Wednesday, July 27, 2016

History Made! And Other Things!

And by other things, I mean Xena-related news, obvs. This is Fannie's Room: Your go-to destination on the world wide web for breaking crossover political-Xena-femslash-related commentary, apparently.

Along with last night's official and historic nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President, my night was officially made by evidence of Lucy Lawless approvingly watching the Democratic National Convention:
(I like to think she made a typo there because she was so thrilled with the outcome of the Roll Call Vote - so BACK OFF!)

Just because it's been awhile and I am officially a stereotype, enjoy today's obligatory Xena fan video:

1:00 minute in: Woof!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fun Fact Tuesday - The Actual World We Live In



I see many progressives posting on various social media sites about how they won't vote for Hillary Clinton because she has not adequately passed progressive muster on one or many issues.  Sometimes, but not always, these are also people who critique President Obama for not having a progressive enough presidency.

Many of these criticisms, as well as the "threat" to vote for a third party candidate such as Jill Stein, are rooted in a lack of appreciation both for the US political system AND the fact that political leaders within our system do not have the power to unilaterally enact policies without constraint.

In writing about the "insular Obama-hating left" almost two years ago, Jonathan Chait noted:
"A world where Cornel West [note: who recently endorsed Jill Stein] could govern without any constraints would look very different from a world where Obama could govern without constraints. In that one sense, the left’s mistrust of Obama has a fully rational basis.

But West, and much of the American left, doesn’t merely believe that. It also believes that a world where Obama can govern without constraints is the actual world we live in, or, at least, a reasonable approximation thereof. More inspiring speeches, harder fighting, or some other unspecified application of willpower is all it would take to have forced Olympia Snowe to vote for a larger stimulus or Scott Brown to go along with tougher financial regulation. Because they cannot conceive of any limits to Obama's power, betrayal and haplessness are the only causes they can imagine for their distress. (West: "What I hear is that, '[Obama] pimped us.' I heard that a zillion times. 'He pimped us, brother West.'”)" (emphasis added)
Likewise, thinking that a Jill Stein could come into the political system we currently have and implement her platform without constraint is not reality-based, and is exponentially less likely than Clinton or Trump's ability to do so, given the composition of Congress.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Femslash Friday: Orphan Black

Are people watching Orphan Black?

I'm about halfway through Season 4.  I miss Delphine.  Please enjoy this Cosima/Delphine fan video:


Congrats to Tatiana Maslany on the Emmy nomination, as well!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

Via Jane Mayer's piece about Trump's ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz.  I found this excerpt 100% chilling:
“'Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,' Schwartz told me. 'It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ' Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. 'If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,' he said."
But, you know, Hillary Clinton made a Pokemon joke the other day, so there's basically no difference between the two.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How To Be More Helpful Than "Ignore the Trolls"

[Content note: Discussion of online harassment, sexism, racism]

Leslie Jones' recent experience with racist, sexist harassment got me thinking again about Internet civility, and particularly the roles of bystanders to online harassment.

First and foremost, I understand that many consumers of Internet content don't feel safe to participate in hostile conversations, either to directly engage harassers or to publicly offer support to those experiencing abuse. Neither is it realistic, either physically or for our own mental well-being, to think that we can jump into the fray every time we see someone being harassed on Internet.

While explicitly noting that, I want to underscore a tension with that principle. In line with the reality that people who produce online content are also actual human beings, we need to fully appreciate that Internet is, on many platforms, a participatory medium. This participatory nature is both the problem and, perhaps, part of the solution. One reader may not think their comment may have much of an impact, but just as abusive comments can cause actual harm to recipients, supportive comments can help targets feel if not less harmed at least less isolated.

Secondly and related, I want to suggest what I hope are helpful comments people can contribute to situations of Internet harassment when they are up to the engagement. I see a lot of what seems like (mostly) well-intentioned advice rendered on the Internet for targets of abuse to "ignore the trolls" or "don't read the comments."

Yet, ignoring abuse neither addresses the abuse or demands better behavior. It often means resignation to a shitty situation or all-around low expectations for civility. I also find convincing the argument that letting harassing comments stand without counter can implicitly signal validation of harassment.

