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Apr. 19th, 2011

XKCD

Waving from the ether

Hey folks!

So, I've decided to officially let this journal slip off into the great beyond. Still have a lot of political stuff on my mind, but there aren't enough hours in the day to grouse about it all. Will still keep it live for archive's sake, but I won't be updating here anymore.

If you'd like to keep up with what I'm doing personally, you can still check out my other journal.

Also, I've started up a new, semi-professional blog over here. Most of what I'm posting there has to do with the ins and outs of journalism, media and pop culture, and there's a healthy dose of politics and feminism involved there, so you might find it interesting.

Keep fighting the good fight, folks. :)
Tags:

Mar. 2nd, 2011

Dork Tower: Headbang

Yes, I'm still alive

I think my political mojo has done de-mojoed of late. With the ongoing antics of the GOP-controlled House and the various Teabagger-spawned nuttiness on the state level, I've totally gone into outrage fatigue. Aside from occasional blurting on Twitter, I think I'm all ranted out. Apologies to those of y'all who miss my more-colorful vitriol, but I'm kinda at the point of sticking my fingers in my ears and staring at CGI dinosaurs and the charming actors who chase them to keep from going entirely mad with the current state of politics.

The one hope I cling to, as I hunker down and wait for the nightmare to end, is that the sheer over-the-topness of what's happening right now is disabusing moderates and independents of any notion that the GOP in its current state has anything whatsoever to do with small government and balanced budgets. When even Saint Ronnie of Reagan sounds like a liberal in comparison to what's going on right now, surely the only people still clinging to that benighted party are the misanthropes, religious freaks and trigger-happy domestic terrorists who have taken it over. (And, undoubtedly, the robber barons who welcomed them in for their cheap, easy-to-manipulate votes.) With any luck at all, when 2012 rolls around and the crappy-economy voters realize that their GOP votes didn't actually spawn anything but attempts to kill Medicaid and a flood of anti-abortion bills, maybe they'll realize the error of their ways.

Of course (and I should bite my tongue for this) what's more likely to happen is that, since the economy is on a stimulus-inspired upswing now, the new House is going to get the credit for it when the time comes--much like how Obama got the blame for Dubya's economic mess that he inherited. Obviously, the economy is something that moves so fast that when something happens to it--good or bad--the people to credit (or blame) are the people who are in office at exactly the moment that happens. Sigh...

So, yeah. Sorreh for the radio silence, folks. Just overwhelmed, as I'm sure a lot of us are right now. But maybe that's not so bad, really. The way things are right now, the GOP is steadily manufacturing endless lengths of rope with which to hang themselves. Might be worth it to just stand back and let them do so.

In the meantime, here, have a Tom Tomorrow cartoon:

Dec. 10th, 2010

XKCD

FSM Bless Bernie Sanders

If you're not already watching his filibuster, go do so.

Beautiful.

Nov. 24th, 2010

feminism

Feminism: Opposing compulsory roles for women since the earth was still cooling

Some short notes on a couple of feminist topics today.

1. Feminism isn't anti-sexiness. It's anti-compulsive-sexiness.

To that I'll add: It's important that feminists are mindful of what messages they send with how they present their sexuality. Even if you're wearing those fuck-me heels with a full sense of self and from your own free will, that message doesn't usually come across visually. All people see is "hey, another woman who believes that female sexuality is inherently objectified and submissive. Woo!" Context is everything, in other words. None of us exist in a vacuum, and when you choose to support sexist cultural ideals, you're choosing to support sexism.

2. Re: Feminist opposition to stay-at-home parenting.

Saw this topic come up elsewhere today. I wish I could get more people to understand that it's not breeding or families that feminists oppose, but the lack of financial autonomy.

Many SAHPs get very defensive about this choice, and also lash out at parents who use nannies or day care, claiming that they're better parents because they're physically present for their child at all times.

While it's laudable to spend a lot of time with one's kids, especially when they're little, a truly responsible and loving parent knows that that's not the only way you must be able to be there for your child. If you're not able to financially support her as well as holding her hand, you're shirking your duties. And the only way you can guarantee being able to do that is by keeping up your own education and job skills. If you go more than a couple of years without some sort of schooling or work experience, you're not going to get hired for anything that pays a family wage. Even if you have a degree and plenty of work experience from before you became a parent, employers won't care if you've been out too long.

Far, far too many SAHPs, especially women, get lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that their partner/spouse is always going to be able to provide for the family. And that's simply not the case. Even if your husband is completely dedicated to you and has the best job in the world, his paycheck could disappear at any moment. Companies go under. People get downsized. Partners leave, or get sick or die. Even with insurance and savings, you can't guarantee that what your partner does for you right now is always going to be there. And when/if that happens, if you don't have good, up-to-date education and job skills of your own, you're screwed.

A huge percentage of the homeless population is single mothers, and there's a reason for that: These women never thought they'd lose their partners, so they never bothered with getting enough education and job skills to support their kids on their own if they had to. Add in issues with qualifiying for benefits or having a good enough credit score to rent an apartment, and next thing you know, you're on the streets.

And even if you can qualify for benefits, when your kids get old enough, what do you do then? If you haven't been working, and you lose that check, what do you do to stay afloat? And what happens when you hit retirement age and discover that you don't qualify for Social Security because you didn't work consistently enough to pay into it?

Being dedicated to your kids is admirable. Ignoring your responsibility to be a self-sufficient adult isn't.

Nov. 20th, 2010

liberal jesus

On my mind at the moment

That horrid UN vote reauthorizing gay executions. Also, the fact that many majority-Catholic countries voted for this, or abstained/missed the vote, or otherwise let it happen. Um, folks? Last I checked, the Vatican said that executions IN GENERAL were a big no-no. Since when are GLBT folk an exception to that? I expect this sort of shit from backwards Wahabbist asshats like Saudi Arabia, and even some of the fucked-up Protestant countries. But if all y'all Catholics are going to go on about that whole sanctity of life thing, you need to be consistent.

The one bright spot is that the US did vote against this. Had we still had Bolton (Bush's appointee) in there, I'm not sure that would've happened.

Which leads me to another rant: Lazy fucking liberals/progressives (including some queer folk) who can't be bothered to vote. They get these nice, cushy lives in blue cities or college towns, and get used to their rights being protected, and think that since everything is hunky dory for them, that they don't need to get off their asses and do something to help other people.

Stuff like this should be reason enough to pay fucking attention and vote for the people who don't consider human rights negotiable. Whatever one's feelings about taxes or bureaucracy or anything else, if you're voting for a person/party that doesn't believe in ensuring basic human rights for everyone, you are an asshole. I hope that one day, every last one of these dipshits has their job suddenly transferred to some backwater place where they get to see first-hand how the non-privleged folks live.

Oh, but it's too HARD to learn about current events and research candidates and issues and... BULLSHIT.

You want to know how to vote? Here's how to vote: If someone has an R after their name, you don't vote for them, and you make sure that whoever else you vote for has a chance of winning (aka, stop throwing your damned votes away on fringe parties. Until we get a Parilamentary system, we're stuck with the D's and R's and you have no choice but to go with the lesser evil. Suck it up and do it.) Stop fucking bitching about taxes and "big government" and gun rights and whatever other knobheaded libertarian bullshit your pothead friends go on about to draw false equivalencies between the two parties and vote for the one that doesn't think people don't deserve basic human rights. Really, who gives a flying fuck whether your paycheck is missing an extra 5 bucks every week and whether you have to have a background check to buy an assault rifle when people are dying because of the utter bullshit perpetuated by one party? Get the relatively sensible people in office, and then you can start talking to them about your other stuff.


Also on the subject of queer oppression...

It was recently brought to my attention that a certain Mormon SFF author (not that one, the other one) thinks he's so very much more advanced than his churchmates because he believes people are born gay. Yay for him, except... He still thinks same-sex marriage should be illegal and people shouldn't "give in" to those impulses.

Um, Sanderson? Let's do a little experiment.

Say you're left-handed. Or right-handed. Doesn't matter. Whichever one you favor? Let's make using that hand to write with a sin in someone's religion.

Now, these people are so utterly convinced that their religion is the One True Way Ever and Ever that they think their religion's rules apply to everyone. So they say that the government should make it illegal for you to write with your favored hand. If you want to write at all, they say, you have to do it with the hand they say is the correct one.

In addition to wanting this to be illegal, they've decided to try to kill any and all programs--public or private--that try to help people with this sinful handedness have normal lives. Scissors or desks designed for them? Out. Schools shouldn't be teaching kids that it's OK to use that hand. And if someone's kid wants to beat up another kid for using the wrong hand? Well, dammit, they should be allowed to, because to tell them otherwise is offensive to their religion. And if some people die from violence or suicide related to their sinful handedness? Well, I guess that's just too bad. Maybe they should've made a different lifestyle choice and they'd be alive. And heaven forbid any movie or TV show ever feature a character who uses the wrong hand. Won't someone think of the children?

Now, tell me how easily anyone's going to be able to go through life being forced to try to use a hand that doesn't work that way for them. Tell me how easy it is for people to be forced to not do anything with their hands at all if they can't manage to learn to use the non-sinful one. Imagine how your life would be if you had to face constant hatred and oppression because you were born to use the "wrong" hand and couldn't otherwise fake it.

If you think that sort of life would be fine, then sure, go ahead and keep pushing your fucking religion's rules as civil law. If you can't? Then keep your god out of other people's love lives.

