Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I Remember: A few thoughts on Niki Massey

I would have liked to post this sooner, but life intrudes.

I didn't meet Niki Massey until she joined The Orbit, and only knew her online (different continents and all that).  I regret not meeting her sooner and knowing her longer, especially knowing that she had been blogging for a few years.  In our conversations on her blog, by email and by facebook, I liked her immediately, and surprisingly she put up with me.

She was definitely not afraid to say what she thought, which is all too rare a trait.  Her opinions on and reactions to events gave me pause for thought, even if I didn't entirely agree with her.  Learning to shut up and consider others' POV is always a good thing.

My conversations with Niki weren't as many as I would have liked, but I liked the ones we had.  She showed no quarter, and she will be missed in these quarters.  She was also a cosplayer, somthing I have never done but will be doing this Hallowe'en in tribute to her.

Life Interrupts: What happens when you were making other plans

Don't you hate it when that happens, when real life throws things at you that overload you and eat away your time?  Between finding a new job, moving to a new city and new apartment and other issues, my time is spread thin.

But that's not a complaint.  A lot of people have it worse - they're underemployed or unemployed, not paid well, not treated well by employers, not able to get good medical care, etc.  Having a limited amount of time for blogging and other things is a minor issue.

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Ducks Lined Up : Finally, things begin to happen

Why is it called procrastination when it's one of the most anti-social things people can do?

After much delay, trips back and forth between cities at my own expense, and schools not hiring for the new year until the middle of August, I finally have both a new job and apartment in Taipei.  (I began my job and apartment search in March.)  I begin moving this week.

Now I just have to deal with my own procrastination, not getting started on packing and cleaning until today.  Joy, joy, joy.

I've been looking forward to this for a year.  I couldn't find a new employer a year ago, which prevented me from moving to Taipei and accessing the transgender clinic.  They only work Monday to Friday, and commutting simply wasn't possible, not even with the High Speed Rail (THSR).  Living in Taipei means the clock now starts on the road to medical transition.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Time Passes: Edward Albee, 1928-2016

Edward Albee: March 12, 1928 to September 16, 2016.
Edward Albee often wrote about regret and things not accomplished, far from the most accurate description of his life.  He had early career as a playwright ("The Zoo Story", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", et al) and had a long wait until his later successes (Three Tall Women", "The Goat"), but the breadth of his career made him a literary giant of the 20th century.


Albee's main purpose in writing was to disturb the comfortable, to take people to places and subjects that existed but were taboo in "polite company", to challenge people's unwillingness to talk about dark topics.  Silence doesn't end their existence, it only hides them, and Albee was determined to challenge society into having that conversation, willing or not.

Albee's own life would have made for a play unto itself: adopted but unloved, knew he was gay at a very young age (during the Great Depression) and at a time it was still criminalized in the US.  He grew up witnessing bigotry, racism, hypocrisy in society and made them the subjects of his work.  He tried his hand as novels and poetry, failing at both, then eventually turning his pen to plays.  One of his first attempts, "The Zoo Story", was an instant success allowing him to experiment and challenge audiences with ever more brazen writing and topics.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Youtube Censors: Demonetization is government censorship

Youtube content makers are livid, and rightly so.  They are being censored for making content that does not meet youtube's extremely vague "terms of service" rules for video content. 

What's that you say?  Google and youtube are private companies, not the government?  Private companies cannot censor?

I agree, private companies cannot censor, only governments can.  But if a company silences people at the behest and by the order of a government (as part of the price of doing business with said government), then it IS government censorship.

Google abandoned the Chinese market in 2010 but in 2016 has decided to go back.  One of the conditions set out by the mass murdering Chinese dictatorship in 2010 was the censorship of search results, prevention of certain topics online.  In order to re-enter China's markets, google will have to do the corrupt government's bidding and censor user content.  And judging by the new "terms of service" for youtube, google has already started.

These are their five "rules for unacceptable content":

"Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor"
What constitutes "sexual content"?  LGBTQIA kissing?  Transgender people's videos?  People at the beach?
"Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism"

Does this include video showing police and governments violently assaulting and murdering peaceful human rights protestors (e.g. the corporate and government violence against protesters in North Dakota)?  Does this include video exposing war crimes by corrupt governments?  Very likely, it does.
"Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language"
So, it's perfectly alright for advertisements to appear in hollywood movies full of profanity and racist language, but a youtube video with a much smaller audience cannot say them?
"Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items"
Meanwhile, advertisements by multinational pharmaceutial industries will still be perfectly legal.  Discussing and advocating the legalization or decriminalization of drugs, or even discussing countries where drugs are legal, will remain a banned topic.



"Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown"
China Uncensored is a youtube channel based in Hong Kong which factually (while humourously) reports on serious events in China such as human rights abuses, the mass murder of falun gong members for "organ harvesting" and transplant tourism, the silencing of the press, arrests without trial and torture, etc.  Would it surprise you to hear that China Uncensored has been "demonetized" (read: demonized) for reporting facts?  All at the behest of Beijing and likely other governments.




Unfortunately, it's not just the corrupt Chinese regime that likes these rules.  Other governments which mass murder and commit war crimes (e.g. the US, Israel, the UK) would be just as happy to see these rules imposed, to silence whistle blowers and help cover up their crimes against humanity.

How many other topics will be deemed "sensitive" and silences by google for the benefit of governments?  Systematic racism in countries like the US and Australia?  Climate change?  The corporatization of the entire world with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

"Not censorship."  Yeah, right.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mind Bends: Mini-Cryptic Crossword #3

Here's the latest cryptic, or is it just the third I've made out of many?  You be the judge.  Send your suggestions to anyone who might be interested.

