firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

I'm glad they said something.

It's true that rules and regulations aimed at harrassers are likely to end up being used against the same groups of people who are most often the targets of harrassment (women, people of color, queer people, etc.). For example, Facebook's real name policy has been used to harrass drag queens and trans people.

The suggestions they describe for addressing harrassment are important but they aren't sufficient. Stronger blocking tools that are easier for individual users to employ? That matters, but it's not going to help with doxxing. More control over the online availability of personal information? That matters, but it's a really inadequate tool against harrassment per se. It puts a huge burden on the victim and limits their participation in the public sphere. Counter-speech? That is absolutely necessary, but it's not a solution that allows victims to stay online, especially when the victims are individuals who would rather not spend every moment of every day being reminded of their harrassment.

I have a problem with the phrase "The kind of harassment we are worried about happens when Internet users attract the attention of the wrong group or individual," because it's subtly victim-blaming.

Also the post relegates the demographics of harrassment (e.g. that women are harrassed at a far higher rate than men) to a footnote.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Damage done by student loans

Student debt is bigger than credit card debt, and most of it is owed to the government, which has unprecedented powers of collection. Because most students get loans, schools have little incentive to keep costs down, and keep raising tuition.

(emphasis mine)
Another debtor, a 38-year-old attorney who suffered a pulmonary embolism and went into default as a result, is now more than $100,000 in debt. Bedridden and fully disabled, he accepts he will likely be in debt until his death. He asked that his name be withheld because he doesn't want to incur the wrath of the government by disclosing the awful punch line to his story: After he qualified for federal disability payments in 2009, the Department of Education quickly began garnishing $170 a month from his disability check.
The massive earnings the government gets on student-loan programs amount to a crude backdoor tax increase disguised by cynical legislators (who hesitate to ask constituents with more powerful lobbies to help cut the deficit) as an investment in America's youth.

"It's basically a $185 billion tax hike on middle-income and low-income citizens and their families," says Warren Gunnels, senior policy adviser for Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the few legislators critical of the recent congressional student-loan compromise.
There's a particularly dark twist to the education story, which is tied to the collapse of the middle class and the overall shittening of our economic landscape: College degrees are actually considered to be more essential than ever. The New York Times did a story earlier this year declaring the college degree to be the "new high school diploma," describing it as essentially a minimum job requirement.
So what can be done about this? Are there any organizations pushing back on it?
firecat: gorilla with arms folded looking stern (unamused)
My willingness to use flying as a form of transportation was drastically reduced when the TSA instituted rules limiting the amount of liquids through the security checkpoint. Originally, empty beverage bottles were not allowed through the checkpoint either. That was a boundary for me because I consider it a basic need to carry a lot of water with me when I travel, and I consider it an unreasonable burden to be required to purchase an overpriced bottle of water after clearing the checkpoint. (I can't find any rules about empty bottles on the TSA site right now and I've had reports from people who fly that they were able to bring empty bottles through the checkpoint, so maybe that rule has changed.)

As a person with medical conditions, I am exempt from the rules about liquids, but it offends me that the rules are imposed on other people. It also strikes me as pointless to have rules that people can exempt themselves from just by saying they have a medical condition.

So for the past several years I've flown very rarely.

The fact that I need to buy two seats to be comfortable also contributes to my choice to limit flying.

The new rules about full-body scanners and more intrusive pat-downs strengthen my resolve to limit the amount of flying I do. I don't have a lot of body modesty and don't fear sexual harrassment, so I don't think I would be personally harmed by going through the scanner or being manually searched.

But I believe people have a right not to be subjected to invasive searches without probable cause, and I'm not willing to relinquish my right.

I am privileged and fortunate that I have a choice whether to fly, and I am not making any recommendations for other people.

This mainly affects my likelihood of going to Wiscon. Theoretically I could drive to Wiscon and I'm not ruling that out, but I looked into it once and it seemed like it would be more driving than would be enjoyable for me. I'm not making any decisions about flying now, because a lot of things could happen between now and May, but I'm somewhat less likely to go if the scans and invasive searches become standard.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I am noodling about some conversation around a current event, but not directly addressing the event or the people who are involved in it.
(I agree with this post 100%.)

