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So here I am in Portland, Oregon.  It's lushly beautiful and hip and totally the place to be.  I have enjoyed my few days here, with impossibly clear and warm weather and some of the most happening urban places in which to hang out.  But in discussions with my friend Malcolm, though, it's become clear to me that Portland has a homeless "problem."  This can be construed as Portland's government has a problem with homeless people, and/or Portland's middle class has a problem with homeless people, and/or there is a structural disjunction between the housing "supply" in Portland and the needs of the people who are homeless.

It is, in fact, all true.  One could even say that Portland's homeless "problem" is symptomatic of a deeper crisis in American society and capitalist economy.

It angers me that this is going on at all.  Given the failure of austerity policies, which have been discredited elsewhere, I'm left with a strong sense that we're well on our way down a very bad path for American society.  A path where we think that more guns, blood and treasure will keep us safe - when that's clearly wrong.  Where spending on the "undeserving poor" is under more attack than any time since Reagan.  Where real earnings and wealth have been skewed in favor of the very rich.

So - rather than going on about the unfairness of it all, I'm left with two immediate reactions:

(1) Portland seems an ideal place to explore locally and state-supported solutions to the homeless "problem." At a minimum, it should involve changes to zoning, rediscovery of SRO housing, insistence on set-asides for low-income housing integrated into more affluent housing developments, and charges levied on development to help finance all of it.  You could even build a larger economic case from a free market perspective that it would be cheaper to do this than pay for more prisons, homeless "shelters" and drug addiction treatment facilities.  But to work, it needs to recognize a continuum of housing needs that transcend the free market's area of interest, and a community responsibility that is more than economic, but moral and ethical, as well.

(2) Political parties on the left in American politics need to articulate real solutions to immediate problems, and to field electable candidates to implement them.  Politics is about winning elections and making change happen, rather than arguing about ideological purity.  The Green Party in particular needs to provide an alternative to the increasingly shrill Tea Party narrative of "I've got mine, so don't blame me" that gets too much attention anyway.

If that makes me a dangerously pragmatic leftist, then I am guilty as charged.


This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/8508.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
pissed off pissed off
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Thursday night just one week ago, I got a phone call. It was a friend telling me that something big was about to happen on the Internet, and she thought I ought to know. As it turned out, I did want to know, and I thanked her for sharing the info with me.  We had a very good discussion, and I felt better for her telling me about the Big Deal in advance.

The next morning, I discovered the following blog entries:


You see, I was the Safety co-chair for WisCon 37, so I was directly involved in all of this.  I've worked on SF&F conventions for over thirty years, and I have seen the culture of fandom change over time.  There are now more people of color, more LGBTQ people, more people with disabilities, and more women - which is an a priori Good Thing.  But fandom's sub-cultural antecedents get in the way of social progress, sometimes, and the current example is now here in front of us.  SF&F fandom has often been described as a place for social misfits and outcasts - "it's a proud and lonely thing to be a fan" - but that tolerance of difference has now been used as an excuse to tolerate socially unacceptable behavior.  This has to stop.  There's a clear difference between being a guy who is completely consumed with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's TV series UFO, right down to liking the metallic purple wigs and silver jumpsuits of the female crew of Moonbase - but that's not the same as fondling the hair (or other body parts) of a young woman doing that in costume without her permission.  As the poster neatly sums it up, "Costumes Do Not Equal Consent."


