Clueless White Woman

August 1, 2008

I miss living in a blue state

Filed under: history,homophobia,racism,South Carolina — by clueless @ 12:59 pm

I went to school in Boston and lived there for three years after graduating. After that we moved to Indiana, then most recently South Carolina. While I really hated the traffic and cost of living, I desperately miss the politics — and things like overturning the no-marriage-here-if-you-can’t-marry-there law just make me miss it more.

I’d probably actually be happier in San Francisco (better environmental programs and legislation out there), but I sure ain’t fittin’ in down here

Mournful moaning aside, it is interesting to explore the history of the original law a little bit.

The law specifically barred out-of-state residents from marrying here if the marriage would be considered void in their home state. The origins of the law could be traced to the national backlash over the interracial marriage of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. At the time, 30 of 48 states banned interracial marriage, and many other states, including Massachusetts, enacted provisions that would keep interracial couples from crossing borders to marry in their jurisdiction.

It is important to remember that The North, while not as institutionally racist as The South, certainly wasn’t perfect. Supporting the discrimination of another state, even if not directly practicing it yourself, encourages the practice elsewhere.

Also worth noting is that a law originally discriminating against race ended up discriminating against sexual orientation. Translation: just because YOU are not the one being negatively affected today, doesn’t mean YOU won’t be negatively affected in 95 years. Equal rights are in everybody’s interest.


July 31, 2008

the dog ate my HIV statistics?

Filed under: cluelessness,international — by clueless @ 4:40 am
Tags: ,

In one of those weird coincidences, my RSS reading for the evening turned up two AIDS-related blog posts:

A positive (1) HIV Treatment Extends Life Expectancy — a scientific study has proven the efficacy of anti-retroviral drugs, another strong argument against HIV denialists (beetroot? BEETROOT?!? I will never stop shaking my head over that)

And a depressing (2) via Anxious Black WomanU.S. Blacks, if a Nation, Would Rank High on AIDS. Quoting from this NY Times article, emphasis mine…

If black America were a country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people living with the AIDS virus, the Black AIDS Institute, an advocacy group, reported Tuesday….

Nearly 600,000 African-Americans are living with H.I.V… up to 30,000 are becoming infected each year. When adjusted for age, their death rate is two and a half times that of infected whites, the report said. Partly as a result, the hypothetical nation of black America would rank below 104 other countries in life expectancy.

In a separate report on Tuesday, the United Nations painted a somewhat more optimistic picture of the worldwide AIDS epidemic, noting that fewer people are dying of the disease since its peak in the late 1990s and that more people are receiving antiretroviral drugs….

The Black AIDS Institute… said that more black Americans were living with the AIDS virus than the infected populations in… 7 of the 15 countries that receive support from the [Bush] administration’s anti-AIDS program.

The international effort is guided by a strategic plan, clear benchmarks like the prevention of seven million H.I.V. infections by 2010 and annual progress reports to Congress… “America itself has no strategic plan to combat its own epidemic.”

Why is that? I really don’t get the logic. Is there logic there, even weird logic that I might be able to rationally consider and discuss and rebut? It’s just fucking wrong!

What’s weird/creepy in the story — yes, it isn’t just sad — is this:

The group also chided the government for not reporting H.I.V. statistics to the United Nations for inclusion in its biannual report.

Dr. Fenton said the C.D.C. had ensured that its data were forwarded to officials in the Department of Health and Human Services and was investigating why the data were not in the United Nations report.

Others speaking for the agency said the answer would have to come from the State Department, which did not respond to an inquiry.

CDC sent statistics to HHS, who didn’t send it to the UN, and HHS says the State Department can explain all this, but they won’t. WHAT THE FUCK? We’re supposed to be leading the free world, and we can’t file paperwork properly?

Aren’t we always told it’s pure evil when a country doesn’t provide clear, honest information about problems? Don’t we always hear about how China or some other regime we dislike is supressing true statistics of HIV infection?

So are we incompetent, or are we trying to hide information? (They seem about equally plausible, don’t they?)

July 28, 2008

read the fine print…

Excerpt from Executive Order 9066:

…I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War… to prescribe military areas… from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary… to accomplish the purpose of this order.

I don’t think I ever realized just how innocuous-sounding the initial stage of “put every Japanese-American in prison” was. I knew it happened, and knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was written so incredibly vaguely.

