alexandraerin: (Harley)

There's only one possible circumstance under which DC's redesign of Amanda Waller - a popular character and an iconic and recognizable character in their successful, decade-spanning DCAU - as a skinny woman with a completely redesigned face and hair is remotely acceptable. And that's if they've offered Angela Bassett a fabulous multi-picture deal to anchor their answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the way that Nick Fury does for them. In that circumstance, redesigning her comic character to be more recognizably the same character that Bassett played in Green Lantern wouldn't be my favorite creative decision but I believe it would be justifiable.

Now, I haven't seen Green Lantern but I just did an image search to find images of Bassett as Waller. She clearly doesn't have Waller's frame, but I have to say her appearance in the movie was more in keeping with the classic character than the redesign is.

Far more likely than this being a consequence of the movie appearance is that somebody at DC decided they need to "sexy her up" and didn't even bother to think about how problematic it is to tie sexiness to skinniness and white norms of beauty. And even more likely than that is there was no decision at any level that would register as a decision - drawing a woman as thin and "sexy" (for a very specific value of sexy) isn't the sort of thing that a comic artist needs to decide on. It's the default.

And of course, that's where the "No Malice Chorus" is going to chime in on this. Nobody meant any harm! There's no conspiracy! They took a strong, powerful and large woman with African features and turned her into someone who could pass as a Bond girl, but nobody meant anything by this!

And I can believe that. There was no intended message here.

In fact, they removed a message. That message was "Sometimes, the people in charge look like this:"

And Amanda Waller has always been in charge of whatever she did. Before the reboot, this woman even served as a cabinet-level secretary. (One of two African-Americans in Lex Luthor's cabinet, but I don't think that's what history would have remembered him for if it hadn't been erased.) Like so many other characters, she's been placed by the reboot into her most iconic role: director of Task Force X/Suicide Squad.

But she's been made absolutely unrecognizable in the process. This isn't like Superman's costume change. She's not a superhero. She doesn't have heraldry or an emblem that says "Yes, this is Superman you're looking at." Not only that, but Superman-the-person is still being drawn more or less the same way, within normal variance for differing artists and styles.

DC Comics, this woman

is not The Wall.

She's barely even The Partition.
alexandraerin: (Free Speech)
88% of income growth since 2009 went to corporate profits, 1% went to employee wages.

To anyone who thinks that further tax breaks/benefits to large corporations would create jobs, let's put it this way: for every extra million dollars that corporate America gets, they pocket $880,000 and put $10,000 into salaries. $10,000. That's not even enough to add one full-time worker at minimum wage.

We want to pick on government spending as being an inefficient way of creating jobs? Giving a corporation a million dollars in taxpayer money so they can hire one minimum wage worker to work 26 hours a week doesn't sound very efficient to me.

Of course, if lowering taxes created jobs then we'd have record low unemployment right now to match our current low taxes, wouldn't we? But we don't, for the same reasons that so little of any money is being invested back into the working class. It doesn't directly benefit the people steering the ship to keep the crew fed or happy if they can figure out another way to keep the crew in line and the ship moving forward.

Supposedly enlightened self interest and the invisible hand of the free market are going to take care of this, but enlightened self-interest requires one to take a long view towards the point where the ship sinks from all the skimping you've done on essential maintenance or is destroyed in a mutiny. And the free market is a power vacuum like any other... it ceases to be free as soon as any one actor upon its stage is able to exert any more leverage or power than any other. There will always be regulations, it's just a question of how they're created and enforced.

There's always going to be some waste in government spending as there's waste in any human endeavor of an appreciable size, but when we cut spending, we're cutting jobs. We're firing public employees, we're canceling contracts with and purchases from private sector employers that require bodies in seats and boots on the ground. As a nation we've always been more comfortable with the notion of putting people to work than the (largely chimerical) idea of "government handouts", but when we hand corporations money in the form of tax cuts, rebates, and grants they have no particular incentive to do anything with that money but pocket it.

When the government spends money on their goods and services, they have to work for it... they have to produce something. And that means hiring people and paying them wages with the money.

Now is not the time for austerity measures. Now is not the time for further choking the lifeblood of the country. It's easy to think "if we're in debt, spending is bad." Believe me, it's a lesson I've had to learn in my day-to-day life. But I'm not the government of a large republic. I'm a private citizen. My personal economy isn't this big whole complex thing that has to keep moving to support millions of people, it's just a tiny little part of that system. Trying to run the government like I'd run my personal accounts makes as much sense as treating a corporation as a person. (Oh, wait.)

Basically, now is the time for patriotic citizens of the United States to stand up and say to our elected representatives, "Put our money to work. Put our people to work."
alexandraerin: (Warren Buffett)
The new GOP/Fox News (but I repeat myself) catchphrase is "skin in the game". This was a phrase that was popularized in the investing world by Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha.

It refers to stakes, as in gambling. If you've anted up, if you've put money on the table, you have skin in the game. You're taking on a share of the risk and thus are entitled to a chance at the rewards. The "skin" here could be seen as referring to a slang term to money, though it could refer equally well in a more literal sense to your hide. Your hide's on the line. Risk = exposure.

When Buffett talked about people having "skin in the game", he meant that the people at the top of a company... the people who profit most directly from it and exert the most control and are most responsible for its business practices, ethical or otherwise... ought to be invested in their own company. Then instead of pocketing exorbitant salaries and inappropriate severance packages regardless of how many other people's the company loses or mismanages, their fortunes are tied to how well the company performs, and how well they perform their functions as stewards of it.

When the current crop of right-wing commentators say it, what they mean is this: poor people don't pay enough taxes.

This is the evolution of a pose they've assumed that started off with them trying to defend balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class as good economic sense (because there are so many more of us than rich people), and when cold mathematical reality failed to be swayed to their side, it magically became a moral position. The Big Lie that half or nearly half Americans contribute nothing to the common weal in taxes became significant. It's no good talking about where "revenue" is going to come from or impending "default" or the "full faith and credit of the United States" because half the population doesn't even have skin in the game. Nothing we do is going to matter in the long term unless all those lazy, poor, uninterested, uninvested poor people get their skin up off the couch and put it in the game.