Across

1 Small mirth for common religious practice (9)
5 Religions' excuse for 1 Across (9)
7 Take up a home (9)

Down

1 Rattling tooth (5)
2 Collection plate's place (5)
3 A thousand imitate christians shocked by Darwin (5)
4 Refined and new prepubescent (5)
5 Without reason (5)


The Uncivil Protest : When gun nuts call for rape and murder

Whenever there is a scheduled murder...I mean, "execution" in a US prison, the dregs of US society crawl out from under their rocks and "protest" outside the prison.  Of course, what they call a "protest", I call sickening behaviour.  They gleefully await the prisoner's murder, then cheer when it happens. 

I have long said that those who cheer for the murder of prisoners are as sociopathic as the murderers themselves.  The only difference is that one killed a person or people, the other wishes they could get away with it.

The same can be said now of the sickening ammosexuals "protesting" outside of Brock Turner's home.  Yes, he is a rapist, yes, he should have gotten at least ten years in prison, if not more.  But standing outside of the house, carrying guns and calling for Turner's murder makes the ammosexuals just as revolting as the rapist himself.  The only difference between them is that Turner committed a violent act, and the sociopathic ammosexuals want to commit a violent act.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Predilection predicted: Predator christian arrested for raping children

From the files of the sadly predictable: A far right christian "leader" and loudmouth named Ken Adkins has been charged in Georgia for the rape of two children.

His arrest comes two months after he gleefully cheered the mass murder of people at the Pulse nightclub in Florida.

Pastor who said Pulse victims deserved to die busted for child abuse

Conservative Pastor Ken Adkins of St. Simons Island, Georgia, who has led a public campaign against the rights of LGBTQ Americans, is now an inmate at the jail of Glynn County, charged with two counts of child molestation.

Justice Done: There will be no hate crimes trial in Georgia


In early 2016, Georgia man Martin Blackwell committed a violent assault upon two young men - the son of his girlfriend, and the young man's boyfriend.  Blackwell poured boiling on them, causing burns, disfigurement and long term nerve damage that the victims may never recover from.

The FBI has declared is will not proceed with a hate crime trial against Blackwell.  Their reason?  Blackwell was convicted of the assault by a Georgia court and received a forty year prison sentence.

Normally, I would be livid at the idea that a criminal is not going to face trial for a hate crime.  But in this case, it is arguably the right thing to do.  Why?

First, he was given a forty year sentence for his crime.  At his age, that is effectively a death sentence.  He will never walk free for the rest of his life.

Second, Blackwell was arrested, tried and convicted without a hate crime law.  The courts in Georgia did their jobs.

Hate crime laws came into being because those in the so-called "legal system" would allow criminals to go free or undercharge the criminals (and not send them to prison) because the cops, prosecutors and judges hated the victims as much as the perpetrators did.  The "authorities" were condoning the crime and victimizing people a second time with their arrogance.

The actions of the Georgia court speak volumes.  They properly charged Blackwell and convicted him, and the judge sentenced him adequately.  Justice has been done, thus there is no need for a hate crime trial.

But it does beg a question: Would Georgia's legal system have convicted Blackwell without the FBI breathing down their necks?  Would such a conviction have happened if hate crime laws didn't exist elsewhere?  In all likelihood, they wouldn't.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Music Rules: Cover to cover, part 1

Sometimes, hearing an amateur play with basic equipment can be much more satisfying than hearing a professional performer on stage.  There's a purity to it, a lack of "polish" in the production that lets the polish of the performance shine through.

Here are two examples, both too much fun not to share:

Luna Lin, covering Dire Straits's "Sultans Of Swing"

Ameri (no other name given), covering Rush's "YYZ"

 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mind Bends: Mini-Cryptic Crossword #2

"Everyone wants to have been a writer,
But nobody wants to write."
- old maxim

After finishing off the series on left handedness, I need to do something frivolous.  Here 'tis, mini cryptic crossword #2.




Across

1 Failed park - Ken's asylum (6)
4 Rodents come back for the sun (4)
6 Hit the party (4)
7 Can't remember your own visage (6)

Down

1 Middle Easterner left East for fertile land (6)
2 Keep it simple, stupid (4)
3 Sad code with nothing in it (6)
5 Hate turned into a goddess? (4)

Seven Days Left: Who's who, and what's what

This is the last of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness - Who's Who, and What's What

Who's Who

There are many lists of left handed people so I will only link to some that exist, not repeat the names here.  There is some debate about whether certain people were or weren't left handed, and I don't have the resources to confirm it either way.  And when it comes to criminals and handedness, there's far too much "He's on YOUR team!" nonsense.

RightLeftRightWrong.com: Famous Left Handers

Lefthandersday.com: Famous Left Handers

Biography.com: Famous Lefies

The Guardian: One Hundred Famous Left-Handed People

Buzzfeed.com: 60 Famous People Who Are Left Handed

One recently famous left handed person worth noting is Malala Yousafzai, the heroic Pakistani teen who won the Nobel Peace Prize and has become an advocate for women's rights around the world.  Which hand is she writing with?

What's What








There are two more important issues that I do want to focus on.
  • Children face the most risk with the least support

As stated in part 2 and part 3 of this series, children are and should be the focus of this discussion.  When girls and women face sexism and harassment, they have family, school and feminist groups to speak for them or call on for support.  When people face racism, they have family, school and human rights and civil rights groups to ask for help.  When atheists and LGBTQIA people face discrimination there are voices they can call on, including and even when their family and school are part of the problem.

