US politics

World Citizen

I’m currently a candidate for permanent residency in Canada.  It’ll be a while before the Canadian authorities make their decision, and then a bit longer while I come up with ~$500 that Canada likes to extract from its immigrants for the privilege of the legal right to remain even after their stay is approved, on top of a similar expense required to even apply.  I’ll have to sit for some sort of interview in between, most likely, so that an official fundamentally unqualified to make this determination can decide if my relationship to Ania is genuine.  I haven’t yet determined whether I’ll have to make that appearance while crossdressing, given that my legal paperwork is all under the old name, but signs point in that direction.  I’m still figuring out whether it’s a good idea to start moving on my legal name change now, or if that would complicate my application.  Immigrating while transgender is a dreadful experience overall.

Eventually, I’ll also have to renounce my US citizenship, because even having US citizenship is a liability for US citizens relocated long-term elsewhere.  The United States is unusual in two respects: it is illegal to enter the United States with a non-US passport if one is a US citizen, and the US extends its financial fingers into the doings of US citizens living abroad.  Much has been written about the annoyance that these rules impose on people even approaching middle-class, despite being ostensibly aimed at drawing back some money filched by jet-setting CEOs and parked elsewhere in the world.  Worse, because US citizenship is transmitted by birth to at least one American parent or on American soil, if I have children, anything in their names is also subject to US scrutiny and US taxes, when they’ll have no personal connection to “the old country” at all.  Relative poverty has kept me off of the IRS and Treasury Department’s radar, but I’ll still probably have to answer for my invisibility once my income becomes real.

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The Most I’ve Ever Been Hurt

I learned something this week.

I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.

I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.

I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.

I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.

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They’re Taking Your Money and Giving it to Your Boss’s Boss

The marketing campaign that made everyone fear deficits was a brilliant one. Politicians have been using that fear to fake economic policies ever since then, to the detriment of everyone. One of the favorite comparisons out there regarding the budget of any country is the one to the household budget. Different candidates wax poetic about the importance of living within one’s means and how the same rules must apply to a country and so forth and so on.

The idea of living within one’s means is one that often gets trotted out to “teach” poor people not to be poor, under the mistaken belief that the poverty is the fault of the people living within it.

Like any person actually living in poverty will tell you, it’s not really about not spending money you don’t have, but making sure that such expenses pay dividends. No one lives within their means, except for the very poor. For everyone else, there are credit cards, mortgages, financing, and so forth. All of which are examples of spending more than you make.

It’s the very poor, who don’t qualify for those loans, people on disability, on welfare, homeless people, who live entirely within their means because they don’t have the privilege of not doing that. Where the problem arises is that “within their means” does not equate to “while having the basic necessities needed for survival”.

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The Violence of the Mental Health Excuse

It’s become a trope. A white man is involved in a shooting, and within moments people are rushing over themselves to call him mentally ill. Sometimes this happens even before there is a suspect on which to pin the label. There are several cartoons and memes out there depicting the trend, and comparing it to the coverage received by people of colour in similar circumstances.

Whenever people are called on it however, there is always someone rushing in to defend the idea claiming that no “sane” person would commit such a heinous act of violence. That that level of obsession, that level of hatred, could only be the result of there being something mentally wrong with a person.

I understand why we need to believe that. Growing up listening to tales of good and evil, the villain is always readily identifiable. Whether an underground network of evil super villains, the wicked witch, or even just the bully at school, there is always some way of telling who the bad people are. To borrow from Christian mythology: some mark of Cain identifying the evil inside. (more…)

I Am an Atheist and I Voted

I am an atheist, and I voted.

I am an atheist, and I voted absentee in Florida’s 2014 general election.

I am a long, long way from Florida right now, and I quite expect to remain so long-term.  I’m in a field where half of the positions are unambiguously terrible and the other half assume that one can migrate thousands of miles every few years for the privilege of working in them.  The luxury my parents enjoyed of being able to pick a place based on such prosaic concerns as “family” or “weather” has been systematically denied to young academics in general and my generation in particular, and that means that, even if I wanted to live in a place with Florida’s farce of a political scene, I will likely never have that privilege.  If South Florida is even still above ground by then.

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Talking about Yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings

Last night, I had the privilege of being part of an on-air hangout with Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars to discuss recent US Supreme Court rulings, in particular Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  This ruling came with a lot to unpack, a surprising amount of which was not overwhelmingly bad news for secularists and those interested in social equality for women.

It was a tremendously educational experience, as an interested party whose grounding in constitutional law and the inner workings of high-level American politics is weak, and I even got to add some perspective about how this mess would play out in Canada and the role of the Justices’ religions in their putative decision-making process.  There’s a truism about the benefits of not being the smartest person in the room, and that was massively brought home for me last night.
And now I get to share that with you all.

