12.21.2012

The Problem With Reinstating the AWB

[This is going to be a post about guns, and it does include pictures of them]

Fair warning: I am far less anti-gun than most people who share my other sociopolitical positions tend to be.  I believe in gun control.  I believe that the US's gun laws are pretty fucked and need some serious overhaul.  I also believe that said overhaul needs to be sensible, measured, and written by people who know what they're talking about.

In recent weeks, in the wake of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary, I've been bombarded by requests from the cause orgs I'm on the email lists of, asking me to sign petitions in favor of reinstating the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.

I have not signed these.  And I'm not going to.

This is not to say that I am against the idea of tightening our current gun laws.  Not at all, not even a little bit.  But there are some major problems with just saying "let's reinstate the existing AWB".

Firstly, that the old ban was bullshit.  It created the phrase "assault weapon" out of thin air (much like the partial-birth abortion ban did with its title) to describe a very broad class of guns that could best be described as "Guns That Look Scary."  It banned certain combinations of features that sounded reasonably unnecessary, without actually reducing the availability of the style of guns it ostensibly banned.

Let me ask you something, real quick.  When someone says the phrase "assault weapon", what kind of gun do you think of?  Something like this, right?
Bushmaster M4A2, which counts as an "assault weapon" for purposes of the 1994 AWB because of its folding stock, pistol grip, and bayonet lug.
It's scary-looking.  It's a semi-auto civilian version of a military rifle, and it serves pretty much no purpose for an average person to have aside from "this looks cool/makes me feel cool".*

Here, let me show you a gun that was specifically made for the AWB era to conform to those rules:

Gee, that looks really similar.  Identical, even.  And it nearly is; same mag capacity, same pistol grip.  They just removed the bayonet mount and changed the stock to fixed-length.

So...how did the AWB make things safer, again?  Will the fixed stock make it kill fewer people or something?  Was there a rash of gun-based stabbings with bayonets that we needed to crack down on?

If an assault weapons ban is passed that ends up being nothing more than a reinstatement of the old ban, the opportunity and social will to push for real change that was created by the ugly events of last week will be wasted, and the NRA will have won another round by keeping the conversation stagnant.

I don't want cosmetic change.  I don't want lip service that still leaves ridiculously-unnecessary weapons and accessories widely and legally available.  There's much kerfuffle about "politicizing" the deaths of so many children, but which is more politicizing?  A political move for show and constituent goodwill that makes a mere incremental difference in the rates of gun violence in this country?  Or a real change to try to prevent the like from happening again?

Here's what I'd like to see from a new gun-control law, in no particular order:

  • Reinstate the limit on high-capacity magazines.  I'm tempted to say drop it to 5 instead of 10, because what on earth could you be hunting that actually needs 10 shots to drop it?  If you need 10 rounds to drop your prey, you're either a terrible shot and shouldn't be firing guns around other life-forms anyway, or hunting things that probably shouldn't be hunted and why are you doing this?  I realize this makes target shooting less fun because you have to keep stopping to either reload or switch to a fresh mag, depending on how many mags you own, but...tough titties.  A less smooth and flowing sport shooting experience, or mass murders a few times a year?  Not exactly a tough decision, unless you've had a truly successful compassionectomy.  (And if you have, what the fuck are you even doing here?  Go away.  Return to the WND swamps from which you came.)
  • Standardize controls on the process of acquiring guns.  I personally know someone who has purchased guns while traveling to other states where things are far less restrictive, then brought them back into California, rather than deal with the waiting periods and trigger lock and background check requirements here.  That shouldn't be possible - or at least, it shouldn't be that simple.  
  • Same for issuing carry permits.  When my gun-nut ex and I were driving cross-country, we'd had to plan for which states allowed what in regards to his gun, whether it had to be locked in the trunk, could be in the glove box if unloaded, or could be sitting on the dashboard in plain sight.  States set their own qualifications process for getting a carry permit, and some have reciprocal agreements to honor each other's permits, and some don't, and that's frankly ridiculous.  
  • Mandatory registration of all guns.  I'm not under the illusion that this will do anything to stop certain elements of society from having, acquiring, selling, etc. under the radar.  I knew people in Tennessee who could literally make a gun start to finish including the ammo.  And there's always a criminal element willing to flout the law.  But again, as has been pointed out many times, all the shootings in the past few years have been carried out with guns legally acquired, and no major shooting has ever been stopped by an armed bystander, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that reducing/controlling the total number of guns in circulation is probably going to help somewhat, or at least not make things worse.
  • Common-sense restrictions on what caliber guns people can legally keep in their homes.  You do not need a fucking .45 or .44mag handgun for self-defense.  A 9mm will suffice perfectly well for that purpose.  Nor do you need a rifle in 7.62x39, which is a MILITARY ROUND.  7.62x39 was made for a Russian machine gun, and is what the AK-47 shoots.  What in the world does a civilian need military rifle rounds for?  Serious question.  What are you doing that you need this?  Explain to me why your safety can only be guaranteed by keeping weapons of war in your house.  I'd really like to know what the hell you get up to in there.
  • For collectors or fans of exotic guns and ammo, I suggest a compromise.  You can own them, buy them, etc.  But they must be kept under lock and key at a licensed shooting range or gun dealership.  You can access and shoot them whenever you like, but there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to need to keep a Russian sniper rifle in your bedroom.**  
  • Speaking of which, tighten licensing and monitoring and regulation on gun dealers.  No more of this swinging by Walmart to pick up a new gun.  Require that the same procedures for licensing, sales, and background checks be followed at gun shows as in regular shops.  (In an ideal world, I'd like to see gun shows go the way of the dodo entirely, but I think that would probably provoke too much pushback to be feasible right now.)
The opportunity we have right now to create meaningful change in the way this country handles guns came at an incredibly high price.  Let's not squander it on simply reinstating what few limits were wrested from the resisting grasp of the NRA nearly 20 years ago.  We need to do better.


*I sympathize with this feeling as a justification for owning a particular gun, I really do.  Why else did I have a Desert Eagle .50 or my FN PS-90?  For feeling like a badass.  Duh.  I had a thigh-holster for the DE and I was excellent with the PS90, out-shooting gun-nut ex and one other with my PS90 and non-magnification optic, standing, versus their rifles on bipods with scopes and them shooting prone.  I really truly enjoyed owning both of those guns, going shooting regularly and honing my skills as well as having fun with it.

"I wanna feel like a badass" is not sufficient justification to keep such guns available when weighed against the lives of children, though.  No matter how cool the gun is.

**I speak from experience.  Gun-nut ex's favorite rifle was his Dragunov, and it spent an irritating amount of time just laying around our room rather than in the giant gun safe it was supposedly kept in.

12.15.2012

Someone doesn't know the history of her (former) organization...

It seems Karen Handel, the woman responsible for Komen's withdrawal of funding for breast exams from Planned Parenthood because icky, abortion, has taken her anti-PP fervor with her after leaving Komen in the wake of the massive PR backlash they received. 

Only, she's making the most ridiculous claims now in criticism of PP, especially for a former Komen official who's still defending actions she took while a member of the organization.
[She] alleges that Planned Parenthood “literally co-opted the color pink” from Komen in a sinister “bait and switch.”
Gee, that's a funny accusation to make, coming from a former VP of an organization whose most recognizable symbol, the infamous pink ribbon, was itself co-opted from the woman who created the original breast cancer awareness ribbon in all but color, because she declined to participate in the commodification and corporatization of her work.  Hypocrite.