But who do left handed children call on for help?  In nearly all of the cases, their harassers are their own parents and family, their teachers and schools.  The very people who should be their greatest source of support are the cause of their greatest problems, not society in general.  There is no external human rights group who speaks for them. 

As I've said elsewhere, left handed people may be the least likely oppressed group to face murder and other extreme violence, and adults have the experience and resources to cope with everyday problems, even in societies that are openly against left handedness.  But when it comes to children, they are subjected to mental, emotional and even physical abuse, with no one to speak out on their behalf.  And when they call on others for help, they are often told, "Just do what others are telling you to do."

Here's a woman who got the point, who learnt from the experience living outside of a theocracy, that left handedness is perfectly normal and not to abuse her daughter because of outdated ideas.
  • Left handedness is normal and natural
Left handedness has occurred thoughout human history as often and as naturally as homosexuality.  It is genetic, and any attempts to coerce or force people to change are forms of abuse.


German scientists have said unequivocally that left handedness is genetic.  However, they suggest that it is related to multiple genes, not a specific one.  They may act alone on in conjucntion with others, but regardless, they exist.  The two known genes linked to handedness and other conditions are PCSK6 and LRRTM1.

An Austrian study showed left handed children are also more likely to be gestated in the summer and born in the winter.  Another study links non-heterosexual orientation to left handness in both women and men.

  • Forcing people to switch hands causes harm
Forcing left handed children to switch hands is child abuse, not "correction".  It is mentally, emotionally and physically abusive.  It causes unnecessary stress in children for valid purpose other than entrenched bigotry.

Schizophrenia is wired into the brain at birth.  Some have claimed a link between schizophrenia and left handedness.  If this is true, then it is all the more reason not to force children to switch hands.  Chronic stress is thought to be a trigger of schizophrenia, so forcing children to switch hands may only makes schizophrenia more likely to occur.  People are exacerbating the problem, not stopping it.

Some have made the ugly and unverified claim that pedophiles are more likely to be left handed.  Even if that claim had any merit, what people suggesting?  Checking foetuses for genes and aborting them?  (I disagree and would suggest being a pedophile has a lot to do with being moralizing, socially conservative zealot, especially considering the history of sex abuse among catholics, fundamentalist christians and the republican party in the US.)

Regardless of whether any of this is verified or not, studies on gay children with straight parents and children with gay parents show the way forward: leave their hands alone, support them with unconditional love and fulfil their needs.  The children who grow up the most socially well-adjusted are those who grew up in loving homes with stress-free lives.


--------------------------------------------------

If you have been reading this, I thank you and hope you got something out of it.  If you have corrections or links, let me know.  If you don't consider this to be a social justice issue and/or have a bias against left handed people, tell someone who actually wants to hear it, because I don't.

Seven Days Left: Ergonomic discrimination

This is the sixth of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Ergonomic Discrimination

Ergonomic discrimination is invisible and is everywhere.  Amongst human-made things, there is not a single part of daily life that is not designed specifically for right handed people.


Stationery

  • Pens
Ball point pens are designed to be pulled.  When left handed people use ball point pens, they jam while being pushed.

Many offices and places of business (e.g. banks) place pens only on the right side of the counter, with only enough slack for a right handed person to hold it.  Are they too poor to afford two pens per desk?

In countries with languages written right-to-left (e.g. arabic, hebrew), fountain pens are preferred over ball point pens, though arabic writers usually use bamboo for calligraphy.  I have encouraged several of my left handed students to start writing with fountain pens and they enjoy it.

  • Rulers

Most rulers are numbered left to right, made for right handed people to draw lines and measure.  Left handed people must turn the ruler upside down or measure counting backward, increasing the chance of mistakes.  Right to left rulers are only sold online.
  • Binders

Binders are agony for anyone left handed, especially for children who are forced to write with the holes on the left.  (I wrote "back to front" in my binders after teachers gave up trying.)  Most people take the paper out and write, then put it back in.
  • Spiral ringed notepads

Notepads are different than binders in that they can not be used "back to front" as right handed people would call it.  They are designed so that the "back cover" cannot be turned, only the "front".  Specialized notebooks that open to the right can be purchased online, but at great expense (usually US$5-7 per 60 page book).

  • Scissors
Left handed scissors are usually the most easily found in stores, though generally only children's scissors.

Scissors are designed so you can see what you are cutting - the front blade is underneath, and the back blade is behind.  When I am forced to use right handed scissors, I have to turn the blades toward my right and look down at the back side.  Very awkward.

  • Clipboards
You might be tempted to say, "Where's the problem, just fold the left side behind."  And what if I want to read from papers in the left side?  Your left arm is covering them.  Take the paper out?  Then how do you protect the paper, what's the point of the left side pocket?  What if I don't want the annoyance of the pen holder under my hand?

If I had a dollar for every time someone blindly said, "Sign here" with the clipboard's clip on the left and me holding the pen in my left, I could...well, buy a new mountain bike.  Some of those who do this actually resist or get upset when I move or remove the paper so that I can write.  Why?  Clipboards aren't nailed down, and the paper can be put back.






Furniture

  • School desks

Most schools, colleges and universities still purchase desks almost solely for right handed people.  If they do purchase left handed desks, it is usually an insufficient number for students' needs.

Tools and Equipment

Hammer and crowbars are likely the only hand-neutral tools.  Almost all industrial machinery is designed exclusively for the right hand.  Some examples:


Even drafting tools and tables, and tape measures are almost entirely right handed.  If left handed people are forced to use equipment designed for the wrong hand, they will inevitably produce lower quality work because they cannot be as precise in their motor skills.


Electronics, Appliances and Devices

All electronics, appliances and devices in everyday life are designed solely for right handed people.  Face any of these, and tell me which of these machines is easier to use with the left hand (hint: none of them).


That's just a partial list, to keep this short.

Kitchenware

Good luck finding a knife that can be used left handed without paying through the nose for one online.  The bevel on most blades is like "A" in the picture below.  Cutting straight with the right hand is easy, with the left almost impossible.  "C" is designed to be held with the left, making straight cuts easy.

(When using a knife and fork, I hold the knife in the right hand.  When I cook, my carving, paring or bread knife in is my left.  I can afford to buy specialy knives, many people can't.)


The same goes for spatulas, ladles, can openers (including the P-38 style), and many other commonly used kitchen items.

Here's a funny happenstance: a glass measuring cup.  It was designed so the imperial side will be closest to right handed people, metric on the other side.  (Another sign that Americans don't want to go metric.)  As it turns out, this is perfect.

Do any companies cater to left handed users?

Yes, but these are usually limited to high priced items or where there is a great demand, including some by right handed people.  The three most common left handed products are:
  • Musical instruments
The most readily available left handed instruments are guitars and bass guitars.  Myself, I don't see the point - the able hand should be used for fretting, not strumming (see: Mark Knopfler, Steve Morse, Robert Fripp, Johnny Winter, et al).  There may be other extreme examples, but for the most part, instruments are two handed (most notably, percussion instruments). Interestingly, no one builds violins to be played the opposite way.

That said, most two handed instruments favour one hand.  For example, a piano's treble keys are played by the right hand and are more important, while a saxophone, clarinet or flute depend heavily on the left hand.  Many instruments cannot be converted and are played either strictly right handed (trumpet, trombone, tuba) or left handed (French horn).

  • Sporting goods 
Some sports value and desire left handed players, so left handed equipment is often readily available and affordable.

Baseball is a game of geometry where left handed players are invaluable.  A left at first base faces home plate when catching a ball, and teams wants half their pitchers to be lefties.  The handedness of outfielders doesn't matter, but you will never see a left handed catcher and rarely at second, third or shortshop.

Many right handers intentionally learn to hit left handed because hitting left handed is advantageous.  After swinging the bat, a right hander faces third base.  A left handed hitter faces first base and is six feet closer.  Additionally, lefties hit to right field, away from second, third and home, resulting in fewer outs.  Righties hit to left field where there are more players and more putting players out at second and third is easier.

Hockey values left handed players at all skating positions.  Take left wing for example: a left handed winger can pass to the centre accurately, but a right handed winger has a good shooting angle for scoring goals.  This applies to all five skating positions - teams value talent, handedness is irrelevant.

Coaches often try to prevent left handers from being goaltenders, though that's probably more to do with the availability of equipment rather than ability.  Former NHL left handed goalies include hall of fame players (Grant Fuhr, Tony Esposito) plus many who played a decade or longer and won major NHL and international trophies (Roger Crozier, Tomas Vokoun, Roman Turek, Tom Barrasso, among others).


North American football coaches intentionally try to prevent left handed players from becoming quarterbacks.  And yet amongst NFL quarterbacks, two left handers are in the hall of fame out of less than forty in the NFL's history (~6%).  There are only 32 right handed quarterbacks in the NFL's hall of fame, out of almost 1000 players (~3%)(I no longer watch football at any level because of the off-field violence by its players and other issues like CTE.  It is long past time for the game to be banned.)

Some teams sports do not need specialized equipment.  Basketball has no bias in equipment, but definitely desires players who can use the left or both because of positions and defending.  Many soccer/football players are left or right footed which makes a big difference in passing - watch Japan's #5, Yuto Nagatomo(I'm left handed but right footed.  Go figure.)

In sports where individuals compete one-on-one (e.g. racquet sports, combat sports), left handers have an advtantage because of their rarity.  Right handed opponents rarely face left handed people, while left handers face them all the time.  And the opposite handedness means balls or combat strikes come towards the right hander's attacking side, not their defensive side.
  • Firearms 

Firearms designed or altered for left handed use usually involve ejecting bullet casings to the left side, away from the shooter.  (No, I am not going to provide links for ammosexuals to look at.)

In Conclusion....

Isn't 10% enough of the market for corporations to accomodate people?  Especially when it is much more expensive and less profitable to install or purchase things used by a much smaller percentage of the population (e.g. wheelchair accessible ramps on buildings, sidewalks, buses, and even a playground swing; braille written on objects; floor and sidewalk tiling for the blind)?

No, being left handed is not a disability, nor is there any overt discrimination by manufacturers.  But one can accurately describe this as thoughtlessness, as arrogance and a lack of consideration.  Other examples of such thoughtlessness (and with a larger market, 50% of humans) are car manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry.  The front seats and seat belts of cars are still built for adult males, which makes it difficult for women to drive and puts their safety at risk.  And drugs are tested only on men, leaving women to face unexpected side effects and drug companies falsely claiming their products aren't at fault.

Saturday, part 7: Left Handedness - Who's Who, and What's What

Friday, August 12, 2016

Routinely Abused: The nastiness of gymnastics

Gymnastics is an ugly sport.