A Hell of a Swim

There are a lot of Americans with whom I can’t talk politics.  I’m related to many of them.  Some of them, it’s just not worth the trouble to start a conversation that is mostly going to be a demonstration of how their values are the exact opposite of mine.  But there’s a specific flavor of American that I find especially infuriating, a snowflake so special it would deny its kinship with water and steam and start fistfights over the idea that it could melt, and they disturb me so much that, if I ever stop calling myself an American, it will be because of them.

Today, I’m going to call them “Patriot First, Ask Questions Later,” abbreviated PFAQL because it sounds like “flag-fondler” and that is the most appropriate shorthand these partisans could hope for.  Their defining attribute is that whatever the United States is already doing is the exact right way to do things, as a function of the fact that the US is already doing it, and all other conceivable ways are the wrong way because they’re not what the US is already doing.  Anything less is unpatriotic, they insist.

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Messages from Creationists to Evolutionists Answered

Oh, I do grow tired of the word “evolutionist.”  It’s the kind of word only a creationist would invent.   The creationist / evolutionist dichotomy was designed at every stage to imply that the two ideas are exactly the same thing, implying the same level of slavish devotion to a doctrine and the same level of prima facie plausibility for both.  It’s one of the movement’s most obvious calling cards, and one that makes its adherents trivial to recognize.
With that in mind, the recent much-ballyhooed and much-derided performance piece between Ken Ham and Bill Nye provided the Internet with a variety of new bits of creationism-related entertainment.  One of the better bits of comedy to come from this event, besides the glistening fury of Ken Ham’s bat-strokes against the pulverized flank steak that used to be his dead horse, is this BuzzFeed list of questions posed by smug-faced creationists to their sensible brethren.  I’ve provided it here in text with the spelling and grammar corrected.
1.     Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?
2.    Are you scared of a divine creator?
3.    Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature?  i.e., trees created with rings…Adam created as an adult…
4.    Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?
5.    How do you explain a sunset if there is no god?
6.    If the Big Bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?
7.    What about noetics?
8.    Where do you derive objectivemeaning in life?
9.    If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate?  By chance?
10.  I believe in the Big Bang Theory.  God said it and BANG it happened!
11.  Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God-believing people reject the idea of there being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extraterrestrial sources?
12.  There is no in between…the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof.”
13.  Does metamorphosis help support evolution?
14.  If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is evolution taught as fact?
15.  Because science by definition is a “theory”—not testable, observable, nor repeatable” why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?
16.  What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase in genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?
17.  What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?
18.  Why have we found only one “Lucy” when we have found more than one of everything else?
19.  Can you believe in “the big bang” without “faith”?
20. How can you look at the world and not believe that someone created / thought of it?  It’s AMAZING!!!
21.  Relating to the big bang theory…where did the exploding star come from?
22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
As you can see, we have the classics here handily covered, along with some dishonest argumentation and a few reruns from my last visit to a list of creationist false controversies.
Let’s have a rather harsher look than that simpering accomodationist Phil Plait decided to take:

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Off-White

I’ve never really thought of myself as a person of color.  I’m Hispanic, on both sides of my family, but that’s not necessarily what people see.

Mom has a look that blends into the swarthy shades of whiteness that define the region surrounding New York City and even more so South Florida, invisible against the Italians whose struggle made southern European shades acceptable in the United States.  But she has the low hairline and dark curls that made Carmen Cansino unacceptably “Mediterranean” for movies in the 1930s, the traits that led Cansino to undergo electrolysis, skin bleaching, and relentless hair dye to become Rita Hayworth, finally “white” enough for success.  For those who know what to look for, she is unmistakably Hispanic; to everyone else, she’s another dark-haired white woman who speaks with a Hoboken accent when she’s excited.

And Dad?  Dad has the ruddy complexion of someone who has worked hard jobs in the sun for decades, but it’s there all the time, even in the years he spent managing grocery stores and apartment buildings.  His edges are sharper than hers, his accent different enough that I hear it as no accent at all until he slips a little Cubanism into his sentences.  He, too, could tell people he was Italian or Greek or unqualified “white” if he wanted to, except that he actively cultivates the most Cuban mustache in the history of Cuban mustaches.  He, too, is invisible to people who don’t know what Hispanic people look like, or who don’t talk to him.

In the places where I’ve been, middle-aged white folks who spend a lot of time in the sun get talked to in Spanish first.  Sometimes, they answer in Spanish.

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So Yesterday was National Coming Out Day

So it’s National Coming Out Day.

I’m not gay. I occasionally contemplate sexual encounters that, if I’m honest about them, pull me a little back from the far end of the Kinsey scale, but not far enough that I’m comfortable calling myself bisexual. Finding out that someone I’m attracted to is trans* would not change my attraction to them, so I suppose I could also call myself pansexual to a degree. That’s nothing compared to the statements so many of my friends have made today. Hopefully it’s small enough that the family members I have who have tried to encourage my gay relatives into reparative therapy think better of starting that fight with me.

But if it’s permissible here to extend the “coming out” concept to my own experiences, then I’ve spent a lot of my life coming out.

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