Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Link Dump

I spend a lot of time looking stuff up on the internet. So here is some stuff I've learned recently:

  • I didn't know that, because of Obama, the DNC had a ban on accepting donations from lobbyists and PACs starting in 2008, which was just dropped in February of this year.

    Part of me is like PLEASE GIVE THE DEMOCRATS MONEY because I am currently living in a place where Republicans are making life miserable. Another part of me is like THIS IS PROBABLY NOT GOOD PRECEDENT. It's like drug companies funding drug trials, y'know? It's a red flag for corruption, but good science (policy/law) might very well be the result. And it's hard to know which is going to be which until the situation plays itself out.

  • All Class C senators are up for reelection this year. If you don't know if that means anything for your state, I invite you to check out the Wikipedia page and take a look at your own state. I also spent a while Googling stuff like "[my state] democratic senate primary" and "[my state] democratic house primary", and writing election dates in my calendar. I highly recommend Ballotpedia for more info on your state and local elections!

  • I learned a little bit about the general grammar/syntax of ASL! I understand that local grammars are likely to vary a lot and the thing to do is to actually pay attention to how folks around me are using language, but I found the refresher and guidelines helpful and interesting.

  • I also found this Facebook video which made me laugh, because IT TRUE.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Some things never change

At this point in 2008, Hillary Clinton was trailing by over a hundred pledged delegates, and people were calling for her to drop out of the race.

At this point in 2016, Hillary Clinton is leading by over two hundred pledged delegates. 

And guess what...

... yeah.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Please Stop

My response to the above obnoxious headline (from Feministing of all places!) is not so much a fact-check as it is an observation: that Clinton's support of Israel can be considered rightward of Trump's position only because Trump's statement on Israel-Palestine relations was a handwaving, posturing, ignorant non-statement which he's already fucking contradicted - which is well in accordance with his foreign policy positions in general. Saying Clinton is rightward of Trump means literally nothing when Trump's positions change day-to-day, especially since he knows fuck-all about foreign policy and is clearly making this shit up as he goes along.

On top of that, there is genuine reason to believe that a Donald Trump presidency would be uniquely dangerous for many people in the US and abroad. Headlines that draw equivalency between Clinton and Trump elide this very scary truth.

So if you give a shit about keeping Trump out of office, please stop making this inaccurate and harmful comparison. Stop signal-boosting posts that make this inaccurate and harmful comparison. I ask this in part because there are a whole lot of them...

a screenshot of a Google News search in which four separate articles make mention of Hillary being rightward in relation to Trump

...and in part because I am really, really scared of a Trump presidency.

Please. Stop.

Monday, March 21, 2016


From a Mental Floss article titled The Brains of Anxious People May Perceive the World Differently:
A new study shows that people with generalized anxiety disorder unconsciously label harmless things as threats, which may serve to further their anxiety.



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Clinton Fact Check: Taxes and Trump

The inflammatory headline of the day comes from the Washington Post:

"On taxes, Bernie Sanders makes Hillary Clinton look more like Donald Trump"

I know they wrote this bullshit headline in an attempt to get clicks, including angry clicks, including my angry clicks. So forgive me for playing into WaPo's hands. But the equivalency in this headline pisses me off enough, and gave enough people the wrong impression, that I felt like it could use a quick fact-check.

First, have yourself a look at the key graph from that very same article:

Chart labeled "Change in after-tax income, by candidate," displaying Tax Policy Center analyses for Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.

Things that immediately stand out about this graph:
  • Sanders' plan is indeed one hell of an outlier
  • All of the plans change very little about the bottom bracket, but each higher bracket involves a larger change, with the top 1% showing the largest changes in every single plan.
  • All of the red bars representing Republicans' plans are positive (i.e., tax cuts)
  • All of the blue bars representing Democrats' plans are negative (i.e., tax hikes)

Clinton's plan isn't even on the same side of the damn line as the Republican plans. So uh, that's a fairly major meaningful difference right there.

The top tax bracket displayed by itself. The difference between Clinton and Sanders is labeled "A" while the difference between Clinton and Trump is labeled "B".Another qualitative difference in Clinton's plan which is unique from both Sanders and the Republicans is that her bars aren't even visible until the top tax bracket. This means her plan involves little to no change for the vast majority of US households (if I'm reading the IRS website correctly, households making up to ~$230,000). In contrast, Trump's tax plan offers the largest tax cut across all four of these brackets.

However, since this is a fact-check, I must point out that the headline is technically correct in one sense (and in a way that the text returns to, over and over again). There is a larger difference in absolute value between Clinton's and Sanders' plans than there is between Clinton's and Trump's. In the example of the excerpted image on the right: A is greater than B.

This is actually true across all brackets. If you want to check for yourself, and don't happen to have a ruler handy, here's another version of the chart from above, with overlaid numbers this time:

Same chart as above, with numbers labeling the height of each bar. The difference in absolute value between Sanders and Clinton in each category is greater than the difference between Clinton and Trump.

Despite these differences holding up across the board, the headline is still misleading. Clinton's plan looks nothing like Trump's plan - or any other Republican's plan - even with Sanders' outlier as a comparison. A more accurate headline would read something like: "Sanders' tax hikes are steeper than Trump's cuts are deep." Because this difference has everything to do with Sanders' proposal to dramatically raise taxes, and nothing to do with Clinton. At all.

The top tax bracket displayed by itself. The difference between Clinton and Sanders is labeled "A". An identical length, also labeled "A", is placed such that it begins at the tip of Clinton's bar and stretches towards the tip of Cruz's bar, but it clearly falls short of this distance.I would also like to point out that there is one good reason the headline said "Trump" and not "the Republicans". In the tax bracket for the top 1%, there is one Republican who cuts taxes more severely than anyone else, and that's Ted Cruz.

His incredibly deep cut of 26%, combined with Clinton's 5% tax increase on that tippy-top bracket, give an absolute difference of 31%. This is larger than the absolute difference between Clinton and Sanders, as illustrated by the excerpted image on the right.

There's also lots of good reasons that the headline shouldn't have said "Trump" and not "the Republicans" (or like, a completely different rephrase). For one, the "greater absolute difference" thing applied just as well to Rubio! Uh, well, maybe that's a bad example. Farewell, Rubio. We knew you well and liked you not at all.

The headline also gives the appearance of supporting the false equivalency of "both parties are just as bad". In addition, people who only read the headline (so, like, most people - which the Washington Post KNOWS, because they published an article about this two friggin' years ago!) are likely to get the impression that Clinton's plan resembles Trump's. Or that Sanders is the only candidate whose plan is meaningfully different.

None of that is true. Clinton's plan is meaningfully different - both from the GOP plans which offer massive tax cuts to the rich, and from Sanders' plan which raises taxes on literally every bracket.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Am I Cisgender? Spoiler: If you have to ask, probably not

I found this article, called Am I cisgender? via the "Wipeout Misogyny" group on Facebook. (I'm not linking to the Facebook group, because of transantagonistic content like this article. I am linking to the article for context, but I wanted to give a warning for transphobia, including/especially internalized transphobia.)

In that article, the author seems to start decoupling gender assignment from gender identity. I spend a lot of time nodding along, as it seems like we've experienced a lot of the same things, including some pretty gross misogyny and a lack of dysphoria. I also spent a lot of time shaking my head, because there are things in this article that miss the mark just a bit, but the act of missing causes the article to go careering off into a land of transphobia and ick.

Today I want to talk about the central question of the article: Am I cisgender?

The author gives two contradictory answers for this.
I am a woman. This is something I have never questioned. It is something I know with almost complete certainty.
I don’t have an internal sense of my own gender. If you ask me how I know that I’m a woman, I have to make reference either to my female secondary sex characteristics, or to the social implications of being read as a person who has these characteristics. I don’t experience my gender as an internal essence, a deep and unalterable facet of my identity.
There's lots of ways to interpret these two statements, but interpreting it in the best possible light, I think that the second statement is a clarification of the first one - the author doesn't have an "internal sense" of being a woman, but is certain that the label fits because...

