Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

Handegg Meets Politics

June 26, 2014 - 1:40 pm 22 Comments

So this is, again, late, but this took awhile to finish distilling through the mental filters.

There’s this football team that plays in the Washington D.C. area. They’re called the Washington Redskins, their uniforms are a dark maroon shade, their logo is a profile of a Native American* man, and their mascot looks like this: how inspiring

A lot of people, particularly Native Americans, feel the name and additionally the logo and mascot are offensive. The Redskins are of the view that this has been their name and their color scheme and their logo for a long damn time, there’s a whole army of Redskins fans out there, and changing any of it because a minority finds it offensive is entirely unreasonable. They also feel that it’s an admiring and respectful use, given football teams don’t name themselves after anything that is wimpy and pathetic, they name themselves after strong, aggressive images.

Recently the U.S. patent office ruled that as the moniker and logo are “derogatory to an ethnic group”, the Redskins trademarks are invalid. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that people can actually go out and bootleg Redskins merch left and right now- at least not yet- though Harry Reid seems very confused on this point himself. (Harry Reid, litigator, has no clue about the law; film at eleven.)

I have Views on all of this. As follow:

The patent office thing is a total bullshit bureaucratic move, a rather craven roundabout way to try and strongarm the team into doing the thing that the government would prefer politically. It’s a rather classic case of “technically correct, blunderingly wrong in actual fact”. It’s stupid and a thing the federal anything should not be doing, an entirely righteous generator of outrage from a libertarian perspective. I do not approve in the least.

That said, sorry, but the Redskins name, logo, and mascot actually ARE pretty goddamn offensive and in my opinion the team should have done this of their own free will long ago. Why? Well, it’s my damn blog, so I’ll tell you, at length.

1. The historical usage of the term “redskin” ain’t all that nice. There’s a lot of linguistic argument that the origin of the term and most of its usage weren’t, much of which is justified, but at the time the team was named and for the bulk of RECENT history, yeah it was. In the middle of the twentieth century it was usually used about like “negro”- if a common phrase in a genre of movies had been “THE NEGROES ARE ATTACKING” or reflections on the noble savagery of the negro. I’m sorry, but it’s just not a polite term. The context in living memory has been a lot more “racist” than neutral or “admiring”. To claim otherwise is the revisionism. Go watch a few weekends’ worth of Westerns from the thirties through the sixties and seventies and then come back and tell me that “redskins” usually meant “our awesome neighbors”.

2. Using a group of people as a mascot is pretty fucking sketchy in and of itself. The NFL has 32 teams. 15 are named after animals (Bears, Lions, Panthers, Rams, etc). 4 are named after jobs identified with the region or city their team hails from (Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, the former Oilers as a bonus). 3 more are named after some combination of job and group identity, again associated with the dominant population of the region their team hails from and in one case a highly admired identity throughout (foundational to) America’s history (Vikings, Buccanneers, Patriots). There are a handful more named after more esoteric or generic things (Browns, Saints, Jets, etc), and 2 named after mythological humanoids (Titans, Giants). And then there’s two named after an extant, resident ethnic group in the United States, the one at issue having by far the more derogatory name and mascot. Not coincidentally, the same group. (And no, the Vikings aren’t just the same thing. For one, there’s a huge Scandinavian population in Minnesota. For two, in order to compare to “Redskins” it would have to be “Ignorant Thuggish Norsemen”, for which there isn’t a derogatory term in common American parlance for reasons that should be obvious if you ponder the matter.)

3. Arguing that the history of the Redskins franchise has always been totally respectful and it’s just modern overweening sensitivity targeting a convenient target with the “racism” charge is, like arguing that “redskin” is a neutral or respectful term, bullshit. The Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate and allow black players on their roster- in 1961. And not of their own decision, either- the .gov told them they could either integrate or they could GTFO Washington D.C. and the stadium they were using, seeing as how it was all federal property.** The Redskins as a franchise have had to be shoved, struggling and protesting, toward any sort of respect for people who aren’t parts of the NFL. Or ones that are but aren’t white enough.

4. Speaking of D.C. and federal land, does it seriously strike nobody but me that naming the D.C. football team a derogatory term for the only ethnic group the American government fought an actual official war of extermination against is incredibly fucking cringeworthy? Really? Just me? Okay.

5. I’ve heard complaints that the Redskins shouldn’t change their long-held name because of the complaints of “a tiny minority”. Okay. A) Native Americans themselves are kind of a tiny minority in the US, just under 1% of the population, b) There are Natives that don’t care, though suspiciously every single one I’ve met personally finds the “Redskins” thing ridiculously offensive whether or not they think it should be a political priority, c) Dismissing Natives as a minority so tiny that they shouldn’t really have significant political sway is pretty goddamn tasteless given the people brushing them off and the city the Redskins are based out of are pretty much the reason they aren’t the ethnic majority in the first place.

