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I posted a little while ago about today, July 12th, being the “Battle for the Net.” The short version is that the FCC is trying to roll back the “net neutrality” protections we currently enjoy, which would have the effect of letting corporations control how you interact with the internet. Think of your cable company: you know how they charge you more money for “premium channels”? You might find yourself paying your internet provider extra fees to access “premium sites.” (Not paying the sites; paying Comcast. Or whoever provides your internet connection.) Sites they don’t have a financial stake in might load more slowly. Streaming sites could be throttled to the point where you can’t watch a video or listen to music or play an online game without constant hiccups.

All of those things are bad. But here’s what’s worse.

Think about the flood of online political activity we’ve had in the last year. All those petitions, all those videos, all those political blogs. Right now, the only thing controlling your access to them is your level of interest and will to engage. But if we let the FCC empower internet providers to become the internet’s gatekeepers, then it may get a hell of a lot harder for us to make our voices heard. A lot of the groups speaking out right now are precisely the ones being disadvantaged by the current administration’s policies; they’re the ones who can’t afford to pay prioritization fees to keep their sites from being buried. This would be another way to screw them over, to make sure the voices we hear first, last, and loudest are the ones with money behind them: a negative feedback loop that ensures that power stays in the hands of those who already have it.

We can’t let this happen. Call your senators. Call your representative. Write a letter to the FCC. Speak up now, while you still can. As tools for speech go, the internet is up there with the printing press and the invention of writing itself — and our democracy depends on freedom of speech. We have to protect it.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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So, net neutrality.

It’s an important thing. Without it, cable companies will have far more control over what you see and do online: they’ll be able to slow down or block websites, or charge apps and sites extra fees in order to reach their audiences. They’ll push you toward sites belonging to companies who can afford to pay for “prioritization.” Marginalized communities and voices will be muted by the power of money, and your ability to say “I want to hear them” will be weaker, too.

Ajit Pai, the new FCC chairman (and not coincidentally, a former Verizon lawyer) thinks this sounds great. Me, not so much.

There’s a protest planned. I’ll be back on this topic July 12th, because I’ve signed up to participate. If you want to do the same, you can sign up at that link. My microphone isn’t huge, but the more of us that shout together, the louder we get.

Let’s get loud.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve been making these tikkun olam posts for about half a year now, and responses to them have been slowing down, which I suspect is in part a sign of fatigue. It’s hard to keep on working to repair the world when so many people seem determined to break it, and when it’s hard to see any result for your effort.

But sometimes you can make a very real difference to a very specific person. Chaz Brenchley has put out a call raising funds to treat his wife’s multiple sclerosis. If we lived in a country where this was covered by insurance, they wouldn’t have to worry; instead we live in a country where Republicans are trying to take away even the insurance we already have. Karen is the primary earner in their family, and she doesn’t know how soon she’ll be able to return to work. Helping out, either by donating directly, or by subscribing to Chaz’s Patreon, can make all the difference in the world to these two people, and to their friends and family.

And while you’re at it, call your senators and beg them to oppose Trumpcare. Because I’d like to live in a world where things ranging from anxiety to surviving sexual assault don’t count as “pre-existing conditions,” and where health insurance companies are required to cover things like doctor’s visits.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll keep this short and to the point.

The intended replacement for the Affordable Care Act is going to kill people.

It sounds melodramatic — but it’s true. It will leave an estimated 24 million Americans without insurance (compared to the ACA), which will make it extremely difficult for them to afford healthcare. It cripples Medicaid, because poor people don’t deserve to be healthy, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, because children only matter while they’re fetuses — oh wait, insurers wouldn’t be required to cover maternity care, either. Nor birth control. Nor gynecological exams. And we all know what the right wing wants to do to Roe v. Wade. So you’re having that baby whether you like it or not, but don’t expect any support from conception until after your kid has graduated. Guess you should have kept your legs closed, bitch.

Call your elected officials. Call them until you get through, because their lines are swamped, and it may take you a while. Especially if you’re represented by a Republican in either chamber, for the love of god, call them. A number of them are already wavering; they know this is bad. But this isn’t the kind of bad where it’s okay to let it happen and let them reap the consequences later, because for them, the consequences will be that maybe they get voted out of office two or four years down the road. For other people, the consequences will literally be death. They need to hear voices telling them not to do it, before we get that far.

For the sake of the millions of people who will be hurt by this, speak up. Make your voice heard. Make a difference.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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(Jim Hines posted this to his blog earlier today; I’m reposting it because it is timely and well-chosen.)

*

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…

-From Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Today I went to the “Hour of Prayer and Solidarity” at a local mosque, which they organized in the wake of receiving a piece of hate mail. I estimate that around 300 people showed up, which is bloody good turnout for a cold Sunday afternoon and a place that’s basically inaccessible without a car. They had leaders from a bunch of other faith communities (Methodist, Catholic, Sikh, Jain, Jewish — those are the ones I recall), some local legislators, and the mayor. There were some speeches and a lot of clapping.

In addition to the good it does for the people targeted by hate mail to see us all standing out there in the parking lot to support them, it did me good to go. Because in the end, Tweets don’t carry as much impact as much as the physical presence of people around me, going to effort greater than clicking “retweet” to stand against that kind of prejudice. It is, in a way, a kind of medicine, strengthening my heart against the poison that’s seeping out of the cracks right now.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about religion lately. I was raised in the Methodist church, largely for reasons of convenience rather than tradition (neither of my parents was raised Methodist); I went through confirmation, but none of it ever meant very much to me on a personal level. But lately — especially as I listen to Christmas music for the season — I find myself thinking a lot about myself as a Christian. I feel this odd desire to claim that label for myself right now, not because I’ve experienced a sudden upwelling of doctrine-specific faith, but because I want to stand in contrast to all the Christians who have let themselves forget the importance of love, tolerance, charity, and forgiveness. I want to be in solidarity with the Christians who haven’t forgotten those things, to help keep them from being drowned out by the others. I want to stand in a cold parking lot for an hour and say wa-alaikum-salaam back at the guy who just wished peace upon me as a member of not just a geographical community, but a religious one — at least in the social/cultural sense of “religious.”

I’m not sure where this impulse will go. I doubt I’m going to start attending church again — though you never know. I just know that that feeling of community is important right now, that feeling of solidarity. I need those reminders that the hateful are not the only ones out there, and the rest of us have voices, too.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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One of the issues I keep chewing on is the fundamental weakness of journalism today. A combination of factors ranging from the ability of fake news to spread via social media to the economic pressures that encourage our formal outlets to pursue sensationalism and fence-sitting have made it such that misinformation rules the day right now.

I want to work on fixing that, but I don’t know how.

I’ve seen people say “we need to subscribe to paid outlets so they can afford to do proper investigative journalism.” Is that the answer? I’m not sure. I have no guarantee that’s what they’ll spend my subscription dollars on, and no certainty that even if they do, it will have a noticeable effect. So I put it to you all: what’s the best place to apply leverage to improve the state of journalism today? Is it a newspaper subscription? Some organization? Does anybody out there have a real, practical solution to this problem — or at least a convincing argument for one — and if so, where?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Back in high school, my sister and I decided to respond to a friend’s tendency to call us “witches” by circling him in a swimming pool while reciting the entire cauldron scene from Macbeth.

(Yes, we were very strange. Still are, in fact.)

Anyway, as somebody who still has that entire scene memorized, I found this to be utter and satisfying genius: “Nasty Women Have Much Work to Do.”

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Last night, I went to the website of the California Democratic Party and filled out a volunteer form.

Because I believe that this election matters — and I don’t just mean the presidential election, though keeping that proud bigot, Donald Trump, out of office is a high priority for me. As I’ve said before, I think we as a society need to pay more attention to the down-ticket races, to the local elections and measures. And I think one of the most corrosive factors in the United States right now is the combination of apathy and organized efforts to restrict voting rights: the sense that your vote doesn’t really matter, and the passage of laws supposedly designed to combat the next-to-nonexistent problem of voter fraud, which just so happen to make it harder for the Wrong Kind of People to vote. I don’t know yet what my local party will ask me to help out with, but I’m hoping I can work on the “get out the vote” end of things.

But I won’t be choosy. Whatever they need, I will do my best to provide. Because I’m not sure I’ve cared about any election year as much as this one.

If you’re involved in politics, organizing or volunteering or holding some political office, speak up in the comments! I’d like to know who out there has already waded into this particular pond.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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With Clinton sewing up the Democratic nomination, I understand that a great many people are feeling disappointed by the results of primary season, and discouraged by the prospect of the upcoming general election. You don’t want to vote for the racist, sexist egomaniac, but you don’t like the idea of voting for Clinton, either: she’s too corporatist, too much of a hawk, too much or too little of whatever you’re most focused on. And so you’re thinking that come November, maybe you’ll write in Bernie’s name or vote Green or just not show up to vote at all. As a protest against the corruption, the two-party system, the rightward swing of our country.

To those people, I say this: look at the rest of the ballot.

Not the rest of the presidential ballot. The rest of the ballot. Governor. Senator. Representative. State legislators. Heck, go past those down into the real nitty-gritty: mayors, city councilmembers, school board, local measures, whatever your particular voting district lets you register an opinion on.

That is where your protest can mean something.

At that level of the ballot, you can damn well bet that every single vote can make a difference. Maybe your state is guaranteed to go blue or red in the electoral college, but your town? That’s easier to swing. And if you swing the town in the direction you want, it gets easier to swing the county, and the state, and the nation.

Sure, it’s a pain in the neck to pay attention to all of those races. Lots of them don’t even have official party affiliations, so you can’t just look for the right letter; you have to spend some time googling endorsements and policy statements. Voting responsibly at the local level requires preparation. But not much: even just an hour online the night before the election can give you a decent sense of the lay of the land. And then you’ve made the area around you just a little bit more like the world you want to live in.

Because for fuck’s sake, if we sit around expecting to make change happen once every four years, it’s never going to happen. We need change at the local level. We need city governments that prioritize making our lives better on a daily basis. We need ordinances that protect people’s health and safety. We need fields in which to grow new candidates, creating the governors and senators and presidents of the next few decades. So find the people you want, find the fire-breathing socialist radical of your dreams or the economic visionary with the ideas that can save us all that’s running for county commissioner, and vote for them. (Hell, maybe even sign up for their campaigns. But I haven’t gotten that far myself, so I’m trying to just preach what I practice, here.)

Then, when you’ve done that, take a look at the top of the ballot again.

Ask yourself: of the options there, which has the best chance of supporting all those downticket people in their work?

(And remember, this is not the Hugos. We can’t vote No Award, can’t say we’d rather have no president at all than one of the candidates on offer. We’ll have a president. And it’s going to be one of two people.)

When you vote, it’s not about you or your preferred candidate. It’s about the rest of the country, its government and its citizens, the extent to which they’re going to work together or against each other. It’s about the Supreme Court justices that candidate will nominate, who will decide the cases that will improve or wreck lives. It’s about those lives they’ll improve or wreck, all the people who can’t afford to say “well, maybe four years of Trump would be the wake-up call this country needs” — because they’re already awake, and they’re the eggs that would get broken for your self-righteous omelette.

You say you want a revolution? Vote for one — down at the bottom of the ballot, the roots that tree needs in order to grow.

(Personally, I’m fine with Clinton, and am happy to vote for her in November. If you feel differently, I won’t argue with you; but I’m not particularly interested in dissecting her character, voting record, or other qualities in the comments.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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One thing that comes up a fair bit in discussions of diversity and so forth is the accusation that liberal types are only buying/watching/otherwise supporting particular books/movies/tv shows/etc because those things promote a particular agenda: racial inclusiveness, gender equality, queer acceptance, and so forth.

It occurred to me today, after reading this excellent post by Jim Hines, that we seem to have no problem with boycotting things because we disagree with their political agenda and wish to not support it. That is, in fact, a time-honored and widespread tactic for registering your displeasure with a situation. So why is it wrong to do the opposite?

And clearly, if “boycotting” is avoidance for the sake of protest, then participation for the sake of support ought to be called “girlcotting.”

(Yes, I know that isn’t the actual etymology of the word. Hush you with your logic.)

So I say, those who feel that science fiction has room for bug-eyed aliens of all kinds but not women or black dudes as protagonists should feel free to boycott the new Star Wars movie. Me, I’m going to girlcott it. I’m going to try to see it opening weekend, and if it’s good, I’ll go see it again. Because sometimes you need to throw your toys out of the pram . . . but sometimes you need to grab hold of them and say, yes. mine.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Quick synopsis, for those not already aware: this year, Brad Torgersen organized the third iteration of the “Sad Puppy+” slate for the Hugo Awards, which, at least on the surface, was about campaigning to get conservative SF/F authors on the ballot (giving them the place they have been denied by their political opponents). Unabashed racist/sexist/homophobic bigot Theodore Beale/VD++ apparently also decided to organize a “Rabid Puppy” slate, on similar principles, only more so.

