mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday of the day)
On my merry little calendar of daily holidays, today is listed as I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore Day. Given that the past week has been full of reams of legal documentation that is only English on a technicality - not because it's translated but because it's legalese, boo - that is indeed pretty much where my brain is at. "Words? No. No more words. NOPE."

So I took a look at what absolutely had to give today.

Someone trying to squeeze a manifesto into a tagline? NOPE. I can summarize, I can epitomize, I can capture the spirit of the thing, but I cannot take the client's list of eleventy things that absolutely must be mentioned specifically and squeeze it into a five-word tagline.

Glitchy file? NOPE. Pure stupid stubbornness on my part to keep fighting with it this long, instead of asking for help, but that's what legalese does to me - makes me irritable and bitey, even against software.

The flu? NOPE. Okay, it's not that easy. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe this should be 2015's theme song...



(No video embedded above? Sorry, journal sites are inconsistent that way. Try viewing it at Youtube instead.)
mokie: Original Bad Seed Rhonda is getting upset (womb of doom)
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

Let's set aside that the Supreme Court has said it's OK for employers to insert their religious beliefs into an employee's private life, by specifically limiting that employee's options in areas where they should have no say. No, your employer should not have say over your health care decisions.

Let's ignore that the Court has given employers the go-ahead to insert their political beliefs into an employee's medical decisions, by ignoring how certain medications actually work according to doctors, in favor of their own 'interpretation' of how it works based on their political agenda - this even though that incorrect interpretation is still perfectly legal in this country. No, your employer should not get veto power over your perfectly legal health care decisions.

We can even sidestep the fact that the Court has said it's OK for companies to selectively ignore parts of laws they dislike by claiming a religious exemption, even if they're for-profit outfits and not actually people, and definitely not churches. No, your employer's religion should not affect your health care decisions.

Basically, your employer does not own you and should not have control of your private life.

Guys, the Supreme Court has given employers the right to veto preventative care for a specific class of employees.

If a woman gets pregnant and decides to have the child, she's going to see a doctor for prenatal visits, for tests and check-ups to ensure things are OK, and for intervention if things aren't going OK. When time comes to pull a human being out of her body, she's probably doing it in a hospital, and given statistics in recent years, she'll quite likely have surgery. Pregnancy and childbirth involves a chain of medical procedures and is very much a big deal, one that has permanent physical repercussions for the person doing it aside from the impact on their lives in general. That's why lots of women decide not to have the child, and lots more - 99% of American women at some point in their lives - take steps to avoid conceiving in the first place. That's what makes birth control 'preventative care'.

No, Hobby Lobby was not being forced to foot the bill for abortions. Don't forget that employees pay into these packages, which are meant to cover the health care needs of employees, not the political agenda of the employer.

No, it does not matter that Hobby Lobby covers some other types of contraception, because they've opened the door for other employers to deny contraception entirely, which gets us into the sticky fact that, apart from pregnancy being a real risk for some women, 'birth control' often has medical uses outside of preventing pregnancy - treatment of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and reduction of ovarian cancer risks, for starters. You should not have to sit down with your boss and prove you're not just horny in order to get medicine prescribed by your doctor, dammit.

No, "They shouldn't have to pay for you to have sex!" isn't relevant, because these insurance packages sure as hell cover prenatal care and treatment for STDs, so by that logic they're already paying for people to have sex.

No, "It doesn't cover my condoms!" isn't remotely the same thing, because even if the condom breaks, that guy is never, ever going to risk having a person pulled from his dick nine months later.

Yes, it is a big deal, because contraception is expensive, but so is getting pregnant, and if you're working retail at the fucking craft store level, in all likelihood you can barely afford either.

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

And he painted her decision to cut contact with him as abusive. Yes, seriously. He suggested it was abusive of her to expect to decide for herself who she did or did not interact with. He also suggested that abusive men are abusive because they feel powerless, hint hint, ladies.

Y'know, in case you wondered why she threatened him with a restraining order.

Then, less than two weeks after that essay made the rounds, an asshole declared war on women, and a world that would give women to other men but not him. He killed his roommates, grabbed his guns, and set out for "the hottest sorority" on campus, because. Because girls never approached him, and would have rejected him had he ever bothered to approach them. Because girls pick jerks (who actually ask them out) instead of 'gentlemen' like him (who sit around waiting for ass to be handed to them, like Sleeping Booty, and never put themselves out there for outright rejection). Because when he attempted to assault some women months earlier (what a gentleman!), some nearby men had intervened and kicked his ass. Because he was a misogynistic shitstain driven to obtain riches and women, and frustrated with a life that did not magically hand him these things. Because he was an entitled, spoilt rotten adolescent piece of walking, talking crap who'd had everything handed to him, and his response to adulthood and the requirement that he grow up and work for things was magical thinking (use The Secret to win the lottery!) and an inevitable tantrum.

Because girls aren't psychic - but thank God for instinct and intuition.

And the apologists poured out. It wasn't misogyny because look, he killed more men! - despite the videos and the manifesto and forum posts in which he declared his hatred for women and that he was going to kill as many as possible, and the fact that he only failed because he was utterly incompetent even at being a super-villain. It wasn't misogyny, because look, he had Aspergers, and oh why did no one get him treatment! - despite the fact that autism isn't a mental illness, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, he was receiving help and his family did attempt to get him committed out of fear he was a threat to himself and others. It wasn't misogyny, because he was probably gay! - and what the fuck is in the water over at Fox News? Seriously now.

And worse, there were the creepy comments. "If even one girl had put out..." What? Pussy would have cured him? No. Or the NYPost's naming and shaming of a girl from grade school that didn't even remember the asshole, though her father did - specifically, he remembered him as a creepy little fuck.

