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I wonder what the white people think? April 24, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, we're only gonna die.
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Today’s new racist, xenophobic law in Arizona has led to a lot of white people on TV and online talking about race and immigration.  That never ends well.  The only time I open my mouth about race is to tell my fellow white folks to shut the hell up. Let’s begin with a visual aid, shall we?

Let’s say this line represents the discourse on race in this country:

|—————————————————————-|

This part:

|————-|

That’s white discourse on race in this country.

Dear white folks:

Shut up and listen for a change!

No matter how elegant or smart or radical what we want to say or write about race, I can guarantee that a person of color has already said or written it much better.  There is absolutely no reason I should turn on cable news and see two white people debating race and immigration.  NONE.

No white person in this country is an expert on race.  We’re just not.  White privilege is like living with blinders on.

The two most important things we as white people can do to fight racism are to educate ourselves and act right.  In short, “know your place, whitey!”  It sounds harsh, I know.  We want to save the world and we want to “stand up for the oppressed” and all that kind of crap proves is that we’re going to fuck things up.  Taking responsibility for having privilege means not getting what you want for a change.

And we’ve already had 500 years of white discourse on race in America and this is where it got us.  It would be great if white people knew how to fix the mess we caused, but if enough white people were not actively being racist, not actively exercising privilege, not actively silencing people of color, it would change the world.

P.S. – None of this is original thought either.  It’s been said before and it’s been said much better.  It’s only being repeated here because sometimes privileged voices must be raised to shout down other privileged voices in order for the real conversation to be heard.

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Bits and Pieces April 12, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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Some things I’m thinking about but don’t have a great deal to write about:

1.) The disproportionate number of women who were targeted and threatened by right-wing extremists following the passage of healthcare reform. Women don’t make up any where near half the democratic caucus, but seemingly accounted for about half of threats.  Dear media, can we talk about this?

2.) Robert Reich’s Fiefdom of the Boomers. Former Clinton Labor Secretary Reich’s proposal to prevent the coming collapse of entitlement programs under the glut of retiring Baby Boomers looks a lot like a return to feudalism!  His plan is to convince the (generally conservative) Boomers to support increased immigration as immigrant workers will pay into entitlements supporting aging Boomers and help reverse the trend of a shrinking ratio of workers to retirees.

I’m all for plans to tear down borders or defend immigrant rights, and I kinda love how much of an eff-you this would be to younger xenophobes, but wow, holy bold-faced cynicism using immigrants and the coming debate on immigration reform! Also, unless we’re gonna swing wide the gates to a huge number of people and then actually pay all those immigrants fairly, this isn’t a real fix at all.  But ‘Foreigners keep out, unless willing to support our aging Me Generation’ will look nice on a copper plaque.

Reich doesn’t seem to mention those immigrants becoming citizens and getting the same entitlements after they help us out of this jam.

“I respectfully dissent.” April 11, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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The retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court  really got me thinking about how people of my generation have come to expect the Court to look a certain way: at least one justice with no religious affiliation; always four or five women; at least two justices who were never legally married, one of them lesbian or gay.  We’ve almost come to take it for granted.

Oh, wait!  That’s what the Court would look like if it actually represented the population of the US.  Silly me.  I forgot that it’s nearly impossible in this country to hold office if you’re not religious (despite the fact that 17% of the country isn’t), or single (despite the fact that a quarter of adults never legally marry), or queer, and well, we can’t even manage to get an accurate estimate of the queer population because that’s so damned controversial.  Sure, it’s true that two thirds of the justices are Roman Catholic while only one in four Americans belong to that faith.  Never mind that there are ten times as many people with no religious affiliation as there are Jewish people in the US.

Because, obviously, the Supreme Court, the most small “c” conservative branch, doesn’t represent the population of the country.  It represents the power structure of the US.  Hell, all the remaining justices went to Ivy League law schools and half went Ivy League for undergrad as well.  Every one of them was a US Appeals Court judge, half from the DC Circuit alone.

