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a lie built right into the name

So the opponents of Prop. V have almost convinced me to support it.

Let me back up a bit.

Proposition V is going to be on the ballot this November here in San Francisco. It’s a city-level tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which for this purpose is being defined as “a beverage that contains added sugar and 25 or more calories per 12 ounces.” When you look at the list of things that are exempt it becomes quite clear that this is specifically targeting soda pop (I don’t even remember the last time I saw those two words together, let alone wrote them myself. Weird.) and other junk-food drinks. Diet soda, alcohol, and probably anything you think of as a healthy soft drink are not subject to it.

There are a lot of valid and interesting points of discussion to this proposal, and I think some good conversations could be had about it, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the campaign against it, specifically the mailings I’ve been getting that were paid for by No on V, Enough is Enough: Don’t Tax Our Groceries, with Major Funding by American Beverage Association California PAC.

That’s seriously what it says. Take a moment to appreciate that at some point there had to be a committee meeting in which people deliberately chose that name. On purpose. Read the rest of this entry

Legitimate Asshole Todd Akin reminds me how we are legitimately fucked.

I apologize for the scarcity of links and references in this post. Perhaps I’ll go back and add them sometime, but it seems unlikely.

Todd Akin is sorry that he said he was sorry about that “legitimate rape” bullshit he spouted off a while back. This spiraled off in my head to a conclusion about just how fucked up America is now.

First: Akin. In his apology for his apology the shithead has the utter lack of humanity to write this,

“Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?”

Which pretty much sums up why I’ve decided that abortion should be absolutely legal without restrictions or inconvenience or excess questions right up until fucking labor starts; because assholes like him will do everything in their power to make women suffer.

Look, we live in a society where the idea of making a false rape accusation that lasts long enough for paperwork to happen is pretty damn stupid right off the bat, because we live in a society that treats rape victims worse that it treats rapists. I stand by that statement as long as we have situations where, for example, high school football stars sexually assault a teenage girl on fucking video that gets publicly posted to the fucking internet and not only does their whole community rally around them and against their victim, but it takes a massive online shitstorm to even bring them to trial. And then people cry about these poor “ruined lives”, and they’re talking about the fucking criminals having their lives ruined by being held accountable for their crimes! Meanwhile, the victim is ostracized and driven out for demanding justice. That’s American society today. Read the rest of this entry

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is a fallacious argument that suggests there are only two possibilities when in fact there are more. I’m stretching this quite a bit here, but the spirit of the thing feels right.

In the wake of the election, you’re probably sick of politics. I know I am. But this is the time when we can actually change things, now that we have some breathing room before the mid-terms start another two fucking years of campaigning. Now is when we can make real changes.

In the United States, there were six candidates for President this election, but only two ever had a chance. Two of them I can’t even name off the top of my head. Read the rest of this entry

One More Day

California votes tomorrow. Don’t forget! If anyone asks for your ID, you probably don’t need to show them unless you registered by mail after 2003, and maybe not even then. We aren’t a vital state in the big dirty fight, but don’t let that stop you. Get out and exercise your voice, and then let’s spend next few years trying to build a better system, because this two-party shit has got to go.

My opinion of the big dirty fight is best summed up by this.

One Term More – With Subtitles from One Term More on Vimeo.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I touched on this a while back when I mentioned the Presidential Debates, and I want to expand on it a little now, partly because I’m angry and need to vent, and partly because maybe if we talk about this enough we can shame ourselves into doing better.

We’re doing it wrong. The way we go about elections, and making these decisions, is deeply flawed by a persistent lack of substance. You probably already know what I mean, there’s all this useless noise, repeating meaningless talking points and blithely stating the obvious and distorting and outright lying and generally just making a big production show out of wasting time. I guess it gets people talking, at least. But it should be better, and really we have no excuse for not making it better.

Read the rest of this entry

Political correctness gone mad?

Last post I mentioned “political correctness” and how I wish the phrase would die out. Here’ s a good example why I feel that way. Consider this billboard.

This is not “politically incorrect”. It is fucking racist. The proper term for it, the term I would like to see people use for this sort of shit, is not some weak, watered-down phrase like “politically incorrect”, implying that it merely toes a boundary of social taboos or something; the proper term is “fucking racist”, because it uses people as a punchline.

