Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The best-selling book of all time is a horror

In a recent podcast, Ezra Klein's guest said that reading the Bible turned her from an atheist into a Christian. 

Wait, what? This Bible?

PS: Saw this via one of our pals in Australia.

Friday, July 3, 2020

From EK re: voting (part of a broader conversation with peers)

Under the current system, doing anything but voting for your most preferred/least dispreferred option of the two candidates most likely to get the most votes is a betrayal of your rational civic duty. I think we’re all rational enough to agree that the two candidates that are going to get the most votes are Biden and Trump. One of them - or, in the event of a catastrophe, their VP - will be sworn in in January 2021. If anything else happens, there has likely been some sort of unprecedented societal collapse and we’ll have bigger problems than who we voted for. That’s not a ‘false choice’, that’s accepting reality. If it’s your rational, considered belief that something other than one of those two options is feasible come January 2021; you’re entitled to that belief. But I doubt you truly believe that.


Your vote is not an endorsement. Your vote is not a prom proposal. Your vote is a political action. Voting is one of the ways we have gotten, in this country -- after many many years of fighting for that right to be expanded -- to move our society in a less bad direction. And after you cast your vote, you are free to use every other method of political action to try and get whoever’s in office - even and especially if it is the person you voted for - to keep moving society in a better direction - to enact policies you believe in, to change our voting system, to get rid of the electoral college, to get money out of politics, whatever you see fit.


If you think more people would die under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, then by all means, vote for Trump. If you think there would be more suffering under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, then by all means, vote for Trump. If you truly, rationally believe that there will be no difference in the number of lives unnecessarily lost, in the amount of suffering, if you really and truly believe that having an administration that listens to science and expertise over ratings, and wants to expand, not contract, access to healthcare, will make no difference at all in how many people suffer and die from Covid-19 after January 20th 2021, than by all means, sit on your hands, vote third party, write in Vermin Supreme, crumple up your ballot and eat it, whatever. You can throw away your chance for political action, but don’t pretend that’s not what you’re doing.


I don’t think any of you really believe any of those things are true. I believe that you are all smart, rational people who are looking at the same world that I am. I believe that you are all compassionate people who care about reducing suffering and minimizing needless loss of life. The reason you know I believe that is that I am bothering to write all of this up; if I thought you were thoughtless and cruel, I wouldn’t bother.


I think it matters tremendously which of those two options ends up in the White House, and I think a Biden administration will lead to less suffering. I could tell you all the reasons I believe that, but I won’t patronize you -- you can all see the news and see what the Trump Administration does and fights for. You can read Biden’s positions on his website and look at what he did as Vice President. 


I’m just going to tell you two things. One because it hasn’t gotten a lot of press: The Trump administration recently pushed a rule through HHS that would tell medical providers that they could refuse medical care to transgender people like me (or any LGBTQ people) if they felt it violated their conscience. I’ve been sitting every day since the rule came down terrified that if I get sick, someone’s going to decide it’s better not to spend the resources to save me because I’m trans. That in two years, three years, I’m going to get in a car accident and someone’s going to look at me and watch me bleed out and laugh - something that has happened to actual, real, non-theoretical trans people. The fact that people are already suing to block this rule is the one thing that makes me less afraid, and the more time the Trump administration has to pack the courts with people who don’t believe in my human rights, the less safe I am. And I’m a white, middle-class trans person with financial security and a supportive family. I’m about as safe as it gets as a trans person in this country. There are many more people like me who are less safe and will be less safe after four more years of this administration.



And I’m going to tell you this because it’s personal and so you wouldn’t know from the news: In November of 2016, my family had long conversations on the phone about how to ensure my parents, both of whom have preexisting conditions, and especially my father, whose life was already saved by the ACA - his words, not mine - were going to ensure that they stayed on employer healthcare when the new administration and the new Congress got rid of the ACA. When McCain voted no on the ACA repeal, I nearly wept on the phone to his office thanking him. This administration is still fighting to kill the ACA and I’m absolutely terrified that four more years will mean it dies and the protections for preexisting conditions - the protections for my mom and dad - will die with it. There are many many vastly more vulnerable people than us.