But it's more than just fandom.  It's also a rather strange and sad subset of the SF&F writing community who seem to be convinced that we're all still living in an updated version of Mad Men, where "can't you take a joke?" and "hey, she liked it!" are still considered to be adequate excuses for boorish behavior.  As a result, there has been something of a backlash against calls to end sexual harassment. Luridly emphasized with phrases like "witch-hunt" and "lynch-mob" commentators on the internet rail against this "restriction on free speech" and "assault" on fannish norms and customs.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.  No fucks were or will be given.  NONE of this is a lynch mob, or a witch-hunt.  I am, instead, left with several impressions:

  • For a genre so concerned about what the future might be like, especially any hopeful futures, the current defenders of the Inalienable Right to Harass seem to be living in the past.  That's a wry juxtaposition which ought to be telling to anyone who is in fandom or those just encountering it.  Do the harassment-defenders realize what they sound like?  I doubt it.
  • The blog posts noted above led to a very real explosion of anger among female fans and writers, and an outpouring of stories detailing similar circumstances at conventions and other events.  This isn't difficult to understand; those unable to get it remind me of straight people who don't get it about homophobia - what part of "gaybashing and bullying are unacceptable" isn't clear?
  • All of this reminds me of when writers of color have entered the field of science fiction and fantasy; go read Racism and Science Fiction by Samuel R. Delany if you don't believe me.

By this point, you've probably noticed that I think that sexism, homophobia and racism are all intertwined, perhaps even intersectional.  You would be right.  This is a dynamic struggle, one that won't be finished if we ignore one oppressed group in favor of another.  This is just the latest front in an on-going battle for the soul of science fiction, and it's one where we can't let the nay-sayers continue to make excuses for bad behavior and broken stairs.

With that in mind, here are some further links to read:

It is important to stand on the right side of history, or so it seems to me.




 

This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/8365.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
determined
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Bloodchildren cover
Help support the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship Fund!  Buy a copy of Bloodchildren - the new ebook anthology of stories written by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars.


As a member of the Board of Directors of the Carl Brandon Society, what I can tell you is this: the annual cost to send a writer of color to Clarion and to Clarion West is about $8000.  Therefore, we are looking for 1000 people to buy one copy each of our new anthology - or 500 to buy two, or - well, you get the idea.

Production and publication of the anthology has been supported by generous donations by SF3, the parent organization of WisCon, and individual donors.


This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/8189.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
pleased pleased
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There's a rather large pile of cardboard boxes in the entrance to what will become the gaming room in the basement.  I would say there are about 100 boxes there, all folded up and ready to be bundled together and taken out to the garage.  I've been lucky in that I have finally had some time since the end of the semester earlier this week (what was up with that, Madison College Admin?!) so I have been able to get some work done around the New House.

It is going to take a few more months to unpack, however.  Maybe that is a good thing.  Another fun side of having a break is being able to read Goblin Secrets by Will Alexander.

It is still snowing outside.  Inside is warm and the cats are sleeping contentedly.

This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/7752.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
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The view outside our house Thursday night.

Madison received about two feet of snow (or so it seemed like), and the new house has a long, curved driveway.  I had a couple of snow shovels, no snow-blower, and the desire to make sure Lynn could get to work on Friday. So...much shoveling, some time for cocoa, and a chance to warm up afterwards.  Felt like the solstice was right around the corner.

This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/7484.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
contemplative contemplative
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This was originally posted by me in 2004, just before the election. It continues to ring as true today as it did eight years ago:

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So here's a snippet of transcript from Terry Gross' interview on Fresh Air with former President Jimmy Carter [ed. note: starts about 4:58 into the interview] :

Gross: ...One of the things you do with your Carter Center is to monitor elections around the world and you've monitored over fifty elections around the world. We are facing a U.S. presidential election here and, um, I'm wondering if America was a foreign country and it had asked you to monitor the election, would it meet your criteria - could you monitor the American elections if you were asked-?

Carter: No, we wouldn't think of it. The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standard, for several reasons. One is that, uh, there has to be, ah, a provision in the countries where we monitor - we've just finished our fifty-second one - that all the qualified candidates have equal access to the public through the media - through television/radio - and they don't have to pay for it. Whereas in this country, there's no way that you can hope to be the nominee of the Democratic or Republican Party unless you have the proven ability to raise, nowadays, a hundred million dollars contributions from special interest groups. Some of the interest groups are benevolent; I might hasten to add - that's one thing we wouldn't - it wouldn't qualify -

Gross: Why, why do you have this as a qualification, as a criteria [sic]?