It's bad enough that many young women gymnasts are mentally and physically abused, many ending up with anorexia, bulimia and depression. It's bad enough that it's sexualized and sexist, male uniforms designed to highlight the arms and shoulders, female uniforms the legs and crotch.

But now it comes to light that the US gymnastics program is as full of sexual abusers as the catholic cult, and those who run the US gymnastics program are just as willing to cover up and protect those who rape young girls.  And considering that gymnastics wants only teenage girls, that "nineteen is too old", it says a lot about the mentalities of those in charge.
Dave Hannigan: Sinister story lies hidden beneath a sport that enthrals America

In October, 1998, USA Gymnastics received a fax regarding a coach named Bill McCabe. Over six pages, Florida gym owner Jan Giunipero outlined a litany of disturbing allegations made against McCabe at nine different facilities and urged that parents and children be made aware of his proclivities. One year later, Dan Dickey, another gym owner, wrote to USA Gymnastics about an incident involving McCabe and a 15-year-old cheerleader and stated that he should be “locked in a cage before someone is raped”. Around that time, McCabe began regularly abusing at least one under-age gymnast in his charge.
 
[...]
The baffling failure to act on the information furnished to them about McCabe (on four different occasions by different people), was apparently par for the course with USA Gymnastics when it came to abusive coaches. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from a lengthy and thorough investigation by the Indianapolis Star, the largest newspaper in Indiana where the sport is headquartered. For those who have lived through the Catholic Church and USA and Irish swimming debacles, the narrative is all too depressingly familiar. 
Although USA Gymnastics refused to confirm how many allegations it receives annually, the Indianapolis Star learned the governing body has complaint dossiers on over 50 coaches that it, literally, keeps in a drawer. The newspaper unearthed evidence of four particular cases (including one former national coach of the year) that followed the same troubling pattern. Accusations were allowed to gather dust for years as at least 14 underage gymnasts were abused.

You Cannes Not: Cannes wants to ban burkinis


I consider islam to be as laughable as christianity or any other religion, and the forced covering of women's skin to be ludicrous and sexist.  Get muslim men to cover their own eyes if they don't want to see women's skin.  But burkinis can at least serve a legitimate purpose.  I sometimes wear diveskins (full body lycra catsuits) when swimming in waters infested with jellyfish, or as skin protection if I'm at the beach for hours.

I have no doubt that David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, France will claim he is not an islamophobe.  Clearly he's too dim to understand that islamophobia and discrimination are part of what leads people to extemism.
Burkinis banned on France's Cannes beaches by mayor

The mayor of Cannes has banned the wearing of burkinis - full-body swimsuits - on the beaches of the French Riviera resort famous for its annual film festival, officials said on Thursday.

Mayor David Lisnard signed off on the ruling that "access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have (bathing apparel) which respects good customs and secularism", which is a founding principle of the French republic.

"Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc) which it is necessary to prevent," it says.

If Lisnard wants to ban burkinis, is he also going to ban neoprene wetsuits and diveskins which look very similar?  Or will he just admit he is a bigot targeting one specific religion?  It makes me wonder if his reactionary dictum is an overreaction what happened in Marseille.
'Burkini-only day' at French waterpark criticised

A waterpark in France is to be booked out for one day to Muslim women wanting to wear "burkinis" - but the decision has led to criticism by politicians on the right.
A community group in Marseille arranged the day, giving access only to women wearing the all-over swimming garment.

Note the key word: booked, which means people paid for use of a privately owned business.  Would people be getting into such a lather if a nudist group booked the facility?  Would people like Lisnard demand pork be served if muslims booked and paid for a halal-only menu at a restaurant?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Seven Days Left: Technological discrimination

This is the fifth of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Technological Discrimination

The primary problem with left handed computing is software, not hardware.  It's unrealistic to expect hardward manufacturers to build left hand specific devices because of economies of scale.

But there is absolutely no excuse for software developers not to accomodate left handed people.  Changing the screen layout and behaviour of software has no physical limitation.  The problem is a lack of consideration for left handed people (in both meanings of the word, kindness and thinking).

Seven Days Left: Economic discrimination

This is the fourth of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Economic Discrimination

If there is any bias against left handed people in economic terms, it's against the left handed people as a whole because of mass manufacturing and economies of scale, not against individuals.  All news and research items I have found discussing the wages and employment prospects left handed people are inconclusive.  Some say left handers make more money, some say less, some say there is no difference.  It's a wash.

Handedness is likely only a factor in employment when jobs use mass manufactured industrial machinery (e.g. industrial tools) or specifically built machines.  Industrial machinery is almost always made only for the right hand, and thus a left handed person's quality of work may suffer when using equipment made for the wrong hand.

But mass manufacturing is an economic problem.  Aside from a few industries such as musical instruments, sporting goods and firearms (who needs that?), manufacturers rarely make left specific products.

Thursday, part 5: Left Handedness and technological discrimination

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Seven Days Left: Social discrimination


This is the third of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Social Discrimination


Throughout history and across the world, the societal response to left handedness has varied, but mostly been negative.

(N.B.: This item is incomplete due to personal time contraints.  I will add more in the next few days.)


Language

In nearly all languages, "left" has negative connotations and "right" has positive ones.  "Left" is usually accociated with either being weak, dishonest, incapable, sneaky, evil or female.  Terms abound:

"two left feet" = can't dance
"left-handed compliment" = an insult
“left-handed marriage” = adultery
“left-handed wife” = a mistress
“left-hander” = homosexual

http://www.lefthandersday.com/tour/left-handed-language#.V6oMFdRzDKg

Negative connotations of the word infest politics, and not because "left" often means socialist or communist.  In parliamentary democracies (e.g. England, Canada, Australia, etc.), the "Speaker of the House" represents the queen of England, and by extension, the mythical christian "god".  The governing party always sits to the right of the Speaker ("god's" favoured side) while the opposition ("the enemy") sit on the left.


