Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Businesses behaving badly (and other links)

Normally local governments tax property based on “highest and best use.”In Texas, Lowe’s is arguing its stores should pay property tax as if the store were closed. Sometimes they win just because they can outspend the county on legal fees.

•A mother claims a for-profit college took out a loan in her name without her consent.

•Apparently the Texas prison system is a big business. One reason it generates huge profits is that it uses prisoners as slave labor.

•Long Island University tried to break the faculty union by locking out the unionized staff after they rejected a contract proposal (and advertising for replacements on, according to this interview). Happily the lockout failed and negotiations are back on.

•Megan McArdle defends for-profit prisons.

•A judge has fined Verizon $3,750 for leaving an elderly couple without phone service for several days. And a woman claims the company charged her for a massive excess data use she couldn’t possibly be responsible for.

•Comcast insists its data usage meter isn’t at fault, even if it billed customers for data they couldn’t have used. The company is also freaking out over an FCC proposal that would allow competition in the market for providing TV set-top boxes. Comcast and AT&T are also protesting Nashville’s decision to let Google fiber use city utility poles alongside the other providers.

•The Department of Justice is looking into Wells Fargo employees’ alleged practice of opening added accounts without customers’ permission.

In other topics—

•A former Israeli politician says Israel is becoming increasingly divided.

•AirBnB says Santa Monica’s ban on short-term rentals violates federal and constitutional law. Curiously while it claims no responsibility for what people post on the site, it’s also setting requirements for rental-owners intended to reduce discrimination. Which is a good thing, but still seems inconsistent.

•Multiple tech companies have supported Microsoft’s lawsuit claiming customers have a right to know if the government has searched their electronic files.

•Thanks to Obamacare, fewer Americans are uninsured than ever before.

•Class action lawsuits are not an option for Uber drivers, an appeals court says.

•Fifteen years after 9/11, why are Muslims and Arabs still under suspicion? We Hunted the Mammoth says anti-Muslim vandalism and assaults are getting worse.

Lethal yellowing disease is wiping out coconut plantations.

•Right-wingers are using Hilary Clinton’s recent illness as proof she’s too sick to be president (and probably hiding worse illness!).

•Echidne looks at the sexism involved in the French burkini ban, both in the assumption women shouldn’t show skin and the pressure to do so.

•An anonymous reporter argues that we should vote Trump because the disaster will be more interesting to cover than a Clinton presidency. While this is a dreadful reason (as noted at the link) I was also struck by his argument that Trump might work out in the long run because “you just have to blow up shit to build it again.” Trouble is, I doubt in office Trump will blow up the government (the Middle East maybe). As many people have suggested, he’ll probably be happy to sign whatever right-wing bullshit the Republicans in Congress can bring to his desk. And as Echidne points out, the reporter might feel different if he thought his own shit was at risk of being blown up, rather than minorities and Muslims.

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Diversity and kidvid (#SFWApro)

On her blog, Foz Meadows looks at the anti-diversity argument that giving women/gays/minorities a leading character they can identify with is just tokenism or political correctness or unbelievable or just objectionable for some other reason. As she points out, when people argue this is somehow wrong

they forget the point of stories. We have, quite literally, an entire genre of films, books, comics, games and TV shows dedicated to showing us how normal, mediocre straight white guys – literal everymen, as proudly proclaimed in their blurbs and trailers and other forms of promotional bumpf – can rise up and save the world and the day and get the girl, even when they’ve had absolutely nothing going for them and no pertinent skills before that point. It might happen through luck or hard work, through outside help or unknown possession of a secret destiny, or sometimes a combination of all four, but it does happen, over and over and over again, with the cosmic regularity of sunset, and do you know what? Regardless of whether we love or hate or meh those individual stories, everyone who watches or reads or plays them understands, at base, that a certain degree of implausibility is the fucking point. The idea isn’t to create a hyper-real explanation as to why John Doe is suddenly the only man standing between Earth and alien annihilation, although it’s always nice when the worldbuilding rises to the occasion: the fundamental point of the everyman as hero is to make us, the everyday audience, feel as if we could be heroes, too.

And that the goal isn’t to erase the WASP straight male from leading roles nor to put out lots of crap justified by having female/black/gay/bisexual leads, but to have them in good roles — though that said, Meadows argues, it’s perfectly natural to get excited about a role even if it’s flawed because there’s still so little out there.

Her piece is good, and I recommend it, but as I was reading, I started thinking about children’s films and TV. Stranger Things and all its antecedents such as Goonies, ET, Explorers. And before them, some of Disney’s assorted (and frequently lame) kids vs. crooks films. Or the countless variations from my childhood such as Enid Blyton’s numerous stories of kid groups (The Adventurous Four, the Five Find-Outers, the Secret Seven) who exposed crooks and busted evil schemes. Or Robin, the Newsboy Legion and other young super-heroes.

starspangled7(Cover by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. All rights to current holder).