PS: People can copyright some really stupid stuff - DNA, anybody? - but I have yet to hear of anyone successfully copyrighting a color.  Komen didn't invent pink, and they don't own pink.  You're just mad because the public backed PP and you lost in the court of public opinion.  Take your ribbons and go home, please.

12.14.2012

Connecticut

I've been sitting here staring at the blank "new post" screen for several minutes now, unsure how to begin, or even what to say, really. 

My heart aches - literally, my chest hurts and makes breathing difficult - with horror at what happened today.  May the souls of those who were killed find peace, in whatever way is best for them.  May the shooter's soul never find rest for the rest of eternity.  I cannot imagine the kind of pain the parents of the murdered children, their siblings, grandparents, extended family, as well as families, friends, and partners of the adults who died, are feeling right now.  I hope they can find some kind of peace, solace, and healing.

I am disgusted almost beyond words at the way those who want to reopen the conversations around gun violence and gun control legislation, in order that massacres like this don't happen again, to anyone, ever, are being chastised for "politicizing" the issue.  Is it politics to say "This is an awful tragedy, and we should do something so that it doesn't happen ever again"?  If so, then I'm 110% willing to "policitize" the issue, if it means a reduction or cessation of loss of life to incidents like these.  A big, hearty FUCK YOU to those who use such tactics to silence a conversation that we obviously desperately need to be having in this country right now.  They know that for as long as they can keep kicking the can down the road, hiding behind the victims' pain and trauma to hold on to the status quo, they win.  And if that's not politicizing the issue, I don't know what is.

On that note, the first person to try to frame this in terms of "crazy" or "lone nutjob" in my presence is going to find their face suddenly, and forcibly, intimately acquainted with a fucking BRICK.  I am "crazy", after a fashion.  I am not always particularly stable.  And yet somehow, I've managed to get through 27 years on this earth without massacring children.  Funny, that.

Same goes for any claims that if more people had been armed at the school, this wouldn't have happened.  To quote commenter aphra_ben at Shakesville, "The sooner the US debate accepts that being able to shoot a gun is not the same thing as being able to effectively neutralize an armed threat, the better off we'll be."  Unless this country is willing to go to the collective time, effort, and expense of educating and training every single gun owner in not only target accuracy, but also tactics and police/military procedures for such instances, not to mention psychologically preparing them to fire on and possibly kill another person, simply increasing the number of firearms present in a given location at any given time isn't going to do fuck all.  "Has a gun" != "Knows what to do in a situation of gun violence (and can do so effectively, without inadvertently causing further casualties among bystanders)". 

I'm a lot more gun-friendly than most progressives tend to be - comes of living with a collector and pistol instructor for a couple of years and regularly going shooting with friends in a very gun-friendly state - but even I will say, there is no amount of "I enjoy recreational target shooting" that justifies the overly-free availability of firearms, when the result is this much death.*

We didn't have the conversation after Virginia Tech.  We didn't have it after Aurora.  We didn't have it after Portland.  All because nobody wanted to "politicize the tragedy".  We promised we'd revisit it later, once the wound wasn't so fresh.  And yet we didn't.  We don't.  When are we going to finally just goddamn well do it?**

*I still disagree that reinstating the old assault weapons ban is even remotely helpful, for a variety of reasons that begins and ends with "this is why we don't let legislators write the definitions of things they're not experts in", much like most reproductive health laws.  But that's a specific issue with the how part, not the whether or not we should do something part.
**There's a sick part of me that could kinda see the shootings as being on a timetable - "Okay, it's been long enough.  Quick, let's have another shooting before anyone tries to talk gun control, to give us another excuse to avoid it!"  When they're happening so horribly often, well, there will simply never be a time where it's far enough removed, because another one will have taken place in the interim.  It works out so nicely for the pro-gun lobby that one begins to wonder if it's not perhaps a feature, rather than a bug.

12.06.2012

Republicans fart in science's general direction - again.

Since Indiana state senator Dennis Kruse apparently can't take a hint after his last few attempts to pass a bill to allow/mandate Creationism be taught in science classes in his state went nowhere fast, he's now introducing what he's calling, in classic Republican spin style, a "truth in education" bill.  It would require teachers to produce proof on demand any time a student challenged or disagreed with the scientific subject being taught.

First of all, isn't that basically what school is?  Maybe it's different in Indiana, or maybe schools have changed since I was there, but I don't remember much by way of truly rote learning in science, aside from basic things like the periodic table and the laws of thermodynamics.  When we learned about evolution, it wasn't just "We evolved.  End of story."*  It was a whole subject, complete with an age-appropriate rundown of the discoveries and theories and reasoning that support it.  No, we weren't reading anyone's dissertations or scientific journal articles, but we had the cliffs notes from them.  If you challenge what the teacher's telling you, perhaps you should just read through your textbook and get your "proof" that way?  (Hmm.  On second thought...bad idea, actually.)  Everything they teach in science classes is supported by evidence to at least some degree.  We're not the ones who just throw ideas together and call it truth - you're thinking of Creationism.

I almost hope they do pass this.  I'd love to see some self-righteous student stand up and challenge the teaching of evolution, and have the teacher cite research, then turn around and ask them "So what's your proof, then?"  I mean, fair is fair.  Also, I move to have Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye put together "Teacher's Proof Kits" for common questions so that teachers don't have to waste time on some evangelical kid trying to disrupt everyone else's learning with inane debate - just chuck a booklet at the kid's head and move on.

The one thing that would concern me is how they're defining "proof".  The bill hasn't been introduced yet so I don't have the text to look at, but I'm wary, because Republican-led legislation around science issues tends to be vague as fuck or have really weird or totally wrong definitions for things.  What's the standard for proof here?  "9 out of 10 dentists agree"?  Every single article on the subject in every single scholarly journal for the last 20 years must agree with this conclusion?  Or are we trying to use the actual scientific definition of "proof"? Because that'll go nowhere fast.  Since science is a constantly moving, changing, self-refining field, the standard for "proof" is set extremely high - hell, even gravity is just a theory in scientific terms.  Make it so you can only teach 100% "proven" science, and science classes will get a hell of a lot shorter - and students will lack important information and background in the field, simply because some asshole in a suit willfully misinterpreted scientific notions of "proof" and "theory" in order to undermine science and get Creationism a toe in the door.

*Although my favorite super-simplified explanation of evolution ever came from my senior year environmental science teacher.  When we began that unit, he started class by saying "Evolution can be summed up in four words: dead things don't breed."  It's stuck with me for ten years now.  Clearly this is an effective teaching tool.

The Beauty of Anti-Choice "Logic"

TW: sexual abuse, reproductive coercion

This isn't the first time I've seen this argument, and I'm sure it won't be the last.  But something about the way it's phrased here kinda poked my brain with a sharp stick.
Over-the-counter birth control pills could encourage men to prey upon younger girls and dictate their contraceptive choices, according to Janice Shaw Crouse of the Christian activist group Concerned Women for America. 
"Any guy who is older and taking advantage of a younger girl could put her on a pill," Crouse said.
This really leaves me with only two possible conclusions.  Either CWA et al believe that a lack of hormonal BC will prevent men from abusing young women - a dubious notion at best, and with no factual support whatsoever for the idea, I'm calling shenanigans - or they believe an abuse victim is better off abused *and pregnant*, than just abused.  (Also, victims of sexual abuse would never have the agency to decide for themselves that they'd rather be protected, and seek out BC themselves.)