Internet culture is an ever-shifting, dynamic thing and, I believe, it is something most of us as consumers/content-producers have at least some small (or large) ability to shape into what we want it to be.

Leslie Jones, partly responding to the "ignore the trolls" advice some were offering, instead said:

On this topic, Melissa at Shakesville has written:
"Who I am, who I want to be, depends on my not ignoring that I am despised. Who I am depends on my greeting that hatred head-on, and pushing back on it with all the strength in my strong, tough, fat body. 
I will not behave like a person who isn't full of gumption. I will walk into the world each day with my head held high, and I will react when someone tries to lower my chin and slow my stride."
I agree with both. We can, we must, be louder than those who perpetuate sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, other -ist abuse. When various platforms do not adequately police abuse, this pro bono countering abuse is apparently the external cost that decent users perhaps must pay to have a more decent Internet society until companies invest adequate resources into the issue.  Shitty, but true.

Accordingly, I offer the following as helpful responses to situations of harassment that do not include the concept "ignore the trolls":
1) "I'm sorry you are experiencing harassment"
2) "I support you"
3) "What these people are saying/doing is not okay"
4) "Can I help you counter this?"
5) "Stop saying/doing that" (to person being abusive, obvs); 
          6) Communicate to the platform/company that the abuse is happening and that you disagree                    with it;

          7) Like Tweets/posts countering the abuse;

          8) Re-tweet supportive posts if you can't/don't want to write one of your own;

Thoughts? Disagreements/agreements? Additions? Other solutions?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Important Ghostbusters Update

[Content note: Spoilers-allowed thread; discussion of abuse, racism, sexism]

Okay, consider this post an open Ghostbusters thread!

I saw it over the weekend and loved it!  Where I saw it, the people in the packed theater laughed pretty much non-stop and, broke out into applause twice, once after Holtzman's fight scene (if you've seen it, you know which one probs) and at the end of the movie.

Highlights for me include:
  • In general, I enjoy portrayals of female friendship. Such portrayals in TV and film are relatively rare. Ghostbusters does more than a bare-bones passing of The Bechdel Test, it portrays women as part of team, working together instead of fighting one another for status or male attention;
  • I liked each of the female leads and what they brought to their characters (especially Kate McKinnon, obvs); and
  • It's just a fun movie - gadgets, ghosts, jokes, action - yes please;
I mean, I really don't have anything deep to say, because like the original, it's not a super deep movie. So, imagine all of the people outraged by it, such as the raging nerd man-boys who have all the sads and mads that the movie didn't bomb its opening weekend (it came in at about $46 million, number two, right behind The Secret Life of Pets).

Apparently, but not surprisingly if you follow Internet culture at all, men are tanking the Internet ratings of Ghosbusters, because that's how they're gonna spend their free time apparently.  Via Walt Hickey at 538:
Here are a few stats I collected early Thursday for the new “Ghostbusters” movie: 
IMDb average user rating: 4.1 out of 10, of 12,921 reviewers
IMDb average user rating among men: 3.6 out of 10, of 7,547 reviewers
IMDb average user rating among women: 7.7 out of 10, of 1,564 reviewers 
The movie isn’t even out in theaters as I’m writing this, but over 12,000 people have made their judgment. Male reviewers outnumber female reviewers nearly 5 to 1 and rate “Ghostbusters” 4 points lower, on average.
And, one popular misogynistic garbage fire wrote a bitter, scathing review of the movie, contending (as other MRA-types have) that the movie unfairly portrays men as morons and villains.  To prove how non-villainous men are, a bunch of (primarily) men began sending racially-abusive Tweets to Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones:
If you're up for it, a hashtag in support of Jones was started: #LoveForLeslieJ

No one should have to endure this shit.  But, such is the outrage that women and people of color so often face when white men aren't the center of pop culture.

It's like they can't just let the people who like this movie like it, they have to try to spoil it for everyone.  It's reminiscent to me of the MRAs who do no actual advocacy for men, but who instead just sit back and rail at feminists for not doing enough to solve all of the problems facing men.  Free labor on gender issues is apparently feminist work, while they just constantly throw obstacles and harassment in our path to increase the difficulty setting in our lives.