All unrealistic, because children going up against organized crime wind up dead. All written to cater to a specific demographic. Yet while people may laugh at the unrealisticness, nobody’s thrown into the frothing fits the way the all-female Ghostbusters do. We accept kids enjoy reading about themselves (even if they read older stuff too). Lots of adults enjoy stuff targeted to kids (I doubt ten year olds are buying the hardback Newsboy Legion collections).  But if the demographic targeted and focused on is “women” or “blacks” that’s something objectionable.

Is it because the kid groups tend to be mostly or entirely male and white, so the anti-diversity people can identify with the protagonists in a way that they can’t if it’s a woman or a trans character? Or that “kid stuff” has been around so long we take it for granted, while diversity feels like a searing new attack on WASP male privilege (even though the issues have been discussed since the 1970s, at least)? I suppose you could argue that “kid stuff” isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t stop a lot of adults watching Stranger Things or ET.

This isn’t a perfect analogy, but I think it’s a good start on one.


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Filed under Movies, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

I am completely stunned (not) that Donald Trump has a double standard

For all Trump’s protests about illegal immigrants, Mother Jones reports his modeling agency employed them constantly (and ripped them off). I doubt this will affect his voters at all, any more than W joining the National Guard to avoid the draft offended Republicans I know who swore how they couldn’t stomach draft-dodgers like Clinton.

•Likewise the press seems to apply a double standard, playing up Clinton actions that Look Suspicious but ignoring Trump (in the case at the link, giving to Pam Bondi’s Florida AG campaign; Bondi later declined to pursue a case against Trump University).

•Wow. The Trump campaign was so nervous about an outreach-to-black-America appearance at a black church that they switched it to a private one-on-one meeting with the pastor. And demanded questions in advance (which isn’t unusual) and wrote the answers in advance (which is). Sample answers: “If we are to make America great again, we must reduce, rather than highlight, issues of race in this country” and “I want to make race disappear as a factor in government and governance.” Which I presume means eliminating any and all programs that benefit blacks and other minorities, look at voter suppression or housing discrimination—on the time-honored right-wing ground that as they’re the ones who don’t want to talk about race, the liberals must be the real racists.

•Trump has a record of stiffing contractors who work for him. That includes campaign staffers.

•You may have heard about the recent online eruption over an article explaining how to talk to women wearing headphones. Some people I know didn’t believe the article was for real but I’ve no doubts — variations of don’t take no for an answer are a staple of male dating-advice books.  The Guardian explains why the original article’s advice was idiotic.

•Jim Hines writes about sexual harassment. People freak out.

•Lovely. George W. Bush’s administration gave the Supreme Court inaccurate information to justify its detention policies for illegal immigrants with criminal records, asserting detention typically only lasted a few months (more like a year).

•The fact we ship so many goods from overseas can be a huge problem when a major shipper goes bankrupt. It’s even worse for the ship crews. Erik Hare, however, argues the impact is exaggerated.

•There’s a National Tracing Center for guns, but the gun lobby won’t let it computerize.

•Uber made millions charging customers a safe ride fee (supposedly for instituting safer practices such as driver education and identification). A lawsuit over the fee netted a $28.5 million settlement offer but the judge says that’s not enough.

•Conservatives celebrate Labor Day by dumping on labor and unions. Speaking of which, a lawyer recommends businesses force employees into arbitration over wage disputes rather than go to court because arbitrators will side with the business.

•Given some of the shady behavior in the financial crash of eight years ago, how come nobody was charged, let alone tried, for their action? For that matter reading about Wells Fargo employees opening thousands of unwanted accounts and cards for customers (adding on services made their higher-ups happy), how is it nobody’s facing criminal charges?

•Pundit Peggy Noonan joins the camp arguing that Trump may be incompetent but he’s more fun than Clinton. Pundit Rod Dreher freaks out about Brown University providing free tampons in bathrooms including male (for transgender students) and declares it’s “virtue signalling” — whereas a kid in Russia getting five years for playing Pokemon Go in a church is cool because Russia’s defending its “sacred spaces” (even though he simultaneously says it’s too harsh) and the atheist Soviet government has killed lots of Russians. So there you are … somewhere.