Yes, because what a young teen or pre-teen who's being abused needs is an unwanted pregnancy on top of that whole abuse thing.  I'm sure that'll be very helpful.  Especially considering these asshats are the ones who would then force her to carry and give birth to her abuser's baby.  That'll do wonders for the child's mental health, really.  "Well, the abuse was discovered when you got pregnant [and theoretically has been stopped]!  Hooray!  Now it's time to further derail your life by having a baby at 13!  Aren't you glad we're here to help you?"

Lucky teens, to have CWA on their side.  With friends like these...

12.04.2012

The War on Christmas, or "Other religions exist and this upsets me"

(Post title shamelessly taken from here)

♫ It's the most wonderful time, of the year ♫
♫ With the AFA yelling ♫
♫ "The war has begun! This is something to fear!" ♫
♫ It's the most wonderful time, of the year ♫
♫ It's the hap-happiest season of all ♫
♫ Why can't those heathens see, that there ought to be ♫
♫ A creche at City Hall? ♫
♫ It's the hap-happiest season of all ♫

See?  I can do Christmas spirit.  Sorta.  

Is it just me, or have the Religious Wrong become ever more hyperbolic in their flailing of late?  Because this one, from Buster Wilson at the AFA, is a real doozy:
I don’t understand, ‘you’re not the majority anymore, this is not a Christian nation and you’ve guys have got to quit trying to cram everything down people’s throats,’ nobody’s trying to cram—look, it is the folks who don’t want us celebrating Christmas that are cramming that view down our throats and using the courts to do it. So if we don’t want to start cramming things down people’s throats, then why don’t the folks who are opposed to us celebrating Christmas, why don’t they be quiet for a while because they are the ones that are using the court system of this country to force Christians to not be able to celebrate Christmas at Christmastime.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that translates to "You are standing up for yourselves using the systems designed to do so, and that is forcing us to acknowledge your existence!  Which makes me feel threatened because it undermines the illusion that we are and will forever be in charge here!  Stop cramming your existence down our throats!  In fact, stop existing at all!"

But you know, guys, he's got a point.  Clearly...
Rockefeller Center Tree, NYC

...the existence of Christmas...
Christmas lights display at a Mormon Temple

...is in dire danger in this country...
San Francisco City Hall in Christmas lights

...and if we're not careful...
Official White House Christmas Tree

...it could be stamped out entirely!

No, indeed, there's no...
Michelle Obama at a Christmas event for kids at the White House

...Christmas spirit...
Tree and lights display, Wakeeney, Kansas
...to be found here.
Decorated houses in Lawrence, Kansas

None whatsoever.

I mean, the word Christmas...
Flyer for Columbia County Fox Family Christmas and Tree Lighting

...can't even be spoken...
Logo for Christmas Tree lighting in Indian Trail, North Carolina

...openly, for fear of government retribution.  It's all kept very...
Promo image for the 90th Annual National Christmas Tree Lighting, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris

...low-profile, as we fear for our safety and our ability to celebrate our holiday!

11.26.2012

The GOP and Fetuses, Sittin' in a Tree...

...giving out tax credits for parents-to-be!

Another one for the "Couldn't Make It Up If I Tried" bin, here.  The Michigan GOP has proposed a new $160 tax credit for "women who are at least 12 weeks pregnant by the end of the year".  This is, mind you, after they voted to eliminated the $600 tax credit for actual born children last year.

Have children you're struggling to keep fed and healthy?  Fuck you!  In your first trimester of a pregnancy which may or may not come to term anyway because pregnancy is complicated shit?  Here, have some government money!

LOL consistency what?

It's an attempt to tiptoe their "fetal personhood" fetish a little further into law via taxation: "See, the tax code treats the fetus as a person for whom the parents can claim a tax credit!  Obviously this means they are a person and therefore have more rights to your body than you do."

I can't decide if they're getting sloppy - in particular the part about it contrasting so blatantly with eliminating the tax credit for actual children - or just getting bold.  Either way, it's pretty ridiculous.  In a scary sort of way.

11.21.2012

Who needs science when you've got BELIEFS?

This is some fucking bullshit.

One of the approximately eleventy-smillion lawsuits against the contraceptive coverage portion of the ACA - which is apparently the hill-to-die-on du jour for the entire American right-wing establishment or something? - has seen a judge issue an injunction against enforcement of the contraceptive coverage mandate against a Bible/Christian lit publishing house in DC.  Which is bullshit for all sorts of reasons, but something jumped out at me in the linked news post:
[Plaintiffs argued] that their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would be infringed by requiring their health plans to cover contraceptive methods that the company and its owners consider abortifacients-- Plan B, ella and intrauterine devices.
Did you catch it?  Here, in case you missed it:
[Plaintiffs argued] that their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would be infringed by requiring their health plans to cover contraceptive methods that the company and its owners consider abortifacients-- Plan B, ella and intrauterine devices.
Apparently, the only standard required to be able to argue against a law is "I'm against what I think this thing does," irrespective of whether or not that is actually the case.

The argument for this specific issue tends to rest on questions of religious belief and infringement thereof.  But this whole thing about "abortifacient" birth control isn't a matter of religious belief that must be held sacrosanct.  It's a matter of refusing to acknowledge fucking basic scientific fact.  I don't care what you believe these methods of birth control do.  You are free to believe that car headlights damage one's night vision and thus make driving less safe...but that is objectively untrue, and that belief doesn't exempt you from having to have your lights on when you drive at night, because that risks other people's safety for the sake of your untrue beliefs.  All the evidence we have about how birth control works points to interruptions in the fertilization process PRIOR to implantation, which is when a pregnancy actually begins.  You can't have an abortifacient if there's no pregnancy occurring.  End of story.

Beliefs != laws.  Nor do they provide a legitimate reason for being exempted from the law, especially when it affects the lives and safety and health of others who may or may not even share in your beliefs in the first place.  No, it doesn't matter how much you stomp your feetses or cry about it.  Facts dictate the laws and you are not exempt from those laws simply because you refuse to accept the facts.

As always, XKCD sums it up beautifully:


[Two stick-figure people arguing, a student and their professor:

Student: Professor, that man claims the earth is 6,000 years old!
Professor: So?  Just use your head and don't concern yourself overmuch with what other people think.
Student: But he says the fossils in the mountains were put there in a flood!
Professor: Well, evidence suggests that they were not.
Student: But he - 
Professor: A million people can call the mountains a fiction.  Yet it need not trouble you as you stand atop them.
Student: But he believes the silliest things!
Professor: So?  The universe doesn't care what you believe.  The wonderful thing about science is that it doesn't ask for your faith.  It just asks for your eyes.
Student: But he's a U.S. Senator!
Professor:  Ah.  Then yes, we do have a bit of a situation.]

10.28.2012

Witches on the Internet: Still Actually Witches, Thanks.


Oh, look. More offline-elitism and “the internet isn’t real life” snobbery.

It seems that occult publisher Scarlet Imprint has fallen prey to this common misconception:
Two Venn diagrams with peach and green circles.  Green is "things that happen on the internet", peach is "things that happen in real life".  The top one, labeled "How people act like it is", shows them only barely overlapping.  The bottom one, labeled "how it actually is", has the green contained entirely as a small part of the peach circle.
The thing is, I don’t actually have an argument against SI’s decision to quit Facebook. My own FB is more of a vestigial limb at this point, left over from the days when it was a student social network and I was a college student, and before the current era of GIVE US ALL YOUR DATA ALL OF IT RIGHT NOW SO THAT WE CAN SELL IT AND ALSO PRIVACY WHAT IS THIS STRANGE CONCEPT OF WHICH YOU SPEAK? I use it as little as is humanly possible, mostly to stay in contact with long-distance family members and to participate in private groups for a few different things, and my profile is damn near barren even to people who have the right permissions to see everything. So I get it. I get feeling like FB is more burden than blessing, and wanting to disentangle yourself from it.  And I don't blame SI in the slightest.

