Puberty On Hold

Oct 24 2014 @ 2:40pm

Jake Thomas discusses new options available to some transgender youth:

The country’s attitude toward the transgender community is shifting, with the once rarely-discussed topic moving further into mainstream conversation. The nascent acceptance of transgender people has important consequences for their medical care, and earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the country to offer drugs that delay the onset of puberty for transgender adolescents enrolled in its Medicaid plan.

For 15 years, clinics in the U.S. and Europe that treat transgender children have prescribed these drugs to stop their bodies from maturing. The idea behind the treatment is twofold:

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Owned By Rent

Oct 24 2014 @ 2:19pm

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Megan McArdle responds to Chico Harlan’s piece on rent-to-own furniture and its impact on poverty:

You see this a lot in the annals of the working poor: People substitute debt for savings because it is too hard to accumulate savings in the face of demands on the money. This is especially true when your income is irregular, as it is for many of the people in the article. (You can see me talk more about that here.) Acquiring an obligation makes it much more likely that you will stick with the payments long enough to actually acquire the object, which is why people will pay nosebleed rates to borrow money or “buy” with plans such as rent-to-own.

The problem, of course, is that the irregular income that makes you partial to debt financing over saving is also the irregular income that makes you quite likely to default on your debts, trapping you in a high interest rate that is hard to emerge from. So while these articles are often framed around the size of the paycheck, it’s worth noting that the irregularity of low-income paychecks can be just as big a problem.

One reason Ryan Decker finds the story so “shocking is that their weekly payment exceeds the total cost of the sofa on which I’m sitting, which my wife found on Craigslist for $80 four years ago”:

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A week ago, the Nigerian government claimed that a ceasefire deal with the radical Islamic militant group would lead to the return of over 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok in April, but the girls not been returned as promised, and 25 more girls have been kidnapped in an attack on a town in northeastern Nigeria:

John Kwaghe, who witnessed the attack and lost three daughters to the abductors, and Dorathy Tizhe, who lost two, said the kidnappers came late in the night, forcing all the women to go with them, then later releasing the older ones. The attack cast further doubt on government reports that it has secretly reached a temporary ceasefire with the rebels in order to secure the release of more than 200 schoolgirls they are holding hostage. “We are confused that hours after the so-called ceasefire agreement has been entered between the Federal Government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents,” Kwaghe said. “We urge the government to please help rescue our daughters without further delay, as we are ready to die searching.”

Chad, which brokered the truce, claims that the deal is still on, although some factions of Boko Haram are not abiding by it, and that the Chibok girls are still expected to come home once the details of a prisoner exchange are finalized. The new abduction, however, has cast serious doubt on the agreement. “Sadly,” writes Andrew Noakes, “there is now strong reason to believe the deal could be fake”:

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The End Of Gamer Culture?

Oct 24 2014 @ 1:05pm

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Many readers have warned me not to dip a toe into the gamergate debate, which, so far, we’ve been covering through aggregation and reader-input. And I’m not going to dive headlong into an extremely complex series of events, which have generated huge amounts of intense emotion on all sides, in a gamer culture which Dish readers know far, far better than I. But part of my job is to write and think about burning current web discussions – and add maybe two cents, even as an outsider.

So let me make a few limited points. The tactics of harassment, threats of violence, foul misogyny, and stalking have absolutely no legitimate place in any discourse. Having read about what has happened to several women, who have merely dared to exercise their First Amendment rights, I can only say it’s been one of those rare stories that still has the capacity to shock me. I know it isn’t fair to tarnish an entire tendency with this kind of extremism, but the fact that this tactic seemed to be the first thing that some gamergate advocates deployed should send off some red flashing lights as to the culture it is defending.

Second, there’s a missing piece of logic, so far as I have managed to discern, in the gamergate campaign. The argument seems to be that some feminists are attempting to police or control a hyper-male culture of violence, speed, competition and boobage. And in so far as that might be the case, my sympathies do indeed lie with the gamers. The creeping misandry in a lot of current debates – see “Affirmative Consent” and “Check Your Privilege” – and the easy prejudices that define white and male and young as suspect identities (because sexism!) rightly offend many men (and women).

