Dress Rehearsal

The Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 was a rehearsal for the Nazi takeover of 1933. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a trial balloon for the 2001 attack.

This week’s terrorist attack on the Washington Capitol Complex by white supremacists is also a dress rehearsal, a stress test. The terrorists came with weapons, body armor, Confederate flags, neo-Nazi regalia, and zip ties to take prisoners. If decisive action is not taken, policy enacted, and lessons learned, in a few years we will see another far more effective decapitation attack on the U.S. Government and more importantly on the institution of democracy itself.

Right now, we progressive are laughing nervously because trump finally lost his social media access with less than two weeks to go in his presidency, and because an idiot tasered himself in the balls while looting the Capitol. And yes, it’s worth a giggle of relief, but we’d better get back to the business of securing democracy pronto.

This was a joint session of Congress, where every elected representative and the Vice President are in one place. The terrorists won’t miss twice.

Trump supporters wave American and Confederate flags at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.
Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters, used without permission.

Bubble Update

The last two months have not improved the bubble status, on the contrary. As before, the position of the bubble shows how high the incidence rate is, and the diameter of the bubble shows you how deadly it has been, and I highlighted China and Canada for reference.

Again, the United States’ bubble is far higher up (i.e., more cases proportionally to its population than any other reported country) and far larger than any other country (i.e., more deaths). In laymen’s terms, American exceptionalism at its most conspicuous: the richest and largest under-developed country. We are so screwed.

Confinement Days

So far, 2020 has been scary and draining. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have been under a shelter-in-place order for eight weeks, and I miss seeing my friends.

On the other hand, like most people I’ve been trying to reach out to distant friends through calls and, in our case, online games.

Pop! goes the bubble

I just had my daily tour of COVID-19 data visualizations. Playing with the WHO data explorer shows what a dire lack of preparation the US demonstrated. In this screen cap, the x-axis is the population, the y-axis is the cumulative number of cases and the size of the bubble indicate the number of cumulative deaths for all reporting countries.

So the position of the bubble shows how high the incidence rate is, with the US floating waaaayyyy above everyone else and the diameter of the bubble shows you how deadly it has been , with the US waaaayyyy larger than even the big bubbles for Italy, Spain, France, Iran, or the UK. And I highlighted China and Canada for reference.

For added horror, clicking the “Play” button on the WHO site lets you visualize this over time, where you can see the US balloon inflating and rising.

G+ Exodus

Rolling the social media dice…

As Google turns off the lights on Google+, looking for a new place to hang on social media increasingly feels like shopping for clothes. You know how men’s shopping is generally simpler because they just need to make sure they pick the right type, size, and colour, while women also have to deal with unreliable size information, poorly made items, low-quality materials, and whether the damn thing will have pockets? Unlike clothes, social media are not built differently for women; instead, they are built for cis het white tech bros under the pretense that one size fits all.

If he’s in the target demographics, even the most ally of allies can find a replacement home without too much trouble. There are several options and the questions boil down to: “Do they have the feature and interface I find most comfortable?” and “Are a good number of my friends going to be there?”

If you’re a woman and/or from a numbers of marginalized communities (people of colour, of different gender or orientation, disabled, etc.), it’s probably not that simple. And the more your identities differ from peak privilege, the more difficult it is to rebuild a social media network in a new spot. Your privacy, safety, and security are much more threatened, and it’s much more likely to see your friends and peers vanish in the exodus.

On G+, I had built a geek and STEM network of over 400 women, enby, and other people who do not identify as cis men. I’m about to loose at least 85% of it

Surprise

We’ve spent over six decades trying to convince ourselves that the rise of the Third Reich and the resulting WWII was a perfect storm due to unique conditions that could only happen once. That the next time, we’d know better and Nazis and fascists would never be allowed to rise to power again. Well guess what? Perfect storms do happen more than once.
Ordinary, banal evil flared to the most profound evil humans are capable of back in the 1930s, and ordinary, banal evil people are perfectly comfortable going back there right now. Why should we be surprised that they will recoil at no evil actions? They didn’t then, they don’t now. What should surprise us is that the rest of us–the people who don’t plan on any cruelties and don’t deny the full humanity of refugees, or trans persons, or immigrants, or people of colour, or women–tolerate the banal evil and normalise it and allow it to be part of the common discourse.

Racism I Can Do Without: Low-hanging fruit for the white ally

OK, Ramanan S pointed out to me that we have not had significant discussions of race in tabletop roleplaying games since The Thing last year. I take that as an indicator of the chilling effect, but nonetheless it’s not a good excuse. We need to talk, and even more so we need to act.