Now, this is a ridiculous and odious position for a lot of reasons, but one of the bigger holes in it is that the whole point of the "skin in the game" philosophy has nothing to do with how much of your money is put where, in a literal sense... it's about sharing in risks and rewards. It's about tying your personal fortune in a real and tangible way to the fortunes of something else.

Who has more skin in the game than the poor?

Who is more affected by the rising and falling fortunes of the government and the economy: the rich, or the poor?

Oh, the rich may have lost more total wealth in the various crashes and recessions, but one of the many marvelous things about money is that the more you have the less it matters, and the less you have the more it matters. Somebody with even just ten times as much money as you who lost 90% of their wealth would be where you are, wherever that is. Now imagine that you lost 90% of your total wealth and property. See how that works? It's less obvious but still true at 10% or 5%.

If you can get everywhere you might need or want to go regardless of the state of the sidewalks and mass transit in your city, regardless of the availability and reliability of something like Amtrak, you don't have much skin in the game.

If you can get decent healthcare (or any healthcare) regardless of the availability of public funding for such, you don't have as much skin in the game as people who can't.

If a volatile market or a slow economy could force you to lose one of your houses or otherwise downsize your real estate holdings, you have less skin in the game than people who don't have anywhere to downsize to.

"Skin in the game" is not about a magical bit of abstract responsibility or accountability that comes from how we push around paper and numbers. Buffett advocates it as a means of promulgating a sense of responsibility and keeping everyone honest, but merely having stock in one's own company isn't the same thing as being honest and responsible. It ties your fortune to the value of the company's stock, not to the well-being of the company in the sense of the entire entity including its employees and customers.

The people who depend on the company for a living or who trust it with their health or savings or security... their skins are in the game! The CEOs who are going to get the same millions in salary that is a drop in a bucket compared to the value of the stock options that are supposed to be ensuring honesty and fidelity and that will only increase in value the more jobs they eliminate and corners they cut?

It's no skin off their backs what happens to anyone else. They have no exposure. They have no skin in the game.
alexandraerin: (Default)
When Republicans want to get out of the government's obligation to pay back to people the benefits they've already paid for with a lifetime of labor and taxes, they call this "ending entitlements".

When they want to duck the government's obligation to pay for bills they've already voted in favor of, it's called "fiscal responsibility".

When President Obama proposed ending some tax-supported benefits being paid to industries that are posting record profits while employing fewer and fewer people, Republicans called that a "tax hike".

When they propose cutting tax-supported benefits to the most vulnerable and neediest among us, they call it "shared sacrifice".

Or sometimes they call that last one a "tough choice", as in "we have to make some tough choices."

I actually like that one.

I'd hate to think this is easy for them.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I remember on the night of Barack Obama's election, when they said they were going live to the McCain campaign for Senator McCain's concession speech.

And I saw a man I had heard a lot about but I had never seen -- a dignified man of apparent integrity and conviction -- get up behind a podium and speak.

And I thought, Where has John McCain been hiding this guy? This is the guy who should have been giving all his speeches, not that angry grandstander who ran his campaign based on gimmicks.

This post isn't to speak to John McCain's finer qualities as a person, but as a politician every once in a great while he does manage to knock one out of the park:

"The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . . Barack Obama," McCain said, quoting the Journal article. "The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth * having defeated Mordor."

Before anyone gets up and gives him a standing ovation for that... well, first of all he's quoting from a Wall Street Journal editorial. I thought on first reading that only the first line was that, and the rest was his own elaboration, but it's all from the editorial.

But still, the man quoted it on the senate floor.

We must note, though, that he's saying it in defense of Boehner's job-cutting and growth-destroying plan, but he does a great job of explaining the kind of extremist thinking that has both the Republican plan and the "competing" Democratic plan to give them exactly everything they've ever asked for being rejected as being insufficiently conservative.

The current showdown in Washington is being prolonged because there are parties to it that don't want to avoid a nation-threatening crisis, because they have been convinced since November of 2008 that such a crisis was already at hand and its culmination is their chance to shine, their chance to defeat the Forces of Darkness and win.

In the process, they've maneuvered us into a position where it looks like we're going to go from a nation that doesn't care for its citizens, doesn't feed its poor, doesn't allow many opportunities for social advancement and personal improvement, and doesn't take care of the least among us to a nation that doesn't do any of these things and also doesn't pay its debts.

This outcome is neither Christian nor is it fiscally responsible, but it's being driven by people who claim to be both.

*Yes. **

**You're right. ***

***Yes, I know. ****

****Really, just... just let it go, okay? It doesn't really detract from his point.
alexandraerin: (Free Speech)
Late in June of 1776, a subject of the British crown wrote the following words as part of a draft of a document:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...

Please do note that these unalienable rights which all men [all of mankind] are endowed with are not linked with citizenship of any particular nation, or any particular legal status with respect to their current country of residency. To put it simply, while Thomas Jefferson and the others recognized as the Founding Fathers of the United States had their shortcomings when it came to the universality of human rights, they would have found the idea that being an American citizen confers rights and the protection of law to be an abhorrent and alien idea.

Of course, the Declaration of Independence does not have the force of law, nor is it the framework of our laws. That would be the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten amendments to that document, are particularly worth examining, as they spell out particular rights and protections that are only hinted at in the broad-sweeping and lofty language of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.

How many times does the Bill of Rights mention citizens?

Not once.

Not one time.

The Bill of Rights speaks of people, and of persons, and of owners of property, and of those accused of crimes, but it makes no distinction... it allows for no distinction... between natural-born citizen and naturalized immigrant, nor for someone here with the official recognition of the government and someone who slipped in without being noticed.

Leaving aside any discussion of what might be wrong with our immigration policy, "If you aren't here legally, you have no rights." is not a sentence that should be uttered by any who consider themselves proud and patriotic citizens of the United States of America. It is quite possibly the most un-American thing you could possibly utter.

Happy Independence Day.
alexandraerin: (Alaska)
Folks, this is a little painful for me to write about.

I've never shopped at Burlington Coat Factory. I couldn't say why, exactly... it's not like I wasn't aware of them. It's not like the opportunity wasn't there. There was a great big Burlington Coat Factory right outside of Westroads Mall that I passed by on almost a weekly basis for over a year. I just passed it by. I wasn't intentionally ignoring it or anything... I guess I just always had the idea in the back of my head that I could go into it, some day. I took it for granted that it would always be there.