There’s an atmosphere in which it has somehow become problematic to have a classic white, straight male identity, and a lot that goes with it. I’m not really a part of that general culture – indifferent to boobage, as I am, and bored by violence. But I don’t see why it cannot have a place in the world. I believe in the flourishing of all sorts of cultures and subcultures and have long been repulsed by the nannies and busybodies who want to police them – whether from the social right or the feminist left.

But – and here’s where the logic escapes me – if the core gamers really do dominate the market for these games, why do they think the market will stop catering to them? The great (and not-so-great) thing about markets is that they are indifferent to content as such. If “hardcore gamers” skew 7 -1 male, and if corporations want to make lots of money, then this strain of the culture is hardly under threat. It may be supplemented by lots of other, newer varieties, but it won’t die. Will it be diluted? Almost certainly. Does that feel like an assault for a group of people whose identity is deeply bound up in this culture? Absolutely. Is it something anyone should really do anything about? Nah. Let a thousand variety of nerds and post-nerds bloom. And leave Kenny McCormick alone. This doesn’t have to be zero-sum.

The analogy a reader made this morning between the end of gamer culture and the end of gay culture was really helpful to me. I’ve written and blogged a lot about the end of gay culture; and I’ve always tried to present both sides of the argument. Yes, I wouldn’t trade our freedom for the closeted, marginalized past; at the same time, it’s impossible not to feel some regret at the close-knit, marginalized, very distinctive solidarity gays have lost as a group, and some affection for a world, built defiantly to defend itself against outsiders, that is dissipating before our eyes and on our apps. I’m for integration and against identity politics. But do I miss what, say, leather bars once were – and feel very conflicted now that bachelorette parties come and go as they please in some of them? Do I harbor some traces of resentment at those who treat gay culture as some kind of straight playground, or at the mob of straight folks who will swamp any gay presence at next week’s once-very gay high heel race in Dupont Circle? Guilty as charged.

And look, many gamers were the bullied in high school; this was their safe space; it was a place they could call home. They now feel it slipping away, and it has unhinged some and disconcerted many, as a lot of mainstream culture has heaped scorn and ridicule on them at the same time. And I’m sorry, but I feel some sympathy here. That sympathy has, alas, been swamped by revulsion at the rhetoric and tactics that have come to define this amorphous movement. I haven’t, to continue the analogy, gone stalking bachelorettes or yelling obscenities at them. I just sigh and move on. But these people do have a point; they have long been ostracized and marginalized; their defensiveness exists for a reason; and, in the last couple of months, they have also been the target of truly out-there dismissals and vitriolic abuse – often from other men, and often from those who were not bullied in high school at all.

Am I wrong to detect in this pile-on another round of bullying of these people, of treating them as scum, of dismissing anything they might have to say? Here are Gawker’s Sam Biddle’s tweets last week:

Just to make sure his point wasn’t lost, he then facetiously tweeted:

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James West celebrates the CBC’s coverage of Wednesday’s attack on the Canadian Parliament building, especially this segment:

Canadian authorities have released more details about the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Apparently, Zehaf-Bibeau had a criminal record in three cities and planned to travel to Syria, but he was not flagged as a security threat:

Commissioner Bob Paulson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the gunman’s motives remained largely unknown, but the commissioner said he was confident that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had acted alone and had no strong ties to other extremists. The commissioner, the head of Canada’s national police, said that much remained a mystery about the shooting frenzy that led to Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s death, trapped thousands of people in downtown Ottawa and, at one point, left Prime Minister Stephen Harper without bodyguards and separated only by a wooden door from a gunfight.

“The R.C.M.P. did not even know Mr. Zehaf was in Ottawa,” Commissioner Paulson said during the lengthy news conference.

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Moms For Marijuana Reform

Oct 24 2014 @ 12:19pm

Emily Badger talks to mothers supporting Oregon’s legalization initiative:

If Oregon sufficiently undermines the black market, marijuana wouldn’t be sold, as [stay-at-home Yes On 91mom and Yes on 91 supporter Leah] Maurer puts it, “everywhere.” And where it is sold, government would control access the same way it does to age-restricted alcohol. Teens of course still get their hands on beer, as they will no doubt still get their get their hands on marijuana — a point the moms opposed to Measure 91 make. If you don’t want your kid to smoke marijuana, the question is whether you think a regulated world — one that comes with tighter control but greater public acceptance of pot — will create the lesser of two evils.