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Trigger warnings, Trump and other political links

So the University of Chicago’s dean sent out a letter to incoming students warning them they will not get trigger warnings or safe spaces at a tough, demanding school like U of C. John Scalzi sees this as a wake-up call for students to let them know they won’t be cossetted. Brad deLong sees it as a reassuring message to parents, assuring the Fox News followers their kids are attending a no-nonsense conservative school. The Daily Beast sees it as reassurance to conservative donors that they’re giving money to a school that doesn’t truck with that newfangled liberalism. PZ Myers says trigger warnings and safe spaces, shouldn’t be controversial. More from LGM.

•Twenty years ago, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway showed her political smarts by discussing how Gen X voters would totally love dynamic young Repub politicians like Dan Quayle in contrast to stuffy old Al Gore (as noted in comments, Quayle was actually older than Gore). Keep that in mind when you hear Conway claim women will vote Trump. And then there’s Trump’s plan to win over blacks—have police get tougher on black crime.

•Small sellers on Amazon says the company is too willing to suspend them when customers complain.

•The Republican plan for a Clinton presidency is the same it’s been since Obama took office: obstruct everything.

•The backstory on the Takata airbag recall.

•The “Nice Guy” is the not-so-nice guy who offers kindness and friendship to get sex. A woman writes about being a similar “nice girl

•An Islamic cleric in Russia (with support of an Russian Orthodox leader) says women should all undergo female genital mutilation to keep them chaste.

•Several French municipalities have banned the burkini, an Islamic swimsuit. Katha Pollitt argues this is a bad idea.

•Congress is looking at a uniform method for states to collect online sales tax.

•A Georgia county is concerned it can’t legally block a mosque from opening so it’s passed a temporary moratorium on any faith building new houses of worship.

•Trump has been pushing the idea that white Americans are having their country stolen well before his presidential campaign.

•There’s such a glut of stolen credit-card data, hackers are now shooting for a new target, mobile banking data.

•United Airlines has updated its login protections but it may be a bad solution.

•Erik Loomis argues that North Carolina’s HB2 embodies a conservative strategy of squishing local government with state laws.

•Massachusetts teen Dave Becker raped two unconscious women. The judge gave him probation for two years so as not to ruin his life. Because the guy’s life is what’s important right?

•Secretary used to be a decent job for a woman, but like so many other fields, it’s fading away.

•Don’t blame the airline if your flight is miserable. Blame yourself for not being a team player.

•Here’s a wild idea: debt collectors must have evidence you owe the debt before they pursue you.

•Aww, the petsitter who sued a couple for their negative Yelp review lost the case.

•Samantha Field responds to the “American women have it so good, feminism is unnecessary” argument by detailing how it’s bullshit.

•Obama continues to make good use of his final year, for example by commuting sentences of nonviolent drug offenders. He’s provided clemency to more prisoners than the previous ten presidents.

•A Trumpie suggests we ban welfare recipients from voting—including women who get birth control through Obamacare. Like a lot of people he seems convinced that insurance coverage = free for the women. On the plus side, better birth control (as noted at the link) is going a long way to reducing out-of-wedlock teen births.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

New And column out–

A Box Made of Rules,” on how society likes forcing female square pegs into round holes.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Bret Easton Ellis has a hissy fit (plus a few other links)

So Art Tavana, a writer for LA Weekly, wrote about singer Sky Ferreira, acknowledging her talent but focusing on her sex appeal  (“When Ferreira snaps back her faux-blond hair in a music video, or does a Michael Jackson finger snap (her grandmother used to be MJ’s hair stylist), or when she takes off her big sunglasses and stares seductively into the camera, curling her candy-red lips like an English punk rocker, it never looks unnatural.”) which he discusses in much greater detail than her music. This generated some deserved flak, Teen Vogue for instance pointing that saying a woman as “pimped-out” implies she’s a prostitute.Bret Easton Ellis (the Less Than Zero author) decided he wasn’t putting up with that shit.

In a rant for the Independent he unloads on “little snowflake justice warriors” such as the Teen Vogue writer who had the temerity to criticize this “innocuous” piece: “the little snowflakes got so pissed off and were just sooo unbelievably offended by this piece, that they had to denounce it. Oh, little snowflakes, when did you all become grandmothers and society matrons, clutching your pearls in horror at someone who has an opinion about something, a way of expressing themselves that’s not the mirror image of yours, you snivelling little weak-ass narcissists? The high moral tone from social justice warriors is always out of scale with what they are indignant about. When did this hideous and probably nerve-wracking way of living begin transforming you into the authoritarian language police, with your strict set of little rules and manufactured outrage, demanding apologies from every sandwich or salad you didn’t like?” After all, what’s wrong with Tavana objectifying Ferreira? He admitted he was doing it, so that should all be hunky-dory, right?

