pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
[reminder: I've been against Obamacare since it was proposed]

I always knew Obama's promise that no one who liked their health insurance would have to change it, that everyone could keep their doctor, was bullshit. It would have been bullshit even if the law didn't expressly forbid some existing forms of insurance, because even if everything was technically legal, Obamacare changed the incentives and people respond to incentives. I knew that what he meant was "we're not instituting the NHS, your choice of doctor will still be between you and your insurance company." Nothing in the law *demanded* providers shrink their networks, but it would be criminally negligent if no one crafting the bill thought of that as a possible thing insurers would do when faced with a demand to provide more care for less money. So yes, Obama either lied or is so profoundly stupid it's amazing we're not giving farm subsidies to water crops with Gatorade.

That said, I think the insistence that Obamacare be a Pareto improvement over the status quo led to a lot of the worst parts of the bill. They reinforced the link between employment and insurance. Let me repeat that: THEY REINFORCED THE LINK BETWEEN INSURANCE AND EMPLOYMENT.



I have just about the shiniest, most employer provided insurance you could have. And I use it. I would definitely suffer financially if the link between employment and insurance was weakened. And I still think it's a travesty they didn't. I can't even use words to describe this, just more My Little Pony gifs



If they had been willing to let some people suffer temporarily, they could have ended up with a much better bill. One that, say, taxed insurance as regular income and thus removed the incentive to pay people in the form of health care, which they then overconsume. Or at least didn't reinforce the link between insurance and employment.

Speaking of employment and insurance and taxes, let's talk about the Cadillac Tax. Rather than, say, tax the cost of the insurance as income, thus weakening the link between employment and insurance, they have this weird excise tax that is higher than the top marginal rate for income tax (although to be fair, not quite the top marginal income tax rate + payroll tax), based on some weird moralism that person A having really amazing insurance is prima facia hurting person B. I had naively assumed that a plan was considered Cadillac because it had a low deductible or co-pay. This turns out to be wrong. It is considered a Cadillac plan if it costs more than a certain amount. Since premiums vary based on demographics, health status, and risk factors like smoking, this is essentially a tax on being high-risk.

Or at least, it should be. Another problem with Obamacare is that it limits the spread between what young people and old people pay, to a ratio far lower than the expected cost for each group. And it bans considering health status entirely. The explicit goal is to have the young and healthy subsidize the old and sick. Government action making one class of people give money to help another is called a tax, except it's going through a private company and is obfuscated by semi-enforcable demands to purchase a product. I hate taxes as much as the next puppy-kicking neocon, but given that we're going to pay them, I would at least like to pay them to the government. Involving a theoretically unlimited number of private companies to collect the tax and distribute the benefits is a gross violation of every reasonable set of principles I can think of.

It's like someone looked around the country and realized that we pay farmersing conglomerates a lot of money to not grow crops, and the return we do get is less and less like real food every year, and trying to fix it by giving the farming conglomerates more money and forcing everyone to pay a portion of their income to their choice of McDonalds, Wendys, or Burger King. And then claiming all the problems are solved because Consumer Choice.

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
The Vyvanse got less and less effective as time went on, and it was impossible to tease apart how much of that was physical acclimation, how much was psychological, and how much was the additional strain from gastro-intestinal ragnarok. Now that the stompocolypse is over, we can better analyze.

First, it did not go quietly. I finished on 10/30. But that was just the stomach/large intestine apocalypse. My doctor has been on my back to do a test for the small intestine since we met in May, but it involves both several steps and fasting and I don't cope well with either of those things. But I wanted it done and I was already taking a long weekend for Samhain and I decided to just do it, and the agony it induced justified time I've ever pondered fasting but decided I couldn't do it. I was very literally shaking by the end of it. That was Saturday morning, and I spent the rest of the weekend recovering. I also took the weekend off from Vyvanse as well, and then started my new, higher dose on Monday.

Here is what I have noticed so far:

  1. Even with the raised dose, it is not quite the magic of my first few days on Vyvanse. That is unsurprising but still disappointing.
  2. Despite the lack of super powers, the dose is high enough to disrupt my sleep. That's well within expected parameters and it may well dissipate, but I miss the time when everything was wonderful at no cost.
  3. And by no cost, I mean no side effects and a nominal amount of money from me. I looked at what Vyvanse costs retail and Jesus I have amazing insurance.
  4. It appears to cost the same no matter what your dose is. Maybe they don't have to worry about pill splitting for schedule II drugs? It annoys me that the FDA has defined any variability in how much I take in a day as fraud of one form or another.
  5. I've stopped using the HCl pills, but use a lot digestive enzyme pills.
  6. My aversion to protein and ravenous desire for fiber that came in the last days before gastromaggedon haven't changed much. I'm nudging myself to eat protein, but it's hard going. What I really want is fiber. All the fiber. Soooo much fiber. I feel like I'm trying to slow down the food in my GI tract.
  7. I stopped wanting junk food about halfway through stompocolypse, and that's stuck around. It has been replaced with a desire to eat all the grapes in the entire world. Grapes have fiber.
  8. Also, for some reason, salmon, which work has steadfastly refused to provide me in the quantities to which I wish to become accustomed. Of course, I was done with salmon after two pieces of sushi, which is not so impressive compared to that entire bag of grapes I just ate.
  9. Between the slow release meth and the four horsemen moving through my stomach, my adrenal glands (never the strongest) were shot. I was really afraid I had pushed myself back to where I was in 2009, and wouldn't be able to keep taking the pills that make my brain actually work. The fear is bad enough I am just assuming that if my doctor AND the lady at the health store both this completely untested herb will help, it must be true.
  10. After three days off I'm feeling a lot better. I was already planning on one dark day a week, I might up that to the entire weekend, at least for now.
  11. Two medical professionals have commented I just look healthier. It's possible they're confusing healthier with thinner (I'm down 25 pounds from June, which is 5 pounds below what I think of as my set weight), but I'd believe my skin and constitution look better too. Maybe I don't look quite so overwhelmed all the time.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm trying to lead up to a big post on affirmative action, but I keep getting side tracked by other things I need to explain first. So here's my latest one: I think discrimination against women and LGBT people is fundamentally different than racial discrimination.

I ran into someone at a party last week who gave me some really awesome career advice. She didn't know me very well, but then it didn't take much effort from her to be really helpful to me, and most people like feeling helpful. I may never see her again, but then I may never again see the man whose brother I saved from wasting four years at Digipen either, and I still feel good about telling him to direct his brother towards a real CS degree. And there are probably thousands of smaller examples of people I knew socially moving something from unknown to known that have benefited me.

Men probably get more of this. It is mostly men in power, and people especially like to help people who remind them of themselves. But the only thing keeping those men from helping me are their choices and mine. I run into men with power as much as my male friends in similar jobs and social strata, and if those men started evenly distributing their largess, I'm in position to benefit. Similarly, while LGBT people face horribly discrimination, as soon as people stop doing that, the wound will close.

This is substantially less likely to be true if you're black, because black people are significantly more likely to be poor. Even if you're black and have money, most of the people you know and are related to don't. I spent my entire life preparing for four-year undergrad college and then grad school, and while it was stressful as hell, it was also very known. Just considering a different kind of schooling (and funding type) after 8 years in the workforce is scaring me; I can't imagine what it's like doing it at 17 when no one you know has been to college.

