lavendersparkle: (Ood)
My following of [personal profile] liv's challenge, inspired by [personal profile] siderea's post about building community to post 10 linky posts, 3 diary posts and 1 long thoughtful posts by 15th May has resulted in precisely 0 comments. Maybe it's because the links I've been posting have been to websites rather than specific articles, or maybe it's because no one is reading this blog any more (cue violin music).

Today I move into dangerous territory by posting links to articles united by the theme of trans issues, which is particularly a bit of a mine field for unintentional FAIL. Hopefully I've avoided this by two of the articles being by trans women and the other one avoiding some of the most common sources of FAIL (correct pronouns, no pictures of the women pre-transition, no mention of their previous first names). Feel free to tell me about how wrong they are in the comments.*

First, 19 Terribly Interesting Tips On Raising A Trans Kid (From A Trans Kid) Does what it says on the tin. Offbeat Mama

Secondly, a piece on two new memoirs by transsexual Jews in Tablet Magazine** I love the way it explores the use of Jewish and other ideas and mythologies to explore ideas of gender and identity. I think something that a lot of people don't realise about religion is the richness of the metaphors and frameworks it gives you to play with in making sense of life. As so often with these things, don't read the comments.

Finally, Political Conference Background Checks – Putting Our Case to the Lib Dem Federal Conference Committee explaining some of the problems background checks can cause for trans people. I think one of key things that is involved in combating "isms" is raising awareness of the experience of minority groups and how things which seem to be relatively innocuous to members of majority/privileged groups can be a massive problem for other groups. Lots of men don't get how women experience street harrassment, lots of non-Jews don't realise how prevalent antisemitic violence is, lots of cis people aren't aware of the problems background checks can cause trans people.

*Now I have an evil urge to post incredibly offensive articles in the hope of getting comments.

**Not to be mistaken with The Tablet.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
The UK borders agency is holding a consultation on students. It's open until 31st January and you can participate in it through this link:
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
Warning: I may engage in fail in this blog because I am pondering issues which I haven't directly experienced. However, I've read some material on this sort of thing and got to the point where I want to think out loud. Please tell me if I've got something terribly wrong.

Is being disabled like being gay? I used that comparison to explain to a friend of mine why I'm opposed to the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.* Some people express a very strong wish to commit suicide because they have impairments. Gay teenagers have a higher than average suicide rate. Why do good liberals think that an appropriate response to the gay teen is to promise them that it gets better and even actively prevent them from committing suicide, but the appropriate response to the disabled person is to tell them you'd do the same in their position and help them to kill themself? How would he feel if we set up suicide clinics (with strict safeguards) for gay people? Why is there no 'it gets better campaign' for disabled people contemplating suicide, even though I've read a lot of pieces by disabled people saying that it took them years to adjust to being disabled and get to a place where they felt OK about it? For most people, attempted suicide is automatically seen as a sign that someone is not in their right mind. What effect does it have to be told through the law that people like you are the exception and you probably are better off dead?

This is all a bit of a digression. Is being gay better or worse than being straight? I don't know. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I was happy to view myself as a lesbian and I'm happy to be married to a member of the opposite sex now. Some people view having a particular impairment as no better or worse than not having it. In fact some people find certain impairments positively desirable, for example deaf parents who hope for a deaf child. I have a certain amount of sympathy for this as I think I'd prefer for my children to be short sighted enough to wear glasses. Almost everyone in my family wears glasses. Most of my friends wear glasses. I'd find it a bit odd if my offspring didn't.

I've been pondering these issues for a while but I was inspired to put them into words by a post on Dave Hingsburger's blog about how he was upset that a woman seeing him walk because the pavement was too snowy for his wheelchair, congratulated him on managing to walk. It made me think of one of my brothers, who used a wheelchair for a few months due to injuries from a car crash. For him, the first teetering steps were an achievement and a cause for celebration. They were a stage in his recovery from intensive care to reasonably good health. So I suspect that the woman made a common category error because she didn't know that most wheelchair users can walk to some extent. She saw a permanent wheelchair user walking because he temporarily couldn't use his wheelchair and interpreted it as temporary wheelchair user walking as the first stage of recovery from injury.

However, that raises the issue of why recovery from temporary wheelchair use is a good thing. If rolling and walking are equally good, is it bigoted to send someone recovering from a leg injury a get well soon card. For that matter, if rolling is just as good as walking, why should the NHS have sent money on physiotherapists and surgery to get my brother walking again, rather than on a wheelchair and some leaflets about the social model? One answer is that any change in unpleasant. I've certainly heard of deaf people or blind people who develop the ability to hear or see not liking it, at least at first. Suddenly losing your sex drive can be unpleasant even if asexuality is a perfectly fine way to be.

I have two problems with the 'impairments are just equally good ways of being and the undesirability of certain impairments is due to society being built for people who don't have those impairments' approach. The first is that certain types of impairments seem to be just objectively worse than not having them. Not so bad that it's worth killing yourself over, but definitely undesirable, other things being equal. Chronic pain is bad. Reduced life expectancy is bad. Increased risk of various diseases is bad.

The second is that it's quite difficult to tease out the difference between disability and illness. My husband is disabled (enough to feel justified in using a disabled toilet anyway) due to a chronic illness. There's no cure for it the moment. If the symptoms of his illness are just an equally good way of being, how do we justify state funding of research into a cure or at least better treatments. If the symptoms are just an equally good way of being, how do we justify the state spending thousands of pounds a year on treatments do reduce those symptoms. Even more complicated, it's often difficult to tell whether a symptom is due to the permanent illness or a temporary illness or, for that matter, a temporary illness caused by the permanent illness. Is he feeling a bit run down because of the chronic illness, or the medication for the chronic illness, or because he had a cold recently? Even if it was due to the cold, did he catch the cold due to his illness or the treatment for it or just because it's going around? All of these are possibilities, for which of them is it OK to hope he'll get better? If you go too far with this all medical treatment is just a lifestyle choice rather than a justified need.

I don't think many people, if anyone, would go as far as to say that all medical treatment is oppressive, but I'm not sure where the line is between rolling is as good as walking or wearing glasses is as good as being a dirty two-eyes and flu is as good as not flu. You probably can't draw lines for these sorts of things, which is why it is so discombobulating.

*There are other reasons but this was a fundamental issue I wanted to get across.
lavendersparkle: (Ood)
Recently I've had a lot of experiences of of having my illusions about the world being just rudely taken from me. I find it easier to right angry blog posts rather than curl up in a corner waiting for Moshiach to come and make it all better.

