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Race Fail 2009 (This year it seems like we're having the energizer bunny version.)

About two weeks ago, Elizabeth Bear posted about "writing the other without being a dick", which she seemed to find actually pretty simple. Because she had been Other all her life, and she knew that even the people who were not just like her were still people and were still her (so brown people like me would be her with cows and curry and weird-ass notions of karma sprinkled on top? I'm still not clear.)

Some people thought that there might be more to it, that Bear's own work was problematic. But we can ignore them, because they are terrible readers and not so good with the subtext, being oversensitive and paranoid and seeing problematic depictions of race where there is only an intent to illuminate and ~enlighten~. And if they wanted to do something constructive (for a change), [livejournal.com profile] mac_stone was there to lead the way.

But strangely enough, there were all these dumb uneducated abusive nutty PoC with their sycophants allies that just would not let it go and persisted in bringing their own views to the table.

But never fear, to Elizabeth Bear it was all just an *awful* lot of noise, which got tiresome after a while so she moved on (and her book sales were up because of the noise YAY).

Yet people persisted in talking about this, and that was just not on, because hadn't the caravan left?

So Teresa Nielsen Hayden has just stepped in to lay down the law.
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A post describing racism and its effects.

"Being anti-racist means more than refraining from using racist language. You can scrub every single racial epithet from your vocabulary and still be a racist. If you feel the overwhelming need to cross the street when you see a group of young black men in fear, that is racist behaviour. If you never think to question when you see blacks portrayed in the media as drug addicted criminals, that is racist. If you can mentally picture all of your friends and cannot point to a single one that belongs to a marginalized group, that is racist. If you think that by consuming food from a different culture you are displaying your global ideals, that is racist. If you believe that you can appropriate cultural symbols and wear them for the sake of fashion, that is racist. This list can go on and on because daily people participate in actions that are either directly racist, or have racist undertones, with little or no thought to the bodies that it effects."

*

This reminds me of a video I was linked to recently, a conversation between Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the neo-conservative blonde on The View, about racism. Hasselbeck was talking about how terrible African-Americans were for using the N-word, how was she supposed to teach her children not to use it if they did, didn't they realize that they all lived in the same world? And Goldberg called her on that, saying that they didn't, her experiences were completely different, and in response Hasselbeck - started crying.

Point goes to Hasselbeck for such effective personification of the "WHY ARE YOU BEING SO MEAN TO ME ME ME" defense.

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Make Believe Maverick, a Rolling Stone article that makes John McCain seem worse than George W. Bush.

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I think the articles I agree with the most on the financial crisis are these from the UK. I'd never come across the website before, and I'm still not quite sure who they are, but what they say and how they describe the current problem makes sense.

Their view on the bailout.

"SchNEWS never thought that Neo Labour would do so much to boost the welfare state. Over the last six months the government has pumped an unprecedented (and gigantic) amount of cash into the welfare system. The only trouble is that this money is not heading for the needy, but the greedy as we’re talking about the welfare state...for big business.

The country’s wealth is being squandered supporting the very company shareholders that have been arguing for years that, in Maggie Thatcher’s words, “the business of government is not the government of business.” Interfering politicians hell-bent on regulating the market only serve to hamper the competitive spirit, say the profit-hungry capitalists. Unless, that is, the interference comes in the form of hard cash designed to prop up their ailing investments at a time of crisis.

Following ‘Meltdown Monday’ and the ensuing turmoil in the corridors of global capital earlier this week, rampant free-marketeers are now clambering for more government cash to bail out the banking and financial system. And we are talking intergalactic telephone numbers. After years of sucking out huge commissions, profits and bonuses (Krug all round!), recorded losses for the banking and insurance sectors are now running at £275,000,000,000 - and it is estimated that this figure will double over the next twelve months. So far the most ‘market friendly’ governments in the world have pumped enough money into the system to cover 80% of these losses. Some analysts are estimating that Western governments will spend $1 trillion of public money bailing out the financial corporate sector and it’s shareholders. Shareholders who have been only too happy to reap the benefits in recent years, without ever worrying about how their miraculous wealth was actually being created."

Their description of the credit crisis.

"Household debt has increased from 50% of GDP in 1980 to 100% in 2007. Financial sector borrowing has gone from 21% to 116% of assets in the same period. In fact, a chief cheerleader of the brave new financial world was the former boss of now bust Goldman Sachs – one Henry Paulson. He took them from $20 billion in debts in 1999 to $100 billion when he left. Having helped cause the crisis, and getting rich off it, he’s now the man putting forward the bail out plan as US Treasury Secretary. Despite self-imposed limits, Governments have also ramped up their debt levels – achieved by privatising everything in sight and putting all the deals ‘off balance sheet’ (thanks, Gordon!)

So lenders now routinely now lend out more than the total assets of the company. It was all made possible by massive deregulation, the completion of the project started in the Thatcher / Reagan free market era, as big business and their lobbies finally succeeding in getting politicians completely in their pocket, and indeed direct pay. Light touch regulation gave way to feather light.

Read more... )

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Guantanamo: Beyond the Law
I wonder when the majority of Republicans are going to realize (if they ever do) that the greatest threat to democracy right now isn't terrorism but the actions that the Bush administration has taken, and that they have endorsed, in the name of combatting it. (And don't even get me started on all the spineless Democrats that just rolled over and let them because they didn't want to appear "soft on terror", which really should be translated as hard on basic human rights. The hypocrisy of it all leaves such a bad taste in my mouth.)