I’m sorry I don’t have anything smart to say about corrupt systems or institutions or anything like that. This isn’t theoretical for me and I simply don’t have the luxury of treating it like a debate club. This is the lives and safety of me, many more people like me, of my family, many people like us, and many many others who are less safe under Trump because of their gender or orientation or skin color or national origin. If filling in a bubble on a piece of paper seems too hard of a thing to do to help try and make us a little more likely to survive - I can’t stop you from thinking it’s too hard for you. If you’d rather follow the example of the many, many people who in 2016, in 2000, could have chosen to use their vote to put someone different in the White House, but really truly believed in their hearts that they were going to create change in a corrupt system by voting third party or not voting - I can’t stop you. The system doesn’t seem to have gotten better since 2000 to me, but I can’t stop you. I can’t make you fill in any bubble. 


But I do hope that, if nothing else, ‘helping people like EK and their family have a better chance of surviving’ is a reason to at least think about swallowing some bile and moving a pen. 


And if not, I do hope that whatever reasons you tell yourself for making me and my family less safe, for selling the human rights of me and everyone like me down the river, you feel good about them the next time you have to look me in the eye.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Wearing a Mask vs Being Tortured and Murdered

From here:

At an anti-mask rally Wednesday, a member of the Scottsdale City Council, Republican Guy Phillips, shouted the dying words of George Floyd — “I can’t breathe” — before ripping off his mask, enlisting a rallying cry of the nationwide protests against racial injustice to inveigh against face coverings that reduce airborne transmission of tiny droplets.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Worse than you can convey

I know the coverage was about the crowd, but the actual content of his Tulsa speech is unhinged. Going on and on and on about the West Point ramp and dribbling water on his tie? How can anyone watch that and think he should be the President? Not to mention saying he wants less testing!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Perceptions of the Racial Wealth Gap

Thread by Ezra Klein. First four tweets. But don't read beyond that, because the "It's their own fault" racists come out real quick.  :-(

Meanwhile, the racists in power continue their naked suppression:






Friday, June 19, 2020

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Free Speech

Certain candidates are upset that any platform might even hint at reviewing their lies and glorification / promise of violence. They claim this is a violation of "free speech."

I have a different issue, though. Back in 2004, I had anti-Bush stickers on our car. While in Chicago, we had two tires slashed (Joe Espinosa came to our rescue). 

Here in crazy but swing-state Arizona, I am afraid to put stickers on our car. I fear for our physical safety. This seems like it might be an issue, no?


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Every time I think I'm out....

I have thought about the latest Sam Harris podcast a lot since I finished it. I hoped I would find and link to a thorough take-down of it online, but mostly I find a bunch of white people saying how "brave" and "important" it is. 

<sigh>

So here is my summary. Sam says: You may think these videos are proof of racism. But did you know cops kill white people too? And Blacks commit [sic] more of the crime, so they can expect to get killed at higher rates. And Blacks kill lots of Blacks. Therefore, people who are protesting are in an uninformed moral panic. You know what the real problem is? Looters. And, of course, identity politics. 

[If you know anyone persuaded by Harris' Fox News "statistics," this is really good: The statistical paradox of police killings. In the numbers of fatal encounters with the cops, one kind of discrimination masks another. Not that I expect anyone to be persuaded.]

I think the end really shows just how out of touch Sam is with reality. He goes on and on that he and Martin Luther King Jr. want to live in a colorblind society. Thus the problem is all these people talking about race when in reality we should just ignore it like hair color. Direct quote:

"How many blondes, brunettes, or redheads are in Harvard or police or senior management. No one is asking this question. Why? Because no one cares."

This is his prescription: that we just ignore race like we ignore white people's hair color. [Ignoring, of course, that even hair discrimination is an actual thing.]

Look, I get it: Sam really really really doesn't want to actually think about race. He wants everyone to be a privileged "rational" rich straight white dude. But parroting some Breitbart claims and citing a handful of isolated MLK quotes is actually neither courageous nor intellectually rigorous. 

My only question to Sam is this: Would you want your daughters to go through life being looked at by the cops and authorities the same way a black man is?

If not, maybe "identity politics" isn't the biggest threat in the world. Maybe just ignoring race isn't the way forward in 2020. Maybe Mitt Freakin' Romney isn't engaging in identity politics?

Maybe the experience of a Black person is actually worth considering.

Just a reminder: this is the initial police report on George Floyd's death. I.e. cops murder and lie about it. Maybe some anger is appropriate? 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Culpability

I'm not one to say that unless you are at protests you are complicit. But if you are not loudly endorsing Biden every chance you get, you are culpable for this: