Monthly Archives: September 2016

An Open Letter to Gary Johnson, on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, the GOP and LGBT Rights

Dear Gary Johnson,

Google, in it’s infinite algorithmic wisdom, has decided to throw an ad of yours my way, several times over the last few weeks. It can be summarized as, “vote for me, I supported gay marriage before Hillary Clinton did.” Initially I treated the way I treat most sidebar ads; I glanced then ignored. Then I found myself mildly irritated by it, and every time I saw it, I thought a little more about that irritation. And now here we are, with me ranting on the internet.

First of all, I looked up the date you came out to publically support gay marriage. I got December 1, 2011. Hillary Clinton supported civil unions but opposed marriage back in 2003, but changed to fully supporting equal marriage rights in March of 2013 (references in same link). So congratulations; you beat her by a full fifteen months. A baby went from lying in a crib to kind-of walking in the time it took for Hillary to catch up to your courageous public support of my love life.

Second, it doesn’t really bother me that Hillary Clinton played it safe back in the day. She’s been politically active for a long time, and her stances on numerous issues have evolved with the times. I’m okay with that, because I’m not naive. In her case, I’m especially inclined to forgive, because while she’ll bow and pander and obfuscate to get power, she then uses that power to do awesome stuff. She has fought hard for healthcare, environmentalism and women’s rights.

And no, it doesn’t bother me that you weren’t always openly pro-gay either.

That brings me to my third point. Your accomplishments, as far as LGBTQ rights go, consist of, well, saying you aren’t against them. The tide of public opinion on gay marriage turned quickly. You jumped into the water a year before Hillary Clinton did. But while you paddled in the shallows, she struck out swimming.

She even started working for us ever unpopular transgender people. As Secretary of State, she pushed through legislation that enabled trans people to get passports that affirmed their gender without jumping through medical hoops. Imagine life with an ID that can out you, that can expose you to violence. Imagine needing a surgery to get that ID changed, and needing a job to pay for the surgery, and being denied the job because your ID outs you as transgender. Long before I knew who was responsible, I knew a trans woman who carried her passport with her all the time. She carried it because she didn’t “pass” well, because she sometimes did get attacked, because the security of a gender affirming government-issued ID was something she needed daily. The passport bill is the kind of work Hillary is best at; small, not too glamorous, but with significant practical benefits for real human beings.

To this day, if you go to her plan on her website, you see trans issues explicitly spelled out. She will fight for our rights in bathrooms, as she will also fight gender conversion therapy, appoint Supreme Court Justices who will uphold our newly won marriage rights, and continue to vocally, openly support us.

I couldn’t find any evidence of your support for trans rights, or that you’ve even mentioned them. I don’t see what you say about conversion therapy. You are socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. When you pick the new Supreme Court Justice, which will be your priority? Do you already have a list of highly qualified judges who are your fellow libertarians? If you can’t get one, would you appoint someone who is socially and fiscally liberal? Or will your primary concern be appointing someone in favor of “small government” even when that means making the government too small to protect people like me?

Those are the questions that concern me, a person who has to live in this country while being queer. Not “who liked us before we were cool?”

Fourth, why the hell are you criticizing Hillary Clinton at all? She’s not the person I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of the party who, this year, reached new lows in their vehement opposition of LGBTQ rights. I’m scared of the people who are actively anti-gay marriage, not the one whose support of it is only three years old. I’m scared of the party that grins approvingly at conversion therapy and would refuse to let me adopt a child.

I’m scared of the fucking Republicans.

It’s possible you’ve got ads targeting the GOP and appealing to young, gay-friendly Republicans, and I just haven’t seen them because Google knows I’m not a Republican. It’s possible.

Although I do see an awful lot of pro-Trump ads these days though. So Google is letting Trump, Clinton and you being anti-Clinton through, but not you calling out Republicans on the most anti-LGBTQ platform yet? Yeah, that’s definitely more likely than you calling out the kettle and ignoring the pot.

What the hell, man?

All this together makes me think that, honestly, you don’t give a shit about people like me. You don’t see our rights as worthy of real time and action. But you’re happy to take credit for liking us, even if that means stealing votes for somebody who will actually make us a priority.

I think you can see why I’m a bit pissed.

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Make Donald Donald Again

So, back in February, John Oliver had a segment on the history of Donald Trump’s last name. He ended with the suggestion that we start calling him Donald Drumpf.

I loved that segment, but it didn’t really catch on except as a snarky signifier of people who had already made up their minds. Which is fine, because it was a snarky suggestion. Still, there was something true in what was said. The name Trump was invented specifically to send a message of power and prestige, and it’s attached to a man who doesn’t deserve it.

Monday night, watching the debate, I noticed how Hillary Clinton kept calling him, “Donald,” and the way he winced at that. How odd. He doesn’t balk at calling her “Hillary.” None of us do. We called her main opponent “Bernie.” But somehow it’s unpleasant for him to be called “Donald.”