There is some fascinating discussion in the comments of this post. D. Moonfire:
I try really hard not to only pay attention that are “reasonable”. I think it very important to read about unreasonable, insane, and otherwise brain-dead people from the simple point that I’m looking at them from my point of view. If I stuck with reasonable, then I’ll be just confirming the biases I already have (I believe the proper term is confirmatory bias or something like that). I won’t learn anything more and I’ll just put myself in a bigger hole that I’m already in....I think it critical to see the world from points of view that don’t agree with you, those unreasonable people out there.
Two things strike me here. One, I agree that if you only pay attention to people you consider to be acting reasonable, you'll end up with confirmation bias. Two, when you see "reasonable" opposed to "unreasonable, insane, and otherwise brain-dead," and you see "unreasonable" defined as "points of view that don’t agree with you," it's easy to see why conversations go astray. It's easy to end up with "Be reasonable" meaning "Agree with me" and "You're not being reasonable" meaning "You're not agreeing with me and therefore you're insane or brain-dead." Laura Resnick: It’s also worth noting that -emotion- is highly over-valued by many people, i.e. the notion that how strongly you feel about something has a direct corollary to how informed, valid, or inherently correct your opinions are.
I don't like the word "over-valued" there. What she's really talking about is public behavior, not emotion, and what she's really saying is "People who publicly express emotions are taken more seriously than people who don't." And personally, as a cold fish, I don't like that. But I don't know that this translates to publicly expressing emotions being "over-valued." Skennedy: Any motivations ascribed to thousands of individual comments and tens of thousands of opinions spread on peoples’ own blogs are straw men - easy to dismiss compared to the rainbow of actual diverse opinion.
YES YES FUCKING YES. But this reply is probably right: Resa: ...but humans are tribal creatures and tend to think in tribal terms...
I now have almost automatic reactions to phrases such as "those people": "which people do you mean, exactly? what makes you lump them together?") and I am glad of these reactions. But I probably retain more tribal-creature thinking than I am aware of.
firecat: girl's hands holding apple on her lap (holding apple)
Here is what [profile] nisi_la wants. [profile] nisi_la is a Wiscon 35 Guest of Honor.
Meanwhile, I want everyone who was hurt or offended or puzzled or appalled or angered or infuriated or stymied or worried or threatened or in any way negatively affected by Elizabeth Moon's post to attend WisCon 35. Because when I was asked to be a Guest of Honor for that convention, you were the ones I was expecting to see there. And because I want to dance with you, and sing with you, and talk about smart stuff with you, and admire how beautiful we are, and flaunt it!

That's what I want. You do what's right for you, though. I don't always get what I want. I will miss you if you don't attend, but I love you unconditionally.
I don't know if I'm going to Wiscon, but my attendance or failure to attend isn't likely to have anything to do with Elizabeth Moon's offensive statements about immigrants and Muslims (my post about that is here: Basically, I plan to attend if my life circumstances permit.

I will attend because I know people on the concom and I care about them and want to support them. Because I see many friends there I don't see anywhere else. Because there are always interesting conversations (many of which, for me, are in the lobby rather than at the panels or speeches). Because there's so much going on that for me it's possible to ignore some of the stuff and people I don't like or agree with. Because I think the Tiptree Award is cool and important. Because a number of important organizations have been born at Wiscon (including the Carl Brandon Society and Broad Universe) and I want to support an environment that gives birth to such organizations. Because people who make Wiscon happen have been trying hard in a number of ways to increase inclusiveness for oppressed and marginalized people at Wiscon.

The inclusiveness efforts that affect me personally are: Wiscon people have acted to oppose fat hatred and promote fat acceptance. Wiscon people have tried to accommodate people with mobility difficulties. Wiscon people have tried to accommodate people who have social interaction limits. Wiscon people have not done a perfect job of implementing/supporting these things, but they've tried hard and have made real improvements, from my point of view.

