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Guest Post - Longform Link: What happens next

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.02.18

Nick S. writes: Amazing and wrenching story about police departments working through the backlogs of untested rape kits and trying to figure out what to do next:

For months, Harris and his colleagues had been debating a question: Should every victim whose name was on this shelf be notified that their kit had finally been tested? Or would reminding someone of their rape -- out of the blue, years later, with no promise of a solution -- cause them unnecessary harm?

...

In Virginia, this dilemma would ultimately pit police, prosecutors, advocates and lawmakers against one another, making the situation far more complicated than they ever intended. Everyone wanted to do the right thing for victims; there was just no way to know what that was.

Via fivethirtyeight.

Heebie's take: It's a long article, but pretty skimmable. The main thing is that when they go to talk to victims many years later, they get a super wide range of reactions - anger at the messenger, relief, whatever, the full gamut.

My take is that the author and officials who have misgivings about notifying victims from years ago are giving too much weight to the initial reaction of the recipient of the news. Sure, they react with anger, or grief, or shock, or whatever. That's their initial reaction. Take it with a grain of salt - that doesn't mean they don't deserve to know.


 

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"Science advances one funeral at a time"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.02.18

Story in the Washington Post this morning about an award winning teacher and math coach in a nationally famous magnet school near DC who's been notorious for harassing girls since the eighties. Nothing too intense -- doesn't sound as if he was raping anyone, so that's a mercy -- but hassling them about their sex lives, speculating about their pubic hair in class, pointing out that math geniuses tend to be men, discouraging them from going to prestigious schools, the usual. And there's the usual reaction from school management, being horrified about how they didn't know and if only someone had complained! with no explanation of what happened to the recorded complaints from 1989 on forward. On a much less severe level, the pattern's kind of like the gymnastics doctor -- people in charge didn't know there was anything wrong, and somehow telling them directly and explicitly that there was something wrong didn't work.

So, what has changed (in this case, and with the whole #MeToo thing generally)? The kids being harassed seemed to know it was wrong back in the eighties, when the complaints started. Not all of them felt comfortable complaining, because it's hard for children to complain about a teacher, but some did. There was just a black box where complaints went in, and then no response came out then, and now complaints are much more likely to turn into action.

My theory, and I have no idea how to prove it, is that it comes down to the fact that when you get to real decision-making power in most organizations, it's very often going to be someone in their sixties. And that's what was in the black box in the DC magnet program in 1989 -- some principal or assistant principal who was born in 1925, and who heard complaints from a bunch of girls that they were being made to feel uncomfortable in math class, and dropped them in a trash can, because what were they thinking expecting to feel comfortable in math class? Same with the entertainment industry -- actual money decisions about what projects get funded and so on is often going to come down to old men who control money, and who have the attitudes of their youth. A story about someone harassing/abusing/sexually extorting women is going to sound much less severe to someone whose attitudes were formed in the 50s.

So, possibly what triggered the sudden 'wait, now there are actual consequences when women complain of harassment' moment is generational turnover at the very top of organizations. The oldest people still in the workforce now are old hippies and their contemporaries -- anyone older than that is retired -- and they're not perfect, but they've at least paid lip service to gender equality, mostly, for their entire working lives. I don't know how you'd prove it, but it seems very plausible to me that the retirement from power of that last cohort of pre-second-wave-feminist men who were running things, has meant a big reduction in how likely complaints are to fall into an unaccountable black box and disappear.

(Obviously, there are going to be younger people who are a problem -- I'm just thinking that there was a cohort of very powerful people who were going to be reliably dismissive about this stuff who have gradually faded away over the last twenty years or so.)


 

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Crystal Ball is Foggy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.01.18

I'm trying to balance two notions:
1. The post I was planning on writing was on this:


the perennial notion that this tsunami of crimes will overwhelm the system. Before, I'd used language of the bed-of-nails phenomenon, but this captures the anxiety better.

(via former one here, over there.)

2. But then CharleyCarp, who tends to be resigned about such things, says in the comments:

There've been lots of comings and goings over the last year, but today really feels to me like an unraveling.

and Moby agrees shortly thereafter, and they're both usually much more patient and dejected than I am about politics. (I now notice that I read CC's comment as optimistic, but maybe it was intended to be pessimistic.)

The balance being that (1) implies nothing will change and we're going down the drain as scheduled, and (2) implying that perhaps everything is about to change, and we'll go down the drain in some truly novel way. (Sex act.)


 

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Gun love

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.28.18

These photos of pious, religious looking people cuddling their AR-15 for their wackadoodle ceremony are the strangest thing I've seen in a while. It's a cult apparently, run by one of the Moon offspring.

That link also called it a commitment ceremony, which feels like the straight man line in a comedy routine.
- These folks should be committed, amirite!
- The honeymoon will really blow you away!
- It's like Daddy's waiting on his porch for you to get home from your date and then Daddy just started making out with his gun, and also Daddy voted for Trump, and you've had enough of this bullshit and have started block-walking to increase voter turn-out of traditionally disenfranchised groups of people and perhaps vote in some better representation. I mean, !.