One of the things which really bothers me about the spending revue, is less the details of it, which I'm not going to go into, but the way that the media is reporting on it. Basically, poorer people are going to suffer more as a proportional of their income than richer people, and poorer people have more need for the money. However, the only benefit cuts which are getting much media coverage are the ones which affect higher rate taxpayers. These people aren't even on middle incomes. The BBC's top story today is "Surely the government should spend £1 billion so that higher rate taxpayers can claim benefits without having to speak to their partners". Basically, the removal of child benefit from families with at least one higher rate taxpayer means that the higher rate taxpayer has to tick a box if someone in the household has claimed child benefit so that it can be taken back by HMRC. People are complaining that this is Intrusive and people shouldn't have to speak to their partner. People who don't speak to their partners might accidentally tick the box even though their partner isn't claiming child benefit or even worse not tick the box when their partner is claiming and be fined almost as if they were a benefit cheat.

Hang on, I thought, don't most people who claim benefits have to have to give details of their partner's income. Well yes, but that isn't intrusive or worthy of the BBC's reporting time. Long complicated forms and intrusive questions are fine for poor and disabled people. Tough talk about cracking down on benefit cheats is great, even if it's likely to cost more money than it raises, but Heaven forbid a higher rate taxpayer be asked about one detail of their partner's finances or be fined if they lie on their tax form.
lavendersparkle: (Labservative)
Lots of people on my Facebook feed are complaining about Theresa May being made minister for women and equality. Part of this complaint seems quite valid, in that she voted against gay rights legislation in the past. I think part of this problem stems from the fact that women, queers, talking animals etc. are all lumped into one portfolio. As there are more openly women people than there are openly gay people, it would not be politic to fill the role with a gay man. This means that the Conservatives were stuck trying to find a woman they were willing to give another cabinet position to to fill the role. If you restrict that to someone who has a good record on LGBT rights you've got pretty slim pickings. According to a quick skim of The Public Whip, the only female Conservative MPs with vaguely good records on gay rights votes are Theresa Villiers and Eleanor Laing.

The thing which is annoying me, however, is that one of the things being held against Theresa May as Equalities Minister is that she voted to reduce the gestational age at which abortions could be performed upon foetuses who are not disabled and do not pose a serious risk to their mother's health, to 22 weeks. This annoys me for several reasons.

Firstly, abortion has nothing to do with the equalities minister. Changes in the legality of abortion are always free votes and the everyday administration to do with the availability of abortion is the responsibility of the minister for health. So her views on abortion in themselves have nothing to do with how she will execute her role as equalities minister.

Secondly, a couple of people seem to be completely conflating LGBT issues with abortion, which is odd because I'd image queer people tend to have a below average demand for abortions. There seems to be an assumption that if you're in favour of gay rights you must be in favour of liberal laws do with abortion. Same sex marriage is legally recognising the union between to people for purposes of immigration, financial claims, tax status, next of kin rights etc. Abortion is killing humans. Not that similar. There are lots of queer anti-abortion people and we get pissed off when people lump it all together.

Thirdly, voting for the gestational age at which abortions could be performed upon foetuses who are not disabled and do not pose a serious risk to their mother's health, to 22 weeks. Doesn't strike me as that great a shibboleth of someone's feminist credentials. Even if the vote had passed and the limit been lowered to 22 weeks, the UK would have been almost the only country in Europe where it is legal to kill a foetus at 22 weeks on purely social grounds. What is going on in the world when we declare a politician unfit to represent women because she wanted to lower the abortion limit so that it would be only 4 rather than 6 weeks later than it currently is in Sweden?
lavendersparkle: (Labservative)
It's election time and at this time of year politicians like to talk about how much they admire families and think that they are a Good Thing. In policy terms this feeling tends to at best amount to hot air and at worst be an excuse to be mean to people they view as not living up to their familial values. I know that the election manifestos have now been published, but I'd like to offer some suggestions to think about if you think that supporting families isn't just a throw away term to appease Daily Mail readers.

1) Make education more flexible and provide childcare facilities to make it more accessible to student parents.

2) Make local authorities house homeless families together rather than just taking the children into care. This would also be much cheaper than putting children into care.

3) End the detention of children seeking asylum. Stop the practice of sending a child's parents back to the country they came from and offering the child the choice to go with them or probably never see them alive again.

4) Reshape the immigration system to priorities the reunification of families.

5) Recognise marriages entered into abroad without excessive cost and red tape.

6) End the ban on spousal visas for spouses under 21.

7) Replace civil partnerships with same sex marriage, so that it more easily integrates with the legal systems of other countries. Stop requiring transsexuals to divorce their spouse before they can legally transition. Either switch to a Dutch system where everyone has a civil ceremony followed by whatever they want or allow religious groups to conduct same sex marriages if they want to.

8) Extend rights to legally recognised marriage to relationships involving more than two people.

9) End quirks in the benefit system that make it financially disadvantageous for couples to live together.

10) Provide more choice in maternity care and provide more support from health visitors etc. soon after birth.

11) Crack down on employment discrimination against pregnant women and mothers.

12) Provide longer parental leave and make it fully transferable between the parents of a baby.

13) Encourage more flexible working arrangements for everyone.

14) Make sure that the tax and benefit system ensures that families have enough money to get by on without having to work every hour G@d sends.

15) Improve the state of local authority housing. Ensure that there is affordable private and local authority housing which is three or more bedrooms to reduce overcrowding.

16) Ensure the provision of good quality childcare and give low income families more money in their pockets so that they can decide whether to spend it on childcare, forgo an income so one parent cares for the children or combine a lower paid more flexible job with childcare.

17) Reform the criminal justice system to try to help families stay together (more community sentencing, housing prisoners close to their families so that it's easier for them to visit).
lavendersparkle: (Protie)
I have a keen interest in political stories about the wearing of hijabs. Primarily this is because, to all intents and purposes I wear a hijab when out. I cover my hair for religious reasons and whilst I don't cover my neck all of the time and some of my hair usually pokes out, some Muslim women cover their hair to the same extent I do. When there's public hostility to hijabs on the street, or policies to exclude women with uncovered hair or requirements for more revealing clothing in certain situations (there goes my beautiful career as a beach volleyball chump) it affects me. Of course I don't get it as bad as a lot of women do. I'm protected to some extent by my whiteness, my Englishness, my middle-classness, my education, my attractiveness. Most often people don't even interpret the my head scarves as religious clothing. They don't expect white, middle-class, highly educated, liberal women to cover their hair for religious reasons and the cognitive dissonance usually goes the way of assuming I'm just a hippy or having a bad hair day. I also know that the measures aren't actually targeted toward me. I'm swept up in them because the people who make these rules can't bring themselves to being honest enough to say "darkies can't wear Islamic clothing" so they make a weedly rule about religious clothing or health and safety and then begrudgingly make Catholics take off their crucifixes to prove that they're not racist really. They don't really care about women like me covering her hair. I'm white and English and already married.

Anyway, after all of that I want to talk about something which bugs me but is really difficult to call out. I suppose what it boils down to is: why in an article about white Europeans of Christian origin engaging in Islamophobic ass-hattery do you have to mention Jews or Israel?

The article which reminded me of this was this one. So the line which made me think "oh great this again" was this line:
This is an arbitrary interpretation and application of FIFA's rules against wearing uniforms with personal political or religious statements ("compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements"). Obviously, national uniforms frequently carry both political and religious meaning (Isreal, anyone?).
Now I get what she means. National football teams have national symbols on their kit and because religion and nationality have been intertwined over the centuries, a lot of those national symbols are also religious symbols. Now I don't know anything about football, so maybe the Israeli kit has "Israel for the Jews" written across the back or a map of the Golan Heights with "ours" written across it, but I'm guessing that the Israeli kit doesn't do this more than most strips, so why single Israel out. It could have just been that she took out her big book of countries with religious national symbols, closed her eyes and stuck a pin in and when she opened her eyes there was a nice blue star of David surrounding the pin. That's why you can't call people out on this kind of stuff. I can't prove that you promoted that particular man because of sexism. I can look at and aggregate trend and say that sexism most cause men to be promoted over women, but it's difficult to identify which individual promotions were the result of sexism. Similarly, one seemingly irrelevant mention of Israel in a post about Islamophobia count be perfectly innocent, but when you read more post you notice a trend.

So where do people like irrelevantly mentioning Israel or Jews when talking abut Islamophobia? One possibility is that people who are interested in Islamophobia are also likely to be interested in the welfare of Palestinians and it's tempting to try to insert your pet cause whenever it seems tangentially relevant. If your interest are the harm caused by a particular country's policies, it's easy to see that country as entirely evil and degenerate and enjoy informing people of their other sins. As a large part of the conflict is trying to convince the countries with the money and the real power that they're nicer so they should support them, playing "let's decide who gets to keep East Jerusalem based on who has the less sexist bus system" can seem to make sense.

The other reason is more sinister. I think that people like to set up a dichotomy between islamophobia and antisemitism. I've definitely met people who seem to implicitly believe that you can't believe that both antisemitism and islamophobia exist. Some people seem to believe that someone can't be both islamophobic and antisemitic. There's also this idea that islamophobia is the preserve of Jews and antisemitism is the preserve of Muslims. This is a very attractive world view if you're neither Jewish nor Muslim because suddenly none of these problems are your fault any more. You can even view your own islamophobia or antisemitism as being "with the Jews" or "with the Muslims". It's not discrimination, it's solidarity. It's always easier to get the ear of the majority if you say that you want some of another minority's goodies rather than demanding to be treated equally.

All that from one throw away comment. See what an uppity over-sensitive Jewess I am.
lavendersparkle: (Labservative)
Well, the election date has been announced to the surprise of almost no-one. Even before Gordon Brown went to speak to the queen, lot of quizzes had appeared on the internet to tell you who you should vote for. Now, I'll admit it, I love these things as procrastination devises. I also agree that it's good to have a quick check that you're party does indeed support the kind of policies you support. Unsurprisingly, all of the quizzes so far have found that I'm a Green/Lib Dem, which is pretty accurate. I'm a Liberal Democrat but I'd probably give the Greens my second preference if we had a half way sensible electoral system.*

So I think that these quizzes are fun and they might be a good check and a good starting point but I'd like to give a few words of warning to anyone planning to decide their vote by ticky box.

1) The quizzes don't cover all issues. There's a limit to what will be covered in the quiz. If you particularly care about foreign policy to a particular country, or plans for a development in your local area or very particular reforms in the criminal justice system, the quiz you're taking might just not take that into account. This is even more likely if happen if you have a slightly unconventional set of views, such as a libertarian free market environmentalist.

2) A lot of what a government does isn't in their manifesto, if it was we could just vote for a set of policies and and save the expense of human beings. In the 2001 election no-one could foresee the September 11th attacks and the seismic impact they had upon British policy. You need to elect the people you trust the most to do the right thing in all of the unexpected situations which will arise in the next five years. For this reason you need to not just look at a party's policies, but also the ideology and world view which is underlying these policies and how that would play out in the event of a new armed conflict, a natural disaster, a disease pandemic, an economic crisis etc.

3) You elect a person not a party. That person can switch parties without standing for re-election and most MPs who aren't mindless careerists will have the odd issue where they decent from the party line. It's worth finding out what your actual candidates support, particularly if you care a lot about a particular issue and even more if that issue tends to be a free vote issue.

*Can you tell that I'm a Lib Dem?


Mar. 31st, 2010 12:54 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
This year I tried not to get too stressed about Pesach prep but failed and still ended up having a couple of sleepless nights. Despite that, by the time it got to the time for the seder I was feeling happy and relaxed and energised by the arrival of my guests (particularly Alice who arrived early to help and made the ratatouille). This year we expanded from last year and had four guests. As well as Alice, who came last year, there was: Xose, a Spanish Roman Catholic and Alice's boyfriend; Beccy, an Israeli leftist, who, due to her upbringing on a Socialist kibbutz had minimal experience of religion prior to meeting some members of the Cambridge Egal Min crowd; and Anthony, an Australian PhD student who is trying very hard not to overrun and was a great help with the singing.

The menu was vegetarian and almost vegan. We had a roasted beetroot instead of a lamb bone and lentils instead of an egg. I also tried to make as much as possible from raw ingredients so that I didn't have to spend too much on kosher l'Pesach certified food.* The menu was:
boiled eggs in salt water (and a boiled potato for me)
carrot and coriander soup
Nut loaf** with rosemary roast potatoes, broccoli, curly kale and ratatouille
Tea pouched pears with chocolate sauce

The seder went well, particularly with the addition of Anthony for the singing. Alec was against fiendish in his hiding of the afikomen. Xose did appear at one point that he might die due to not realising what horseradish was until he had a big chunk of it in his mouth. We had Kedem rather Palwin this year and I prefer it's super sugery goodness although the rest of the guests (apart from Beccy) found it a bit much. I made the mistake again of forgetting that, despite all of the jokes and moaning, the seder actually isn't that long and that I need to put the roasties in earlier. Next year I shall try putting the over on when we begin and putting the potatoes in about 20 minutes after that. At the end of the seder we sang The Land which Alice was unamused by as she is still in denial about the Lib Dems being better than the Labour party.