6. Speaking of political sway, it matters in just how grating and how big of a problem something is. I’d be pretty irked with a team called the “Bitches” that featured a furious-looking woman with her teeth bared as their mascot, but it stings a lot less given that women have the political power to put a hell of a lot of pressure on to have it changed. Likewise I hate being described as “flyover country”, or any variant of hick or rural rube or redneck by snotty liberals from blue urban enclaves with the implication my opinions should be dismissed out of hand, but much to the frustration of these individuals me and mine have the political power to blow off THEIRS at least half the time and more often at our own local level. Shrugging off group-based insults is a hell of a lot easier when your group actually has the power to hit back hard over more serious abuses. Native Americans, for the most part, don’t.

7. And still speaking of relative power and minorities: “Washington Redskins” is about as offensive as a Richmond-based team in a black uniform with a portrait of a brutish-looking black man called the “Bucks” would be. You will note there is no such team. You may also note that the NFL has a pretty high proportion of black players, coaches, and staff. Also that black people represent a much larger minority in the US than Native Americans do. You would probably also be able to draw the conclusion that this is not a coincidence. There are, so far as I can determine, only slightly more actual Native players in the NFL as there are teams using them as a name and logo. You can’t really talk about reclaiming derogatory terms when the actual people they refer to aren’t even remotely represented among the almost entirely white people using them. You can’t actually “reclaim” a term on someone else’s behalf. Especially when they really don’t want you to.

I’ve seen the charge “white liberal guilt” thrown around a lot. On a more personal note? My objection is not in the faintest based on guilt over being white. It was what I was born as, I feel zero guilt for things I did not personally do, the sins of my father’s fathers are not my sins. I was, however, raised by my parents to not be an asshole, and THAT is why I find the “Redskins” thing offensive and why I think they ought to change of their own initiative. Not because it’s more or less popular to do, not because either a minority or a majority thinks it’s good or bad, not because white people ought to slink around whispering apologies for what our ancestors and government have done, because using people as mascots, ignoring the objections of the people they represent in favor of what’s more comfortable for you to do instead, willfully dismissing the history behind it all, and telling those people in the process how they ought to feel about it are asshole things to do.

The Redskins have, and should have, every protected right to go around being assholes. The beauty of freedom is that you can stand up and take your place as a proud Asshole-American and go prancing about in redface with a cartoon warbonnet if you so choose. And given that Native Americans are a tiny population, you’re probably not even going to face any consequences for it at all beyond people like me saying “Jesus, what an asshole”. They have to right to whine about being called assholes if they so choose from their megaphone; they have the right to say “Well fuck you, you’re too puny for me to care about”.

“Have the right” and “right thing to do” are totally different things, however.

*Before “politically correct” starts up: a) “Indian” is already an ethnic group from India and having to verbally distinguish between the two irritates me, b) I don’t see what the hell the harm is in calling a group of people what they actually want to be called, especially when it’s clearer, and c) of all the hyphenated-American ethnic terms, which I have mixed feelings about, “Native American” is the one that is actually accurate rather than redundant as a descriptor. We’re all Americans, but they’re the group that was here in the millions strong on the actual American continent before History Happened. “Politically correct” is a pretty pointless charge when it’s also geographically and anthropologically correct.

**I DON’T disapprove of this on libertarian grounds. “My house, my rules” is an old and respectable principle, and if they had really wanted to stick to their guns they were free to- as long as they found someone else willing to host them, or bought their own stadium.

Hugo Your Way, I’ll Go My Way

April 25, 2014 - 5:57 pm 56 Comments

So I’ve mostly driven quickly past the various kerfluffles and infighting in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy community because a) I don’t have a dog in the fight, I haven’t read most of the work of the authors involved and those that I AM fans of are often on opposite sides, and b) The idea that I should give a shit about the politics of authors whose writing I like both makes me deeply exhausted and deeply paranoid that I will quickly have nothing left to read that I like. I have John Scalzi and Larry Correia both linked in my blogroll because I really like both of their writing to the point I’ll buy almost anything either writes, and I often enjoy their pontifications, not because I’m particularly on board with either of their politics. (Although depending on the subject du jour, I often am with one, the other, or in twisted ways both at the same time.)

But sometimes it bleeds into my virtual life from all directions, and thus I became unwillingly aware of this post from Larry when it was linked from two separate places I read avidly at the same time.

