It’s Foolish to Think of the Saving of Obamacare is a Victory

Many Democrats are celebrating this morning the defeat of the Republican’s attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. What the hell are Americans celebrating?

I’m an American expat working for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. I’ve been a health care provider in the US system for 29 years, before coming to the UK. If you’re a citizen here, you get healthcare that’s free at the point of service. It’s true, your hospital may not have:

hospitals

  • a football field
  • a swimming pool
  • a basketball court
  • a grand piano

But you do get good quality health care.  That’s my opinion as a provider, and as a patient.

hospitalstay

 

But that’s not just my  opinion, it’s a fact. Health care in the UK costs less and has better outcomes than the USA.

You’ll have US politicians speaking out of both sides of their mouth. They’ll stand there flag waving saying America is the greatest country in the world, while saying America can’t afford to do what the rest of the civilized world already provides for its citizens. They’ll say this while spending more on defense than China, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Japan, France, India, Iraq, Australia, Brazil, Israel, and the United Kingdom combined (and Donald Trump wants to spend 54 billion dollars more).

Since September 11, 2001 the United States has spent 4.79 TRILLION dollars on two wars and the so called “battle on Islamic terrorism.” If you’re an American citizen, do you feel safer? Do you feel like the world is a safer place making that kind of investment?

If you’re celebrating Obamacare, you’re like this guy:

nobike

He might be happy that he’s got a car to drive, but he’s still driving a clunker.

Now that’s not to say say that the NHS is perfect. It’s underfunded and stressed, but what do the people being served by it fear? They fear the NHS becoming something that mirrors the US health care system.

I understand why people are relieved that the health care they have now won’t be taken away, but celebrate? Being screwed over a little less is no reason to celebrate. This should be a wake up call, not a party.

Thinking About Safe Spaces, Dawkins, and Intersection of Privilege and Atheism

The genesis of this post is from a comment I left on The Thinking Atheist Podcast page. The host, Seth Andrews, invited various people on his podcast to talk about “Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces.” One of the guests was Bill Ligertwood, a conference organizer with the Imagine No Religion conference

So here’s where I come from. I’m a white trans woman. I’m middle class. I went to college before transition and have a decent life making decent money. I don’t worry for much in terms of material things. I lived and grew up in a culture that was mainly white (my grandfather was a Klansman). I never met another transgender person (the opposite of transgender is cisgender) until after I transitioned. Being a trans woman, I was male identified at birth. Up to the point of transition, I’d been enmeshed in men’s culture. Positionally in terms of socialisation, I was seen as a member of “white cis bro culture.”

Living in Indiana, I was one of those “libertarian” Republicans that believed life was a level playing field and that if you just applied yourself, you’d succeed. This wasn’t a belief I had tested or reasoned, it was just a feeling I had. Back then, talk of privilege wasn’t something that was commonplace in my circle of friends. I certainly didn’t spend any of my time thinking about it. When I transitioned, I lost cisgender, heterosexual and male privilege and had to actually confront the loss of something I didn’t think existed.

So when I’m talking about “white cis bro culture”, it’s essentially a discussion about white, cisgender, heterosexual, male privilege. It’s not just displayed at atheist conferences, but in the atheist community as a whole.

The last atheist conference I attended was the Secular Women‘s conference, but for the most part I stay way the away from conferences because it’s rife with white cis-het bro culture.

I don’t go to conferences that will invite Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Lawrence Krauss as guests. Not because I have a problem with their skepticism, but a problem with their displays (Shermer, Dawkins, Krauss, Harris) of sexism/misogyny/islamophobia.

From the interview:

Andrews: “You wanted to weigh in on this because you have an opinion, a perspective. You approached me and said ‘I want to talk about the challenges that I’m facing in this culture when it comes to conference organisation.’ You’re finding it harder to do what you do, in what you might call an ‘offence culture.” A ‘taking offence’ culture. You want to flesh that out for me?”

Ligertwood: “Yea, sure. Well, we’re talking about safe spaces, and what we’re trying to do, obviously, at a conference is create one. We’re trying to create a safe space for people of our persuasion. In other words, unbelievers, atheists, what have you, a place where they can come and not be worried about someone finding out, ot worried about someone that’s going to take a strip off them because they’re not believers. So that’s, first of all that’s what I think we’re trying to do. What makes that really difficult now is that it doesn’t seem to take much to make it is that actually quite safe, unsafe just because somebody takes offence to something that one of the speakers said once in a tweet or whatever, years ago, months ago, days ago, hours ago, it doesn’t really matter. It just seems like people take offence to almost anything these days and it seems like once you go off the path, once you go stray from the dogma, which is what I thought we were all interested in doing, is straying from the dogma. But once you stray from this new dogma, you’re in the out group. People will boycott our event. People will boycott anything you’re at are because you said something or someone said something about you and it’s instantly, yeah, the safe spaces isn’t safe anymore, so people won’t come.”

Taking that apart, I read that as:

“Just because Dawkins made sexist comments with ‘Muslima,’ people shouldn’t boycott our conference if we invite him.”

First off, boycott is a form of free speech. Secondly, dogma is used incorrectly here by Ligertwood. According to Merriam-Webster, dogma is:

  • 1. a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds

  • 2. a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

It seems like Ligertwood is using 1a and c in reference to his point. Fleshing that out in the context of Dawkin’s Muslima comments makes no sense. What is the dogma here? Is it the “new dogma” to acknowledge sexist tweets of thought leaders in the atheist/skeptic movement?

There’s an underlying message that Dawkins is a magic man with knowledge so unique, it can only be gained by listening to him. That may have been true in 1975, but it isn’t now. I’ve stated before that there seems to be a Jeckyll and Hyde side to Dawkins. There’s the brilliant evolutionary biologist who wrote “The Selfish Gene.” But then there’s the crotchety old grandpa who will tell you that sexism isn’t that bad because muslim women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive, or that “mild pedophilia” isn’t harmful. Attendance at a conference (or buying of a book of his for that matter), supports both his Jeckyll and his Hyde.

I don’t buy cakes from bakers who won’t make wedding cakes for gay men for the same reason (no matter how delicious they are). That isn’t a rejection of the baker’s confectionary skill, but their bigotry. There are plenty of other “bakers” in the atheist community that aren’t sexist, that I can (and do) give my time/audience with/money to.

Ligertwood seems to be angry that people will “boycott” his conference because of “tweets.” He seems angry that another person’s free speech (boycott) will make his job of conference organizing harder. Given that conferences generally cost to attend and are not mandatory, I’m not sure where his beef is with me exercising my own free will over my own pocketbook. Yes I’m an atheist, but I value my own time, talent, and treasure enough to take it to places and spaces that value me. Mr Ligertwood won’t have to worry about catering to me for his conference. I’ll stick with listening to my favorite atheist podcasts (The Thinking Atheist, The Atheist Experience) , reading Greta Christina, and supporting people involved with Secular Women. That’s as far as I’ll dip my toes in the atheist community, because I don’t have to do any more than that. Support isn’t something atheist communities or conferences are owed.

Atheists are a marginalised community, even though it’s hard for many cis white men to comprehend. The only thing I can work out with Ligertwood is that his frustration might stem from his own privilege.There is such a thing as “Christian privilege” and those things impact atheist’s lives.  This is truth is hard for white cisgender men who have never had to face up and acknowledge their own privilege in other areas. Would Ligertwood be against atheists who refuse to shop at Hobby Lobby or eat Chick-fil-A? Boycotts are a powerful change agent. But Ligertwood’s words seems to express that old saying that “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

Bernie or Meh, The Clinton Path to Defeat

#BernieOrMeh #ImWithMeh
#IllVote4Her Bernie or Meh, Clinton’s Path to Defeat

I’ll say it up front, I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter that:

  • thinks Sanders has a very narrow path to the nomination (almost impossible).
  • will vote for Clinton if she’s the nominee.
  • thinks Democrats and the Clinton campaign are setting themselves up for a massive defeat in the fall.