*I still somehow managed to spend over £70 at Kosher Kingdom for one basket of groceries.
** I used this recipe but I used kosher l'Pesach falafel mix rather than stuffing mix because I couldn't find any. I also used smashed nuts rather than sliced nuts because shoving them in a bag and whacking them with a sturdy bottle is easier than slicing.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
If I had to name the two things which I think are the issues I think of as most important they would be abortion and climate change. That might seem like a slightly odd combination but I think that they are two biggest issues facing our species. Abortion kills more than 46 million unborn humans every year and thousands of women. That's about one in four known pregnancies worldwide. Climate change is already killing people and, depending upon how we act to counter it and how it pans out it is likely to kill a lot more people and cause major irreversible changes to our way of lives.

The case for pro-lifers to be concerned about climate change is clear. Climate change kills people; it will kill more people. I think the kind of people who are concerned about the unborn are likely to also be concerned about the life chances of those people when they grow up.

Being pro-life might seem more antithetical to environmentalism but this doesn't have to be the case. Organisations such as the Optimal Population Trust make out that the best way to combat all environmental problems would be to reduce the human population but as George Monbiot points out that this isn't necessarily so. For the linkphobic the gist of his argument goes as follows. Population growth isn't what's driving increases in emissions of climate change gases. World economic growth far outstrips world population growth indicating that the thing leading to greater exploitation of the Earth's resources is higher per capita consumption, not more capitas. Even food shortages aren't caused by increases in human population, as the supply of food has outstripped the increase in population. Food shortages have been caused by higher per capita demand for meat, which is a much more resource hungry food stuff.

On top of that, global population growth is likely to end in the next century all by itself. As countries get richer they tend to go though an upside down U in terms of population growth. Initially the extra resources contribute towards such terrible things as reduced infant mortality, extermination of contagious diseases etc. which means that many more people survive to have children of their own. Then as the economic need to have children are replaced by financial instruments such as pensions and insurance, as the need to educate children makes a smaller family a better bet, as cultural norms about appropriate family size change, people tend to have fewer children. Already almost all more developed countries, plus a lot of poorer countries, have below replacement levels of fertility. Even the US is only at about replacement level. The UN estimates that the world population isn't going to make it much above 10 billion before it starts falling.

Here, however, is the kicker: where people have access to contraception, abortion doesn't lower fertility rates. This can seem counter-intuitive as surely more babies aborted means fewer babies born but that fails to take into account that pregnancy decisions effect future conception decisions. In developed countries the typical woman having an abortion is in her late teens or early twenties, before she's started family. A baby at this stage may well be compensated for by fewer children later.

Another thing which most people don't pay enough attention to is that the things which reduce average fertility rates tend to also reduce the rate of abortion. Access to contraception reduces both average fertility rates and the abortion rate. So does improving women's autonomy to decide when and how to be sexually active. Decreasing infant mortality eventually reduces fertility rates. By contrast, the draconian Chinese one child policy may have had a relative small effect upon fertility for the huge cost of death, misery and human rights abuse, because fertility rates were already falling b themselves before it was implemented.

On a more personal level, I think that one of the things which put me off engaging with climate change is a general disapproval among environmentalists toward breeding, as I would like to have a above replacement levels of fertility. There seem to be a lot of people about who think that no-one should have more than two children, but I don't think that we need to all have the same number of children. I know quite a lot of people who never want to have children, if we want to keep our average fertility rate below replacement levels, we can do that with childfree people and people with one and two child families and the increasingly rare three, four or more child families.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
A week or so ago I heard a scientist on the radio talking about scepticism about climate change. I'm not sure what the correct term is to use to describe people who don't think that man-made emissions are causing changes in the climate. "Climate change deniers" has connotations to to holocaust deniers and is therefore seen as incendiary and generally I'm not in favour with comparing things to the Shoah willy nilly. "Climate change sceptic" doesn't necessarily fit the bill either. 'Sceptic' is coming to have the meaning of a polite term for 'denier'. Sceptics don't take people's word for it but then put the effort into investigating the issue and trying to come to their own conclusion based upon the available evidence. I think that possibly part of the issue is that all of the people who get lumped together because they claim that there isn't man-made climate change are actually quite different creatures. There are genuine climate change deniers, the David Irvings of climatology. They think that man-made climate change is happening but have a financial/political/social interest in convincing everyone else that it isn't. There are also the genuine sceptics, people who having carefully examined all of the evidence truly believe that a different hypothesis fits the data better. You'd expect this to be the case, no science is an exact science after all. However, most people who say that they do not think that man-made emissions are causing climate change are neither Machiavellian fiends nor maverick scientists, but ordinary Joes who aren't really convinced by what they've heard about climate change but are unwilling to investigate further.

I can't look down on these people for not looking into it in too much detail. There is a lot of stuff in the world to know about and only a horrifically small number of years before all of that knowledge you've accumulated rots away. It makes a lot of sense to defer to experts because otherwise life would be unworkable. Every morning one would be frozen with indecision about whether the water was safe to drink or the building about to collapse. It makes much more sense to for groups of people to find out whether water is safe to drink or buildings are structurally sound and then tell the rest of us. These experts certainly aren't infallible and do have their own agendas, but if you're going to disregard something that they've said you should probably have a good reason to.

I don't think that most people have a good reason to disbelieve climate change scientists, at least not a good epistemic reason. I think a lot of people don't believe in man-made climate change because they don't want it to be true. Humans aren't very good with probability and weighing up evidence and I think that something which comes crashing into people's estimates of what's going to happen in uncertain situations is what they want to be true. I think most of us are natural optimists and when faced with the possibility that we may have to radically alter our lifestyles and economies and the polar bears are still going to become extinct, we naturally think that other possibility is probably true and it's all going to be OK.

This is where the parallel with victim blaming comes in. Statistically, if the CPS bothers to prosecute you for rape or domestic violence, you're probably guilty. Even if you're acquitted, you probably still did it and a lot more besides, but they just couldn't pin it onto you beyond reasonable doubt. Why then, when a woman goes to the police about her violent husband, do so many of their mutual "friends" not believe her? I think a lot of it has to do with the optimism bias. A world in which a few women lie about their husbands' treatment of them would be a lot nicer than the one we currently have where a startlingly high proportion of normal looking men are horrifically violent toward their 'loved ones'. Similarly, a world in which a few changes in one's dress and behaviour could make you immune from sexual violence would be a lot nicer than the one we have, where sexual violence in endemic regardless of how long your skirt is. So otherwise nice rational people decide that she must be lying or it was her fault because they don't want to live in a world where they might be next.

The problem is that, outside of Never Never Land, believing in something doesn't make it true. Climate change won't go away if we all ignore it, it will only come faster and more extremely. Not believing victims just makes them more isolated and harmed and leads to more victims as the perpetrators are able to carry on with impunity.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
People often talk about criminals' and defendants' rights and victims rights as being in opposition. Actually, I think that are a lot of things which could make things better for both victims and defendants or make things better for one without being to the detriment of the other.

I get the impression that the courts are overloaded. This leads to long waits before things come to trial and that's bad for almost everyone. Firstly, memories get muddied over time so the chances of getting the correct verdict is decreased. The victim has the case hanging over her for month, during which time she can't really get closure and move on. The defendant also has the case hanging over him and bail restrictions. The only people who benefit from the delay are criminals who hope to scarper or harass witnesses into not testifying and sadistic bastards who want to use the court to string out the suffering of their victims. I don't think that we should be running a justice system for their benefit.

Even of we have to manage with overloaded courts, they could at least communicate better with the people involved in cases. Expecting a victim of a serious crime to just call up the court listings everyday to find out if her attacker's case is going to start the next day does not seem reasonable. Not bothering to tell her that it definitely won't start for a couple of days because the defence barrister is busy with another case, also not good.

I think a lot of victims of crime, rather than wanting longer sentences, just want their lives not to be even further fucked over by the trial process and not be treated as an inconvenient peripheral figure in the trial of their attacker.


Feb. 7th, 2010 09:44 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Last night I went to see the Gilbert and Sullivan production of HMS Pinafore. It was very good and I smiled particularly at the song For he is an Englishman because we've joked that when one of our friends becomes a British citizen we should all stand outside the office where it gets finalised and break into a rousing chorus of the song (possibly waving little union flags and pouring celebratory tea). It made me realise that I have a different gut reaction to the thought of immigrants than most people. When I think of people becoming British citizens I think it's Wonderful. I love my country with a similar sort of not entirely logical passion to the way I love Cambridge and my college. I think it's great when other people vote with their feet to join us in this rag-tag bag of a country. Also, all of the immigrants I've met have struck me as a boon to the country.

I wish other people felt like me. I'm very disappointed to hear that the Home Office is reducing the number of student visas. The government has just slashed funding for higher education and now it's increasing the barriers to recruitment of universities' most profitable students. I know that what they're cracking down on are the sort of low level courses which a lot of people enrol in just for the visa, but, if you don't mind my English, who gives a fuck? I know people who've enrolled in courses just to get visas and I don't think that the world would be a better place if they'd been swiftly evicted from whichever country they were trying to secure residence in. I think the world would be a better place if they'd been able to obtain visas and work permits without the bureaucracy of having to pretend to be a student. I also know quite a few people whose lives have been made absolutely miserable by not being able to obtain visas or work permits, despite being upstanding useful people to about the place. I also know people who've had to jump through ridiculous hoops, at great expense to the public purse as well as themselves. That's ignoring the more serious cases of people being murdered or tortured or left permanently traumatised because sending refugees back to countries where they'll be killed has become a vote winner.

I love my country, so I love hearing about people coming to share it with me. I just wish more people would adopt my attitude rather than acting like Gollums who don't want to share their 'precious' with anyone else.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I often realise that I'm marching to the beat of a drum no-one else can hear, or at least doesn't like the sound of. One of these moments was when listening to commentary on Conservative Party plans to give transferable tax allowances to married (and I think civilly partnered) couples.

Lots of people have referred to it as bribing people to get married, with ripostes of "If I marry it will be for love, not tax efficiency". The conversation is about whether marriage is a good enough thing for it to be worth bribing people to join it or whether it's fair to people who aren't married. I think my approach is quite different. In my mind I have always separated out civil marriage/civil partnerships from religious/cultural/emotional marriage. Maybe it's because I spent my teen years dreaming of marrying a girl before that would have been recognised by the state. In the end I religiously and legally married on the same day. Marriage is complex institution with lots of cultural and religious significance, but stripped down, civil marriage is basically a way of getting the state to recognise a raft of rights and entanglements between two people: immigration, medical consent, claims on each other's property and, indeed, already tax exemptions. In this discussion I haven't heard anyone claim that inheritance tax exemptions are unfair bribes for people to marry. Whilst they were all also in love, I know several people who married to obtain these legal rights. Two people very happily lived with each other for over a decade with no urge to marry until one of them was offered a job abroad and a marriage was the easiest way to obtain a visa for the other. Another two friends went to a register office and signed the paperwork with two witnesses to secure their legal marriage. The £100 it costs to secure a civil marriage is much cheaper than the cost of writing wills, medical directives and financial arrangements with a solicitor.

So adding another way to the ways in which the legal and tax system recognise civil marriage/partnerships does not seem to me to be a great break from previous form. The question should rather be whether it is desirable. The people who would benefit from a transferable tax exemption would be couples where one earns less than their tax allowance and one earns more. The most obvious example of this are couples where one partner does not work to care for children, other examples would be couples where one partner is in full-time education, or unemployed. One argument that I can see against transferable tax allowances would be that it would encourage couples to specialise with one working doing the paid employment and one doing the unpaid work. Some people feel very firmly that all parents should engage in equal amounts of paid employment and housework, and having non-transferable tax allowances encourages this. I don't think that all couples should share all work equally. Lots of people have good reason to want one partner to do more of the paid work: one partner can earn more, one partner enjoys domestic work more or one partner enjoys their career more. In my own marriage we tend to see-saw a bit in terms of who brings in the money, mainly dependent upon who's had a lucky break and who's doing something low paid for the sake of their future career. To me the question is about whether to add the ability to share tax allowances to the things which can be obtained through signing some paperwork at a register office, not about bribing people to marry or punishing the unmarried.

In my ideal world the tax system would involve a citizen's income rather than a tax allowance and these questions would be irrelevant. In the mean time I'm not really sure what I think of the idea of transferable tax allowances. It would probably benefit me, but then I'm not in the greatest need. I'd much prefer to see transferable parental leave, but I don't see why we couldn't possibly have both.

Edit: Someone posted a link to this article on Facebook and I wrote a reply.

I'm not convinced of the merits of transferable tax allowances, but some of those arguments are stupid.

Independence: if you think that you currently maintain financial independence in marriage, try getting divorced and seeing how dangerously deluded you are over that issue. Even if you don't have children each partner can make a claim on the assets amassed over the course of the marriage, regardless of who earned the money to pay for them.

More insulting than a tax allowance is the suggestion that non-earning partners aren't part of the labour force. Most estimates find that stay at home parents actually do more work than their earning partners. Does Chris Giles think that children raise themselves whilst their mothers paint their nails?

Also more insulting than a tax allowance is the implication that civil partnerships between same-sex partners are second best to civil marriages between different sex partners, which is suggested by the claim that once you let gays have transferable tax allowances, of course you should extend them to everyone else. Heaven forbid two heterosexuals shacking up together weren't given all of the benefits awarded to two people of the same sex who've made a legally binding commitment to each other.

I'd also contest this preciousness about people's motivations for marriage. I'm only 26 but I've attended two weddings which were heavily motivated by immigration considerations. I've also seen two people marry to secure the other legal protections of civil marriage. I'm sure there are other cohabiting couples who don't have a strong religious or cultural motivation to legally marry but would if there were transferable tax allowances and one of them was planning to take a break from paid employment. Marriages in this situation protect the non-earning partner who would have a greater claim upon the others income if the relationship ended.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Here it is: I'm not so convinced that university tuition fees are a bad thing. There, I said it. Let me clarify a bit.

I'm opposed to fees being paid up front. I think that up front fees are detrimental to access. They put people from poorer backgrounds off applying because the thought of that much money up front and they put people in impossible situations if they become estranged from their parents whilst at university. I'd be in favour of paying for undergraduate degrees through either deferred fees which were collected as a portion of future income once income was above a certain amount or through low interest loans with fees collected once your income is above a certain amount and written off if not repaid by a certain age. I think that both of these options are effectively the same in terms of what one pays and when so which system one uses should be based on what it less detrimental to access.

My problem with higher education being free to the user is that it's regressive. There's no way of getting around that fact. University students are on average from richer backgrounds and graduates earn more on average than the general population. Giving relatively wealthy teenagers a £30,000 present paid for by less wealthy taxpayers just doesn't seem fair. Surely it would be fairer for graduates to pay an average of £750 a year over the coarse of their working lives, as long as they're earning above average income. If you're not willing to pay an extra bit of tax once you've graduated to pay for your degree why should you expect everyone else to?

There are lots of different reasons to go to university: love of learning, to improve one's career prospects, as a way to ease the transition from childhood to independence. If university is a way for the middle classes to cut the apron strings then I don't think that it's the sort of thing the government should subsidise. If your earning potential is improved by your degree, where's the harm in paying some of that increase in earnings back? If you're dedicated to the love of learning you're unlikely to earn enough to pay back your fees anyway.

Another advantage I can see to fess being repaid by graduates is that it may actually increase university funding. Funding per student has decreased over the last decade or two as governments try to expand university participation on the cheap. If degrees were paid for entirely through fees rather than general taxation, it would be less of an easy thing for the government to cut.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Alec and I went to visit my parents this weekend. We went by train. I got the bus to the station as I had too much luggage and Alec cycled as he had some places to go on the way. As the station cycle park was, as always, completely full when Alec got there on Friday morning, he parked his bicycle against the fence on the pavement and locked it to itself. When we returned on Sunday evening the bicycle was gone. It had not been stolen, instead it had been dragged and thrown into a big pile of bicycles in the cycle park. Alec had to dig it out of the pile. The paintwork had been scratched, the basket had been broken, the handle bar grips were missing and the wheels were bent. All in all I'd say at least £50 worth of damage done to the bicycle by however moved it and threw other bicycles on top of it.

So I want to know the answer to a few questions:

Who moved it and why? The way that the bicycles were all piled up made it look like it was something official but there were no signs saying that they were planning a clearance or notifying cyclists that they're bikes would be in danger of officially sanctioned vandalism this weekend.

Are there any laws/rules against parking ones bicycle on the pavement? In Cambridge it's pretty unavoidable if you use cycling as your main means of transport. There's nowhere close to enough cycle parking almost anywhere in the city. The bicycle wasn't blocking the pavement, it was against a fence and there were no signs saying not to leave bicycles there.

Who can we complain to/take to the small claims court for the damage to the bicycle? It's not that damaged but I feel on principle that it might be worth at least threatening to take them to court. Even when cars are parked illegally in ways which endanger people's lives I don't think anyone would allow parking officials to smash the windscreen or slash the tiers. People should stop feeling that they can abuse cyclists.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'm a liberal, right?

I'm pretty sure that I'm on solid ground saying that politically I'm very much a liberal. I manage to shock liberals by coming out with statements like "I really can't see the justification for keeping illegal consensual incest/bestiality/heroine. Where I feel less certain is in the non-governmental sphere. Increasingly I find myself thinking "well I could agree with that, but that's not a conservative position" about quite a few things. I'll go through a few.

Sex. I didn't have sex with my husband until we got married. That was due to his wishes more than mine, but I can definitely see the merits in having done this. It's nice to only have sex with someone you trust and are committed to. Someone you know will still be around if the sex results in a pregnancy. Someone whose sexual history you know. I know sex doesn't have to be a sacred transcendent expression of a spiritual bond and commitment, but why not have it as that? I can understand why other people want to engage in different life styles, but I'm not sure why a lot of people are so hostile about the idea of celibacy until marriage. I suppose it's because historically standards of virginity have been different for men and women, and they've been used to shame and hurt people, and been associated with homophobia. Still, I think maybe more people should take sex more seriously. I get the impression that more people are having regrettable sex than regretting not having sex.

So on to another topic, responsibility. I think that people should try, as much as possible, to look contribute more than they take, because some people need more than they can contribute. Put that way it sounds quite Bolshevik. It's probably a caricature of liberal individualism to characterise it as take take take.

I'm going to confess, walking through Cambridge on a Friday night makes me think that maybe the Iranians are onto something. This may be terrible hypocrisy as last Friday I got very drunk at a dinner and then had to host a pro-life event the next morning with a hang over. Having said that, I have never been so drunk as to vomit or urinate in the street. I have never been so drunk that I engaged in sexual behaviour with some random stranger. The whole idea of getting drunk without sober trusted friends to look after you nearby seems reckless. That's not victim blaming. People have fallen into the Cam and died because they were walking alone past it drunk.

Porn. I used to find burlesque and pole dancing cool. Now, not so much. I admire the aesthetics of burlesque and the abilities of some of it's performers, but it's just not my thing any more. I suppose I have increasing sympathy for a view expressed that sex like food is a good part of life. However, if people started paying to watch a a roast dinner being slowly revealed and eaten, you'd think something had gone wrong somewhere along the line. I guess a bit part of it is the way that sex has now taken on a meaning for me very much tied up to marriage which isn't conducive to watching it as a performance.