May ended with women on Twitter sharing times they were harassed, intimidated or assaulted - and being harangued by men who were upset because this conversation about women being harassed, intimidated and assaulted was not taking place within the context of how it hurt men to be associated with this and discussed this way. They insisted that the conversation must begin with how feminists discuss men, and must include caveats that specifically let certain men (them) off the hook, because somehow, simply saying that a man raped you and the police didn't take it seriously is slandering all men, because this is really all about men's feelings, isn't it?

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
mokie: Red and Kitty Foreman are obviously exasperated (disappointed)
New rule: if your response to a survey asking Americans about their stance on LGBT-related issues from a religious perspective (including but not limited to questions about how much of a factor those issues played in leaving a religion) is a defensive statement about how it's 'unwise to generalize about why Millennials are leaving religion', then you no longer get to complain about people calling your generation 'self-absorbed'.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (SCIENCE!)
A conversation observed, paraphrased and annotated:

Naive poster: "My friend is a nurse and washes her hands all the time, but I looked at her lotion and it's full of all these chemicals. I'm going to make her some all-natural homemade lotion! With coconut oil, and sunflower oil, and..."

Note: Many medical facilities use latex gloves and barriers. Oil-based products break down latex. This is a bad, bad idea.

Helpful people: "Since your friend works with sick people, sterilizing your equipment and using a preservative is a must. This is usually the problem people run into with homemade lotions."

TRUE. Lotions are water-based, and water-based products are almost guaranteed to succumb to mold and bacterial growth eventually, even with a preservative. Products made without a preservative should be refrigerated and used within a month, and not on broken skin, because seriously y'all, cooties.

Naive poster: "How does a preservative keep someone from spreading infection? Pshaw!"

...ungh.

Helpful people: "It keeps bacteria from growing in the lotion. The lotion she spreads on her hands. The hands she touches equipment and sick people with."

Not at all helpful people:
- "You can just use vitamin E."
- "Or grapefruit extract."
- "I like rosemary oleoresin."
- "Essential oils make great natural preservatives."

Helpful people: "No, none of those things are preservatives. Several are antioxidants. They prolong the life of the oils, but they don't stop bacteria and fungi from growing in the product."

Not at all helpful people: "I don't use water in my lotions, just aloe juice, so it's not an issue for me."

Helpful people: "Aloe juice is water-based. Juices in general are still water-based. Is your lotion made with liquid? Then you still need a preservative."

People who work in an actual medical setting: "Guys, the products we're allowed to use are strictly regulated for exactly these reasons. Also, oil-based products break down latex."

See?

Scoffing scofferson: "Don't all lotions contain oils? Harumph and pshaw."

No. For example, products made for industries that use latex--

Scoffing scofferson: "Sounds like more chemicals to me."

And this is why you should be a little more cautious when buying handmade personal care products, especially from folks throwing around the terms 'all-natural', 'preservative-free', 'herbal', and (especially) 'great for kids': because good intentions are no substitute for actually knowing what the fuck you're doing before you put the health of total strangers at risk.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (media pop culture)
A month or so ago, for reasons I can't remember, I found myself reading about milestone episodes of South Park--which episode really gelled the show's dynamics, and which episode cemented Cartman not merely as a tiny Archie Bunker but a budding psychopath, etc. This kicked off a marathon review of the entire series for me. It's turned up a few surprising realizations, like that Stan and Kyle aren't as interchangeable or even alike as many fans claim (and complain about), and I can't explain that without going full nerd, so I'll just leave it there, because that's not the realization I want to write about.

I realized that some of the episodes are so damn far ahead of the moment that many of us don't seem to get them at the time of release.

The episode that brought this home is season 12's "Britney's New Look", about the media frenzy over Britney Spears and her long, slow public meltdown. In the episode, the boys learn people will pay insane cash for Britney photos and trick their way into her motel room by telling a guard they're her kids. For the distraught but otherwise normal Britney, this is too much: under the stress of the media onslaught that she knows will never let up, she blows her head off. Through some fluke she survives, and nobody treats her any differently except the boys. They feel guilty and try to help her escape, only to discover it's a massive conspiracy, and she's just a human sacrifice for a good harvest. (Yes, really.)

(Edited to add: I refuse to add spoiler tags for a TV show that aired two elections ago, especially as the spoileriffic element is the whole point of the episode.)

First, there are the reviewers who see only a parody of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and describe it simply as that, even though I don't think that's technically accurate. The episode imitates the end of Jackson's story, the crowd surrounding the damned woman with cameras instead of stones, but it's using Jackson's story to satirize paparazzi culture, not satirizing her story itself. (Interesting aside: Jackson said about the original reaction to her story, "People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.")

Then there are the folks who missed the point. Spears fans protested that it was a heartless mockery of a low point in her life, and completely missed that she was being portrayed sympathetically, while everyone else (even the boys at first) were villains. Show fans whined that there weren't enough jokes, not enough Cartman, and the only laugh they got was hearing Clinton say "spearchucker" in debate with Obama, completely missing, well, probably anything in the series more intelligent than a fart joke.

And then there were the folks complaining that if they were going to do a Britney Spears episode, they should have done it properly, because there's so much to make fun of, missing both the point ('Holy fuck, there's celebrity poking, and then there's this, and this is not right--we as a society are killing this woman, let's back off and not do that anymore'), and the fact that they were in fact the very people the episode is actually satirizing. For example, and an egregiously creepy example it is, there's the review that crowed the episode "takes a stab at Britney Spears and her popularity" "[w]hen the Queen of Trailer Trash visits South Park," and "[o]nly the boys seem to notice her head is blown off in a great parody of her train-wreck life. We love how Matt and Trey treat her as a brain-dead machine propped up by the media. No head. No brain. Doesn’t matter. Look at the camel toe!"

That's driving right past the point and off the pier, into a lake of fire.
mokie: Red-haired punk Vyvyan makes rude gestures at the viewer (snotty)
I need a word for the uncomfortable feeling of realizing you're the smartest person in a conversation.

