xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
This is a really great post about what we're really doing when we divert attention away from the assholery of junk food corporations onto the people who commit the grievous sin of eating junk food. There are a lot of reasons why it's not particularly helpful to turn discussions of corporate evil into a moral referendum on the dietary habits of others.

This entry is great. It covers the class privilege inherent in failing to account for food deserts. It covers the obstacles for some people to cooking every meal themselves. It covers the use of junk food as comfort food as well as what it means when you say to someone who used to have an eating disorder that they're eating too much of the wrong things and need to pay more attention to their caloric intake. It just covers ALL KINDS of goodness.

The objective scientific reality that some foods are overall more healthful than others doesn't do anything to address issues of access, so for people who want to see others eating better, you'll be a lot more helpful if you acknowledge the complexity of the situation before you act.

naamah_darling on On bad food and bad corporate decisions and stupid things people say.
xenologer: (I have arrived)
The 99% Isn’t Me: Being the Minority in the 99%
Another issue I have with the 99% concept is that it smacks of the rhetoric we black and brown people heard from the Left back in the 70’s, that we’re all just people and we need to be colorblind, and that we are all being oppressed by the same people and on and on… Those thoughts are valid, kind of if you ignore much of American history. My oppression as a black man in America is very, very different from that of a poor white person. Yes we both ended up poor and without food or a job but he doesn’t get called a nigger or have to deal with the very real reality of racism. Although the white middle class who’s central to the Occupy movement are right about Wall Street and politicians they fail to see that the struggle is different if you’re a woman, gay, Black, Latino, Native American, etc. Many of the aforementioned groups have been in the gutter for…. Um… ever. Actually yea really forever since this nation was created many of us have been at the bottom of the pile. With that said I think it’s a serious problem when someone tells me that my struggles are the same as theirs and I should get behind a movement that I had little part in creating. This is what the relationship (especially in places like my hometown of Buffalo) between the occupation and oppressed minorities has been since the beginning. It smacks of the reductionism that we have seen from the likes of the 10’s-40’s communist / socialist movement and its dealings with black people and how the movement has almost always dealt with women (aka sexism as a secondary issue). (...)

To many people the Occupy movement is strictly about economic inequalities and Wall Street not about race, gender, or class although they have no problem welcoming black people, women, or the unemployed as supporters. It’s indicative of a lack of recognition of race, gender, or class (and other issues) in the occupation (and its connection to capitalism and economics) and any felt need for the creation of spaces to deal with these issues in any real way.


What counts as "common ground?"

I got into my local Occupy movement at least partly hoping to prove to myself that arguments like this were baseless. They're not baseless. This is what it looks like to the people who're told that the issues of privileged people are "common ground" and the issues of marginalized people are "divisive."

If you're thinking reading what I just wote, "Cripes, Xeno, that's basically everyone, because everyone's getting screwed somehow," you're right, and you're beginning to see the depth of the problem and how many people can be alienated to a lesser or larger degree by it.

For example, what I face as a white person is common ground, and I can bring that up without anybody calling me divisive for centering a conversation on my experiences of the economy or governmental/law enforcement abuses. Whether I say, "I as a white person..." or not, these are experiences which are shaped and changed by my race and what that prompts people to assume about me. These are white experiences whether I label them or not, because they are so distinctive to people who present like me and would have been very different were I any other color.

However, I might want to talk about being a woman, and once in a blue moon I may talk about being LGBT (though the latter is something I feel less qualified to discuss due to the fact that I'm cisgendered and benefit from straight privilege in a lot of ways). Despite the fact that I am the same person whose plight was "common ground" in the previous discussion, suddenly now we're talking identity politics. Suddenly an experience I have had that is unique to my circumstances is divisive.

But I'm the same person I was in the first case. I'm not any more privileged or oppressed than I was when I was speaking to a particular (white) experience of our economy and culture. I'm still me. There are just parts of me and my experience that are not considered an "occupy" issue.

That's why, no matter how much we may say that women and people of color and LGBT people are welcome and no matter how sincerely and deeply felt that sentiment might be, as long as some people have to shut a door on part of what probably brought them to Occupy in the first place, we're not living up to that promise.