Let me make one thing crystal clear: I like Larry, though I’ve never met him, and I really, REALLY like Larry’s books. The only things of his I haven’t read are the Dead Six novels, because it’s really not my genre, and the stuff set in the Warmachine universe, because my time to read these days is far more limited than I’d like and trimming out stuff set in universes I’m not remotely familiar with that aren’t original to the author is one way to keep it manageable. (You should see my backlog anyway.) If he wins a Hugo I’ll think he deserved it. I bounce on my toes in anticipation whenever something new in the Monster Hunter or Grimnoir series comes out. Suffice to say I’m a fan, which I can’t say for most of the authors he’s in a furball with.

Larry’s pissed of a lot of the right people, who have mostly reacted to him for the wrong reasons with completely unjustified venom. I often agree with some of the favored causes of the Social Justice folks, but I disagree heavily with what often seem to be their tactics of exaggeration and vilification. I think the best way to handle speech I think is wrongheaded is civil discussion, based at least at first on the premise that the other person has their own premises that might be as well-thought-through as mine are. (Often this proves not to be true, but still, it satisfies my own moral standards to start from that assumption.) Tarring people with shit they did not say and positions they do not hold is wrong. This, notably, does NOT mean I am always willing to give a fair hearing to everyone with every single opinion- when those premises are clearly spelled out as not just wrongheaded but morally repugnant, I’m willing to write that person off as an irredeemable fuckhead without a second thought.

Vox Day is, in my opinion, one such fuckhead, and it must be here that Larry and I part company. Larry:

The reason Vox is so hated is that he is the only person ever kicked out of SFWA. He makes me look cuddly and diplomatic. He was expelled from SFWA because the powers that be decided he was a racist, in fact, it was so obvious that he was racist that it only took a thirty page thesis explaining how stuff he said was actually racist, including the leadership of SFWA searching through the vile cesspool that is Stormfront until they found some nazi skin head who used similar words, and then holding him accountable for things that posters said in his blog comments (us right wing bloggers don’t believe in censorship so we don’t “manage” or “massage” our comments like they do) then they kicked him out for misusing their Twitter account.

Basically, he called Nora Jesmin an “ignorant half-savage” and that pissed everybody off. See, Nora, is a beloved libprog activist and Social Justice Warrior, and all the reports of her victimization at the hands of the villainous Vox usually leave out the parts where she’d been hurling personal insults at him for years. Myself? I thought that comment might be a bit over the line, but then again, Google search my name and see what the SJW’s have been calling me for the last few days. It is way worse that ignorant or savage, and I think I’m darker skinned than K. Tempest Bradford. I’ve yet to see any SJWs condemning those comments about me. Tolerance is a one way street with them.

“Ignorant half-savage” is not quite what he said. Granted it took some digging to extract the actual original quote and context, because people mostly did not link to it. I’m only half doing so myself, not because I want to spare people from his badthink, but because I want to deal with his horde of Morlocks about as much as I want to deal with a termite infestation. So here it is: A Black Female Fantasist Calls For Reconciliation. A much lengthier quote of what he said BEFORE and immediately after “ignorant half-savage”, because I do believe in linking to the source and providing context:

I therefore suggest that their assertions should be taken with at least a small grain of salt rather than credited to me. And it should be obvious that, being a libertarian, I am not actively attempting to take away anyone’s “most basic rights”. Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.

She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites ” just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.

Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the traditional Western code of civilized conduct. She could, if she wished, claim that privileged white males are responsible for the decline of Detroit, for the declining sales of science fiction, even for the economic and cultural decline of the United States, but that would not make it true. It would not even make it credible. Anyone who is paying sufficient attention will understand who is genuinely responsible for these problems.

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males. If one considers that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilized after their first contact with advanced Greco-Roman civilization, it should be patently obvious that it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do the same in less than half the time at a greater geographic distance. These things take time.

Being an educated, but ignorant half-savage, with little more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity within SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance. Nor do the back-patting Samuel Johnsons wiping their eyes and congratulating her for her ever-so-touching speech understand that.

If Vox is a misunderstood opinionated religious right-winger who uses some salty old-fashioned language rather than a real racist, I am Princess Anastasia. I realize there is a school of thought that he is actually a very elaborate troll who enjoys riling leftists and doesn’t really think any of this, but I think this is wishful thinking and even if it’s not he’s still SAID all of it, publically stood behind it, and used the SFWA’s bullhorn to do it. He richly deserved his expulsion, as well as most if not all (I would be willing to go with all) of the contempt for him. I could go on for quite a long time providing the original context for the library of stuff he’s said that additionally convinced me of that “irredeemable fuckhead” status, but given this particular incident that got him booted from SFWA is the subject that Larry mentioned, I’ll stick with it for now. If being kicked out of that organization for your politics is a crying injustice and an example of bias against anyone to the left of Dennis Kucinich, absolutely no one is to blame for it more than Vox himself.