I don't mean the smug belief that you're the smartest person present, or the haughty irritated glee of having the rightest opinion and why won't everyone just shut up and admit it already. No, I mean the awkward, embarrassed feeling when you think you're casually answering a question, only to realize that the other person thinks they're winning an argument you didn't even know you were having. You know, the moment you realize that not only do they not understand what you said, they're not capable of understanding it, because they really don't grasp how it works--be it science, medicine, English grammar, etc. And yet they're convinced that they're totally rocking that shit.

And then I need a word for the other side of the table: when you're pretty sure you're rocking that shit, but that little voice in the back of your head whispers, Maybe you're just not getting it.

For instance, homemade soap. Occasionally when washing my hands at someone else's house or purchasing a bar from a highly praised veteran soapmaker, I'll get irritated at the underwhelming performance. Terrible lather, a formulation clearly geared toward hardness rather than function, or toward squeaky cleanness at the expense of moisturizing, etc. I've dropped bars back into dishes and said aloud, "My soap is better than this." Even though I know that some people formulate for harder/softer water than mine, that one person's moisturizing bar is another person's 'slimy feeling' bar, that a formula that works perfectly for one person may be irritating to someone else, and so on. I know all this, because that's part of why I make my own soap--so I can have a bar that works just the way I want it, with the factors facing me, like my building's crazy-ass hard water.

All the same, I look at packaging, and that list of fancy-pants oils, and I think, "Who makes a coconut-based soap and uses olive just to superfat? You just gave me sandpaper fingers!" I stand there, all irate because my soap is better and they have years more experience than I do, and they have no right, no right at all to not whip my soap's ass. (I know, I can't even be cocky right.) And in the back of my head, there's that voice: What if my soap is so wrong, I just don't even know it?

Except when someone sheepishly points to a soap I purchased but they think I made, and says, "That one doesn't really lather." Then I am vindicated, goddammit.
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (irritated)
"Is that canned chicken?"

With two bowls of slow-cooked and shredded chicken breast in the fridge? No. Why would I open a can of shredded chicken when I already have shredded chicken?

Ugh.

I prefer fresh ingredients over tinned veggies and heavily processed boxfuuds, not out of a puritanical fear of any edibles that come from a container but because I'm cheap: ingredients go farther than prepackaged meals, and I don't have to worry about the sugar/salt/fat tango*, or the corn/dairy industry shoehorning in fillers to earn those subsidies. I keep a good supply of tinned and boxed food on hand for weather troubles and scheduling issues, but generally access to fresh food isn't an issue, since I live within walking distance of two supermarkets and a summer veggie stand. Time isn't even an issue: in the same time it takes a Pinterest mama to pull up a "3 cans + 2 boxes = homemade meal!" recipe, open her boxes, Instagram it and throw it in the oven, I can have my ingredients sliced, diced and cooking.

It just doesn't make sense to rely on boxfuuds in my situation.

If I don't tell older relatives what the meal is made of, it's the tastiest damn thing they've ever put in their mouths. If I reveal that a meal doesn't contain at least one can of Campbell's Cream Of Soup, or one box of Cheezy Noodle Product, they look at the dish like it's toxic. I don't know if it's generally generational or just my family, but there seems to be some kind of deep distrust of, well, cooking. Like it's not food unless someone opened a box.

And forget leftovers. Forget any big meal meant to store or stretch over several days, unless it's boiled (to death) ham'n'beans. "Eh. I'm not in the mood for that." Mood? You don't get to be in the mood to waste $15 of chicken that you requested.

"Is that canned chicken?" Would she know the difference without asking? Nope. And yet she didn't want it unless it came from a can.

No wonder my grandfather was such a cheap bastard, if this was what he was up against.

If you're not quite ranted out after all this, I offer: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater


* It's difficult to maintain tastiness in a product meant to sit on a shelf for months at a time. Boxfuuds therefore rely a lot on salt, sugar and fat for flavor. If the box claims to be low in one, look over the ingredients carefully, because it's probably high in one (or both) of the others to make up for the cut.
mokie: Red Dwarf's Rimmer does a very embarrassing dance (people are crazy)
Yes, seriously.

First, there's the very popular "Hitler took everybody's guns! If the Jews had guns, maybe the Holocaust wouldn't have happened!", which Salon answers nicely:
Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps. (Alex Seitz-Wald, "The Hitler gun control lie", Salon 11 January 2013)
The same article also points out that Hitler did not come for everybody's guns, as the much-cited 1938 law actually deregulated gun ownership for most residents. It restricted gun ownership for Jews, but was just one of many restrictions on the Jews.

(Those wondering when Jews became non-white might as easily ask Google when Italians became white, or when the Irish became white, or ask why some Iranians get upset when referred to as non-white. Race isn't as simple as skin color--it has lots to do with social and historical context and power, us vs them dichotomies, and at times with who is and isn't considered fully 'people' at all. You can find books on it from the Jewish perspective, if you're curious. In the meantime, you can think of it as 'ethnically specific tragedies', if you find that easier.)

Then there's Gawker's story, with a title that speaks for itself: "Al Sharpton Rips Into ‘Gun Appreciation Day’ Chairman Who Thinks Slavery Might Not Have Happened If We Had Just Given Black People Guns"

Yes, seriously.

Of course, it was a different story when groups of black people actually were arming themselves, and the NRA helped to draft gun control measures instead of fighting against gun control. Meanwhile, remember when the neo-cons argued that slavery wasn't so bad, bred mutual respect between the races, and at least kept black families together in 2-parent households? Or when Quentin Tarantino decided he was an expert on history and declared "Roots" 'inauthentic'? Okay, that last one's unrelated...

Except that, for both "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained", Tarantino has been criticized as exploiting another race's past tragedy and rewriting it as a revenge fantasy, ignoring history and, some believe, implying that the oppressed could have taken care of themselves had they just grabbed those bootstraps and gotten a little more inventively violent.