Using disenfranchised people as a punchline is at least a little bit more than toeing a social boundary. At best it’s spitting on people you’re already stepping on.

I want to see the term “fucking racist” used by everyone, blogs, newsrooms, political spokescreatures. I suppose I could allow the “fucking” part to be optional, but I think you’re really undermining the impact if you leave it out.

As I said before, I’m a believer in free speech. This should absolutely be legal. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t free it from criticism. As long as this billboard speaks for him, Scott Brown is clearly a racist. It marks his racism the same way calling someone a “nigger” would.

This is not political correctness gone mad. This is recognizing that the things you say also say things about you. If you respond to this by claiming that your freedom of expression is being stifled by political correctness what I will hear is childish whining that people are actually listening to what you say rather than simply agreeing with you.

And that’s why I want the phrase “politically correct” to fade away, because these days when I encounter it it’s not funny anymore. It’s almost always someone whining that when they say or do bigoted shit, people call them a bigot. The phrase has almost become code for a rallying cry to come defend the privilege, defend the good old boy network, defend the fucking patriarchy, defend white supremacy. Keep the rich white guys in charge by defending anything they say, no matter how awful, by dismissing criticism of it as excessive political correctness. Fuck that.

I don’t know what’s worse, that someone thought blatant racism was a good campaign strategy, or that in some parts of this country it might actually work.

Party Politics

Saw this article about people signing petitions and having their political party changed without their knowledge, and it got me thinking about an old question of mine. Why are voters registered with a particular party?

I’ve never understood this, it seems ridiculous to me. Parties should be for candidates, not voters. If a voter wants to self-identify with a specific party, that’s fine and they’re free to do so, but including it in paperwork and restricting how you can vote based on it feels needlessly tribalistic to me. At the very least it chafes against my hatred of being labeled, but also it seems undemocratic to me, constraining your ability to vote as you please. Far better, to my mind, to abolish parties in voter registration and allow everyone to vote in a single primary of their choice.

If anyone can shed some light on why this is the way it is I’d very much appreciate it.

Since I’m speaking of parties, there’s another thing bothering me, and that’s that I’ve become a de facto democrat. I’m not registered with any party, (At least I don’t think so, after reading that article I want to double check) but in recent years the republican party has become so batshit that there’s really no chance I would ever vote for any of them. The system in this country is so geared towards two, and only two, parties that there’s no realistic chance for anyone who’s not a democrat or republican, and since the republican platforms all seem to boil down to “Fuck the poor, they deserve to suffer”, “Bitches ain’t shit”, and “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” that leaves the democrats as my only option.

Frankly, I’m appalled at this state of affairs and would like it to change. But then there’s a lot I’d like to change, and I don’t see a clear path to any of it, so I guess I’m just whining.

How many parents make a family?

Here’s an interesting thing a friend pointed me to, California Senate Bill 1476. The short of it is that this bill would allow for a child to have more than two legally recognized parents.

Here’s a link to a summarized text of the bill, where you can also find a link to the latest version of the complete bill.

The implications of this are pretty interesting. At first I was thinking of things like “who can make medical decisions if a kid’s legal parents are married, but not to each other?”, but on reflection I kinda figure that has to be already addressed somewhere, or maybe the non-parents can act as a legal proxy for their spouses. Reading the bill and the article linked above it looks like it’s mostly intended to allow judges more leeway in cases where parenthood is being contested. So, a judge could give parental rights & responsibilities to spouses without stripping any away from biological parents, for example.

It sounds like a good idea to me. So naturally, people are opposing it on religious terms. Read the rest of this entry

When bigotry’s your platform.

Mitt Romney gave a speech.

For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor. Culture matters.

Wow, I actually agree with him! I don’t know anything about the study you’re talking about, Romney, but you make a great case for why we need Planned Parenthood and universal access to sex education, birth control, and abortion.

As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

Uh, what? Mittens, how the hell do you think those two concepts go together? Also, about that whole “one man, one woman” thing, uh, does that mean you’re disowning your great-grandfather?