When you think about it, Donald has an absurd sound. It sounds like a cartoon character. It sounds like Ronald’s petulant, unintelligent punchline of a little brother… which is incredibly appropriate in this situation. And it’s a name that you could conceivably pull off with some dignity, if you had reasonable amounts of humility, eloquence and common sense. The fact that the Republican frontrunner can’t is a spotlight on his incompetence. It’s like his tiny hands all over again; an innocuous, irrelevant detail that any decent person could shrug off, but his grandiose ego makes him explode at even a reference to it.

Donald. Donald. Donald.

When you think about it, it’s fitting that all of the serious candidates –

*coughing, hacking noises*

Sorry, couldn’t finish that sentence. Let me try again.

When you think about it, it’s fitting that all of the party frontrunners in this debate be called by their first names. It’s fair, for one thing. It sounds belittling and sexist to say “Hillary” but “Trump,” or “Mr. Trump.” Yet, in the primaries we called Bernie Sanders “Bernie,” and besides it was helpful to distinguish her from the other political Clintons. We’re all in the habit now.

And don’t the names fit perfectly?

Hillary. Distinctive. Individual. You never forget a Hillary. She strides the boundaries between feminine and masculine, in a way that makes you love her or hate her, depending on your feelings about gender conformity. Her name means happy but feels like steely optimism rather than a party. It’s a name full of energy, but not peppy cheerleader energy. It’s the name of a marathon runner.

Donald.

Fuckin’ Donald.

Reviewing Adventures in Odyssey as an Agnostic-Atheist; By Faith, Noah

There are a number of AIO episodes that I frankly want to skip, because they are neither offensive enough to rant about nor good enough to earn compliments. Many of the straightforward adaptations of Biblical stories fall into this category. I really thought this would be one, because all I remembered about it was that Whit tells Jack and Lucy (two recurring children) the story of Noah. Oh, and there was some other story he opened with, that we only hear the end of. How did that go again?

“The fire blazed through the house, pushing little Billy to his bedroom window on the second floor. He looked down and saw his parents, who had been frantically trying to find him.”

Oh right. It’s about a small child literally burning to death because he doesn’t have enough “faith” to jump into his fathers arms, thereby proving that faith is really important.

Jack and Lucy point out how Billy at least had the advantage of being sure his father exists. Lucy talks about being teased at school for putting her faith in something she can’t even see. Well, Whit has the solution to that; the story of Noah. He’s going to assuage her worries about belief in someone she can’t see by telling her about a faith-having person who she also can’t see. That’s not convoluted at all.

It’s honestly unclear what he’s supposed to be teaching them. Yes, he’s teaching them “about faith” but they accept his stories so readily that lack of faith clearly isn’t the issue. Lucy is worried about teasing, but he isn’t offering her practical solutions so much as reinforcing that faith is a good thing. But this reassurance wouldn’t work if they didn’t already have the very faith he’s trying to teach them.

So the lesson here isn’t actually a lesson, so much as an exercise in confirmation bias. A good deal of Adventures in Odyssey can be explained by that, actually.

Back to the review. Whit can’t just tell Jack and Lucy the story right where they are. They might not have enough material to fill the whole twenty minutes of this radio drama! So he takes them up to the Bible room. It’s an exciting room full of Biblical activities, like… Biblical dioramas. Also you can recite Bible verses into a mirror. If you say the text correctly, it will give you the chapter and verse, and vice versa. Fun! This is what fun is like!

Anyway, Lucy and Jack gush, in a way that is totally normal-sounding and not brainwashed cult-y at all, about how cool the Bible room is and how excited they are for another story because Whit is such a great storyteller.

Whit starts the story of Noah where everyone starts it; by emphasizing that everybody, absolutely everybody, was incredibly evil. We’ve got an apocalypse to justify here. Being a fabulous storyteller, he establishes this with no supporting details or examples, but simply an assertion that God was really pissed off with them. Because the Biblical Old Testament God would never get tetchy about something we would consider innocuous, like shellfish, or cloth made of textile blends.

Noah found favor with God, and had a “walked and talked” relationship with him. Of course, that walked and talked is totally metaphorical, because then it would undercut the whole point of this story, right? I mean, Whit is trying to comfort a couple kids who are being bullied for believing in something they can’t see. He’s not going to illustrate the importance of faith without evidence by talking about someone who had a standing dinner date with God, right? Of course not. That would make no fucking sense.

Anyway, Noah metaphorically walks and talks with a God and gets detailed metaphorical instructions on this whole flood thing. Didn’t have any direct experiences of God that he could treat as evidence of his faith, but somehow got perfectly clear and comprehensible directions from him. Got it? Good.