Got entitlement?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Commencing Ghostbusters Viewing

I am seeing Ghostbusters this weekend and am quite excited about it.  Just to further piss off the MRA crowd, thought I'd also throw in another donation to Hillary Clinton's campaign and do some Title IX advocacy.

Anyway, while I have an appreciation for all of the women in Ghostbusters, Kate McKinnon has held a special place in my heart ever since her days on Logo's Big Gay Sketch Show cracking it up with Julie Goldman.

I will furthermore note that her SNL parody of Justin Bieber, and I'm not going to try to explain this, makes me feel.... things... as in, slightly .... sexually confused.... things.

Judge.  IDGAF.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The "America Great" Experiment

This post is a continuation of my series in which I've been running government simulations in the game Democracy 3, playing as each (presumptive) candidate in the 2015 US Presidential Election. I previously tried my hand at implementing Jill Stein's Green Party platform and things did not end well.

Most recently, I tried implementing Donald Trump's policy positions, most of which I found on his website. I'm not linking to it, but it was... kind of more detailed than Stein's platform, which made copying it in a simulation easier than Stein's more vague platform.

As a reminder, you get to keep playing if your approval rating at the end of your 4-year term is greater than 50%. The simulation doesn't properly mimic a US political system in which bills are proposed in Congress and signed into law by the President. Instead, you have a set amount of "political capital" to spend each year, which can increase or decrease depending on how pleased members of your Cabinet are with your actions. To simulate Congressional resistance, I didn't handpick members of a Cabinet who would be 100% receptive to Trump's platform (the same approach I used in implementing Stein's).

Here we go.


Some of Trump's big goals are to repeal health reform ("Obamacare"), build the infamous "wall" between the US and Mexico while also deporting more immigrants, and lower most taxes while also simplifying the tax code.

Since there's no "build a wall" option in the game, I used my first large bit of political capital to increase border control to the highest setting (which Trump does want to to do, as well, basically).  I also lowered income taxes, reduced funding for environmental monitoring and regulation (I'm sure companies will just choose to not pollute the environment, right?),  and I set state health care funding to the lowest setting.

Saddle up, buckaroos, because at the end of this year my approval rating skyrocketed from 30% to 59%!  It turns out hypothetical people will tolerate a lot of pollution and deportation as long as they're getting to keep more of their paychecks!

Here are the financials:

  • Annual deficit: $438 billion
  • Credit rating: lowered from A to B (likely due to increasing government border control spending while decreasing tax revenue)

In Year 2, I increased overall militarization by increasing funding for surveillance and intelligence services, although it's not super clear what Trump would do with respect to these issues.  He seems to support military-security government services, but also apparently has lots of great, really great, ideas to make the absolute best types of these services for a lot less money.  Somehow.  Not sure there's really a simulation for that type of claim, so I did my best, okay?!

During this year, we saw immigration and tourism to the US significantly decreased (causing job and revenue loss) and also..... racial tension decreased - perhaps the idea behind the simulation model there is that racial tensions decrease when there are fewer immigrants?

At the end of Year 2, my approval rating had plummeted to 28%. Probably because the country was now in a bit of a financial crisis:
  • Annual deficit: $526 billion
  • Credit rating: B to CCC
  • Debt crisis situation
YEARS 3 and 4

During the final two years, I mostly let the policies I had previously implemented ride. Gun ownership was already legal at baseline, which Trump supports. Abortion was legal only in very limited circumstances, and Trump's position on that is not the most clear although he hits rightwing talking points on that at times.  The death penalty was already legal, as well, which Trump supports.

During this time, perhaps because of the increased surveillance  and intelligence funding, we caught a terrorist (!) and the country became a so-called "crime-free utopia" (LOL).  Air travel, immigration, and tourism were all way down, however.  Public health had also taken a hit, probably due to relying on "the market" to take care of people's healthcare.

So, I do question some of the game's algorithms.  It seems simplistic to think that increases in security funding, without investments in other government services such as education, jobs training, health, and housing would result in something as dramatic as a crime-free society.

