Do Not Try To Understand Me

Empathy is at the core of justice. Without an ability to place oneself in another’s situation, it would be hard for us to criminalize many activities that we now do. Pyramid schemes, for example. The create the appearance of opportunity and the appearance of voluntary participation in the enterprise in pursuit of opportunity. But the opportunity is not, in fact, present. A justice without empathy would lead us to tolerate pyramid schemes (far more than we do). It is this exact sort of justice without empathy, without the ability of the men responsible for enforcing law and creating justice to imagine themselves in the situation of the victim, that is responsible for millennia of rape going unpunished and often unrecognized. Indeed it is only as women have taken a greater and greater role in enforcing law and creating justice that these rapes become cognizable by a system of justice, punishable by a system of laws.

Empathy is both necessary and good.

Understanding, however, is not necessary and it is too often not even good.

[Read more…]

Gender Neutrality is Wrong … Sometimes

Okay, so this is a quick note for those folks who aren’t completely turned off by pedantry and appreciate thinking more deeply about gender. If you ain’t both, this probably isn’t for you.

When “gender neutral” was first used in the context of trans* advocacy, access to bathrooms was probably a driving motivator of the language. In this sense, “gender neutral” is reasonable: the bathrooms themselves might easily have little to nothing to do with gender, including (importantly) things that humans tend to project gender on to even when they are not in any way associated with any particular human. So “Gender neutral” began largely communicating the idea of having no gendered connotations whatsoever – the sense we’ll use for the rest of this brief note. Bathrooms in the home are generally gender neutral in this sense, though we could certainly make a bathroom communicate femininity or masculinity by decorating it in particular ways. Still, when one tenant moved out, presumably those gender signifiers would also go: so, at least intellectually, we can separate the gender neutral bathroom from the gendered decor.

[Read more…]

The libs who cried wolf: a cautionary tail

Unreasonable libs: “Wolf!”

Reasonable centrist: “Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. But he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. Give it time”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf, but he ran on being an outsider and disclosing code-word intelligence to the Russians and hiring a literal, actual foreign agent as National Security Advisor, well, that’s pretty outsider-stuff. No insider would do that. But it’s still the first 100 days, give him a chance to become presidential.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. And it is bad for the country and bad for democracy when he calls innocent people traitors, labels the press “enemies of the people” and makes himself synonymous with the country and, by extension, his personal interests synonymous with the country’s interests. But he told us he’s not the usual politician, so he’s just being true to his nature. No need to get worked up.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. He’s racked up a history of dishonesty unparalleled in US political history. But with that canine brain I don’t think he even actually understands that he’s lying. He just says he’s grandma to get a better chance to eat you, or because his wolf-nature doesn’t understand normal human communication and social reality. We can’t hold that against him, can we? It’s not like he’s maliciously lying.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. He’s definitely abused his office and committed offenses that are surely comparable to those that sparked Nixon’s impeachment, but I got to tell you, you never learned the lesson of that story, ‘The boy who cried wolf’ did you? We would have been able to remove him from office if you hadn’t gone and sacrificed your credibility crying ‘Wolf!’ repeatedly for three years.”

 

 

Travis Pangburn: Chickenhawk

Travis Pangburn, as PZ has brought to local attention, is interested in orchestrating a “war of ideas”. Yet, like the numerous “chickenhawks” of the USA right-wing who constantly advocate the nation commits acts of war while avoiding ever serving in the military, Pangburn seems to flee from those wars when they might involve him fighting on the front lines. One interesting manifestation of this is the strong possibility (examine the evidence for yourself) that Pangburn uses sock puppets to stick up for him, rather than arguing his case himself. But really, the entire thread over on Pharyngula about Pangburn’s latest project is at least as illuminating.

[Read more…]

On the anniversary of École Polytechnique: Speaking of things that do not surprise

So I just wrote about the roots of École Polytechnique and how responsibility for such a crime is widely shared. But I thought I would tack on a few stories that I noticed today that I feel are particularly noticeable on this day of all days. I only have two in mind right now, but I’ll add to the list over the course of the day as I notice other stories.