“Think about the repeal of prohibition of alcohol,” [Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner for the measure] says. “Voters and concerned citizens still wanted to know there’s somebody checking IDs, that alcohol’s being tested, labeled properly, sold in properly zoned areas. When you repeal, you didn’t have it legal so anybody could brew as much as they want and sell it.”

Mark Kleiman has misgivings about Oregon’s initiative. He worries that, as written, the law will lead to more teen use:

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The Obamacare Attack Ads Return

Oct 24 2014 @ 12:02pm

Republicans are once again hammering Democrats over the law:

Charlie Cook discusses at the ebb and flow of these attacks:

“The ACA is back to being a top issue in these closing weeks, and it probably was never realistic to expect it to remain as dominant as Republicans made it last winter and spring, when they had the extra incentives of undermining enrollment and lousy headlines,” says Kantar Media/CMAG chief Elizabeth Wilner, who is also a contributing editor for The Cook Political Report. Earlier this year, GOP strategists began advising their candidates and campaigns to diversify their message, saying that Republicans had milked the Obamacare cow to the point where there was no milk—that is, new support—to be gained. Strategists suggested that Republicans continue to talk about and advertise on the issue to a certain extent, to keep their base energized, but not to come across like a one-trick pony by talking solely about the ACA and the GOP’s issues with it.

Margaret Talev sees advantages and disadvantages for the GOP:

A Gallup Poll in early October found deep partisan divisions on Obamacare, with 80 percent of Republicans saying the law will make U.S. healthcare worse in the long run and 66 percent of Democrats saying it will make the system better. Independents were divided, with 42 percent predicting worse results, 32 percent predicting things would get better and 20 percent saying it would make no difference. Meanwhile, a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll out this week says voters still don’t like the law, but consider it a second-tier issue. They would rather improve the law than repeal it, and think congressional candidates should just move on.

But Byron York claims that Obamacare is a priority for voters “in states with closely contested Senate races, who regularly place it among the top issues of the campaign”:

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The View From Your Window

Oct 24 2014 @ 11:43am

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After new reporting on Michael Brown’s death, Ambinder asks, “did the media get Ferguson wrong?”

Police militarization and an unequal justice system are real problems that deserve sustained scrutiny. These problems are more insidious than a rush to judgment against one particular officer, presumption of innocence be damned. So maybe the best thing to do would be to say, well, in this particular case, it turns out that the police officer might not have acted as wantonly as we thought. But it really doesn’t matter, because the response to the shooting called attention to police abuse and discrimination in a way that resonated across the world. They had tanks! They threatened to killed reporters! The truth here is less important than Truth.

For the news media, though, the “injustice is the story, not Darren Wilson” story won’t wash.

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The owner of the above title-quote follows up:

Hey, I’m the guy who wrote the thing that pissed a bunch of women off. In my defense, I didn’t mean to suggest that women CAN’T be nerds, and when I said I tend to be skeptical of the idea, I actually meant it as a compliment. I understand the over-reaction, as the misogynistic argument many people seem to think I’m making (that only men can be nerds and women must be faking) is far too common, and largely a translation of male nerd insecurity. Then again, if they weren’t insecure, they probably wouldn’t be nerds. I tend to assume women are more confident, well adjusted, and psychologically centered – all things nerds lack in the real world, and only claim when we create our own insular ones.

Again, the point is that being a nerd isn’t just about what one likes or even being ostracized for liking it, but about how one reacts to that ostracism. There are many healthy ways of doing this, either by attempting to acclimate to the group or attempting to forge one’s own identity independent of it. Recoiling into your own obsession until it consumes you to the point where you can’t fit into normal society even if you wanted to (i.e. devolving from an enthusiast into a nerd) isn’t one of them. Most of the women I’ve known in my life, even the avid D&D players and Whovians, were better than that. They can divorce their identity from their passions when the need arises. Being a nerd means you can’t.

A few others defend that reader:

It’s a shame to see people so adamantly reject an opportunity to practice some empathy. Not that there should be empathy for people making death threats, but they (the threateners) are enabled by people who might actually have some lived experience that is worth listening to. There is a market for what Gamergate is selling and we should be asking why.

Look, girl nerds didn’t have it great. But I’m going to venture a guess that they weren’t physically abused over it to the extent that boy nerds were.

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