At the end of my term, I had a 29% approval rating, not enough to get re-elected.  The annual deficit was $786 billion, inflation was high, and the overall economy was shit.  Crime was low and the Patriot crowd was happy, but also people were unhealthy and, if I could take a magnifiying glass to different neighborhoods, seemed to be living in insular little communities where they didn't have to interact with immigrants or foreign tourists ever.

To end, it struck me that the game doesn't really account for the tangible effects of having a leader who is.... what Donald Trump is. Racial tensions went down in this simulation, but it's not realistic to think they would decrease under a President who is racist/xenophobic and who supports increased militarization, border control, and surveillance.

The game also doesn't have "go to war" or "nuke France because they made fun of my grubby hands" or "make The Handmaid's Tale real" policy options, which probably should be added to future update packages, to be honest, to account for the segment of Americans who view politics as reality show entertainment rather than actual people's lives.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

Terrell Jermaine Starr has written a thorough analysis at Fusion on how and why The Bernie Sanders Movement did not appeal to many black voters. He writes: 
"It didn’t have to be that way. But his campaign never explained how black people fit into his vision of a radically changed America. And, according to a series of Fusion interviews with former staff members, campaign leadership didn’t really see the point in trying. 
Those former staffers described a campaign that failed to give its black outreach teams the resources they needed, that never figured out how to connect to black audiences, and that marginalized black media.

In the process, the campaign missed a chance to capitalize on a revolutionary message that otherwise might have appealed to black voters frustrated with the current political order."
These are some of the lessons with respect to why the predominately white-led progressive movement that backed Sanders lost the Democratic Primary.  I also suspect, but admit I haven't seen numbers on, that LGBT voters disproportionately voted for Clinton over Sanders, and that this group of voters had a specific set of concerns with respect to Sanders and his constant refrain that fixing Wall Street would fix all problems for all people. (And even if his beliefs are more nuanced than that, the perception of his beliefs are not as nuanced, and that's a serious marketing problem).

Because my values align with the values of many Sanders' supporters, I sincerely hope those in his movement look to explanations and analyses like Starr's rather than dismissing their loss as being entirely due to "election fraud," "a rigged system for Hillary," and/or "low-information voters."

Such dismissals, of course, are their own kind of un-empathetic, non-listening privilege.

Friday, July 1, 2016

On the Fundamental Issue

So, you want to better understand the context in which, for instance, some feminists might react badly to "progressive" arguments (to the tune of The Bernie Sanders Movement*) that the real issue people should be worrying about is class/workplace issues/wealth inequality and not gender, sex, race, sexual orientation, or other identity politic issues?

Well, take a gander at anti-feminist Cathy Young's recent clickbait defense of men from mean mean feminism, for which she was likely paid by The Washington Post (how nice for her!). Now...there's .... a lot going on there, so pardon me for only having time to address one tiny snippet:
This gender antagonism [of women calling men out for sexism] does nothing to advance the unfinished business of equality. If anything, the fixation on men behaving badly is a distraction from more fundamental issues, such as changes in the workplace to promote work-life balance. What’s more, male-bashing not only sours many men — and quite a few women — on feminism. It often drives them into Internet subcultures where critiques of feminism mix with hostility toward women. [emphasis mine]
When both purported progressives and so-called feminist allies join anti-feminists in telling feminists to take our eyes off of gender equality because There Are More Important Issues To Worry About, we see another instance of when progressive intent can have rightwing consequences.

I'm not interested in tidy, simplistic arguments claiming that by addressing one issue we can fix all issues. Our world is complex. We need leaders who understand that. And while I know progressives are very into recycling (as we all should be!) I'm not actually interested in progressive friends who recycle talking points we've been hearing our whole lives from rightwing foes which dismiss the very real harm we experience based on our identities.

For many people, identity issues ARE fundamental economic issues.  How nice for some people that that might not be the case for them.

*In the past several weeks, I've seen articles calling the "Not Me, Us" movement this. So [insert perplexed look here].  At what point does a failed presidential bid become a cult of personality?