I also think that Richardson made a great point here:

"Too considering we’re (as in women, blacks, latinos, etc) are the ones suffering the most shouldn’t the movement come to us and put us in place to contribute versus us having to shoehorn our stuff to their? It’s their movement not ours and if they want it to become our’s too they are going to have to move towards us."

It's not merely our job at this point to open the door and say, "You are welcome to join us." We have to do that and then actually allow conversations about their unique experiences, or else what we're really saying is, "You're welcome to join us as long as you pretend your struggles aren't different." In that latter case, we're setting a very high price on participation by demanding that they be less true to their experiences and needs for the privilege of being accepted even at the margins.

That's why even groups that really sincerely want to be inclusive often still have at the fore and at the core the same demographics that've been at the fore and core of everything else in power. It's because until we start listening to what the people who aren't getting included are saying will make them feel welcome, no matter how hard we try we simply will not know how to get that done.

What makes this especially hard to climb up out of is that if a movement's face is not diverse, people who benefit from diversity and suffer from its lack will not always come sacrifice their time, money, and precious energy (of which we all only have so much) to be that diversity. I know that when I see an organization that is run entirely or almost entirely by men, I consider where the women went, because surely there've been at least some. Why didn't they stay? What happened to them that I can't see from here? Do I love this cause enough to risk finding out the hard way?

Getting personal for a moment.

To give an example that is not necessarily intended to translate here but merely to illustrate one example that I walked in with, I used to be involved with an activist organization. It was progressive in its politics toward the poor, its stated attitudes toward LGBT people and women were extremely forward-thinking, and the attitudes of all of the individual members I spoke to about racism were strongly in favor of creating a society where people of color did not disproportionately suffer.

And yet its upper management was run by all white men with the exception of one white woman. I didn't know enough at the start to wonder what the disconnect would be. Fast forward a year. After a year I'd seen hiring practices that weeded out nearly all people of color immediately, so that when higher positions were pulled from the ranks, the ranks had already been cleared of racial minorities. After a year, I'd seen a culture that shelters sexual assault by pressuring women who experienced it to avoid making a fuss for fear of damaging the organization's ability to do its worthy work. Essentially, after a year, I saw exactly why women and people of color were absent: they'd been driven out or had fled for their own safety and sanity.

Consequently, now I look for the signs. When I see a movement that isn't diverse, I hang back. I don't hang back out of a lack of love for the cause. I hang back because I learned why women and POC were absent from an organization that I loved very much whose work I am proud to have been part of to this day. I am still proud of the work this organization does, which is why I am not saying their name (though I will if you contact me privately).

(As an aside, if anyone reading is thinking, "Oh my god. Their hiring and retention practices were racist and assault victims were pressured to keep it quiet and you're still protecting them? What's wrong with you?" then I hope you are taking care to police this kind of thinking in yourself when it comes to Occupy. If you're not comfortable with what I just did, then please let it be a lesson about how ugly this reasoning is and how hard it can be to overcome even for people who've personally suffered because of it.)

What does that have to do with us now?

That experience is why I look at the Occupy movement, at the diversity problem we have in my city, and am willing to immediately assume that the problem is not people of color or LGBT people or women not caring enough. I am willing to assume that the problem is us. Unfortunately, it's hard to address this problem. My difficulty has been that so many of my city's occupation supporters are unwilling to make that first step of saying, "Maybe it's something we're doing wrong," that I never get to the point of having any other conversations.

It's like... remember how when all this started, OWS got flak for merely stating problems and not making demands? Remember what we told them? We told the press and our friends and our families that until enough people understand that there's a problem in the first place and until enough people understand what that problem is, we are not ready for a conversation about the solutions.

So! For those of you who are sick and goddamn tired of hearing about this problem because nobody is telling you how you can fix it, here's what you can do to help us fix it: Have these conversations yourself. Explain to the people who listen to you and respect you that there's a problem, because odds are they don't even realize there is one yet. Explain to the people you have personal relationships with that the problem is that we are doing something wrong. Get them up to speed. Get everyone up to speed. Get them ready to be part of the conversation about solutions.

Then we can really sit down with open minds and honest hearts and find a solution. Until then, there's no point. We're not there yet.