So, have I gone all the way through liberal and out the other side?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
The blogosphere is erupting with criticism and praise for the NHS, which divides along national lines. One thing you have to understand is that the NHS is one of the most sacred things to British identity. We love whingeing about it but we love it and believe it to be better than the alternatives. I'm not sure what a US equivalent would be, maybe Congress, in that they complain about it all the time but say bollocks like that it's the only true democracy in the world.

I'll be honest, some people are better off in the US system then in the UK system. The main people who are better of are:
Very rich people, because they will use private health care in both systems and in the UK system they pay twice, although this depends on how rich they are compared to how sick they get. The NHS effectively subsidises private healthcare in the UK because the moment something goes seriously wrong the patient can be transferred to an NHS hospital for them to pick up the pieces.
People who make money out of the US system e.g. people with shares in health insurance companies, medical staff probably get paid more in the US etc.
People who might benefit from expensive treatments with low success rates. Extremely premature babies are more likely to survive in the US, because US hospitals better, much more expensive treatment for them. All the extra money Americans spend on health care per capita does improve the outcome of some people at the margins.
You might be better off if you've got good, particularly employer based cover, as long as you don't get too sick. However, on average Americans pay more for their insurance than Brits do for our NHS and insurance companies put a horrific amount of time and energy into finding reasons to avoid paying out (more on that later). It also causes problems in that one's options to change jobs or marry and divorce are restricted by the effect it will have one's health coverage.

I think that I take this discussion a bit personally because my family is one of the groups of people who are much better off under the UK system. My husband has a chronic health condition (well actually a couple of them) and don't think he'd be able to get insurance in the US. As there's a strong genetic factor to it, I'm not sure if our children would either.

Anyway, what I really want to talk about, and the inspiration for the title of this post, is rationing in healthcare. Here is the uncomfortable truth: all healthcare systems involve rationing. The amount of money we could spend on healthcare tends toward infinite, or at least exceeds the per capita GDP of any country. Even if we spent the bare minimum on housing and food and every other penny on health care, we'd still have to ration healthcare in some way, and our health would be worse because access to good food and housing have a much bigger impact upon health than access to MRI machines. I'm at peace with that. I honestly prefer to have a MacBook and a house with a garden, to the couple of months my life expectancy might be extended by spending more on healthcare. If I felt differently, in the UK I'm free to purchase private healthcare and the only limit would be the amount of money I was willing and able to spend. All systems require some way of deciding which treatments, which might improve a patients chances, aren't worth the extra expense.

One of the arguments being used against a UK style system is the bogey man of healthcare rationing, which led to the amazingly stupid statement that “scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” Of course, the (sadly for my faith in humanity not deliberate) mistake is that Stephen Hawking is British has lived in Britain for the majority of his life (his being a professor at the University of Cambridge is a clue) and regular relies upon the NHS for healthcare. Maybe they were confused because he his speech box has an American accent.

The picture being spread by opponents of healthcare reform is of Orwellian panels before which people will have to justify their existence to receive healthcare. That's not actually how it works in the UK. We have an institution called the National Institute for Clinical Evidence, or NICE for short. Their job is to decide what treatments are cost effective to provide. They do this by comparing a treatment to the number of QuALYs (quality adjusted life years) it can be expected to provide a patient. Here is where the tiny grain of truth in the likes of Palin's criticism of the NHS comes in. As the years are quality adjusted, treatments which return a patient to full health are more likely to be paid for than a treatments which leave a patient in pain or with a disability.* This is a much discussed paradox in healthcare economics, it intuitively makes sense that a treatment which saves your life is better than a treatment which saves your life and leaves you blind, and patients faced with two treatments, one of which is slightly more risky but one of which may lead to a serious disability, may well prefer the more risky treatment. However, we don't like the result that saving the life of a blind person is worth less than saving the life of a sighted person. Happily most of the time these kinds of concerns aren't very relevant to NHS rationing decisions. Most treatments which don't get approved by NICE don't get approved because they're not very effective, or even have negative consequences which outweigh the positive ones, or there are alternative treatments which are cheaper and just as good. The big one which has made the headlines are certain very expensive cancer drugs. The thing which really stopped NICE approving them was that they only had quite a low chance of extending life a few months. We could get all sentimental about doing everything possible to extend someone's life, but if you give someone with terminal cancer the option of a 5% chance of an extra three months with end stage cancer or the equivalent money's worth of really good palliative care, such as 24 hour nursing in their own home, they might not pick the drugs.

And as a stated above, all healthcare systems involve rationing, even in the US. In the US rationing takes the form of whether your insurance company or you yourself will pay for it. I think maybe Americans get more squeaked by the government making life of death decisions than by leaving them to the private sector. Some insurance policies have explicit exclusions. A lot of the time they do it through rescission. Rescission is the process by which an insurance company declares a policy invalid, without having to return the premiums paid, usually under the legal reason that they was a misrepresentation or mistake on the patients original application forms. I say 'legal reason' because if you want to make a profit, there's not much point dropping clients whose medical costs are less than their premiums, even if they have made a mistake on their forms. If they're motivation were purely legal they'd explain it as "rescission is essential for combating fraud" rather than "it is one of many protections supporting the affordability and viability of individual health insurance in the United States under our current system" as Don Hamm’s (CEO of Assurant) said. He also said that rescission only effects less than 0.5% of the people Assurant covers, which sounds pretty small until you take into account that 90% of the US population use less healthcare each year than the cost of the average insurance premium. There's not much point in an insurance company rescinding their policies, given that they're making a net profit. So that 0.5% becomes a 5% chance that your insurance will cancel your policy if your healthcare costs more than that year's premium. If they target the rescissions at the 1% most expensive patients you're looking at a 50% chance of rescission if your healthcare costs go over $35,543. Here's blog a cribbed most of this off. It also features a great video in which no one in a commerce subcommittee, including the CEO of Assurant, can work out what their "easy to fill in" form means. Insurance companies have a really strong financial incentive to make sure that you don't fill in your form correctly so that they can get out of it if you get too sick. Rationing happens in all healthcare systems. In the UK it's done by government agencies; in the US it's done by insurance companies. I prefer a system in which these decisions are made transparently by people who answer to the people I elect.

Which brings me back to Stephen Hawking. Today, Prof. Hawking would receive great healthcare in either country because he's famous and eminent. However, if he'd been a US grad student when he was diagnosed with his condition at the age of 21 how likely would he have been to one of those 0.5% of patients who face rescission?

