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Prop 8 overturned

7 Feb

Take THAT!

California is now back in the fight for status as “superior West Coast state.”

Now if we could only fix this sh*t federally.

Wife-Beaters Welcome!

12 Oct

Topeka, Kansas is now officially the best place in the U.S. to beat your wife. The city council decided to repeal the local law that makes domestic violence a crime there by a vote of 7 to 3. Thanks guys! Their reasoning is not that they hate women, but that it’s just too darn expensive to prosecute the hordes of wife-beaters (and girlfriend-beaters, and various other beaters) out there, and therefore easier to decriminalize domestic violence.

One of the damn funniest legal writers out there, Elie Mystal, has a commendable piece on the Above the Law blog:

The Topeka City Council] wouldn’t have repealed misdemeanor ordinances about robbery. The(y) wouldn’t have decriminalized drugs. They wouldn’t have messed around with funding the prosecution of something that they really cared about.

But women, and the beating thereof? Oh, let’s make a political point about fiscal responsibility with that. They would have seen the problems with headlines claiming Topeka was a drug haven or the storefront robbery capital of the world. But when they contemplated becoming Disneyland for wife-beaters, they were cool with it.(via)

I know a lot of people who think of themselves as “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative,” and here’s an example of of that philosophy failing to the utmost. It’s hard to fathom anyone thinking, “Ehhh, what’s a few bruised ladies in comparison to all that moolah?!” but that’s exactly what the Topeka City Council (elected officials, respected pillars of society) thought when they decriminalized domestic violence.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how disgusted are you? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Children and taxes: A Mother’s Day Special

8 May
No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

This mother’s day, let’s skip the adorable kitten greeting cards and bunches of roses bred to within an inch of scentlessness, picked by fourth-world residents working in inhumane conditions, trucked halfway across the globe and sold at ridiculous markups, shall we? Instead, let’s talk about the politics of child-rearing! Or, more specifically, the politics of taxes for child-education and other kiddo-focused expenses.

I recently heard a new-to-me, somewhat shocking opinion on the topic. Here it is in summary:

“People who make the responsible choice not to have squalling brats should not have to pay to educate and feed other people’s mistakes.”

Harsh words, no? That’s not quite how it was put, but that was the basic premise.

As a properly trained tax-and-spend liberal, I like having lots and lots of social services, some of which I use, some of which I don’t: Maintained roads, public libraries, rest stops, Medicare, social security, food stamps. And I’ve seen the contrast between public schools in well-heeled communities and those in poor towns: I have matriculated at some of the west coast’s best-funded and highest-performing public schools, and also attended the educational equivalent of Siberia in the state’s poorest county. But still, it got me thinking.

As an adult, my senses and my pocketbook are constantly assaulted by pleas for the children. Stop domestic violence … for the children. Build new libraries … for the children. Fund high school sports teams … for the children. Build shiny new after-school facilities with free classes in underwater basketweaving and Tae-Kwon-Do and other oh-so-useful life skills … for the children. Build cushy juvenile detention and drug rehabilitation facilities … for the children, dammit!

It makes one wonder – who is looking out for the old people while we’re busy babying the babies? Social services (in this state, at least) are almost exclusively focused on children, or people with children. As an example, kids under 18 can get subsidized health insurance, but adults cannot (the one notable exception being pregnant women).

This makes a modicum of sense. Faced with a choice between cutting the service entirely or funding it for kids only, it’s a no-brainer. But still. There are a lot of very sick, very poor adults out there not getting the care they need. Why? Because they don’t have cute button noses and tiny little hands. They’re not helpless. Poor children, they just can’t help being born poor! It’s not their fault their parents made such terrible life decisions like being born poor themselves. But once they’re adults it is 100 percent their fault that they’re still poor. What’s changed, other than 15 years, give or take? Nothing but society’s attitude toward them.

And don’t even get me started on the blatantly pandering marketing campaigns around school-funding measures. It’s voting time here, and The Hizzy is being hit with slick upon slick, all featuring pictures of cherubic, well-scrubbed white kids with pleading, watery eyes in grayscale. Turn the slick over and you’ve got the skinny white moms, looking concerned and wearing North Face sweaters, standing sternly with crossed arms next to bulleted lists of reasons why their little Madisons and Jacobs need music programs, shiny new cafeteria platters and better insulation.

So my opinion is wavering. I don’t have kids. I’m not GOING to have kids. Why should I pay to polish the silverware at the elementary school in my neighborhood? Those children having their school spiffed today will be the bitter, abusive high school dropouts that will wipe my nose at the health-code violating old people’s home I’ll live in during my infirmity. If I want care that minimizes humiliation in my old age, I’ll have to shell out for a private facility, since wrinkled faces with watery, pleading eyes just don’t test well with the focus groups.

Grown-ups, especially those with lots of wrinkles or otherwise socially undesirable characteristics (like poverty or disability), get the short end of the stick. They work their whole lives paying taxes to educate and care for the next generation, only to get tossed aside once they can no longer care for themselves. Where are the direct-mail marketing campaigns advocating for safe wheelchair routes and better elder-care facilities? Where are the ballot measures begging for community education and outreach programs designed specifically with old fogeys in mind? And what about crime – why does a 17-year-old get leniency and a clean record, when an 18-year-old in the exact same circumstances gets prison and a lifetime of employment discrimination?

Cutting services to young people can’t be the answer, but a more balanced approach to public policy is certainly worth a look-see. What are your voting habits? Does your having or not having kids influence how you vote on school tax measures and the like? Or are you an across-the-board voter in one way or the other? Any tea party types out there? If so, do you make an exception for social services for youngsters? Any socialist types out there who’ve sworn off baby-having? How do you vote? No name-calling in the comments, please – but do tell me your opinions!

Into moving pictures? Here are some amusing parent- or mom-themed videos you might like:

Happy Mother’s Day, pedophobes!
Pregnant women are smug
Hipster parents: The perfect target market

Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination: Let’s Sue the Patriarchy Too!

29 Mar

The Supreme Court heard opening arguments on behalf (and against) up to a million women today to determine the class action status of a Wal-Mart employment discrimination case. Those of us who’ve been following the case know what’s at stake if the court finds in favor of Wal-Mart: Not only would the corporate juggernaut responsible for filling your house with cheap plastic crap be more or less let off the hook for systematized sex discrimination, it would become harder for victims of job bias to secure class-action status, forcing low-wage workers to try their cases individually – virtually ensuring no future employee litigation case ever reaches viability, ever.

Dire, no? First, a brief history of the arguments for and against (more or less) from the magazine Corporate Counsel:

In certifying the class, the lower court said it found that there was significant evidence of centralized corporate-wide practices involving sexual stereotyping and excessive subjectivity in personnel decisions, as well as statistical evidence of gender disparities, and anecdotal evidence of gender bias. The court said it saw a “common pattern” of Wal-Mart’s discriminating against women workers nationwide.

In its brief to the Court, Wal-Mart argues that millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers defy any common pattern of treatment.

Let’s entertain Wal-Mart’s counterargument, shall we? From a purely feminist theory perspective, this argument actually holds some water. Why? Because those “millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers” were surely not solely influenced by the Long Arm of Corporate America (although surely that played a not-insignificant part), they were also influenced by the sexism that runs rampant through every fiber of society’s fabric.

So instead of suing Wal-Mart*, let’s certify every victim of the existing gender wage gap (read: all women worldwide) as members of a giant class action against the patriarchy. Since millions of discretionary personnel decisions are made every single day by managers who really ARE independent and not affiliated with Wal-Mart, but they’re made to consistently favor men in terms of power, prestige, and money, it’s clear that there is significant evidence of centralized worldwide practices involving sexual stereotyping, gender disparities, and gender bias.

Let’s sue the patriarchy! Who’s with me?

*Actually, not instead of, in addition to. Wal-Mart deserves to get sued, a lot. And so does every company that filed an Amicus Brief in support of Wal-Mart’s Evil Anti-Largesse.

Educational Elite

21 Mar
Graduate-bot says what?

I’ve been thinking a lot about school lately. In fact, I’ve been thinking about higher education, Ivy-league and otherwise, since before I finished undergrad. I’m not talking academics, here, because I’ve been thinking academics since forever. My official membership in the Nerd Herd was granted in high school, and I keep the flame burning in my adult life by making grammar jokes and geeking out about fonts on the regular.

No, I’m talking about something far more insidious, something which I’ll call “Schooling.” I started thinking about this before the end of high school, when I was applying to colleges. Even though I had a 4.0, high SAT scores and seven million extracurricular feathers in my hat, I knew my family couldn’t afford Wellesley or Harvard, so I didn’t bother applying. I picked the closest, cheapest public university. I held steadfastly to the idea that “good” schools don’t equal “smart” people. And I still believe that’s true with all my heart.

But a couple years out of college, I started reading a bunch of junk about class (Snobbery: The American Version, and Class: A Guide through the American Status System, among others) that adjusted my perspective. Sure, going to a “good” college doesn’t make you a “good” person. But having credentials from a “better” school WILL make people perceive you as “better” – better at your job, better at thinking/living/succeeding – and you will therefore be the recipient of preferential treatment, likely advancing farther and faster than your averagely-schooled countrymen. Thus, the perception that people who went to good schools are better/smarter/faster becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In true Baader-Meinhof style, my new perspective was reinforced wherever I went. My current workplace is above-average in its obsession with Schooling. My immediate supervisor not only gleefully puts down my alma mater, but includes my hometown(s), parental occupations and the part of Portland where I live as dry tinder for the fires of devaluation. Introductions to new people are prefaced with long strings of alma maters, followed by names as inessential afterthoughts.

Not me, I swear.

A recent article from The Cronicle of Higher Education took educational elitism to a whole new level, reinforcing my suspicions that it’s not what you accomplish or how smart you are, but where you’ve been and who you know that matters in certain (powerful, rich) circles.

“Why all this prognostication?” you may ask. Outside of discourse for discourse’s sake, some of you know that I’ve been mulling pursuing my masters for oh, say, ever. I applied to a few schools, and got into all of them. I’ve narrowed my choices down to two: One is close to home and dirt-cheap. The other is far away and Ivy league. So research into educational elitism is not only interesting, but personally a propos. If the coursework is the same – and I believe it is – which one do I choose? Do I follow the proletariat’s path and attend the former, or “sell out” and attend the latter? Dear readers, weigh in in the comments. Do it now, lest I royally screw up my future, my credibility, or both!

*By the by, linking to these books don’t equate to authorial laudability – both authors are a tad douchey, and exhibit little humanity in belittling those-of-lesser-means, which ought to be a cardinal sin in the writing world. If you can’t empathize, you shouldn’t storytell.

Fraternizing With the Enemy

4 Apr

If you can believe the movies, men and women can’t ever just be friends. It’s required by unwritten social law that at least one member of a mixed-gender friendship be all full up with unrequited lust, if not outright L-U-V. Psychology Today said it best when it summed up the media’s role in perpetuating this filthy lie:

“A certain classic film starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal convinced a nation of moviegoers that sex always comes between men and women, making true friendship impossible.”

There is only one socially approved way around this rule: Straight ladies can be friends with gay boys. But beware, het ladies! Those gay boys may only be pretending to be gay in order to grease the path into your pants! The jury’s still out on whether straight boys can be friends with gay ladies, and I’m pretty sure no one’s allowed to be friends with bisexual people (unless that person is Rickie), since they can’t really be trusted with either gender.

Cinematic representations of friendship notwithstanding, the challenges of building strong platonic relationships in a culture that values romantic love above all else are real for everyone. Straight people, at least, have a guidebook for how to interact with their same-sex friends: Women gossip and shop, often commiserating about their boyfriends’ foibles; men watch sports, drink beer, and complain about their girlfriends.

But those with non-standard sexual identities are flying blind. With no guidebook, it’s hard to know with whom you’re supposed to seek kinship — those of your own gender, or those of your own orientation? And what if your gender or orientation is fluid?

Should we create rosters and categories? Choose from List A if you’re in the mood for stein-clinking and rugby-watching, from List B if you need a manicure and a trip to Bloomie’s. But what if you just want to have a potluck? What list do you invite then?

It’s hard enough to build long-lasting friendships in the adult world without all these stupid rules about cross-sex relationships and how they’re supposed to work. In a perfect world, people would just relate to each other as people, not as genders or sexual orientations or Democrats or Republicans or whatever.

Tell me, readers, who are your best friends, and what does your social circle look like? Are they homogeneous or heterogeneous  in their gender and sexual orientation? What about race, class, national origin? What are the challenges you see in relating to people that are unlike yourself?

Related posts: Boys of Facebook, Top 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Friends With Me

State of the Blah Blah Blah

28 Jan

I was invited to a “State of the Union” drinking game last night, and I have to say I declined the invitation. Strangely, I think I would’ve gone had it been Dubya behind the pulpit.
Why? Because it’s way more fun to get drunk and rip on an easy target than it is to get drunk and have nuanced conversations with belligerent frat boys I’m way too old to be hanging out with anyway. Dubya was, at the least, a galvanizing president for we left-wing nuts, and a terrible speaker to boot. In his speeches lay endless potential for grammar gaffe-based shot-taking, and lots of opportunity for idealistic moral outrage, followed by earnest head-nodding and more shots.