The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with.

What the hell are you talking about? The only people who seem to dislike the protection of religious freedom in this country are fundamentalist Christians who want to force others to live by their rules! Are you suggesting that gay marriage somehow violates someone’s freedom of religion? HOW?! Furthermore, if it’s a violation for gays to get married because some religions dislike the idea, isn’t it an equal violation to ban it, since some religions are fine with the idea?

It looks like gay rights are going to be a major part of this election.

Modern Democracy

So this happened. The president has claimed the power to execute people without trial. The executive branch has been assuming more and more power since I first started really paying attention back in Y2K. The legislative branch seems to have abdicated its responsibilities and spends its time squabbling like spoiled children. The judicial branch is the only one that seems to still be doing its actual job, except for the Supreme Court, which is just weird.

I had thought the executive branch power-grab was just a Bush thing, since I didn’t pay any attention to politics before his presidency. But no, Obama’s doing the same shit Bush did, he’s just being less stupid and obvious about it. He’s abused the state secrets privilege, signed himself the power to detain people indefinitely, and has now claimed the power to kill without any real limits. Bizarrely, the right-wing never mentions any of this, they criticize him for insane shit like not having a long enough birth certificate, “socialism”, or looking too black. I can only assume the authoritarian power grabs are something they approve of.

And I’m probably still going to vote for the bastard, because evil & competent is still far, far better than the alternatives this election.

What the hell happened to this country?

Codependency in American politics

Had a couple of potential blog posts started when someone linked this on Facebook. The short version is that a negligent school employee (or possibly volunteer) illegally violated a teenager’s medical privacy and let the fact that she took birth control pills become public knowledge. Since every class apparently comes standard with the kind of people whose only joy seems to be causing misery in others, she’s been hearing how she’s a slut who wants to fuck everyone because Rush “Illegal Viagra” Limbaugh said so.

I’ve already written about this a bit, but I thought this was worth passing along because it brings such a human face to the sort of petty cruelty that’s behind this bizarre birth control argument. It also illustrates something genuinely terrifying: People listen to this asshole.

Think of the implications of that. It’s difficult for me to think about it without feeling sure that it must be a symptom of something terribly wrong with our culture, some sickness that we need to understand and cure.

Here’s a short excerpt from a comment by FishOutofWater at the Daily Kos link above:

Limbaugh is an abuser who encourages others to abuse.

This really strikes me as an accurate description not only of Limbaugh, but of many prominent voices of the American right-wing. It really feels like what the Republican party has been turning into. For all the rhetoric about jobs or fiscal responsibility, the actual platforms of the party candidates seem to be almost entirely based on dehumanizing and taking away rights and freedoms from people, while insisting that it’s for their own good, or that the only people it affects aren’t really people.

The loyalty this party inspires baffles me. This isn’t a Ford/Chevy conflict, some harmless name-brand attachment that gets passed down through the family, this is our home, our nation, our society. The choices we make in our government have long-lasting, far-reaching implications. It affects the entire world. This is our future, and the future we leave for our children. The only way it makes any sense to me is a sort of abusive codependency, like the woman who bails her husband out of jail when he’s in there for breaking her arm because his dinner was cold.

Haven’t they hit you enough?

Turning back the clock on sex.

So, I was looking at this page about a GOP Rep lying about the morning after pill and whining that religion should have some privileged place in the law. I looked at the links in the sidebar, so many of which are about political attacks on women. I thought of Rush Limbaugh’s insane demand for sex videos from women who use birth control. And I tried to imagine the world these assholes are trying to create.

It made me think of My Secret Life. First published in 1888, this anonymous sex diary is a fascinating uncensored look into the side of Victorian culture that was so carefully hidden in published work from that era. “Walter” holds nothing back in describing his sexual adventures and it can be uncomfortable to read at times. Read the rest of this entry

Objecting to science education

So now that I have a workable, if simplistic, outline for what evolution is, let’s talk a bit about some of the groups and people out there opposing it as a scientific theory, especially those who are trying to have the teaching of it banned from public schools.