Politicos left and right are fundraising and gearing up for another vicious confirmation battle.  And believe me, I know how crucial it is, I know how urgent it is, but at the same time, I can’t help but think that if Obama nominates any one other than a liberal lesbian atheist who never attended Harvard and isn’t a federal judge, it’s not going to do anything to improve the make-up of the highest court in the land.  The best we can realistically hope for is a woman who’s probably to the right of Stevens.

Who knows? Maybe Scalia will take another hunting trip with Cheney soon.

Defenders of “Traditional Marriage” Eye Return to “Traditional Race Relations” November 8, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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BANGOR – Another victory for defenders of traditional marriage this week in Maine has many within that movement planning a return to another tradition: segregation.

Supporters of the new movement to “protect the sanctity of the races” are looking at several proposals to allow American voters to finally have their say on Brown v. the Board of Education, which they say is the result of “judicial activism.”

Maddie Gallagher, president of the anti-gay marriage group National Association for Marriage, said, “You know, when you think about it humans lived in racial segregation in this country – and others – for a lot longer than we’ve lived with this new, this redefinition of traditional race relations.”

That sentiment was echoed by Dr. James Bodson of the conservative Christian group Family in Focus, who added, “I think it’s important to remember that in the Bible, God performed several miracles in order to separate those Jews and those Africans.  The lord didn’t want the Jews living in Egypt just like he doesn’t want Africans and Americans going to school together or getting intermarried.”

Family in Focus and National Association for Marriage are just two of the groups supporting the idea that traditional marriage is a good start but the country really needs to return to the traditional values of the first half of the twentieth century: a ban on teaching of evolution and vaccinating children against harmful diseases; efforts to root out communists, civil libertarians and other anti-American dissidents; and, yes, racial segregation.

Opponents including the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the US Department of Justice have responded, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

One Maine voter who supported the removal of marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Tuesday’s election responded to questions about the new drive by saying, “I’m not sure about that.  Isn’t that, um, you know, a bit racist?  I voted against a gay being able to get married in this state because, you know, I love my kids and my husband and I love being married.  This doesn’t sound quite right though.  I’ll have to see what they say at church on Sunday about that.”

Pundits say she’ll almost certainly hear support for segregation.  In California’s Prop 8 fight, the Mormons from nearby Utah and Nevada were very influential.  In Maine, the Catholic Church was among the biggest supporters of the repeal.  “The two could join together on a national campaign to, to re-segregate America since both religions supported segregation long, long after everybody else but Bull Connor had seen the light,” said one opponent. “And, well, the Evangelical Christian churches are uh, pretty much all white already…  Good God, they’re going to win, aren’t they?  What the hell?!  This is why we don’t have a pure democracy, people!”

One proposal under consideration is a referendum to repeal at least five of the eight Civil Rights Acts.  Others include the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment in the repeal.  Some envision a “super amendment” that would cover bans on gay marriage, flag burning and the designated hitter in post-season games.

Whatever plan they choose, they’ll have a strong campaign.  Experts agree that no one ever votes for more taxes or rights for others and recent history has shown that extends to removing existing rights.

Quote of the day November 7, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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“On this day in 2000, Al Gore was elected president of the United States.”

Impure Democracy November 5, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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Exactly how many defeats will it take gay and lesbian groups to drop their marriage obsession and focus on other work?  Believe me, I get it.  It’s an injustice, it sucks. I’ve heard the arguments, but mostly the repeated losses make the gay and lesbian lobby look weak.  It’s no coincidence that Dick Durbin’s put the brakes on Harry Reid’s plans to reconsider Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the Senate in 2010.  He’s making the smart political move by trying not to tie the Democratic party to the fate of the LGB lobby.