There are white people with these difficulties too, of course. I know some of them. Part of me thinks it's not fair to devalue their struggle just because of their skin color, but then I remember that white privilege is a thing, and the fact that it would be unfair to group certain people together as then declare that group worse off in an alternate universe does not have a lot of bearing on what I should do in this universe, where there is systemic discrimination.

Because women and gay people don't come from women and gay people, the impact of discrimination isn't heritable.* And that's before taking into account how much easier it is to get white men to empathize with someone who reminds them of their sister or cool uncle. And thus there will be substantially less overlap in remedy than a naive interpretation would have you believe.


*Fun fact: the way heritability is defined scientifically, sex is not heritable. The difference between heritability and genetic determinability is is important to keep in mind when reading genetics studies.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Another metaprinciple is "equality." What do you do if you have an opportunity to advance one of your principles, but only for some people? For example, the GI Bill that sent WW2 veterans to college. I haven't thoroughly researched it, but my gut feeling is that was a pretty good idea: it rewarded people for risking themselves in the one war no one has moral qualms about, it was short term economically beneficial by mitigating a post-war recession caused by a sudden glut of labor during a simultaneous demand drop, it was long term economically beneficial by raising the education level of the country at a time when we had a shortage of educated workers.

The G.I. Bill as written was race neutral, but it was implemented by people, and people implemented it in a racist way. Black soldiers were guided/nudged/pushed disproportionately into trade schools, sent to worse trade schools for worse trades than their white equivalents, and disproportionately denied aid entirely. Even if aid distribution had been truly proportionate, you had to be admitted to a school in order to attend, and universities admissions were still quite racist. There are some very good HBCUs, but not enough to absorb so many new students.

So the bill will disproportionately help poor white people over black people. It may well widen the wealth gap as measured in dollars. But the poorer you are, the more utility you get out of each dollar, and poor black people have fewer alternatives than poor white people. Trade school isn't Harvard, but it might still be better than nothing. Tressie Cottom says functionally the same thing about grad school. It might have a terrible average payoff and have an even worse payoff for black students, but it still might be the best option for some black people, at a higher rate than it is the best option for white people.

[Please also read this account of a VA bureaucrat trying to talk a black veteran out of attending a 4 year school he was already admitted to. The counselor couldn't legally say no, but he did everything he could to deny the man his rights. Now read Tressie Cottom's post on how dressing "up" enabled her mother to convince government workers to give her benefits she was entitled to but otherwise would have been denied. ]

So if you're president in 1944, what is the moral thing to do? Is helping some worse than helping none? What about minimum wage laws that exclude primarily-black occupations? Great Depression public works programs that will only hire white workers? A universal health care program that leaves care of the absolute poorest to the states, and states with high numbers of poor POCs are refusing to participate?

[Full disclosure: I opposed the Affordable Care Act act at the time for many reasons, but I have to admit I was against universal health care. Now I see a place for it, but maintain my belief that the ACA was one of the absolute worst implementations that could possibly exist.]
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
There's a category of things I call metaprinciples. It includes things like states rights and libertarianism. There is never a situation involving just these principles, you can only apply them to other principles. For example, in deciding whether to support a federal law on credit card disclosures, you must both decide how you feel about the actual disclosure, how you feel about it being mandated at all, and how you feel about the federal government being the one doing the mandating.

When you have a metaprinciple and a controversial issue, you have two options:

  1. Only invoke the metaprinciple when it gets the answer your primary principle suggests, e.g. "I'm for states rights when they're passing abortion restrictions, but not when the state is allowing Terry Schiavo to be taken off life support." Opponents will accuse you of hypocrisy and the population at large will dismiss the metaprinciple as political noise.
  2. Invoke the metaprinciple even when you find the particular application bad or even abhorrent, e.g. "I want women to receive equal pay for equal work, but don't want a law mandating such". Opponents will accuse you of holding the opposite view on the primary principle (in this case, "you must want not care if women are underpaid" or even "you must think women deserve less").


Of course, that's only for important and controversial issues. If you ever bring up a metaprinciple in regards to a non-controversy, you will be called pedantic and annoying. See this Colber Report clip:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive



Summary: a woman attempts to poison someone and is convicted under a federal chemical weapons treaty statute. She challenges on 10th amendment grounds and it reaches the Supreme Court (Bond v. United States). Colbert's response "I've always said poisoning was a state's rights issue." Because if you challenge the methods you must oppose the outcome.

I believe that your commitment to metaprinciples is measured by how much violate of your primary principles it will make you tolerate. In what meaningful sense can you be said to value something unless it changes your actions or beliefs? This makes it frustrating for me when proponents of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 accuse opponents of hating women, with no further evidence. It erases the possibility of someone genuinely wanting fair pay and genuinely wanting something else even more.*

Of course, many people are committing choice #1 from above and using a metaprinciple to justify something they wanted to do anyway. You can prove this by looking up their record and finding situations they advocated the opposite, but it's time consuming and much less satisfying.

The other reason metaprinciples are meta is they are often shorthand for primary principles that look unrelated to the question at hand. For example, I think discrimination based on race is morally wrong. But I think private individuals (and thus the companies they own) have an absolute right to choose who they hire and fire, that anti-discrimination laws violate that by making them prove their decisions were just. I worry that this power could be used to for evil, like deny unemployment to anti-government activists, or even allow individual employees to punish their personal enemies.

Of course, the Civil Rights Act and Ledbetter decision suppose the government *does* have that right, they're just arguing over how long it has to enforce it.**

If I say this, and my opponents understand it, we can argue about the second order effects of the laws and come to conclusions about the relative costs and benefits. We might disagree, and I might maintain that the law of unintended consequences means we are likely to underestimate costs, but at least it could be an honest debate.

*In the particular case of the fair pay portion of the Civil Rights Act, that could either be "the federal government has no standing to intervene in private contracts" or the more practical "It is impossible for a jury to evaluate the merits of a wage decision made 50 years ago and I do not believe the documentation costs and uncertainty this law would impose on corporations, some of which will come in the form of reduced risk taking, justifies the benefits for women. I'm worried it may even come back to bite women, Americans with Disabilities Act-style" or even "I want the statute of limitations to extend from last the last paycheck and believe it would be constitutional, but also believe the text of this specific law mandates first paycheck and believe observing the text of laws is important. I support passing the Ledbetter act to change this."


**Although enforcement, and paying for it, falls to the individual. This is one reason I hate these laws: invoking them requires a certain about of social and economic capital, and the more of these people have the less they need the protection. You're imposing a burden on companies to protect themselves from law suits (expensive even if they never lose. Expensive even if a suit is never brought) to give people above a certain critical threshold a tool to get richer, while leaving the truly poor (in money or knowledge or connections) out in the cold. That there are charities that occasionally enable people below the threshold to use the law is great, but insufficient.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
A footnote on the Ginger Snaps thing. If you left that post thinking "man, I want to see werewolves used as a metaphor for something, but I don't want it to be adolescent sexuality, and I want it to be done perfectly.", I cannot recommend Susan Palwick's short story "Gestella" enough. It is about female obsolescence. You can read it in Palwick's anthology The Fate Of Mice, every bit of which is worth reading.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Ginger Snaps is an extended werewolves:puberty/sexuality metaphor. I'm usually annoyed by overt metaphors, but in this case I think it worked, it part because it was so full of context. The relationship between the two leads is wonderfully nuanced right at the outset,* to the point I think you could base a more talky movie on it all by itself. So when menstruation/werewolfization changes it, it actually means something.