The other thing that bothers me is that tit-for-tat isn’t actually a moral stance, which makes the “they didn’t mention the shit she said about him!” a nonargument. I don’t care if she’s the Wicked Witch of Africa, nothing she could have said would have justified what I just quoted in any way. “She was mean to me!” is a playground argument. (So is the Roman Polanski thing, which while a very good burn is also pretty inaccurate- I keep an eyeball on the SJWs as much as I do the Dark Enlightenment people, and I didn’t see a single one defend Polanski rather than calling for his liver to be served with a nice chianti.)

Larry is a good guy I sometimes- not even that often- disagree with. He doesn’t deserve to be associated with Vox, at all. Which is why I’m so disappointed he’s volunteered for it himself.

ETA postscript: Can’t believe I forgot to include this point before I hit post: None of this means that Vox shouldn’t win a Hugo for his novelette. I regard the idea that the Hugo has recently or ever been primarily a meritocracy instead of a back-scratching popularity contest reflecting current politics hilariously naive, but being a raging asshole doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t win an award for your work unrelated to your asshole-related agendas. However, by exactly the same token he doesn’t deserve to be on anyone’s slate because he makes the right people angry.

Civil Oddities

April 16, 2014 - 2:38 pm 5 Comments

So recently, I had to spend my morning and early afternoon at a local government office oriented toward the low-income. (We are fine. I was there to get off a roll I was mistakenly placed on.) I was not, to put it mildly, looking forward to the experience, being acquainted with the motor vehicle departments in Phoenix and New Orleans, and even here in our tiny whitebread little burg. I walked in with low expecations.

So to my immense surprise, the waiting room was quiet and pleasant, all the conversation I heard was in articulate, unaccented English (I was the only white face in the room until another walked in near the end of my visit), many of the waiting room inhabitants were chatting pleasantly with one another, the line was moving efficiently, there were zero tantrums or meltdowns, all the employees were polite and seemingly possessed of a genuine desire to help, and though there were small children present, their parents were keeping them quiet, supervised, and amused. Once it was my turn, my task was completed easily and efficiently, with zero surliness on the part of the fellow behind the counter.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-examine a whole bunch of assumptions.

Told You So Edititon

September 18, 2013 - 1:54 pm 3 Comments

As a fan of both guns and coffee, I of course have to weigh in on the banality du jour of Starbucks asking Customer McHeatertoter to not give them his/her money.

Oh wait, I already did.

Tam, as ever, makes and covers all the salient points with a finely sharpened tongue cutting no more or less than is appropriate to the targets in need.

Being more of a blunt instrument type myself, let me merely add this: Nice work you jackshit chucklefuck aspires-to-merely-inadequate fuck stained cuntblast cock-sockets. Well fucking done there, turning “Meh” into “Please stop.” Does it suck rancid donkey cocks that “Meh” is a desirable state? Yup! Thanks for noticing. You know what sucks worse? Making such a shit-heel of yourself that the hand is forced to turn “Meh” into an open “No, really, we’re against you. We just like money. Stop being a shitheel, please.”

Frankly I’m tempted to buy a cup just by way of thanks for honesty.

(And if the return to vulgar profanity or the older post tickled your funny bone, please consider kicking a few bucks into the pot for Kilted To Kick Cancer and help fight prostate cancer.)

12-21-12

December 21, 2012 - 6:17 pm 9 Comments

OH MY GOD THE DOCTOR DID IT! HE SAVED US ALL!

….wanker.

National Review: Newtown Shooting Fault of Women

December 20, 2012 - 8:39 pm 11 Comments

Because with all the back and forth of “it was GUNS that killed the children” vs. “it was MENTAL ILLNESS that killed the children” vs. “it was THE MEDIA that killed the children*”, it’s certainly… novel… to see a mass murder blamed on basically every woman involved as a change of pace.

Here we go.

Like most people, I’ve been thinking and thinking about the Sandy Hook massacre. I’ve even pored over a map of the school and its killing sites — and studied a timeline of the incident, which appears to have unfolded over about 20 minutes. I have three observations:

These observations do not include “once somebody who’s never done anything to get themself locked up decides they’re going to kill a whole bunch of soft targets, generally it’s very easy for that person to do so for purely logistic reasons”. Neither is “elementary aged children are really easy to kill if you have no moral or empathetic objection to doing so”.

