Category Archives: Social Issues

The Struggle to Defeat Transphobia: Our Challenge as Allies

Transphobia: A sense of disgust, hatred, dislike, or fear of people whose identity falls outside conventional societal gender norms.

I was prompted to write about transphobia by a close family member who identifies as transgender.  She – and I – are concerned about the uptick in violence towards anyone perceived as “the other”, especially those folks who do not conform to binary gender roles.

This is another result of the rise of right-wing extremists, unleashed by the GOP and their bigoted leadership (especially in the White House).

Aside #1: To those who insist, even now, that 45 has always been “pro-LGBTQ”, let me remind you that there have been many anti-LGBTQ policies and “recommendations” since 45’s been in office (for a list of just a few, see  “Trump promised to be LGBTQ-friendly.  His first year in office proved it was a giant con”, German Lopez, Vox website, 1/22/18).

There has been an 86% increase in anti-LGBTQ violence since 45 took office (“Report Shows Massive Increase in Anti-LGBTQ Violence Since Trump Took Office”, David Lorh, Huffington Post online, 1/22/18).  That includes 52 hate-based homicides.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that even 1 homicide is too much.

This is scary stuff.  From harassment by bigots online, to homicides committed against people for just being themselves, the increase in hateful words and murderous deeds should worry everyone who has a heart and a conscience.

Considering that conservative estimates are that 4.1% of Americans, or 10 million, identify – at least to Gallup and other pollsters – as LGBTQ, chances are that you probably know someone, or are related to someone, who is LGBTQ.  That includes 7.3% of Millennials, who report the largest numbers overall (“In U.S., More Adults Identifying as LGBTQ”, Gary J. Gates, Gallup website, 1/11/17).

Those are just the people who report that they are LGBTQ, however.  Especially in this current climate, the numbers could be higher.

My point is, even if you don’t care about this issue, this danger, as something likely to happen to you, it’s quite possible it will be important to someone you care about.  Someone you care about could be suffering from bullying, or worse.

All because of who they are.

How is that, in any way, acceptable to a society which (used to) pride itself on its tolerance and diversity?

And what can we, as allies, do about it?

Well, I’m happy you wondered that, because I ran across an article on the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) website called “Tips for Allies of Transgender People”.

It’s a short read, but it lays down the basics of how to support people and how not to be part of the problem.  Tips include: don’t out someone, don’t ask them what their “real name” is, don’t make assumptions about their sexual orientation (that’s different from gender identity), respect how they refer to themselves (this includes pronouns), and don’t try to show your support by giving them backhanded compliments (“You look just like a real woman”).

In terms of addressing broader issues such as bathroom access, civil rights, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment voiced by people in the general public, you can and should at the very least educate people.

For example, the idea that allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms will put children and women in danger of being victimized by sexual predators is a straight-up myth. Yet, time and time again I hear this “argument” bandied about by people who really ought to know better.

It’s important that we explain to people why this is not true.

A great article on this is called “Church More Dangerous for Kids Than Transgender Bathrooms”, on the Patheos website.  I like it because it provides a familiar reference point for many of the people who think this myth is true – church.  Many of the folks who spread this false information are religious.

Aside #2: Yeah, even the “hate the sin, love the sinner” types who think it’s ok to be transgender as long as it’s “not in their face” or in any way connected to being actively gay/lesbian.  Sigh.

The article contains statistical nuggets that you can use to explain the facts to people, such as:

1.  90% of child molesters target children of family members and friends, and the majority are men married to women (The Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute).  Not strangers.

2.  From 1950-2013, over 17,000 victims made sexual abuse accusations against Catholic clerics (US Conference of Bishops Report, 2014).

3.  Lest the person you are trying to educate thinks this is all confined to the Catholic Church, a group of Protestants has launched a program called “Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment” (GRACE) that addresses this problem.  They state that there are, on average, 70 accusations of sexual abuse per week within Protestant churches.

Then you can finish your educational session by citing the statement from over 300 experts in sexual assault prevention that says giving transgender people the right to use the correct bathroom (as defined by them, not by you or anyone else) does not put women or children at risk for sexual assault (National Alliance to End Sexual Violence as quoted by the National Center for Transgender Equality website).

You can also do the many things progressives do to support any cause they care about, as well.  Things like writing your Congressperson, signing petitions, joining/supporting organizations, voting out bigots, and attending rallies and town halls.

And, also important – listening.  Not inserting your issues into the discussion.  Being supportive.

A good resource is the largest family and ally organization that helps LGBTQ people and those who love them: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), founded in 1973.  They support LGBTQ causes and oppose bigotry and “conversion therapy”.  They have local chapters, and there is probably one near you.

Aside #3: Of course, there isn’t a chapter within 50 miles of where I live, but there is one in Memphis.  Another reason I really need to move.

Even if you don’t know any LGBTQ people, it’s worth checking out some of these websites I cited, just for your own political/personal development.  Chances are, you’ll run smack into a bigot one of these days, and it’s nice to have a well-rounded point of view to convey.

Because saying nothing is not an option.  Not when the bigots are so loud, so prevalent, and so sure that no one will challenge them.  We can’t let that slide.  We need to stand up for others.

