Police Union Declares War vs Government

I probably don’t write nearly as many stories about fascist cops as I should, but today’s news is far, far too important to ignore. After a NYC cop was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a supportive message to twitter:

This was a premeditated assassination attempt against New York’s Finest. It was also an attack on ALL New Yorkers and everything we believe in. This MUST be a city where everyone can live in peace and respect. This individual attempted to destroy that. We will not let him win.

In response to this message, calling the killing an assassination and an attack on all New Yorkers, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association’s official twitter account responded with this:

Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you! We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!

It is stunning that a group of armed public servants would “declare war” against their own elected government. It’s hard even to think of appropriate commentary to respond at this point. While it’s probably only one or a very few NYPD sergeants were involved in the wording of this tweet, the head of the NYPD SBA has been reelected in the past after saying things nearly as horrible (or, hell, perhaps more horrible, I don’t follow the SBA carefully). At this point it’s clear that the SBA is dangerously biased toward conflict and violence. It’s hard to imagine any reform being successful short of firing them all.

A Dastardly Homosexual Conspiracy in Switzerland

Al Jazeera (among others) is reporting on a Swiss referendum to amend laws banning racist or religious public discrimination or “incitement to hatred” to include incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation. Switzerland is considerably backwards on issues of sexual orientation and struggles with how to address gender in public policy just as significantly (though in different ways) as, say, Italy and other neighbors. There is no general anti-discrimination law in Switzerland and the relationship between Canton governments and the federal government is not as independent as one will find in Canada’s provinces or the states of the USA (thought don’t ask me for more than that general characterization – Swiss law is far beyond me), which means that few cantons have strong anti-discrimination protections. Geneva enacted some, but only as recently as 2017.

This doesn’t mean that Swiss culture is more hostile to QTIs than other places in Europe. Rather, they have a constitutional structure that more generally protects against legal discrimination and laws against private sector discrimination are less used than in nearby countries and less reliant on specifying in statute particular classifications as off-limits in decisions regarding employment, housing, public accommodations, etc. General legal principles rather than specific protections have been thought to be enough.

Laws providing a very strong protection of freedom of association, for example, have been held out by legal scholars in Switzerland as sufficient to ban discrimination based on queer relationships. Yet these provisions are rarely actually used, and at least some reporting says that they are never or almost never used as the basis for a suit seeking remedy for discrimination based on sexual orientation. The provisions against public discrimination are intended to remedy this recent situation in which rights of association protect queer people in theory but not practice.

Switzerland, it seems, has been coasting on inertia. Actual queer fucking has been continuously legal in Switzerland since the 1940s while statutes making queer sex a felony in the US weren’t overturned until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. Other locations in Europe still criminalize queer sex. Distinctions like this allowed Switzerland to believe it was ahead of its peers and not in need of legislation addressing sexual orientation (much) in public policy. But as other jurisdictions in other nations have surpassed Switzerland over the past two decades in terms of guarantees of personal freedom in the areas of sex and relationships, the Swiss have come to believe that action is necessary.

Believe it or not, that does not include passing legislation permitting equal access to state-sanctioned marriage, but as of today it includes the amendment I referenced in the first paragraph. It has long been illegal in Switzerland to engage in “incitement to public hatred” on the basis of race of religion. These laws are designed to prevent what is sometimes labeled “stochastic terrorism” – non-violent persons encouraging others to perform violence without entering into any specific conspiracy. If one speaks sufficiently hatefully about a group to enough people over time, sooner or later words will reach someone who finds in them a justification to commit violence. This statistical certainty makes hate speech literally dangerous. In the United States it is still protected constitutionally, but the USA is an outlier on this issue and most democracies in Europe have some form of law against incitement to hatred, as do Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

For these countries, a decision has already been made about the extent to which speech is protected by the constitution, but even if the constitution does not protect such hate speech, it is still not against the law unless a specific statute bans it. That’s what this most recent referendum did. It took the existing statute and simply expanded the banned bases for incitement to hatred, adding sexual orientation to race and religion. In other words, the types of speech banned are not expanded, but the targets protected are expanded.

As in other laws of this type, straight people are protected equally against being singled out for being heterosexual as queer folk are for being queer. Nonetheless, since straight people have no idea what it’s like to be targeted for being straight, they tend to undervalue this protection and overvalue the freedom to denigrate all the big scary queerbos in their midst. Fortunately many straight people are overcoming this tendency and the referendum passed with 60.5% approval. But this referendum was only necessary because of that tendency.

In 2018 this amendment was originally passed by the Swiss parliament. The largest political party in Switzerland, the SVP, is a center-right to not-quite-far-right party. With the number of parties in a parliamentary system this doesn’t mean that they have a majority (far from it), but their plurality status gives them a large amount of power. Unable to block passage of the bill entirely, they instead forced it into limbo until it could be ratified by popular referendum. That happened today.