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at [redacted- scumbag's] knees.

Actually, there was. He did something more useful than throwing buckets, i.e. shouting warnings.

Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers.

This reads as a strange dispatch from an alternate universe where mass murders in schools (and malls, and other “safe” places) have never happened before, or where all the others were stopped by random men on the scene. In the universe I inhabit, at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, the University of Texas, and other mass murder scenes with mixed genders, the same thing happens to the unarmed men as the unarmed women and children: they get shot and maybe die. (Sometimes armed ones get shot too.)

The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at [scumbag], before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms.

A fuller accounting is in the article linked above re the custodian. The school psychologist died challenging the shooter too. One of the teachers died standing between the shooter and her class locked in the closet. (The article does not mention, but she did indeed manage to save some.)

The thing of it is, again in the universe where school shootings have happened before, the people who survive DO tend to be the ones that managed to successfully hide or escape, and the heroes in the wake DO tend to be those who help others do so, like Liviu Lebrescu. I’ve never heard anyone question his masculinity for doing exactly what the Newtown teachers tried to do, with varying degrees of success.

But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm.

So we’re going to ignore all the women we just mentioned who displayed great courage trying the best way at hand to save their charges and sometimes gave their lives doing it in favor of a general where women are helpless and passive. Check.

Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on [scumbag].

…I’m going to snort at the apparent alternative to what the Newtown teachers did in “protecting the weak”, facepalm at the idea of a husky twelve year old boy being the savior of the day if only they weren’t so feminized, and note that again, this imaginary alternate scenario isn’t hypothetical and has already been run here on Earth. What happened was: they got shot and died, or they got lucky and hid or escaped. The only teacher killed at the Columbine massacre was an athletic coach. He was shot doing exactly what every other teacher we’ve mentioned did, or tried, to do: get their students to safety.

People, even unarmed people, need to fight back against criminals — because usually, no one else will. It took the police 20 minutes to arrive at Sandy Hook. By the time they got there, it was over. Cops and everybody else encourage civilians not to try to defend themselves when they are criminally assaulted. This is stupid advice. There are things you can do. Run is one of them, because most shooters can’t hit a moving target. The other, if you are in a confined space, is throw things at the killer, or try a tackle. Remember United Flight 93 on 9/11. It was a “flight of heroes” because a bunch of guys on that plane did what they could with what they had. They probably prevented the destruction of the White House or the Capitol.

The big difference between Flight 93 and any given mass shooting is that the passengers of 93 knew for a fact that they were dead no matter what happened. Either they were going to die in a plane crash, or they were going to die at the hands of the terrorists, and either way things were going to end for all of them in “plane crash”. It IS possible to survive a mass shooting, and the best way to do it if you aren’t armed (and training would help too), is… hide, or escape. If you want to save others: help them hide, or escape.

Look, I agree with the broad position that resistance is preferable to passivity, and especially that it would be great if a few teachers with the gumption for it and some solid extra training were allowed to carry, in the position the Newtown faculty were actually in at that moment? I would have done EXACTLY the same thing- because it was the likeliest way to actually save some children rather than distract the shooter and use up a few rounds, which would be the probable outcome of rushing him. Maybe if I could convince as many others to rush too… but that’s a pretty hard sell in that moment, to people who want to live and know they might.

There’s also a big difference, when you yourself are unarmed, between a box cutter and a firearm.

Parents of sick children need to be realistic about them. I know at least two sets of fine and devoted parents who have had the misfortune to raise sons who were troubled for genetic reasons beyond anyone’s control. Either of those boys could have been an [scumbag]. You simply can’t give a non-working, non-school-enrolled 20-year-old man free range of your home, much less your cache of weapons.

While I generally agree that if you’re aware your child is mentally ill and also aware that offspring is actually dangerous and merely hasn’t been arrested or committed yet, you should probably not have firearms in the house, the structure of this paragraph is really damn odd.

You have to set boundaries. You have to say, “You can’t live here anymore — you’re an adult, and it’s time for you to be a man. We’ll give you all the support you need, but we won’t be enablers.” Unfortunately, the idea of being an “adult” and a “man” once one has reached physical maturity seems to have faded out of our coddling culture.

…Yeah, sure, okay. The problem here wasn’t that he was that rare slice of mentally ill that was actually legitimately dangerous, the problem was that he lived with his mother. Because being told to man up would have fixed his problems, no mass murderer has ever lived on his own, and the most responsible thing to do if you KNOW your adult offspring is dangerous is to boot him from the house and turn him loose on society.

And with that bit of insanity, this exercise in “my worldview will fit every tragedy if I just shove it through hard enough” is at an end.

*My own position is that it was Colonel Mustard in the hall with the lead pipe. I do have a serious position, but it’s a fairly dull one that provides no useful answers or courses of action.

Ho-hum.

December 14, 2012 - 7:51 pm 50 Comments

Another day, another mass shooting. Let’s get the checklist, hmm?

Hysterical media spewing anything in order to be first rather than right? Check.

Anti-gun groups drumming their worn-out blame-the-tool beat? Check.

Rabid chest-thumping NOT ON MY WATCH from the pro-gun side? Check.

Blog posts with token sympathy for the victims prefacing “HEY WE CAN MAKE THE PRO-GUN SIDE LOOK BETTER”? Check.

Interviews with weeping relatives where the media figure pretends as hard as they can to give a fuck? Well, it’s still early but I’m going to go out on a limb and check this one off too.

Congratulations, humanity. We’ve made mass-murder more formulaic than an episode of “Seinfeld.” If anybody needs me, I’ll just be over here assembling these cold-forged girders with cores of pure selenium.*

*And if you get the reference, you’re welcome to lend a hand. Just think of something cooler at the appropriate time than the last go round.

What ABOUT them?

November 19, 2012 - 1:25 am 41 Comments

Well, we’ve covered birth control 101, in which we learned that hormonal contraception for women is a fixed cost that has absolutely no relation to how much sex she has or how many partners she has it with (and surprisingly often isn’t prescribed AS contraception but for other kinds of health care), and today, class, we’re going to have the 102, because apparently we still need to learn things!

Today I got linked to a post by Dr. Whitecoat, who appears to feel that a)The Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception represents a free handout to women, and b)that it offers nothing to men, who will nonetheless be part of the paying pool. This particular point of view, particularly that it represents a handout specifically to young, sexually promiscuous women, is shared by the Romney Campaign. To wit, “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women.”

Here’s a quick primer on birth control: there are three primary approaches with it. Surgical sterilization, hormonal contraception in various forms, which does not (yet) exist for men as it’s much easier to stop an egg from getting fertilized or implanting than it is to stop fertile sperm production, and barrier methods, which technically include female condoms and dental dams, but as I’ve never actually met anyone who’s used either, we’ll just go with “condoms and diaphragms”. There’s also various formats of spermicide delivery, but as they are really unreliable compared to everything else, they’re usually used as a backup to the barrier method in case it breaks or was put on/in incorrectly. There’s also IUDs, which technically is a surgical approach but is also temporary and only for women, so in effect it can be lumped in with the hormonal contraceptives.

All birth control methods have their upsides and their downsides. Hormonal contraception is fire-and-forget as long as you’re good about remembering to take your pill or renew your shot or your Norplant, but it has a number of side effects and does buggerall to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Of the barrier methods, diaphragms have to be fitted, don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and are fiddly as hell to insert; they have the upside that once you’ve managed that you can have sex “spontaneously”, but that’s a sufficiently small upside I’ve never met anyone who uses one of those still, either. Condoms are cheap and protect against sexually transmitted infection, but they reduce sensation for most men that I’ve talked to, you’ve got to have them on hand and ready to go when you’re ready to have sex, and most of them come with spermicidal lube.

Yes, that’s actually an upside AND a downside. The problem with any form of birth control that uses the spermicidal backup is that the vaginal area is an ecosystem unto itself; it’s normally inhabited by friendly, acid-loving bacteria that keep things clean and healthy, but spermicide kills them as well as killing sperm. Use too much, too often, and most women will become vastly more prone to vaginal and urinary tract infections, since the acid-lovers aren’t there making things inhospitable for nastier-tempered invaders anymore. They’re painful, they’re unpleasant, and they stink. They can also be life-threatening- a UTI untreated can happily migrate up into the bladder or kidneys and start doing some serious damage. Condoms that don’t have spermicide exist, but they can be difficult to find, or at least I’ve never managed to find any on the drugstore shelves. Granted, it’s been a long time since I tried, but at the time, it was special order or nothing doing. (I had a friend with a steady boyfriend who was also allergic to the class of antibiotics most useful in treating urinary tract infections. This was the bane of her existence and led to some pretty serious illnesses.)

All contraceptives have tradeoffs, and which downsides you’re willing to accept have a great deal to do with what kind of sex you’re having, and most of the more serious downsides are the woman’s consequence. If you’re a single woman and having casual hookups, sex buddies, or other short-term relationships, condoms are absolutely the way to go: you need the protection from STIs way more than you need anything else other than the pregnancy prevention, and since you probably have no idea when you’re next having sex, there’s less risk that the spermicide will hurt you, and simply grabbing some birth control from the drug store or night stand when you need it is a much more attractive option.

However, if you’re in a long-term, exclusive relationship, particularly if you’re cohabiting, hormonal birth control becomes much more attractive. You’re having regular sex, so the effects of spermicide are a more pressing concern, neither of you (presumably, obviously there are exceptions and the exceptions will usually be using condoms) is carrying an STI and you’re not going to be picking a new one up anytime soon unless someone is both being horrible and doing it without a condom, and since you’re having regular sex, a form of birth control that’s a fixed, steady cost is much more attractive. Since STIs and infections have been taken (mostly, some hormonal birth control raises the risk of vaginal/urinary infections too) off the table, concerns about men’s sensation are much higher on the priority list now.

Now I’m going to get a little more personal, so cut just in case anybody’s sensibilities are more, well, sensitive than I expect.

(more…)

Yes, we did. Now fuck off.

November 6, 2012 - 9:56 pm 13 Comments

I just voted and nothing you can say will make me feel any better, so just fuck off. I voted for assholes, and if you voted, so did you, and I’m so completely sick of the goddamn media orgasm over this non-decision over which way we get fucked for the next few years, I’m about up to spreading the mayo on my sandwich to take up in the clock tower for the afternoon, so here’s the deal:

We’ll find out tomorrow which asshole we’re stuck with. If you’ve been one of those poll-sniffing borderline gambling addicts, you are formally instructed to fuck right the fuck off. This goes for friends, too. If you’re naive enough to be wound up and excited for the outcome, I will flat out tell you to fuck off, and end the conversation right there. God help you if you’re some excitable dumb fuck working a phone bank calling to ask which asshole I voted for.

With regards to politics, for the next 48 hours you can either bring me whiskey, or fuck off.

Yes, It IS That Bad

September 7, 2012 - 11:29 pm 27 Comments

Alternate title, which was just too long: “You know when people ask anti-rape protestors who’s actually in favor of rape? Well…”

So, there was a thing that went down while we were dark, that I wanted to write about at the time but was Overtaken By Events.

The Catholic Register decided to do an interview with Friar Benedict Groeschel, in which the subject of sexual abuse of children came up, and on which he had interesting opinions. Those opinions were so interesting the Register has since taken down the interview and replaced with a bunch of apologies. Given that, I can only quote from other responses to the original. I’m pretty bummed about that, because I wanted to analyze the original more thoroughly; everyone has quoted the same few lines, but really the whole thing was incredibly problematic. Oh well. Anyway, here’s the lengthiest quote I could get, from Sullivan’s response:

People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer … It’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.

It’s an understandable thing … there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky — it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.

That’s right, y’all. Considering the case of Jerry Sandusky, his primary sympathy seems to be for Sandusky. You remember him, he’s the dude who was anally raping ten year old boys. Poor dude!

Now, the thing that everyone has focused primarily on is the most obvious thing, the thing the Catholic Register apologized for and Groeschel apologized for and the people defending him (yes, he has defenders, and I’ll get to them specifically in a bit here), is for blaming the victims for causing their own rape by “seducing” their attacker. Which, yes, that’s incredibly fucking awful, it should not be necessary to spell out that even if a kid actually threw themselves at you screaming “HAVE SEX WITH ME”*, it’s still the adult’s absolute moral responsibility to refuse. In no small part because inappropriate sexual behavior in children is almost always a huge red flag for past or ongoing sexual abuse; taking this hypothetical child up on it is volunteering to be their next abuser rather than helping them, which, y’know, clergy are theoretically all about. There’s no grey, there’s no “legitimate”, there’s no modifier: having sex with someone unable to truly consent, like a minor under your authority, is just-plain-rape. (Just because I KNOW I’m gonna get someone in comments going on about sexy teenagers and varying ages of consent, Ozy points out in her own article that the average ages of the molestation victims in the Catholic sexual abuse scandal being 11-14, with the youngest being three- not 14-18.)

The thing that really catches my eye about Groeschel’s original statements is how much reduction of responsibility he consistently applies to the rapists. First it’s, “I bet those kids are seducing those poor priests, who are maybe having nervous breakdowns.” (I know psychological stress makes ME much more likely to accept sexual offers from prepubescents.) Then we get weird “things get romantic, but not planning on heavy-duty.” (Thanks, that’s not screamingly inappropriate at all to compare a mentor-mentee relationship to a teenie romance, I feel better now.) Then it’s, “the clergy aren’t so bad, I bet other professions are doing it too!”. (Just the sort of logic you like to see in someone in the business of ultimate moral authority, that.) Then the highly creepy Penn State bit where apparently it was all on the kids to report that poor Jerry was having problems. (Why didn’t anyone say anything? Maybe because of an institutional culture with more sympathy and support for the rapist than their victims. Would you know anything about that, Friar?) Then as the cherry on top, apparently it’s kind of outrageous and extreme that this is an actual CRIME and not just an unfortunate “moral failing”. Man, cheating on your wife is legally okay, but fucking kids isn’t, what a restrictive world we live in today.

Another theme that leaps out is the idea, which is very much echoed in both the Catholic Register and Friars of Renewal apologies and the huffy defensed linked above, is the idea that in order for it to be justifiable to condemn someone for their actions, they had to set out and plan to do something awful and really meant to be awful. Sandusky probably didn’t get up in the morning and go “Nyaharhar, I’m gonna scar me some boys for life today”, so that makes his doing it more okay and more understandable. A priest might not have set out to rape that three year old in their fetching little pair of PullUps, so throwing him in jail over it is just kind of harsh. Friar Groeschel is old and starting to get a bit dotty and has been acting not himself, so he said a bunch of stuff excusing rapists and blaming child rape victims, he probably didn’t really mean to do that.

To put it bluntly: Who fucking cares and why do you think this is relevant to the morality of their action? If you do something awful, it was an awful thing and your moral responsibility for it doesn’t diminish a whit if you didn’t set out to specifically be awful that day. It’s awfulness rests on the scope of its awful effects, not the mindset of the person committing those actions. This also applies to all the “BUT HE’S A GOOD MAN SEE HERE HE’S DONE ALL THOSE GOOD THINGS”. Which, no. If you are a good person and you do something monstrous, there’s no balance scale there, you cease to be a good person and your good deeds have no bearing on the monstrousness of your actions and the monstrosity of you they reflect. If you want to not be a monster you have to stop doing monstrous things and then work your ass off to atone for the effects, not produce your good deeds chitty. Even then sometimes there’s no going back; I’m pretty sure no amount of Salvation Army time served could have made Hitler not-a-monster.

I have to quote the Catholic League defense, it’s a doozy:

In a recent interview, he hypothesized how a young person (14, 16 or 18, as he put it) could conceivably take advantage of a priest who was having a nervous breakdown. He also referred to Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced Penn State football coach, as “this poor guy.” For these remarks, and related comments, he is now being labeled as a defender of child abuse.

The accusation is scurrilous. In the same interview, Groeschel emphatically said that priests who are sexual abusers “have to leave.” His reference to Sandusky was exactly the way a priest-psychologist might be expected to speak: “poor guy” conveys sympathy for his maladies—it is not a defense of his behavior! Indeed, Groeschel asked, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

YOU GUYS THEY WERE HYPOTHETICAL CHILDREN WHAT ARE YOU GETTING WORKED UP ABOUT. >:( (The children who were actually sexually abused in the actual Catholic child sex abuse scandal were very damn much not hypothetical.) Also he TOTALLY SAID abusers who were actively abusing “had to leave”, how can you say he’s defending child abuse?! Plus he of course has sympathy for the rapist! Those victims should have totally reported him so he could get help!

Actually, his position on molesting priests beyond this interview where apparently age and injury turned him into a completely different person who suddenly has no idea that rape is all that bad isn’t impossible to determine, because during the time the abuse that turned into such a scandal was happening he was part of the heirarchy that handled misbehaving priests, so he has actions, not just words, on his record. Actions like using his position as a psychologist to help put molesting priests back into a position to abuse. So maybe his stance isn’t so difficult to puzzle out from just “one little interview”. (Actually, searching Groeschel’s name on Bishop Accountability for more than just that article is quite informative**.)

The fact that the person who interviewed Groeschel, and the editorial staff of the Catholic Register, couldn’t figure out there was anything wrong with what he was saying also speaks, in letters that are ten feet high and flashing red, to an institutional culture that perpetuated and is still perpetuating a climate that excuses and protects predators. This is why the abuse scandal seems neverending: because, on an institutional level, they still believe that rape of those under their care and authority isn’t such a big deal and should really be a rather private affair between the rapist, the victim, and maybe the rapist’s therapist.

*File under “hell of a lot less likely than the adult interpreting affection or even just their own attraction as seduction”.

**Here’s a particularly telling one when it comes to his attitude toward the victims.