Weird news of the week: Dumb place of the week award goes to Saginaw, Michigan, where a customer at a fitness center caused a panic when he showed the name of a WiFi network called “Remote Detonator” to a manager.  The manager evacuated the place and called the cops (“WiFi Network Called ‘Remote Detonator’ Prompts Gym Evacuation”, Associated Press via the ABC News website, 4/16/18).  Bonus weirdness: Former FBI Director James Comey meets Ghostface Killah and Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan backstage at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (Spin website, scroll down to the bottom of the page).  It just seemed surreal to me.

Recommendation of the week: The websites I mentioned in this post are my recommendations for this week.  I haven’t done much this week except hobble around with my sore toe and curse the snow that won’t seem to go away!

Be good.  Be kind.  Be a good and kind ally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DHS All Up in Your Internet: Don’t Panic…Yet

5 days ago, Forbes published an article titled “Department of Homeland Security Compiling Database of Journalists and Media Influencers” (Michelle Fabio, Forbes online website, 4/6/18), in which they made a reference to a posting by Homeland Security asking companies to submit “capabilities statements” for doing “media monitoring”.

Aside #1: I find it odd that I haven’t seen this news blasted all over TV and the internet.  Too much going on with the White House, I guess, what with the FBI raiding the president’s lawyer’s office and all.

Homeland Security is already monitoring social media accounts of immigrants, as reported in September of last year (“DHS Wants to Monitor Immigrants’ Social Media. No One Knows What They Will Do With This Information”, Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact website, 9/29/17).  Oh, and that includes green card holders and naturalized US citizens – and the people with whom they interact, which of course includes US citizens who were born here.

When you add these 2 things to the revelation about Cambridge Analytica mining the data of not only 87+ million Facebook users but an untold number of people via online survey sites like E-Rewards (that subcontract out their surveys to different companies), it seems that no one’s information is safe anymore – not their likes and dislikes, their buying habits, their age/gender/location, and now their political views (“Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining: What You Need to Know”, Ian Sherr, CNET website, 4/9/18).

Aside #2: I got one of those notices from Facebook telling me my data had been compromised because of something called “My Digital Life” – a quiz that 200,000 or so people took that also hijacked their lists of friends so their data could be mined, too.  I didn’t take that quiz so they got me via some friend of mine who did.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist – clearly I don’t care who knows my political views or buying habits, as I blog about politics and take online consumer surveys – but the bigger issue is whether or not somebody should be able to get information about you without your permission. 

For example, I have never allowed an app or a survey to connect to my Facebook page, mostly because I don’t want them to get to my friends’ data that way.  They got you anyway, sorry.

It seems to me that unless you go completely offline, and do not have a social media account, do not comment on websites, or don’t even Google anything, someone somewhere has some data on you.

Even if all you do is order products online, someone still has some data on you.  And who knows – I don’t, certainly – what home assistants like Alexa know about you?

This latest news about DHS monitoring “media influencers” is troubling.  What does that even mean?  YouTube “stars”, bloggers who have a certain number of followers, people who follow and comment on the Idiot’s Twitter account, people who do podcasts, commenters on political sites such as Raw Story and Daily Kos?

How many millions of people would that be?

This would not be a daunting task, I suspect, because there are computer programs that can find people on a DHS “watch list” such as this.  Just think of how quickly and how much a search term in Google returns – when I Googled “how many returns per search term”, I got 125 million hits in 6 seconds.  How hard would that be to search the web for parameters set by DHS?

Basically, we’re all going to be on some watch list, somewhere. And under this administration, that can be particularly scary.

We do, of course, have this thing called the First Amendment.  It guarantees freedom of expression, speech, the press, and assembly.  It states that the government can neither establish a state religion, nor restrict religious practices.  It also guarantees the right to petition the government.

But we also have sedition laws, which hinge on whether or not the “seditious” speech or action is an “imminent threat”.  There have been very few prosecutions in this country for sedition, mostly because we do have the right to “agitate” – for lack of a better word – under the First Amendment.

It’s that pesky “imminent threat” definition that makes things a bit murky.

Considering we have a president who stated last night that the raid on his lawyer’s office and hotel room was “an attack on our country” (“Trump Denounces FBI Raid on His Lawyer’s Office as an Attack on Our Country”, Michael D. Shear, NY Times website, 4/9/2018), who knows what “imminent threat” will mean to a Republican-appointed DHS?

Add this to the fact that dangerous man John Bolton (the new national security advisor) just fired the head of DHS – no doubt for being not far enough to the right – and things start to look a bit alarming.

It’s all concerning right now, but we don’t need to panic.  At least not until we see new prisons and detention centers being built.

Hopefully, this administration will either be gone or severely restrained (think “midterm elections”) before that happens.

Weird news of the week: “Why is Orange Snow Falling Across Eastern Europe?”  Insert your own 45 joke here.

Recommendation for the week: I may have recommended her before, but it’s worth doing again.  If you want to know – really know – what’s going on in the White House and politics, you won’t do better than watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  And if you don’t watch MSNBC, you can still hear her on her podcast.  She lays things out so clearly, and explains them so thoroughly, that you will learn quite a bit every time you tune in.

Be good.  Be kind.  Knowledge is capital, knowledge is power.

 

 

 

The Politics of Gaslighting

This is a picture of a gaslight.   It was invented in England in the 1790s, and by the next century it was on streets and in houses, being the main form of lighting in England and also in the United States (“Lighting a Revolution”, National Museum of American History website, no author or date noted).

