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Guest Post - Dan and Fran Keller

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.25.17

NworB Wendra asks: Is there room for this terrible story on the blog?

It seems to me to show how things like pizzagate, birtherism, and all our other political irrationalities grew out of a preexisting swamp. The internet may have set fire to the gas that bubbles up from there, but the urge to witch hunt lies very deep in human nature. (Also, remind me never to face a Texas jury, even on a speeding charge)

Heebie's take:
1. Fuck humanity. That poor couple.
2. Unrelated, there's also a Dan and Fran's Hamburgers chain in Austin, a couple who divorced and split their restaurants into some Dans and some Frans.
3. I was musing - this is more related to white supremacy and the confederacy than to Satanic Panic - anyway, I was musing that perhaps I had the causality reversed between Southern Politeness and Southern Institutionalized Immorality. I always assumed that the politeness cleared the way for the immorality: if dear grandma and auntie never pull the veil of politeness back, they're spared from knowing what's going on in the basement with those big white sheets, so to speak. But perhaps the immorality forced the politeness: just as in 2017, there are always clear-headed people living alongside race terrorists, and the politeness culture arises because the clear-headed people are cowardly and at a loss for how else to get on with life.

Like I said, this is drifting away from Dan and Fran Keller, and towards Charlottesville-style recent current events that make the past seem very recognizable. I'm not about to ask my neighbor why the Stars and Bars appears and disappears from their window. I'm not particularly Southern Polite by nature, but it sprung up given the circumstance.


 

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Weather jerks

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.25.17

Heebie U cancelled its classes for today, with a note to the effect of, "We're worried about flooding and high winds, and so we want our faculty and students to stay home. However, all offices will remain open, so all you staff: if you want to be safe, be sure to use one of your vacation days! See ya!"

Our secretary told me that every university she's been at has had a similar policy for blizzards, etc: Everybody home! Staff, it's fine if you stay home too, it just comes out of your pocket! Bye now!


 

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Carl Icahn

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.24.17

Objectively worse than Joss Whedon.

It would be fascinating in a true crime genre kind of way - or it is fascinating in that kind of way - except that as part of America and Capitalism, you're the corpse being eviscerated so that he can have even one more kidney for his kidney collection. Enough kidneys, Carl.


 

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Format

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.24.17

Atrios is exactly right. The magazine style jumble of stories blog format is the worst, and reverse chronological is the best - sorry, LGM, you're now the worst - and the only reason bloggers update their format to the magazine-jumble is out of some misplaced kneejerk notion that what is old must automatically be outdated. There are countless blogs that I slowly lost interest in when they switched to magazine-jumble (perhaps because their content also became less interesting as they decided to try to make a profit? idk). I solemnly swear we will never bother to change anything.


 

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Guest Post - Joss Whedon

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.23.17

Nick S. writes: Should we talk about Joss Whedon?

I am disappointed, angry, and not really surprised. It seems like a very common sort of shittyness.

Heebie's take: Kai Cole is divorcing Whedon because he confessed to having lots and lots of affairs over their 16 year marriage. He was held up as a feminist because of the strong female characters in his shows, and so his wife feels a bit extra-betrayed because she feels like their marriage contributed to his feminist cred.

I have a lot of sympathy for her, but I don't know that I have extra sympathy than I would for anyone else who found out that their husband had tons of affairs over 16 years but hadn't written any big feminist shows.

If you're considering clicking through to find out which starlets he sexed, it doesn't say.


 

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Reading Group: After the Family Wage (NickS)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.23.17

NickS writes: Overview

I believe that the simplest description of the essay is: if we ask the question, "do welfare programs promote gender equality?" we find that both "welfare programs" and "gender equality" require further definition. I note, however, that description is debatable. One of interesting questions about the essay is deciding what the purpose is. I take it as presenting a series of analytical categories and then demonstrating how they can be used. However, one could easily consider the purpose of the essay to be advocating for ambitious and challenging social reform, with the analytical categories serving to demonstrate why great breath and ambition is required. So I would encourage people to keep that idea in mind as well.