Between them, these two initiatives managed to have a huge influence on this year’s Hugo nominations, dominating the short lists for many categories. (Here’s a rundown on what they achieved.) This was met with a great deal of dismay in many corners of fandom.

We all caught up?

+No, I don’t know how that term came to be attached to this. If you know, please enlighten me in the comments.

++I find his chosen moniker sufficiently arrogant that I decline to oblige him by using it.

***

I’ve felt for years now that the Hugos are a thing I should maybe be more involved in. Two things have stopped me: first, you have to pay for a Worldcon membership in order to nominate or vote, and even a supporting membership is a non-trivial expense, at $40. Second, my reading is very disorganized; much of what I read in any given year was actually published long before, meaning I’m not very au courant with the stuff that’s eligible for awards. This latter point makes nominations in particular quite daunting, because there’s a whole swath of stuff to choose from, and I haven’t read most of it.

This year, for the first time, I’ve bought a supporting membership so I can vote on the Hugo Awards. I’d like to talk about why, and what exactly I intend to do with my vote.

Cut for discussion of details. )

As always, the question is: what now?

There are a lot of proposals to change the Hugo rules in ways that will prevent, or at least discourage, this sort of behavior in the future. Going that route will be hard, though, for two reasons: first, it’s a minimum of two years to introduce any changes to the Hugo procedures (because of Worldcon’s bylaws), and second, many of the proposed changes would disenfranchise a lot of voters who have been participating in good faith. (A fact which, fortunately, I have seen many people point out. The problem is known, and I devoutly hope it won’t be accepted as the price of doing business.)

In the short term, and quite possibly the long one, the better answer is social rather than legislative.

As I said, I’ve bought a supporting membership; if you have $40 to spare and the inclination to officially register your displeasure with this situation, you can do the same. (This also, by the way, gives you the right to nominate candidates for next year’s Hugos — and, as a special bonus, the right to vote on the upcoming Worldcon bids! Look for another post later about the Helsinki bid and why I think people should support it; that’s enough of a digression I don’t want to go into it here.)

What’s the best way to use your vote? Well, the Hugos use an interesting system: instant runoff voting. This is a system built to discourage the triumph of small but dedicated voting blocs over the general sentiment of the electorate as a whole; it means the winner is likely to be a candidate most people thought was pretty good, rather than one a few people adored and a bunch of other people hated.

The Hugos also have “No Award” in every category. When you rank this on your ballot, you are saying that you would rather see no award given in that category at all, if the alternative is to see it go to one of the works you have ranked lower (or left off your ballot entirely: for a cogent explanation of the different effects between those two, see here.) This has happened before, though not recently; the last time No Award won, it was 1977.

I stand with those who say, the problem here is the entire “slate” approach: even if the slate consisted of works I like, I have a profound objection to the entire notion of organized campaigns of followers nominating and voting for the candidates their leaders have selected. That isn’t what the Hugos are for, and if five years down the road we have the Sad Puppy Slate competing against the Social Justice Slate competing against the Can’t We All Just Have Fun Slate, I will consider that a disaster for the Hugos, no matter what I think of the works on the slates themselves.

One way to speak out against the slate approach is to use IRV and the No Award option to register your disapproval. There is a Puppy-free list of candidates here (and if you needed a visual demonstration of how thoroughly they dominated certain categories, there you go). Rank non-Puppy candidates as you feel they deserve; when you’ve run out of candidates you think might be worthy of the rocket, rank No Award. Then rank everything else — Puppy candidates, and anything non-Puppy you thought really was just utter crap — below No Award, or leave it off your ballot entirely.

In other words: say you would rather see no prize given than these tactics rewarded.

This may mean voting against some works you’d ordinarily support. In the case of Dramatic Presentation (Long), for example, maybe you really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy or The LEGO Movie. But voting for them says, “well, I don’t like slates, but I guess they’re okay so long as they pick things I agree with.” That encourages us to form competing slates in future years, which is precisely what many of us are trying to prevent. If you think it would be wrong to give the rocket to Edge of Tomorrow or The Winter Soldier, then rank No Award first — that’s your decision. But please, don’t support the slate.