As you may imagine, the SVP were not pleased: SVP MP Eric Bertinat gave the quote of the day to Agence France-Presse when he said that the amendment to the incitement to hatred law was “part of an LGBT plan to slowly move towards same-sex marriage and IVF” for gay couples. (In countries where health care is a right and straight couples’ health benefits include assisted reproduction, many right wingers protest queer folk accessing the same benefits since they are not infertile, just perverted.) Other right-wingers were also unhappy, though not as unintentionally funny. Marc Frueh, and MP from a minor party of Christian conservatives known as the EDU stuck with characterizing it as a pro-censorship amendment.

The anti-discrimination provisions in the law are still somewhat weaker (if I understand them correctly) than similar provisions in US law. For instance, it may not protect against employment, housing, and lending discrimination unless the discrimination happens in a public way that tends to humiliate or denigrate the target. In this way it is similar to certain provisions of Canadian provincial Human Rights Codes that provide remedy for denial of human dignity that operates somewhat differently to statutory provisions that simply ban discrimination on specific bases. They also do not protect against discrimination or incitement to hatred on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

Still, this is a pretty big step for Switzerland. Who knows. Maybe Bertinat is correct and somewhere, someone is secretly plotting to someday legalize queer marriages in Switzerland. Quelle horreur.

 

Minnesota Gets It Right

Here’s a good use of state tax dollars for ya:

Minnesota just allocated nearly a million dollars in incentives for people to transform their lawns into bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses.

The state is asking citizens to stop spraying herbicide, stop mowing so often, and let their lawns re-wild into a more natural state.

The goal is to provide “food sources for pollinators of all kinds, but will specifically aim at saving the rusty patched bumblebee, a fat and fuzzy species on the brink of extinction

I reduced the size of the lawn when I owned my own single-detached home. I specifically replanted a good portion with wildflowers and scattered moss through a very large portion of the rest of the lawn. The moss is incredibly good in the PNW: it holds quite a lot of moisture, so the grass can’t grow very fast (and rarely goes to seed), but it also can’t dry out too much because there’s a point where the balance tips and the grass is dry enough it can steal water from the moss instead of the other way round.

Moss doesn’t work everywhere, and neither do prairie plants, but looking for the plants native to your area before human development and planting them can make your land (should you have any) more beautiful and lower-maintenance. Sure, it might mean that less area is available for soccer or picnics, but is that what you were using the yard for before? And are there no nearby parks in which to do those things? At my old house, I was one block away from a manicured city park with lots and lots of grass. There was no need to keep any at my house. (I really did so only because of local laws that at the time prohibited natural yardscapes b/c neighbors were worried about their lawns getting weeds from untended properties.

Representative Ayanna Pressley: Naked Courage

Ayanna Pressley has just released a video through The Root about losing her hair over the last 6 months as a result of alopecia areata.  This is a screenshot from that video:

Representative Ayanna Pressley goes bald in public for the first time.

I’ve written about Black hair before, but seriously, this is a doozy of a topic. It’s hard for white people to understand just how political Black women’s hair can be, even though we’re often the ones doing the politicizing (e.g. her hair isn’t professional, is she trying to be militant? etc.).

So right now, I’ll just say this.

The first Black woman I ever seriously dated had sickle cell trait-related alopecia. She wore a wig constantly – nice looking one, too – but was apparently freaked that I might “discover” she had very little, very short, and very patchy hair on her head. In the dark she took off her wig while I was in the bathroom. I came back and found her sitting straight up, rigidly, instead of relaxing on the bed. I could tell there was something different about her silhouette, too, though it took my eyes a little bit to refocus. By the time I sat down on the bed next to her, she was almost shaking.

For the Black women who have this, this is a huge deal with a lot of shame attached. [I am, of course, not saying that’s how it should be, just saying that that is how it actually is right now.] It took a fuckload of courage for that girlfriend to expose her natural hair to me, one on one and in the dark after I had already clearly expressed my affection for her and attraction to her.

It’s remembering that woman quivering with fear on my bed in the dark that makes me qualified to say, Pressly, you’re a straight-up BadAss.

Go watch the video. It’s under ten minutes, and you won’t regret it.

Thirty-Eight

Well, today the Virginia legislature ratified the ERA, making it the 38th state to have done so. This does not mean that the ERA will be immediately effective. There are two major problems confronting ERA proponents (including me, natch).

First, 5 states that ratified the ERA have since passed acts that purport to rescind their ratification. While this is a barrier, I don’t judge this a particularly high hurdle to clear. There simply is no mechanism in the constitution that discusses, much less actually permits, a state that has ratified an amendment to take that ratification back. The constitutional process simply demands that a state ratifies it. Once a state has done so, it has done so. Anything after that is likely (but not certainly) constitutionally irrelevant.

Of course, a right-leaning judiciary might still attempt to hang up ratification on that point, but since it’s pretty flimsy and in pretty flagrant conflict with the actual constitutional text, so-called originalists would prefer to have another hook on which to hang their argument that the ERA cannot be put into effect. As it so happens, they do. That’s the second barrier: the ERA as written is simple and includes no deadline, but passage of the ERA was accompanied by text that gave the states only a limited amount of time to ratify, after which the amendment would be presumed not ratifiable. This deadline was extended once, but not again, and according to the accompanying text (as amended) time to ratify passed in 1982.

Now, the constitution also does not specify that Congress may limit the time period during which states may consider ratification, but this argument has decidedly more sympathy than the any argument that states might be able to “take back” ratification. After all, if they can take back ratification, there is no obvious reason that they can’t take back ratification of an amendment already in effect. This could potentially reducing the amendment to support levels below the threshold needed to bring the amendment into force. At that point, what would happen? Repeal of an in-force amendment? What if a single state repeals their ratification of the 9th amendment? Since there were only 13 states at the time, and only 10 required to put the amendment into effect, rescinded ratification by one state could result in a need to ratify by 26-29 states to restore the amendment’s force. All these reasons make it unlikely that even die-hard conservatives hell bent on defeating the ERA would rely much on the rescinded ratification argument when they have any other argument to make.

So it seems likely that whether or not the ERA becomes effective on Jan 15, 2022 will be dependent on whether courts agree or disagree with the argument that Congress has the power to include accompanying text limiting the ratification window.

Of course, what seems more likely to me is that ratification by a 38th state will put new pressure on Congress to pass a new amendment textually identical to the ERA so that states can then ratify the new version, and that that new pressure will be successful within fewer than 10 years. At that point, we will have 33 relatively easy ratifications. To gain the other 5 might be easier than people think, but won’t necessarily be easy in any absolute sense. It’s arguably true that at least some of the reason why the 12 states never to ratify have not more recently changed their minds is because the question of the ERA was considered irrelevant by most. With a new window for passage and an enthusiastic base of women pushing for passage, it will likely be much harder for a state’s conservatives to effectively oppose ratification in the 10 years after a new ERA passes than in the 10 years leading up to today.

Nothing is guaranteed, and neither sex nor gender equality is yet enshrined in the US constitution, but Jan 15, 2020 should still be remembered as a day to celebrate. Reaching 38 is a very important victory.

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…]

More Geek Than

MORE GEEK THAN

Fortran!

Foot on the dancepad
Gunnin’ down BigBad
Playin arcade ports with a spacebar and trackpad
My hobbies aren’t hobbies
Galaxy of blue milk
Cosplay and comics and fanfics and filk
Translocation
To the orbiting station
That’s no moon it’s a holodeck vacation

Itchy trigger finger
But i’m trusting the force
kill the targeting computer
I’m aiming for the ports
I’m past the future
It’s no two thousand and one
Mini robot with an app gonna get me done
While you’re at the bottom of the gravity well
Geeky Girls fly Alcubierre
superluminal.

MORE GEEK THAN

Another game
addicted brain
this level’s driving me insane
Another bot
Another mod
A photoshop of General Zod

This update is shaky
The programmers are nuts
Cuz they’re drinking free caffeine with no healthcare until they bust

never-ending overtime
you code around the clock
you won’t make it seven years
til YOU run amok

Devs are burning through programmers like we’re running out of style
CEOs are getting paid
So it’s worth THEIR while

The fans are throwing fits on all official fora
Cuz the game just calls it quits or says Talas is from Andorra
The Rabid Puppies riot, say the Hugo’s in the tank
But NK Jemisin is laughin to the bank

MoreGeekThan

More. Geek. Than Fortran.
More. Geek. Than Fortran.

Ain’t seen the stars since we went to warp
Been so long, now Tasha Yar is Worf!

Programmed my own enhancements
in C + +
but a bug is overflowin’
the data bus
like untested nested code
I’m very unstable
I repeat things line by line until I’m unable
I repeat things line by line until I’m unable
If report then else next line until I drop tables

Step off Borg
Get out of my way
Got my Raspberry Pi from NewEgg today!
Waking up
Before I get to sleep
‘Cause Imma soldering circuits eight days a week!

MoreGeekThan

More. Geek. Then Fortran!
More. Geek. Then Fortran!
More. Geek. Then Fortran!
More. Geek. Then Fortran!

More. Geek. Than Fortnite.
More. Geek. Than Tetris.
More. Geek. Than Zelda.
More. Geek. Than Unix.

More. Geek. Then Fortran!