Folks, that Burlington Coat Factory closed down some years back and today there is a Whole Foods on the site where it stood. I cannot visit that store without feeling a pang in my heart and spending about a hundred dollars on a week's worth of groceries. And so I know exactly where Sarah Palin is coming from when she speaks out against the current plans by a group of private citizens to build a community center on the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory in Manhattan. Sure, this is America and they can do what they want with their private property, but some things are special, some things are sacred, some things are too important to leave up to "rights" and "laws", and the ground of a Burlington Coat Factory is hallowed ground indeed and while I never thought the day would come where I'd be saying this, I am glad to have the voice of Sarah Palin speaking out as a voice of reason on this issue.

...wait, what?

Folks, I have just been informed that Sarah Palin's objection to the community center isn't that it's being built on the site of a Burlington Coat Factory but that she objects to a mosque at Ground Zero of the 9/11 attacks. Evidently there's been some confusion somewhere, because I'm almost positive that the 9/11 attacks didn't happen at a Burlington Coat Factory and the plans I've heard aren't for a mosque. She must be talking about something else entirely, I suppose. I'm going to have to go do some more research on the topic, but in the meantime it looks like I'm going to be a lone voice in the wilderness here on this whole Burlington Coat Factory preservation issue.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Note: This post is cross-posted to my Wizards of the Coast Community Blog. Quotes from some items in the Dungeons & Dragons Compendium have been reproduced for commentary purposes, a fair use justification.

I was looking something up in the online Compendium for D&D and noticed something interesting, something I never noticed before. Here's the physical description of humanity in Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition:

Humans come in a wide variety of heights, weights, and colors. Some humans have black or dark brown skin, others are as pale as snow, and they cover the whole range of tans and browns in between. Their hair is black, brown, or a range of blonds and reds. Their eyes are most often brown, blue, or hazel.

That's copied from the Compendium. I don't have my physical copy of the Player's Handbook handy, but there's no revision note so I assume it was copied directly.

Notice anything? Black and brown are given precedence over pale and blonde and blue. This would be a perfectly sensible way to describe the human race from a neutral, outside perspective, the same perspective we view any entirely new, made up type of folk that occurs in a fantasy world. Pale is a minority look among humanity. It's a recessive trait, an anomaly. So why should an introduction to or overview of the race introduce it first and foremost among all the possibilities?

Humans aren't an entirely new type of folk, of course... they're very familiar to us, and thus we usually view them through a biased filter. That's why I missed this before: I didn't read the physical description of Humans. I know what a Human looks like, or I think I do. But of course, when I think of "a human being", what pops into my head is going to fit a more specific model than what they're describing.

The filter through which we ("we" here referring to white Americans, a group of which I'm a member) tend to view typical Western fantasy is one where white is default and darker shades are interesting variations, if they're present at all.

Other races that have what we might call human-like skins (as opposed to rocky hides or scales or fur or crystals or whatever) mostly have notations in their descriptions that they come in the same range of hues as humans do.


Dwarves have the same variety of skin, eye, and hair colors as humans, although dwarf skin is sometimes gray or sandstone red and red hair is more common among them.

Halflings have the same range of complexions as humans, but most halflings have dark hair and eyes.

[Elves] have the same range of complexions as humans, tending more toward tan or brown hues. A typical elf’s hair color is dark brown, autumn orange, mossy green, or deep gold.

Not only are Elves no longer lily-white by default, but they tend towards tan and brown. Eladrin, on the other hand...

...have the same range of complexions as humans, though they are more often fair than dark. Their straight, fine hair is often white, silver, or pale gold, and they wear it long and loose.

To some degree, the art reflects this: they depict characters of color, here and there. The artists often seem to forget the new official description of elves, though, and the coverage of portraits that comes with the Character Builder is a little uneven: there are two dark-skinned Halfling women, but arguably no Human ones. Interestingly there's a dark-skinned Eladrin, but only one Elf who might be called "tan".

And while there's been some progress, that's not to say that D&D is Doing It Right all over the place.

I've read that among the pregenerated characters for the Dark Sun Encounters game, there's only one non-white character according to the accompanying artwork. She's also the only woman in the party. This is disappointing, especially as I recall 2E Dark Sun's sourcebooks describing a world populated along similar lines to the archipelago of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea series (though without all that pesky water just lying around.)

And of course, the Elven tendency towards lily-whiteness has been transferred to the Eladrin, who also have "straight, fine hair". The Eladrin are the "Galadrielves", so to speak... graceful and beautiful and with an air of superiority. The other race who lives in the Feywild (faerie land) alongside them, the Gnomes, are described as being tan, ruddy, or rocky gray rather than having human-like complexions. I think the idea is that they're supposed to be naturally camouflaged, but the art doesn't really fully convey this. The impression we're left with is that in the Feywild, we have beautiful pale races and ugly, twisted dark ones. If the Gnomes aren't quite white, they're certainly not living embodiments of grace and beauty.

All this is without even getting into the problematic aspects of the Elf/Drow split. Yes, Elves are now brown by default, but their "evil" cousins are black. Adding the Eladrin into the mix just makes things worse: we have the original, uncorrupted Fey version of Elves who "are more often fair than dark", their cousins who stayed in the natural world and became tan to brown, and the eeeeevillllll twisted version who were banished into an underground realm are black as the night sky.

Some might defend the Drow by pointing out that they're not "like the black people version of elves, but black like the color black". Yes, I've heard that exact phrasing used before.

Well, that might dull the knife's edge for most (though not all) dark-skinned human beings, but it still sets up a preferential color spectrum, with dark being worse than light. And however the Drow are drawn today, the original artwork depicts them as being "the black people version of elves". For reference, see this D&D Alumni article, with the 2nd Edition AD&D cover from Queen of the Spiders. There are (non-Drow) Elves with a similar shade of skin in the official artwork now.

For whatever progress has been made in 4E, it sounds a massive note of fail when it comes to Drow. The decision to stop calling them "Dark Elves" (except in campaign settings where they still do) is a bit of sleight of hand when their origin is mostly unchanged: they're still the evil race of elfy-like folk. And all of this is before we get into what is the biggest *headdesk* inducing moment for me, the one that almost ended my support of 4E, the Redeemed Drow.

Redeemed Drow is an Epic Destiny, which is something like a prestige class in 3E and something like the Paths to Immortality of Old School D&D. It provides an endgame for characters who have seen and done everything, an epic story hook for the DM and a satisfying finale for the player character. There are many to choose from. Some are open to any character, some only apply to certain types of characters.

The Redeemed Drow Epic Destiny is not, as its name suggests, just a codification of the already tired trope of the "lone Drow rebel, shunning the evil ways of the race". It's a Drow who worships the divine patron of the Just Plain Elves and works really hard and prays to be cleansed of the taint of Drowness.

No matter the deeds done, no matter the life lived, none of your mortal actions change the fact that you are drow—a dark elf and a living symbol of mortal corruption and vice—and throughout the rest of your days, you must bear the burden of the understanding that nothing you do can ever lift the stain that darkens your heart. The only escape from the curse is to truly transcend the mortal coil and become something more—to leave behind the shell of flesh and bone so your true light can shine and reveal to all the purity of your purpose.


Your successes earn you the attention of Corellon (and possibly others), who aids you in your crusade against your former kin by imbuing you with a greater sense of purpose to impel you to daring acts and astonishing deeds. As your mission nears completion, Lolth throws the full weight of her legions against you, and through the storm of demons, spiders, driders, and drow, you must stand fast before the blooming doubts and misgivings that threaten to cloud your vision. In the end, Corellon blesses you with the greatest gift you could ask for: a second chance at life without the filthy caress of the horrific Spider Queen.

Just in case anybody missed the point of what they're talking about with the references to a "stain that darkens your heart" and "the filthy caress of the horrific Spider Queen", they refer to a Drow as a "Dark Elf" in this description. Nowhere does it actually say that the character is reborn as a Non-Drow Elf, but the implications are clear.

I almost canceled my D&D Insider subscription when I read the article in which this Epic Destiny appeared. In the end, I didn't. It's one option out of dozens, included as an expansion to the game. It goes without saying that I would never allow a player to use it in a game I'm running... I'd hope anybody who played in a game I ran all the way up to the Epic Tier would know better than that, anyway. I wouldn't argue with someone who considered it the breaking point. If there's much more along the same lines, it'll be my breaking point. "If the wicked dark skinned races live good lives and pray really hard, they are reborn white" is not my kind of fantasy.

But that leaves me with the question of whether to include Drow at all, and how to reconcile their problematic aspects I have no problem with them being feared and reviled by the people living in areas under white hegemony. That idea is strangely plausible to me. But the idea of them as an "evil" race has enough baggage before we get into them being dark-skinned as well, and the two together are utterly inexcusable even if we jettison all the explicit connections between their dark skin and their evilness. (Stain, taint, "darkness", etc.)
alexandraerin: (Fem-Bend)
Imagine you're the proud of parent of a baby boy. He's been washed and weighed and tagged and checked for emissions standards compliance and everything else that they do with new babies and everything's going great, but then your doctor comes into the room with a heavy note of concern in his eyes.

"I don't mean to alarm you," he says, "but your son has a slight... abnormality."

Your heart lurches downward. Your stomach lurches upward. Abnormality? That sounds serious... that sounds dangerous.

"It concerns his genitalia," the doctor continues, and you know you should feel relieved... it's not his heart, it's not his lungs, it's not his immune system or his brain or anything that's likely to be debilitating or worse. You're glad it's not... whatever the problem is, you're sure you wouldn't trade it for any of those, but still... your son has abnormal genitals?

It gives you pause, to say the least.

"Please, Doctor... just tell us what's wrong," you say.

"Oh, nothing's wrong, per se," the doctor says. "It's just... well, his penis is slightly larger than we like to see. As you can imagine, a boy's penis is very important to his psychosexual development, his self-image. Any... irregularity... in that area can have serious repercussions later in life. It can affect behavior, self-esteem... there's even some correlation between an outsized penis and certain sexual lifestyles. I know you'll love your son no matter what, but as a loving parent, wouldn't you want him to have as normal a developmental experience as possible?"

"Of course!" you say. "But what can be done?"

"There is a surgical technique... a relatively minor surgery, if we do it while he's still young... where we cut away a portion of the penile shaft, and then reattach the tip to what remains. It's very safe, believe me. He won't remember a thing."

"But... won't that impair his... function?"

"Oh, no," the doctor says. "It's the glans, the head, that's the important bit, and we preserve that. There's no loss of nerve function."

"How can you be sure?"

"He'll tell us that himself," the doctor says. "We'll schedule annual follow-up exams, during which I'll manipulate your son's penis and pelvic area in a variety of ways with a vibratory tool and ask him to rate how it feels. This way we can be sure his sexual development is perfectly normal."

"Wonderful!" you say. "When can this surgery take place?"


Can you imagine yourself having that conversation?

Can you imagine any parent?

Would you believe me if I told you that such a surgical procedure (and its follow ups) exists in the United States and is actually practiced on little boys whose parents are so desperate for them to have "normal" genitals that they allow a doctor to mutilate them and then masturbate them at repeated intervals?

Of course you wouldn't. Because it's not true. It would be a ridiculous, unimaginable, and completely inconceivable thing to do a child.

As long as we're talking about boys, that is.

(And of course, if the "abnormality" is something other than "unusually large penis", then surgical intervention in an infant of any sex's crotch becomes much more conceivable for many doctors and parents.)
alexandraerin: (Default)

  1. Here is a two-year-old article about a study that found how people feel about their weight is a better predictor of health and mortality than how much they weigh.
  2. Here is an abstract of a study demonstrating that overweight and obese patients have a lower rate of cardiac death than "normal" weight patients.
  3. Here is an abstract of a study demonstrating one of the many ways "failed weight loss attempts" damage a patient's health.
  4. Here is a list of weight loss strategies that will not fail over the long term for the vast majority of the population:

    So why do doctors focus so much on their patients' weights?

    Note I'm not questioning doctors who focus on any of the following:

    • Blood pressure.
    • Blood sugar.
    • Cholesterol.
    • Nutrition.
    • Exercise.
    • Risk of diabetes or other diseases.

    But all of those things have two things in common:

    1. They are not the same thing as being fat. They are things that a given person, thin or fat, may or may not have a problem with.
    2. Fatness is used as a shorthand for all of them, in popular culture as well in the world of medicine. And why not? Doctors are people, too. They hear the same stuff growing up that we do. They heard it from their doctors, who were after all people, too.

    If you're a doctor and you're worried that your patient will be killed by blood pressure or cholesterol, why talk about their weight? Even if there weren't negative health implications to pressuring your patients to lose weight (and there's plenty of evidence that there is!), wouldn't that be like going for the overly complicated bank shot? Why would you get all fancy with your attempt to save a patient's life instead of addressing the actual issue?

    Here are some guesses:

    • Because we have a culture that pathologizes and polices bodies as a means of control.
    • Because we love any narrative in which other people's misfortunes are 1) preventable and 2) their fault.
    • Because "thin == healthy, fat == unhealthy" is appealingly easy.
    • Because it's what we're taught.

    If you have any doubt that the focus on patients' fatness is taking attention away from their health, you might find this interesting. I believe it's by the same Paul Ernsberger who wrote in 1987:

    "The idea that fat strains the heart has no scientific basis. As far as I can tell, the idea comes from diet books, not scientific books. Unfortunately, some doctors read diet books." (Source.)

    I've turned off comments on this journal because I'm not interested in having a debate. No, it's not that I'm not willing to listen to opposing viewpoints... on this subject, as so many others, I can't help hearing opposing viewpoints. The viewpoint that fat is unhealthy and losing weight is beneficial to your health is ubiquitous. We are swimming in the opposing viewpoint.

    Keeping comments open is only going to bring in more people who are parroting unproven (or disproven) assertions about what fat does to the body, keep insisting that doctors should shame their fat patients even while there is no real solution at hand even if fat were a problem, and generally encourage the status quo to rear its ugly head.

    If you disagree with me, disagree with me, but you don't need to say it and I don't need to hear it. If you're so sure I'm wrong, go do some reading with an open mind. Somebody accused me of cherry-picking studies. I sort of did: I had masses and masses to choose from and I picked the first few ones I could think of off the top of my head. The research is out there. It's just ignored or parsed to fit the conventional wisdom.
alexandraerin: (Star Belly)
I found myself, in a roundabout way, reading a months-old blog post that had been linked to in a Livejournal post that [ profile] karnythia linked to.

You can read the posts to see what they're about. If you're not familiar with the topic, there is plenty of material in the Livejournal post and the many posts it links to, breaking down the issues involved. I'm not planning on parsing through them here.

Rather, I'd like to call attention to something happening in the comments of the post I link to at the top of this entry. The post details an encounter that, along with the racial dynamics the author breaks down, involves the use of the epithet "black bitches" being directed at the author of the post.

I'll repeat that for emphasis: "black bitches".

So what's happening in the comments? Surely this will be the one time when everyone can agree that racism actually exists and is in play... right?


Unfortunately, I think we spend so much time and energy as labeling something as racism.


Must be terrible to live life with a chip on your shoulder like that. No, I don't get it - and I guess I never will.


My problem with this post is that the writer seems to make the incident all about race.

and so on.

alexandraerin: (Default)
I got everything on my list yesterday done except for Tribe, because I saved that for last and underestimated how much relaxation and enjoyment I'd get in a single day. So it became my first priority this morning, and will be so again tomorrow. Most of Tribe to date was written as the last thing I did before going to bed at night, but that only works when I'm leading a very boring life.

Something to file in the overstuffed drawer labeled "lessons I keep learning and forgetting": blogging/journaling helps me write. Any time I'm bottling up feelings and biting back words, writing becomes orders of magnitude harder. Having a blog post in me and not letting it out because I feel guilty for doing one kind of writing before I've done the other sort just leads to less writing, period.

Anyway, as I've mentioned a few times, I'm in Florida with my parents. Unlike most of my trips that are kind of busy-busy-busy (including my last trip to Florida with them), this one is very relaxing and low-key. I think my folks felt I needed a bit of a getaway. So while I had originally planned on doing at least a meet-and-greet while I'm here, I think I'm going to make this trip into "me time" and catch up on the 2.5 Rs: Reading, wRiting (that's the .5) and Relaxing. My trips never end up being very relaxing or very productive, and among the reasons for that are the fact that I've always got a lot of things planned and that I never have very much alone time during them. So the next few weeks are going to be a "recharge" period, where I just do what I love in a beautiful place and don't stress out over things.

Florida folks, don't despair... I will be back here, and the next time I am I'll get something lined up for you all before I arrive.

I said in a blog post that Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court would prompt some people to talk about how many women have been nominated in recent times (that is, contend that too many women are being nominated)... but of course, the Institutional Isms don't need to be quite so bald-faced as that to get their work done. There is at least one blog post out there talking about the impact of a "motherless" Supreme Court. The blogger is quick to point out that he doesn't think Kagan should be disqualified for not having children, he just wants us to think about what it means when none of the women on the court are mothers.

Now, again, there are two women on the court now. One of them, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, does have children, but his scenario is that Kagan is confirmed and Ginsberg retires in the next couple of years (not unlikely), leaving us again with only two women on the court again. With two women sitting on a nine-member body, he wants us to consider their parental status. Is that honestly meaningful? It's not as though there is a huge trend of women who aren't mothers being appointed. Two out of four. Given the stigma against women who choose not to have children, I doubt there's going to be such a trend. Couple that stigma with the stigma against women with children who choose to have a demanding, high-powered career and we begin to see why only two of the ten justices who have been seated behind the bench since Sandra Day O'Connor supposedly shattered the glass ceiling have been women.

This issue of how many of two (out of nine, again) woman justices are mothers is a smokescreen. Even if the person raising it is sincerely and passionately interested in it, all he's doing is raising a big noxious cloud that will impede women like Elena Kagan and give cover to the people who would rather not see a woman seated at all.

This is the evil twin of the "eveyrthing women choose to do is empowering" meme... anything a woman does can and will be used against her in the court of life. Everything is fodder for public discussion and dissection. The "double standard" that afflicts women isn't one standard for men and another for women, it's two standards for women, so no matter which measurement one strives to live up to, one still gets hammered for failing the other.

(See: stay-at-home versus get-a-job, loose-slut-who-sleeps-around versus frigid-bitch-who-won't-sleep-with-me, and any other reductive dichotomy to which women are subjected.)
alexandraerin: (Default)
Lena Horne passed away yesterday. My first exposure to her was the first place I encountered most people of immense talent: Muppet Show reruns.

This is going to be a brief post, because I don't feel adequate to the task of eulogizing a woman with such a long and varied career. There's a decent obituary on Yahoo! News, but the impetus behind this post is in the comments (which I really should know better than to read).

One commenter thanks her thusly: "Yes, RIP to a woman who did her thing for African Americans." Now, the headline on the piece is "Barrier-breaking jazz star Lena Horne dies at 92." The article touches briefly on some of the (racial) barriers she broke down. Her kipedia article has a more detailed but still very brief primer on her civil rights work, but the article the comment was left on did address these things at a glance.

But some of the responses to this comment (I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the spoons to wade back in and read them) ran along the lines of how very dare you claim Lena Horne she belonged to everybody she worked to destroy racial barriers why are you emphasizing differences, etc., etc., etc.

This is what we mean when we say we live in a "post-racial society": stop complaining. We got rid of slavery and replaced it with civil rights laws and therefore there's nothing left to be said, right? Why do people have to go and bring race into things? It's the people who bring race up that are racists!

Even the argument that "racism is over" falls flat as a reason to tell people to pipe down about the fact that Lena Horne's career didn't consist entirely of having people giving her talent the reception it deserved, unless someone wants to argue that racism was over during the entire period her long career spanned. Even though racism is alive and well and woven very deeply in the fabric of American life, there are people of color who are alive today... people who are being born just today... who are the beneficiaries of the progress she made in her lifetime.

If one of the folks she was fighting for feels like giving her thanks, or expressing pride in what she did... how is it appropriate to tell them to pipe down? Yes, contemporary white audiences enjoyed Ms. Horne's music, too... if they hadn't, she wouldn't have had nearly as much leverage to effect change. Does that give white America some claim over her? Because we deigned to allow a talented superstar to entertain us?

Lena Horne's career was filled with people who wouldn't let her forget her racial background and people who wanted everybody else to forget it. Trying to be all "colorblind" about her now is just plain dishonest.

alexandraerin: (Default)
Three women have sat on the Supreme Court in its entire history. Two of them are serving on the nine-person body right now. Another one is about to be nominated. Anybody want to start the countdown until people start complaining about "affirmative action" because of two women being nominated/appointed (hopefully) in a row? You know it's going to happen... or rather, is probably already happening.

Never mind that women make up roughly half the population, and never mind that our government is meant to be representative of We The People.

And of course, nobody blinks when two men are appointed to the same body in a row, or if a succession of men hold a top-level leadership position. That's not suspect. It's just... normal. Business as usual. A succession of men isn't even seen as a pattern. If a series of left-handed men, or red haired men, or men of any one particular non-white race/ethnicity were appointed to the Supreme Court one after another, it would be remarked on with varying degrees of seriousness.

"Man" is the unremarked and unremarkable assumed default... especially for leadership positions, but for humans in general. Iconographically speaking, we're expected to let a generic male figure stand in for humanity as a whole if needs be. An icon that is female is expected to stand for women.

But... I'm borrowing trouble. Grousing about complaints that I fully anticipate but haven't yet heard. That's never a good thing. Instead, I'll just congratulate Elana Kagan. I'll have to do some reading before I know if I'm in favor of her confirmation or not, but this was my first reaction and I had to get it off my chest.
alexandraerin: (John Galt)
Two of my favorite words are republic and weal.

"Republic" is from the Latin res publica, "the public matter" or "the public thing"... it could mean anything that belonged to the public or was of general rather than private concern.

Civic matters. Public property. Public good.

"Weal" means well-being and prosperity. It's the root of two modern words that have very different meanings: wealth (someone with great weal has wealth, in the same way that someone who's high up has great height) and commonwealth. The "wealth" in "commonwealth" is closer to the full meaning of the root word than it is in "wealth" by itself... again, it's rooted in the idea of public welfare, of a people's interest as an aggregate rather than a person's interest as an individual.

These are important concepts. They're strongly rooted in the foundations of the United States of America. As popular as it is to appeal to our idealized history as rugged individualists, we are a Republic. Our Founding Fathers talked about unity as much as they did liberty.

E pluribus unum - from many, one.

That's not to say that they didn't write and speak of individual liberty. Our Founders believed that the greatest threat to the individual was the overwhelming influence of majority factions... what would later be called "the tyranny of the majority". Accordingly, we have our systems of checks and balances. We have our Constitutional guarantees of specific rights. We have our weighted representation in the lower house and uniform representation in the upper house, to make sure that the less populous states cannot be completely subservient to the interests of the larger ones.

A lynch mob is a direct democracy in action: a noisy majority decides that some other person doesn't have any rights. This is why we don't do direct democracy. It's antithetical to the very concept of "individual liberty".

Today's Republican party... or at least the noise-making division of its national presence... has turned the idea of res publica on its head. Any time the majority is not allowed to work its will on a minority, they decry this as the death of individual liberty. Any time the government prevents a private business from holding the position of standing on someone's neck and crushing their trachea under a booted foot, the right-wing calls this "fascism".

Why corporate boots on our throats should be more tolerable than government ones has always been a mystery to me.

They ignore the supreme importance of collective action for common good in the founding, defense, and growth of our country... they make "collective" a dirty word... and pretend that our nation was built solely through the efforts of rugged pioneers, every one of them a Randian Man-God who personally built or earned every thing they ever had, including the bootstraps they used to pull themselves across the great rolling prairies, which were empty at the time because of course brown-skinned people who talk different didn't start showing up until a hundred years later when we accidentally invented food stamps and our once great civilization teetered on the brink of collapse.


But I digress.

When we talk about something like healthcare reform... affordable access for all, however it's accomplished... our rugged individualists say, "The government can't turn a profit with Amtrak or the USPS. Why should we trust them to manage this?" That presupposes that profit in the capitalist sense should be the goal of everything the government does.

But look at our Declaration of Independence. Look at the preamble of our Constitution. Look at the Federalist papers.

Where in the words of our country's founders does it mention profit as a goal or function of government? "In order to form a more Profitable Union?" No. "In order to provide for the common bank account?" Not in there. The purpose of our government is to serve the public good... to create weal, not wealth.

We don't need a post office or a passenger rail system that turns a profit for the American people... if they did I wouldn't be complaining, but that's secondary to the purpose of such things, which is serving we the people... all of us, including those who live in places where no commercial company could hope to turn a profit serving. Both the former Department of the Post Office (now USPS) and the National Rail Passenger Corporation (the entity behind Amtrak) have been the victims of pushes to "privatize" and "commercialize" them. The budget-slashing consequences of these actions could fill a number of blog posts all by themselves, but the reason I'm bringing them up here is because they're examples of just how badly the point of a government service can be missed.

Amtrak was created because passenger rail travel--while necessary in many parts of the country--was not profitable. What does the "free market" do in situations like this? Well, when I say "necessary"... the world wouldn't end without government subsidized rail travel... but a lot of economic activity that is itself profitable but is dependent on commuter rail corridors would cease.

That's jobs lost, businesses closed, the common weal suffering. The government is Constitutionally directed "to provide for the general welfare" (oh, there's another dirty word!), not to make a buck.

The people who like to position themselves as self-made captains of industry (or as people who would be self-made captains of industry, if the darn government didn't keep getting in the way!) would no doubt say that if there are business that depend on the benefits of passenger rail, then they should pool their resources and come together to provide it for themselves instead of relying on the government.

But this is exactly what the government is: a pool of resources to do what none of us alone can do. Res publica in action. The fact that we're all having our resources dumped into the same pool means that, on some level, I'm maybe paying for your stuff that I'll never need and you're maybe paying for my stuff that you'll never need, but it all comes out in the wash anyway. Larger pools mean we're more protected from things like unexpected shocks.

And of course, this all comes to bear on the health care debate. Before we go any further, I'm going to say one thing: I just checked, and France is still a country. Their government has not collapsed into anarchy from a total lack of funds, and their population has not succumbed to plagues that would be easily treatable by modern medicine if only they hadn't driven their doctors into bankruptcy and rationed care away to nothing. Cutting-edge medicine is practiced in France and the life expectancy at birth is 81 years. There is nary a commission de la mort in sight. So...

As long as France (along with every other modern nation that manages to care for its population) is still a country, "how adopting a similar health care system will destroy America" is a conversation that won't be had here. Okay? Okay.

I've written on this before, but it still amuses me that people who claim loudly and often that what the rest of the world has managed to do is beyond the limits of America's ingenuity and can-do spirit call themselves "patriots"...

Anyway, health care. If ever there was an "industry" where the clear focus should be on weal rather than wealth, it's health care. The insurance industry and the health management industry are excellent examples of what happens when Republican (in the res publica sense) impulses--collectivization of interests for the public good... shared risk, shared responsibility--collide with the profit motive. Through insurance and HMOs, we pool our resources, but we do so in the hands of businessmen, private citizens like ourselves who under the "Every Man Is An Island" version of the American Dream being peddled across the country owe nothing more to the world but to look out for themselves.

By pooling our resources through the government, we're keeping them in our hands. We The People. I'm not saying there aren't corrupt and greedy politicians, but there's a reason we call them "public servants". Unlike big business, they have to at least pretend to look out for our interests. Whatever the motives of the individuals who work in and oversee it, an entity like the USPS or Amtrak or a notional national health care institution doesn't care about profit. They care about controlling expenses to the extent that if they don't then somebody will score political points off them by talking about "trimming the fat", but they ideally don't have to worry about being in the black, much less having huge profits for executive salaries and dividends for shareholders.

Now, the bill that's going before Congress today isn't perfect. It's pretty far from perfect, in fact. Its flaws and the blame for those flaws would be a whole 'nother blog post. But my opinion on it is that it's a start that can be built on. If it passes, the situation will start to improve and its flaws can (and will) be corrected by future reformers. If it fails, that's likely to be all she wrote for another decade or more... the right's base will be pleased and energized that their representatives delivered what they wanted, whereas the progressive base will be completely disillusioned. Trying to reform the health care system will be seen as a total non-starter, political poison.

But whether it passes or fails, for things to go much further we need a change in national consciousness. We need people to realize they aren't islands, they aren't self-made men, they didn't earn everything they ever got.... not individually, anyway. Not on their own. The power lines and phone lines and plumbing (and increasingly, high speed data cables) that they depend on were very likely government-subsidized. Depending on where they live, it might only be through government "make-work" programs that they got power and plumbing in the first place, because otherwise it never would have been profitable enough for a utility company to come in. Roads are maintained through public money. Airlines... the airlines got more federal money in their post-9/11-slump bailout than "publicly funded" Amtrak has received in the past ten years.

And more, we need people to realize that this isn't a bad thing. It doesn't reflect poorly on them or on their country. It's why we have a country instead of just a bunch of little independent feudal holdings.

Of course, if we did have a bunch of little independent feudal holdings, the smarter landholders would quickly realize the benefits of working together, and would pool their strength, and absorb or annex or otherwise acquire their neighbors, and then if we were very lucky the result would be more like a republic than a dictatorship.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I'm really pleased with how my decision to moderate my journal has gone. The day or so after I did it I was still getting drawn into some threads I really didn't want to deal with, but after I started sticking to my guns they just dried up. People stopped bothering. Since then, there have been a couple comments I didn't let through because I didn't necessarily want the reactions I thought they might provoke and one that I deleted without reading because it was obviously an angry rant about the moderation policy.

Just one. Much better than I expected... I have a tendency to expect the worst reaction to everything I do, which sometimes paralyzes me.