What I don’t get, and am really annoyed at hearing, is this idea of “Real Witches™ shouldn’t use technology because ewww, internet”:

Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. … We are fortunate to say that many of the best practitioners we know have no online profile, and would suggest that those who are most vocal online should perhaps have their claims taken with a pinch of salt. … We would suggest that your practice would benefit if you get the hell out of it, or at least minimise your exposure to the cognitive load.”

And I would suggest that your practice would benefit if you fellate a pitchfork. But we can’t all expect our asinine requests to be taken seriously, so I won’t hold my breath – and I strongly suggest you don’t hold yours.

If you feel that your personal magical practice would benefit from not spending much or any time on the internet, okay. Do what feels right to you. Do what works best for you, your practice, your gods if you have them. But don’t take that and assume that the same automatically holds true for all witches if they’re Real Witches™, and cast aspersions on those who choose to maintain an active, vocal online presence by implying that they/we are fakes. That doesn’t make you a better or more respectable practitioner. It just makes you a pompous, self-righteous douchebag.

And frankly, if you’re not ALSO taking the claims of witches you meet offline with a grain of salt, I worry for you. A person’s physical presence before you is no guarantor of integrity or truthfulness. In case you were new to this concept, allow me to inform you: people lie sometimes. They do it on the internet, and they do it in person. They have a few more tools to conceal their lies online, in terms of identity and such, but when it comes to claims of magical practice and/or ability, how exactly are you to know any better what a person is being truthful to you about in person, considering we’re largely talking about personal, subjective experiences? You ALWAYS need to independently fact-check people’s claims. You ALWAYS need to run them through your personal bullshit-o-meter.  Being in someone's physical presence doesn't eliminate that common-sense requirement.

I mean, would you take the word of Sarah Lawless less seriously, with her exhaustive photo-documentation and lengthy explanations of her practices, than some fluffy-bunny nitwit in the early stages of their Silver Ravenwolf phase who happens to be standing next to you going on about their love spells?  Just because the fluff is sharing physical space with you, and Sarah is not?  That's some fucked-up criteria there.

See, SI, here's the thing: not all practitioners have access to in-person, offline communities to learn from. Even of those who could find local community, myself included (I live in the Bay Area, CA; there was a witches ball in my small, outskirts-area home town a couple months ago.  I might have to cross a bridge to get to an actual coven or public ritual, but maybe not.), not all of us are capable of social interaction in that setting. Some of us would spend most of our energy and attention at an in-person gathering worrying and stressing about the interaction with other people, and would gain very little in terms of actual experience or knowledge. Not to mention, some of us like having the pre-filtering option of reading someone’s blog or what have you for awhile, to get a feel for what kind of practice they do and what their beliefs are before we decide to invest time and energy into trying to get to know someone.

Is it possible to hit a content-overload point on the internet and sorta fry your brain’s functionality? Sure. But it’s possible to hit content-overload from reading too many books, too. Gods know I’ve done both. And it is exactly as possible to hit the power button on the computer/phone/etc to take a break from the “cognitive load”, as it is to put down a book and do something else for awhile. I don’t exactly do my meditations or spellwork while scrolling through tumblr, you know?*  

But I do learn techniques and get ideas from some truly amazing people who are very vocal on the internet.  Some of it hasn't worked for me.  Some of it has.  Funnily enough, this has happened at about the same rates as stuff I've picked up from books and the odd conversation with people at pagan shops in my area.  Gee, it's almost like the method of knowledge delivery is pretty much irrelevant to its value...

Oh, and Scarlet Imprint: look up urban witches.  If witches can work with steel and concrete as well as grass and trees, why the fuck would electricity and the internet be some kind of impediment?  

*Though now I'm wondering about that.  If you could find a certain type of blog, and use the flow of images as you scroll through as a sort of active meditation?  Hmm.

10.04.2012

I Was Horribly, Horribly Wrong

Last year I wrote a post about a truly awful eyesore of a "breast cancer awareness" (take a shot) vendor with shirts like "I [heart] motorboating" and "Nice Jugs!" and "Boobies Rock!", about how shitty it is to peddle a movement about CANCER as being about the sexayness of the potentially-cancerous body part in a way that completely dehumanizes and erases the PERSON suffering from the deadly disease.

I thought, after that kiosk and those shirts, that the "LOL BOOBIEZ" model of breast cancer "awareness" (take a shot) could sink no lower.

A screencap of PornHub, a site that does what it says on the tin,  titled "Help Pornhub support breast cancer research simply by watching videos!" and going on to explain that because "We all love boobs" they'll donate 1 cent for every 30 videos viewed from their "big-tit" and "small-tit" categories to an unspecified breast cancer research charity.  So that "While you're enjoying the boobs, you'll also be helping to Save the Boobs!"
I have never been so wrong in my life.

10.01.2012

@JerryBrownGov Vetoes Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

While Gov. Brown deserves some praise for signing a first-of-its-kind bill to ban pray-away-the-gay "therapy" for minors*, and signing a bill to allow young undocumented immigrants to obtain CA driver's licenses, he also deserves a massive whack upside the head for his decision to veto AB889, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Protip: You can't claim that the (overwhelmingly brown and female) workers of an industry deserve protections - and we're talking basic shit like guaranteed meal breaks, rest periods for live-in caretakers, and overtime pay - but turn around and veto it because it might cost more.  Yes, it will.  Duh.  That has always been how worker protections are.  But, see, the principle here is that people's safety and basic needs and ability to do their job without abuses are more important than the almighty dollar.  Just to clear that up for you, since you seemed to be confused.

It's couched in claims of concern for the poor and elderly who might have to pay more and thus not be able to afford caretaker support.  This is a legitimate concern.  You know how to address that, though?  Social support programs to make up the difference.  Fuck, go right to single-payer healthcare and you'll skip a lot of the trouble with that in the first place.  You know how not to address it?  By refusing to institute basic protections for the workers.  Don't take it out on them.  They deserve better.

He also pulls a line straight out of the anti-union-big-business playbook by saying that requiring such protections might mean there are fewer jobs overall because employers are having to pay more.  Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the arguments businesses have used against every union and every labor law ever - "We can't pay healthcare as well as wages, we'll go bankrupt and you'll all lose your jobs!"  "We can't afford to offer paid time off, it'll raise our costs and we'll have to lay people off to make ends meet!" etc. - and it's just as shitty coming from a supposed Democrat who just vetoed a worker protection bill as it is coming from private-sector PR.

It's especially shitty when it comes from a supposed Democrat who also vetoed two bills that would have instituted more stringent worker protections for agricultural workers by requiring that employers provide water and shade to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths, basically by saying "yeah but this will actually lead to holding agribusinesses accountable in court (rather than just issuing them citations that are literally planned for in the company's accounting structure), and we don't like that."

But as was pointed out on tumblr, Brown knows what he's doing.  These bills overwhelmingly affect undocumented and migrant workers.  Who can't vote.  So he bolsters his cred with businesses (the California Chamber of Commerce opposed all three bills, gee I wonder why?) without losing much in actual votes come election time.

Smart politics.  Shitty decisions.

*Which I will have way more on tomorrow, because Liberty Counsel is already threatening to sue, and their histrionics are both predictable as fuck and hilarious.

Is it Christmas already? Judge rejects challenges to contraception mandate - HARD.

Go read this.  No, seriously.  Go read it.

Oh, fine.  For those not inclined to click through, Judge Carol Jackson of a federal district court in Missouri basically told anti-contraception assholes where to shove it.  She stated flat-out that the ACA's contraception mandate does not infringe on religious freedom, period the end:
… [T]he health care plan will offend plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an OIH employee (or covered family member) makes an independent decision to use the plan to cover counseling related to or the purchase of contraceptives. Already, OIH and Frank O’Brien pay salaries to their employees---money the employees may use to purchase contraceptives or to contribute to a religious organization. By comparison, the contribution to a health care plan has no more than a de minimus impact on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs than paying salaries and other benefits to employees.
Is it just me, or is there an implied "...so shut the fuck up already" at the end of that paragraph?

And it goes on from there, rejecting every single argument they put forth, from the "defining a religious exemption means the government is excessively entangled in deciding what's religion and what isn't therefore it's establishment of state religion" claim (??? So they're fine with the IRS dropping all tax-exempt statuses for religious organizations, right?  Because there has to be a definition somewhere for those, too.) to the "compelled subsidized speech" claim (just because someone, at some point of the process, uses words to facilitate something happening doesn't make the thing happening fall into the category of 'speech'), and basically said "Yes, you *can* claim that the regulation was "arbitrary and capricious", but you're flat the fuck wrong, so go away."

I'm sure it will be appealed, etc., but this is a fantastic start to work from.  Thank you, Judge Jackson, for shutting down their collective temper tantrum so thoroughly from the word 'go'.

9.29.2012

You know your priorities are fucked-up when...

...You decide that it's important to participate in civil disobedience and invite arrests over people's healthcare plans - WHICH THEY PAY INTO, THIS IS NOT FREE STUFF WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE - covering birth control, when no major Christian political group has had civil disobedience actions over things like the gutting of the social safety net (Jesus was pretty big on that whole "take care of those in need" thing, IIRC), or unofficial wars and drone strikes (what was that whole "Thou shalt not kill" thing, again?).

...You then invoke the legacy of Dr. King to justify your bullshit: "Just as MLK was arrested for the rights of his fellow men, so we will stand."  Motherfucker, NO.  You are "standing" for the wholly-imagined "right" to control the bodies and healthcare access of other people.  You are not standing for any kind of actual rights or freedom from oppression.  How dare you try to link yourselves to him, as if you had anything in common?

...and you refer to your protest as "[laying] down our lives and our freedom so that future generations will have that freedom, and the liberty to practice their faith."  Your lives are in no danger, you grandstanding shitheads.  If you want to talk about people who are laying down their lives, where are your protests and civil disobedience about the shitty way this country treats veterans, the crap pay active-duty soldiers get that leaves many of them ON FUCKING FOOD STAMPS, the jobs bill specifically to help vets find work after they leave the military that Republicans shot down?

So, ActsFive29, as you begin your publicity stunt this evening, just remember: you are a terrible pack of lying liars who lie, and I'm pretty sure Jesus would be pissed at you for pretending this is what he wanted.

(Btw, does anyone know the source for their claim that they're having to pay a "$1 monthly abortion surcharge"?  Where the fuck are they getting that idea?  I am seriously confused.  I mean I know they're talking out their collective ass as to what the mandate entails anyway - kids, it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU PERSONALLY, this is about the insurance companies and what they are required to cover as part of any plan they offer -  but this is a new note of batshittery I haven't yet seen, so I'm wondering where it came from.)

9.28.2012

You Don't *Haaaave* To...

Ozz and I have a running joke, when one of us wants to playfully guilt the other into something.  I'll be up and about doing stuff, and he'll ask me to get him a soda, for example.  I'll get mock-exasperated with him, like "Oh, what, it's not enough that I [whatever I was doing at the time], now I have to get you your beverages, too?!"  And he gives me puppy-dog eyes and says "Well, you don't *haaaave* to..." and I roll my eyes and laugh and get him his stupid drink.

And I feel like that's sort of what this asshole is doing, only not cute or funny or playful at all, but spiteful and partisan and leveraging the full power of Catholic Guilt™ for political ends.  You don't *haaaave* to vote Republican...but you'll probably go to hell if you don't.

Because it's apparently far more important to reject policies addressing issues Jesus never saw fit to talk about, like abortion and teh gayz, in a way the Church dislikes, than to reject policies that specifically contradict Jesus' actual message of caring for the poor and helping those in need.

Cool story, bro.

(I hope someone brings action against him for using the power of the pulpit to tell people how to vote, in direct contravention of IRS rules about church tax exemptions.  He says "I'm not telling you how to vote," several times, but there's that whole letter of the law versus spirit of the law thing, and a child could tell that his "I'm not telling you how to vote" schtick is nothing more than a CYA.)

9.12.2012

PSA: On "Fluffy"


Do not EVER
EVER
EVER
FUCKING EVER
refer to fat people as "fluffy".
Fluffy is a thing that small poofly dogs and kittens and ducklings are.  
It is sometimes a thing that a person's hair might be, depending on the humidity.
It is NOT
a fucking descriptor
for my goddamn body.
It makes it sound like you think my fat is made of whipped cream or something equally stupid.
And maybe it's just me?
But it's the sort of descriptor that inherently casts fat as negative
by awkwardly being "cutesy" dancing around it
And also it implies
(and again this could just be me)
that my fat is just the "fluff" surrounding my actual body.
Like it's pillow stuffing filling up my skin
and if you took it out I would be skinny.  Like it's that easy.
Newsflash: my body is fucking fat.  Fat is the state of my physical being.  Fat is not this separate thing that rides around with me.  It is part of me.  There is no skinny girl inside me trying to get out.  There is just me.  And I will fucking end you if you imply otherwise.  I have no patience for that shit.
So just be aware that violating the terms of this PSA in my presence will result in immediate evisceration.
Verbal if you're out of reach.
But if you're within reach, I make no promises.
Have a nice day.

9.03.2012

Happy Labor Day (to the upper-middle class white-collar employees who ended up benefiting from the labor movement)

This image crossed my Tumblr dash yesterday, and I reblogged it, because I appreciate the sentiment.

A vintage black-and-white image of a labor rally with a large banner reading "Workers of the world unite"; superimposed text reads "This long holiday weekend has been brought to you by the blood, sweat, and tears of the labor movement."
A bit later, I saw a notification that someone had reblogged it from me, adding their own comment:
hahaha i have to work every fucking day of it
Which reminded me of the reason I generally have stopped wishing retail and service employees with whom I interact "have a good weekend" or variants thereof at the end of our interaction.  Because I remember when I worked retail, and I got one weekend off a month (maybe; LB was big on the belief that the managers, in addition to knowing the store operations stuff, were also the top salespeople and should always be present at high-traffic times, so we had to work most weekends), and well-meaning 9-to-5ers would cheerfully wish me a nice weekend as I handed them their receipt on Friday afternoon.  And I'd smile and return the pleasantry, of course, because that's what you do, but I was always thinking, "Sure, it's a nice weekend for you.  It's just two more workdays for me."

And it occurred to me that there's a lot to be said about how, decades after the main body of the labor movement made the major gains that it did - 40-hour weeks, minimum wage, paid holidays and vacation, etc - the bulk of those rights are going to the well-off white-collar employees, while the low-wage workers who actually formed the original labor rights movement have seen those protections eroded or denied outright.

Anecdotally: about a week or two into working at my current job (I'm the admin/receptionist for a general contractor's office), my boss stopped by my desk and said "Remember to take your breaks, okay?  I see you staying at your desk most of the day, you need to get out more."  I laughed and replied, "Thanks, I will - but honestly, my last job was retail.  This whole job feels like a break to me - I'm getting to sit down for 90% of it!"

At LB, I was one of a dozen part-time employees, with incredibly inconsistent scheduling - I was guaranteed 20-35 hours because I was a manager; the regular associates could get anywhere from 2-12 hours in a week, but rarely more than 15.  And nobody had a consistent schedule of days/times/shifts, it changed every week.  I had no access to health insurance, no paid time off, no sick days or vacations.  Lunches were 30 minutes exactly, and you were responsible for remembering to take your 15-minute breaks and clearing it with the manager on duty (and good luck getting the okay for that if it was busy on the floor).  I made a couple bucks over minimum wage and considered myself lucky for that.  And yes, I was required to work all holidays, including this one.

At Stq, I work 8-5, Monday-Friday.  I will have a good health care plan, with the premium covered 100% for me and 75% for any dependents - meaning I won't have to pay a dime out of my paycheck for it.  I'll accrue 3 hours of PTO per week, which will be retroactive to my beginning to work there (I started as a temp and we're playing paperwork games with getting me transitioned to perm, so I don't have these benefits yet, but it's when, not if).  Lunch is an hour, taken whenever I feel like it so long as I let someone know I'm leaving so they'll know to pick up the phone, nobody will care if I come back a bit late (if they even notice at all), and as I mentioned, my boss will actually remind me to take breaks and get out of the office from time to time.  I'm making about $4 over minimum as a temp, and my wage as a permanent employee will be about 2x minimum wage.  And I'm getting to spend today sitting on my ass in my pajamas fucking around on the internet and writing blog posts about it.

Does that seem fair to you?

So if you want to thank the labor movement for the holiday we some of us are having today, get involved.  Take note of bills eroding worker protections - not just big brouhahas like Wisconsin, but smaller things on the local level, too - and get involved in the fight against them if you can.  Support unions.  It's a fairly unpopular opinion to take in conversations a lot of the time, but it's necessary to push back against the right-wing framing of Those Damn Unions Making Businesses Go Broke (so shut up and let us abuse the workers for better profit margins).  Google around, find a local worker's rights org, and see what they need and what issues they're working on - the AFL-CIO might have something local, and it's a good place to start.

And if anybody has more or better ideas for getting involved, by all means, that's what comments are for!

8.14.2012

Today in No Fucking Shit, Captain Obvious

As DIY Abortions Rise, So Does Guesswork and Failure
More women are heading to Mexico to buy abortion-inducing drugs, the New York Times reports, and it's opening them up to failed terminations and other dangers. ... Abortion-rights advocates are concerned that a lack of awareness about clinical options in the United States — as well as a lack of funds — could lead more women to go underground and risk their health in this way.
Gee, it's not like we've been fucking saying this FOR YEARS NOW or anything.  No, this is a totally unforeseen development!  Utterly unexpected!  Shocking!  Provocative!  Unbelievable!  ...whoops, sarcasm reserve ran out.  Been using a lot of it up on Tumblr lately, sorry.

On The Third Attempt to Pass Egg-as-Person Legislation in Colorado, Former Supporters Shy Away
[T]he political ramifications of the personhood amendment should continue to be a key part of the coverage. The amendment, which would ban all abortions and some common forms of birth control, is clearly of interest to women, in particular, and women are a key voters in Colorado elections.
You mean to tell me 51% of the population are a key voting bloc in elections?  My god, will the revelations never end?  Fetch me pearls to clutch and a fainting couch on which to delicately fall!

 My kingdom for a liberal media that's actually liberal and doesn't act like these things called "women" are mysterious creatures whose issues can only be observed from afar.  >.<

8.02.2012

Why Do We Celebrate This?

A few years ago, when I was still living out in Tennessee, I brought my first girlfriend home to visit family for the holidays.  She had never been to NorCal before.  The architecture here tends to be heavily Spanish-villa/mission influenced; I remember as we were driving somewhere, and we were talking about a particularly spectacular example of it (a country club out in Napa, IIRC), she got quiet for a moment, then asked, "Why?"

"Why what?" I replied.

"The mission-style architecture.  Why is that still such a thing?  Why model buildings after a period of colonization, where the purpose of the original buildings you're inspired by was to forcibly take over and convert the Native populations?"

I was at a loss.  "Because it's our history?" I offered, knowing what a weak excuse that was.

That conversation was brought to mind today by this post over on Calitics, a California-specific politics blog where I get most of my local- and state-level political news.  Fort Ross, an old Russian outpost and historic site on the northern coast of California that was one of the first European settlements on the west coast, turned 200 yesterday.  The post was a simple enough quick-recap of the history of it and a "happy birthday", but it got me wondering.

Why do we celebrate this?

Especially since the subhead was about it being one of the first European settlements in the area, like that was the salient point and major accomplishment we were celebrating?

What we're "celebrating" is a new phase in the invasion and colonization of the Americas.  An event which ended in the deaths of many, and the near or total obliteration of hundreds of unique cultures, simply because they were here first and white people wanted the land for them(our)selves, and which has left a legacy of racism, poverty, and appropriation that continues today.

Do we have these bicentennials (or really, far-more-centennials) for enduring Native settlements?  LOLno.  Both because most were destroyed by colonizers and the people forcibly moved away, and because even if they hadn't been this wouldn't be a priority for the general public.

And that disparity in and of itself should tell you that this is not the innocuous "yay history" it seems at first glance.

We should not be uncritically celebrating this.

8.01.2012

Rep. Mike Kelly Thinks No-Copay BC Is Like Pearl Harbor and 9/11

From the "I couldn't make this shit up if I tried" files, via RHRC, this fucking stunner of a quote from Rep. Mike Kelly (R-eprehensible):
"I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "One is Dec. 7, that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that's the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
Day.
That will live.
In infamy.
Like Pearl Harbor
And 9/11
Days when hundreds of people were violently killed
And wars were begun from those attacks that killed thousands more.

The ability of people who have health insurance to access hormonal birth control without paying anything out-of-pocket for it is equivalent to MILITARY ATTACKS THAT STARTED WARS?

Go
Drink
Motor oil
and hydrochloric acid
you miserable
insufferable
PRICK.

I suggest we tell him exactly how we feel about this bullshit.  Drop him an email here (use zip code 16002-3805 to bypass the "only in my district" crap), and this page has the phone and fax numbers for all his offices.  Oh, also here's his Twitter (though it hasn't been used in months, it seems) and his Facebook, where the conversation is rather more lively regarding his absurd remarks.

Fly, my pretties.

7.26.2012

Dear Self: You know better. DON'T. READ. THE FUCKING COMMENTS.

I've been spending some spare time lately fucking around on Experience Project, a social networking site designed around connecting people not by geographical location, or demographics, but by shared experiences.  You join groups that are all titled "I have [$EXPERIENCE]" - "gotten divorced" or "gone skydiving" or something like that - and you always know that within the group you're talking about something you all know.  It's interesting.

Well, EP has a "questions" section, where people post random questions and other people answer them, vote for their favorite answers, reply to other answers, etc.  It's slightly above the level of YouTube comments.  Most of the time.  I'm developing a reputation as a feminist killjoy* because I slap down bullshit with glee and don't let people get away with shit when they're arguing with me.  This pleases me greatly.  ^_^

Today, I was browsing around, and came across the question "How do you define a 'real lady'?"

Oh, shit.  So I waded right in.

My initial reply: "Do you identify as a woman?" "Yes" "Are you okay with being called a lady?" "Yes" - there you go, that's how you define a real lady.  I'm not a lady, because I fcking HATE that term (considering its history of being used to judge and restrict "appropriate" standards of female behavior) and will vehemently correct anyone who tries to call me a lady, real or otherwise.  Tautology it may be, but a "real lady" is simply a person who identifies as a lady. 
Another reply: "A female with self-control, who is quick to hold her tongue.  She delights in everything lovely and feminine and she isn't afraid to speak her mind when needed.  Compassion and passion are two of her best qualities, along with nurturing, serving others, unselfishness and poise.  She is passionate about her beliefs and she accomplishes anything she puts her mind to.  Her peers respect her for being truly female." with my next comment nested underneath as a response: "...ew.  Thank you for reinforcing that I am NOT, and do not EVER want to be, a "lady".  Notice how it basically requires you to STFU, put yourself last, and treat yourself as if you matter less than other people?  Yeah no.  If it means hewing to ancient, restrictive, patriarchal stereotypes of "appropriate" womanhood...all aboard the Nope Train to Fuck-that-ville."  and another response saying "Well said", although since EP only nests to a single level, it's unclear whether they're commending the OP or my response to it.
There is not enough EW in the world for that OP.  I notice that "speak her mind" is qualified with "when needed", which is in the passive voice, raising the question, who decides when it's needed?  (Hint: it's never the woman doing the speaking.)  We then get three different synonyms for "Put other people's needs ahead of your own at all times, you come last," and end with gender policing.  I think I need a shower.

Another comment: "Treats others and expects to be treated with respect, compassion, has strength and dignity, humor."
See, this is not a bad definition.  I'm still never going to back it myself, because it still involves an arbitrary definition against which a person can be measured and "disqualified", but it's at least closer to just a measure of a good person than archaic gender roles.

Another comment: "Feminine, charming, romantic, sentimental, motherly, refrains from gossip, independent when the need arises, smart and willing to please her man in bed."
Oh, gross, another one.  "Feminine" - how are we defining that?  It's one of those arbitrary things that, like "when needed", is never judged by the person performing the action, but always judged by the male opinions around her.  "Motherly" - oh goody, here we go with the biological essentialism and reducing women to their uteruses (whether they have them or not, etc).  "Refrains from gossip" - so uh, men get to gossip without restriction or something?  Ooh look, "when needed" rears its head again!  And then the kicker, "willing to please her man in bed."  Heteronormative, assumes active sexuality and dating, places female sexuality subordinated in service to male sexual desires, and I notice there's nothing about eager to receive reciprocal pleasure...Guess men don't need to please their ladies in bed.  Gods, I'm glad I not a lady!  More orgasms for me!

Like I said - slightly above the level of YouTube comments sections.  Between this one and the "ZOMG OBESITYZZZ" and "TEH GAYZZ IN MILITARY" questions I've also been playing whack-a-dumbfuck with, I'm about tapped out for the day.

Feminist killjoy, out.

*I actually just ordered this necklace today.  I'm so excited for it!  I also ordered a literal flying fuck.

7.25.2012

"Pre-Pregnant" Goes a Step Further

Is...is that the sound of gravel shifting ominously under our feet, sliding us a few more feet down the slippery slope to A Handmaid's Tale?

Yep.

A nonprofit in Minnesota has announced an initiative to stock bars and other venues that serve alcohol with free pregnancy tests, and encourage women to take a pregnancy test before ordering/drinking alcohol.

Image of rows of elevator buttons overlaid with text reading "This is wrong on so many levels"
Like, we're talking SO many levels I'm pretty sure I'm going to forget to address some of them because my mental buffer only holds so many things at a time.  So here's a not remotely comprehensive list:

  • Packed with a FUCKTON of normative expectations and assumptions - presumes that all women are cis, fertile, hetero, partnered/sexually active, and would give a shit about the health of a putative fetus if they knew one was there.*  Ignores the existence of trans* women, trans* men, AFAB nonbinary people, infertile cis women, cis lesbians with cis partners, asexual people, and probably others I'm not thinking of right now.
  • Actually, despite our cultural myths about drinking during pregnancy, research has shown that alcohol in moderation may not be the ZOMG TERRIBLE THING we make it out to be - "moderation" defined as a glass of wine a couple times a week, basically.  So they can fuck off with the scientifically-uncertain shaming of pregnant people.
  • It's voluntary - for now.  But how long before it becomes voluntary-but-expected, in much the same way people are expected not to smoke or drink during pregnancy, where it's not actually illegal but there are serious social penalties for it?  
  • Speaking of illegal and actual penalties, we've already reached the point of prosecuting for miscarriages.  Bei Bei Shuai, for attempting suicide, surviving, but having her fetus not make it.  Melissa Rowland, for refusing a C-section her doctor "recommended" (can you even call it a recommendation anymore, when refusing gets you arrested after the fact?) and one of her twins being stillborn a few days later (the other survived).  I don't exactly have a lot of confidence that this particular slippery slope somehow won't make it all the way to arresting women for failing to take their pregnancy test before having a drink.
  • In addition to all the assumptions this crap makes, it also forces the label "pre-pregnant" onto every pregnancy-capable person.  It focuses on the capacity for pregnancy to a frightening degree, placing everyone with a uterus into a perpetual state of  Schrödinger's Pregnancy, where our actions are forever viewed through the lens of "but what if you're pregnant?"  It's a great tactic, if your goal is to normalize a view of [people with uteruses/people assumed to be women]** as primarily babymaking bodies.  Not so great for honoring a view of us as human beings, actual and whole.***
  • Usually you don't have to pee until AFTER you've had a few drinks...?
On the plus side, free pregnancy tests if you know where to find them.  Just grab a handful and waltz out to distribute them among your friends.

*True story: I drank while pregnant (for those just joining the party, I had an abortion), because I knew I wasn't going to be having it so what the hell did it matter?  And I was already being inconvenienced enough by the damn thing, I wasn't going to restrict my lifestyle because of it too.  InB4 antichoicers pointing to my cavalier attitude as "ALL WOMEN WHO GET ABORTIONS ARE SELFISH CUNTS LIKE THIS ONE".  Fuckoff.
**Anything to do with pregnancy is about people with a uterus.  But this sort of thing, since your average Joe doesn't have an Xray machine embedded in their eyes, will in practice be thrown at any person assumed to be female for reasons of presentation.  So there's a weird sort of overlap/gap thing going on here, and I can't think of a less-clunky way to phrase it.
***"...Or we could talk more."

7.18.2012

"Too equal" and Nikki Haley's Contempt for Rape Victims

I reblogged a post the other day about Nikki Haley's line-veto of the entire budget for the South Carolina Department of Health's network of rape crisis centers, with a quote of her truly reprehensible "justfication" for doing so:
The problem is it's like when you give something to a child. They're always going to figure out how they can get away with a little more ... [the rape crisis funding/centers] distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.
 I set that post to push to Twitter as well, figuring that Haley's gross disrespect for survivors deserved to be as widely disseminated as possible.  A follower RT'd it, adding "Clarity in party for people vs. cash improves".

At the time they said it, I had a hard time parsing it (obviously I've been off twitter too much of late), but I've eventually understood it as a comment on the GOP's priorities of people versus profit, and how a move like this makes that ever more blatantly clear.  Rape victims are a "distraction" because it's a nice tidy half-mil line item to cut from the budget, which is far more important than actually caring for people who need it.

Relatedly, I was sitting in on a meeting at work the other day, about a jobsite that's just getting started.  I was involved in the hiring process for the half dozen employees we have out there, three of whom are PoC, including one WoC.  The job superintendent (who is a gigantic dumbfuck we have to patiently, carefully lead by the nose into understanding anything the company needs to do or needs him to be in compliance with) was saying there was a guy he knows that he wanted to hire on as well, and he offered as a selling point that this guy is black, which would add to our EEO numbers.  (Projects by a government entity, which comprise the bulk of what we do, have minority participation targets - usually that I've seen, 16.9% non-white and 9% female.)

Tracy, the general manager for our office, shook his head.  "No," he said, "We've already made our target numbers for this job.  We don't want to go over those numbers."

I raised an eyebrow at him from my corner of the table, not quite pushy enough to speak up but wanting an explanation.  They're used to my being a bit behind on industry-specific stuff, by now, and mostly don't mind explaining things like EEO jobsite quotas, or submittals, or whatever.  He explained for my benefit (and Ron's, too, I think, as he's an older guy who probably hasn't had to worry too much about this sort of thing for most of his career), "We have to try to meet those numbers, but we don't want to go over them if we can avoid it, because they might raise the target number for next time if we do and then we have to scramble even more to try to make it."  He added, "I don't personally care if this guy is black, blue, or purple, but we don't want to overdo our EEO numbers."  (Yes, the "purple people" made an appearance; I narrowly managed to avoid rolling my eyes or snorting in disdain, though I'm not sure I kept "you have got to be fucking kidding me" off my face.)

You wouldn't necessarily think this is related to a philosophy of government that prizes profits (or low expenditures) over people.  And yet as I went back to my desk after the meeting, shaking my head at that little revelation, it seemed to me that it did.

See, why do we care about minimizing the need to make EEO targets when it comes time for hiring for a jobsite?  Because it takes longer and is more work on our part to find qualified people belonging to an underrepresented minority in the field, as opposed to scooping up the first half-dozen white guys who walk in the door.  That's more time and work and, in the end, money that we spend trying to meet this quota.  The bid process for getting government contracts is actually pretty competitive (at least at the levels we're working at; this isn't Halliburton here), and it comes down to who can shave the most off their final bid amount.  Who can bring in the lowest number?  We lost a bid two weeks ago by a mere $1300, for example.

So when we have this EEO target to meet, if it goes up and we have to spend more time and effort or delay starting a job in order to make our target number, we have to either take it out of our bottom line, or raise our price a bit and risk getting fewer or no bids at all because of it.  The government has a limited budget and wants to spend as little as possible, and it's up to the contractors to give them the cheapest possible route.  The system is intended to save the government money, not to do the best for the people being hired with the government's money.  Thus contractors have an incentive to do the bare minimum and deliberately do no more than that.  It becomes an incentive for tokenism, rather than an incentive for inclusion.

I'm not saying I'm against the idea of EEO targets and such - quite the opposite.  I'd like to see a better system than crude number quotas, perhaps, but I don't know that any such exists at present, and something is better than nothing.  I'm just noticing that this system is rigged to fail, in a very profits-versus-people manner.  If we made EEO a priority instead of an legally-obliged afterthought - if we committed to spending a bit more specifically on hiring and training personnel beyond the average white-and-male demographic at the government level, thus taking the burden off the individual contractors, who knows?  We might have a situation where actual employment diversity is encouraged and achieved, rather than "encouraged" on paper but discouraged in practice.

But the Republicans have been so absurdly successful in shifting the discourse to be about OUR TAX DOLLARS and GOVERNMENT WASTE and INEFFICIENCY and PORK, rather than centering it on how to best help the people they govern, that a Republican governor can wipe out a budget for helping rape victims without batting an eyelash, and companies seeking government contracts deliberately restrict the number of PoC and/or women they hire, all in the service of the almighty dollar.

"Fuck the people.  We just want money."
  - the GOP

7.15.2012

New Layout - Accessibility check, please?

Hey everyone, no new content today.  Just wanted to announce the redesign - I got tired of wrangling with a template designed for the old blogger interface and being unable to edit it easily; besides, it was really time for something new - and ask if anyone has any accessibility issues that I need to address.  I'm no expert on web accessibility, but I do want this space to be accessible for all, so please let me know if there's anything that needs to be changed!

7.06.2012

Microaggressive Naming

[This is dredged up from the drafts folder, so context-dependent time references are no longer correct, but I'm too lazy to fix it.  Sorry for the lack of posting, some personal life shit has been going on and it has fucked me up but good.  Even with meds, I'm only just managing to be mostly functional; blogging is often beyond me, cause it takes too much focus, concentration, interest, and energy.  Well-wishes, good vibes, prayers, etc are welcome for Ozz's and my relationship, and for me personally if you want.  Sorry again and thanks.]

It's bid day today!  I work for a general contractor, and we have not one, but TWO jobs bidding today.  Which means that, since a major part of my job includes handling the incoming faxes and making sure everything gets to the right people, I'm pretty busy today with the dozens and dozens of bids subcontractors are faxing in.  (Not too busy to write irritated posts, though!)  Because in the last batch of faxes, there was this lovely little gem of a company:

The header of an incoming fax from a company named "Shutter-Up Window Coverings", whose logo seems to be two stylistically-drawn people, one in a skirt with hands on hips, the other in pants casually leaning against the skirted figure with an arm draped around her neck.
Now the name itself was irritating enough when I saw it that I intended to post about it already, considering that it basically boils down to a creaky old "joke" about lol women talking amirite?

But the fun part was when, after I'd printed this fax off and given it to John, our lead estimator, I heard him laugh a few minutes later and poke his head into our general manager's office.

"Hey Tracy, did you see this sub bid?  I love the name!"

And Tracy looks at the copy I left on his desk and cracks up, and I overhear them reminiscing about another misogynistically entertainingly-named subcontractor from a few bids ago, "Gutter-Done" (a play on git-r-done).

Yeah, because play-on-word names that reference silencing women and fucking them are soooo hilarious, amirite?  Not like there are any women in your office - or working for those companies, for that matter - who might end up feeling excluded and demeaned by it, by the reminder that when it's convenient, y'all are quite pleased to assert your male privilege and participate in sexism, and even find it funny.  I know I totes feel like a valued and equal person to my coworkers while they're laughing over shutting women up.

(And this is not even mentioning the latest fuckery from yesterday, which I ranted about on tumblr here.)

5.29.2012

Willow Smith's Hair: Gender, Race, and White Feminism

Over the holiday weekend, this quote from Will Smith on his daughter Willow's choice of hairstyle flew about the intertubes, making the rounds of the feminisphere on tumblr, twitter, and showing up on a few of the bigger blogs as well:
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
I reblogged it when I saw it, with a comment about "Parenting, ur doin it right," as did most of the other people I saw reblogging it.

But this morning, as I was reading through my daily un-newspaper (the collection of blogs from which I get my news on a daily basis), I found the above-linked post by Renee of Womanist Musings, which addressed the quote in a context that focuses on the racial dynamic at play when you're talking about a young black girl's hair like that.

And I realized, as I read her commentary on the way white feminists picked up and passed around this quote, treating it as a statement on gender equality and encouraging a young girl's sense of bodily sovereignty while ignoring the girl's race and how that intersects to give the statement a totally different meaning and context...that I had done exactly that.  I read that quote and got excited about what it meant in terms of gender only, without taking into account the additional politics of black women's hair and how that was really the bigger issue being addressed here.

So I wanted to A: apologize for my personal intersectionality fail in how I viewed/addressed the issue when I saw it this weekend (though I didn't do it *here*; I will however be cross-posting some version of this to tumblr), and B: signal-boost a great post about the racial+gender politics of it, for those who similarly heard about this but forgot to look beyond our own immediate gendered oppression.

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