A feature of this type of lighting was the ability to turn the gas up or down, making the lighting brighter or dimmer.  It is this ability that is the subject of the 1944 film “Gaslight”, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer (which was adapted from a play written by Patrick Hamilton (“Gaslight”, IMDb website, no author or date noted).

The character played by Charles Boyer was trying to drive his wife (played by Ingrid Bergman) crazy by turning the gas up and down, when supposedly she was the only person in the house at the time.  The husband would tell his wife that she was imagining this, making her doubt her own perceptions.  He hid and moved other objects, too, always stating that the objects were either not missing, or she stole them, or otherwise manipulating her.

This is where the term “gaslighting” comes from – I bet you’ve heard it used once or twice.

This form of manipulation is on public display every time 45 or one of his surrogates speaks.  It’s more than just “spin”, it’s an attempt to reframe reality in such a way that, once ensnared by the manipulation, the subject can’t think clearly – even in the face of facts that are quite obvious to everyone else.

Falling for this kind of trick is not a reflection of how “smart” someone is, contrary to what many people think.  It is also not a reflection of how educated someone is, how ‘weak” someone is, or how low someone’s self-esteem is.

The truth is, anyone can be manipulated by this technique.  A lot depends on how invested the person is in the relationship, how much the person trusts the one doing the gaslighting, and – especially in the case of 45 supporters – how others around them think and react.

Despite the appearance of a diverse society, the USA has a few “group-think” characteristics that can be manipulated for any purpose, if someone wishes to influence a substantial number of people, using gaslighting.

Aside #1: I think we have seen how this has played out, in terms of the effect of Russian bots and memes on some of the American public.

Let’s just look at one characteristic…

Like all groups, American society experiences “trends”, “fads”, or “crazes” – pick your term.  Everything from consumer products to reality tv shows, large numbers of Americans do fall into the “everyone does/has/watches it, I have to have/do/watch it” kind of thinking that defines a trend.

It doesn’t matter if this trend is harmful to others (Samsung products that are made in factories under such horrific conditions that workers have died), or harmful to themselves (doing stupid things on YouTube), I think it’s safe to say that people are not at their critical thinking best when they succumb to fads.

Of course, sometimes the trends are not harmful – like the hula hoop (yes, I’m old), jogging, or eating healthy food.  But you have to admit, these things tend to “catch on” and become popular in our culture.  Some people do things because “everyone is doing it” – that’s a hallmark of our world today.

It’s become this way with politics now.  Oh, I know, you can look at the 60s and see how people jumped on the bandwagon and became hippies, social activists, and the like – and you can even go farther back in time to see social movements trending.

My point today is, it’s reached a point where there is very little balance around for people to cling to, to keep themselves from washing out to sea with the rest of the ocean of popular culture.

For example, ideas trend quickly on social media and are picked up by others (the news, talk radio, etc) and spread, so there’s often very little time to think about the veracity of whatever idea is making the rounds at any given moment.

45 and his surrogates know this.  By the time one or all of them have spread a talking point, they are on to the next one before people have a chance to evaluate it.

It’s gaslighting at warp speed.

But it’s not just that it’s a conservative talking point – it’s that a lot of what they spread isn’t true.  People can, and do, fact-check this bunch all the time, but by the time the lie is disputed we usually have another false narrative to deal with.

Even people who don’t normally listen to or agree with the right-wing can be sucked into it at times.  A good example of this was the recent drumbeat about gun ownership, in the wake of the mass shooting in Florida.

No matter which position you took, it seemed that most people agreed on the following:

–That there should be ways to more easily commit people for observation (especially kids, using the ‘expertise’ of police and guidance counselors)

–That someone’s mental health status should be a key factor in whether or not they can buy a firearm, and even

–That we should “open up more mental hospitals to get mentally ill homeless people off the street”

You guys know where I stand on all this.  I see it as scapegoating a population that is vulnerable, and I also see it as a clear indication that most people do not understand mental illness.

Aside #2: “Hey, I can do what Dr. Phil does!  I don’t need a degree, psychology is just common sense!”

Anyway, these ideas about the homeless and people with mental illnesses went viral, and pretty soon everyone, it seemed, was advocating them.

Even though there is zero evidence that homeless people have guns and pose a serious risk or participate in mass shootings.  As for police and guidance counselors committing kids, that’s bs too as these people do not have the education or training to do this.

And there’s the whole “which mental illnesses do you mean?” question, as well as the fact that many people with violent tendencies never see a counselor, mental health clinic or hospital so how do you identify them in a gun sale?

This was gaslighting to distract people from the real and solvable issue of access to guns that can kill large numbers of people at a time – assault weapons.

How can people help others, in this age of deception, evaluate what they see and hear on social media, at White House press conferences, and on news shows?  How can we guard against being taken in ourselves?

I believe that it’s very difficult to do those things in the current climate.  Unless someone is predisposed to question everything they see and hear, the noise often becomes overwhelming and exhausting.

I think we’re going to just have to tough it out until November, when the midterms occur.  Because if the moderates and liberals regain the House of Representatives (at the very least), this will change the dominant narrative – or at least put a stronger counterpoint out there.

Politics is a numbers game.  If there are more reasonable, rational people in office, there will be more chances to express ideas that, even if you don’t agree with them, will at least not be lies.

Am I saying that left-leaning people don’t lie as much as right-leaning people?

Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying.  Don’t believe it?  Try looking at websites that keep track of  and fact-check the things politicians say, like FactCheck.org.  Or you can fact-check politicians yourselves, if you are so inclined.

That’s one thing you can do before November. Then make up your own mind as to whether or not a politician is gaslighting you.

Weird news of the week: From CBS news, a report of a UFO over Arizona, seen by pilots of 2 separate jets…“2 Airline Pilots Report Seeing UFO While Flying Over Arizona”, CBS News website, 3/29/18. 

Aside #3: Yes, I do see the irony in reporting weird news in this blogpost. Go fact-check it, then!

Recommendation of the week: Another one for people who like old-time tv, especially in the paranormal genre – the One Step Beyond channel on YouTube.  This show aired in the 1960s, and scared the crap out of me as a child.  It’s interesting to me now because it shows how women were portrayed in that era (hint: not in a good way, really), plus the stories are interesting.  It predated The Twilight Zone, by the way.

Be good.  Be kind.  Facts matter.

 

 

 

 

Tailoring the Message to the Demographics: Democrats Win in PA

Last night, after a very close race, it appears that Conor Lamb won District 18 in Pennsylvania, by a mere 627 votes (“Pennsylvania Special Election Results: Lamb Wins 18th Congressional District”, Nate Cohn/Josh Katz/Sarah Almukhtar/Matthew Bloch, NY Times website, 3/14/18).

Aside #1: I would have used Pittsburgh news sites for the story, but none of them are reporting it except in terms of how the Republicans are challenging it (“GOP Gearing Up to Challenge District 18 Results, Impound All Voting Machines Used in Special Election”, Chris Potter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website, 3/14/18).

I watched the results come in on MSNBC and CNN.  I turned on local news at the usual time (11PM), only to find that none of the local news channels were covering the special election.

None.

Aside #2: I live one hour east of Pittsburgh/District 18.  Only one channel here is owned by Sinclair – for more information on this right-wing company, see “A Short History of the Right-Wing Politics of Sinclair Broadcasting”, Alex Kaplan, Media Matters website, 7/18/17.  I am at a loss to explain the total news blackout here.

Conor Lamb is not particularly liberal in many of his views.  His first campaign TV ad, for example, featured him shooting an AR-15 (“He still loves to shoot”).

Jobs, health care, social security.  Wants to work with Democrats and Republicans.  Thinks there needs to be new leadership in both parties.  He has repeatedly stated he doesn’t support Nancy Pelosi.  He doesn’t support a ban on assault weapons.

I am shocked, actually, that this TV ad admitted he went to a Catholic school – PA has a history of being virulently anti-Cathoilic; as a matter of fact, it was a main talking point for the KKK here.

Also surprising is that his ad had a couple of African-Americans in it.  I assume that was a nod to the left-leaning base.  Didn’t want to lose any urban, progressive Pittsburgh voters.

Aside #3: I guess I sound cynical, but I am of course happy he won.  Because he’s better than any Republican.

So the Democratic Party tailored their candidate and their message to the demographics of the district.  Most of District 18 is Republican, with a pocket of Democrats in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh).  Allegheny County constitutes 40% of the district vote.

Most of the district is white, middle to upper class, and retired folks.  It is one of the last bastions of reactionary “values”.  “Trump Country”, people call it.

But the Democrats were smart about this.  They sent Lamb to senior centers – a huge voting block for Republicans all across Pennsylvania.  Lamb also appeared with Jon Bauman of Sha Na Na in various places in western PA (“With Seniors Breaking for Dems in #PA18, Bowzer of Sha Na Na Tours Pizza Parlors of Western PA Rallying Support”, Mike Elk, PayDay Report website, 3/8/18).

Aside #4: I like Jon Bauman.  He is a progressive who knows how to convince people that voting for Democrats means voting for their self-interest, especially elderly folks.  He utilizes nostalgia to promote progressive thinking.  I really do admire that.

Conor Lamb is a mix of conservative and liberal politics (Conor Lamb website).  And that worked in District 18, but just barely.

One of the mistakes the Democratic Party made in 2016 was not sending Hillary here.  Oh, they sent Bill, but he spoke at the AFSCME hall in Duncansville (about 2 miles from here and no, I didn’t go, as I was in the hospital). There was virtually no publicity for it, either.

They should have sent Hillary.  They should have had her hit the senior centers, so those people could meet her.  Most of them only knew what they heard on right-wing talk radio about her.

Aside #5: Every senior center van – the shared ride van that takes people 55+ and people with disabilities to the doctor, errands, and such – has a driver who listens to right-wing talk radio.  Many of these drivers opine on right-wing subjects and spread fake news such as President Obama being a Kenyan.  And most seniors here think all that’s true.  I have met only 4 other Democrats on the vans since I have been riding them in the past 8 years.  And they spoke in whispers, they were so intimidated by the driver and the other passengers.

Sending Bill was not a bad idea, but he didn’t speak in a venue that most people would go to.  He should have hit the senior centers, too, and possibly some local coffee shops/buffet restaurants and other places you find oldsters here.  Maybe hospitals, too, for the medical professionals’ vote.

And/or Hillary should have spoken at Penn State.  Bernie spoke at Penn State in State College, and had a huge draw.  Hillary could have at least spoken at Penn State Altoona, sheesh.

I want to be clear here – I don’t think the primary reason the Democrats lost Pennsylvania in 2016 was because they didn’t campaign much in central PA.  It was the gerrymandering that gave Republicans an unfair advantage all across PA.  But the way the Democrats campaigned didn’t help Hillary at all here.

Aside #6: Until the citizens won the redistricting fight, PA was considered to be one of the most gerrymandered states in the country (“About Gerrymandering”, no author, Fair Districts PA website, no date).

Those districts have now been redrawn, and by the time this year’s midterms come up, the election results should be a better representation of the voters (in other words, more Democrats will be elected).

But, on a national level, the Democrats are going to have to campaign harder and smarter.  Even with redistricting in PA, the Tea Party is still active and they still mobilize people better than the Democrats do – and that’s going to hurt us down the line.

However, I am torn about all this.

On one hand, I am desperate for the Democrats to wrest control away from the Republicans, because Republican policies are hurting and killing our citizens, destroying our environment and national parks, and encouraging white supremacists to engage in violent acts.

And also making us look pretty stupid and reactionary to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, I am that part of the Democratic Party base that would be considered “the far left” – I support identity politics, for example.

I vehemently oppose Democrats who maintain we have to shut up about racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all the rest of the issues that separate us from “Trump country”, in order to get the white vote.

So, while candidates like Lamb can win elections for the party, I fear what’s going to happen once he and others like him are in office.

Will he listen to the party, or will he stick to the conservative line and vote for Republican policies?

He already stated that he supports tariffs.  He already stated he doesn’t support stricter gun laws.  Both of these positions are disastrous for consumers, most service workers, and people who don’t like being shot by right-wing lunatics.

Is the Democratic Party moving to the right?  Where does that leave a fair number of its base?

There was a recent online town hall meeting with Sanders, Warren, and my favorite panderer Michael Moore – it was about “saving the middle class”.

Is that going to be the theme now?  Forget the poor, the elderly, POC, all the people who are truly disenfranchised – as opposed to people who are taking a hit on their investments, mortgages, and vacation plans?

I don’t like to see anyone hurt.  But there is a vast difference between someone’s mortgage rate going up, and someone who is homeless or can never hope to own a home.  Considering that Republicans are trying to implement policies that can actually result in a lot of deaths, I’m sorry but I don’t give a shit about your investments.

I don’t have the answer to this problem of the split in the Democratic Party.  I don’t think 3rd parties are a good idea, because they don’t get enough votes and they often result in Republicans being elected.

I think Tom Perez is way too interested in toning down the Democratic Party message, and if he continues to do that he might lose a good part of the base.  A base that has nowhere to go now.

Not voting is never an option.  Never.

Weird news of the week: “Sconegate in Lanhydrock: Cornish Cream Tea Lovers Demand #JamFirst”, Bethany Minelle, Sky News website, 3/12/18.  

The issue is which is put first on a scone – jam (for Cornish teas), or clotted cream (for Devon teas)?

This is weird only to Americans, I think.  I like the pictures heh.  Personally, if I could find a decent scone with cream, jam, and a good cup of black tea here, I wouldn’t care which way I put toppings on it.  Sigh.  I really miss tea time.  It’s just not the same here in the US as it was in Northern Ireland.  And I have no idea in what order you put clotted cream and jam on a Northern Ireland scone.

Recommendation of the week:  “Better Off Wed (Annabelle Archer Wedding Planner Mystery, #1)”, by Laura Durham.  Yes, it’s a cozy mystery but it is laugh-out-loud funny, very well-written and doesn’t have the usual clichés.  Great read for a good laugh.

Be good.  Be kind.  Laugh a little.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, Sexism Persisted…

I want to address something that I’ve written about before, but it seems to be a problem that just won’t go away.

It’s the problem of sexism within the left.

Not everyone on the left, of course.  And I am no single-issue commenter, as you guys know, but this just irks me so much I feel the need to vent.

As we are all aware, the right-wing in this country has women adherents, just as any other point of view has both male and female proponents.

Aside #1: I am just using “male” and “female” as general terms to make a point.  I am not deliberately excluding transgender or gender nonconforming folks.  I am aware that not everyone identifies in a binary way.  What I am writing about today is a basic level lack of understanding of gender issues, so I am keeping it basic.

What I am objecting to is the use of misogynistic memes and statements to attack women on the right.

I don’t like right-wing women, either – just as I don’t like right-wing men.  I realize, also, that right-wing women can be some of the biggest promoters of sexism around.

But it’s not a good thing, nor should it be an acceptable thing, to throw the c word at them, imply or outright say that they’re literal “whores”, attack their looks/weight/age, or write about how you want to rape/kill/torture them.

I’ve seen all these things in comments sections of websites frequented by leftists, and it’s upsetting – especially the violent ones.

And challenging them on these things?  Forget it.

I get accused of being a 45 supporter, a “radical feminist”, a “Hillbot” (supporter of Hillary Clinton with no mind of her own), or of over-reacting.  In fact, I have seen a couple of women basically chased out of comments sections due to challenging the sexism in them.

There are many things to attack about right-wing women’s beliefs.  There are so many, in fact, that I can’t be bothered to list them all.  But they are not peculiar to women – they are typically held by men on the right, too.

But let me be clear: when you reduce the complaints to what amounts to “I hate your gender” comments and memes, you are exposing your own deep-seated hatred/fear of all women.

“What?” you might be asking.  “Not me!  I am an ally, a brother, a progressive! I don’t hate or fear women!”

Ok, well, if that’s true, then STOP IT.