Mixed Race America draws a strong parallel between the 1942 Executive Branch overreach and the 200x Executive Branch overreach. The ability to “legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians” was wrong then, so why is it right now?

originally found via What Tami Said

The Drivel Connection

Filed under: off-topic — by clueless @ 2:34 pm

We recently borrowed The French Connection from the library. It’s renowned as a classic, gritty cop drama about a narcotics bust. It won 5 Oscars. Worth watching, right?

Holy flaming crap. I have never wanted a protagonist to die as badly as I wanted Popeye the asshole to die (and that includes Zed in Zardoz). He’s a boozing man-whore who knows every ethnic slur and then some, but hey that’s ok because he’s a brilliant cop! Included is such brilliant policework as (1) sitting in a car for hours watching an Italian, because Popeye saw him in a restaurant, (2) tailing a suspect for hours wearing the most distinctive dumb hat in the universe, (3) guessing. The very last scene [spoiler warning *] when you hear the BANG and you desperately hope that Popeye has been killed in his last-ditch attempt to catch the French guy, BUT NOOOO the stupid pre-credit text tells you that he didn’t get shot (but the French guy vanishes, rather than turning up dead, so WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO THINK HAPPENED?!?)… The train-car chase was cool but that’s it.

* I don’t know why I’m giving a spoiler warning. It’s from 1971 for pity’s sake — if you haven’t seen it by NOW…

July 22, 2008

Can a fortune-telling ban discriminate?

Filed under: cluelessness,stereotypes — by clueless @ 6:51 pm
Tags: ,

A man wants to set up a business, but can’t because of a law in the county that prohibits that kind of business: fortune telling. So he’s suing.

Attorneys for Nick Nefedro, previously of Key West, Fla., say county officials violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and discriminated against his “Roma,” or Gypsy, culture when they refused to give him a business license. Montgomery code dating back to the early 1950s prohibits collecting cash for predicting the future.

“The underlying purpose is to prevent people from being taken advantage of, because it’s a scam,” Clifford Royalty, a lawyer in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, said….

“This legislation, this policy is focused really on the Gypsies,” [Nefedro’s attorney] Amourgis said. “How is what he’s doing different than running a horoscope? Who are they to say that is not fraudulent but my client is?”

I’m not entirely sure what to think.

Part of me is saying, “maybe we should listen to the guy who claims he’s being discriminated against.”

Another part is saying, “psychics are total baloney no matter their ethnicity and he’s playing bullshit” — supported by the allegation that this ban violates his right to free speech (since he can stand about telling the future as much as much as he wants, he just can’t get paid for it). And last time I checked, most psychics (e.g. the 1-900’s, the lady down the block who does palm reading in her house, Sylvia Browne, and so many others) aren’t Gypsies anyway 😛

July 19, 2008

More South Carolina homophobia

Filed under: homophobia,South Carolina — by clueless @ 9:52 pm
Tags: ,

The article

On Sunday an 18-year-old man returned to his home from a gay pride parade and was assaulted by his father with a baseball bat… During the assault, the teen’s 49-year-old father yelled, cursed, swung a bat, prayed and tried to “cast the demon of homosexuality out of him,” according to the teen’s version of events…

Found via Box Turtle Bulletin

Y’know, I’m just mentally exhausted today. All I’ve got is weary indignation over the ignorance. Plus a bit of curiosity whether there’s a demon for everything… demon of homosexuality, demon of bad parenting, demon of sour milk (THREE CARTONS this week!), demon of mental exhaustion… there are patron saints, why not patron demons?

Sorry — that’s more than enough weirdness, and humor isn’t a very appropriate reaction. To digress from the digression:

It will be interesting to see whether this is appropriately investigated — and, more importantly, prosecuted. Or will small-town justice lead to a son’s beating being swept under the rug? I guess it depends on who knows who(m?), as well as whether the people in the justice system consider that the gay kid simply got what was coming to him. Maybe this will turn into a “political agenda” (like, the kid reported his beating because he’s furthering the homosexual agenda, or somethin’). More likely it will just be another statistic in a long line of discrimination.

I think it’s time to stop reading blogs and go take a nap… see if I can be a little less pessimistic tomorrow 🙂

July 18, 2008

Imagine not having running water in your house

Filed under: institutional discrimination — by clueless @ 3:39 pm

via Racialicious on Alternet

The US District Court jury found that the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority violated state and federal civil rights laws by failing to provide Coal Run residents with access to public water, a service that was provided to white residents in surrounding areas.

They only got pipes in 2003. Good freaking night.

religious intolerance: not just for religions anymore…

Filed under: bigotry — by clueless @ 12:54 am

I don’t know what the readership overlap is between anti-racist and pro-science blogs is. I mean, there must be some, because I read them both…

But, on the chance that you’re not the same unusual as I, here’s a bit of background: A student in Florida went to Catholic Mass and was given a wafer during communion. Instead of swallowing it, he held it in his mouth and took it home with him. Who knows why, but he did. The local Catholic community reacted furiously, including with some death threats (although I doubt those were either sanctioned or requested by the church hierarchy), and the student eventually returned the Eucharist.

P.Z. Myers, a well-known atheist, called the Catholic response an overreaction, then vigorously upped the ante:

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?… I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage … but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.

I’m sure reader will be totally shocked to learn that a call for further violence against a sacred symbol of a religion has resulted in — wait for it — an angry, defensive response, including death threats. (Surprise!)

A peaceable resolution seems highly unlikely. In a July 14 interview with the Minnesota Independent, Myers stated at the end:

The response has done nothing but confirm it: I have to do something. I’m not going to just let this disappear. It’s just so darned weird that they’re demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won’t be gross. It won’t be totally tasteless, but yeah, I’ll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.

Weird to want respect? While he shouldn’t be forced to worship transubstantiation, there’s a vast gap between that and actively seeking a way to disrespect it. By declaring that Catholics shouldn’t be offended by his proposed action, he’s become the self-declared arbiter of what is and is not offensive; echoes of a person convinced of his own superiority and cheerfully willing to insult inferiors. Add in completely unwilling to consider an alternative way of thinking, and you’ve got a self-important attention-seeking bigot. Rational discourse is the way to bridge gaps, not desecration of every sacred symbol you can find.

On the plus side, it’s helping me weed out some skepticism blogs that I don’t really want to be reading on one simple qualification: do they think that Myers is being counterproductive? Thankfully, some do.

July 14, 2008

everybody else is talking about it, why not me

Filed under: cluelessness,CONSPIRACY! — by clueless @ 5:35 pm
Tags: ,

Yes, it’s that “satirical” Obama cover.

From the end of a CNN article covering reactions to the now-infamous New Yorker cover image

A Newsweek poll released Friday showed that 12 percent of those polled believed Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator on a Quran, and 26 percent believed that he was raised as a Muslim. Neither is true.

The numbers are in line with “people who can be convinced of almost anything”. The Twin Towers were taken out by dynamite not airplanes, the moon landing was filmed on a sound stage, Elvis is alive, and aliens regularly kidnap and impregnate our women. There will always be a population that will believe anything you can come up with.

The effect is somewhat counteracted by the fact that these people accumulate multiple unfounded beliefs. So if 12% believe he was sworn in on the Quran, and 26% believe he was raised a Muslim, that isn’t a total of 38% who believe some form of Obama-is-a-Muslim rumor. But, unfortunately, there’s still a big chunk of people who (1) believe the total bullshit they hear, (2) like to tell everyone they encounter this shocking revelation, and (3) build on it to create even more extreme bullshit. That’s how “Obama sounds like Osama” turns into “obviously he’s a Muslim”, then “obviously he’s best friends with Al Qaeda”.

In a way, this is laughable — these people are so silly! But really, it’s not funny at all. 9/11 conspiracy theorists, for example, inevitably send me into a frothing rage* when they talk about their “discoveries” in my presence. I don’t get as angry about all conspiracy theories, but I feel like I should — undermining of logical, fact-based discussion is a problem. (Partly because those of us who live on Planet Earth have to waste our time and energy arguing with crazies.)

And honestly, I just don’t understand how the picture is supposed to be satirical — I suppose the artist intended to create that, but failed. It doesn’t show the satire-worthy idiots who promulgate the myths, it just shows the myths. It doesn’t tell anybody anything new (we’ve seen all this for months, zzzzz), nor does it put a clever twist on things — just squishes as much bullshit together as possible. And putting it all together in one wince-worthy picture — you’ve simply given the gullible conspiracy theorists CLEAR EVIDENCE that militant black radicals are cooperating with Islamic extremists to take over the country and trample The American Way Of Life. How’s that funny?

* I lived in Boston in 2001, I experienced the terror and uncertainty, I had friends who lost friends on those flights, and I will fucking flip out if you start an incompetent “engineering analysis” of the day’s events. Especially since I’m an engineer and actually know what engineering analysis is, and you don’t, you fucking tools.

July 13, 2008

Why I hate American automakers

Filed under: off-topic — by clueless @ 10:00 pm

This was originally going to be a comment on Jill’s blog entry, but it ended up being massive — more commentary than comment, and really a post of its own. In a departure of my usual exploration of topics I am clueless about, today I’ll discuss — rant about, even — something I actually understand.

The original post on Jill’s blog crossposts from an all-too-typical story of a middle-aged ex-employee of the auto industry.

In a way, I share this story as well. I lost my job with Visteon in Bedford Indiana on June 30. (The automotive industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers across the country — although Detroit certainly bears the brunt of it.) I’m young, and expect to have another job soon. My friends in Bedford aren’t all so lucky, particularly the ones with twenty of more years of experience.

It’s not just the fact that I was fired that makes me angry, though. I’m reasonable enough to accept that if I — or, in this case, an entire factory — am not not doing an adequate job, I can face termination. This is a sampling of what makes me angry:

  • The closure of a plant that has always turned a profit. A plant with one of the best quality records.
  • The excuse given for closure is that Visteon wanted to concentrate on its core businesses. (The ones which lose millions of dollars every year.) In order to devote resources to those, they needed to get rid of Bedford.
  • Other factories within the Ford supplier chain, ones which lose up to a million dollars a day and create impressively frequent quality problems, are kept open.
  • Ford demanding “cost saving” measures to reduce the cost of parts, which has ultimately resulted in a 200% increase in those parts now that they have to buy from somebody other than Visteon.
  • The extreme waste involved in the plant closure — hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, spare parts, even office supplies just thrown or given away. Even the building was sold for a fraction of what it is worth — a fraction of what the land underneath it is worth.

Every aspect was of this closure told us this was happening not because we were bad at our jobs, but because Visteon had some other mysterious reason that made no logical sense. When somebody hits you over the head with a large stick and has no reason for it, it’s no surprise you’d be a little bit angry.

I was a manufacturing engineer. Not only was I responsible for working with the factory workers to keep us building good quality parts, I also worked with Ford on design changes — the ones they wanted to improve their vehicles, the ones we wanted to improve our production processes (or quality). The part which involved Bedford’s workers was great… we brainstormed, worked together, certainly argued a bit, but came up with solutions. And then was the hard part: getting Ford to agree to what we wanted to change.

Let’s imagine that you run a factory. A large corporation, even. I would hope that you would want small changes (oh, let’s say, the color of a hose elbow, which simplifies manufacturability) to go through quickly, with very little fuss, so everybody could concentrate on bigger problems which really mattered. I learned one thing in the three years as a Visteon engineer: Ford didn’t want to make changes, and Visteon wasn’t much better. Half a year was a speedy change. This isn’t something that can be blamed on politicians or corporate executives, it is due to middle management and their staff being unwilling to commit themselves to changes. Endless meetings seeking somebody else to take the blame are not a productive use of time and money.

Don’t even get me started on the financial waste and quality problems. Bad quality is a financial waste on its own, of course — if you make a bad part, you’ve wasted money and time (which is also money). Did you know Ford assembly plants aren’t required — or capable — of meeting the quality standards to which their suppliers are required to adhere? And as the automaker pressures its suppliers to cut costs, the suppliers’ quality decreases, leading to endemic car problems, expensive recalls… The system is broken.

The executive staff is far from blameless, of course. Somebody needs to take the quarterly loss of $100 million and spin it as a success. (HA HA HA. Those press releases are always a good read. “The loss is $10 million less than expected and is therefore an excellent contribution to our three-year plan…”) They also are the ones to wibble about with idiot excuses for closing a plant that always made a profit and always made good-quality parts. (Insider hint: if you think your Ford will need a fuel pump or washer reservoir replaced anytime soon, BUY IT NOW before the Bedford parts are out of the supply chain.)

I fervently believe in American manufacturing — selfishly because it provides me with employment, and idealistically because it is good for the American economy (which, I guess, is also selfish since I live here). But should I “buy American”? The “American” car nowadays is only assembled in the US. Many, if not most, of its components are not American in origin; the percentage of international parts is increasing as time passes. So while I pay a part of the salary of some American workers if I buy a Ford, I’m also paying a tiny part of the much smaller salaries of people around the world. (As a side note: if I buy a Honda, for example, I am also paying both American and international workers, in about the same proportion. Lots of “foreign” cars are assembled in our country now, it’s just the ownership that’s international.) By buying “American” cars, I’m saying, “Hey, American automaker, what you’re doing is totally OK!”

I don’t have an answer. Letting the auto industry collapse under the weight of idiocy and incompetence — hell, even just one of the Big Three — would crush the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of American employees: unthinkable. Bailing them out to support a system crippled by its own incompetence: unthinkable. So they continue to create their own big messes, hoping that some miracle will occur and fix everything for them. I hate that.

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