Summary

In terms of gender equity Fraser notes a long-standing tension between theorists who believe that there are (or may be) fundamental differences between men and women and equity demands figuring out how both sides can have equal value, rather than treating one as superior (or the default) and the other as inferior (or the exception). In contrast with that other theorists feel like any differences are not fundamental and that the goal should be to treat men and women as identically as possible. The second group is concerned that any time we divide things into separate groups it is extremely likely that one will be considered more desirable than the other and create/sustain a gender hierarchy.

Fraser argues that the fact that this argument is so long-running is itself a sign that we should recognize that "gender equity" is not a simple or unitary concept. She proposes seven elements each of which, she argues, can be considered a core element of "gender equity" and recognizes that any efforts towards gender equity will advance some of them more than others. We should think in terms of emphasis and trade-offs rather than a linear progression towards a goal. Fraser will ultimately compare how well two conceptions of the welfare state address the seven areas of concern. There is even a handy chart summarizing these results, and by the time we get there you may be tired of seeing lists of component elements.

But, first, we have the seven categories of gender equity which are:

1) Anti-poverty: Fighting poverty is both an inherent goal of welfare programs and a requirement for seeking gender equity because there are a disproportionate number of women and children in poverty.

2) Anti-Exploitation: In addition to providing material welfare anti-poverty programs are valuable for giving people more options, and more autonomy in their life. Somebody who cannot support themself is at risk of exploitation, having a social safety net to provide support gives people the option to leave exploitative situations.

3) Income-Equality: gender equity requires a path towards income equality between men and women. This includes both labor income, when both men and women work and distribution of resources within a family if only one partner works (or if they work unequal hours).

4) Leisure-Time-Equality: gender equality requires a path towards men and women having equal leisure time. This requires some way of breaking the pattern that women do more household or childcare tasks within a family.

5) Equality-of-Respect: shouldn't lead to/promote social arrangements which objectify, deprecate, or trivialize women.

6) Antimarginalization Principle: "Social policy should promote women's full participation on a par with men in all areas of social life -- in employment, in politics, in the associational life of civil society."

7) Anti-androcentrism principle: "Policy should aim to restructure androcentric institutions so as to welcome human beings who can give birth and who care for relatives and friends; treating them as ideal-typical participants."

Fraser summarizes, "Gender equity [in social welfare] is a complex idea comprising seven distinct normative principles, each of which is necessary and essential. . . . The goal should be to avoid trade-offs and maximize prospects for satisfying all -- or at least most -- of the seven principles."

As an opening to discussing different concepts of social welfare Fraser lists four sets of issues that will be important.

1) Social organization of carework.

2) Bases for entitlement ("Usually, it contains varying proportions of three basic principles of entitlement: need, desert, and citizenship. Need-bases is the most redistributive, but it risks isolating and stigmatizing the needy . . ." Entitlement by desert means receiving "benefits according to one's 'contributions,' usually tax payments, work, and service. "Citizenship, allocates provision on the basis of membership in society."

3) Differences among women (i.e., class, race-ethnicity, sexuality, and age).

4) Concerns other than gender equity (i.e., efficiency, community, and individual liberty).

Fraser then offers these names for two broad philosophical categories of social welfare

1) Universal Breadwinner: Promote women's employment, and enable women to support themselves and their families through their own wage-earning.

2) Caregiver Parity: Childbearing, child rearing, and informal domestic labor are to be elevated to parity with formal paid labor. The caregiver role is to be put on a par with the breadwinner role -- so that women and men can enjoy equivalent levels of dignity and well-being.

In comparing them Fraser asks that we consider how successful each would be at achieving the desired goal if they were fully funded, run well, and generally implemented in their ideal form. She concludes that both are good at Antipoverty and Antiexploitation. Both are fair at Equality of Respect. The ways in which they diverge are that Universal Breadwinner is better at achieving income equality and Antimarginalization and Caregiver Parity is better at achieving leisure time equality and avoiding androcentrism (though in none of those latter categories is either alternative good; they are either poor or fair).

I have skipped over the explanations that she gives for those grades because Fraser moves into a conclusion which suggests that, ultimately, our goal of gender equity might best be satisfied in a different way -- a third alternative which would combine the best of both while eliminating the worst features of each.

Both models that we examined are, to some extent working uphill if they presume that the status quo in which women do the majority of carwork will continue. A much better solution would be possible if we could, "induce men to become more like women are now, namely people who do primary carework."

If that were done the division between wage-earning work and care-giving would diminish; more jobs (and careers) would be designed to allow somebody to easily combine paid work and care-giving.

Fraser says, of this possibility (emphasis hers), "Only be embracing the Universal Caregiver vision, moreover, can we mitigate potential conflics among our seven component principles of gender equity and minimize the need for trade-offs. Rejecting this approach, by contrast, makes such conflicts, and hence trade-offs, more likely. Achieving gender equity in a postindustrial welfare state, then, requires deconstructing gender."

Response

Over the past week I've found it an interesting essay to argue with. I think it poses an interesting question and offers an attractive answer, but that there's some rhetorical slight of hand going on to make it look like the answer is responsive to the question. I don't disagree with any of her assertions, but I do think there are places where she gets from point A to B a little too quickly, and it's worth identifying and elaborating on some of them.

First, I was unclear about whether the seven components of gender equity are intended to be a complete definition, or merely a list of elements which fall under the umbrella of welfare policy. I think it's obviously incomplete for the former, and probably incompletely even by the latter definition, and that in either case there's a little bit more work to do. To begin, consider a couple of possible additions to the list, which I think would make sense even under the more narrow definition, but the last two of which also point in the direction of concerns which might fall well outside of welfare policy:

1) the first element listed is Anti-poverty, which is included as a component of gender equity because it is a significant, real-world social problem which disproportionately affects women. Why doesn't preventing intimate partner violence warrant similar standing?

2) She mentions race and class disparities as a possible other consideration for welfare programs but why aren't those part of the gender equity discussion. A version of gender equity which, for example, depends on paid care-giving (which is an obvious possibility under the Universal Breadwinner model) which is disproportionately delivered by people of color will not have succeeded (the "ain't i a woman" principle). Gender equity, by itself, doesn't require elimination race or class disparities (though we might also be interested in that), but some of those disparities are entwined with gender identities. I say that both in recognition of the idea of intersectionality -- that a woman of color will face challenges which aren't simply the sum of challenged faced by women and people generally, but a product of a complex interaction between the two. In addition, and thinking more broadly, I would note that race of class can limit somebody's ability to access the benefits (and social respect) of their gender (for example, I seen the complaint that some black women have a difficult time being seen as fully "feminine" and some asian men have a hard time being seen as fully "masculine" by society at large). If gender is not merely a set of constraints, but also a source of value, it's important that people aren't shut out from that.

3) That leads into a "There's no correct way to preform gender" principle? Queer and transgender issues are inherently part of gender analysis and gender equity. Should gender equity lead us to oppose policies which either embed assumptions about gender (i.e., that most carework will be done by women) or which privilege the nuclear family over other familial or partnership models? Beyond that, does gender equity demand active efforts to mitigate the social costs for people who are non-gender conforming (and here, for example, we see the tension between considering only those things which would be addressed by welfare as opposed to a more expansive sense of gender equity)?

Note: Fraser does introduce this idea within her discussion of the Universal Caregiver, but I didn't see it in her earlier discussion of gender equity.

As we consider adding items to the list, it makes it more difficult to use that list in the precise ways that she does. For example, she avoids prioritizing any of her principles (as she says, "each ... is necessary and essential" ) but if we add elements it feels obvious that some are more essential than others -- we may disagree about the order of importance, but it's harder to pretend that we don't have to wrestle with the question.

In addition, I think part of the rhetorical force of her "Universal Caregiver" idea is that it is presented as if there is a bridgeable gap -- we can see the ways in which the two standard visions of welfare fall short, and the Universal Caregiver is both (conceptually) achievable and solves many of the trade-offs. But, expanding the sense of gender equity reveals that there are still important trade-offs happening. For example, it might not do much to address the intimate partner violence or ways in which gender becomes as aspect of racial or class discrimination. Additionally, it's not a simple gap to close. When Fraser says, "consider the effects of this one change" there is a bit of understatement going (I believe intentionally).

Finally, I can't get over the feeling that the point at which she introduces the "Universal Caregiver" idea represents a change in the scope and nature of the question under discussion. I have a couple of responses which are possibly equivalent. The first is that she says, as a concluding statement, "achieving gender equity in a postindustrial welfare state, then, requires deconstructing gender" but that almost tautology. Given that gender as currently conceived is not equal (in many ways) achieving gender equity will necessarily involve shifts in how gender is treated in society. The important questions are (1) can those shifts be achieved by changing material conditions (by providing a sufficient welfare state) or does it also require an intervention into the way that gender is conceived and (2) if an intervention is required, how does that relate to the welfare state, or is it a separate task?

I think it is appropriate and valuable for philosophy to engage with ideal possibilities as well examination of the world-as-it-is but I wonder if, as presented in the essay, if it undermines some of the motivation for the more detailed analysis which Fraser performs. In my summary I skipped past the description of how each of "Universal Breadwinner" and "Caregiver Parity" were assessed based on the seven elements of gender equity because I felt like the conclusion took my in a different direction.

Personally, I like the essay most when I read it as provideing framework to think about trade-offs, and explaining why two very different policies can both "qualify as feminist." In that version I take the final discussion of the Universal Caregiver idea as a coda of sorts; a reminder that some of the elements which have been assumed to be fixed are changeable, and that change would bring us closer to gender equity. The version of the essay that makes me skeptical is the one which talks about trade-offs but then implies that they're unacceptable and that some other option must be found. I recognize, however, that my preferred version is the more cautious, incrementalist one, and that I may be minimizing the more ambitious aspects of her vision unfairly. One reason why I find the essay so interesting is that it does contain that tension between practical and radical analysis.

A few final notes and nit-picks which are minor but worth mentioning:

First, Fraser focuses on employment or care-giving as the two major options, presumably because they both offer some claim to desert. But it's worth mentioning that there are other things that somebody could do with their time some of which might also be worth state support (art, activism, teaching outside of an institution, . . . ).

Second, given the emphasis on care-giving it may be worth thinking about whether the policy should be designed to support care-givers or support people who need care. In practice the two will generally be similar, but have different implications in some cases.

Finally, this is outside of the scope of the essay, but eventually we will have to think about trade-offs between gender equity and other desirable goals. One of my first responses to the essay was to think, "well this certainly raises the question, how much do we value gender equity and how far will we go to achieve it?"


 

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Reading Group: After the Family Wage

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.22.17

Lifting from the comments, Criminally Bulgar writes: can we do Unfogged reading groups for essays? This one would be an interesting discussion:

What new, postindustrial gender order should replace the family wage? And what sort of welfare state can best support such a new gender order? What account of gender equity best captures our highest aspirations? And what vision of social welfare comes closest to embodying it?
Two different sorts of answers are currently conceivable, I think, both of which quality as feminist. The first I call the Universal Breadwinner model. It is the vision implicit in the current political practice of most U.S. feminists and liberals. It aims to foster gender equity by promoting women's employment; the centerpiece of this model is state provision of employment-enabling services such as day care. The second possible answer I call the Caregiver Parity model. It is the vision implicit in the current political practice of most Westem European feminists and social democrats. It aims to promote gender equity chiefly by supporting informal carework; the centerpiece of this model is state provision of caregiver allowances.

Heebie's take: Things to determine in this thread:
1. Who is interested in reading this and having a discussion group?
2. Who might not read but is still generally in favor of reading and participating in the posts that result?
3. Is this one single scheduled discussion, or does it need to be broken into chunks?
4. Volunteers for writing either the singular post, or writing up a chunk?

Bumped: Is tomorrow still good for everyone?


 

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Guest Post - Urban/Rural Divide

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.22.17

Nick S. writes: Matthew Yglesias summarizes new research about the gap between rich and poor states.