Say what you will about ‘Bama, but the potential for fun is just not there. It’s hard for me to congratulate him on being a better speaker, since it’s not like he writes his own speeches (no leaders do, nor do they write their own books, which kind of makes critiquing any of them pointless in the first place but that’s a whole other topic); and it’s hard for me to care on any real level about his (or anyone’s) rhetoric, which is what speeches are.

Speeches tell you nothing about politics. Actions are what people should pay attention to; yet I am often called a philistine because I refuse to slavishly follow the media circus around political posturing. The problem with that line of thinking is that allowing your brain to be invaded by carefully crafted rhetoric (definition: language designed to please or persuade; loud, confused and empty talk) just leaves you more snowed than you were before, gifting you the ability only to parrot what you hear on TV. Who’s the philistine now, huh?

The meaning of life, at last

8 Feb

Imported from MySpace blog

Bored? Read this interesting column from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

IN CASE YOU’VE been wondering what to do with your life, John Boehner has the answer.

House Minority Leader Boehner, a Republican congressman from Ohio, celebrated the recent passage of the economic stimulus package by saying, “The sooner we get this relief in the hands of the American people, the sooner they can begin to do their job of being good consumers.” Your title: “consumer;” your mission: “buy stuff.” Echoes of the president’s call, amid the crisis of 9/11, to get out and “shop.”

The distance between “citizen” and “consumer” is the distance we have traveled. Where “citizen” has a certain dignity, even gravitas, carrying with it notions of responsibility and capacity for decision, “consumer” conjures something far more passive, lacking either dignity or responsibility, save responsibility to one’s self and for getting the best deal.

Yet “consumer” has steadily infiltrated our language and become our self-designation and default definition of what it means to be a person. Group Health Cooperative, of which I am a member, does not speak of us as either patients or members, but as consumers. We are health care consumers. Higher education mutes talk of the educated person in favor of consumers of educational services and getting the best value for your education dollar. Churches gear up for “church shoppers,” religious consumers.

The subtext of cultural change in the past 30 years has been the way the market has seeped into every sector of life and come to define how we think of who we are and what we do. We are consumers, feeding the great insatiable maw of the consumer economy.

Is it too much to suggest that consumerism has become a kind of alternative faith, a religion of sorts? Religions are characterized by some vision of a good life, by their rituals and by a particular language. Consumerism seems to be developing all three apace.

Consumerism’s vision of the good life is the gaining of goods and experiences. Consumerism also has its own rituals that form and promote consumer character. The acquisition of credit cards and debit cards by the young becomes some sort of rite of passage. The Friday after Thanksgiving is consumerism’s high holy day, the No. 1 shopping day of the year. How much we shop during the Christmas season is an indicator of our national health. Television offers the liturgy of consumerism 24/7, and wonder of wonders, we consent to having it piped into our homes!

One might even do a compare- and-contrast between religion’s historic and characteristic virtues and consumerism’s virtues or qualities of character. For faith and religion, the crowning virtue is love, a capacity for other regard. For consumerism, self-regard would lead the list. No. 2 in a listing of religious virtues would be joy with the associated notion of contentment.

Yet for consumerism, discontent is essential. One must be in a constant state of anxiety about keeping up, having the newest and the latest. Virtue No. 3 of the spiritual life is peace and harmony with others. But for consumerism, envy is to be preferred.

The list goes on: The quality of patience is met with consumerism’s virtue of instant gratification; generosity with maximization of profit and pleasure; gentleness with the hard sell and hype; faithfulness with planned obsolescence. Finally, religion has understood self-control, imagine that, as a virtue. The good consumer learns the virtue of impulse buying.

How we name ourselves is important. Democracy names us as “citizens.” Religion names us as “persons made in the image of God.” Each has a dignity, even a nobility, that “consumer” lacks.

So now, because mortgage and finance companies succeeded in gaining more consumers with loans they could neither afford nor sustain, creating the subprime crisis, we have a stimulus package, a kind of consumer Viagra, to get us up and buying again. Is something wrong with this picture?

Lent, the Christian season of penitence and self-examination, began this week. The sins to be repented are still with us: greed, envy, sloth, covetousness. Only they are no longer sins. They are the virtues of “the good consumer.”
Anthony B. Robinson’s column appears Saturdays. He is a speaker, consultant and writer. His recent books include “Common Grace: How To Be a Person and Other Spiritual Matters,” and “Leadership for Vital Congregations.” Want to suggest ideas for future columns? He can be reached at anthonybrobinson@comcast.net.

Perhaps it’s time for me to revive my long-forgotten habit of giving things up for Lent. Oh, Catholicism, when will you stop pestering me?

Currently reading :
Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

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