If you want to link this around, that's cool, but if you do I ask that you link the "public" version rather than to my personal journal. That link is here. Thanks for your consideration for my privacy.
xenologer: (bye bye)
Whenever discussion of the declining space program comes up (example story about the Mars program, and another about our suspended shuttle program), it makes me sad because I feel like it's one more piece of our nation's love for science that we're leaving behind. It's a sentiment I heard echoed at a sci-fi convention by the friendly science-loving folk who attended, and I definitely can feel it, too.

At the same time, I hear Gil Scott-Heron in my head whenever people are talking about the billions of dollars we ought to be spending on the space program.



So while I'm sad about the fact that we allegedly SUDDENLY can't afford the space program, realistically we haven't been able to afford it for a long time. Unfortunately, that money is going to get used to pay for war and not for the things I'd like us to be dreaming about instead. With the cost of putting a few physically-perfect highly-educated and well-trained professionals into space, what could we do about AIDS? What could we do about malaria? What could we do about cholera? What could we do about ill-funded schools or food deserts?

Makes me upset when the closing down of the space program is framed as a lack in our ability to dream. It probably is, because it'll probably mean more of our money goes to making war. It probably is about us failing to dream big enough or well enough, but it wouldn't have to be, because I think there are far more important things for us to spend our money on.

It's just sad that we probably won't.
xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
So it turns out when you deport your exploited refugee workforce, you don't have a conveniently-exploitable workforce anymore. OHNOES.

Georgia's new crackdown on illegal immigration has been law since July 1. Farmers say it's scaring away both documented and undocumented workers. And now other sectors are beginning to feel the pinch. Some businesses say without these workers, they can't get the job done.

John Barbour's company, Bold Spring Nursery, is one of those businesses. Barbour grows 200 varieties of shade trees on his 1,100-acre farm in Pulaski County, south of Macon.

It's painstaking work. Employees manually prune specimens for high-end landscapes. Barbour's trees dot the Augusta National golf course and the Washington Monument.

Driving on his farm, Barbour says he's lost five workers since May.

"We had three Latinos quit, and move out of Georgia, and say they no longer felt safe in Georgia," Barbour said, while driving around his farm last month. "They didn't walk up to me and say, 'Hey I'm here illegally and I have to get going,' but now it's probably safe to assume that was the situation."

He continues, "You could look at that and say, 'Mission accomplished, right?' That's what we are trying to do, is get rid of illegal immigrants, but..."

"Now you have to fill those jobs."

"That's right," he said.

In an attempt to replace them, Barbour hired two Americans. Tending to trees in the hot sun, they couldn't handle the same hours as he and his migrant workers.

"They lasted seven weeks," which was longer than usual, he said. "The problem was, during those seven weeks, we averaged 47 hours a week working, and they averaged 27 hours a week."


Link courtesy of elf.

I keep reminding myself that this is going to affect a lot of people who are not personally to blame for the fact that a large part of our economy is built on near-slavery and that I shouldn't be happy that they're going to suffer the economic consequences of the voting habits of Georgia racists (or at least those willing to pander to Georgia's racists). Living in Indiana, though, I am just all out of sympathy. I have heard too many people complain about how we got all these gottdamn illiguls stealin jobs and tax dollers an' we oughta just kick 'em all out.

But god fucking forbid they have to pay an extra dollar for fruit. Their racism and their reasoning are seriously not getting along here, and it's like a shit-ton of people didn't see this coming. Little known history fact: building an economy on the exploitation of people who are too desperate or scared to demand better is bad, and for more reasons than "slavery is mean."

Overall I'm just fucking pissed that we still have to contend with the "but if we end slavery, the prices of shit will go up because we'll have to treat workers like people" argument in twenty goddamn eleven.

Amusingly, just this morning I was remembering a conversation I had with Glenn Welch (the guy who writes the Things Mr. Welch is not Allowed to do in an RPG lists) about this years ago. He's one of those "ragh unlimited capitalism will solve all things because the free market is magic" guys, but he was simultaneously arguing that undocumented migrants are terrible JUST TERRIBLE because they're willing to work for less and in shitty conditions and as a result no self-respecting American can compete with them.

When I pointed out that it's ridiculous to argue that people who fail to compete in a capitalist market deserve what they get and also to argue that white American workers should be sheltered from the consequences of their failure to compete with migrant workers, he changed his tune and started talking about how awful the companies are who hire these workers to exploit them and how really we have to deport them all for their own good because illegal immigration is just so tragic. That didn't stop him from going all "THEY'RE STEALIN UR JOBS BY WINNING AT CAPITALISM OH WOE IS WHITE" on later occasions. This is typical of every conversation I have had with the kind of people whose votes are responsible for laws like Georgia's, and the one we got in Indiana more recently.

Pissed. Baffled. Also pissed.
xenologer: (Allison peeking)
A discussion started about the recent bailout vote in the comments to this entry. The House didn't pass it, but the Senate did. This obviously increases pressure on the House, since the Senate passed it by a huge majority.

But here's the problem for me. I'm not terribly confident of my opinions on economic issues, but so far I'm leaning toward the fact that a bailout was necessary (partly because of this blog entry I was linked), but should have contained some kind of assistance for people whose homes were going into foreclosure because their mortgage lenders were nitwits. The idea (if I have this right) is that if we can keep those individuals from defaulting on their mortgages, the mortgage lenders won't go under, which solves the crisis from the bottom up instead of the top down.

My reservation here is that if "trickle down" economics doesn't work to get money to the bottom, I would need to know more before I confidently assert that the mortgage assistance would work to get money to the top. Though I suppose, on the other hand, those people are "on the top" because they're good at getting money to themselves and will do much of the work seeing that they get it.

So, at first blush, it looks like a great idea to put the money in at the bottom. It helps the middle-class folk who're getting nailed as a result of someone else's business practices, and avoids the nastiness of rewarding bad business practices. Is there some reason (aside from a political interest in helping legislators’ rich buddies) why this is not being done? Because I haven’t heard it, and I want to know what the arguments are before I leap headlong into advocating for one thing or another.

I'm kinda lost here. Help?
xenologer: (Allison peeking)
A discussion started about the recent bailout vote in the comments to this entry. The House didn't pass it, but the Senate did. This obviously increases pressure on the House, since the Senate passed it by a huge majority.

But here's the problem for me. I'm not terribly confident of my opinions on economic issues, but so far I'm leaning toward the fact that a bailout was necessary (partly because of this blog entry I was linked), but should have contained some kind of assistance for people whose homes were going into foreclosure because their mortgage lenders were nitwits. The idea (if I have this right) is that if we can keep those individuals from defaulting on their mortgages, the mortgage lenders won't go under, which solves the crisis from the bottom up instead of the top down.

My reservation here is that if "trickle down" economics doesn't work to get money to the bottom, I would need to know more before I confidently assert that the mortgage assistance would work to get money to the top. Though I suppose, on the other hand, those people are "on the top" because they're good at getting money to themselves and will do much of the work seeing that they get it.

So, at first blush, it looks like a great idea to put the money in at the bottom. It helps the middle-class folk who're getting nailed as a result of someone else's business practices, and avoids the nastiness of rewarding bad business practices. Is there some reason (aside from a political interest in helping legislators’ rich buddies) why this is not being done? Because I haven’t heard it, and I want to know what the arguments are before I leap headlong into advocating for one thing or another.

I'm kinda lost here. Help?
xenologer: (Speak)
Economists protest Paulson's bailout proposal. You can check behind the link to see who they are and where they work.

Meanwhile, please sign CREDO Action Network's petition, or the one from Avaaz.org here, which will go to Representatives Pelosi, Boehner, Hoyer, Frank, and Bachus, along with Senators Reid, McConnell, Dodd, and Shelby.

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.

Thanks to Dana Hunter over at En Tequila Es Verdad for the link to the Avaaz petition. Here it is again.
xenologer: (Speak)
Economists protest Paulson's bailout proposal. You can check behind the link to see who they are and where they work.

Meanwhile, please sign CREDO Action Network's petition, or the one from Avaaz.org here, which will go to Representatives Pelosi, Boehner, Hoyer, Frank, and Bachus, along with Senators Reid, McConnell, Dodd, and Shelby.

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.

Thanks to Dana Hunter over at En Tequila Es Verdad for the link to the Avaaz petition. Here it is again.

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