are linked into your home wireless network. One blogger looks at potential abuses of such a system; Freedom to Tinker looks at how much harder it will become to maintain security when we can’t be sure which device is hooked up to what, may not be able to log on or affect them, let alone know when they need patching. Consumerist reports a specific problem with Nest thermostats. And here the same blog looks at how tricky patching routers becomes.

•Bacteria immune to the last-resort antibiotic are now found in 19 countries.

•This is the sort of thing that makes me believe food regulation and inspection are more than just bureaucratic interference in freedom.

•Will Trump run America like a business? Because his business has filed Chapter 11 more than any other major company in the last 30 years.

•Fox News would like you to believe Michael Bay’s film about Benghazi is a very serious movie.

•Obama’s decision not to deport all illegal immigrants is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.

•Google may be able to access kids’ school data.

•It’s long been established that tattoos are covered by the First Amendment. It’s news that a federal court has ruled tattoo parlors are protected too.

•Here’s a new scam: making DVM appointments and selling them off.

•And now there are crooked call centers that cater to identity-theft and credit-card theft scams.

•A right-to-lifer admits that for her organization, shutting down Planned Parenthood isn’t about abortion, it’s about making it easier to have sex for pleasure.

•Universities selling out to corporate financial interests? One study finds that chocolate milk is good for concussion while another finds soft drinks are healthier than water.

•Volvo says it will have a death-proof car by 2020.

•A profile of Todd Starnes, a Fox News reporter with little regard for facts.

•Here’s some good news: Daniel Holzclaw, the cop and serial rapist, gets 263 years in prison.

•The evidence for Iraq having WMDs was more uncertain than the Bush administration made out. But as noted at the link, that just made the warhawks stronger: in their arguments, we couldn’t wait until we knew because it might be too late.

•Breitbart.com rants that left-wing SF authors are suppressing right-wing authors. Jim Hines shows that, unsurprisingly, Breitbart is pulling it out of their butts. It’s a familiar game, too: I’ve seen other authors rant about how the reason their brilliant genius is not getting published is the SJW/feminazi cabal (the same one that castrated our TV shows).

•A Bloomberg Business News story confirms once again what happens when Wal-Mart moves in — other stores close — and then moves out — no stores!.

•It can be really easy to manipulate customer reps into giving up your personal data.

•Sorry Maureen Dowd, criticizing what a female politician wears or the behavior of her kids is still sexist, even if it’s Sarah Palin. And as far as her fashion sense, that’s a stupid point of criticism to boot.

•A forced-birth group accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby organs has been charged with tampering with records and buying baby parts. The grand jury also cleared the PP branch of all charges.

•A virus spreading through Central America can cause babies to be born with severe birth defects. As El Salvador doesn’t allow abortions for any reason, the unofficial government recommendation is for women not to get pregnant until 2018.

•At the same link, a discussion of a Kansas legislative committee that refuses to let women testify if their blouses are too low or their skirts are too high.

•An Uber passenger worries he’s going to puke. The driver has been charged with forcing him out of the car at gunpoint.

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Another new And column

On right-wing false prophecies. Many more examples at the various links in the piece.

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Colorblind casting

Writing in Atlantic, Angelica Jade Bastién says colorblind casting—picking actors regardless of their race—causes more problems than it solves:

•It becomes an excuse for casting whites in non-white roles.

•Movies can put non-white characters in minor roles, save the big roles for white people, and still claim to be diverse.

•It doesn’t eliminate the racial issues in Hollywood, including the lack of minorities in studio positions or behind the camera: “It’s simply counterintuitive to argue that problems related to race can be fixed by ignoring race altogether.” What the movies need, instead, is a middle ground “between stories where race is everything and stories where it’s not even an afterthought.

Erik Loomis at LGM agrees with Bastién and argues the real issue of colorblind casting is that it makes the world look post-racial and tolerant, and therefore makes it easier for white liberals to ignore racial issues. And that it simply doesn’t make sense in a world where race is a big issue to cast roles without regard to race.

I’ve got to say I strongly disagree. The real issue of colorblind casting is that for decades, any role that wasn’t specifically written for a black guy (or Japanese woman, Latino kid, handicapped man, etc.) was white by default: non-white actors need not apply. One comic-book writer/artist team said they wouldn’t write/draw a black character into a story unless his being black was somehow relevant—otherwise it was just tokenism.

jungleaction06That’s a shitty deal for black (or Hispanic, or Asian) actors, who get shut out of a lot of roles, particularly the major ones, which are usually white. It’s a shitty deal for minority viewers who want to see themselves on-screen. That’s why Martin Luther King encouraged Nichelle Nichols to stick with the role of Uhura, a role that could easily have been done by a white character. And why, as noted at the link, the first black woman in space cited Uhura as her inspiration. The late Dwayne McDuffy has written in Marvel’s hardback collection of the 1970s Black Panther series how much it stunned him to see a black super-hero, a monarch, and a world where all the characters—hero, villain, henchmen, innocent bystanders—were all black (cover by Rich Buckler, rights with current holder). That’s not a small thing. Or consider The Force Awakens, which Bastién discusses quite a bit: would the world be better off if Finn and Poe were both white (and back when New Hope came out, I’m sure they would have been)? If white liberals get a distorted perception of race from seeing such casting, that’s not good, but I think it’s relatively insignificant.