I've tried to form an opinion about whether the Wiscon concom should (have) ch(o)ose(n) to rescind Elizabeth Moon's guest of honor status. I haven't settled on an opinion. I'm aware that my circumstances—as a white person, born in the US to parents born in the US, with a flexible religious affiliation (atheist Buddhist)—afford me the privilege of not having to form an opinion.

Following are some of my thoughts that didn't coalesce into an opinion:

She said something that's deeply contrary to Wiscon's policies of inclusiveness, and she has not shown in public any inclination to change her mind or apologize for hurting people by making these statements. As such it's contradictory for Wiscon to be sending the message that it honors her.

She said it after she was chosen as GOH. To what extent is Wiscon responsible for things that GOHs say after they are chosen as GOHs?

She has said similar things before, although they didn't garner the same amount of attention. To what extent is Wiscon responsible for researching the prior public statements of prospective GOHs to find out whether they've said stuff that's contradictory to Wiscon's policies?

I value the idea of responding to speech that we don't agree with, with more speech.

I value having events that are dedicated to certain viewpoints, at which people can discuss the finer aspects of those viewpoints (events with some room for non-"viewpoint-101" conversations, if you will). When people attending those events feel obligated to spend time defending and explaining the most basic elements of our viewpoints, that space loses some of its value.

When someone we invited to our event says something so threatening and hateful that people we want to be part of our event no longer want to attend or feel unsafe to attend, our community is weakened.
firecat: uhura making a scary hand gesture (uhura nichelle nicolls)
Subject line is a quote from Animal Farm by George Orwell. I'm referencing the "but some...are more equal" part, not attempting to insult any humans or any subset of humans by comparing them to animals.

I find this post upsetting:
There was a lot of excellent critique in the comments to that post, but now the comments have been deleted, so I want to make my critique public. I'm only addressing a couple of bits.

Moon writes:
the business of a citizen is the welfare of the nation

I think the business of a human being is the welfare of other human beings and nonhuman life and the planet in general. (Other parts of the universe seem relatively protected from harm by us, so far.)

Insofar as the concepts of "citizen" and "nation" conflict with the above (for example, by encouraging the attitude "WE are good and THEY are bad, therefore THEIR welfare isn't worth our consideration"), I'm not in favor of those concepts.

Moon writes:
A group must grasp that if its non-immigrant members somewhere else are causing people a lot of grief (hijacking planes and cruise ships, blowing up embassies, etc.) it is going to have a harder row to hoe for awhile, and it would be prudent (another citizenly virtue) to a) speak out against such things without making excuses for them and b) otherwise avoid doing those things likely to cause offence.

How does "a group" get defined? Moon is arguing that the proposed Park51 development is "likely to cause offence" due to the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11/01. She defines a group called "Muslims" that includes both the developers and the terrorists. But I would guess that a lot of Muslims don't think they should be lumped into the same group as the terrorists.

The group "monotheists" also includes both those developers and those terrorists. So would it be prudent of Christians to scrap their plans for monotheist cultural centers in case the plans offend people? Is it incumbent upon them all to say "As a monotheist, I think it's wrong for monotheists to attack the WTC"? If they aren't expected to do this, why not?

Then there's the phrase "likely to cause offence." To me the wording implies that offense is an independent entity or thing. It's not. It's a human mental/emotional state, based on beliefs. Wherever you have offendedness, you have some humans who believe certain things. But note that the phrase doesn't mention which humans are offended and doesn't mention what their beliefs are.

Moon writes:
they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people.

So Moon is creating a set of people and labeling them as "other," as "immigrants," and associating them with the acts of a terrorist organization. Then she is arguing that the people so labeled have the following civic responsibilities: (a) understand that some people in the country they live in lump them in with terrorists and mistakenly consider them all immigrants; (b) come to an agreement about which of those people to avoid offending; (c) come to an agreement about what behaviors will "upset a lot of people"; and (d) all avoid those behaviors.

I think those are unreasonable expectations. Especially when they are NOT paired with the expectation that other citizens have a duty either to educate themselves about the groups they consider "other," or to leave them alone.