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Why Bother?
A NYTimes essay by Michael Pollan that asks why, amidst so much conflicting information, we should bother changing our habits to become more enivornmentally-friendly, especially when the problem is so large and individual changes make a marginal at best difference. I really liked his argument on why those changes are worth making, but like I said on the pollaneque comm, I hated the way it was framed, setting up the socially-responsible US citizen against his evil Chinese twin counterpart who's busy buying fuel-inefficient cars, when the evil Chinese twin leaves half the carbon footprint that the average US citizen does. Way to deny national guilt right there.

how we're wrecking our feet with every step we take
A NY Magazine article on why shoes are bad for our feet that I found eye-opening.

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I've been absently following the debates over the new farm bill. An article I found interesting:

in the fight over farm aid, this is the front line

"Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat from the big-farming territory of western Minnesota, is pushing a farm bill that continues big crop subsidies, while Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat from western Wisconsin, is leading a revolt to focus the farm bill more on topics like clean water, nutrition and global trade.

"A lot of my colleagues in Congress are connecting the dots' between corn subsidies, obesity, and the use of cheap sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup, Kind said. 'Is it any wonder we have a Type 2 diabetes epidemic in this country?'

"Thus far, Kind's reformers have only slightly budged the farm lobby. The Agriculture Committee reluctantly voted to cap subsidies - but only to farmers earning $1 million a year ($2 million for married couples). It extended a welcome mat to organic farmers. And it promised to be fairer to vegetable and fruit growers."

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he only saved a billion people

An article that uses Borlaug's (the man behind the green revolution) relative anonymity to argue about how shallow our culture has become. It's - hm. I don't disagree with its main point - our culture is shallow - but dude, Borlaug (and by extension the methods he champions) has also done a lot of harm, and portraying him in such an unqualified positive light is a bit disingenious.

Parts like:

Borlaug scoffs at the mania for organic food, which he proves with calm logic is unsuited to fight global hunger.

um, what? Where is the so-called calm logic? I need more than a claim that cow dung is an inefficient source of nitrogen, especially when weighed against studies like these which prove that organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as the methods championed by Borlaug and the big agribusinesses.


There's "no evidence the food is any different than that produced by chemical fertilizer."

Some of the major drawbacks of using chemical fertilizers. There are tons of links about this on the internet.

Even if the above wasn't true, eating organic isn't just about avoiding foods that have been grown using chemical fertilizers, it's also about avoiding foods that have been genetically modified and use pesticides. How is addressing only one of these issues a refutation against the practice?

Another point to note - there has been controversy over the claim that this entire article is based on, that the Green Revolution saved the lives of a billion people. According to the wikipedia article:

Increasing food production however is not synonymous with increasing food security, and is only part of a larger equation. For example, Amartya Sen’s work has found that large historic famines have not been caused by decreases in food supply, but by socioeconomic dynamics and a failure of public action. [21] There are several claims about how the Green Revolution may have decreased food security for some people. One such claim involves the shift of subsistence-oriented cropland to cropland oriented towards production of grain for export and/or animal feed. For example, the Green Revolution replaced much of the land used for pulses that fed Indian peasants for wheat, which did not make up a large portion of the peasant diet.[22] Also, the pesticides involved in rice production eliminated fish and weedy green vegetables from the diets of Asian rice farmers.

Add to this what I talked about before, that organic farming yields several times more than conventional farming in third-world countries. Also, there is the question of whether the increased food production from conventional farming practices is sustainable, for the use of chemical fertilizers in the long run depletes chemicals from the soil, the use of pesticides in the long run creates weeds and insects that are pesticide-resistant, and the mass farming of only a few crops leaves the population as a whole more vulnerable to famine. And we're not even getting to the issue of the severe health effects of being exposed to pesticides, the hundreds of thousands of people that have died as a result of accidents in plants that create such things, that the safety of genetically modified foods are based on a theory that has been scientifically proven as false, etcetc.

That the author of this article did not bother to do any research, and just took Borlaug's word on this and other issues, is something I find very sloppy, turning what could have been an interesting, informed article into a misleading PR piece.

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I wish that proponents of the Iraqi war, and those who believe that we should stay there, would bother sometimes to find out what the Iraqis think - they ignore that question as if it doesn't matter that the majority of Iraqis want the puppet government to fall and the US troops out.

Riverbend
My favorite Iraqi blog, although it's been some time since it was updated. Here's what she has to say on the issue:

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.


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While trying to find more information on Venezuela and president Hugo Chavez, I stumbled across the Venezuela analysis website, and one of the articles there reminded me of a quote from the power of nightmares documentary - that in the political environment today, the person with the most vivid imagination becomes the most powerful, because the sense of disbelief has vanished.

My favorite part: A couple of years ago, for example, senior U.S. Army analyst Graham Turbiville pointed to the purchase of 30,000 ski masks by a Ciudad del Este Lebanese businessman as evidence that terrorism was flourishing in the region. The transaction, he said, "raised many questions" -- one of which was whether Turbiville was even aware that some of the world's best skiing takes place in the nearby Andes.

Ridiculous much?

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