Recently I've talked a lot about how comedy can be used to breech people's defensiveness on sensitive topics to get them to hear points of view they otherwise wouldn't. Ginger Snaps does something... similar? opposite? Basically, I can see myself taking someone who was well meaning but clueless and obstinate** and telling them "you remember how Bridget felt when werewolfism led her sister to push her way? Yeah, puberty can do that all on its own, and it feels exactly like that."

Scare wise, it's okay but not astonishing. It started me and scared my hilariously easy to terrify boyfriend. Most of the actors are great, although one of the two leads is either mediocre or has too strong a theater influence. It is not a great sign that I thought this movie came out 15 years before it actually did. And yet, it did some really difficult, important things that very few movies even attempt, and it did them really well. And its mediocrities hew very close to genre standards. So I'm going to say it's definitely worth watching but I hope that 50 years from now it's interesting as an example of where our culture was at the time, rather than a classic.

*It's also got some brilliant examples of how girls use sexuality/fear of sexuality to police each other, which you do not see very often.

**Again, when obstinance costs you your well-meaning card is a tricky subject.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
You could be forgiven for thinking that getting "The HPV Vaccine", or worse, "The Cervical Cancer Vaccine" means you will never get HPV and/or cancer, because that's what a lot of news coverage has indicated, and because public health workers tend to overpromise and obscure details in order to motivate. The truth is that there are many strains of HPV (NIH says >100), there's no reason to believe our list is comprehensive, and a vaccine against one is not necessarily effective against another.

That's okay. HPV is incredibly common, to the point that some scientists think some strains be commensal. That makes it hard to prove what it's effects are: does increased prevalence of strain in renal patients mean it causes renal disease, that it's harmless but increases in prevalence in response to renal stress, or that it's harmless in healthy patients but harmful in the quantities seen in renal patients?

What we can agree on: some strains cause warts. Warts won't kill you, but they can hurt and create a vulnerable point other infections could use. How bad is that? For a modern American who wears shoes all day, plantar (foot) warts are more likely to harm you through bad ergonomics than an opportunistic infection.* If you are poor and shoeless in a sub-saharan Africa that vulnerability is a really big deal. Genital warts make it easier to catch another STD, but the exact probability HPV leads you to another STD you wouldn't otherwise have caught depends on the STD status of the people you have sex with.

We also agree that HPV can cause cancer. You can't prove it's impossible to get cervical cancer without it, but it's probably safe to say that if you do so you've either been storing nuclear waste in your vagina or severely pissed off a vengeful deity. Now that we're looking for it we're also finding certain strains associated with penile, rectal, and oral cancers.

Given that there are a large and growing number of identified HPV strains, some of which might even be beneficial**, and each strain must be separately cultured, increasing expense how do you decide which to vaccinate against ? When making Gardasil, Merck chose four strains, two of which caused 90% of genital warts, and two of which caused 70% of cervical cancer.

Or did they? New data is out suggesting that the vaccine is less useful in black women than white women because black women are more likely to have strains the vaccine doesn't cover. Some people are describing this as "less effective in black women", but that's misleading. As far as we know the vaccine is equally effective against the strains it claims to be effective against*** on a biological level. It's just not useful because black women are much more likely to be exposed to strains the vaccine doesn't protect against. By far the simplest explanation is that whatever study generated the prevalence estimates oversampled white women.

This demonstrates a couple of things. One, the importance of sampling across the entirety of the population you want the data to apply to even if you are really, really sure they're genetically identical. I would not be at all surprised to discover geographic differences in strain distribution. But if I'm correctly interpreting this newspaper article with no link to the underlying study, participants were recruited at the same site and so roughly the same geographic area. Assuming no racial influences on susceptibility or response, this suggests that white and black women, and their partners, are swimming in entirely separate sexual pools.

I'm not that naive. I knew people tended to have sex primarily with same-race partners. But my epidemiology intuition says it shouldn't take *that much* cross over for strains to reach prevalences much closer than what's being reported here, because once a strain has crossed over, it should rapidly colonize a wide open pool.

Alternate possibilities:
  • exposure to one strain makes you resistant but not immune to another, so which you strain you have is correlated much more heavily with early sexual partners than later ones. Without looking it up I'm pretty sure people's first partners are much more likely to be the same race as them. This suggests that the wrong-strain vaccines are still likely to be some helpful, but not as helpful as the right strain.
  • People who engage in interracial sex are atypical in their engagement with their own race. They might have fewer partners, observe a higher standard of sexual safety. or have sex nearly exclusively with members of that race, making them part of that cluster.
  • the true clustering is around a factor other than race but with a heavily non-random distribution, like location or SES.

    *True story: the only time I've ever used crutches is after having a plantar wart burnt off.

    **Commensal is defined as one side (HPV) benefiting and the other side (humans) receiving no benefit. However, if harmless HPV is taking up space on our skin that would otherwise be occupied by something damaging, that's a benefit, like those spiders that avoid humans and eat black widows. Or the HPV could be involved in some weird but ultimately beneficial cycle with the bacteria on our skin. We don't understand the ecosystems within our own bodies at all, and our overconfidence at what can be safely removed has caused a lot of trouble over the years.

    ***Never say never, but I'd be shocked if the per-strain effectiveness differed significantly between races, because even if there was a genetic component, race is a stupid categorization that tells you very little about an individual's genetics.
  • pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    I'm going to take a brief break from the heavy blogging to do some nice, easy criticism.

    I've really enjoyed Ron White's previous specials: They Call Me Tater Salad, You Can't Fix Stupid, and Behavioral Problems. Please enjoy these clips demonstrating why I like him:


    (Ron White: Deer Hunting)



    His latest special is called "A Little Unprofessional". This is not a great start. His first (excluding Blue Collar Comedy Tour) special, "They Call Me Tater Salad", had a really great, evocative name that no one else could have used. His second ("You Can't Fix Stupid") could have been more generic, but it was the punchline to a joke that was utterly his, and once you had seen it you couldn't imagine another comedian using the line. Almost everyone in comedy has "Behavioral Problems", and while I'm sure he used the line in the special, I don't remember it.* But "A Little Unprofessional" is so damn generic, and didn't tie into the act in the slightest. Wait, no, I take that back.

    His act didn't talk about him being unprofessional, his act was unprofessional. Detecting altered states in comedians is hard: many of them do their best work drunk or high and do so deliberately. Others do it because they're addicts, but have been doing it for so long they've worked it into their act, or at least learned to make light of it. And others stay sober but act altered because it's funny.** So I'm very slow to make guesses about a comdian's actual mental state. But I'm pretty sure White was drunk, that he started drunk, and that it was hurting the act.

    One of the things I admired about White was how he made consistency look natural. Like most comedians he doesn't repeat jokes between specials, but between amateur footage, his short Comedy Central Episode, his multiple solo concerts, and the Blue Collar Comedy Central specials, you can find multiple versions of the same joke. Every version you watch looks completely natural, with a lot what look like pauses to think, and spontaneous changes and interesting voices. But if you watch multiple versions, they're fucking identical. Check out this audio-only version of the Drunk In Public bit I posted above.


