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Guest Post - Abolish tips!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.11.20

CharleyCarp writes: Abolish tips. And obviously pay a living wage.

Heebie's take: That article is so disgusting and infuriating:

"Take off your mask," a man ordered Drew Allison after she served him at the bar where she works in Knoxville, Tenn. "I want to see your face; maybe you have moles under there." The statement was so bizarre that Allison obeyed without thinking, briefly pulling her mask below her chin. Only later did she realize the implication: If the man found her attractive enough, he planned to tip her more. From then on, when a male customer requested she take off her mask -- and it kept happening -- it almost felt like he was asking her to take off her shirt.

Also related is a subset of sexism which doesn't get discussed nearly as often: the differential between how women are treated based on how well they align with conventional beauty standards. It shows up at times in different areas: the size-acceptance movement often tries to broaden what qualifies as conventionally beautiful. Women of color often describe the varying degrees of racism according to the darkness of their skin. LGBTQ women have experiences that vary according to how conventionally they present themselves on a particular day. We talk about ageism and the particular vulnerability of being a young woman, and the exclusion of being a middle aged or older woman.

These are all intersecting with the double-edged sword of whether or not a woman is generically attractive. But I think it's also just worth strictly dwelling on that: the "lookism" of whether a woman is categorized as attractive. The guy wants her to take of her mask so that he can assess her face, for three reasons that I can see:
1. to exercise control and power over her
2. to admire her face for his own pleasure - but only if it qualifies
3. to not risk miscategorizing her as attractive when she secretly isn't. To not be tricked.

I know many feminist thinkers have written a great deal about attraction-bias, especially within all the contexts listed above, but the only place I ever remember reading the word "lookism" as its own thing is in a book I read maybe twenty years ago. It wasn't Reviving Ophelia, but it was in the same genre and time, and I believe it was just called Girls which makes it pretty damn google-proof.

Maybe there's a better turn of phrase out there than "lookism" and my problem is that I'm rooted in some obscure book from 20 years ago?

At any rate, generally sexism deals with the power and control that men and society exerts over women, and "lookism" is a distinct phenomenon that is part of this really egregious "Take off your mask" bullshit.


 

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President-elect Denial

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.10.20

This makes sense to me:

On the morning of November 4, Donald Trump faced two problems. The first was that he was going to lose the power of the presidency. The second was that this loss endangered his ownership of the GOP.
Now, owning a major political party isn't as useful as being president. But it's not nothing, either. In a two-party system, you can exert a great deal of power by being the head of a party. You have businesses and foreign governments that will pay tribute to you. You have capos spread across the country, ready to do your bidding. You have an audience of something like 40 million partisans who can be mined for contributions and mobilized as a flash mob whenever you need them.
A political party is, to paraphrase El Blago, a valuable forking thing. Why would anyone willingly let go of it?
So for Trump, the lawsuits, the posturing, the couping--yes, it would be nice if he wound up as president on January 21. But that's the secondary objective. The primary objective was to stop the Republican party from leaving him and, if possible, tighten his grasp on it.

Honestly I think Trump only operates with a lizard brain and it's pure instinct for him. But this is a plausible explanation for how the lizard is operating.

For the rest of the party leaders, I think it serves two purposes equally well:
1. Taking a loyalty oath to Trump for the benefit of Trump voters, and
2. To sabotage Biden and work against any agenda or uniting the country that he attempts.

Furthermore, party leaders are not really seeing any consequences for this dumbass inability to physically mouth the words "president-elect" with regards to Biden. The only mechanism for consequence is shame or embarrassment, and that disintegrated for them long ago. Just like every time they attempt a new low, they discover it was just learned helplessness that had kept them from trampling over the papier-mâché barrier prior.

I'm picturing Steve Martin, circa The Jerk, trying to get his mouth to articulate the words "president-elect Biden", with increasingly rubbery articulation, and each time it comes out "pesilect-dental Bental" or "pressssssibiden select-mas" or whatever. Eventually Bernadette Peters would get her fingers in there and try to stretch his mouth the right way, and he'd slur "pessssidoonalick Boden" and they'd be satisfied.


 

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Nicotine-free

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.10.20

Is it really this simple? I feel skeptical just because it seems like a quick fix:

Public-health experts have for decades suggested that the government require cigarette makers to produce products with nonaddictive levels of nicotine. (The American Medical Association started recommending the policy in the '90s.) The Obama administration took a major step toward that goal in 2009 by giving the FDA the power to regulate nicotine levels in tobacco products. The Trump administration--yes, the Trump administration--took another major step forward in 2018, when it started the rule-making process to ban the sale of cigarettes with addictive levels of nicotine.

Once addicted, people smoke to get the nicotine hit. So this would basically be a death knell to the cigarette industry, which I'm not mad about. I don't know what you do for all the current smokers, though.

Is this good policy? Or does this trigger all sorts of perverse incentives? Is there a real solution which is really expensive to implement, and this is the cheap policy to implement instead? Or is this a case where this is the right solution, and the hard part is that it's just a very slow road to gain traction against cigarette companies?


 

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Guest Post - Antimonopolies.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.09.20

Lw writes: The path back to a better functioning country probably includes stronger antimonopoly enforcement. Lina Khan wrote an analysis of antimonopoly practice and law as it applies to chicken farming. It's older (2012) but I liked it a lot. She's apparently well-known for a similarly styled essay about Amazon.

Her clearly stated takedown of Chicago school vandalism:

The change that finally upended this balance came in 1981. A group of Chicago School economists and lawyers working in the Reagan administration introduced a new interpretation of antitrust laws. Traditionally, the goal of antitrust legislation had been to promote competition by weighing various political, social, and economic factors. But under Reagan, the Department of Justice narrowed the scope of those laws to promote primarily "consumer welfare," based on "efficiency considerations." In other words, the point of antitrust law would no longer be to promote competition by maintaining open markets; it was, at least in theory, to increase our access to cheap goods.