This is not a post to examine the root causes and come up with an overarching plan to eliminate racism, tokenism, erasure, etc. I can’t be the one to tell you all about race problems in the tabletop gaming community. I’m not on the receiving end, and my white privilege means I will, by definition, not be able to see all the instances.

But there are some things that are obvious enough that we can see them, and react to them, as white allies and tabletop gamers. I can speak about what I do see, and what I can do about it.  Continue reading “Racism I Can Do Without: Low-hanging fruit for the white ally”

Two Minutes’ Reflection

Wading for Your Dues

All right, let’s roll up our pant cuffs and put on our rubber boots, we’re going wading in last year’s sludge.

Last year, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) regarding perceived abuse between two sub-communities of gaming, focusing respectively on OSR and story games. A few days later, Mark followed up with a FAQ explaining his position in more detail.

At the time I posted my reactions to these, to the damage that resulted, and to the separate answer Mark had given me. The thing that made me blow my top at the time was this:

I’d love to talk with you more about how this is playing out Sophie. I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road. This week has been hard, but I believe that many of the conversations I’ve seen have the potential to blossom into something productive. That said, I hear you! And I’m eager to discuss more and listen more.

What angered me was that people who had been hurt by Mark’s posts were essentially told: “Wait another three to twelve months, maybe something good will come out of it and make the harassment your received worth my while.”  Continue reading “Two Minutes’ Reflection”

Atwood read the blueprint

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. [Don’t let the bastards grind you down.]
— Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaids have entered the Texas legislature.
Nan L. Kirkpatrick‏ @nanarchist Mar 20:
The Handmaids have entered the #txlege. #sb415 #fightbacktx pic.twitter.com/Fpa9cNGHR0

The rate at which proposed  regulation, crafted by the American Far (“Christian”) Right, targets women’s most basic rights has been accelerating over the last several years. Bills that used to be outlandishly unthinkable are now commonplace, what with the Republican Party having wholly embraced the right-wing fringe, especially in its Dominionist flavour.

A protest against proposed draconian restrictions on abortion last week at the Texas legislature was only the most recent to draw parallels with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel about an ultra-Christian future of gender-regulated servitude, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Of course, the upcoming release of Hulu’s series based on the novel has also brought the book to the forefront of pop culture again, but the novel has been increasingly mentioned in news, streams, threads, and conversations about the Right’s treatment of women.

Earlier this week I was reading about the original critical reception to Atwood’s landmark book. It was darkly funny to learn that some reviewers — like the New York Times’ Mary McCarthy (Feb. 9, 1986) — felt its premise was too unbelievable to be successful:

“Surely the essential element of a cautionary tale is recognition. Surprised recognition, even, enough to administer a shock. We are warned, by seeing our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue. That was the effect of ”Nineteen Eighty-Four,” with its scary dating, not 40 years ahead, maybe also of ”Brave New World” and, to some extent, of ”A Clockwork Orange.” “

“It is an effect, for me, almost strikingly missing from Margaret Atwood’s very readable book ”The Handmaid’s Tale,” offered by the publisher as a ”forecast” of what we may have in store for us in the quite near future. A standoff will have been achieved vis-a-vis the Russians, and our own country will be ruled by right-wingers and religious fundamentalists, with males restored to the traditional role of warriors and us females to our ”place” – which, however, will have undergone subdivision into separate sectors, of wives, breeders, servants and so forth, each clothed in the appropriate uniform. A fresh postfeminist approach to future shock, you might say. Yet the book just does not tell me what there is in our present mores that I ought to watch out for unless I want the United States of America to become a slave state something like the Republic of Gilead whose outlines are here sketched out. “

It’s worth reading the entire review, it seems like a point-by-point comment on current news, 32 years after publication. It’s hard to believe these days that McCarthy found A Clockwork Orange’s dystopia more likely than the one in Atwood’s “palely lurid pages.”

[Edit: Here are some very current topics touched on in The Handmaid’s Tale which I jotted the last time I read the book:

    • Patriarchy and kyriarchy
    • Rise of religious fundamentalism
    • Feminist reactions to pornography
    • “Freedom to” versus “freedom from,” and safety versus liberty
    • Abortion, contraception, and reproductive choices
    • Self-determination, ownership of one’s body
    • Right to take one’s own life
    • Environmental degradation
    • Surveillance and information technology
    • Gun control
    • Sexual orientation and choice
    • Non-reproductive sex
    • Citizenship
    • Poverty
    • Access to education, knowledge as power
    • Status of and relationships between U.S. and Russia
    • Public apathy and the creep of authoritarianism
    • Isolationism
    • Televangelists and the Christian media industry

And I bet I missed some.]