    I am pretty sure that's a different recording, because the mic quality is different, some of the character voices changed, and you can hear other voices on stage with him (presumably it's Blue Collar Comedy Tour). But the timing is so close I can't be sure. The deer hunting bit was on one of his specials too: I can't find a sharable copy, so please take my word for it that it was the same performance on a different night in front of a nicer camera. And you would never know unless you saw the repeated clips, because he looks so natural every time. I can't stop talking about how amazing that is.

    Or, was. I can't prove the pauses were genuinely because he forgot the joke, or that he isn't doing the same every other night, but it sure didn't look like it, and it sure wasn't aiding the material. His timing was frequently awful, and I'm pretty sure he dropped several jokes halfway through. Where his act used to be mostly long stories with outstanding transitions between them, it is now a lot of short disjointed jokes.

    It still surprises me how much work and feedback you need to take the idea of a joke and turn it into a polished comedy bit. This is why even Jerry Seinfeld still occasionally goes to open mics.*** If a comedian doesn't get that feedback- either because they choose to stop going to open mics, or because audiences are too pre-disposed to laugh at them- you get the comedy equivalent of the writer who's too big to edit. Either Ron White has stopped getting this feedback, or he's stopped listening to it.

    I'm not the only one who feels this way. This special is a marked step down from his previous one: the venue is 1/5 the size of this previous special, and the complete absence of crowd shots
    makes me think it wasn't full. Or maybe they just didn't want to strain their videographer, who was having enough trouble keeping the top of Ron White's head despite both White and the camera being perfectly still. The lighting was mediocre. And it was produced by Country Music Television, not Comedy Central or HBO or even Netflix.

    And while I wanted to take a break from the heavy stuff, I can't let the misogyny or racism slide. He does a joke set in a sushi bar, and caps it off with an impression of the chef's accent. There is no joke except that the foreigner talks funny.

    The case for misogyny is more involved. There is a spectrum: on one side lives specific criticism of specific non-gendered traits of specific people, which is clearly okay. On the other lives broad derogatory generalizations about entire groups, which is clearly not. There is an uncertain middle ground where someone is saying something consistent with widespread stereotypes, but about a specific person, or a subset of the group for which it is legitimately true. You can't put noticing when people conform to stereotypes off limits, but you can use those stories to reinforce stereotypes without acknowledging it, or even meaning to.

    Up until now, I'd put White on the safe end of the spectrum. I wondered why he kept marrying such high maintenance women, but thought the jokes themselves were okay, and they rested in a larger relationship context. Even the woman he'd already divorced came across as a real person who he remembered loving and why. This time around, he described telling a woman talking at the theater to "shut her cock holder", and ended three or four jokes about being annoyed by his wife with "this dick ain't gonna suck itself."

    So in conclusion: not impressed with "A Little Unprofessional"

    *Come to think of it, I don't remember enjoying Behavioral Problems as much as the first two. At the time I'd put it down to watching it with my best friend, two weeks after he transitioned from boyfriend to best friend, and Ron White's main selling point was as a way for us to spend time with each other without crying. It didn't seem fair to expect the same laughs/minute under those circumstances. Although I will note that a week later, Christopher Titus's "Love is Evol" was hilarious as I unpacked my boxes the apartment I had moved to but not yet furnished.

    **I saw Dylan Moran this summer and thought his hungover thing was an act, until he called an intermission- a thing that is never, ever done in single person comedy shows. I assumed he must be completely destroyed to need that kind of break. I double checked that for this post, found reports of intermissions in lots of cities. So maybe it was an act after all.

    ***It's also why comedians are so protective/defensive of other comedians when they say terrible things at open mics. It is really easy to misjudge the proper amount of irony and exaggeration you need to layer into a joke, and if the topic is sensitive it's really easy to say something horribly offensive. I've done it myself. Saying you have to get it right the first time is the same as banning all sensitive topics from comedy.

    Of course, that defense only works if your response to being told you offended someone is "I am horrified that that is what came across, thank you for tell me so I can correct it."
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    When the Mother Jones article on worker condition inside an Amazon warehouse came out, I was not sympathetic. Yes, the company wants you to work fast. I don't consider it damning that a writer on an assignment was unable to meet quota for a highly physical job. Okay, it sounds mean that they will fire you for saying "This is the best I can do" but again, they have the right to retain the fastest workers. It is weird that they will fire you for missing a day your first week, no matter what the excuse, but then hire you back. That's expensive to them and could be fixed with some discretion. And not giving employees lockers is a total dick move. They can't even keep their keys or phones on them in the warehouse, so they have to hide them and pray. Making all the employees break at once is pretty cruel too, given the bottlenecks of metal detector and bathroom.

    Debt talks a lot about how slavery, debt, and ripping people from their contexts are intimately linked. Slaves don't get to have social networks like owners, or even poor free people. Slavery often originates as a way of paying off debts/response to debts unable to be paid. Debt itself is about removal of context- people will do things to get out of debt they never would have for the the same amount of money outright. People will accept treatment of debtors for being debt that they would never accept as conditions for getting out of whatever caused the debt in the first place. Somehow the gap between original conditions (sick child) and when the payment comes due changes the moral calculus. And since money's entire purpose is to reduce the context necessary for economic exchange, it does the same thing.

    I've had shitty jobs, but I never had a McJob, and I am beginning to recognize the importance of that distinction. I have never felt interchangeable. My shittiest job was summer school tutor. The teachers didn't even want me, my position was funded by a federal grant meant mostly to help the tutors themselves, finding people qualified to take the position would have been trivial... and yet, once I was in the classroom and working with kids, I was an individual with an individual position. I was not irreplaceable, but replacing me had a cost. If I had screwed up, the school would have had reason to pause before letting me go. The thing about McJobs is that no matter how good you are at them, you're replaceable. Even the fastest warehouse picker can be replaced by a finite number of other pickers. It's not until you get late 90s level unemployment levels that unskilled labor any leverage over your employers.

    Which explains the unmeetable picker quotas. But why can't they get some g-ddamned lockers? I know the employees are replaceable and the margins low, but I can't imagine there wouldn't be some productivity benefit to employees not spending their entire workday wondering if their car will be there when they get back, and that that benefit exceeds the cost of the lockers. I'm having trouble typing this because I feel like a dirty commie*, but I believe my friends' explanations that it's a deliberate attempt to keep the workers down. That if you consistently tell them they're not even worth lockers, they won't be able to ask for more. I've talked about government and sick systems in poverty, and those are at least nominally designed to help people. Corporations will proudly state they're not allowed to have morals.

    Yesterday I talked about the gaslighting involved in subtle racism: why wouldn't the same thing apply here? Once you've accepted that employers want you to fear losing your phone every day, it's not crazy to wonder if they're deliberately setting your quota beyond what a mortal is capable of so they can yell at you. Especially when they will fire you for not promising to try harder, regardless of what your numbers do. Maybe the McWorkers aren't in a position to judge exactly where economic rationality ends and arbitrary cruelty begins and letting that devalue their point is choosing to let the toxin win.

    *And then I swing around to "only an unfeeling neocon would be feeling that"
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Like rape jokes, I think jokes about racism are powerful and important, and follow roughly the same rules: kick up, don't minimize, don't use it cheaply, and remember that people are worse than you can possibly imagine and your obvious caricature of how awful an opinion is is someone else's reality. I have less freedom to joke about race and racism than rape, because I'm white (which is totally fair and not me being oppressed), but that is not the same as saying white comedians can't talk about race. For example, please enjoy this clip from my go-to social justice comedian, Louis CK*


    [Louis CK: Being White]

    Key phrase: "I'm not saying that white people are better. I'm saying that being white is clearly better"

    Or Wanda Sykes on reverse racism:

    Key phrase: "That's not reverse racism. What you're afraid of is called karma"

    Or Chris Rock on when white people can say the word nigger.