Heebie's take: It's a good read. Also it's depressing to see yet another angle how Republican obstructionism from 2010 on poisoned Obama's ability to actually implement policies that improved the lives of future Trump voters.


 

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Joints? Feeling Stiff? There's no good title for this one.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.08.20

I've long said that standing is more tiring that walking. While I do love working from home, the difference in teaching is that I'm standing in one place for roughly two hour stretches, instead of pacing and moving during that time, and at the end of it my joints feel very stiff.

(I learned early on that I can't teach sitting down. I somehow don't feel expressive and performative enough. Also I had Jammies install a dry erase board on one wall, so I can switch back and forth between writing on the board and sharing my screen.)

In addition, I've been running since March instead of going to the gym. I much prefer the experience of running over the crossfit/bootcamp types of exercise that I've been doing for the past seven years. But now I'm remembering some of the lessons that I learned when I switched from running to more generalized exercise: I feel stiff and creaky after I run, whereas I feel strong and springy in between weightlifting/more general kinds of exercise. Damnit.


 

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Guest Post - "We never fall into the same abyss twice"

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.07.20

Minivet writes: Interesting disquisition on the specific differences between modern rightism in the Anglosphere and historical totalitarianism, and pondering what we should really be fearing/countering.

Heebie's take: this is a really interesting read. For one, it is gorgeously written, with lines like:

The libertarian strain in Trumpism should be at odds with the authoritarian styling. But the lack of coherence doesn't bother its adherents, who are not looking for specific doctrines. What matters is the sugar-rush taste combination--freedom from social convention laced with self-righteous anger.

Most of the essay is very insightful - contrasting how Trump, Farage, and Johnson fail to replicate the key ingredients of 1930s fascists that they are frequently accused of reanimating.

Something similar fuelled the UK's exit from the European Union. Now Nigel Farage is executing the pivot from Euroscepticism to lockdown-scepticism. The Brexit Party will be renamed and refocused, mining the seam of opinion where Farage's nostalgic, nationalist base shades into xenophobia and paranoid anti-vaccine conspiracy theory. The common thread is the need to be opposing establishment power. Since Brexit has become a legal fact, Brussels can no longer be the great bogeyman of oppression. A new oppressor has to be found and resisted. That is a project for perpetual opposition, not for the creation of a fascist state.

Not that they're not dangerous, just that we need to understand them on their own terms and not shoehorn them into a fascist dictator model.

Then he goes into this individual narcissism characteristic of Late Stage Capitalism, which I somewhat agree with:

The late 1960s counterculture made a fetish of personal self-actualisation. That was followed by the 1980s cult of personal enterprise. Both promoted the pursuit of individual fulfilment over notions of duty and self-sacrifice. The accompanying social and economic shifts are not going to be undone any time soon. There may still exist some appetite to be part of a collective political project, but I suspect the bar has been raised, relative to the 1930s, in terms of how much individuality people are ready to surrender. Today's young battalions of internet vigilantes are not drilled in taking orders--let alone handling real weapons--like the generation that emerged from the trenches in 1918, traumatised and alienated.

and then keeps talking about how culturally, discourse today is in a very different place than it was then.

Here's where I'm not sure I agree anymore:

While that culture war looks like a battle of left and right extremes, it is fought on classically liberal terrain. It is a contest of rights and freedoms. Right-wing culture warriors demand liberty to say offensive things (and accuse the left of censorship); their left-wing counterparts claim "freedom from harm" caused by the hate speech with which they charge the right. The left wants redress for historical injustice for groups that have been discriminated against; the right asserts that such a campaign amounts to "prejudice" against straight white men. The shrillest iterations of those views can be ferociously illiberal in tone, but they resonate with their audiences precisely because of a shared liberal assumption that individual rights are sacred. They do not add up to a new blueprint for government. They are not agendas to build 1,000-year Reichs or a new Soviet Socialist Republic.

I agree that everyone is arguing within a framework of individualism, and no one is planning a new government. I think the details are oversimplified to the point of being irritatingly glib, though.

And then this is right, but wrong:

The intrusive capabilities of Google, Amazon and Facebook obliterate conventional notions of privacy in ways the Gestapo and Stasi barely dreamt was possible. The shift elicits hardly a murmur of dissent. As Tim Wu, a professor of law at Columbia University, has said: "Consumers on the whole seem content to bear a little totalitarianism for convenience." We never read the terms and conditions before ticking the box that gives consent for our personal data to be used, including for exploitation by political campaigns. That whole area is the proper focus for concern about the sustainability of a liberal democratic order, which still relies on conventions and protocols carried over from an analogue age.
The real threat, then, comes less from fascistic doctrines that explicitly repudiate liberalism than from the loss of a common public frame of reference in which ideas of any kind can be civilly debated.

Yes, data mining and loss of privacy is a real thing that we'rd not coping with well, and yes, there is a giant problem with people being divorced from reality, but Fox News is not synonymous with social media, and at least here, dealing with Fox News is much more important to arrive in a single common public frame of reference than Facebook is. The numbers of people that watch Fox News just dwarf the numbers of people who are poisoned by Facebook. The causation goes Fox -> FB, not the other way.

Yes, we surrender the details of our lives and readily check off ticky-boxes without reading the contract, because the contract is bullshit and also the tide of modern life ends up being coercive. But for now, that data is mostly going to companies who are not at all interested in the business of opposition-grievances the way Trump and this minions are. It's just mostly orthogonal motivations (right now).


 

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