The Democratic Party seems to want to have a fight with Bernie Sanders. Today’s post from the Hill:

Bernie’s not a Democrat. What are we worried about? Why would Bernie want to play nice?” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). “I’m just saying if a person doesn’t even want to conform to be Democratic, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘OK, all of a sudden you have to do all these things.’ ”

Sanders isn’t a Democrat? Huh. I guess then they didn’t count him as a Democrat from 2008-2010? He wasn’t a Democrat when Obamacare passed by 1 vote? The reality of this election cycle is that to win, Hillary Clinton supporters need Sanders supporters. Sanders may not be a Democrat, but a very large portion of HIS SUPPORTERS ARE.

There are no super-delegates in the November general election. Clinton my be on the verge of clinching the nomination of the Democratic Party, but she may also be heading for a massive defeat in the fall.

Trump could just rerun Obama’s 2008 ad:

The ad said:

“The Washington Post says Clinton isn’t telling the truth. […]

“But it was Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Tom Brokaw, who quote ‘paid tribute’ to Ronald Reagan’s economic and foreign policy. She championed NAFTA –- even though it has cost South Carolina thousands of jobs. And worst of all, it was Hillary Clinton who voted for George Bush’s war in Iraq.

“Hillary Clinton. She’ll say anything, and change nothing. It’s time to turn the page. Paid for by Obama for America.”

Since 1994 Ohio has lost 320,000 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was enacted. You can argue whether or not those job losses were from NAFTA, but what I don’t think is arguable is how effective a talking point it is in states that have been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs.

If Trump keeps hammering Clinton on her support of NAFTA and the Iraq War, while stoking anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, he has a very good shot at becoming the next President of the United States.

Clinton and the Democratic establishment aren’t going to win over Sanders voters by falsely labeling them as violent. They won’t win Sanders voters over by painting Sanders as a lonely outsider, effectively aligning his voters out in the cold with him. Say 2/3 of Sanders voters do vote for Clinton, and most Republicans vote for Trump? Trump would win Pennsylvania and Ohio. Clinton’s ahead in the polls in Florida by 1 percentage point.  I have a  question for establishment Democrats. How’d that whole letting Florida decide the election in 2000 work out for you?
 

Iain Lee, Tabloid Media, and What Racism Means

If you follow me on social media or on this blog,  you’ll know I’m a fan of talk radio. I found a new talk show network forming in the UK called TalkRadio, so I gave their shows a listen. One of the shows in particular caught my ear. Iain Lee hosts a show on the network that I’ve come to really enjoy listening to. I even sent him an email telling him (and have told his producer in tweets) on how much I like the show. Lee seems  to be a very honest host that really puts his heart and vulnerability into his show/art.

The last few days Lee has been under attack by British media for supposedly being racist. Lee was on a game show (for charity) and this happened:

Lee defended himself quite well on Monday’s show (May 2, 2016), saying that he thought the girls where in a corner-shop and it was nothing more than that.

On Tuesday night’s show, a caller phoned in to engage with Lee concerning what is referred to as casual racism. I found his treatment of this caller to be rude, and dismissive. He wouldn’t let the caller get his point across, and even used the dictionary argument.  Going on a radio show as a caller always puts the the caller at a disadvantage. The radio presenter always has control over the call and the conversation, and I felt Lee was harsh and refused to listen to what the caller was saying.

Casual racism isn’t always something the person engaging in it even knows they’re doing. Everyone has implicit biases, and sometimes those biases cause us to engage in behavior that we’re not even aware of. He posted after the show on Twitter that the earlier caller had made the observation that black people can’t be racist:

Actual tweets at Storify

FireShot Capture 46 - Editing 'Iain Lee Show _ - https___editor.storify.com_57294eca936b6de4593cf642

The natural response when being called out on pretty much anything in life is a reflexive denial. White people (cisgender heterosexual males) especially don’t like being called racist. Even overt racists don’t think or say they’re racist. But I wasn’t even SAYING Lee is a racist. I was critical of his treatment of someone that was trying to explain casual racism to him.  By criticizing him for his rude treatment of a caller, supporters of Lee have accused me of cyber-bullying.

FireShot Capture 47 - Editing 'Iain Lee Show _ - https___editor.storify.com_57294eca936b6de4593cf642

Even though as soon as Lee asked me to stop tweeting him, I did, I’m a bully. I do understand how difficult it is for white people to hear something they said or did might be racist. I learned this the hard way. I wrote a blog post  in which I typed out the “N” word fully. Soon after I was taken to task by people of colour. I had to listen, because as a white person myself, I’m not the arbiter of what is, or is not,  racist.

For many white people being called racist is something akin to being called a child abuser or a rapist in terms of the public shame. Casual racism isn’t using the N word or lynching someone, it’s a hell of a lot more subtle than that. My issue wasn’t with Lee’s game show performance, but his dismissal and rude treatment of someone that called him on his privilege or the possibility that he MIGHT have been casually racist. As a friend of mine said of Lee’s reaction, it’s as if someone stepped on your foot and the following conversation ensued:

Me: “Excuse me, I believe you just stepped on my foot.”
Them: “ARE YOU CALLING ME A CLUMSY MONSTER??”
Them: “ARE YOU SAYING NOBODY EVER STEPPED ON MY FOOT??”
Them: “IT’S CROWDED GET OVER IT!”
Me: “But you’re still standing on my foot.”

Regardless, I wish nothing but the best for Lee. Lee stated that he has blocked me because he’s struggling with depression. I hope he feels better soon.

 

 

Sassy On Tech: Fitbit Blaze, Garmin VivoSmart HR, and the Dying Charge HR

Recently my Fitbit Charge-HR fell apart. It started with the side button disappearing/falling off. The charging cover proceeded to fall off, making it unusable. I was irritated that the Fitbit fell apart just after a year of use. So I decided to Give the Garmin Vivosmart-HR a shot. I based the purchase on seeing this review:


It seemed to mirror the Charge-HR in terms of features. I did like the screen. It’s flawless in the sun or bright light. But I’m a night shift worker and my bedroom is blacked out, so I need to be able to see the screen in a very dark room. The Vivosmart HR fails under darkened room conditions.

That was annoying, but what had me return the device was the sleep tracking feature. I’ve been spoiled with the Fitbit’s automatic sleep tracking. As a night shift worker, it makes me very aware of how much sleep I’m getting and when I’m getting it. If I took a nap before work, the Fitbit caught it automatically. With the Garmin device, you have to set times for it to record your sleep patterns. I took a nap before work (outside the set sleep times) and the device totally missed recording it.

Read the rest over on Sassy on Tech

James O’Brien on Jeremy Corbyn: “I Believe in Faeries”

Listening to the podcast of the Thursday edition of LBC’s James O’Brien’s radio show, I was surprised that he’d admit that he might be wrong about The Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Previously he’d said that Corbyn supporters were akin to people who “believed in faeries.”  He’s repeatedly said that Corbynites were not pragmatic, that Corbyn isn’t electable, and the end of the Labour Party was near if he wasn’t put down.

Then came the Oldham West and Royton by-election on Thursday (December 3rd, 2015):

_87033653_oldham_vote_624

Now O’Brien is starting to ask if all the media is wrong about Corbyn.

I don’t think that the British public has had a change of heart since the national election in May. Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership mandate because people are looking for an opposition party.  Corbyn voted against the Iraq War and he’s anti-austerity,

In the USA many people support Bernie Sanders, for the same reason that many people in the UK support Corbyn. Blair/Brown’s “New Labour”  party of the 00’s moved the Party to more centrist right corporatist party in the same way that “New Democrats” transformed the Democratic Party in the 90’s  in the USA.

It’s hard to tell if this revolution in politics will be sustained or win elections in the coming years, but as per normal the revolution will NOT be televised.