Each ballot loss is proof of concept for why we don’t govern by referendum.  Would Brown v. Board of Ed have passed at the polls in 1964?  How about an income tax, do you think voters would approve or reject that if they had the chance?  There’s also a good chance our laws would reflect that 2/3 of American adults believe in angels.

Only allowing referendums on laws regarding “morality” is a dirty trick.  But none of that changes the fact that repeatedly fighting these fights and losing is just bad politics.

Check all the boxes that apply November 3, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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I’ve had a nagging thought in my head ever since I voted early this morning. What if I didn’t press all of the levers? What if I missed one? Will my vote be invalidated? What if accidentally I pressed two on one row and missed another?

It’s not like any of us would rather be voting on a digital Diebold VoteFixer(TM) that’s all insecure proprietary code and owned by Republican fund-raisers, but the current machines at least in the places I’ve lived are a mess too. There has to be a better way.

But here’s what I keep coming back to. If we ever could figure out a more elegant, more secure, more user-friendly, multilingual, fully accessible system for voting, why not incorporate better ideas about voting at the same time? I’m talking about more than just real campaign finance reform, reevaluating the original Constitutional small state solution, and ending gerrymandering. Freedoms should not be constrained by tradition.

Why not fractional voting? We do a lot more calculation in modern elections than the Framers ever envisioned anyway. Bigger numbers, more districts, more ballot questions. We have the capability to calculate fractional voting results now. But more than that, the current scheme’s a false choice. There were 8 individuals running for NYC mayor under 10 parties, because candidate here can be listed on multiple lines under multiple parties. A vote for Thompson on the Democratic line or on the Working Families line still goes to the same person. Why not allow voters to vote for Working Families Thompson and Democratic Thompson and count it as 1 vote for Thompson in determining the winner and as half a vote for each party in determining funding? That’d be a major blow to the current two party monopoly. (Duopoly? Biopoly?) I’d like to think that as disillusioned as voters on the left and the right are with their choices now, such a plan would have majority support despite the obvious legislative hurdles.

What about going further with fractional voting though? What about also allowing a voters to split their single vote between as many of those 8 individual candidates as they choose? Why can’t a voter cast a ballot that says they like the Republican and the Conservative candidates equally? What do we gain from the current process? Voter apathy? A nation perpetually divided near-evenly between two parties? An inordinate number of ballots are disqualified in every election because people try to vote for more than one candidate. I think those voters instincts are right though. I can say I like the colors blue and green but not yellow. Why do we run democracies like we’re ten-year olds? ‘No, you have to pick who’s going to be your best friend, me or Jenny, or I’ll never talk to you again.’ Hell, this is America; we wouldn’t stand for an artificial rule that you could only put one topping on your pizza, why do we have lower standards when we vote? We’re not only capable of calculating fractional votes, but we obligated by reason and ethics.

While we’re at it, how about solving a major objection people may have to fractional voting and the problem of elections without a majority (i.e. no candidate gets at least 50% of the entire vote)? Why not mandate a runoff in any election without a majority? Since our newer, more elegant voting system would also have to be designed to keep costs down and simplify vote calculation, it would reduce the financial and logistical burdens of a runoff. 8 candidates becomes 2 or 3 and a second, definitive vote is taken a week or a month later. Obviously, it would take a Constitutional Amendment to enact this for Presidential races, but we could put this in place for all other federal elections tomorrow. An end to election victors who begin their term in office with already low popularity and approval and an end to the frustration we’ve all felt watching the agonizing recount process. From Bush v. Gore to the fight over the Minnesota Senatorial race, I don’t think any American is happy with the state of democracy in the age of recounts and court battles.

I’ll leave the details of a better voting system to people who are a lot smarter, but I think we need to rethink how we vote in a bigger sense.

“They got the guns” September 9, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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I haven’t written about politics in months. I simply don’t know how to deal with what I’m seeing and hearing. I don’t know how to respond. Perhaps this is how people, especially the ones without power, the youth, the minorities, the poor, perhaps this is how they feel in any time that historians will later end up universally prefacing with the word “turbulent.” Perhaps this is what activists felt in the early 60s, before the years of assassinations and riots and endless war, just seeing the storm gathering on the horizon. Will it blow this way? Will it pass us by?

I don’t know what to say about the seas of angry white people on the news. I don’t understand why they are so damn angry, while those who should be outraged, who should be fed up, seem so apathetic. I don’t know how to engage in a debate when there is no debate, just one side screaming threats.

And all these guns at political events? Just a year ago, you had to sign a loyalty oath to get anywhere near a presidential event. Just a year ago, to openly criticize Bush “during a time of war” was called “unamerican.” Now those same voices on the Right openly threaten revolution and secession on the evening news. All through the Bush years, we watched innocent people exercising their freedoms on public streets get gassed, tazered, beaten and arrested in efforts to put down any dissent. Now members of Congress can’t even speak at their own events?

Tonight, the President will speak. He’s most likely going to throw the public option under the bus. If this takes the form of a very nasty conservative bill Like the one Max Baucus is putting forward, a Republican bill that still won’t get a single Republican vote and acts as a huge giveaway to insurance companies, then it’s up to us to kill it from the Left. All of this shouting will have been for nothing and the crazies on the Right will have won. Again.

I don’t know how to be engaged in this fight. It’s just so depressing. Where is my generation? Why are they keeping so silent? Why won’t anyone stand up to this angry white minority? Why is the issue being framed in seemingly every news outlet as if this fight is between two equal, philosophically differing groups, rather than as further proof of the dangers of domestic right-wing terrorism? Why can’t the Dems see that rolling over like this will only encourage this type of behavior in the next fight and the next? Will another assassination wake them up? How about the one after that?

I don’t understand and I don’t know what to say. At every point, good policy and rational thought has lost in this fight. The Left is clearly intimidated and it’s only going to get worse if we let them get away with these tactics.

Where is your voice? Where is your anger?

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean… July 19, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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I went to see the new Harry Potter flick Friday morning at the AMC on 34th street. They have this deal where movies before noon are half price, which sounded great. Then, when we actually got there and sat down and the theater filled up and the lights went down…I spot two men in dark suits, one at either exit, kinda hiding down under the railing and using night vision scopes, scanning the audience. And so, I got weirded out and pointed it out to my friend, who didn’t care. But I was still weirded out, because if you don’t know anything about cheap hand-held night vision scopes, they have this little LED below the lens that you can really only see when they’re looking pretty much at you. And I’m trying to follow the action at Hogwarts and Three Broomsticks and Diagon Alley, but in the corner of my eye, there’s those LEDs sweeping the audience, spying on the audience, spying on me. They stayed pretty much the whole movie and it was really freaky and distracting.

I guess it’s supposed to be an anti-piracy thing. But no where does the theater inform you that people will now be spying on you with night vision scopes. They just hid there, spying. That sucks.

Yes, the movie theater is private property and a public setting, but there is an limited expectation of privacy. For one, theaters are dark. And recording devices are forbidden. And people are expected to be watching the screen, not me. Had the person in front of me turned around and stared at me the entire time, I could have just told management and either they’d have to do something about it or I’d demand a refund and leave. But this was the management. I certainly had no expectation that anyone would be sneaking around spying. And those scopes change the rules as well, they see through the darkness, thus those men in the dark suits were seeing me clearly while I could barely see them, other than those damned LEDs. And those scopes almost always include magnification. No, this was definitely not what I expected when I paid for my ticket. This was wholly unexpected. This was something I’d never seen or heard about happening.

Why couldn’t they tell the audience they were using night vision scopes to prevent movie piracy? Because they wanted to catch perpetrators in the act? I have to believe that if I spotted those men and I wasn’t looking for any trouble, I wasn’t on guard, any pirate would have seen them as well. So, why then? Perhaps because the audience would have objected? This way, most never knew they were watched, and when they learn about the practice later, the theaters can say, but we’ve been doing it for X amount of time and it never bothered any one before, your honor.

Well, it bothered me. I don’t like being spied on. I don’t like that this city is bristling with cameras, all of which become de facto government cameras whenever They say. I don’t like that a dozen web sites will illegally sell you my full credit report without my authorization or knowledge and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, even while the credit bureaus still get their cut. I don’t like that my phone company and my ISP helped my government illegally wiretap me and no one seems to care, no one gets in the least bit of trouble. I don’t like feeling so powerless and so watched.

Just living my life, just existing, in certain other countries would get me executed. Legally. Just being queer. Or Socialist. Or a war dissenter. I am of a fairly privileged class in this country, but even I’m terrified about the potential abuses of power given the size and scope of the abuses we’ve already seen and the awful things people with power are capable of. So, when and where will we draw the line? What exactly needs to happen in this country before We, the People, decide to place checks on Them, the Watchers? If votes don’t always decide elections and laws don’t govern the government, what power do we have left? What protection do we have left? What safety? What privacy? What rights? How much power is too much and will we realize it before it’s too late? Is it too late?!

If we’re never even informed when we’re giving up another right, another expectation of privacy, no matter how limited, what power do we have now? Look around you as you go through your day today. How many ceilings with innocuous-seeming glass domes conceal cameras? How many cameras do you walk by on your way to work? How many things do you say over the phone or online you may not want the whole world to know? What could I learn about you instantly by giving $40 to a website? How watched do you feel? How much privacy can you expect today? A little less than yesterday? A lot less than ten years ago? A tiny fraction of the privacy your parents had at your age?

Smile for the ATM. Smile for the traffic light. Smile at the post office or the bank or, well, inside or outside almost any building you could be watched. Smile in the elevator, even if you think you’re alone. Take that extra moment to fix your hair in the mirror, because today is picture day; every day is picture day, whether you like it or not. Those pictures might last forever. And who’s going to see those pictures? Who’s going going to read those emails a year from now? In a decade, under another Administration, perhaps in the midst of yet another war or another threat, who’s going to index that phone call you make today against your web history and decide that, now that habeas corpus doesn’t mean anything even to those of us who took Latin in school, you might be too dangerous? Too liberal or conservative? Too queer? Too Chinese? Too…well, you get the picture.

Most importantly, though, ask yourself, all this spying and eavesdropping, all the data collection, all those lenses focused on innocent people, all the privacy you’re giving up today, is it making you more safe or less?

Miss California’s been let go. Can queers let it go now? June 10, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage, we're only gonna die.
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Miss California, Carrie Prejean, the beauty queen that queens love to hate, has been fired.   Can we move on now?  No matter what she said, no matter how stupid or irritating what she said may have been, can it be over now?

She offered a point of view.  It was poorly worded and poorly thought out and that alone should have been enough for her to lose the national pageant.  She then said publicly that she believed she was discriminated against for expressing that view, but what she really meant was that Perez Hilton must have like OMG sabotaged her cause he hates god-fearing Christians and makes Jesus cry by being so gay.  That accusation had to be answered.  She had to be told that she clearly misunderstands the term “discrimination.”

That happened.  Sure, she argued an indefensible position past the point of good sense.  But now that she and her family have been dragged through the mud for so long and she’s lost her job, can we act like humans and let it go?  The queer community and our allies have behaved miserably about this whole thing.  So did Prejean.  That’s not the point.  We’re responsible for our behavior no matter what they do or say.  We need to be accountable for our words too.

What say you my fellow queers, can we forget her now and move on to, say, criticizing the actual people in positions of power that are working to keep us from having equal rights?  Can we get back on message and cut the ad hominem crap?

I’m afraid I already know the answer, but let’s give it a shot anyways.