*Just to clarify, this doesn't mean that you're less likely to receive a treatment just because you have a disability. NICE makes decisions about treatments not patients. The only way in which patients pre-existing conditions work their way into the maths is when they impact upon the likely effects of the treatment, for example, there's not much point treating someone's prostate cancer if their going to die from kidney failure long before the cancer spreads from their prostate. The only place I see rationing based upon pre-existing conditions really biting is in donor transplant, where your chances of receiving an organ is lower if your life expectancy is lower or your condition makes the transplant less likely to be successful. I'm not sure of a way private healthcare could get around that other than the even more distasteful idea of organs going to the highest bidder or buying organs.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
This morning began with me yelling at the radio and feeling violent urges toward a government minister. The reason was Phil Woolas* discussing plans to introduce a points system to obtaining British citizenship. He talked about how people would gain points by having needed skills and qualifications, by speaking English and by doing slightly nebulous Good Things. I've got less of a problem with this, although I'm concerned that it may be administered in a way which discriminates against people with disabilities. Will knowing BSL count for as many points as being able to speak English? Will people with intellectual disabilities have a lower standard to reach than people without intellectual disabilities? I wouldn't be surprised if these sorts of issues were just overlooked by the Home Office. There was a case recently where a man was refused a visa for his fiancée because, although he worked full time and had enough money to support her, he received non-means tested benefits because he was blind, and this made him ineligible as a guarantor for her. So the Home Office has previous form of completely failing to take into account how their stupid rules will impact upon certain minorities.

The issue which got me yelling though, was his explanation of what one could lose points for (and remember points mean passports). They say that immigrants could loss points for 'bad behaviour'. You can listen to the interview here.

Anyway, here are some choice quotes:
"Well clearly freedom of speech is guaranteed by law for citizens"
"we thinks it's right to say if we're asking the new citizen, as incidentally other countries around the world do, have an oath of allegiance to that country it's right to try to define in some objective terms what that means and clearly acceptance of the democratic rule of law and the principle behind that we think is important and we think it's fair to ask that. You're absolutely right to say that the definition is going to be what's debated but the principle which we're putting forward this morning we think will carry support and we think it's right but..."
Interviewer: "Are you effectively saying to people who want to have a British passport "You can have one and once you've got one you can demonstrate as much as you like, but until then don't?"
Woolas "In essence yes. In essence we are saying that the test which applies to the citizen should be broader than the test which applies to the person who wants to be a citizen. I think that is a fair point of view to say that if you want to come to our country and settle er that you should show that adherence and incidentally I think part of the mistake in this debate in/and the public comment is the assumption that the migrant doesn't accept that point of view. The vast majority in my experience do want to show that they are willing to integrate and support our way of life."

The thing I find most disturbing is that this interview clearly indicates that lawful peaceful protest is seen by the government as not part of our 'way of life' and as 'bad behaviour' which will just about be tolerated from citizens, due to those pesky human rights laws, but will be punished in all who the government discretion over the fate of. A similar pattern can be seen in school citizenship education, in which the emphasis is placed upon being compliant rather than active engagement political issues and debate. Peaceful lawful protest is set in opposition to "the democratic rule of law" whereas in my view, peaceful lawful protest is an integral part of the democratic process and part of the purpose of the rule of law is to protect it and allow it to flourish. I am a better, not a worse, citizen for the protests I have participated in. There is a LJ icon I've seen some Americans have which says something like "Because I love my country I challenge my government". The democratic process needs activities other than just voting in elections to function. The parliament in Westminster elected every 4-5 years and only a hand full of parties stand a hope of being elected. Manifestos are only a few pages long and don't even begin to cover everything, and even if they did, circumstances change and policies need to change with them. This is where campaigning comes into play. We didn't get the Gender Recognition Act didn't get passed because people just voted in the election. Voting in a government who would be open to the idea was a start, but the Act wouldn't have been passed if Press for Change had not spent years organising themselves and campaigning, including protesting, for the change in the law. Most government policies are never in election manifestos and for this reason the democratic process requires continual engagement in policy making from the public.

Anyway, here's a fun example of protest changing government policy, involving Phil Woolas.

*When I mentioned his name to a sleepy Alec he replied "Is that that racist government minister?" and "He's like the Daily Mail in a badly fitting suit".
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
On the radio I was listening to a discussion about whether supermarkets should label food from the West Bank to make clear whether it was grown by Israelis or Palestinians so consumers could choose not to buy food grown in Israeli settlements but still buy food from West Bank Palestinians. I was reminded that this sort of labelling could go both ways. My mother proudly told me that she bought herbs from Israel rather than the West Bank and was rather put out when I told her that the West Bank herbs she was boycotting were probably grown by settlers. I'm not sure where my mum gets her hardline Zionism from. It's certainly not me, she far more jingoistic about Israel than I am and I think she was very supportive of Israel before I became Jewish. I suspect that it's because she doesn't have much time for sore losers. In her opinion Israel won all of it's territory fair and square and if it's neighbours didn't want to lose territory to Israel, they should have made peace with it when they had the chance. I also wonder whether it's a generational thing, she remembers when Israel was seen in the UK as the plucky underdog.

I think Alec's also more supportive of Israeli military actions than me. I think part of this is that, not being Jewish, he tends to have different sorts of conversations about Israel than I do. I'm more likely to get to discuss Israel in situations where everyone is relatively well informed and Israel's right to exist is a given we can get down to the rights and wrongs of specific policies and actions, whereas conversations with non-Jews are more likely to be big splodges of accusations sometimes rolled together with how this supports their pet theories of Imperialism. I'm getting better at dealing with these people. The key is to just ask them to expand their views and correct any factual or logical errors. If I've had a few drinks I still sometimes end up yelling at them. Still, unlike Alec I've never had to deal with people saying that Christian book shops should stop stocking Rosh HaShannah cards or that churches shouldn't hold Holocaust memorial services because of Israeli military actions at the time.

I think another side of it is his protectiveness. Alec really wants there to be a country where I and our children and grandchildren could go if things turned nasty. I think he fears antisemitism more than I do. I don't want to be melodramatic, but "don't you realise people are going to want to screw you over because you're Jewish" has been part of the formula with converts going back to Talmudic times. I think would have been a bit naive for it not to have crossed my mind at some point that my decision to convert might lead to the deaths of some of my descendants. I'm sort of more at peace with it. I while ago I told him that I found it very sweet that he reacted to any kind of antisemitism as a direct threat against me and our future children. He replied that, given the history of the last 100 years, wasn't that reasonable?


lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

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