[Read more…]

Utah Criminal Code Chapter 9 §702-5

This is a delightful little statute. It bans “Lewdness involving a child” within the state of Utah.

I quote:

A person is guilty of lewdness involving a child if the person under circumstances not amounting to rape of a child, object rape of a child, sodomy upon a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses, intentionally or knowingly:
(a) does any of the following in the presence of a child who is under 14 years of age:
(i) performs an act of sexual intercourse or sodomy;
(ii) exposes his or her genitals, the female breast below the top of the areola, the buttocks, the anus, or the pubic area:
(A) in a public place; or
(B) in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child;

…(iii and iv omitted)

I’m going to pare this down for you a bit:

A person is guilty of lewdness involving a child if the person [does not commit or attempt to commit a more serious sexual crime, but]:

(a) does any of the following in the presence of a child who is under 14 years of age:

(ii) exposes the female breast below the top of the areola

(B) in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child;

Got that? Exposing a female breast in the presence of a child, while in a private place, is a crime if anyone will “likely” feel affronted or alarmed.

Interesting little statute there. I’m sure it would never be abused by any misogynistic prosecutors in the United States. Especially not in a state as friendly as Utah, for Mormon Heaven’s sake! No, I’m sure that they would reserve it for egregious behavior like …

Tilli Buchanan, 27, … and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage and had taken off their shirts that were itchy from the fibers, she told The Salt Lake Tribune.

When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,”

Well there was that consequential condition on the actus reus that involved some sort of distress. This doesn’t sound like quite enough to …

The charges were filed after the children’s mother told that authorities she was “alarmed”

Ah. So a mom hates her ex’s new wife enough that she got her arrested on charges of “lewdness” because she was doing the exact same thing as the ex (removing clothes itchy from drywall contamination), something that anyone might do in their own home. That makes more sense. Gotta protect the kids from seeing their step-mom’s boobies. At least the punishment should be proportionate given the wisdom of the Utah legislature and its…

If convicted, Buchanan faces imprisonment [for a maximum of 364 days – cd], fines up to $2,500 and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

DAMN. Well, at least exposing your nipple in your own house isn’t a felo…

Lewdness involving a child is a third degree felony if at the time of the violation:

… (ii) the person has previously been convicted of a violation of this section.

So children walking in on you while your top is off in your own home is a misdemeanor the first time. The second time it happens, you can be punished

 by an indeterminate prison term of up to five years, and a fine of as much as $5,000 [oh, and by the by, they make your sex offender registration permanent].

Well. I guess that is serious. They’ll probably lose their house too, with no one out of prison to work and pay the mortgage…

Though her husband was similarly clad, he was not charged with a crime.

But… but…

Fuckit. Utah, you are fucking horrible.

 

 

 

AI Sportsball: Release the Kraken!

One or both of my readers my remember my long time fondness for the work of Dr. Janelle Shane, an optical physicist who delights in exploring the capabilities and limitations of neural networks – computer systems that attempt to identify what certain words or images have in common and then generate novel members of the inferred set. While she has used neural networks for many delightful things, this week she has literally used it to release the Kraken!

[Read more…]

Fascist Policing: Crushing the homeless starts with crushing their wheelchairs

There are problems everywhere in the US relating to homelessness. The first and biggest problem is that so many people don’t have any fucking home. But of course there are subsidiary problems: if someone has no home, they also have no place to go to the bathroom for a good number of hours out of every 24. They don’t have their own garbage service, leading them to leave trash behind and/or to place their own trash in the dumpsters and cans which other people pay to have emptied (other people who then feel “robbed” by paying for the removal of garbage not their own).  Then there’s also the fact that sometimes people just need privacy, and without a place to take that privacy territorial fights can break out. After all, when we most need privacy is by definition when we can least resolve conflicts with others peacefully and well. Homelessness then leads to more conflict that can cost others enjoyment of their own neighborhoods as well as more actual assaults, which results in costs for policing, jailing, and prosecuting more people who simply would never have committed a crime if they just had a door they could close behind them so that they could be alone for a bit.

[Read more…]