I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, but since this is a sensitive subject, I expect civility in the comments to this post. I reserve the right to moderate/delete/freeze comments/threads if I think there's trouble brewing.
firecat: pink and blue triangles (bi triangle)
I'm pissed that the court did not vote to repeat Prop 8.

I'm also inclined to hope that this analysis by The Daily Kos is right and the court's decision basically amounts to "OK, you have to call it 'mawwidge' instead of 'marriage' but otherwise it's exacty the same thing." (I don't know enough to understand if that's correct. But if so it's pretty cunning.)

And I do think that by leaving the marriage rights of the 18,000 already-married same sex couples in place, they're pointing out that California is in a completely untenable position with regard to same-sex marriage.

I know full well that this will lead to at least two ballot initiatives in the near future, and I'm dreading having to go down that road again.

But since we have to go down that road again, at least the pro-marriage side appears to be better-organized now than it was during the prop 8 campaign.

If I were legally married to the OH, I would talk to him about getting a divorce in response to the court's decision. But we never did tell the government.

(However, an unmarried opposite-sex couple has more privilege than an unmarried same-sex couple, because people presume we're married unless we explicitly tell them otherwise.)

Incidentally, because it seems important to be out these days: I'm bisexual and polyamorous.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
SF writers are supposed to be good at building compelling and believable worlds. So why is it so hard to build a world featuring working class characters in working class settings, especially given that a lot of SF writers come from that kind of background? What has worked, for you? What hasn't? Who clearly hasn't tried? Who has tried, but failed spectacularly? SF fans have done a good job of demanding better–written women and minorities in SF; what about their working class counterparts?

Panelists: Eleanor A. Arnason, Chris Hill, Michael J. Lowrey, Diana Sherman
Moderator: Fred Schepartz

[personal profile] badgerbag has detailed notes on most of this panel here. I'm including my notes from the beginning of the panel. My notes aren't verbatim so don't blame the panelists for any words I am putting in their mouths.

Panelists introduce themselves:
Eleanor: Writes science fiction and fantasy
Diana: Writes for a video game company
Fred: Novelist, cab driver, union organizer, shows communist party card
Chris: British working class origins
Michael: Union organizer, NWU

Fred: We aren't going to have a debate on class because that panel has been done before and it hasn't worked well. But let's define "working class"

Eleanor: Can get fired by boss, doesn't own means of production
Diana: Personal schedule is defined by job, can be fired
Chris: Opportunities are limited by upbringing and attitudes
Michael: Economic well-being is at the mercy of someone else

Fred: What's the status quo with regard to working class characters in SF?

Eleanor: Blue collar workers are not represented -- there are no plumbers in the future, e.g. Shadow economy is represented. Blue collar work is repetitious and doesn't include creative problem solving (e.g. in construction -- because you don't want creative problem solving in construction work). So it's not inherently exciting. SF came out of pulps, and has a bias toward stories of individual action.

Diana: Working class people exist in SF&F but are usually a secret prince or an apprentice who saves the planet. They are "hidden" and then they "leave." Working class job is seen as a trap. SF is escapist adventure.

Chris: It's a generic truth about literature that working class people don't generate story unless they are escaping. Dickens gets a cooking for writing about the working class, but actually all his working class characters were either tragic or comic.

Michael: Soldiers are working class people who show up in SF. Roots of SF are in American pulp literature, which has a bias against collectivism. Leader stories are about leaders, not the movement. Exception: Some Harry Turtledove, and Eric Flint's 1832 series. (Eric Flint was a union organizer.) There is potential for greatness in working class people, so unleash it in your writing.

Fred: Labor struggle is difficult to talk about in America because it's difficult for us to talk about class. Some writers are working class but write escapist SF because they want it or think audience wants it. Also to portray a labor struggle requires an ensemble cast which is harder to write (more characters).

Fred: Will there be a working class in the future?

Michael: Who built the Death Star?

Audience: Robots!

Eleanor: If robots built the Death Star they would also do the fighting. In Charlie Stross book Saturn's Children, only robots are left. People are versatile/cheap. (So there will continue to be a working class.

Diana: Humans are more flexible than robots.

Chris Hill: People are cheap. In utopias, who is doing the work? These societies are often untenable because the author is not interested or isn't thinking about those issues.

Michael: Writers of magic utopias should be required to work at jobs where they have to maintain something. "There's no such thing as 'away.'"

([personal profile] badgerbag's blogging begins here)

During this section of the panel I was thinking about Jeanne Duprau's book City of Ember (which is also a movie), because it's all about work. spoilers ) A number of jobs are described including courier, maintainer of electrical systems, maintainer of water pipes.

In a later section of the panel, one of the panelists was describing a story by Kornbluth about a Puerto Rican dishwasher who is a math genius. The panelists were lamenting that this kind of story is no longer being written. But it reminded me of a story in Walter Mosley's Futureland in which a technical genius is born into a poor family. So maybe some of them are being written again.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Before the presidential election, I was disappointed to see Obama commenting that doing away with "obesity" would go a long way toward solving US health care problems. Some fat activists have been communicating with Obama and emphasizing that focusing on "obesity" is not beneficial; if disease prevention is a concern, then better results would be obtained by focusing on Health At Every Size (HAES) principles, including encouraging movement and whole foods.

I've mostly had my head in the sand about this because I don't trust Obama to get this. But I noticed that Yahoo had a news story a couple of days ago: "Obama wants skinnier feds".

But I read the article pretty closely and I didn't see one single quote attributed to Obama that mentioned weight. The article described the practices of seven "work force innovators who were meeting with the president to discuss their best practices." Only two of these descriptions mentioned weight: Microsoft was reported to have an "obesity program" and Safeway was reported to have a “Healthy Measures” program that was "making employees accountable for their weight."

A recent article in the New York Times, "Congress Plans Incentives for Healthy Habits", mentions "Congress is planning to give employers sweeping new authority to reward employees for...weight loss..." Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa is one of the authors of a proposal that would encourage employers to develop programs that focus on "obesity" among other things that are believed to be related to health. Obama is mentioned only once, and not in the context of saying anything about weight.

On a search on "obesity" turns up 16 references, most of them from reports on state by state "Health Care Community Discussions." But there are no documents coming out of the White House mentioning it, at least if the search form is working properly.

On today there is a blog post "Health Care Reform: Urgency and Determination." It links to a statement by the president about health care reform. One paragraph made reference to "prevention and wellness programs," but the main principles Obama asked Congress to emphasize were:
first, that the rising cost of health care has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable health care.
I'm nervous because "prevention and wellness programs" often focus on weight, but so far I'm not seeing any fat-bashing.

Unfortunately although Obama might be using HAES language, the health reform programs that actually get implemented might not use HAES principles. As such programs begin to be implemented fat activists are going to have to be vigilant to encourage the people developing them to turn away from using changes in weight and BMI as symbols of health improvement. They are lousy symbols of health improvement because they just aren't directly related to health the way changes in exercise habits, say, can be.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
For some men, the only thing more intolerable than the sight of a powerful woman is the sight of a powerful woman they don't want to sleep with. -- Paul Campos
firecat: gorilla with arms folded looking stern (unamused)
I am no fan of Governor Palin, but I am also not happy about jokes at her expense that are based on her sex or her sexual attractiveness. I think such jokes are going to set back the cause of electing women to political offices.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
This article discusses one of the arguments that the Right put up against John Kerry in 2004 -- that he was unsuitable as a presidential candidate because his money came from having married wealthy women. (They called him a gigolo.) Now the tables are turned because McCain's wealth also comes from his wife. Should Democrats campaign using the same tactics?

(The OH found the article.)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default),0,755599,print.story
One of the state's largest health insurers set goals and paid bonuses based in part on how many individual policyholders were dropped and how much money was saved.

Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed.
firecat: dumbo octopus (dumbo octopus)

Today's junkfoodscience post discusses how many people in the US are uninsured and argues that the number is lower than commonly reported. Furthermore, it argues that many of the people who are uninsured can afford to buy insurance but do not.
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2005” issued on August 2006: Of the 46.6 million Americans they cited as uninsured in 2005, 17.04 million without health insurance live in households making more than $50,000 a year. That’s 37% of the uninsured in the U.S. Nearly 9 million of those make more than $75,000.

In fact, according to the Census Bureau, the biggest increases in uninsured by household incomes over the past decade has been among those making the most money.
The sentence below immediately follows the previous one, subtly giving the impression that the Census Bureau has made this determination of why the people involved are not insured. I'm not an expert on the Census Bureau but it seems pretty likely to me that this is Swarcz's own theory:
They are people who generally have access to and can afford insurance, but prefer to self-insure for whatever reason, perhaps to keep their healthcare decisions out of the hands of their employer or government.
I'm sure some of them are, but all? I don't think so. She uses the same trick later on (I've italicized the part that I believe is her theory and not a Census Bureau pronouncement):
According to the Census Bureau, more than 18 million of the uninsured are people between the ages of 18 and 34, for whom health insurance isn’t a priority and they’ve chosen, wisely or not, to spend their disposable income on other things.
I know some people who don't have health insurance even though they can afford and get it. And insofar as Swarcz is warning against too-invasive and too-restrictive government programs, I agree—I think there should be a guaranteed right to access health care, but I don't think people should be forced into accessing it in particular ways.

But I'm very disappointed that a blog which covers the systemic discrimination against fat people so carefully most of the time doesn't even mention the fact that many fat people in the United States are denied insurance even if they can afford it. Swarcz does mention existing government programs providing insurance to people who can't afford it. There are also some government programs for high-risk groups—I looked into the California one a few times when my insurance was about to go away and I was unable to find any insurance companies willing to sell me health insurance. The last I checked, the California program had a months-long waiting list and the lifetime payout maximum was too low to cover any really serious medical condition.

ETA: After I wrote this post, Swarcz added some text to her post addressing the issue of people who are denied coverage at any price.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[ profile] rmjwell writes:
My working definition of moral totalinarianism is that through co-option of a moral position a person can demonize or de-humanize another demographic [...]
If this intrigues you, go read more and comment.

I like the idea of objecting to de-humanizing behavior rather than to the label some people who engage in such behavior use. E.g., I prefer "Down with people who use Christianity as an excuse to restrict other people's rights" rather than "Down with Christians," and so on.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
via [ profile] supergee via here.

I am an American citizen. I am not an advocate for terrorism. If called upon by my country, I would gladly defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. (I don't think I can promise that, but I think the Constitution is a good document overall and do my best to support it against enemies that seek to weaken or destroy it.) Inclusion of the following list of terms in this personal web log represents my opposition to the President's domestic spy program as well as my belief in the Bill of Rights and my 1st Amendment rights of free speech.

Al Qaeda, Taliban, Iraq, assassinate, 9/11, bomb, plutonium, George W. Bush, POTUS, uranium, target, airplane, train, bridge, tunnel, ship, building, kidnap, Afghanistan, explosives, C4, nuclear, infidel, Allah, Satan, suicide bomber, echelon, New York, Washington DC, White House, Congress, Senate, satellite, Army, Navy, soldier, insurgent, Osama bin Laden, jihad, police, Secret Service, FBI, National Security Agency, wiretap, surveillance, and Carnivore
firecat: gorilla with arms folded looking stern (unamused)
Planned Parenthood's web site reports that Walgreens is among the pharmacies that allow their pharmacists to refuse to dispense prescriptions they don't personally approve of (this universally means prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception).

According to the web site, the other pharmacies known to attack women's rights in this manner are Rite Aid, Target, Wal-Mart, and Winn Dixie.

I'm very annoyed at losing the convenience of being able to shop at my local 24 hour Walgreens.

Maybe I'll get a job at a steakhouse, claim to be an ethical vegetarian, and refuse to sell/serve any dishes with meat. That would take less time than going to pharmacy school just so I can become a pharmacist and refuse to dispense Viagra.


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firecat (attention machine in need of calibration)

February 2017



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