 

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Why are op-eds so terrible?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.28.18

A lot of the best Unfogged posts - or blog posts in general - are scathing takedowns of dumb op-eds. I don't think I've ever written one. I just cannot bring myself to read (or talk to) dumb shitheads, process their dumbness, and slice and dice it into pieces. It just makes the problems of the world feel too vertiginious - this fucker spouting this dumb shit is getting in the way of good-hearted people solving real problems - and reminds me to consider not getting out of bed ever.

So I mostly only read other people bemoaning the shittiness of the NYT op-eds and new contributors, and I do not look in myself. I did not even make it very far into this article on the subject. Maybe this is something you like to talk about! I like to listen to smart people talk witheringly about dumb people, I can handle it. I just can't handle the actual dumb people.

(Is it clear that I am not using "dumb people" to mean people lacking academic credentials or people who struggle in school? But rather people who use their intellectual wordiness to put smart-sounding words to terrible ideas, instead of actually writing about good ideas?)

Via former one of you, at the other place


 

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Bend Over

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.27.18

I am in News Avoidance mode at the moment. This slashing of government programs article:

The Biological Survey Unit is hardly the only entity facing extinction. Dozens of long-standing programs are slated for termination, and every agency, large and small, has submitted a plan to the White House for reorganization.

just feels like something to grieve. It's just such a helpless feeling.

So instead I've got something about how you're wrecking your back and you should be more like the people of better cultures when you bend down. Mostly because I won at this:

To see if you're bending correctly, try a simple experiment.
"Stand up and put your hands on your waist," says Jean Couch, who has been helping people get out of back pain for 25 years at her studio in Palo Alto, Calif.
"Now imagine I've dropped a feather in front of your feet and asked to pick it up," Couch says.

Oh yeah, I picked it up right.


 

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Cynthia Heimel Died

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.27.18

I don't know if anyone much younger than their mid-forties will remember her -- she had a couple of fairly popular humor books in the eighties and early nineties, but I haven't heard of her much since then. I don't think she transitioned to having any kind of impact on social media, which is peculiar -- I'd have thought she was made for being funny on Twitter. Maybe she's been in bad health for a long time?

I hadn't thought of her in years, but when I saw that she died, it occurred to me that she was formative to my sense of how feminism works, and was a big part of why I get confused and irritated by all the 'lets you and her fight' intergenerational conflict between young feminists who are sensitively interested in issues of how to balance sexual expression and freedom and professional and economic success and independence, and second-wave feminists.

Heimel wasn't a feminist theorist, she was a humor writer. But she was an old hippie-second-waver feminist humor writer, and she was talking about everything anyone talks about on Jezebel thirty years ago, in terms of moving through the world as a sexual being and a economically and professionally free person. This isn't a slap against Jezebel or current third-wave-feminism generally: continuing an active conversation about those issues is valuable and has to continue, and certainly feminist thought has evolved and progressed. But it's a continuing conversation, not a sharp break with prior generations of feminists. A few weeks ago ago, in the comments here, I was reduced to spluttering incoherence by Buttercup talking about how Sex And The City was revolutionary in terms of women talking openly about sex -- at the time, I didn't come up with any specifics beyond "No, my entire adult life there have been women talking just like that", but of course Cynthia Heimel was a big part of who I was thinking about.

(I am slightly terrified to have written this without having reread everything she ever wrote. It was humor, in the eighties, and almost certainly there's politically objectionable stuff in there. And god only knows what she's been doing for the past twenty years. But even if there's something terrible about her I didn't know about, she meant a lot to me in my teens and twenties.)


 

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When Huffiness Becomes Duty

Posted by Ogged
on 02.26.18

This thread hit home. After Parkland, we got an email from my 1st-grader's superintendent about their "active intruder" preparedness, and the insanity of the entire situation became very pointed. As a rootless immigrant, I'm quick to think "I'm outta here!" but in this case, it doesn't seem like a crazy reaction. Also, it's interesting to me that Harkaway's kid, all the way across the big ocean, knows about the school shootings. My kids sure don't, though I expect they'll hear about it from another kid or through some school drill eventually.


 

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Tomorrowland

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.26.18

I got the Google Translate App yesterday. First, you take a photo and highlight a word, and it translates it for you. That's pretty neat.

But then there's this extra "download" bit - I'm not sure, clearly you already downloaded the app - and if you get this extra piece, then when you look at your phone screen, trained on the foreign word, it automatically switches to English, and matches the font and coloring of the existing word. If you pan around, different words snap to English as they're processed, and then snap back to Spanish (or whatever) as you pan away.

Anyway, I found it surreal. I had myself a nice little the-future-is-now! moment over that.

(I really wanted to call this post "The future keeps slipping, slipping, slipping into the present" but I figured everyone would murder me over the earworm. Not sure how this parenthetical is any better but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .)


 

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