I only had to glance at the deleted comment to know that it was something that I didn't need to read, but of course, in doing so, I read a bit of it. Just so everybody's clear, the whole I Control The Conversation In My Journal thing? It's not because I'm Alexandra Erin, Super Genius. It's not because I'm Alexandra Erin, The Greatest Author Who Ever Lived. It's not because I think the world is waiting breathlessly for my thoughts on yaoi.

It's because this is my journal. The emphasis on the possessive personal pronoun there is intended to emphasize the possession, not the person. I'm not asserting any unique or special property to this journal based on who owns it, because there is nothing special about it. There is nothing special about the space beneath my posts, no reason anybody needs to stake them out or feel that something has been taken away from them if they don't have absolute unrestricted access to write in them.

You've got a Livejournal yourself. If not, you could have one. And you could do whatever you wanted with it, within the scope of Livejournal's fairly broad acceptable use policies. You could post your own thoughts. You could solicit the thoughts of others. You could do both. It's yours. This is mine. Mine might be a bit more widely read than it would be if I wasn't Internet Famous for other things, which is among the reasons that I feel obliged to soapbox with it instead of just talking about nerdery all the time... but it's still my journal. The fact that I stand on my soapbox does not oblige me to give anybody else a soapbox, especially if their viewpoint is based on a fundamental disagreement in premises (i.e., racism only exists when one person actively and overtly hates another person based entirely on race and no other factors) or a viewpoint I find abhorrent and damaging (i.e., rape apologia).

Not that I could stop people from expressing those viewpoints... free speech is not a commodity I have exclusive custody of, and I'm also not the one guarding the cupboard where the spare Livejournals are kept.

Conversations We Won't Be Having Here: But racism really can't exist without intent, how naive it is to think that I can write something in public view and have it be immune to commentary/criticism... seriously, folks, I am not hoarding the Livejournals and there is plenty of space on the internet.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Pop quiz:

Q.: What's the difference between someone you see using a device to assist their mobility or an accommodation for people with disabilities who doesn't obviously need it and one who obviously doesn't need it?

A.: Nothing that you can tell by looking.

Therefore, if you find yourself saying something along the lines of "It makes me mad when I see someone using a wheelchair/motorized cart/priority bus seat when they obviously don't need it." or "Motorized carts are fine for people who need them, but most of the people I see using them are just lazy", you might want to stop talking as the sounds that are coming out of your mouth are clearly gibberish and you're in danger of embarrassing yourself.

For extra credit:

Q.: Under what circumstances is it appropriate to mock/snark/judge/stare at/comment on/interrogate somebody using such an accommodation or assistive device?

A.: Never.

Not even if you've seen the same person walk, stand unaided for a long period of time, or dance a merry jig... the world doesn't divide neatly into perfectly able-bodied people and people who need devices to aid their mobility all the time. You don't know what it cost that person to dance a jig or why it was worth it to them to do so. You don't know what trade-offs they're making every time they decide to do something you do for granted or accept what assistance is available.

If you judge someone for using a scooter or cane after you saw them go ballroom dancing, what is the lesson that you (as one small part of a larger society that is also sending this message) are sending people? That some people have fun and other people have wheelchairs, but nobody gets to have both?

Not even if the person is fat, to a degree that you--with your in-depth medical training and ability to take in a person's medical history with a glance--have determined is unhealthy, their fault, and easily fixed by anyone with willpower. Seriously. You don't know why your fellow shoppers might be using a motorized cart. You don't know why their bodies are shaped like they are. The only thing those two things are guaranteed to have in common is that neither one is any of your business*.

Not even if you're doing it in private, at home, with only one other person who knows that you don't have any prejudice against those with disabilities and wouldn't be mocking/judging without good reason. First, even if you're alone you're not doing this in isolation. You're participating in (and reinforcing and spreading) a larger meme, one that has actual consequences for real people. Second, your judgment does not magically become more insightful, necessary, or appropriate just because you waited to get home to express it. Third, if you couldn't conceal your scorn any longer than it took you to get to an audience you know will be sympathetic and appreciative of it, what makes you think you were concealing it that well in the first place?

The fat person on the scooter at Wal-Mart, the person without any crutches or cane who plops down in the priority seat, the person who explains how their chronic pain, depression, or anxiety disorder impacts their life one day while talking about how much fun they had doing A Thing That People Do the next day... these are all pretty much considered to be "socially acceptable targets". Snarking them isn't being edgy, it's buying into a mindset that is relentlessly mainstream and conformist. Someone calling you on snarking them isn't calling "The PC Police" on you or oppressing you... if marginalized people did have a police force and the power to oppress, they wouldn't be marginalized.

*I say "guaranteed" because someone might point out that the two things could be related; i.e., the same medical condition that limits mobility might be directly or indirectly contributing to the individual's weight. But you know what? It's still nobody else's businesses, and a person doesn't need that kind of "excuse" to be fat and have a disability at the same time.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, there's this crazy study out that says that obese teenagers' metabolisms aren't affected by moderate amounts of aerobic exercise in the same way that thin teenagers' metabolisms are... that while the obese teenagers gain important health benefits from exercising, their metabolisms don't kick into high fat-burning gear and thus they don't tend to lose weight from it.

It's almost like two people could eat the same things, exercise the same, and have the same habits and yet have entirely differently shaped bodies based on uncontrollable inherited conditions! And to get even crazier, it's almost as though those habits have a bigger impact on one's health than what size and shape one's skin is in!


Usually when somebody brings up the immutability of obesity in a conversation like this, someone chimes in with "Maybe there are some people who are fat because of a gland problem or something but that's super rare and it doesn't account for most people who are fat." That's a Conversation We Won't Be Having Here, but just to be clear: I'm not saying that most fat people have a problem. I'm saying most fat people have a different metabolism than skinny people do.

Not a worse metabolism. A different one.

One that seems to be shared by a large proportion of the population, which suggests that it's not entirely inimical to the survival of individuals or the species as a whole.

What a world, what a world.
alexandraerin: (Default)
There's a great post up today on Feminists With Disabilities/Forward about the whys and wherefores of pop culture critiques. If it had been written before my Glee-critique post, I probably would have linked to it there... and if I hadn't thought to link to it in the body, I definitely would have sent it to the commenter who wanted to know why I cared so much.


alexandraerin: (Default)

August 2017



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 17th, 2017 04:44 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios