dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Implicit racism in academia (Mindhacks, 7 September 2016): "Implicit bias" exists "where there is a contradiction between people's egalitarian beliefs and their racist actions." The question is, how aware is each of us of our own biased behaviour?

Millennials Are Less Racially Tolerant Than You Think (New York Magazine, 8 January 2015): "The fact of the matter is that millennials who are white — that is, members of the group that has always had the most regressive racial beliefs, and who will constitute a majority of U.S. voters for at least another couple of decades — are, on key questions involving race, no more open-minded than their parents. The only real difference, in fact, is that they think they are."

What Goes Through Your Mind: On Nice Parties and Casual Racism (the-toast.net, 5 January 2016). "For the last time, I consider defending myself. Just giving voice to the confusion and anger and mortification I feel boiling in the pit of my stomach. But I know, in an instant that reminds me of countless others like it, that I'm not that person. The truth sinks in: I am the only one who can make sure that everybody keeps having a good time."

Lassana Bathily, Muslim Employee At Kosher Market, Saved Several People During Paris Hostage Situation (Huffington Post, 12 January 2015). "We are brothers. It's not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims. We're all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis."

Some young Asian Australians seek tanned skin, risk skin cancer: sun habits study (ABC, 16 January 2016) As a Kpop fan I'm constantly reminded of how highly prized light skin is in Korea and China, so the fact that peer pressure is leading Asian Australians to tan was eye-opening. I think in the West a tan is high-status because it indicates plenty of time for outdoor leisure, so you're wealthy. In the East light skin is high-status because it indicates you don't have to work outdoors, so you're wealthy - but there's also the disturbing impact of colonialism; not just lighter skin, but more Western-looking features are valued.

Believing that life is fair might make you a terrible person (GA, 4 February 2015): "Faced with injustice, we'll try to alleviate it – but, if we can't, we'll do the next best thing, psychologically speaking: blame the victims of the injustice." ("I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." - Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Brutal Reality: When police wear body cameras, citizens are much safer (Slate, 10 April 2014). "The presence of cameras induces an absence of violence." | Investigation of 5 cities finds body cameras usually help police (Fusion, 8 December 2014). "One key problem: officers control the record button." | Why American Cops Kill So Many Compared To European Cops (Huffington Post, 30 November 2015). In short: inferior training. (Though I also have another theory.)

Fact check: Does halal certification fund terrorism? (ABC, 21 April 2015). SPOILER: no.

Language more important to Australian national identity than birthplace, poll finds (ABC, 29 April 2016) "Overwhelmingly, Australians believe that the ability to speak English is important to being Australian; while 92 per cent agree that language is important, 65 per cent see it as being 'very important', with only 27 per cent responding 'fairly important'."(ABC, 29 April 2016) Why are Anglophones so obsessed with everyone being able to speak English? Is it because, unlike most of the world, we can only understand one language?

Bubble economy (medium.com, 13 July 2016). Negative gearing, play money, and slavery.

How to make sure your aid donations really help after a natural disaster (RN, 7 May 2015)

There was once a fifth suit of playing card (because winning with four wasn't hard enough) (shortlist.com, 4 March 2016) There's a mention of IIRC "the four of green eagles" in IIRC Joe Haldeman's Star Trek novel Planet of Judgment, which I had thought for decades was just a weird dream sequence thing until I stumbled across this article (the card, not the novel).

Turbulence: Everything You Need To Know (askthepilot.com). All is ease and comfort.

Lots and lots more of this sort of thing hanging around in my bookmarks. But now it is time for Animaniacs and bed.
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
Plagued by a scene from Neal Stephenson and George Jewbury's 1994 novel Interface, in which the character Eleanor Richmond delivers a stiff lecture over the phone to another Black woman who doesn't want to report her daughters' sexual assault to the police because their assailant has threatened to murder her if she does so. Furious, Eleanor tells her to call the police and buy a gun to protect herself. Her new employer, Senator Marshall, teases Eleanor that "you changed your position on gun control": "If that woman you were just talking to had to fill out a bunch of forms and get permission from the government to have a gun, she wouldn't be able to take the advice you just gave her, would she?"