    ETA: Lenny Bruce on the word nigger.


    On the other hand, I have really limited sympathy when your entire schtick is using emotionally charged words, and someone becomes emotional in response to them This seems to be Sarah Silverman's problem. In her autobiography The Bedwetter she talks about telling the following joke on Conan:

    I got jury duty … and I didn't want to go, so my friend said, "You should write something really really racist on the form when you return it. Like, you should put 'I hate chinks'." And I said, "I'm not going to put that on there just to get out of jury duty. I don't want people to think that about me." So instead I wrote, "I love chinks." And who doesn't?
    Note: the original slur was nigger, but NBC made her change it to chink. So it's not like anyone was unaware what the driving force of the joke was.

    In her autobiography, Silverman is really upset at the idea that anyone was offended (i.e. hurt) by this joke. She defends it as not being about Chinese people (or black people) at all, but about her being an idiot. I don't think that's a good defense. At a bare minimum, just using the world chink is reminding every Chinese person who has ever been a victim of overt racism (and I would be shocked if there was anyone who had been completely unscathed by racism) who hears it that racism exists and it is hurting them. That hurts. That invokes pain. And it's not incidental, it is the entire point of using a racial slur. Every joke involving race or racism invokes that pain, and it is their duty to have a point that is worth that cost. Louis CK's joke does: he's making people more aware of how racism is not a thing of the past.**

    Here is the thing: just like jokes can reinforce rape culture without being about rape or sex, and without anyone wanting to imply that penetration without consent is okay, jokes can be racist without being about race. Kayne West (about whom I know almost nothing) said some batshit things on TV. Jimmy Kimmel did a bit on his show where he reenacted the interview with 9 year old children. I didn't see it until after I read the the criticism of it, but if I was seeing it fresh, I don't know if I would have picked up on the racial overtones. It would have been equally funny if it had been a white person spouting nonsense. But as Cord Jefferson points out, calling a black man a boy has a very long and specific history. I knew that intellectually, but I have no faith I would seen the implications in this particular instance. I was going to say that is many ways the greatest white privilege, but generations of accumulated wealth and not having my neighborhood torn apart by militarized police are pretty neat too.

    My comedian boyfriend interpreted Jefferson's article as saying that any mockery of West was off limits. I don't think that's what he meant. I don't think he said anything about jokes one way or the other. I think he was trying to convey that West's abnormalities are not randomly distributed. West doesn't just live in a world where he's discriminated against, he lives in a world where people refuse to acknowledge he's discriminated against. Where the burden of proof is on him to prove the discrimination was racially motivated and not random noise. Which is just about impossible to do in any one instance- some people are universally assholes, some people are nice but having a bad day and sharing it with everyone. And yet over the some total of her life, a black woman will be the victim of a lot more of other people's bad days than I will. Telling black people they're not experiencing racism unless they can prove it is gaslighting.

    For a really good, pure example of this, see the comments thread on a BoingBoing post about a Biology Online editor asking black female scientist Danielle lee, who blogged under the name "Urban Scientist" to write for him for free, and calling her an "urban whore" when she refused (she didn't name him, so I'm not going to either). One of the first comments is someone asking why BoingBoing mentioned her race. From there, the conversation devolved into "but you can't know for sure he was racist! It's a parallel to her blogging name! The fact that he was already using a misogynistic slur has no relevance to his argument! I am so logical and you are being ruled by emotions! Being offended is a choice!". The message being that 1. this man's intentions were the only thing that mattered. Pain caused by a slur used unintentionally is a moral failing of the victim. 2. some people on the internet incorrectly believing this man did something racist is a million times worse than some people on the internet incorrectly believing he didn't do something racist.

    And it's all so focused on a word. Even as they made themselves look like ignorant, racist buffoons, his supporters successfully prevented the conversation from reaching the deeper issue of the severe entitlement issues this man displayed towards Lee, much less the fact that lots of other people, people in power, have those same entitlement issues and the good sense not to call their victims whores in a recorded medium.

    To return to the subject of comedy and subtle racism: let's talk about the Smith kids. Everything I know about them I learned from Suri's Burn Book, but I'm prepared to admit they probably are arrogant little fucks whose parents are buying careers for them. That's what happens when your parents are that rich and famous and beautiful. Are they worse than white children would be, given similar parents? Do they receive more criticism than white children in the same situation displaying the same attitudes? Is that the right question, given that the situations are not the same, that these kids are growing up in a racist world? Are Willow and Jaden entitled to more leeway over attitude problems than white kids? Isn't that the path to infantalizing and invalidating black people?

    The best answer I can come up with is that abstract opinions and interpersonal interactions are very different thing. A young black celebrity offspring is not entitled to cut in line at the DMV (an example I just made up), and if they did the people involved have every right to tell them to cut it out. Race blindness is sufficient to get the not-racist merit badge. But celebrity news sites should go softer on them*** , and adults as well. And yet, coverage on celebrity news can help a celebrity's career. But it seems entirely possible for coverage to be net positive for the individual celebrity but net negative for black celebrities as a whole, or black people as a whole, because it reinforces negative stereotypes.**** But it's the fault of a racist system that black celebrities idiotic actions hurt black people in ways a white celebrity's don't.

    There may not be a fair outcome here. And I hate that. I want there to be something I can do, now, that means I don't have to think about hundreds of years of oppression or violence. Contemplating that there may not be, or that it may require sacrifice of things I feel like I earned, is really scary.



    *Who I learned while researching this post is Mexican. As in, born in Mexico, learned English when he came to the US at age 7, still has Mexican citizenship. Ethnically he's 1/2 Irish, 1/4 European Jewish, and 1/4 Spanish/Indigenous Mexican. HH looks white, and his schtick is very much privileged white guy so I still feel like this is a valid example of how you can talk about race while looking white, and also I didn't want to rewrite 3 paragraphs, but it does complicate the point somewhat.

    **I know I'm spending a lot of time praising Louis CK, but see also this clip on how recent slavery was. "Every year white people add 100 years to how long ago slavery was. I’ve heard educated white people say, ‘slavery was 400 years ago.’ No it very wasn’t. It was 140 years ago…that’s two 70-year-old ladies living and dying back to back. That’s how recently you could buy a guy. And it's not like slavery ended and then everything has been amazing”

    ***To the extent they are talking about children at all. I mostly don't they should, except for Suri's Burn Book, because that is really making fun of the rest of the media. But like I said about feminism last week: being not-racist is not the same as being good.

    ****See: the Flavor Flav Minstrel Show.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    The Hardcore History podcast is another one of those things that makes me mad at my childhood history classes. It is full of context and explanations of why people did things/were driven to do things, not just what they did. With the caveat that I don't know enough history to spot subtle lies, the episodes seem rich and insightful. And the author is just so happy and excited to be talking to me. It's like a really interesting friend wanting to share a really interesting book she just read: you might not have been interested in the topic before, but you are now.

    The episode I am listening to now* is most proximately about US-Cuba relations circa the 1890s and the Spanish American war, but in order to talk about that properly has to talk about American identity politics and how they were affected by the closing of the frontier, the state of journalism**, naval warfare, the views of the time on war in general, impact of the business community on foreign policy, the Cuban revolution and Spain's response, some of the factors that drove Spain's response... And I'm only 1/3 of the way through. This is not a short podcast.

    Here is what strikes me: as the podcast describes it, President McKinley was being driven by two things: fear that Spain (then a fairly weak power) would transfer Cuba (whose location gave it incredible strategic value in war against the United States) to a power that was an actual threat against us (England and Germany being the biggest concerns), and an abhorrence of war after seeing the devastation of the Civil War first hand. Neither of these are bad motives: the abhorrence of war is obviously more universally moral, but I don't think it's ridiculous for the president of a country to worry about expansionist countries with strong militaries gaining an easy foothold near his country. Earlier in the podcast he talks about the US business/economic interests in Cuba, but does not mention them influencing McKinley directly on this issue (although gold-standard wise he was closely allied with the business community, and business interests were influencing the news coverage that influenced popular opinion).

    McKinley desperately did not want to have to choose between going to war or letting
    a strong power establish a base in Cuba. So he oriented all his actions around preventing it from coming to that. Most obviously by suggesting a limited independence for Cuba, which he hoped would get the rebels to lay down arms while not leaving Cuba free to ally with other powers, but there was also a general policy of "let's wait and see if this solves itself." The problem is that in the meantime, the Spanish were herding Cuban farmers into camps and leaving them to starve or die of yellow fever (the Reconcentrado policy). To be fair, the rebels had extracted resources at the point of a gun from farmers as well, but nothing on that scale. McKinley's wait-and-see policy left these people to wither and die.

    As I see it, the problem was that McKinley applied his moral values to one hypothetical choice, saw it would be a difficult one, and directed his efforts to steering conditions away from ever having to make that choice without applying his values to the choices he made as part of that effort. His abhorrence of war was ultimately born of an abhorrence of suffering, something Spain was causing just fine within McKinley's wait-and-see policy. I think this kind of cognitive dissonance causes a lot of the worst decisions in human history: a decent person, seeing that two of their values may soon come into conflict, compromises those same values in order to avoid that choice. And it's not something you can solve by telling people to buck up and be more moral, because that only makes the aversion stronger.



    * Fine, the only episode I've listened to.

    ** Apparently there is always a new mass media driving people to demand intervention in events they previously would have ignored
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    It turns out that it was not so much illness affecting my stomach as my stomach affecting an illness. I mentioned an attempt to treat my digestive problems as an aside to my Ode To Vyvanse, but three weeks later the stomach treatment is a much bigger influence on my life. The treatment could best be described as "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." The weapons may be particularly effective against H. pylori and my mystery parasite, but mostly we are rooting out everything so as to leave my stomach an empty canvas, on which we can paint the ecosystem of our choice.

    This was all going fine (module moderate cold-like symptoms) until my two week check up (it's a 30 day treatment), when I told my doctor things were going fine, and she upped my dose significantly. Now I have a lot of gastroitestinal... not pain, but ickiness, discomfort, and nausea. My cold symptoms are alleviating only slowly, and the nausea gets much worse if I'm in a moving vehicle. I'm back to not really being able to digest protein, even with *a lot* of pills. I went through $40 worth of digestive eynzymes in 4 days.

    For a while I was treating this with Pepsi, but ginger tea has supplanted it. Unfortunately the loss of caffeine plus inevitable attenuation to the Vyvanse means my ADD symptoms are returning. Not as bad as they were, but enough that they're a burden.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Feminism is a very broad term. Every time I start trying to describe how broad I freeze up, because I know I'm only familiar with the kinds you find on the internet, which is not perfectly represented, and even then I'm much more familiar with some parts than others. Mostly the parts that are relevant to me, like consent culture and paying highly educated women more money.

    Feminists make fun of the term "I'm not a feminist, but...", implying that the speakers want the benefits of feminism without the social cost of admitting it. My own mother said I was spitting on the back of Susan B. Anthony when I (age 14) said I wasn't a feminist. This only makes sense if you consider feminism synonymous with equal rights and opportunities for women. That's a pretty bold claim to make. A lot of poor and non-white women have criticized feminism/The Feminist Movement for focusing exclusively on the problems of upper middle class white women (e.g. the leaky pipeline in academia) while ignoring problems affecting them (e.g. the mistreatment of pregnant women in prison). At times their goals can be actively contradictory because their situations are so different- rich white women are denied sterilization they request while poor black women are sterilized without their knowledge. When these women refuse to identify as feminists, they're not saying they're okay with the status quo, they're not failing to give Susan B. Anthony her due, they're just refusing to pretend that TFM is working for them. Which is probably why mainstream feminists get so upset about it.*

    That is a really charged example, but there are lots of other ways that people can disagree about what counts as "advocating for women". I wish I was informed enough and clever enough to point out ways this is happening that no one else has thought of, but I'm a dilettante with a lot of privilege, so I can't. The ways I can think of are things other people have already pointed out: the second wave fought for the right to say no to sex, the third is fighting for the right to say yes. People are simultaneously fighting for the right to have children (and have the costs of those children subsidized by other people**) and fighting the stigma against childlessness. The second wave fought to get women into corporate jobs, parts of the third are fighting for greater respect for the work of childrearing. None of these are strictly opposed, but supporting one without hurting the other requires an inconvenient level of nuance.

    Ultimately the question is: do we want the same world we have now, except without gender based-proscriptions, or do we want a different world, and if so, which one? If feminism were strictly about equality, than success would be black women being discriminated against exactly the same as black men, and racism itself would be orthogonal. I of course think racism is bad and being racist makes you a bad person***, but it's not clear to me it should make you a bad feminist. Feminism is not a synonym for good things.

    The Feminist Movement seems to be a lot of more socialist than I am, and finds severe income inequality in and of itself problematic. I believe that income inequality is often symptomatic of a problem, and extreme poverty is a problem, but do not care if some people make truly ridiculous amounts of money in a fair system. And while I think gender-based discrimination is morally wrong, I dislike a lot of anti-discrimination laws on both practical and moral grounds. I should be able to disagree about means without feminists accusing me of secretly hating women or not caring about discrimination.****

    I wish Lean In had taken a little bit wider view and discussed the work system as a whole. I think the live-to-work mindset is hurting women and men both. I really wish Sandberg had talked about why she finds striving for the top so rewarding, instead of taking it as a given. As I was typing this a friend sent me a link to The Messy Link Between Slavery and Modern Management and before I finished the description I dismissed it as "that's not fair to tar trade by mutual agreement with the same brush as slavery, just because the same tool can make both better." It took me a few minutes to question "why is maximizing number of widgets the goal?". I know why it's the goal of any given company, but how did the system end up that way? I have this nagging feelings that there are systems where that wouldn't be the case, but I can't conceive of them any more than a fish can conceive of brachiation.

    If I have a point, it's that I wish more people questioned more assumptions, and I wish that was decoupled from the feminist movement. I may even wish there wasn't A Feminist Movement, but that feminist was an adjective applied to other movements, like socialism and anarchism and especially libertarianism and/or free market socialism, whichever one I end up going with.

    *I tried to find good blog posts to demonstrate this. The first page of results for "feminism racist" is exclusively white feminists and mainstream news, plus one by a PUA. The white bloggers linked to black bloggers: almost all of their blogs were either gone or restricted access. Part of this is that I still pine for 2007 and have failed to adapt to a post-twitter world, but part is that race and gender bloggers have a frighteningly high burnout rate.

    **My belief is that once the kid is here, it's a defenseless person and society does have an obligation to give in a decent shot at life. But I'm very uncomfortable with that framed as the right of the mother to have as many children as she wants, regardless of her ability to take care of them.

    *** to the extent that being bad person is a thing, which it mostly isn't, and it's even less rarely a helpful framework, but I really want to risk condoning racism and it makes for a really nice parallel sentence structure

    ****Something no one has said to me personally, but is often said about people with similar beliefs. People who may well be acting in bad faith, but the idea that someone could believe in gender equality but think preserving the right to free association and the commerce clause was more important than the marginal benefit from this particular law is never even considered.

    Lean In

    Oct. 21st, 2013 01:38 pm
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    In summary: if a man had written this book, it would be mansplaining.

    Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook and was previously an executive at Google. Lean In is not a memoir. That's too bad, because with a good ghostwriter she could have written a really good memoir. Just getting in on the ground floor at Google and Facebook is a good story. Doing so as an older, non-technical woman shows serious chops. And even if it was a bad story, it's hers, and I can't criticize her telling of her story. But her goal for Lean In was to encourage young women to pursue ambitious careers and give them the tools to do the same. As a late-20s female programmer, this topic is relevant to my interests. But the book just isn't very good at either of those things.

    As far as encouragement, she tells women not to be held back by people telling them they can't or shouldn't. But she never actually makes a very strong case for why we should want to in the first place. Sheryl Sandberg's network is estimated at $400,000,000. Those estimates could be off by a factor of 100 and it would still be enough money that no amount of additional money could motivate me to work as hard as she does on anything, ever again. She talks a lot about what she sacrifices with her kids to do her job, and all I wanted to do was ask her what she got out of her job that was worth that sacrifice, because it clearly wasn't the money.

    That's not rhetorical, by the way. I think the answer to that question would be really interesting. And yes, I ask it of insanely wealthy men too, even ones who aren't complaining about what their jobs cost them.

    Skill wise, I can see a good book going one of two ways: pretend there's no sexism and teach women to act like successful men, and let them deal with the fallout, on the theory that it will equalize eventually, or acknowledge that the same action can be read very differently based on the gender of the actor and give tricks for working around it.* Things that we shouldn't have to do, but will help us in this imperfect world. Sandberg gives two of those, one of which is really quite smart. But mostly she lists ways she wishes the world was different. I say that because she does acknowledge that women are punished for behaviors men are rewarded for, and that their "ineffective" behavior is in part a result of this punishment, but keeps listing all the ways women behave ineffectively. It's not helpful.

    For a woman who spends a lot of time lauding feminism and imploring women to help each other, her book is curiously devoid of any feminist work more recent than Betty Friedham. Navigating a workplace that is theoretically open but covertly hobbling you is not a novel topic in feminism. Lots of people have put a lot of thought into this. Are these people COOs of major corporations? No, and that would definitely give Sandberg additional insight. But to completely ignore all the work other women have done on the topic, while discussing how women's contributions tend to be undervalued, is pretty disrespectful.

    To be fair, for all my age, gender, and job make me the target market for this book, I'm probably much better read in feminism than she had in mind. As a 101 book , you could do a lot worse. But doing feminism 101 is also not a new topic, and she could have used lessons from feminist writers to make her book better at that too. The book talks about how men often get credit for ideas originally pitched by women, and I think this is a perfect example of how gender is not quite the problem, it's just the stand in for it. Sandberg can't help but get more traction than some random blogger, but like we're always telling men and white people, it's your job to use that platform to shine attention on better thinkers who are being ignored.

    *I can't find the name of it now, but one such book said something like "Statistics show that no matter how much supportive noise a man makes when you're dating, he will sacrifice your career for his own. The only real defense is to marry someone with significantly lower earnings potential, so neither of you can afford for you to stop working." It sounds creepy and unromantic and Machiavellian, but I respected the honesty.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    My boyfriend had to leave his last apartment before he could line something else up, is crashing with me while he finds a new place. We took pains to distinguish this from romantic living together: I moved my computer into the living room and turned the computer room back into a bedroom, where he sleeps, and he uses the guest bathroom. He sleeps in my bed and uses my bathroom only on "date nights", as if he lived somewhere else but was spending the night. It's a little awkward to describe, but it works.

    When I told friends he was staying with me, even after I explained that it was not Living Together, they looked skeptical and often pained. They would ask "how is that going?" in the same tone you might ask about someone's bitchy mother in law moving in. Not wanting make it worse through the power of negative expectations, but wanting to make it clear I didn't have to pretend everything was okay. I understood this from the ex-boyfriend who lived with me for 2 years, but from everyone else it annoyed me. Why were they assuming it would be so horribly taxing for me? I'm not that anti-social, and we had Taken Pains. I cheerfully told them that it was working out great; not an ideal situation, but I'd miss him when he was gone, although that would probably not be true forever and I wanted him to move out while it still was.

    The limit of that feeling turns out to be about two weeks. Starting week three I entered a miniature version of the introvert death spiral, where I both crave time around him/feel bad when he's not there, but also crave alone time and stop being fully present with him. The good news is I recognized it fairly early and we're discussing solutions.* His exact words were "we will get you what you need."

    The thing is, I don't know what I need. I feel like I want more time with him, but that seems to be making me unhappy. I feel miserable about the idea of kicking him out for a day when he wants to spend time with me and I want to spend time with him. And yet, I've tried listening to that set of instincts and they are not taking me where I want to go. The only logical response is to reduce contact even while I feel like I'm missing something, and see if it makes me happier. But it would be a lot easier if my intuition was working.


    *Before he decided to take me up on my offer of temporary shelter, he worried that moving in might make me resent him. One of my smarter moves was promising to talk to him before it came to that, rather than that that could never possibly happen. Being a grown up is amazing.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Long, long ago, a blogger I liked posted about the prison healthcare system. It's atrocious everyone in the USA, but especially in her state of California. CA has tried to save money by using private prisons, which were handling prisoner health care horribly (although it's not clear to me how it compared to state-run prisons). She had a longstanding fascination with libertarianism, and asked "Libertarian readers, I think private prisons are a thing you support, and I think they're doing really horrible things here. What is your stance? What health care do you think prisoners should have, and how should we get it to them?" As I remember it, she was talking less about responses to obvious, acute things like stabbing, and more about things that were fuzzy and chronic.

    My response? "I think the biggest contribution we could make to inmate health is to stop putting them in rape factories. Until we've dealt with the prison rape problem, worrying about cancer treatment is misplaced." Which, I will admit, sounds dangerously close to "you can't have feelings about men violating your clearly stated boundaries while female circumcision is practiced". But I don't think it's the same, and not just because we're actually talking about the same people and institutions in my example. What I wanted to convey was that the institutional rot in prisons was deep, and leading to worse outcomes than prisoners dying of cancer, and removing the rot would require a complete rethinking of how prisons work. This would probably incidentally help with the health care issue too. Libertarianism has a lot to say about whether jail is ever justified, and if so for what crimes, and how do we determine that, but by the time someone is in prison? Consumer choice is by definition absent, and libertarianism is irrelevant.

