No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

It’s election day here in the US, and it’s likely that voter turnout will be very low. Odd numbered years are usually ignored by many voters for many reasons – all of which are generally misguided.

People tend to get excited about going to the polls in presidential election years, of course. Turnout numbers are highest then. Even numbered years in general enjoy higher turnout rates, because there are lawmakers on the ballot.

But, with the exception of some special elections, odd numbered years tend to only have municipal and judicial seats on the ballot. Also, lawmakers often schedule otherwise contentious referendums for these elections, counting on low turnout and voter laziness to keep the numbers where they would like to see them.

Here are a few of the misguided notions voters have about why this year’s election doesn’t really matter:

There are no “important” offices up for election – Just because winning today doesn’t earn a trip to Washington or a state capital for a candidate doesn’t make the office unimportant. Typical offices on the ballot today include local executive, legislative, and judicial seats – yes, that system is at work even in your home town. Local executives are mayors, managers, county executives, etc., and they do essentially the same job as the president for your local area. Council people, commissioners, board members, etc. are the equivalent of Congress in your town or school district. Magistrates and judges are your local judicial branch. The reason why these people are arguably even more important than the people who end up in Washington is because the decisions they make will have an immediate effect on your daily life. The taxes they levy will be felt by you first, and unlike taxes from the Federal government, there are very loopholes (if any) for you to avoid them. If you end up with a pushover for your local executive, that means your local legislators will have a much easier time passing higher taxes, or cutting services your community really needs. You can think that it doesn’t matter who your local magistrates and judges are, but you will care about that when you end up getting hit with an expensive traffic citation or fine for not cutting your grass.

My vote doesn’t count anyway – Ironically enough, that argument might be slightly more accurate in a presidential election than it ever will be in a local one. Many of the offices up for grabs today will be decided by margins of under 100 votes. Yes, it is quite possible that a single vote could trigger recounts in some races today. When races have such a small number of people eligible to vote for a given office, every vote counts. These are also the elections where a write-in candidate could very easily win the election.

I don’t even know what half the offices on the ballot do anyway – While some of the offices up for election today are obvious (like coroner or tax collector), there may be some that are utterly unfamiliar. Ones like prothonotary (chief court clerk) are a little nebulous for many voters. Before the age of Google, questions about those offices could be posed to poll or election bureau workers. You can still ask them, but let your fingers do the walking! Learn about the offices, and what those people do. In the case of the prothonotary, that person is in charge of overseeing court documents, and that person’s office is where you would go in a courthouse to see case files that haven’t been sealed from public view. Given all the trouble that we see daily about information being withheld by the government (or leaked by people who shouldn’t have that information), maybe the gatekeeper of your own local court files really is an important office after all?

What’s a referendum? Why should I care? – Referendums are usually issues that legislators put on the ballot so that they can get a popular vote on something that they don’t want to decide on their own, or that they must put on the ballot because of rules built into a state’s constitution. The former are usually hot button issues, and the latter are usually state constitutional amendments. Unfortunately, the rules usually don’t require that these issues be placed on the ballot during a particular year, so they end up on the odd numbered years – legislators are relying on you skipping the polls today. Another trick of their trade is to word these measures in a confusing way, even to the point where people will think that they are voting for one thing but in reality they are choosing the opposite. This is where the poll workers can help you out a little. While they can’t tell people what position to take, usually they can let you know which choice to make when you tell them where you actually stand on the issue. If they honestly can’t, you can still contact your county election bureau by phone or online, depending on how “plugged in” your county is. Otherwise, watch the “no’s and not’s” in the wording. One typical trick used in referendums is double and triple negatives. Remember, double negatives usually do add up to a positive. Also, check the status quo on the issue. Pennsylvania tried to pull a fast one on this with mandatory retirement ages for judges, by not mentioning in the referendum that the existing retirement age was actually lower than the one proposed. The way it was worded, it appeared that the people were voting on creating a mandatory retirement age for the first time, not extending an existing one. Why it mattered was that it would cost taxpayers more money when the judges finally would retire, because their pensions were based on their highest pay and they receive raises yearly. Also, increasing retirement ages could leave the people with judges who honestly shouldn’t have been on the bench due to mental deficits from old age – senile judges are cute on TV, but not in actual courtrooms. The bottom line is this: Do you really want to sit at home and let some politicians pull a fast one on you with a questionable referendum?

Today, you have the opportunity to elect the people who will have the most influence on your daily life when they take office. There is no “trickle down government” effect here, like we see with most changes in federal government. The decisions these people make in your home town will effect every person in your community immediately. Thankfully, these leaders are also going to have to deal with the voters directly on a daily basis. But, do you really want to skip deciding who collects your local taxes, determines the fines for your grass being too tall, sets the cost of parking in your business district, when and if your local roads get repaired, what your kids learn in the classroom, etc.? This is where the rubber hits the road in government. Are you in the driver’s seat, or just along for the ride?

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Source: Literat Politik

No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

In the wake of hurricanes and wildfires, many Americans are facing the fact that they either need to rebuild where they were, or move on. This is also causing a fair amount of debates in Washington, as politicians and the public alike are taking the Trump administration to task for not leaping quick enough to meet the needs of people and communities that have suffered the greatest losses.

As John Stossel explains, this is a relatively new mentality – assuming that the federal government should “fix” things.

The public generally believes that the government is inefficient, and in spite of this, still calls for the government to deal with rebuilding after a disaster. In spite of evidence on the ground, in the form of non-profits and businesses stepping up to help people in need, the people still call for the government to help?

This attitude that the federal government can cure all ills has been around for a very long time, but it became far more popular after 9/11. People quickly learned to expect the government to step in, and “fix” things. That also means that the people stopped thinking that they could do a great deal on their own, without governmental assistance. There was no material change in private assets, and there was actually a significant growth in number of private charities, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But still, this attitude of “needing government” has prevailed, and is leaving us with debates in Congress over how much deeper in debt our country needs to go in order to have the federal government inefficiently rebuild wide swaths of our nation.

Have the American people really become that helpless?

Oddly enough, our culture has simultaneously been pushing various dystopian narratives in film and on television, all of which center on societies that have become utterly dependent on government. This attitude that we “need” the government to cure all ills is just a step toward a future like we’re seeing on the screens. Why are we catering to that path?

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Source: Literat Politik

Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

The Godfather of Fake News

Before there was the web as we know it, there was fake news – thanks to Stephen Glass. The New Republic was stung worst by Glass, the journalist who will go down in history as the craftiest pathological liar. If you’re unfamiliar with who this man is, you can look up the movie, Shattered Glass, which sprung from a Vanity Fair article of the same name.

Of course the film is a somewhat fictionalized version of the true story about the journalist who sold lies as factual articles to multiple national publications, including Rolling Stone. (Yes, that does mean there were fabrications in print from that magazine long before the University of Virginia gang rape debacle.)

As for Stephen Glass, he can be credited with creating the glass ceiling on lies in journalism. It would be nice to say that the journalistic world learned a long-standing and important lesson from this pathological liar, but any lessons learned didn’t necessarily lead to greater integrity in the vocation. Whether or not current editors are consciously aware of it, Glass set the limits for fabricating “facts” for print. That’s readily apparent from the apology interview Glass had with 60 Minutes.

The previous video is just under 13 minutes, but if you are really wanting to understand the motives behind creating fake news, it’s worth the time. Glass attempts to explain himself, and his habit of creating stories that were completely fabricated. Today’s “half-truths” and “exaggerations” have slightly more complex motives, but at their core, are the same. The bottom line is getting the “home run” as Glass put it. He destroyed his own career in journalism in the pursuit of constant attention, adulation, and a record of seemingly perfect stories.

He wanted fame.

Today’s fake news is driven by the desire for “hits” online, and unfortunately, the desire to manipulate the masses. Because neither Glass nor the purveyors of fake news today are concerned with presenting factual information, it is just an exercise in building egos. Glass got away with his lies because he gamed the system – he could get past the fact-checkers because he had done their jobs already. He knew what they would look for, and gave them it.

Sites and publications that offer fake news are no different. They just rely on the public being stupid.

They rely on the public not taking the time to check facts.

They just are very talented at manipulating readers by playing to the emotions of their intended audiences.

In military speak, they are propagandists who are well-versed on the tools of psychological warfare.

Glass was the same type, but instead of needing to manipulate large masses of people, he just had to keep offering “perfect stories” to his editors. The editors were duped because they wanted to believe that it was possible for a single journalist to consistently deliver exciting stories for their readers.

Today’s publishers of fake news have far more sinister desires, and all of them have to do with controlling their audiences as opposed to entertaining them.

Of course, this is all in reference to “fake news” that is really offering lies as truth – not news sources that are accused of being “fake” simply because someone disagrees with them.

Glass got away with his lies because people wanted his stories to be true.

Fake news flourishes today because the people have become too lazy to bother making sure that what they are reading is accurate.

Either way, it boils down to the public believing lies. What has changed is that believing the lies today involves falling prey to the agendas of others, instead of just feeding the ego of one pathological liar who managed to get a job as a journalist.

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Source: Literat Politik

The Godfather of Fake News

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Not very long ago, people on the right were upset about the fact that many (mostly left-wing) college students thought that the First Amendment doesn’t (shouldn’t?) protect hate speech. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, it looks like there’s some lack of understanding about our freedoms when it comes to speech and the press.

Yes, that was the president suggesting that our nation needs to take a step closer to state-run media. There is no way to call it anything but that, since the reason the president is giving for revoking broadcast licenses has everything to do with the fact that he didn’t like what the stations in question were broadcasting.

That’s like taking a page from the book of this guy:

Senator Ben Sasse called it right on his personal Twitter account:

And that brings us to the question at hand: Do Trump supporters oppose the First Amendment?

It’s likely that they will all say “no” to that, but if they are defending the president’s statements about revoking broadcast licenses of television networks that happen to “hurt his feelings” by reporting news in ways he doesn’t like? That is censorship.

Also, it is essentially a toddler-style temper tantrum.

Perhaps we have to agree with Trump supporters about one thing: Trump definitely is beating Obama on a couple metrics. He’s got a thinner skin, and he’s more a narcissist.

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Source: Literat Politik

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

Several groups on the left have gotten upset over the fact that Donald Trump is rolling back the “free birth control” clause of the Affordable Care Act. Theoretically, that’s justified, since millions of women have been taking advantage of the program. How many of those millions honestly couldn’t afford birth control in the first place is probably up for debate.

Also, it’s debatable whether or not the new battle front for these groups should involve petitioning for the FDA to allow some more birth control options to end up available over the counter. (Don’t expect to see that, even though it theoretically would make the pill available to more women, because if it’s over the counter, there wouldn’t be any subsidies through any kind of prescription coverage.)

But, no matter what, it’s disingenuous to suggest that great numbers of women who want to use birth control will no longer be able to have it because their employers refuse to pay for it. Before the birth control mandate, birth control was generally treated like any other prescription, which meant that prescription drug coverage partially subsidized the cost of the pills. Without the mandate, it’s fairly safe to assume that it will go back to that standard. Also, insurance companies aren’t going to be forbidden from offering birth control coverage directly to women, even those who are employed by companies that do not want to pay for the drugs. Remember, the issue is about companies not wanting to pay for a particular type of coverage, not forbidding women from having that coverage on their own.

These organizations that are upset about this would be better served by starting to cut deals with the birth control manufacturers themselves, and make coupons or other discount programs available to women who can’t afford the full cost of birth control themselves. (Again, this number isn’t as high as they would have people believe, thanks to multiple generic options.)

If they were really serious about increasing access for women, they would be asking pharmacies with clinics to start offering birth control services.

The primary problem with this issue is that people are focusing on the emotions, as opposed to the money. The bottom line remains that insurance companies didn’t complain about this mandate in the first place because keeping women on birth control is cheaper for them than covering care for pregnant women or women who would have other health problems if they did not take birth control. Insurance companies will find a way to keep the status quo, because it has been helping their balance sheets at least a little. The same goes for the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drugs. If anyone believes that they will easily give up their sales over this, they need to rethink their position.

If we’re lucky, the solution to the issue will involve removing both government and employers as brokers between women and access to birth control. Maybe it’s time for women to stop demanding that employers and government hand them their pills, and start demanding better options directly from insurers and pharmaceutical companies?

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Source: Literat Politik

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

I am right – you are wrong – right?

“You won’t change my mind.”

This is a statement that is used as a quick stop to just about any debate – political or otherwise. In the American political sphere, it is said by people on both sides of the aisle, and members from both sides regularly accuse the other side of saying it more often.

Which isn’t true.

Both are equally guilty, and usually the statement involves holding onto political “principles,” or otherwise showing complete loyalty to the concepts being promoted by the pundit du jour. And both sides are guilty of holding onto long-standing political philosophies simply for the sake of loyalty, in spite of changing facts on the ground.