We're supposed to give three cheers for Eleanor "pounding some common sense" into the other woman's head. After all, Eleanor is right: the other mother ought to stand up to her daughters' rapist and seek justice for them. But I can only give two cheers. Maybe only one.

Firstly, the anonymous woman on the phone is clearly trying to protect her daughters: the reason she rings the Senator's office is to find out if the rapist can be forced to take an HIV test. Secondly, when Eleanor asks if she has called the police, the woman responds, "Shit no. Why would I want to call them?... I called you for serious advice, girl." What have this woman's experience with the police been that calling them about a serious sexual assault seems pointless? Thirdly, Eleanor asks: "Ma'am, how could being killed possibly be any worse than having your daughters raped?" Orphaning them as well wouldn't be worse?

Violence against women is an overwhelming fact; why shouldn't women be able to use firearms to protect themselves from burglars, rapists, or violent boyfriends and husbands? As Eleanor reminds the Senator: "I have a gun, and I know how to use it."

In the US, in most states, a licence or permit is not necessary to buy a gun; that is, you don't have to know how to use a gun in order to own one. If the woman on the phone can afford a gun and ammunition, will she also be able to train in its basic use (and safety measures - remember, she has "little daughters")? How much will it cost, can she afford to take the time off work (if she is doing casual work this could be a serious issue), and how long will it take?

In short, is "just go and buy a gun" a sufficient response to a woman in a life-or-death situation? Would it make more sense to provide emergency permits, including free and immediate training, to women (or anyone) in danger of violence who choose firearms as a defence? Moreover, rapists routinely threaten their victims with murder if they report the crime. If the police aren't going to protect women who report men's violence, we're back at square one: why report it in the first place?

This has to be seen, of course, in the context of the gun control debate in the US, which is sometimes framed in feminist terms of women's self-defence - while at the same time the National Rifle Association has fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right of convicted domestic violence offenders to own guns*.

I think the scene is meant to accomplish two things: show that both the "liberal Democrat" Eleanor and the conservative Senator have more in common than Eleanor realises (in fact, Mitchell dismisses liberal/conservative and even Democrat/Republican as meaningless distinctions). They are both "common sense" folks frustrated by people who won't fix their own problems**. And damned if they're going to give them the tools they need to fix those problems. Whether or not we think of the caller as negligent, she certainly sees herself as almost helpless: the HIV test is the only response she's been able to come up with (although how she thinks she can force "that G" to take the test without police intervention isn't clear). A trained advocate could have laid out all her options, legal and medical, and connected her with the support services that could help her and her family try to get justice - or at least survive. Instead, she receives a lecture from a well-meaning but clueless phone jockey.

ETA: Similarly, much later in the book, vice presidential candidates are interviewed about the education of "inner city blacks": "twenty-five years from now, what will life be like for these people, and what will you have done to make that life better?" Two candidates give vague responses, one has a plan for education via television, and Eleanor Richmond has this response:
"Abe Lincoln learned his lessons by writing on the back of a shovel. During slavery times, a lot of black people learned to read and write even though they weren't allowed to go to school. And nowadays, Indochinese refugee kids do great in school even though they got no money at all and their folks don't speak English. The fact that many black people nowadays aren't getting educated has nothing to do with how much money we spend on schools. Spending more money won't help... It's just a question of values. If your family places a high value on being educated, you'll get educated, even if you have to do your homework on the back of a shovel. And if your family doesn't give a damn about developing your mind, you'll grow up stupid and ignorant even if you go to the fanciest private school in America."