Huh. Guess it does apply.

And this is just the headline-level racial fuckery emerging from the gun control debate. It's not touching on comment sections, where eyes are rolled, racial slurs are tossed out, and the threatening specter of the gangbanger is waved. It comes together as a disjointed vision of a Mad Max future, in which armed and melanistically-rich criminals roam free and run Bartertown, formerly known as the US of A, and by the way, their ancestors could have saved themselves from us pasty bastards in the first place if only they'd had guns.

Except nobody is enslaving us. Nobody is forcing us into concentration/re-education camps, or sending us off to Thunderdome.* There was a whole lot more going on in pre-Civil War America and the Third Reich than the oppressed parties not having guns, and much of that had to do with those parties being considered barely (or not even) human by the Powers That Be.

Guns aren't what's keeping society from suddenly imploding on itself. Society isn't imploding because, despite all the gloom, doom, school shootings and terrible cable reality shows, it works pretty well for the most part. Rethinking our stance on guns to take military weaponry off the streets isn't going to change that, or leave us bare and defenseless against barbarians at the gate. It might, however, stop a mass-murdering fuckhead or two from donning body armor and walking into a school to make himself famous.

Meanwhile, as some folks are suggesting that the only thing those other folks needed to fix their problems was more guns, completely different folks are uncomfortably wondering exactly why killers who arm themselves and walk into schools almost always turn out to be young middle-class white men. Is it just statistics? A dramatic rise in mental illness, or a dramatic drop in effective treatment? A pathological reaction to stressful times, changing demographics and social norms, and/or loss of status?

This is progress of a sort, given that a decade ago, we were uncomfortably discussing whether these killers were monsters created by video games or monsters created by bullying. Now that bullying is an openly discussed issue, video games aren't just for easily-demonized geeks anymore, and more killers clearly fall outside the stereotype of the kid playing out his revenge fantasy in real life, we can stop asking why that person committed this one horrible crime and start asking what it is about our culture that's incubating this trend.


* I know there's a tangent on the American penal system in here waiting for someone, but I've only got the one rant in me today.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (eljay drama)
A new reader left an awkward comment a few months ago. Introductory comments are always awkward, so I blew it off. His journal featured a few short random entries packed around various event announcements. (I don't remember what for. They weren't my cuppa.) I figured maybe he was just dropping comments around like business cards, hoping to find eyeballs for his cause. I decided to follow-back anyway, because test-driving new journals is part of the fun of community journalling sites.

He left two perfectly normal conversational comments. Not in a row, no--two in his brief time following me. Two. The rest were uncomfortable, preachy diatribes often only tangentially related to what I'd posted. I quickly learned to cringe when an email arrived telling me he'd commented.

I let things slide at first, since I'm an expert at saying the wrong thing the wrong way, coming across like a know-it-all and generally putting my foot in my mouth. (New journal title! mokievision: making an ass of myself since 2000!) But when he got pissy at me over my Newtown post, I was done. Not because of the gun debate, but because I refuse to discuss issues with someone whose response to plain logic is to throw a fit and an insult.*

In going back through those months to tag them properly (because I <3 tags), I kept stumbling on his assorted comments, except without my benefit-of-the-doubt hat on they just look like a pattern of assholish behavior--behavior I allowed him to get away with because I was too polite to put a stop to it sooner.

So I broke one of my own rules and deleted him. All of his comments, everywhere I found them. I don't remember ever deleting comments before, except for the occasional spam clean-up, and I don't like doing it, because even angry comments usually add context to the discussions and entries. But dammit, the man derailed a freaking book review to humblebrag about how many languages he could read. That should count as canned meat of some kind.

Edited to add: dracunculusdracunculus pointed out the Five Geek Social Fallacies, which explores why geeks sometimes put up with bad behavior instead of drawing boundaries. It's so on-target that it almost hurts. The most relevant of the five: you can't toss a jerk out of your circle because ostracizing a jerk is worse than whatever behavior makes the jerk a jerk, and you can't criticize a jerk's behavior because friendship means never, ever calling someone on their bad behavior.


* By 'plain logic', I mean that I pointed out several of the things he was repeating were either unproven, such as anything involving the killer's medical history; had been disproved, such as that Israel arms its teachers; or were plain wrong, like his reference to Asperger's as a mental illness. I also asked him to offer a source for his gun statistics, since they didn't match other sources I was seeing, and suggested twice that we seemed to simply be at odds on the whole topic and should just agree to disagree.

His response was to pull 90° conversational turns any time he was corrected/questioned, pull some more numbers out of his ass, and seize upon "agree to disagree" as some demented proof that he was winning some debate that only he had agreed to have. I finally insisted on seeing some sources, at which point he metaphorically threw himself to the floor and whined that I was more in favor of gun control than I claimed (i.e. tried to tell me what my opinion really was), because I wouldn't respect his authoritah and let him just make shit up without calling him on it.
mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (melancholy)
What can I say that hasn't already been said? News of the shooting was devastating. The national discussions it started on gun control, mental health access and the role of the media have been frustrating, but were overdue. The national discussions some people tried to start using the tragedy suggest that any mental health care reform needs to start with our politicians and celebrities. Please, won't someone think of Victoria Jackson?

On the same day that a man shot 20 children and 7 adults in Connecticut, a man in China slashed at least 22 children with a knife, a man in Indiana was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and then shoot up a nearby elementary school, and a teen in Oklahoma was arrested after plotting to lure students and faculty into the school gym and open fire. In the week since, a man walked into an Alabama hospital and opened fire, a Maryland teen was put in psychiatric care after concerned students reported that he had detailed information on the school building and security, and a Utah elementary school student brought a gun to school and threatened his classmates, citing fear of being killed like the kids at Newtown.

Maybe the world is always this crazy, and we just spend so much of our time focused on our own little corners that it's usually easier to ignore.

Mental Health Reform
Yes, please.

Though speculation abounds about the attacker's mental health, his actions point to a larger societal problem, and if we can't see it objectively in our own backyards, we can observe it unfolding in China, where attacks on schools are on the rise. Some experts attribute these attacks to mental illness, while others talk about frustration with rapid social changes, unemployment and general disenfranchisement.

I don't think that's an either/or. Dismissing these attacks as mental illness fails to address seriously the debilitating stress that drives people to the point where exploding seems like a solution; talking about them only as frustrated men downplays the value of access to good mental health care in favor of talking up punishment and armed guards. We need a healthy middle ground, where a person doesn't need a diagnosis of mental illness to get serious help, and doesn't feel stigmatized for seeking out the help they need.

Gun Control
Social media has been rife with strife, hasn't it? In one corner, people waving photos of an armed Israeli teacher with her students as proof that we need guns in schools--nevermind that the photo is of a guard, not a teacher, and that under Israel's restrictive gun control policies, citizens wouldn't even have access to as much firepower as the attacker had that day. In the other corner, people pointing out that the 22 children involved in the Chinese knife attack will all survive, so eager to make the point that they gloss over the alarming larger reality that schools are increasingly seen as a viable target by the disgruntled.

To share my biases upfront: my grandfather was a hunter, my cousins still are, and I know people who work in dangerous vocations that have to be armed for their own protection, so I know that there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner. At the same time, I also believe there's no reason for your average everyday citizen to have an assault rifle in their home, and that the discussion about gun control in our country is muddled by an unhealthy combative mindset that has latched onto guns as symbols of power and agency.

Examples of that mindset? Start with politicians pushing to arm teachers, under the assumption that at least one teacher with a gun could easily take out a gunman and reduce the danger. In reality, all armed teachers would introduce to the situation is crossfire: statistics tell us that accuracy drops among trained police officers when shooting moves from target practice to real situations, and psychology tells us that humans are consciously unwilling and subconsciously sabotaged when firing on other humans. (Yes, that's a Cracked article. Their explanation is a more interesting read.)

This kind of thinking is dangerously related to the kind of thinking that says, "I'll get a gun and show them all that they messed with the wrong guy." This kind of thinking isn't the solution--it's the problem. It's the kind of thinking that got an unarmed teenager stalked and shot by an armed junior detective wannabe after the real police told him not to engage, and which had half the country arguing if the wannabe had the right to 'stand his ground' and fire on the unarmed kid that he was stalking through the kid's own neighborhood. It's the kind of thinking that led a grown man to fire into a minivan full of teenagers because their music was too loud.

Whether or not we manage to come to a consensus on the issue of accessibility to guns, we have to address the connection between anger and armament in our culture. We've gotten the idea that waving weapons around is a legitimate way to express our frustration, even to the point of bragging about it on cable news stations. Is it any wonder a segment of the population carries out that threat?

The Media, the Politicians, the Deities and the Wingnuts
By midweek, even the media was questioning its presence in Newtown, and the value of the story vs. the empathy of its actions.

Sadly, some of us have gotten so entrenched in the politics of empathy that we've started to lose hold of the real thing.

Politically and/or religiously-minded individuals tried to stick the tragedy to their favorite hobby-horses. On the right, Mike Huckabee blamed the 'removal' of God from schools (nevermind what that says about attacks in places of worship), Victoria Jackson tried to equate it with abortion, James Dobson blamed it (and everything else) on the gays, and Ted Nugent blamed 'political correctness and moral decline', if you're inclined to take a tongue-lashing about morality from a man who gained legal guardianship over a teenager so he could have sex with her. On the left, there were snark remarks about 'arming those evil union teachers' and a demand to talk gun control before the families even knew if their children were among the slain.

For me, none of that tops Charlotte Allen's error-ridden misogynistic New Review essay in which she blames the "feminized setting" of the school, stating that "women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers," lamenting that there were no men on staff to leap into action, that "even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" might have taken the attacker out had they not been pushed to hide like scared little girls. It's a batshit revisionist view of events that ignores two brave women who rushed to try to stop him, insults the custodian who saved lives not by flinging a pail at an armed man but by running through the building warning teachers and students to take cover, and denigrates teachers who saved lives by concentrating on getting kids out of the line of fire rather than throwing themselves into it.

And, on the other side, those pointing out that the heroes of Newtown were all women (sorry, custodian!), and waxing philosophical about the differences between the genders, as if male teachers would not have given their lives for their students in the same situation.

But can we say that they're at least learning? Between Anderson Cooper's refusal to use the attacker's name on the air, and the media's greater focus on the victims rather than the gunman, the media seems to have figured out that they don't have to feed that morbid curiosity or give the attacker a posthumous platform. If this holds up, it's already a great step forward.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Feminism exploded all over my Internets from unexpected sources!

The other day, Cracked offered a lesson in tough love with 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, and in the process nailed Nice Guys: "Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. [...D]on't complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer."

Today, Gawker points out [the now-defunct site] "Nice Guys" of OKCupid in all their glorious douchebaggery, complete with a handy flowchart.

I'm surprised. I mean, you expect it of Jezebel, which even offered a field guide to Nice Guys recently, but Cracked? That's dude-central!

Edited for clarification: In much the same way that 'killer whale' as a term refers to a specific breed of whale and not just random homicidal cetaceans, 'Nice Guy' is a term for a specific type of guy engaged in a specific type of behavior, which is described in-depth at the sites linked above.

Essentially, a Nice Guy is a manipulative man who befriends a girl but has ulterior motives in doing so. He has a sexual/romantic interest in her but fears he'll be rejected if he asks her out directly, so instead he attempts to weasel into her circle of friends. There he encourages her to rely on him for emotional support, and often tries to sabotage her relationship by badmouthing whoever she's with ("Why are you with him? He's a jerk!"). The Nice Guy does these things under the mistaken belief that the girl will have a magical epiphany about how great he is, and he'll be upgraded to boyfriend/rewarded with sex. Unfortunately for him, girls can't read minds either, so the object of his affection generally thinks of him as a friend—you know, since that's how he's putting himself out there.