Carter: Why?

Gross: Yeah.

Carter: Well, because we think that the ability to run for office - and to be seriously considered as a candidate should not depend on how much money you can collect to pay for the right to give your campaign platform explanations to the public.

Gross: Okay. Other reasons why we would not fulfill your criteria?

Carter: The second reason is we don't go into a country unless there is a central election commission that is recognized generally as being non-partisan or bipartisan and that is a balanced position between or among the different parties. We have nothing like that. As you know in Florida in the year 2000 the secretary of state, ahh there, who was in charge of the Florida election, was an avowed and fervent and very obvious Republican activist-

Gross: This was Katherine Harris.

Carter: Katherine Harris, and she was later elected to the Congress because the Republicans appreciated what she had done for President Bush. And this time, uh, the new secretary of state, who replaced Katherine Harris, was not elected, she was appointed to that very important partisan position, by the governor who happens to be President Bush's brother. So there's no semblance of a balanced commission that would be objective among the different candidates. I mean, they don't even deny the fact that they are fervent Republican activists. Another facet of requirements is that all the people in ah, uh, in a country, or certainly a state, should vote in exactly the same way. Either punch cards or touch screens or whatever, uh, whereas in Florida and many other states, it depends on which, oh what preferences the county officials have. So you might have - like in Florida in 2000 - multiple ways to vote, uh, and quite often the more affluent districts or precincts are the most certain to have their votes counted accurately, because the rich people insist on it. Whereas the poor people don't really have the political influence to insist that their votes be handled properly. That's another very important facet, and the third thing is, the fourth thing, I think now, is if there is a technological advanced way to vote there must be some way for a physical recount if it's very close. We just finished an election not too long ago in a Third World country that had a touch screen technique (the system was developed in the United States, previously in Spain) but in addition to casting their vote, after they punched the touch screen, uh the, final, uh, button, out comes a paper ballot showing you exactly how you voted. So you look at the paper ballot and you make sure that is the way I wanted my vote to be cast, and you fold up the ballot and put it in a box. So afterwards if there is a doubt about the technology or the touch screen techniques (since it's all secret and you can't see it), then you can recount by using a paper ballot. With only less than two weeks to go now in Florida, that is a matter of major concern in the Federal courts. Is there going to be a way in Florida to have a recount with paper ballots or some other certifiable way, if there is a very close election as we had four years ago?

This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/6765.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
morose morose
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If you know something better than others, there is no necessity to share it with everyone, or even anyone in particular. Indeed, sometimes the best thing to do is to continue on with what you were doing.


This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/6525.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.

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This may be a function of getting older, but I find myself with a decreasingly interest in politics and news. I used to be quite the news junkie - staying up late to watch the midnight rerun of the (then-)MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, following national politics and news, subscribing to The Economist and reading BBC news, among other sources.

Possibly because I am an unreconstructed social liberal, economically socialist in belief and persuasion, I've simply lost interest in much of the political narrative of the United States. It probably marks me as a curmudgeon, but the entire notion that we're still arguing over evolutionary theory, global warming, or a host of other issues, leaves me feeling...disconnected. It's not unlike being at a large family reunion, and seeing Crazy Uncle Billy holding forth yet again out in the yard, and deciding to find the punch bowl rather than going to listen to his latest rant.


This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/6064.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.
Current Mood:
grumpy grumpy
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Got a question for my friends who send out e-newsletters: what service do you use for this sort of thing or for mass emails? A couple of groups I work with are looking for a decent email service that (a) doesn't trigger spam filters, (b) is relatively easy to use, and (c) is fairly cheap. Ideas?


This entry was originally posted at http://badger2305.dreamwidth.org/5747.html. Feel free to comment here or there, using OpenID.

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