    That was how I felt reading Emily Yoffe's widely disparaged piece on alcohol and sexual assault First, I wanted to punch her for acting like she was a lone brave voice fighting against a feminist conspiracy to leave women ignorant of gender-specific dangers.* Then I wanted to punch her for conflating "drunk but functional woman consents to acts she wouldn't have while sober" and "alcohol renders woman incapable of physically preventing an assault." Then I wanted to punch her for saying it was her daughter's "responsibility" to prevent her own rape but merely "advantageous" for her imaginary son to avoid being accused of rape. But after I got the punching out my system, I realized I was punching at ants. Yoffe is looking at the intersection of two different systemic rots and concluding the symptoms are the problem.

    The first is rape culture- the fact that a man can get a reputation for "if you're drunk and he's around, you have sex with him" and still get invited to parties. The solution to this is enthusiastic consent culture, which involves less teaching teenagers "drunk people can't say yes" and more "sex with someone who genuinely wants it is amazing, settle for nothing less, and don't tolerate people who do." This won't work on people for whom predation and violation are the point, but if Yoffe thought they were the major problem she would have written a very different article. Solving the interaction of rape culture and binge drinking by ending binge drinking still leaves rape culture in tact.

    The other is why college students are binge drinking at all. What are they getting out of it? It doesn't look like fun to me even if it was a rape preventative. She briefly touches on it, but her best solution is "more friday classes", which makes me think she has not fully considered the issue. One possibility is that binge drinking is a vulnerability ritual- in which case, warning women of the dangers is about as effective as warning teenage boys driving fast is dangerous. If that is the case, we need to ask why a ritual type generally performed privately with a trusted few is being done in public with strangers. The answer could be gendered (in that women are pressured to place trust in men who haven't earned it), but I suspect there's a large gender neutral component that has serious implications for the state of our social fabric.

    Of course, we don't want to wait on those issues to be solved to stop rape. It is entirely possible that the best choice for a woman is to curtail drinking she would otherwise enjoy because of the risk of rape. And she should be given accurate information to with which to weight that risk. But her drinking was never the cause of the issue.



    *Because that's what feminism is known for. Seeing situations where women face more risks or penalties than men, and insisting everyone ignore it.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Rape jokes are important to me. I guess that's because rape is a big, scary thing, and humor is how I deal with big scary things. It's also useful for engaging with people on the other side: while the failure mode of clever is asshole, successful jokes can get people to sympathize with points of view they would otherwise reject out of hand. It's not a substitute for a good argument, but it can overcome kneejerk resistance and get people to listen to arguments that they would otherwise refuse to listen to. For example, see Louis CK's brilliant "Of course, but maybe..." bit, where he cleverly builds up to getting the audience to acknowledge the parallels between acknowledged slavery, the Chinese railroad workers of the 1800s, and the iPad factory workers of today.



    I love Louis CK so much.

    Or take the concept of "rape culture". It takes a lot of words to explain and even then a lot of pretty good people* will respond with "but she needs to acknowledge her responsibility for the risks she took" or "but asking for consent kills the moment" and then everyone is frustrated because you think they're suborning rape and they think you're accusing them of being a rapist and you know they don't want to violate anyone's consent and getting angry won't help, but expecting women to not hurt men with their own feelings is PART of rape culture and...

    Or you can say what cracked said:
    "Rape culture" is the normalization of sexual violence against women, treating it like something that just happens and blaming or shaming the victims. You see it in the news: If you can replace "rape" with "rain" and the story still works, that's rape culture. Was the woman wearing too little? Out too late? Would she have been fine if she'd stayed at home reading a nice book on etiquette for ladies?
    That is so fucking brilliant I am angry I read it because now I can't use it in my own act. It is not a perfect explanation of rape culture. It does not touch on male entitlement at all. It is not even particularly close to the finallyfeminism101 definition. And yet, I think that joke has done more for consent culture than the very dedicated efforts of many feminists.

    In that spirit, I was going to try to make fun of Emily Yoffe's parade o' victim blaming, but it ended up just being the same criticisms in a sarcastic tone of voice. Making this shit funny is hard.


    *Defining good is tricky. It is harder to believe the right thing when a wrong belief is culturally embedded. And yet, it is still a wrong thing, and acting on it still leads to wrong actions that the actors are responsible for.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    My digestive system and my immune system are at odds, and it is annoying me.

    My immune system hates wheat, milk, and eggs. If I eat them, my lymph nodes swell and I feel generally sluggish and icky.

    I don't produce enough digestive enzymes. If I don't supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes, eating anything with real nutritional value, like vegetables and meat, makes me feel ill. I can feel it sit in my stomach and rot. In my stomach's ideal world, I live on bagels and pasta, but of course that is not good for anyone, and is especially bad for people with wheat sensitivity.

    I'm sick. My digestive system is even more sluggish than usual, to the point that real food makes me feel icky no matter how many pills I take. My stomach could handle small amounts of simple carbs- but my immune response to wheat hasn't gone away. There is nothing I can eat that will make everyone happy right now. The compromise has been marshmallows and dark chocolate, which are are easy calories that are nonetheless gluten free. You can tell my nutritionist is cool because she said that was not an ideal long term solution but a perfectly good way to cope with the situation at hand.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    I thought this article by an feminist Orthodox rabbi grappling with the traditional daily prayer to thank G-d for not making him a woman was really interesting. I'm not big on observing tradition, but that almost makes me appreciate it more when other people spend a lot of effort upholding it. Both because I think there's some value in the continuity for its own sake, and because things often become traditions for reasons, and those reasons may still be around even if we've forgotten them. And there is something beautiful about submitting to something larger than yourself even when you disagree with parts of it.

    OTOH, I think it's disingenuous to say "but tradition!" when you can see a lot of the social forces that formed the tradition, and they are things you claim to reject. Wedding traditions are the perfect example of this. Asking a woman's father for permission to marry her clearly arose from the tradition of women as property AND is clearly treating her as property now. I don't think there's a feminist way to do it. But even though engagement rings are descended from the same system, and I still think they're sexist and reinforce a lot of bad patterns and I don't want one, I do think it's possible to do engagement rings in an aware, feminist way that, if not ideal, falls well within the realm of compromises we all have to make to live in the world. And I will accept "yes, it's sexist, but the ring makes my life easier because men respect it far more than they respect the word "no"" in a way I wouldn't accept "yes, it's sexist, but it meant a lot to my dad".

    On the third hand, it's not realistic to expect people to go from sexist to perfect. I want to give this rabbi points for thinking about these things even if he hasn't come to a conclusion I like yet, because just thinking about them is hard. I thought his first few paragraphs were really great, honest, explorations of the difficult choice in front of him. If he had just done that, I'd think he was pretty cool. But I found the second half, where he listed all the reasons the being a man was awesome and pledged to make that less true, really evasive. The blessing won't be any less traditional if sexism is solved, is he still going to say it then? All the things he lists are true, but they're also secular- is he working to diminish gender inequity of Orthodox Judaism in other ways? A lot of those are traditional too.

    I came on this article via this response, via the author's blog where she talks about Judaism and gymnastics. I had no idea gymnastics could be so interesting.* Anyways, her response was basically "you don't get to tell women this isn't offensive", and more generally "you don't get to tell the less privileged what is and is not oppressing them." Which are very fair points, somewhat wider in scope than mine, and yet also reflecting that fact that the author (Jewish, formerly Orthodox) has much more invested in this particular fight than I (never Jewish) do.

    *The Judaism part is interesting too, but that didn't surprise me.

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