And as Foz Meadows has written in multiple blog posts, she enjoys seeing a world where queerness isn’t demonized and bullied, and women aren’t treated like crap for being girls. For example, this post on Teen Wolf and what Meadows sees as an alternative to stereotypical masculine/jock-bonding/homophobe behavior (I have no opinion on this point myself, as I’ve never seen the show, but it’s a good post).

I agree with Bastién that colorblind casting doesn’t solve the bigger picture of discrimination in Hollywood, but I never thought it was going to. I completely disagree that when white guys get put into nonwhite parts, colorblind casting is at fault. Most articles and blog posts I’ve read in favor of colorblindness distinguish that from “racebending,” putting white characters into nonwhite roles such as the live-action Avatar movie or Prince of Persia. And that kind of casting long predates the colorblind variety. A lot of lead Asian roles have gone to whites over the years: Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers have all played Fu Manchu for instance (and Sellers did it in the 1980s). David Lean was apparently fine in 1984 with casting Alec Guinness as an Indian sage in A Passage to India. Likewise Hollywood slotted blacks into minor supporting roles for years, long before colorblind casting was a thing.

I agree it’s not the solution. But I believe strongly it’s an important step.

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Filed under Movies, Politics

Hating against Islam

deck bwUnrelated: a B&W photo of our deck, under the snow. I should really do black-and-white photography more often—I like the effect. Now, the links:

Muslims are walking the streets of America! Be afraid! The slacktivist post at the link rounds up several examples of anti-Muslim paranoia including a warning that “Islamic males are walking down the main streets of some American cities” which is supposed to be a Bad Thing. However the post missed this warning that a mosque in my hometown of FWB is undoubtedly a jihadi/ISIS center! The author, Dave Gaubatz believes it’s impossible to be a moderate Muslim so I’m a teensy bit dubious about his judgment. And I can find plenty of right-wingers who advocate treason against America, abuse of women, slavery and killing their opponents all of which he sees as red flags proving the eeevil of Islam Case in point, threats and violence against Muslims after San Bernadino.

•Marco Rubio’s ideas on dealing with Iran are consistently wrong. And many Republican ideas on dealing with ISIS take mass civilian casualties for granted. Of course, if Iran said anything like that, it would be proof they were monsters …

•Right-bloggers are horrified  that after seizing some sailors inside Iranian territorial waters, Iran fed them and then released them.

•One conservative pundit accuses liberals of pronouncing Islam and Muslim the way they’re properly pronounced—clearly this is the first step towards branding people who pronounce it differently as bigots! As pointed out in the comments, the author, M.G. Oprea, shows her distaste for Islam quite clearly in her published articles, so why worry?

•Plenty of other conservatives flaunt their anti-Islamic cred. So it’s good to be reminded, once again, that terrorist does not equal Muslim or vice versa.

•Now there’s irony for you: Rick Santorum, who has never denied that as president he would let his faith dictate his policies, says Islam is not a religion because it wants to run politics and government as well.

•As Digby notes, a lot of Trump voters seem to long for the days when America was WASP-dominated and everyone else knew their place. And that while the current economic plight is part of that, the racism against Muslim, blacks, etc. doesn’t disappear even in good times. Scott Lemieux adds more. On the plus side, hate may not be a winning strategy in the general election. David Brooks is so worried he’s fantasizing about a grass-roots movement to somehow steer the party away from Trump or Cruz.

•Slacktivist points out that hate, covered up under discussions of state’s rights and such, has been a Republican strategy for more than 30 years.

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The Polite Society

That’s the title of my new And column, on the pro-gun cliché that “an armed society is a polite society.” As I point out, that’s bullshit: it won’t be polite, and if it were, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

One thing I didn’t have space to get into is the legal ramifications. Heinlein argued that “manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” but legally that’s a non-starter: except in extreme cases, shooting someone for rudeness (“He was playing his stereo loud at 2 a.m.!”) gets you a prison term. An armed society would only be polite if the law were changed to allow some sort of code duello (or like Jim Crow, to have juries refuse to convict white people who committed honor killings against blacks). Do the “polite society” gun lovers think they should get the equivalent of a stand-your-ground law? Is some kind of formal duel required or can they just blow away anyone who pisses them off? And can someone do the same to them? As noted in the article, I doubt anyone who visualizes themselves imposing good manners at gunpoint really thinks they deserve the same discipline.

Check it out, leave a comment if you like. I’m quite pleased with it.

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