Religions

Every religious views I could find items on described right as "good" and left as "bad".  There was no dissent to be found.



Use of the left hand is considered "disrespectful" in islamic countries. The left hand is the "toilet hand" and thus "unclean" for handling things, especially food.

A claim about judaism is repeated in many places, but I cannot find an original source:
The medieval jewish philosopher Maimonides listed 100 blemishes a jewish priest could not have, and being left-handed was one of them. 

Hinduism promotes equally uncomplimentary views on left handedness.


Nations

Negative attitudes towards left handed people are pervasive and worldwide. 

The Soviet Union institutionalized the forced switching of children's hands and attitudes in post-Soviet Russia really haven't changed much.

In Ghana, physical abuse (mislabelled "corporal punishment") is still commonplace, and left handed children are targeted:

ASSASSAN, Ghana, 3 September 2014 – When Benedicte Bon-Farson was a young girl in grade 3, she didn’t want to go to school. “Anytime I got up to go to school, I feel like, ahh!” she recalls, many years later.

Ms. Bon-Farson is left handed, and because of this, her grade 3 teacher constantly ‘caned’ her – punished her by hitting her with a cane.
Brazil still regularly forces the switching of hands.  The so-called "scientists" who wrote that in 2007 it call the mental and physical abuse of children "successful switching of hands".


India also bases its anti-left attitudes on "tradition" and religion.

Indonesia has many of the same attitudes as most muslim countries.

New Zealand and South Africa's past churns my stomach.  From "The Left Stuff: How the Left-Handed Have Survived and Thrived in a Right-Handed World", by Melissa Roth (2005):
The Maori of the South Pacific were known for enforcing some of the most severe sanctions against the left handed.  They believed the right side to be the "side of life" whereas the left represented the side of death.  Women were required to weave ceremonial cloth with the right hand, as the left hand would profane and curse the cloth.  If they used their left hand to weave, they could be killed.
A continent away, the Zulus of southern Africa poured boiling water into a hole and then placed a child's left hand in it, with the intention of scalding it so that it could not be used.




Wednesday, part 4: Left Handedness and Economic Discrimination



Monday, August 8, 2016

Mind Bends: Mini-Cryptic Crossword #1

I love cryptic crossword puzzles.  Some people never get them, some think the New York Times daily crossword is "difficult".  For those who enjoy more of a challenge, this is for you.

For those not familiar with cryptic crossword puzzles try out the Easy Daily Cryptic on the Best For Puzzles website.  (Of course, "easy" is a relative term, depending on who is talking...)  Sometimes the clues involve locations in the UK, which most people won't know.  There are many cryptic crosswords free to try only, most notably being notoriously difficult Guardian newspaper cryptics.  I can do the Best For Puzzles dailies in about 15 minutes, but barely half of a Guardian cryptic in 24 hours.

What makes my cryptic crosswords different?  Mainly the atheist theme in many of the clues, keep that in mind as you try them.  The answers can be found far down this same page, after 25 blank lines with periods.


Across

5, 6 The importance of the resurrection myth, to christians (7,7)

Down

1 Contempt for gluttony (5)
2 Doctor Chopra (5)
3 Add a half, a quarter, an eighth.... (5)
4 Religious leaders and followers (5)

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That's fifteen blank lines. Ten more to go for the answers.

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A5 CRUCIAL
A6 FICTION

D1 SCOFF
D2 QUACK
D3 LIMIT
D4 BLIND

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Seven Days Left: Educational discrimination


This is the second of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Educational Discrimination


I have taught English for fifteen years and met scores of certified teachers over the years.  They use teaching ESL in Asia as a springboard to becoming public school teachers in their home countries.  During that time, I have asked most of them one question, the question to all of them:

Were you ever taught specific techniques for left handed handwriting, not just "copy what the right handers do"?

I have met a grand total of ONE person in fifteen years who was trained to teach left handed handwriting.  There are teaching techniques specially designed left handed students.  And there are materials you can purchase to help them.  There is stationery and notebooks to write in.

When I say left handed handwriting, most people will ignorantly think that means telling left handed children, "Just copy what the right handed kids are doing."  Wrong.  It means teaching children how to hold a pen or pencil, how to align the paper and proper posture specifically for left handed writers.  There is no excuse for not teaching children properly.  Refusing to is ignorance and abuse.

It's bad enough that children aren't being taught properly by people who claim to be qualified teachers and come from wealthy, English speaking countries (usually G7 or G12 countries).  But most teachers in poorer countries (Asian, African, South American and muslim countries) still "think" it's acceptable to force children to switch hands.  Mental, physical and emotional abuse of left handed children is an everyday thing in most of the world.

The educational discrimination against left handed children primarily comes from four sources.

1) Teachers

Teachers are taught only righthanded handwriting, they are not properly teaching left handed students.  This causes left handed students to have poor handwriting.  And then those with right handed privilege have the arrogance to say, "Left handed people can't write properly" despite the fact it's the right handed majority that caused the problem, by not teaching kids properly.

This failure to train properly means left handed children take longer to write, write less well, and often don't learn as well or do poorly on tests because schools cater only to right handed writers.  The problem is not being left handed, the problem is the indifference and arrogance of the educational system.

And then there's the issue of abuse.  In my time teaching, students have told me their teachers mistreat them in various ways, some of which I experienced myself as a child:

* work marked wrong for being done left handed

* forcing left handed children to sit to the right of right handed children, causing conflict (and passive-aggressively blaming the left handed child for the teacher's actions)

* ignoring and refusing to teach or interact whatsoever with left handed children

* hitting children's hands

* verbal abuse (insults, being called "hamfisted", "awkward", "evil", etc.)

On top of this, such abuse is often supported or repeated by the parents.  Left handed children have no reprieve from the abuse and no means of support.  Schools and home, the two greatest sources of emotional support for most children, are the two greatest abusers of left handed children.

2) School furniture

In this picture of a typical lecture hall, there are appromately eighty desks.  FIVE are left handed (far less than 10-15 percent average in the population), and ALL of them are along the left wall of the room.  NONE are in the centre section of the room, preventing left handed students from having a good view of the teaching area, boards and screens.



Are you really going to claim there is no bias against left handed students?  And that's just a college classroom.  In most elementary, junior and high schools, desks present the same problem.  There is no attempt made to accomodate or include left handed people, only a deliberate decision to exclude.

Schools purchase almost entirely right handed desks, rarely more than one or two left handed desks per classroom instead of the 10-15% actually needed.  It is only when schools have neutral furniture (e.g. tables with separate, unconnected chairs) that the furniture is equal.  And then there's the issue of classroom layout, often designed to allow students to view a chalkboard or whiteboard if the teacher writes with the right hand and stands to the right of the board.

Money is not the issue, a lack of respect and willingness to include left handed people is the problem.  It costs the same to build and purchase left handed desks.  And placing them at the left side of the centre section of lecture halls would not inconvenience anyone.

3) Stationery

Finding stationery that is left handed almost always requires online purchase, and hand-neutral stationery is rare.  Aside from pencils, there isn't much that doesn't have a right handed bias.

* ringed notebooks rarely open with the spine on the right, to allow left handed people to write without interference

* binders and folders are designed to write on the right hand side, leaving nowhere for left handed people to place their hand

* ball point pens are designed to be pulled, not pushed, and often jam when used by left handed writers

* rulers with numbers going right-to-left can only be purchased online; measuring and line drawing is often difficult

* left handed scissors are rare

* drawing equipment (geometry, drafting, stencils) is designed to face right handed people


4) Books and written materials

The next time you have to print papers to be written on and staple them together, try putting the staples on the RIGHT hand side of the papers instead of the left.  Force right handed people to place their hands on the stapled side with their hand on an uncomfortable spine, while left handed people can write easily on flat paper.  I guarantee you that a few of the right handed people will complain, becoming emotional and even visibly angry at papers NOT being stapled for the benefit of right handed people.  Left handed people have to cope with this every day, but the right handed people will act as if this were an injustice.

Where to find left handed stationery

There are several online stores which sell writing instruments, notebooks and other items for left handed people (including kitchen utensils and tools, but here we are talking about schools).  Here are few of them:

Lefty's (Australia store)

Left-Handed Convenience (Malaysia) - Predominantly muslim countries openly discriminate against left hand people.

Left Hand New Zealand

Imborrable (Spain) - Their "Leftybooks" have angled lines to make writing easier for left handed people.

Anything Left Handed (UK)

Left Shop Online (UK)

Left Handed World (US)

Lefty's, The Left Handed Store (US)

Rainbow Resource (US) - Yes, this is a "homeschooling" company run by christians.  (Doublecheck your credit card charges!)  But the dearth of left handed resources and stores makes it necessary to list this one.

Fountain pens are also worth consider for left handed children.  Ball point pens are designed to be pulled by the right hand, not pushed with the left.  In countries where arabic and hebrew are common (languages written right-to-left), fountain pens are preffered because they don't jam or dig into the paper when writing.  Fountain pens can range from the cheapest refillables (as little as US$5-10) to the highest quality (hundreds of dollars).

Inoxcrom (Spain) - They will have an online store by the end of 2016.

Jet Pens

Parker fountain pens

Amazon.com: fountain pen - There are various pens from the lowest quality (cheap Chinese-made or Pilot) to the highest name brands.


Tuesday, part 3: Left Handedness and social discrimination

Seven Days Left: Religious discrimination

This is the first of seven items in seven days on left handedness.

Left Handedness and Religious Discrimination

Throughout history, religions have deemed the left hand as being "bad" or "evil", and decreed that those who use the left hand need to be forced to unnaturally change hands.  Such attitudes pervade all societies and all religious cults in every continent - North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania.  And when I say throughout history, I am not only referring to the past.  Religious discrimination against left handed people still happens today in many parts of the world.


Fictions in the abrahamic cults (judaism, christianity and islam) blather about the "right hand of god" as the good side, the "left hand" as the side of the fictional being "satan".  It affects all of society and in language - descriptions (ability or inability), derision of LGBTQIA people and women, and even political terminology.

African countries are mostly either christian or muslim.  In places where ludicrous claims of "witchcraft" are made against people, especially christian countries (e.g. Nigeria, Uganda) left handed people are called "witches" along with the blind, the handicapped and other minorities.  In many countries where christianity was inflicted upon the population in the 18th and 19th centuries, such outdated and ignorant views still persist (e.g. violent laws against lesbian and gay people).