Nov. 12th, 2010

37

The tyranny of health

We've all seen the headlines: Cancer caused by/cured by. Diabetes rates. Health care costs. Blah blah. An endless litany of pain and panic.

Much of the dialogue is good, to be sure. Acknowledging that people die without proper health care helps us push for universal coverage. But there's a darker side to all this health talk--an implication that those who are not healthy have less value--and the more it continues, the more uncomfortable it makes me.

Muscle development is not the virtue it once wasCollapse )

There is much to admire about people who have turned their bodies into an instrument of some sort or other. Feats of speed, agility and endurance are impressive, as are expressions of dance and other physical arts. Those who can and choose to mold their bodies this way are indeed worthy of praise.

But they are not the sole pinnacle of human achievement, and should not be held up as such.

On a personal noteCollapse )

Rand Paul has said that he opposes the ADA, and feels that businesses shouldn't be held responsible for being accessible to people with disabilities. Much as I'd like to write him off as an empathy vacuum who can't be taken seriously, he's one of millions who hold the same views. Even people who might seem to be lefty on the surface often have incredibly nasty views about people who happen to be unhealthy. The CEO of Whole Foods, for instance, who seems to think shopping at his stores is all one needs to do to be perfectly healthy, and therefore publicly funded healthcare is unnecessary.

A couple of generations ago, when wounded war heroes were coming back by the dozens, there was a sense of respect: These people made sacrifices for the rest of us, so we're obligated to honor that sacrifice by ensuring that their wounds didn't get in the way of the rest of their civilian lives. (We may yet have another wave of this as Iraq and Afghanistan vets continue to return, but perhaps not. We already fail to provide adequate mental health care for vets, for instance.)

Enough of this sentiment still remains that people whose disabilities are obviously the result of such sacrifices are given a lot more leeway and respect, but people whose compromised health didn't come at enemy hands? Screw 'em. Especially if you don't dedicate several hours of your day to making sure you're eating the exact right foods and doing the exact right physical activities, if you're over the age of 10 and your poor health isn't the result of some noble sacrifice, surely you must be a sinner, and thus unworthy of respect.

Humans are not factory-standard machines. We come in all shapes and sizes, and a lot of us have bodies that in a factory would end up in the scratch-and-dent bin. Just as sensible people accept and honor diversity in terms of culture, race, religion and sexuality, we should also be honor physical diversity. Not all people move, communicate or perceive in the same way, and this is not a bad thing.
nazi family

Jon Stewart and the Alignment Grid

In last night's lovely interview, there was an interesting bit in which Rachel and Jon were talking about Bush and his lies to get us into Iraq. They started going into whether Bush thought he was doing the right thing, etc., and I lit on an epiphany about Jon.

All people are not good at heartCollapse )

To put this in terms that Stewart would undoubtedly understand, let's look at the classic alignment grid:

Hey, I"m a geek, remember?Collapse )

Regardless, however, of which type of evil is at work, it needs to be contained. We can't let these folks roam around and harm others no matter whether they're enjoying it or just think they're doing God's work. But I think if we accepted that some people simply can't be rehabilitated, and were more comfortable with acting quickly and decisively to contain those sorts, we'd more easily get to the point at which we actually can sit down and have rational conversations with our opposition, and hope to get somewhere.

Jon's ideals this direction aren't necessarily wrong. He just has yet to accept that such methods simply are doomed to fail with some people, and that many of those are currently rising in power on the right.
Rachel

I feel more intelligent just for having watched this

Rachel Maddow interviews Jon Stewart

Nov. 5th, 2010

XKCD

Journalism, objectivity and politics

For reasons I'd rather not detail, I can't talk about the Keith Olbermann case in specific.

However, I can talk about journalistic ethics in general, so...

There's a long-standing debate among news orgs about how far to go in limiting the political activities of their staff. Some have rather Draconian rules, and don't let anyone who works for them--no matter how lowly--even vote. Others are entirely lenient, and don't care one way or another as long as the editorial staff doesn't let it affect the objectivity of their work.

Individual journalists may also have their own standards for these things that differ from those of their employers. I know of some reporters who, even though they are allowed to, don't vote at all, because they feel it would appear to be a conflict of interest somehow.

In my opinion? This is all bollocks.

Good reporters know how to do their jobs, tyvmCollapse )

All of these questions, however, are basically moot when it comes to people who aren't reporting or editing straight news. People who are writing opinion columns, for instance, wear their biases in print. The audience doesn't--or shouldn't--expect them to not have an opinion--that's the entire point, after all. Prohibiting these folks from political activities is pointless.