Partisanship has been increasing over the past 25 years. The Republican Party now controls the U.S. Presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives, as well as the “trifecta” (governorship + both State congressional houses) in 25 state legislatures, the senate in 12 more states, the house of representatives in six more states, and governorship in eight more states, and soon the ninth and deciding seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The trend is clear, and it is frightening.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Credits: Photo by Nan L. Kirkpatrick, as seen on Vulture.

Get Off Your Ass and Stand Up For All

dnc_ass-assPart of my entertainment last weekend when I was in the hospital was to watch SS-Gruppenführer Milo Yiannopoulos lose traction. First, there were Larry Wilmore and Malcolm Nance telling him what’s what on “Overtime With Bill Maher.” Heads-up: you need to wade through the opening bullshit before you get to the good stuff. Then there was NAMBLA(1) Chair Yiannopoulos’ own recent words finally being acknowledged for once, and finally Laurie Penny’s post-mortem.

But amusing as it was, there was a background to this that infuriated me throughout: the continued treatment of Yiannopoulos and his droogs, and the validation of his odiousness as just what everyone is really thinking. It peeked through in Penny’s reluctant tenderness for “Peter Pan” and the “Lost Boys,” but it was shoved front and centre in Bill Maher’s handling of him.

Milo Y constantly spouts racist, misogynist, ableist, transphobic shit, but the (alt-)Right only flinched when he sounded too much like their idea of gayness. They don’t give a shit about protecting children but they do have a knee-jerk reaction for the Gay Man Preying On Their Sons. BFD, nothing new in the Log Cabin’s closets; but we, the liberals, #TheResistance, we should not normalize any of this. I was appalled to hear Maher join in the denigration and mockery of trans persons rather than tell Milo he’s not edgy — just a narcissist piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be humoured. Thank you, Larry Wilmore, for taking the burden on yourself.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have to come to grips with the Maher type of liberal, spouting old garbage like it’s 1974 or something. Look at them in the face or in the mirror: the privileged, gated community, comfy, bougie liberals; the not-my-backyard, not-my-problem liberals; the All-Lives-Matter liberals; the white women who voted for trump; the TERFs and the SWERFs; the “race realists”; the I-got-mine-Jack liberals.

Fuck ’em.

Let’s not BE them. Let’s not be this clueless, let’s not insulate ourselves in our little corner of privilege like a bit of blanket allowed by those hogging all the riches and power. Let’s respect human beings as we want to be respected. Let’s fight to protect the rights of women, persons of colour, refugees, children, DREAMers, disabled people, trans persons, Jewish, atheist, Muslim, LGBTQ, and any number of artificial divisions I’m forgetting right now.

Trans persons are not confused: they want to be treated like full human beings, be protected from assault, and have their bodily autonomy respected.

Black people and persons of colour are not reverse-racists: they want to be able to get decent education, employment and housing, their children to have the same chance of surviving a police encounter as if they were white, and a shot at the famed American Dream every once in a goddamn while.

People advocating for marriage equality are not asking for new rights: they just want to form a family on their own terms with the same protections heterosexuals receive under the law, including some simple peace of mind.

Refugees are not terrorists: they’re fleeing terrorism, state-sponsored violence, persecution, famine and other calamities, and they get extensively vetted before they are even allowed a visa.

Immigrants are not rapists and murderers: they’re hard-working people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in a country that shows them little but contempt but is all too happy to exploit them for cheap labour.

Muslim beliefs are not any more threatening than Catholic, or Baptist, or Latter-Day Saint ones: the Quran speaks words that are dang similar to those of the Bible or the Book of Mormon.

People with disabilities are not a burden, nor are they inspirational: they’re us(2), needing to marshal our strength and use life hacks when it’s not a hip Buzzfeed article.

And cis women do not need need to be protected by the law from trans women — they need to be protected from cis men. Their rights, their autonomy, their safety, their health care, their paycheck need to be protected from greedy old cis men in Congress and in the White House.

What part of this is hard to understand?


(1) National American Milo-Boy Love Association. Return.


Edit:

(2) I woke up at 2am, remembering this sentence and hating it. It sounds like I’m comparing living with a disability to having a bad day; that’s not what I intended. What I mean is that people with disabilities are ordinary folks like us us, not strange others, and that many of us will deal with disabilities in our own lives at some point; moreover, much of the help required — for example, under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) — is very modest, not the insurmountable barrier some people imagine. Return.