Eleanor is, naturally, a shoe-in for the role of VP. If "inner-city blacks" have poor grades or drop out of school, it's their own fault, and nothing can be done about it; policy-makers are off the hook, and everyone else can stop worrying. Eleanor has given everyone what they want. Everyone, that is, for the parents and kids living in poverty and struggling in under-funded, unsafe schools, whom she has thrown under the big yellow bus.

I can't decide if the authors believe Eleanor's response is so obviously sensible that the reader will simply nod their approval, or if their whole point is that Eleanor has simply told everyone what they want to hear - which is, after all, the SFnal basis of the book.


* Partly because of legal loopholes, guns are a disaster for women in the US experiencing stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence.

** Cf the AI in the Hugo-nominated Cat Pictures Please. As [livejournal.com profile] secritcrush points out, Bethany doesn't respond to its clueless intervention because she is mentally ill.
dreamer_easy: (*writing hard yakka)
The Hugos. Blog postings I've found particularly helpful in understanding what's going on:

The Psychology of Hugo Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies

Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and his Supporters by Phil Sandifer. Long, hard, and satisfying. I learned much.

Also see: the remarkable short-short story If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky. Brief, beautiful, beautifully structured. Hugo nominee last year. Loathed by Puppies, making it automatically worth a look. Not everyone's cup of tea, of course - but then, what is?

(There has, of course, always been a conspiracy to ruin art.)

Current events:

Mahatma Gandhi, Baltimore, and the Myth of Nonviolence: "What happens if 12.6% of the population, a disproportionate number of whom are unemployed or incarcerated or have minimum-wage jobs in which they're easily replaced, try to duplicate a tactic that worked for an overpowering majority? Not a great deal, unfortunately."

Police Killings Picked Up Where Lynching Left Off: "... it's estimated that two or three blacks were lynched each week in the American South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Compare that to conservative reports from the FBI that, in the seven years between 2005 and 2012, a white officer used deadly force against a black person almost two times every week."

ETA: Commentary from David Simon, police reporter and creator of Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' and Baltimore's Anguish. See also this report from Marci Tarrant Johnson, a habeas corpus lawyer working to get arrested protesters out of Baltimore's jails.

This one connects to the Puppy psychology piece linked to above. In Ferguson and Beyond, Punishing Humanity: "... white men have experienced a relative loss of status. And they now have more rivals for desirable positions. Add to that the fact that they may find themselves surpassed by those they tacitly expected to be in social positions beneath them, and we have a recipe for resentment and the desire to regain dominance."

Whatever you thought of SBS presenter Scott McIntyre's angry Anzac Day tweets, I'm grateful to him for opening my eyes to an unhappy piece of Australian history: sexual assaults on Japanese women by the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

Homeless Diggers reveal Australia's double standards

Poverty

Aug. 22nd, 2014 03:59 pm
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
It Is Expensive to Be Poor: "What I discovered is that in many ways, these [minimum-wage] jobs are a trap: They pay so little that you cannot accumulate even a couple of hundred dollars to help you make the transition to a better-paying job... in some ways, it is actually more expensive to be poor than not poor. If you can't afford the first month's rent and security deposit you need in order to rent an apartment, you may get stuck in an overpriced residential motel."

Tony Abbott's work for the dole scheme doesn't add up: "University of Sydney Workplace Research Centre director Professor John Buchanan points out that the latest statistics show there are 146,000 job vacancies for 727,000 people unemployed and 922,100 under-employed. 'If all the unemployed filled all official vacancies, there would still be 580,900 unemployed,' he said. "That is, over 1.5 million people either unemployed or underemployed. This, and not work-shy welfare recipients, is the problem that needs to be fixed."

ACOSS call for single welfare payment to cover 'life essentials': "... the Australian Council of Social Service argues that welfare payments should be based on people's financial needs and not on assessments about their potential to do paid work. It recommends that payments for people of working age should be based on two components: a basic income support payment for all recipients and add-ons for extra needs such as disability, caring, rental assistance and single parenting." (According to the previous article,currently "Australia's unemployment benefits are the lowest in the industrialised world and that their recipients live well below the poverty line.")