Whit, storyteller extraordinaire, finally gets to the showing part of the story. He paints a vivid picture of Noah’s dinner with his wife, in which they are conflicted between the great honor of this task and the fear of what is to come.

Oh, sorry, I meant they talk react with the flippancy of a couple who has been volun-told to organize the PTA bake sale. And with painfully stereotypical New York Jew accents.

Whit says it took a hundred and twenty years to build the ark. Jack and Lucy gush for a while over the faith of this man, who got a blueprint from a guy he sees semi-regularly worked for someone who he had never seen. They are also impressed by his preparation for something that hasn’t happened yet, which… isn’t all preparation for something that hasn’t happened yet?

Then Whit talks about how Noah no doubt got teased for his beliefs too. Horrible persecution, like;

  1. People not taking his word on this whole repent-or-be-drowned thing.
  2. People finding this threat of imminent drowning a bit dickish and coercive.
  3. Being cited by health inspectors and animal rights activists for keeping animals on his place without proper facilities.
  4. Criticism from the boat-builders union.
  5. Police claiming he’s… double parked. I don’t know how that even works. I mean, there’s just the one ark. And it’s always portrayed as just hanging out on a hilltop, where there aren’t any other boats, just waiting for the flood waters to rise… You don’t build boats right there in the water, guys.

So yeah, damn these liberals and their regulations. Inconveniencing someone’s right to do whatever the fuck they want to is the worst evil we can think of! It’s exactly this kind of evil mayhem that gets the planet flooded.

Well, from here, you know the drill. Lots of water. Everyone dies. The ark floats, despite being built by non-union members. The waters subside after a while and Noah releases some birds to make sure everything’s safe. They still haven’t run out the clock quite enough, so everyone gushes about how much faith Noah had in someone he never-

okay, for fucks sake, enough of this! He “walked and talked” with God. You’ll insist we can’t teach evolution because the creation story has to be literal, but “walked with God” gets to be a metaphor because if Noah has actually seen God then his faith gets way less impressive.

Fuuuuuuck you.

Final ratings

Best bit: Feel free to call me biased, but I liked the parody liberals accidentally making good points.

Worst bit: Tough call, but I’m gonna go with the terrifying and manipulative opening story. Honorable mentions to the utter blandness of the Bible Room and the concept of a double-parked ark.

Story: A bit derivative of Utnapishtim, with a cloying frame device. D

Moral: “Faith always pays off, take my word for it!” F

Seven New Questions to Ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

If you’re a newscaster, and have been kept awake by the nagging feeling that there’s more going on in the nation than racist gaffs and emails, but have lost sight of what, this is for you. Apart from immigration, the political discussions have been remarkably short on politics. I’m not sure why. It’s not like the world today is short on, you know, actual issues. Yet for some reason you all seem to be reporting on this election with all the seriousness you would reserve for a reality TV show.

  1. With increased spread of the Zika virus and the previous Ebola outbreak, the spread of infectious diseases is clearly a major global concern. What will you do as president to combat pandemics?
  2. President Obama has established a policy of scientifically studying the effects of government programs, with the stated goal of only continuing ones that work and replacing those that don’t. Do you think this policy has been worthwhile? How would you evaluate the effectiveness of your own laws and programs?
  3. There has been much attention drawn to the problem of police shootings and particularly the disproportionate death of Black citizens at the hands of police. Very little, however, has been done to address this. Do you have a plan to tackle this problem?
  4. In rural areas, many are struggling to find the opportunities that America has traditionally promised. How would you meet the educational and vocational needs of this population?
  5. One of the most pressing concerns of young people today is the rising cost of college. Many feel trapped between jobs that can’t pay their rent and education they cannot afford; others must put off starting families for years while they pay off college debt. How would you address this problem?
  6. Now that gay marriage has become the law of the land, the next big battleground for LGBT rights seems to be transgender people in bathrooms. Do you side with those who would ban them from public restrooms, or those who would let them use whichever one they find most comfortable?
  7. Citizens of Flint, Michigan still struggle to provide their children with clean water. Many cities across the nation have lead pipelines that leave them vulnerable to a similar crisis. What is the most effective way to solve this problem?

Feel free to use these to interview the presidential candidates, their spokespeople, or research prior statements each campaign has made. The latter may be difficult, given the gossip rag tone your peers have collectively taken, but you never know. Occasionally the candidates will drop a crumb of substance, between apologizing for the seventy-eighth time for her private email server and promising to never do it again/using sentence fragments to sort everyone into “evil enemies to all that makes America great” or “sensible person who rightly recognizes my fabulous greatness and proves it by letting me do whatever the hell I want.”

Warning; this line of questioning might be called biased, because one of the candidates will have an easier time giving you straight answers than the other. The correct response is to repeat the question until you get a straight answer. If you don’t get it, it’s because somebody forgot to put on their grown-up pants today this month this election cycle ever.