Since he's not actually her friend and it's all a sham, he will eventually turn on her for being a bitch who only likes jerks, and then wander off to whine about friend-zones and how girls only go for assholes who treat them like shit by, oh, asking them out directly and interacting with them like people instead of "machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out."

Naturally, Nice Guys don't grasp the difference between themselves and actual nice guys.
mokie: A girl in a bathtub wearing a snorkel (hair)
'OM-bray' is Spanish for 'man' (hombre), from the Latin root hominem, and has nothing to do with hair.

'Om-brr' is French for 'shade' or 'shadow' (ombre), from the Latin root umbra (which also gives us the color umber), and is used to describe a hair coloring effect featuring gradation in shades--usually dark roots with lightened tips as if a dye job is growing out, but sometimes a dip-dye of less natural colors.

'Om-brah', spelled ombré, is not a real word, and people should stop using it.

Update: Okay, I'm wrong, it is a real word (French for 'shaded') and not just people slapping an accent mark onto a word because they think French words all have those. Though the French term for hair is used in plural (les cheveux), so wouldn't the adjective also be used in plural (ombrée?), and unless I'm mistaken (again) still not pronounced 'OM-bray' or 'om-brah'? Oh, but it doesn't matter--all of this is entirely irrelevant, because Google suggests that the actual term used in French for this trend is, in fact, shit thee not, not cheveux ombré(e) but simply ombré hair.

It's a bit like finding out that chop suey is an entirely American dish, and Chinese restaurants are just humoring us.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Abusive boyfriends and spouses run in my family. (Usually from the cops.) At one time, I thought it was practically destiny--that as a family, we were so collectively messed up in the head that I just couldn't trust my attractions. I actually warned one boyfriend that, before we got too serious, he needed to know I would kill him if he ever hit me, because I'd decided as a little girl I'd go to jail for murder before letting my man beat me.

Hell, that's still true.

But all of this is not about Chris Brown and Rihanna. It's about us, and how we've framed their story, because it is just a story to us.

We have our villain, the woman-beater. We have our heroine, the beaten woman. The media gathered its torches and pitchforks dutifully. Alas, the heroine refused to follow the script. So we townsfolks gathered around to gossip and berate her.

She ought to just do what she's told. Doesn't she know she's a role model now? That means she can't just decide things on her own. And the girl shouldn't be deciding things on her own anyway--everybody knows beaten women are all Stockholmy and too stupid to get out of a bad situation. She can't just be allowed to make her own decisions. What if she makes the wrong ones? Then all the other girls will get the wrong message.

That message? Sure you're a grown woman who can make your own choices and live your life as you see fit--up to a point. And then you're just a bewildered girl who needs someone bigger and stronger to step in and save you from yourself. You won't know, so we'll let you know when that point is.

And the heroine refused to fall in line, so the media shined its pitchfolks and grumbled. Maybe she's not a 'good' girl after all...

What could possibly be more offensive than Chris Brown beating Rihanna?

A police officer leaking photos of Rihanna's bruised face for money.

The media splashing photos of Rihanna's bruised face everywhere for entertainment.

Every blogging site associated with Gawker online posting rants about how Rihanna needs to get with the fucking program and start acting like a damn role model already, for hits.

That if Jane Doe from Nowheresville, Wyoming, were suddenly splashed across the front page of tabloids as too stupid to get out of an abusive relationship, we would be decrying this invasion of her privacy, the abusive tone of this coverage, and asking how the hell this was supposed to help her.

That people still rant about Chris Brown, but not about the two police officers who sold that photo escaping prosecution, or about the media exploiting Rihanna's abuse for money.

That every blogging site associated with Gawker online is still doing this paternalist posturing, shaking the "Silence is Violence" placard as justification for making this a big public story and ignoring that Rihanna's rights--to privacy, for starters--were merrily trampled along the way to it becoming a big public story.

Sure, silence is violence. Too often abuse is swept under the rug as a 'private matter' when neighbors and family should intervene and tell the young woman she deserves better and they're there for her. But while it's not a private matter, it's sure as hell not tabloid fodder either, and there's a world of difference between a neighbor's offer of support and some blogger's smug headshaking.

Conspiracies 'R Us

Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:52 am
mokie: Red and Kitty Foreman are obviously exasperated (disappointed)
I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight...1

But I'll sure as hell write about it. I seem to be writing more about politics now than I did during the year leading up to this election.

For a few minutes this week past, it seemed as if the crazy spell was broken. The shrieking prophets of doom were temporarily dumbstruck. The viewers blinked out the sleepy dust, stretched and asked what time it was. The moderates dared to raise their hands and suggest rethinking the party's policy of political martial law. Everyone took a little step back from the Cliffs of Insanity.

A few folks asked if we could stop catering to the fringe now, and start work on "a message that works for people who represent all of America."2 There were many nods; turning a blind eye to the tinfoil behatted birthers was not only embarrassing, it was also counterproductive in reaching out to "a segment of society whose members have often been discriminated against through the types of disqualification-hunts that [rabid birther] Donald Trump engaged in so vigorously."3 And, as liberal Rachel Maddow pointed out (with only moderate gloating), the idea behind the two-party system is that those two parties come at problems from two different angles and hash it out; it breaks down if one party dedicates itself entirely to keeping anything at all from getting done in the name of destroying the political career of one particular president.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Or at least, not yet.

Despite his attempt at a classy concession speech, Romney threw out a snarky parting shot about Obama winning on the basis of 'gifts' to targeted voters. The gist of the message is common sense: the Democratic campaign tailored its approach to a wide range of voting blocs, emphasizing Obama's stance on reproductive rights to female voters, on immigration issues to Latino voters, on student loans to young voters, etc.--while the Republican campaign seemed to target only angry white guy voters. The language of the message, on the other hand, is loaded with the same angry white guy rhetoric that the party has used for four years to slyly stir Teapublicans into a foaming rage of willful misunderstanding. Off in a family room somewhere, someone's uncle is ranting at his family that Obama literally handed out presents in exchange for votes, and that's the goal of this rhetoric. The stupid, counterproductive goal.

And now the conspiracy engines at Fox News have smelled fresh blood, proclaiming voter fraud because areas of Pennsylvania went 100% to Obama. It seems incomprehensible to them that in predominantly black urban areas, Obama got nearly all of the vote, despite the campaign writing off black voters and urban voters in the first place, and pre-election polls showing Romney's support among black voters to be so ridiculously low that it registered as 0%. But again, beneath the bewilderment that they can't find a single Romney voter in some areas, the message they're sending is one of disenfranchisement: there shouldn't be that many black people voting, and if there are, it must be fraud. It can't be that they were motivated to get out and vote--it must be that they're dishonest and cheating the system.

With the Right torn between those who want to 'double-down' and those who want to pull back to a more moderate platform, I've seen many suggestions that this is not the end of our partisan woes, but just the beginning of the GOP's own less-than-civil war.


1 I wrote this bit last night, and it worked! I didn't dream of politics! I dreamt of editing text...
2 "David Frum: Why Mitt Romney Lost the 2012 Presidential Election (VIDEO)," The Huffington Post 14 November 2012.
3 John Dickerson, "Why Romney Never Saw It Coming," Slate 9 November 2012.
mokie: Blackadder's Baldrick says, "That is a bourgeois act of repression, sir!" (politics ism)
Now that the election's over, there's a lot of chatter about why Romney lost and what it means for the Republican party, as well as the significance and repercussions of other races like Bachmann's narrow victory and the universal defeat of the "GOP's Rape Apologist Caucus". I'm not referring to the talking heads whining about how "half of the country doesn’t put value in honor [and honesty] anymore," or 'it's the damn minorities and women who think they're entitled to a hand-out that are killing traditional America' (Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, respectively) but actual Oh shit, how did it come to this? discussions. Most are focusing on the issue of compromise--insisting that the President needs to, naturally, while ignoring that it was their party digging its heels in, even on its own bills, specifically to prevent anything useful from being accomplished for which he might be credited. (Sigh.)

It's no secret that the Republicans hitched their wagon to the evangelicals in the '80s, and they've been paying off that loan ever since. The problem with defining the GOP as the party of both God and Wall Street (apart from that whole Matthew 6:24 thing) is that it leaves out in the cold old-fashioned and fiscal conservatives uninterested in pandering to, or even associating with, a religious fringe that looks increasingly bigoted, behind the times and batshit crazy.

Despite Fox News' occasional attempt to panic your uncle with talk of taking God off the money, polls this year showed an increasing number of people uncomfortable with the large role religion plays in our politics, and the worries underlying these numbers aren't new. In the '60s, some voters feared Kennedy's election would invite the Vatican into US politics. During this election, some expressed the same concerns about the Mormon church, particularly given its role in the passage of Prop 8 in California. Yet for twenty years, Republicans have sat back as evangelical Christians hijacked their party to inject religion into national politics while ranting about any politics that sniffed near religion or religious issues (legal and tax exemptions for quasi-political religious organizations! no oversight in children's care homes! no contraception for anybody!). Republican voters put up with it, because what else were they going to do? Vote Democrat?

Meanwhile, as the pundits cite shifting demographics in favor of Obama, they're missing a generation of young conservatives who find the evangelical control of the GOP skeevy, the conservative media's shit-stirring among the old folks laughable, and the Libertarian candidates not such a bad option anymore.

A conservative friend pointed out how far down the rabbit hole and up their own asses the party is these days. "Their worldview now is literally, 'We need some supernatural divine intervention up in here.' [...] The truth is, they just don't know what to do anymore. They just want to pray to Jeebus to set the world back to what they want." Where I (cynically) saw the Becks and Palins as charismatic con men scamming the unsuspecting, he assured me they're for real, and that's part of the problem. "Imagine all the worst, most fucked-up appeals to theology a person can invent in their own mind to explain why the world should be how they want it to be, then multiply that by ten. That's what is going on in the heads of these people."

To be clear, I'm not saying Romney lost because of irreligious conservatives voting for third party candidates. I'm saying that the Republicans are losing the most valuable part of their audience entirely, as the younger generation shakes their collective head at the nouveau televangelists and looks for alternatives to the crazy old man party.

Instead of wondering which ethnic group it should concentrate on winning over for 2016, the GOP would do better to step away from the Kool-aid entirely, and refit its platform to embrace a wider swath of the conservative base that they've been actively scaring off.

Update: Or maybe they'll lock themselves in the echo chamber and cry for a while...
“Turnout was the big problem, since we didn’t get all of McCain’s voters to the polls, but we really should have been talking more about Benghazi and Obamacare,” an adviser says, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Those are major issues and Romney rarely mentioned them in the final days.” (Robert Costa, "Romney Adviser: It Was the Messaging," National Review Online November 7, 2012)
Compare and contrast the comments with those at The Atlantic Wire's reposting of the article, if you'd like.
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (cynical)
In November 2007, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker:
In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent... ("Real psychics: Criminal profiling and the F.B.I.")
The point Gladwell makes is that criminal profiling, despite its high profile in recent years, and maybe despite the best intentions of the profilers themselves, is nothing more than the old-fashioned cold reading practiced by psychics and televangelists: a few reasonable deductions mixed with a handful of okay assumptions and a lot of iffy guesses, couched in language so vague as to be realistically useless.