What happened to the fair go?: "The information was completely compelling regarding growing inequality around the world, and the fact that wealthy people generally pay a much lower percentage of their income in tax, one way or another. It's not just me: all sorts of wealthy people have said it's a ridiculous situation."

"Why Don't the Unemployed Get Off Their Couches?" and Eight Other Critical Questions for Americans: "...73% of those enrolled in the country’s major public benefits programs are, in fact, from working families -- just in jobs whose paychecks don't cover life's basic necessities."

Elderly pensioners will be hurt most by GP fees: researchers: "These people need to use the services, they're not making a choice."

Australia's minimum wage is $16.87 an hour. The minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour.
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
This is a series of comments I made recently on Facebook which I wanted to share (lucky old you!). The context is the Daily Telegraph's recent "Slouchhats and Slackers" front page regarding the Disability Support Pension.

__

"Look, and I have to make this comparison - during World War II Australians actually fought against a regime that killed people with disabilities claiming they were useless people and a drain on the public purse and it is a great insult to Australia's veterans to be making those kinds of comparisons at this particular time." - Craig Wallace, President, People With Disabilities Australia

__

An op-ed in today's SMH goes into more detail about what advocates say is the main reason disabled people go on the pension - the difficulty they have in finding employment.

__

On a personal note, that opinion piece links to the original Daily Telegraph article and the attached editorials. The Tele claims, with no evidence, that people are faking mental illness so they can receive the disability pension, which is higher than the dole.

Half of disabled Australians live in poverty. If I didn't have the extraordinary good fortune of a supportive husband and family, I would probably be one of them, as my physical and mental illnesses make it difficult for me to work. We spend hundreds on my many medications, and next year meds, doctor visits, and medical tests will all cost more.

The Tele is basically saying that people like me deserve to starve. I felt a bit badly about posting that quote yesterday, reminding us of just who Australia's "slouchhats" fought during WWII, since it's pretty provocative, but tbh I am so furious at the attitude of the newspaper and the party they serve that I can barely express my rage. The quote will have to do it for me.

__

Some other useful links which were posted during the discussion:

Just How Wrong Is Conventional Wisdom About Government Fraud?: "Entitlement programs, from food stamps to Medicare, don't see unusually high cheating rates -- and the culprits are usually managers and executives, not 'welfare queens.'"

"It is sometimes suggested that many people on the DSP [Disability Support Pension] do not have genuine disabilities... However, Centrelink [the government agency which handles welfare] has put in place increasingly sophisticated measures for detecting fraud and undisclosed changes of circumstances for all welfare benefits. There have been relatively few cases of convictions for fraud involving the DSP (though it is a difficult task if impairments have no easily observable physical manifestations)... It therefore appears that most people on DSP have significant impairments that genuinely affect their employment prospects." That comes from a 2011 inquiry by the Australian government's Productivity Commission (Appendix K).

I found a very interesting opinion piece which gives some of the reasons the number of disability pensioners (ie people on welfare for disability) has risen: our ageing population, plus "the inaccessibility of services for people with a disability; improved identification of disabilities such as mental illness; lower mortality rates after accidents; a decline in number of low-skilled jobs and a lack of employer support for people with disabilities."
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
"We like that you peer through the bars of your cage to all that we have. We like that you think you can have it yourself one day. Because that illusion keeps you on our side." J. Michael Straczynski outlines The Rules of the New Aristocracy. Bill Moyers similarly warns: "We are this close to losing our democracy.". Of white women who went to court in 1950 to try and avoid paying social security tax for their black servants, Moyers writes: "Fiercely loyal to their families, to their clubs, charities, and congregations — fiercely loyal, in other words, to their own kind — they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like themselves." (New Scientist also discusses the cognitive biases behind this thinking, including the "just-world hypothesis" - the belief that people always get what they deserve.)