That said, these columnists should NOT be allowed to do straight news reporting, and I think that's what's really the ongoing problem with journalism in general. The line between reporting and punditry has become more or less non-existent, and people now believe that anything that comes from someone who's giving them some sort of news is total fact, even if that same person just wrote a week's opinion series on "Why South America is Evil."

Keeping opinions out of the A section and keeping news out of the op-ed pages is the only way we're going to restore trust in journalism as a profession, and also the only way we're ever going to be relevant again. Paying lip service to objectivity by arbitrarily limiting what your reporters can do politically isn't the answer. Making sure that reporters and columnists are different people is the better solution.
XKCD

Accurate news: A user's guide

The intarweebs are wonderful for many, many reasons. They are, however, also a source of endless lies, rumors and bullshit (See: Obama's "$200m/day" G20 trip to India.) Sadly, so are many traditional media sources these days. One can't automatically trust the talking head on your TV, or the front page of your local paper to give you accurate, timely news.

So what is a thoughtful news consumer to do in these difficult times? Here's a step-by-step guide to getting the best, most reliable information:

1. Rely on actual journalists.
While many amateurs out there do work that is journalistic in nature, trained pros are the ones who know what they're doing, and know how to sort BS from fact, and present it properly. There are many nuances to a proper journalism education that are difficult if not impossible for laypeople to pick up on the fly. Just as you wouldn't trust a medical diagnosis that didn't come from a doctor, don't trust news that didn't come from a journalist.

2. Punditry is not journalism.
There is a place in actual journalism for opinion and analysis, but these things are not news reporting. Regardless of whether you agree with the opinion being presented, if you are being presented with something that is virtually all opinion, it's not news--it's an editorial. These folks do have value, of course, in that they may get folks to think about an issue or an angle thereof that they may not have considered, but do not mistake them for reporters.

3. "Balance" for its own sake is not journalism.
A journalist's primary responsibility is to the facts of the story, not to his or her sources. If the preponderance of fact on a given story favors one side or another of a given issue, it's actually a disservice to try to get an equal amount of information from the opposing side in the interest of "balance." Giving newshole space to, say, Focus on the Family is about as responsible as giving it to the Flat Earth society. Example: Climate change. The vast majority of reliable scientists agree that this IS happening, and that it IS largely human-sourced. These are established facts. Giving column inches or airtime to fringe scientists who are on the payroll of BP in the interest of "balance" for a story on this topic is a huge disservice to an audience that needs actual fact on this subject to help guide the choices they make.

4. Follow the sources.
A hallmark of lazy and bad reporting is getting quotes and information from unreliable primary sources, or from secondary sources. Look at whom they're quoting: Is it a real expert in a given field, or just some go-to guy who's a quote-spewing machine? What's the agenda of the organization that source represents? If it's a matter of scientific or legal fact, do the people giving the information actually have reliable degrees from accredited institutions? Also key: Never trust anonymous sources, except in very rare circumstances (when the source legitimately requests anonymity due to serious personal risk.) Generally speaking, sources who aren't willing to go on record with their name shouldn't be allowed to go on record with what they're saying.

5. Follow the money.
Who's funding this news outlet? Do they have a political or commercial agenda that may mean they're leaving out some information, or framing it in a way flattering to their shareholders? Generally speaking, most corporate-owned media is useless, but some are worse than others. For a start, never trust anything that's under the parent company of News Corp., Clear Channel, Gannett or Tribune. Every one of those corps has a hardcore political agenda that they openly push on their news teams. Even though some of what they produce may be reliable, enough of it is tainted that the whole thing is basically worthless.

6. Wikipedia is not a primary source.
It's a good first stop to get a basic idea of a subject, but don't think of it as a source of fully reliable fact. Go to the sources each article uses, and weigh each on its own merits (or lack thereof.) Secondary sources (like Wikipedia, most news aggregators, etc.) are only as good as the primary sources they draw from.

6. When in doubt, check Snopes--but don't end there.
Snopes is one of the best, most reliable sources of factual, rumor-busting information, but, as with Wikipedia, it helps to check their work, too. The folks who run it are journalists of a sort, in that they go to primary sources and reliable experts to get their info, but there's nothing stopping you from going to those same sources to make sure. (Factcheck.org is also good, though I prefer Snopes.)

7. When you find an excellent source of true, journalism-based news, stick with it and support it.
Real journalism and news reporting is becoming a dying art, because so few people are willing to pay (either directly or as an ad consumer) for the information they get. Getting and presenting these stories is hard work, and the people who do it are worth their weight in gold. Please be willing to support them, or we will all be poorer for the lack.


I realize this sounds like a lot of work, and initially, it is. After a while, though, you'll get an instinct for which stories/sources are likely to be legit, and which are clearly horse hockey. And as a bonus, you'll get that smug sense of satisfaction, knowing you have some of the best information out there. Plus, you'll be kickass at bar trivia nights. ;)

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