The most common objections I’ve seen to the theory of evolution are on religious grounds. The more honest ones are open about that, but you also get the occasional liar for Jesus. Perhaps the most famous example is “Intelligent Design”, which was a poorly executed attempt to camouflage religion as science and sneak it into classrooms. The resulting trial is the subject of a NOVA documentary which is well worth checking out. It also gave us the term “cdesign proponentsists”, possibly the clearest indicator of the dishonesty of the ID movement, certainly the funniest.

The Intelligent Design advocates are still out there, but they seem to be much diminished now. In recent years, they have apparently given up trying to pretend that they’re promoting a scientific theory without a religious agenda and openly refer to Jesus & the Bible on their websites. Since I’ve already written about their hypothesis here, I’ll move on to more typical (even generic) creationism. Read the rest of this entry

Making others live by your rules

I’d meant to just toss that video up with a short paragraph and call it a day for blogging, but I foolishly clicked a link I saw on Twitter. I’m going to quote the bit that made me too angry to do anything more productive than this.

Asserting conscientious objections, nurses in New Jersey have said they would not check the vital signs of patients recovering from abortions.

I want to make it crystal fucking clear what I’m seeing here. I’m seeing that nurses, people who are well-trained professionals in taking care of sick or injured people, will not make the basic checks necessary for the safety and well-being of their patient if they don’t like the procedure that patient is in for. And they’re calling it a decision of “conscience”, apparently without irony.

How dare you call that conscience? The word should die on your tongue. Read the rest of this entry

In the interest of fairness…

I love it.

When I was grabbing the embed code, I noticed a comment on YouTube that it wasn’t about birth control, it was about whether the president had the right to tell businesses what to do. If the context is whether or not that business has to obey the law, the answer really should be “yes”. The idea that a business’s rights are being infringed by not letting them ignore the law, or not letting them force their employees’ personal lives in the way they want, should be laughed out of any worthwhile conversation.

The spirit of letters

So there I was, looking for something to write about, and coming up empty. And as happens so often in both my blogging and my daily life, Wil Wheaton saved the day. He shared a post from Tim O’Reilly which included a link to this on Google+ and some good commentary.

Quoth Tim:

We must remember that the patent system was supposed to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts,” not to enrich people who know how to work the legal system.

I haven’t read the Wired link there because what caught my interest wasn’t patent trolls, but the strange duality we have between the letter and the spirit of the law. I suppose to a degree this is unavoidable, simply the price of working with words, but it really is a strange thing to me that we see arguments over what a law says versus what it means.

I’ve been told that at least one country includes, after the actual text of a law, an essay explaining the spirit in which that particular law was intended. Can’t remember which one that was, and I don’t even know how I could verify that anyways. But it’s a neat idea.

I was thinking maybe every constitution needs a sort of mission statement, a statement of principles that are the guidelines for interpreting laws when there’s any ambiguity or uncertainty. Which is a nice idea, but I don’t see a realistic way to make it work in a free society. I mean, unless you basically had it dictated by a… I’m going to say “monarch”, you’re going to wind up with a huge document filled with loopholes and things. Which makes the whole concept redundant at best, and probably just more legal chaff clogging things up.

So perhaps what really needs to be kept in mind is that laws are about people, and should be to serve people. That seems to be surprisingly easy to forget, at least for some people.

I’m not really happy with this post, I’d like to think some more and rewrite it. But my deadline approaches, and I’m tired.

Evil Little Thing

I’ve been meaning to post about Jessica Ahlquist for a while now, but I keep feeling like there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better by someone else already. Still, even if that’s true I haven’t said it yet, and besides this one really pisses me off.

First a brief recap. Several months ago, a high school student named Jessica Ahlquist at Cranston West High School in Rhode Island told the school administration that a big prayer banner hanging in the school was in violation of the Constitution. The administration decided to do nothing, the ACLU got involved, and last week a judge ordered the school to remove it. Since then young Ahlquist has been harassed and threatened to a shocking degree, because she asked her school to comply with the law.

For more details follow the links in that link above.

Last Thursday R.I. State Rep Peter Palumbo was on a radio show where he said that Jessica Ahlquist was “being coerced by evil people”. I’m still trying to work out how evil got into this.  Read the rest of this entry

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