As noted at the (not direct) link, Ellis does not seem to grasp that the definition of narcissist is not “disagrees with someone’s opinions.” Nor does he notice that he’s heavily into projection, delivering the kind of over-the-top response that he accuses Tavara’s critics of delivering, and condemning them for not being the mirror-image of his opinion. And I’m sure he doesn’t notice Teen Vogue made more sense, explaining why they took issue with the Tavara piece and not simply throwing invective at the target of their ire.

And no, admitting you’re objectifying someone does not excuse objectifying someone. I can’t think why it should. And given how often women of ability get reduced to their looks (or their status as a mother) it’s not unreasonable to object.

In other news:

•So if a creditor or debt collector wins a judgment against you, they can legally have the county sheriff auction off your assets. When one woman sued a debt collector over its practices, the company had the sheriff auction off her lawsuit as if it were an asset, bought it and then shut the lawsuit down. As noted at the link, if they win on appeal, this would be a get-out-of-jail free card for a lot of debt collectors.

•AT&T and Comcast are unsurprisingly fighting a Nashville legal change that would make it easier for Google Fiber to string cables across town.

•Aetna is dropping out of multiple Obamacare exchanges. Like a number of insurers it’s complaining there are too many sick people using the exchange, which is hurting profits. Which is, of course the paradox of insurance: they make better profits if people don’t use the service. Aetna has also said it can’t afford to stay on the exchange because the government is fighting a merger with Humana.

•Rudy Giulani wants you to know there were no Islamic terror attacks in the US before Obama. I’m sure the next time he wants to burnish his credentials as the 9/11 Mayor, he’ll switch back.

•Despite the complaints from Trump voters about trade deals and competition from immigrants, most of them haven’t suffered because of those things.

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Assorted political links, none of which makes me happy

Slate reports that USA Gymnastics ignored reports of abusive coaches for years.

•Back during the Cold War, the military buried a lot of toxic waste at one Greenland site under the ice. Now global warming is releasing it.

•Jessica Valent has received rape-threat tweets against her five-year-old child. Columbia Journalism Review looks at how Twitter handles these problems.

This link about the Heritage Foundation issuing new warnings about Iran The Ultimate Threat shows how some right-wingers refuse to let go of a designated enemy. Sure, we just negotiated a deal with Iran forestalling them building nuclear weapons (which they may not have planned to do), but the deal will expire in ten years! What if they go nuclear then, huh? What if they send Hezbollah terrorist cells to attack the US!

In short deal or no deal, regardless of what Iran’s policies are, we have to take them out. If we don’t and if they do go nuclear, we might not be able to “counter and contain” them — i.e. even if they’re not a threat, we might lose our ability to push them around or even invade and that’s a Bad Thing. And they’re an oppressive theocracy, which while true, is just as true of our good friend Saudi Arabia. Nor do I think Iran destabilizes the Middle East more than we did with the Iraq invasion—but as Heritage supported that, I doubt they’ll see that as a good comparison.

•Here’s a look at some of the corporate welfare programs costing the government billions (in both payouts and tax cuts). And according to some local governments, telecoms are charging low rates to business customers by slashing fees that fund 9-1-1 systems.

•As a former journalist, I’m disturbed that we still get national election coverage dwelling on things like what Trump eats: he enjoys fast food because he’s a busy guy and it’s yes, fast!

•When Trump started his campaign last year, he ignored Republican orthodoxy on economic issues (e.g., tax breaks for the rich, deregulation, private Social Security) and talked about boosting Social Security, a hugely popular idea with Trump voters. I am not surprised that in his recent policy proposals, he’s shifted back to classic Republicanism. After all, given how devoted his base is, he may figure he has nothing to lose.

•Not disturbing but I think it’s only fair to note that Trump did not evict a mother and baby from one of his rallies.

•As slacktivist points out, the KKK apparently thinks endorsing Trump won’t hurt his campaign (“They think they’re winning.”). And the far right John Birch Society is apparently moving back into the conservative mainstream (as noted at the link, their history includes accusing Eisenhower of being a Commie agent, seeing Communism behind the civil-rights movement and that the Muslim Brotherhood is just another front for the International Communist Conspiracy).

•The new right-wing craze for requiring parents bury or cremate aborted or miscarried fetuses could cost the parents $2,000 a fetus. Of course the government’s not going to pay! But one anti-abortion group has suggested abortion doctors get the bill.

•The Justice Department finds Baltimore’s Police Department is massively rotten. To give one example, a single black man was randomly stopped 30 times in four years without any charges being filed. He’s just one of many blacks —and it’s primarily blacks — who get stopped for no other reason than being there. In one case, with a federal investigator monitoring, one officer nevertheless told another to “make something up” so they could stop a guy.

•Trump’s claim that if he loses that’s proof the election was rigged is getting serious punditry coverage.

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