I mention this first because it's interesting, and second, because as a new friend (hi!) pointed out, the profilers have gathered around the Aurora shooting, all twitching and bitching. They're having trouble working with the reality they've got--the kind of profile they would come up with if they were looking for a suspect doesn't fit the suspect they have at all, and he's not giving them anything to work with. No blue collar job, no criminal history, no masturbatory basement lair. He doesn't even have a Facebook account! (Gasp!) Someone even brought up the tried-and-true boogeyman of video games, but the killer's game of choice was Guitar Hero.

So here's my profile on the killer:
  • He's an average student in a tough field of study. He wants to make a name for himself, but it's not going to be in neuroscience.
  • He claimed to be the Joker, but in red hair and body armor. He hasn't actually seen the recent Batman movies, but is aware of the popularity of Heath Ledger's Joker, and the controversy around the character. He wants to make a name for himself, and latching onto that image is, he thinks, a good way to start.
  • He may have the The Dark Knight's Joker confused with Batman Forever's Riddler. That is both sad and hilarious at the same time. If true, this suggests that he is not a nerd or a geek, as they would be aware of this difference, but that he would pretend to know such things if it got people to pay attention to him. In other words, he is a douchebag.
  • He allegedly asked one of his jailers how the movie ends. This has been interpreted by the media as a sign of how mentally out of touch he is. If we examine the question in the context of a screenplay, however, you see that it would play well as an action movie one-liner. From this, I suspect the killer really wants the world to think of him as a bad ass, and, based on that, it must really chafe his ass that the line did not play the way he anticipated. (Well played, media.)
  • Who tries to pull off action movie one-liners in real life? Douchebags.
  • According to his jailers, he's now claiming amnesia. I think we can look at this as, "This really didn't work out the way I wanted, I don't want to play this anymore."
In summary: I think he's just a douchebag who wants to make a name for himself. But it's just a guess.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]

We never learn.

Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:10 am
mokie: Notebook paper with a message, "Abort mission, destroy phone" (media mistrusting)
A couple of quotes from Charlie Brooker's Newswipe seem particularly relevant right now.

First, the host: "Repeatedly showing us a killer's face isn't news, it's just rubbernecking, and what's more, this sort of coverage only serves to turn this murdering little twat into a sort of nihilistic pin-up boy."

And I agree.

Second, from the same, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz:
We've had 20 years of mass murderers, throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, 'If you don't want to propagate more mass murders, don't start the story with sirens blaring. Don't have photographs of the killer. Don't make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market, because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week. (Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, 25 March 2009)

Update: The experts may expect to see one or two more attacks within a week, but I think we all underestimate how many plain old-fashioned assholes will pop out of the woodwork.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]
mokie: Text, "Fuck politics, I just want to burn shit down" (politics)
The upside of getting steady work is that it means steady pay.

The downside is that, because it's writing and editing, by the end of the day I don't feel like doing more digging and sorting and taping-together of meaningful words. So I piece together a few notes for a post or a rant, and vow to come back and flesh it out the next day. A few weeks later I spot the file, when the world and I are both out of steam on the issue.

For example, the whole contraception kerfluffle. Who said anything about asking taxpayers to pay for birth control? Most people just want their own insurance, insurance that they pay for with their premiums and their co-pays, to cover their medical needs adequately. And contraception is medication: forms of contraception are used to treat a variety of medical needs of which birth control is indeed one, but only one--and not a damn one of those medical needs is anybody's business but the patient's and her doctor's. For that matter, neither is her sex life. No woman should be obliged to give her employer her medical records and full disclosure of how much dick she is or isn't getting to justify receiving medication that her doctor prescribed.

Why should anyone's employer get a say in their medical care anyway? Who made CEOs experts in health care? Would a Muslim employer get to override a heart transplant if doctors decided that I needed a baboon heart? Would a Jehovah's Witness have a say in whether I received a vital blood transfusion? Would a Scientologist get to nix my prescription for antidepressants and send me in for an 'audit' instead? Would I have to sit down in a Christian Science prayer circle and hope that fixed a cancerous mass instead of seeking actual medical attention? If it's all about not asking an employer to violate his 'morals and beliefs', will racists be able to dictate that their employees only see white doctors? My freedom of religion should include the right not to have my employer's religion dictate my health care choices.

But I'm all out of rant about it. Now it's just a sad resignation to the idea that some people don't get how contraception works or why it's necessary.

Or the whole SOPA/PIPA debacle. I saved a lovely quote from TechDirt just for the occasion, but even with Obama hinting at another round of that inanity, I can't work up the oomph to do more than nod:
"What they might not have known -- because the RIAA never wants to admit this -- is that the overall music industry is growing, not shrinking. Sure, the dollar value of music sales has shrunk, and perhaps it's because of file sharing, but the overall music industry -- including things like concerts, licensing and publishing -- has continued to rise, quite significantly. More importantly, these are the parts of the business where artists actually keep a much larger percentage of the money -- meaning that artists are significantly better off today than they were in the past, contrary to what Sherman and the RIAA will tell you."
For example: Bandcamp and Noisetrade. Go forth and support an artist on their own terms.

But I digress.

Now that work has quieted down some and I can think up words for fun and pleasure again, I've found I'm pretty much out of things to apply them to.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
A little while back, South Park did a whole episode dedicated to reclaiming the word 'faggot' as an all-purpose insult because the young men who make up its target audience really, really like that word. The show argued that the word has other meanings and is not in and of itself a homophobic slur, and it shouldn't automatically be assumed to be a homophobic slur. I mean, it's not like their young male viewers also use 'gay' as an insult or say stupid shit like 'no homo', right?

Except yes, they do.

Now when is South Park going to get around to a certain racial epithet that the young white men want to use? Where's the argument that 'nigger' isn't racist and has other meanings? For example, according to two local DJs in the '90s, it's used to call someone ignorant in parts of the South, and that's not racist, right?

Except yes, it is.

Does anyone really have to explain why?

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mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
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