America in the Gilded Age was a starkly unequal place, not just in terms of inequality between people but inequality between regions. Long-settled, fast-industrializing states in the Northeast were far richer than those of the West or the South, which had many fewer factories, railroads, and other kinds of capital goods that allowed for productive work and high wages. But around 1880 that began to change, and for 100 years, income gaps between states slowly converged at a rate of about 1.8 percent per year.

But since 1980, that process has began to slow, and over the past decade it's essentially stopped entirely. Today, Massachusetts's GDP per capita is about double what you find in Mississippi -- roughly equivalent to the gap between Switzerland and Slovakia -- and it's not getting any narrower.

Because people have stopped moving from poor states to richer states

This set of four charts in Ganong and Shoag's paper tells the fundamental story -- in the old days, there was a strong tendency for poor states' per capita incomes to grow faster than those of rich ones and an equally strong tendency for people to move away from poor states to go live in rich ones. But in recent years, the income convergence trend has slowed and the migration pattern has reversed.

...

This chart shows that until 1990 or so, both skilled and unskilled workers could improve their standard of living, even considering housing costs, by moving to a high-income state. But the net gains for unskilled workers began to diminish sharply, and by 2010 a typical low-skill household was actually worse off in a high-income state due to the even higher housing costs.

Traditionally, in other words, both lawyers and janitors earned more in the New York City area than they did in the Deep South. Today, "lawyers continue to earn much more in the New York area in both nominal terms and net of housing costs, but janitors now earn less in the New York area after subtracting housing."

The result is that less skilled workers now tend to eschew the highest-wage, highest-cost locations -- creating a powerful counterpressure to other forces that would otherwise drive regional income convergence.


Yglesias argues that this is strong evidence that we need more housing construction in wealthy areas (a familiar topic for him), but I would make a few other observations:

1) It's interesting research, which is slightly depressing, taken by itself, but encouraging if it points to a more precise diagnosis of what's occurring.

2) It obviously connects to what's going on in American politics. Post-election there were many articles which argues both that left and right look like two different nations living in the same country, and that Democrats did much better in urban areas which are also the sites of the greatest economic growth at the moment. These two are probably connected. The situation that Yglesias describes would lead to very different political concerns in different areas.

3) Telecommuting does not appear to be solving the problem by may be a reason for optimism.

4) Personally I hope that the solution to geographic inequalities isn't just for everyone to move to more prosperous places; because lots of people don't want to move. It's a thorny issue (that we've talked about before in terms of the rust belt communities), but one that affects me. I like a couple hours away from Seattle and I always tell people that I feel lucky that I've been able to have successful work without having to move to Seattle (which seemed likely in my 20s), even if that means that I've made less than I would have, because I'd rather not live there if I don't have to. But at the moment, with Seattle having an impressive economic boom, it makes me think again about the challenge of balancing the financial and non-financial decisions about moving.

It is an awkward dynamic when one region is clearly doing way better than some of the neighboring areas.

Heebie's take
: Never forget the immoral suburbs and their nation-wrecking voting habits, for it is at their feet that all blame lays. I get that this takeaway doesn't apply particularly well to this post, but a lost opportunity to lay the blame is a crime.


 

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Red Herrings

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.21.17

To what extent are you worried about the civil war monuments becoming a distraction to things like voting rights and gerrymandering and judge nominees? It's like that Clickhole headline about upstanding Republicans worrying that Trump is interfering with their ability to purge voter lists.

A slightly different thing I worry about is that this issue will tempt a large swath of uninformed people into feeling like "Both sides are overreacting over a silly statue!" That the monuments are are not salient enough for most people the way the presence of Nazis is salient. Middle ground is a very attractive landing spot, and I'm wary of issues that make it seem like a safe way to hedge your bets. (The reason this is slightly different than the first paragraph is that Nazis do not tempt large swaths of uninformed people into the middle ground, but Nazis also distract from discriminatory policy.)

That said, I'm also sick of factions debating on the left. Yes, absolutely, the statues should come down this instant because they're fucking peons to white supremacy and it is disgusting.

I guess maybe my point is irritation with the vast middle to will be both-sidesy about the statues but then also not give fuck-all about voting rights being restricted. I don't actually think the statues are red herrings even though that's the title of the post. Or maybe I do. I don't know anything.


 

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