Because fundamentally, the slate approach is fundamentally not about fannishness or enjoyment of books. It’s about making sure your side wins. And in this case, it’s also about hurting people who have until now been nominating and voting for works they love, and stroking the egos of a few individuals who have felt disenfranchised by the fact that the Hugo electorate doesn’t like their stuff. (It is not even about supporting the kind of SF they claim to like: both Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and the second volume of Patterson’s Heinlein biography are right up their alley, and several SP/RP types, including both Larry Correia and Beale/VD, have commented that they probably would have supported those. So even their side gets hurt by this, as the decisions of the ringleaders locked out things their followers genuinely enjoyed and might have wanted to vote for.) It is about championing bigots like Beale/VD and John C. Wright. This is, in short, a move undertaken explicitly to upset and drive away people like me and many of my friends.

I will not be driven away. And I will not reward their efforts.

Is it idealistic to believe the Hugos should be about nominating books you, personally, enjoyed? Maybe. But I will do what I can to support that ideal.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I haven’t yet read the entirety of this dissent by Judge Richard Posner on the topic of voter ID laws in Wisconsin, but the words to describe the bits I have read are things like “searing” and “scathing.” This is a conservative judge who formerly supported laws requiring photo ID in order to vote, but his dissent is a 180% about-face that comprehensively calls out exactly what is wrong with such laws — ranging from the fact that they’re trying to solve a problem that basically doesn’t exist, to the fact that they don’t solve the problems that do exist, to the way they disenfranchise the “wrong kind” of voter.

Nor does he neglect the partisan component here: his dissent points out that all the states with strict photo ID laws and most of those with non-strict laws are politically conservative at the state level, while those which require no ID at all skew liberal. And the kinds of people who are disenfranchised by voting obstacles are also more likely to vote liberal. This is not a “both sides do it” kind of problem, where we can waggle our fingers and move on. Whether or not you agree that it is a concerted effort with the goal of stopping “those people” from voting Democratic, it is a concerted effort with that result.

Here’s a tidbit for you: the poll tax that was outlawed in 1964, adjusted for inflation, is substantially cheaper than the average cost for a low-income voter in satisfying a photo ID requirement. You may not be forking over the cash directly for the right to vote, but when you figure in documentation, travel, and time spent away from work jumping through the bureaucratic hoops, it ends up costing in the range of $75-$175. For people who are having trouble feeding their children, this is an inexcusable price.

I haven’t been following the judicial situation well enough to know what effect, if any, Posner’s dissent might have. The fact that it’s a dissent, i.e. a statement disagreeing with the ruling, suggests that it won’t be much. But I have some hope that seeing a conservative judge come out swinging on this topic might shift the winds a little. There are a number of really scummy things going on in American politics these days, but this is one of the worst: it strikes at the very heart of our ability to make things better.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Sometimes you read something that spins your understanding of a topic around like a whirligig and when it stops, you see things in an entirely new light.

Here’s what my teachers’ should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.”

Which is really just the lead-in for the part that has very direct relevance for today:

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

(See also “The New Racism: This Is How the Civil Rights Movement Ends.”)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (armor)
There's not a lot I can say here. I've been ignoring political news for a while because I can't bring myself to deal with it; most of what's pissing me off is beyond my ability to affect in a meaningful way, so all reading about it does is raise my blood pressure. (Which sometimes could use it. But I don't think that's a medically recommended method of fixing the problem.)

Other people, however, have said very intelligent things.

First and foremost, Tobias Buckell, on EMTALA and how we got to this point. It says something about political coverage in the news that I? Had not actually heard of EMTALA before this. I had heard about it, sure. I knew that emergency rooms had to treat anybody who came in, and worry about payment later. I knew some (not all) of the problems that had produced. But I didn't know what caused it. I didn't know this was a law from Reagan's presidency, and that legislators at the time had kicked down the road the question of how anybody was going to pay for it.

And you know, if I had the power to change one thing about our dysfunctional political system, that might be it: the overwhelming tendency to kick the payment can down the road. Defer spending on infrastructure and other vital things, until it collapses out from under you. I heard somebody say once that this is a fundamental weakness of democracy, and I believe it. When you need to worry about re-election, you go for the quick and easy points, not the things that need to be done but nobody will thank you for them.

Scalzi, as usual, has things to say, but for me his best line is in the comments. Someone there -- clearly thinking he was scoring points by accusing Scalzi of bad rhetoric -- said "In other words, the explanation for the behavior of your political opponents that seems most likely to you is that they are evil. This seems uncharitable and unimaginative." To which Scalzi responded:
You know what, Leonard? Shutting down the whole of the government of the United States in order to force a change (or indeed repeal) in a law offers access to medical insurance to millions that don’t already have it or can’t afford it, because you otherwise don’t have the legislative majority to make changes, thereby putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and costing the nation millions of dollars each day? That’s not a bad definition of banal evil.

Now I hear rumblings that these same folks will try to leverage the debt limit in order to get their way on the ACA. If that’s correct, a willingness to destroy the US’ global financial standing, and disrupting the entire planetary economy, would take the action out of “banal” to actual flat out evil.

To which I have to say, yeah. This shutdown is financially and economically destructive, and it amounts to the Republicans throwing a temper tantrum about a law they failed to prevent, because they would prefer we go back to the good ol' days when millions of people went without medical care or died because they weren't rich enough to be healthy.

Two words: Fuck. That.

ACA is not perfect. But this? Doesn't help anybody.

And then I'll just point you at Fred Clark of Slacktivist, who has said many good and important things: "The 'debt limit' Kobayashi Maru," "What the shutdown means: Unnecessary pain," "The longer the shutdown goes, the more it costs us all," and a more general look at "Another proof of bad faith: The inconsistency of blacktracking." (I prefer the term he quotes later, "pulling a one-hatey," because that one's applicable to circumstances other than those involving Obama. But both terms have a certain rhetorical charm.)

***

My entire life as an eligible voter, I have wished that I could respect the Republican Party. I would probably vote Democratic anyway, but I wish I could look at their behavior and say, "I understand where you're coming from and I respect that, even if I disagree with you." But I can't. I just can't. I look at them and see a pack of dishonest, amoral idealogues who cater to the basest impulses in our political discourse. We need a new Republican Party, stat. One that's actually conservative, rather than reactionary. But I don't think we're going to get it any time soon.
swan_tower: (Default)
There's not a lot I can say here. I've been ignoring political news for a while because I can't bring myself to deal with it; most of what's pissing me off is beyond my ability to affect in a meaningful way, so all reading about it does is raise my blood pressure. (Which sometimes could use it. But I don't think that's a medically recommended method of fixing the problem.)

Other people, however, have said very intelligent things.

First and foremost, Tobias Buckell, on EMTALA and how we got to this point. It says something about political coverage in the news that I? Had not actually heard of EMTALA before this. I had heard about it, sure. I knew that emergency rooms had to treat anybody who came in, and worry about payment later. I knew some (not all) of the problems that had produced. But I didn't know what caused it. I didn't know this was a law from Reagan's presidency, and that legislators at the time had kicked down the road the question of how anybody was going to pay for it.

And you know, if I had the power to change one thing about our dysfunctional political system, that might be it: the overwhelming tendency to kick the payment can down the road. Defer spending on infrastructure and other vital things, until it collapses out from under you. I heard somebody say once that this is a fundamental weakness of democracy, and I believe it. When you need to worry about re-election, you go for the quick and easy points, not the things that need to be done but nobody will thank you for them.

Scalzi, as usual, has things to say, but for me his best line is in the comments. Someone there -- clearly thinking he was scoring points by accusing Scalzi of bad rhetoric -- said "In other words, the explanation for the behavior of your political opponents that seems most likely to you is that they are evil. This seems uncharitable and unimaginative." To which Scalzi responded:
You know what, Leonard? Shutting down the whole of the government of the United States in order to force a change (or indeed repeal) in a law offers access to medical insurance to millions that don’t already have it or can’t afford it, because you otherwise don’t have the legislative majority to make changes, thereby putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and costing the nation millions of dollars each day? That’s not a bad definition of banal evil.

Now I hear rumblings that these same folks will try to leverage the debt limit in order to get their way on the ACA. If that’s correct, a willingness to destroy the US’ global financial standing, and disrupting the entire planetary economy, would take the action out of “banal” to actual flat out evil.

To which I have to say, yeah. This shutdown is financially and economically destructive, and it amounts to the Republicans throwing a temper tantrum about a law they failed to prevent, because they would prefer we go back to the good ol' days when millions of people went without medical care or died because they weren't rich enough to be healthy.

Two words: Fuck. That.

ACA is not perfect. But this? Doesn't help anybody.

And then I'll just point you at Fred Clark of Slacktivist, who has said many good and important things: "The 'debt limit' Kobayashi Maru," "What the shutdown means: Unnecessary pain," "The longer the shutdown goes, the more it costs us all," and a more general look at "Another proof of bad faith: The inconsistency of blacktracking." (I prefer the term he quotes later, "pulling a one-hatey," because that one's applicable to circumstances other than those involving Obama. But both terms have a certain rhetorical charm.)

***

My entire life as an eligible voter, I have wished that I could respect the Republican Party. I would probably vote Democratic anyway, but I wish I could look at their behavior and say, "I understand where you're coming from and I respect that, even if I disagree with you." But I can't. I just can't. I look at them and see a pack of dishonest, amoral idealogues who cater to the basest impulses in our political discourse. We need a new Republican Party, stat. One that's actually conservative, rather than reactionary. But I don't think we're going to get it any time soon.

Go. Vote.

Nov. 5th, 2012 10:52 am
swan_tower: (armor)
This year, voting is more than just the core responsibility of citizenship; it is an act of defiance against malicious political forces determined to reduce access to democracy.

It sounds like an exaggeration, but after the litany of attempts this year to suppress the vote -- ID requirements, shortened or eliminated voting hours, changes in polling places and the number of machines there, striking voters from the rolls -- I really don't think it is. If you're an eligible voter in the U.S., please go vote.

Nobody here will be surprised to find that I think you should vote for Obama. Of the two candidates, he's the one who stands for economic fairness, women's equality, QUILTBAG rights, corporate oversight, and not just bombing the snot out of any country we decide we don't like. But fundamentally, I care most about us having a functioning democracy. Go vote. Even if you live in a state that's guaranteed to go red or blue in the presidential election, there are state legislative positions, local offices, ballot initiatives, and more in which your opinion really does matter. Go vote. Please.
swan_tower: (armor)
In light of Romney's self-inflicted gut wound this week, I find myself dwelling on this piece by Jeremiah Goulka, about how and why he ceased to be a Republican.
The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in. Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal. For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets. Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people. My values shifted -- from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.
[...]
My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality. To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.

Goulka says a lot more, going into detail about how Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War pried the scales from his eyes, but that's the part that I keep thinking about -- because it's the only way I can make sense of Mitt Romney.

I think the man has spent his entire life in a socio-economic bubble so hermetically sealed that he doesn't even realize the world outside it exists. That's how he can see forty-seven percent of this country as moochers selfishly glued to the governmental teat, shirking personal responsibility while the virtuous men of his class keep the country going. That's why he thinks people making two hundred thousand dollars a year are middle class; that's why he can say, with a straight face, that he "inherited nothing." By his standards, those statements are true. But his standards are so skewed, the skew has completely vanished from his field of vision. He's a poster boy for privilege: carrying so much of it, and so utterly blind to the knapsack on his back.

And it means that when he opens his mouth around people from outside his bubble, he comes across as a condescending dick. It's happened again and again on the campaign trail, despite what I presume are the best efforts of his handlers to teach him less counter-productive habits; it happened on a massive scale at that fundraiser, because he never meant those words to be heard by the hoi polloi. It happens when they send Ann out to be his surrogate, because she's been living in the same bubble, a world where she and Mitt were "struggling to make ends meet" back when they were living off his stock portfolio.

During the 2008 campaign, I remember somebody writing a cute post wherein they pretended the presidential election was a piece of fanfic, and criticized it for Obama's Mary Sue qualities and the OOC way John McCain was being written, betraying all his principles in a cynical bid for the win. If 2012 were a workshop story, I'd be bleeding ink all over the page, lambasting the writer for saddling the Republican party with such an unrealistic caricature of arrogant, wealthy, self-interested self-absorption as their candidate. Because even when I can explain Mitt Romney, I have trouble believing that this really what we've ended up with.

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