In nearly all islamic countries, people are indoctrinated with the idea that the left hand is the "dirty hand" and the right is the "clean hand".  People ignorantly believe that touching food or giving something with the left hand is considered "disrespectful".  The abuse of left handed children - forcing them to switch hands - is still considered "acceptable".

In many Asian countries, physical violence - falsely labelled "corporal punishment" - is still common practice, even in countries where "corporal punishment" is has been criminalized.  I live and teach in Taiwan where similar attitudes are still pervasive, and have taught in South Korea where it was worse.  Other ESL teachers have reported similar attitudes in Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and other countries.

I am specifically focusing left handed children because they bear the brunt of the abuse faced by left handed people worldwide.  It is the most defenseless with the weakest voices who suffer, and often in the name of religion or "culture".  If you say discrimination against left handed people is "unimportant", if you say "there is no such thing as right handed privilege", then you are saying, advocating and supporting the verbal, physical and emotional abuse of children.

Monday, part 2: Left Handedness and educational discrimination.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Countdown Begins: On Sunday, there are Seven Days Left

August 13 is International Left Handers Day, for those who don't know.  Left Handers Day is a chance for those born preferring the left hand to stand up and celebrate being who we are.  But it is also a day to point out and criticize right handed privilege and the discrimination that left handed people face every day.

If you read that first paragraph and laugh or sneer, it almost certainly means you have right handed privilege and are uneducated about the issues involved.  It's easy to ignore or pretend a problem doesn't exist when it doesn't affect yourself.

Each day from August 7 until August 13, I will post one topic about the problems left handed people face.  If you claim to fight for social justice and oppose discrimination and abuse, put aside your ignorance and dismissiveness.  Start reading and start thinking.

August 7: Left Handedness and religious discrimination

August 8: Left Handedness and educational discrimination

August 9: Left Handedness and social discrimination

August 10: Left Handedness and economic discrimination

August 11: Left Handedness and technological discrimination

August 12: Left Handedness and ergonomic discrimination

August 13: Left Handedness - Who's Who, and What's What

Monday, July 18, 2016

Facts Checked: Baton Rouge wasn't an ambush

The corporage media spin is on top speed, but the facts say otherwise. The question is whether the media will admit this.

Gavin Long was involved in a shooting with another man. The cops were responding to a shooting that Long was involved in.  After they arrived, Long (and possibly the other gunman) opened fire on the cops.

It was not an "ambush" as the cops in Baton Rouge and corporate media are trying to claim.  It was a crime in progress that cops were responding to.  This was not part of any "plot to kill cops" as Baton Rouge cops claimed a few days ago.

In Baton Rouge police shooting, here's what we know early Monday

Authorities said the attack on Baton Rouge officers began about 8:40 a.m., as they responded to a report of a rifle-wielding man located near the intersection of Airline and Old Hammond highways in Baton Rouge. Witness Brady Vancel, who was working nearby, told WAFB-TV he heard multiple gunshots before police arrived on the scene.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Dishonourable Kill: Another young woman was murdered for no reason

Another day, another atrocity.  Another young woman was murdered because she chose to live freely and speak for herself instead of being a slave to outdated "tradition".

Why are these murders called "honour killings"?  There is no honour in committing murder, especially when doing it out of your own emotional insecurities and ignorance.
Qandeel Baloch: Pakistan social media celebrity 'killed by brother'
Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch has been killed by her brother in an apparent 'honour killing' in the province of Punjab, police say.
Ms. Baloch, 26, recently caused controversy by posting controversial pictures of herself on social media, including one alongside a Muslim cleric.

Police say she was strangled to death.

Cases of women being killed for 'dishonouring' their family are commonplace in Pakistan.

Qandeel Baloch became a household name for posting bold, sometimes raunchy, photographs, video and comments.

Ms Baloch's parents told The Express Tribune that she was strangled to death on Friday night following an argument with her brother.

They said her body was not discovered until Saturday morning. Her parents have been taken into custody, the Tribune reported.

Why do the media falsely accuse her of "causing controversy"?  Because they are trying to blame her for her own death.  I implicit message is clear: "If she had done what her family told her to do, she would still be alive."

As often happens, the murderer has no honour.  He committed the murder for his own gain, it wasn't even for his "family honour".
Qandeel Baloch’s Brother Drugged And Strangled Her Because "Girls Are Born To Stay At Home"

"I am a drug addict but I was in my senses when I murdered her and I accept it with pride. Now everybody will remember me with honour that I have provided relief to my parents and brothers who were suffering for the last two decades because of her."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cops Copped: It's becoming black and white who the criminals are

Overheard in a Baton Rouge cop shop: 
Captain: "How can we make ourselves look like victims and use it to attack and demonize BlackLivesMatter?"

Lieutentant: "How about inventing a phony 'terrorist attack' and claim black people planned to kill cops?"

Are the cops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana borrowing a page from the George Bu**sh* regime?  They claim to have foiled an alleged "threat to murder police" and arrested a group of black men but have not shown any evidence to demonstrate their claim.  Given the history or Baton Rouge police violence and their destruction and falsification of evidence, one has to wonder if this "arrest" is a fiction done to make themselves look good and pretend to be victims.  The Bu**sh** regime did this many times, playing the fears of non-existent "terrorism" and pretend they were making the US "safe" while taking away people's rights.

Meanwhile on the same day in Virginia, three black men were sitting in a car and listening to music when they were shot in a drive-by attack.  The victims were not gang members nor engaged in any crime, as proven by their livestreaming on facebook.  Thus far, Norfolk cops had put little effort into capturing the suspect(s).