Well, I don't want to speak for her. Here is the "because":

...if you don’t have a deep internal sense that you are either a man or a woman, you can identify as “non-binary” or “genderqueer” or “pangender”... But I’m not one of them. Despite the fact that I endorse some bits of masculinity and femininity and reject others, I don’t call myself genderqueer or non-binary, because none of this represents a deep, unalterable essence or facet of my identity. So since I’m not trans, and I’m not non-binary or genderqueer, then I am told I must be cis, by default.
So the only option available to me, if I want to reject the label cis, is to pick some other gender identity. I am not permitted to deny that I have a gender identity at all.
If you're not already screaming it at your screen, the word that the author is looking for is agender. While agender is often tucked under the nonbinary umbrella (as "no thanks" doesn't exactly fit into either binary category), it can also be used to signify exactly what the author feels: a lack of an internal sense of gender identity.

There are two reasons why this might not have occurred to the author. The first is simple: ignorance. I don't mean that as an insult! I mean it as a neutral descriptor of not knowing a thing. The author might never have heard of the concept of "agender," and she might not be aware that she really is indeed permitted to call herself that.

The second reason, and the one that I fear is much more likely, is internalized transphobia. I say this in part because of all of the talk of "deep, unalterable essence"s, which brings up a whole mess of bullshit about the idea that someone needs to be "trans enough" to claim the label.

Because like, I'm genderfluid right? Fluid meaning my gender changes over time. So this idea of an unalterable inner sense doesn't really seem to apply. This misconception, that gender has to be a stable, deeply held, "I will die on this hill" "no I mean literally die have you experienced dysphoria it is the worst" kinda thing is NO DOUBT part of the reason I didn't opt out of the binary earlier.

My rationalizations over the years included: I don't really NOT feel like a girl/woman (at least most of the time)(as long as I'm not thinking about it too hard). I'm probably just a tomboy, or butch (even though I don't fit those stereotypes)(it's close enough right?) Misogyny is the only reason I could feel uncomfortable being a girl/woman (and if I bristle at womanhood that means I've internalized misogyny right?).

But a layer underneath all that, for me, was the fact that resisting the gender assignment that other people had put on me is just such a pain in the fucking ass, y'all.

Rejecting the binary doesn't have to be a huge production based on a deep, unchanging, central need that tears at your heart and soul on a daily basis. It can also manifest as a quietly dawning realization, as your mind circles the question over and over again, Am I cisgender? Am I really?

Because cis people generally don't spend much time wondering if they might not be cis.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Clinton Fact Check: Honduras Follow-up

To follow up on my earlier post about Clinton and Honduras (with a heavy sigh):

Headline reading "The Clinton-Backed Honduran Regime Is Picking Off Indigenous Leaders"

A choice quote from the above article: "Cáceres was a vocal and brave indigenous leader, an opponent of the 2009 Honduran coup that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, made possible." Clinton is apparently personally responsible for the anti-choice bills passed by the Honduran legislature as well.

The assassination of Berta Cáceres is deplorable. I mourn for her, and I rage at the utter injustice that continues in Honduras.

This framing, though, is nothing but revisionist bullshit. It's meant to monsterize Clinton, and fits nicely into the popular narrative that Clinton is a warmongering sociopath. I do not want to downplay the profound harm that was (and is still) caused by Clinton's support of various military actions, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge that her actual record is much more complex and nuanced than that "warmonger" narrative allows for.

There are plenty of things to critique about Clinton's actions as Secretary of State (like her willingless to arm rebels - can we please stop? it never works out well). Inventing inflammatory claims isn't necessary or even helpful.

On top of that, it reduces the death of Berta Cáceres to nothing more than an anti-Clinton talking point. There are entrenched problems in Honduras (including some that the US is indeed responsible for) that deserve to be addressed if there is to be anything even close to justice for Cáceres. Blaming it on Clinton takes attention away from these real problems, and centers US electoral politics where it doesn't belong.