Look at it from a woman’s point of view: when you call women ugly, or fat, or make cracks about their ages, or state they perform sexual acts on politicians (for example), or attack anything totally related to their gender stereotypes and not their ideas…that makes some of us react and think, “What about us?  What does he think about us?”

We’re “not like those c___s”, those other women?  We’re somehow different?

But some of us are old/fat/”not attractive” too.

It’s similar to a POC being told, “You’re not like those other ones.”

Do you see it now?

Men who wouldn’t dream of attacking a POC’s ideas by using racist slurs somehow don’t see attacking women by using sexist slurs as unacceptable.

But it is.  It is because it reduces all women to stereotypes, to sexual objects.

It creates distrust and fear amongst the very women you claim to be allied with.  It makes us feel uncomfortable around you, especially if we don’t look like the societal norm and especially if we are survivors of domestic violence.

Aside #2: By the way, my abuser was a leftist – except when it came down to women and feminism.  So, yeah, it does happen.

When you respond with defensiveness, and try to justify your attacks by citing how hateful and awful right-wing women are, it’s not working, dude – because you’re not attacking their actions or words, you’re attacking them as women.

And when it comes to the “I’d like to rape/tie up and kill/beat her to death” comments…

That’s horrifying.  I don’t think I have to spell out why.

So please, don’t send me pictures that demean any woman, or post that crap on Facebook.  Use your big-boy ideas and criticize Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Betsy DeVos, Dana Loesch, and others on the disgusting ideas they promote.

Not their looks.  Not their clothes.  Not their ages.  Not whatever sick sexual thing you can conjure up.

And if you have rape/torture fantasies, seek help before you hurt someone in real life.

Lecture over.

Weirdness of the week comes from the Chicago Tribune website.  At first, I thought the story would contain a bit about how recipients of Amazon products they didn’t order wanted to return the products because it’s not right to take stuff that you didn’t pay for…but, alas, they’re just annoyed because “someone has our information” (name and address).

How disappointing.

“The Mysterious Tale of the Couple Who Keep Receiving Free Amazon Packages – And Want it to Stop”. Marwa Eltagouri, Chicago Tribune website, 2/7/18.

Recommendation of the week is for Planet Fitness.  I just joined this past week because they are only $10/month, and they have trainers there you can work with for free.  Went to my first session yesterday, and I really liked it.  They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, and there were all ages/sizes of people there.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

Be good.  Be kind.  Keep warm.

 

 

Guns & Mental Health: Missing the Point Again

As we all know by now, there was a horrific school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.  17 students and teachers were killed when a former student shot them with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

There have been 34 mass shootings since January 1st of this year…and it’s only February 21 (“Mass Shootings”, Gun Violence Archive website).

Total stats on gun violence (from January to February 2018), including “unintentional” shootings and “defensive use” are as follows:

Total # of incidents: 7,481

# of deaths: 2,072

# of injuries: 3,543

# of children (0-11 years) killed or injured: 79

# of teens (12-17 years) killed or injured: 395

Home invasion: 308

Defensive use: 213

Unintentional shooting: 240

This doesn’t include suicide, police deaths, or death by cop (Ibid.).

Contrast these numbers with the pediatric death rate (so far) during this year’s flu season (December until now in February): 84.

And this is considered an epidemic.  People are being urged to get a flu shot, get their kids flu shots, wash their hands, be wary in public spaces, and so on.  As well they ought to be.

But talk about gun violence?  Sure, as long as no one mentions guns.

I think that’s crazy.  “Deaths due to guns” is the only topic I can think of that doesn’t usually address what is a major reason for all these deaths – guns.

7 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the country have involved the AR-15, or similar weapons:

The Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada (Oct. 2017, 59 killed, including the shooter)

The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida (June 2016, 49 killed) *

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut (Dec 2012, 27 killed, including the shooter)

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (Nov 2017, 27 people killed, including the shooter) *

U of Texas, Austin, Texas (Aug 1966, 19 killed, including the shooter) *

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida (Feb 2018, 17 killed)

Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California (Dec 2015, 16 killed, including the shooters)

*Weapon used was similar to the AR-15.

The point is, semi-automatic weapons can kill a lot of people in a very short time.  That is their purpose – to kill people.

They are not used for hunting.  They are military weapons.  There is no need – I don’t care who you are – for a private citizen to own these types of weapons.

If you must buy a gun, buy a handgun.  Buy a shotgun.  Buy a hunting rifle. You can defend yourself with any of these.  Banning assault weapons or military-grade weapons does not violate anyone’s Constitutional right to bear arms (“Supreme Court Justices Allow Ban on High Capacity Guns”, Lyle Denniston, Constitution Daily website, 11/27/2017).

Which brings us to the “mental illness” component.

Many people, including the Idiot-in-Chief, are calling for stricter controls to prevent “mentally ill people” from buying guns.

Aside #1: You ought to be wary of any stand 45 takes, as it inevitably is the wrong one.  This case is no exception.

Let’s look at this logically, ok?  For which mental illnesses are you going to prevent people from owning guns?

Depression?  Ok, that’s 8.2% of the population (19.4 million adults).

Anxiety/panic disorders?  Ok, that’s (in total, all forms of anxiety) 22.3% of the population (49 million adults).

PTSD? Ok, that’s 3.5% of the population (7.7 million adults). (“Facts & Statistics”, Anxiety and Depression Association of America website)

And those are just the people who go for help.  The actual numbers are higher.