Commission of Audit: a recipe for a poorer, nastier and more brutish Australia. "The prescriptions advocated by the Audit are stock-standard 1980s-era neoliberalism: privatise government assets, abolish government agencies, charge citizens more." But it mostly a red herring? Commission of Audit: Be afraid, but only mildly so: "What distinguishes this report from its predecessors is the blatancy of its commissioning. It comes from an "independent" inquiry effectively handed over to just one business lobby group, the one composed of the most highly paid chief executives in the country, the (big) Business Council. Not surprisingly, the commission found ways to solve our budget problem at the expense of almost everyone bar the top "1 per cent" whose interests the council represents." The Australian Council of Social Services identifies some of the peasants vulnerable groups targetted by the cuts, including "people with physical and mental disabilities [that's me - chronically physically and mentally ill], carers, sole parents, and younger people struggling to get into paid work, people on the maximum rate of age pension, and minimum wage earners". Even if the Audit's proposals turn out to be hot air, they tell you how this government and its supporters think.

Speaking of the chronically ill: Poverty Is Literally Making People Sick Because They Can't Afford Food: Low-income diabetics [I am diabetic] are 27 percent more likely to be hospitalized for hypoglycemia at the end of the month — right before paychecks and benefits come out - because they can't afford to eat.

Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty; 1 in 5 American children live in poverty. Australia's inequality gap is not as severe as it is in the US, but 1 in 7 people in New South Wales are living below the poverty line, almost 700,000 people in NSW rely on food assistance each year, and overall 1 in 10 Australians can't afford enough food.

I know that illiteracy is a large, and largely invisible, problem in Australia, but I was gobsmacked by a report from February this year that at least half of Tasmanians over 15 cannot read or write properly - and doubly gobsmacked by the national averages quoted: 42% of students failed "the baseline for maths", 36% "failed the minimum standard of English." Over a third of Australians can't read a newspaper, or the instructions on their medication. This isn't just a matter of practical necessity or economics, it's a basic human right, for heaven's sake.

ETA: Oligarchy, not democracy: Americans have ‘near-zero’ input on policy – report.

Also relevant is this exchange on Tumblr between someone who was able to afford their bronchitis inhaler because of "Obamacare" and someone angry that their taxes went towards it. As an Australian I both pay taxes towards socialised medicine and benefit hugely from Medicare (as well as paying for cheaper, better private health insurance than is available Up Over), but I get the impression that in the US the poverty gap means that you can either afford health care or you can't (until now). Without a safety net, that security is tenuous: "that came from taxes I paid" guy could find himself in the same situation as bronchitis guy if he loses his job or gets cancer (or both).

Links

Dec. 9th, 2013 02:17 pm
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
The Australian Red Cross defines food security as "a human right and exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate food to maintain a healthy and active life." They estimate that 5-8% of Australians "commonly" have no food and no money to buy it. Lack of food security contributes to the very poor state of Indigenous health in Australia, particularly in remote areas, where fresh and healthy food can be far more expensive than junk food. Remote areas aside, healthy food adds thousands of dollars to the average family's yearly budget.

In Australia, women, Indigenous people, and people with chronic health problems are most likely to suffer poverty. (The Salvation Army reports that half of women seeking accomodation from them are experiencing family violence.) Catholic Health Australia states that doctors should screen patients for poverty to cut preventable disease. UNICEF and other advocate groups have called on the government to help the 600,000 Australian children who live in poverty.

49 million Americans similarly experience food insecurity. A thought-provoking posting from Cracked.com, of all places, attacks the stereotypes of those receiving welfare. Apple, McDonalds, and Walmart cost taxpayers the most in welfare by underpaying their employees.

A study has found that poverty inflicts a cognitive deficit equal to losing 13 IQ points. A 23-year study of "crack babies" found that "Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine."

ETA: 20 things the poor really do every day, including working harder and longer on less food and sleep than the rest of us.

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