“Well, hey now,” you might be thinking, “I mean really crazy people, like psychotics or people with bipolar disorder and the like.”

Ok, here are more facts for you:

Only 3-5% of all violence, including gun violence, can be attributed to people with severe mental illness (“Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Myths and Evidence-Based Facts”, Joel Miller, American Mental Health Counselors Association website, 10/3/2017).

Most gun violence is perpetuated by people who are, well, violent.  As in, people who engage in domestic violence, have severe problems with drugs and/or alcohol, have a history of being violent towards others in general…you know, the kind of people who often get referred to “anger management classes”.

Having conducted those kinds of classes, I can tell you – they don’t work.

They don’t work because people who are violent do not see their anger as unreasonable.  They don’t see it as odd, or a bad alternative to other ways to handle conflict, and sometimes they see it as “self-defense”.

As in, “He called me a (insert insult here) so I hit/shot/threw something at him.”

I cannot even count how many times I heard that.  They really think that retaliating with physical violence against any form of disrespect constitutes “self-defense”, and no amount of reasoning can convince them otherwise.

And that point of view cuts across all race and class lines.  I’ve seen every kind of person express that idea, from the Mississippi Delta to inner city Memphis to Central Pennsylvania, and beyond.

It’s not a big leap to imagine that someone with a grievance against someone – or against people in general – who has that attitude towards anger and revenge is going to go out and buy a weapon that can kill as many people as possible.

Is that “mental illness”?  No, in my opinion, that’s not clinically “mental illness”.

Some could argue that yeah, it is, no doubt due to a personality disorder.  I might agree with that, as there are aspects of that kind of thinking.

But if we made that the criteria, who is going to evaluate folks for that?

Most people with personality disorders do not seek treatment.  They don’t see anything wrong with the way they think.  And, quite honestly, they are notoriously treatment-resistant if they ever do find themselves in counseling (usually forced by family or the law).

We even reward people with personality disorders in our society.  Look at 45.  Look at a lot of famous and wealthy artists/musicians/actors/politicians/CEOs and so on.  Many have personality disorders because the kind of profession they’re in lends itself to a certain ruthlessness involved in rising to the top of it, and attracts people with personality disorders. They can behave very badly and most of the time they get away with it

Aside #2: Let’s face it – a diagnosis of some kind of personality disorder is not going to carry the same kind of stigma that other mental illnesses do.  Some people now even brag about having one, or try to make nonclinical distinctions between “malignant narcissism” and just regular plain old “non-dangerous” narcissism.  Any clinician who has treated folks like that, or any victim of folks like that, knows that this distinction is bullshit.

How about people who have been committed to a psychiatric facility?  Even those who are held for 72 hours against their will for being “a danger to themselves or others”?  Surely they should not be able to own guns?

Besides the problem of the profit hospitals make from involuntary commitments – and they do, I’ve seen this in my workplaces – there are also the facts above that I mentioned about violence.  Most people are committed due to “suicidal ideation”, not usually “homicidal ideation”.

Should someone who is suicidal have access to a gun?  Well, no.  Usually we tell family members to get guns out of the house or lock them up.

But we don’t usually say, “do this forever, he/she is never going to get better.”  Especially in hunting country, that would just be stupid.

Aside #3: I am not a hunter.  I am not a fan of hunting.  I do respect people who hunt for food, as many do in rural places.

And what about involuntary commitment for false reasons?  I’ve seen that, too.  That goes on your permanent health record, you know.  So someone who has no reason to be committed other than due to a dispute over an elderly “patient’s” money, or in other suspicious circumstances is marked for life and cannot get a gun if he/she needs one (like in the case of abuse)?

Or how about medical records of any kind that mention a mental illness?  Are you going to tell me that a woman with PTSD or depression due to domestic abuse hasn’t the right to get a gun to defend herself in case her abuser tracks her down?

See, I am not against gun ownership.  I am against owning firearms that are used to kill a lot of people.  This is not a “ban all guns” vs “gun rights” debate – that’s a false dichotomy the NRA promotes.

This is about innocent people dying.  And the common denominators are semi-automatic rifles.  Rifles that are not necessary to own.

Let’s take those out of the equation.

Weird news of the week: This is why the British are considered so civilized – “Police Officer Accused of Taking the Biscuits”, Sky News website.  The article states that “it has not been clear what kind of biscuits he took” and the representative of the Met Police is quoted as stating that the theft “showed a fundamental lack of integrity”.

(Well, heck, if they were Penguin biscuits, I would definitely agree!)

Recommendation of the week: The Shibutani’s skate to Coldplay and a bronze medal. It’s worth sitting through the Coke commercial, trust me.

https://www.nbcolympics.com/news/maia-alex-shibutani-make-history-their-own-pyeongchang

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t let anyone scapegoat people with mental illnesses, it could be you or someone you love someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulvaney: Commodity Boxes are “Blue Apron-Like”

Hey Micky, you’re so cruel!

You’re so cruel and you’re a tool!

Hey Micky!  Hey Micky!

Yesterday – though not getting a whole lot of attention – the White House released its proposed budget, and, as expected, it featured cuts to entitlement programs.

Of particular interest/abhorrence is the cut to the food stamp program.  Mick Mulvaney’s idea is to cut peoples’ EBT balances by half, then provide a box of commodities to make up the difference.  The food included are beans, canned meat, canned fruits, canned vegetables, dry or evaporated milk, grains, cereal, pasta, butter, peanut butter, and other staples.

Aside #1: Mick Mulvaney is the head of the Office of Management and Budget, appointed by 45.  He is a loyal Tea Party member and, of course, very far to the right.

He insists it’s healthy food.  I disagree.

Especially for the elderly or people with chronic health problems, this kind of food is not healthy.

A lot of people try to eat healthily to either manage a medical condition or keep from getting any of the diseases that plague people (especially when older) such as hypertension and diabetes.

Myself, I can’t/won’t eat any of that.  I am trying to manage my seemingly never-ending digestive symptoms (courtesy of my still-mysterious ailment), so currently my diet is low fodmap, high fiber, unprocessed, fresh, and low sodium…and while I do eat cheese I don’t drink cow’s milk (because almond milk is high in calcium and it has fewer calories than skim milk).

I haven’t opened a can of vegetables or fruit in years.  Ditto for canned meat. High in sodium and sugar.  Processed to death.

Yeah, even poor folks try to eat healthy.  We’re not dumb.

Mick thinks we are, though.  He touted the food boxes as being “Blue Apron-like” (“Trump’s Insulting Food Stamp Plan Is Nothing Like Blue Apron”, Sidney Fussell, Gizmodo website, 2/13/18).  Blue Apron is a home-delivered box of ingredients that you use to make an entire dinner without having to buy anything else.  But the thing is, Blue Apron includes fresh, high quality ingredients.

I can just hear him now…

“We’ll market it like those fancy boxed meals.  They won’t know the difference!”

But Blue Apron Is not like a box of commodity food, the kind the USDA gives out to low-income people over 60.  Just because a person calls a mudpie a chocolate pie does not make it so.

Believe it or not, we poor folk can tell the difference between mud and chocolate.

My initial reaction to ol’ Mick’s plan was “hell no!”  Then it was, “I bet they won’t do it because the logistics are too much.”

Nope, they can use the USDA system already in place, I reckon.  Mick’s plan is essentially just an expansion of that program.  That worries me.

Aside #2: I didn’t even know we still had a commodity distribution program until I did a Google search.  Remember government cheese?  It’s like that, but with more food – none of it fresh or unprocessed, except maybe butter.

In case you think, “Well, that’s not so bad,” then let me tell you how it might affect you indirectly.

We food stamp people shop in the same grocery stores that you do.  We buy vegetables and fruit and organic food and fresh meats and…well, anything that isn’t considered “hot, ready-made food” (like rotisserie chicken).

We food stamp folks make up a decent amount of grocery store consumers.  What do you think will happen to prices when we stop buying or cut down on how much we purchase?

What do you think will happen to the workers in the stores, the truckers who bring the food, the people who make the food, and so on, when we reduce our purchases?

It will affect YOU whether or not you use food stamps, in the way of higher prices, store closures, layoffs, or fewer types of products to choose from.

Aside #3: This will affect farmers who sell their produce at farmer’s markets, too, as food stamps can be used there.  

Don’t believe it?  Think there aren’t that many people who could affect the economy this way?

Well…the number of people using food stamps is 45.4 million (“SNAP: Frequently Asked Questions”, Snap to Health website).  That’s a lot of shoppers.

Also, unhealthy diets can lead to more illnesses and more trips to the doctor/ER.  That means higher wait times for everyone.

Oh, but Seema Verma and Mick have a plan for that, too.  They want to charge Medicaid recipients a monthly fee – or face losing that benefit – and they also want to privatize Medicare (which will inevitably raise premiums).

And since Medicaid and Medicare patients comprise a good portion of healthcare consumers, a reduction of our business can result in hospital closing and staff shortages.

That affects YOU, too.  Maybe even your own job.

You see, as I say a lot, we are all interconnected – and I don’t mean spiritually.  Economically, nothing happens in a vacuum.  Draconian public policies affect us all, even if not directly.

Aside #4: By the way, one of the reasons Mick gives for food stamp cuts is “widespread fraud.”  In reality, the fraud rate is about 1% (Ibid).

We knew these cuts were coming after the latest tax bill was passed.  Republicans have done this before – given tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations, then screamed about the deficit and “balanced budgets”.  They have no problem spending money as long as it is for other people in their income brackets and higher (their donors, in other words).

Or the military.  45’s administration wants to give a massive increase in funding to the military, even bigger than some Republicans are comfortable with.  I guess it might be because they don’t want 45 lobbing missiles at North Korea or something.

Anyway, the plan for changing the food stamp program is a bad one.  it was crafted by someone who is hostile towards social support programs overall.  It is supported by Paul Ryan and other Republicans who have made no secret of their hatred of the poor, the elderly, the chronically ill, and the other-abled.

Please contact your congress people and ask them to fight these changes.  Find out who your representatives are here.  Thank you, allies.

Weird news of the week: This story is not only weird, in my opinion it reflects an extension of the tendency for some people to take themselves way too seriously (kind of how they do when they feud on social media).  I’m surprised Disneyland doesn’t just ban all these “social clubs”.

Control freaks in Disney garb.   “Lawsuit Alleges Mafia-Style Tactics Aimed At A Disneyland Social Club”, Laurel Wamsley, NPR news website, 2/12/18.

Recommendation of the week: Why, the Winter Olympics, of course!  I can’t think of anything better to lift your spirits, watching all these athletes from around the world compete.

Be good.  Be kind.  Stay strong.