For example, on the left, there is the “settled science” of climate change caused by man – an oxymoron on its face, since there is no such thing as “settled science.” Also, in all of the documentation about our changing weather patterns, there is barely (if ever) any mention of other relevant forces, like our sun. When there is talk about reducing carbon emissions, there is no talk about recycling carbon, to create bio-fuel. Perhaps that is somewhat fair, since the “fuel” that can be created like that isn’t particularly suitable for making fuel for our cars, but petrochemicals are everywhere in our society. It is difficult to think that bio-fuel made by algae that is fed with carbon emissions cannot be used to produce something, even if it’s packaging for our “never touched by man” drinking water.

On the right, there is the general thought that the US has too many immigrants. They are taking up all of our jobs, and bringing crime to our shores. Statistically speaking, neither statement is correct, but we still need a wall. The saddest part of this political thinking is that it is assuming that our nation has a cement ceiling restricting economic growth – no matter what we do, there will always be a finite number of jobs and businesses, and sooner or later, we will reach that limit. Presumably, we must reserve that limited resource for people who were born here, and ignore the fact that historically, our nation has enjoyed the greatest levels of economic growth when we have allowed or encouraged immigration.

The problems that we’re facing today as a nation are not simple, but more often than not, solutions to problems lie somewhere in between the political lines we have drawn to divide ourselves. Environmental problems like carbon emissions are more likely to be solved by capitalism, through scientific innovation that is focused on reducing emissions through recycling. We have done a great deal to reduce emissions at this point, and the next step is to find ways to use waste to make something else of value – like plastics from algae. The left won’t suggest that, but people on the right have occasionally been suggesting it.

Fear over job losses and immigrants have been brewing for years, with a steep increase starting after 9/11. While both sides have been battling over this issue, the primary problem with immigration has been largely ignored. Our legal immigration system is broken. There is no point to saying “people need to enter this country legally” when the bureaucracy involved is so flawed, it is nearly impossible. Before we talk about illegal immigrants, we should be demanding that our elected officials fix the legal immigration system, since there’s no point to tackling illegal immigration before that is done. We also need to remember that safety and freedom are not good bedfellows.

Above anything else, we need to stop dismissing potential solutions to problems simply because of the sources. People have political ideologies. Good ideas are non-partisan. Dismissing roughly half of the potential solutions to a given problem only increases the probability that no solution will be found. This radical notion is not about accepting “all” the ideas of anyone on either side of the aisle. It is stating that there is nothing wrong with taking the best bits and pieces of ideas from wherever they are found.

When we were young, we were taught to search for answers from multiple sources. That was meant to be a life-long skill – something all adults should do when faced with a problem to solve. Somewhere along the way, Americans stopped doing that. They chose sides, and allowed the leaders and pundits from their respective places on the political spectrum to spoon feed them information to regurgitate on demand. They created multiple generations of “You can’t change my mind” people. That has left us with massive debt, government as the largest employer (when adding all levels together), and freedom and innovation choking bureaucracies. It’s also left us sitting on one side or the other of a political divide, which only serves one group of people – the professional politicians.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how we’re doing things?

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Source: Literat Politik

I am right – you are wrong – right?

Title IX, Kink, Women and the Loss of Individual Rights

Title IX has been under fire by the right since the “Dear Colleague” letter, but there’s a compelling reason why denizens of “kink” world should be highly concerned about the creeping definitions of “rape” and “abuse” on campuses.

Hypocrisy is breeding on campus when it comes to acceptance of diversity, at least in the realm of sexuality. While student unions and administrations sponsor “Sex Week” seminars, those same groups are stepping into the territory of defining what is acceptable practice in intimate relationships, thanks to Title IX.

Consider the case of Zoe Katz, the 22-year-old girlfriend of Matt Boermeester – both had been students at USC. Katz had been engaged in consensual activity with Boermeester which involved something that appeared to be abusive to some observers. Boermeester was ousted from USC over this incident, primarily because instead of school officials taking Katz at her word, it was assumed that she was suffering from some form of denial about being abused.

Katz definitely did report feeling that she had been victimized, but not by her boyfriend, Boermeester. The perpetrators were the school officials, who continually ignored her statements that she had never been in danger in the first place. She characterized the activity as “horse-play” from the start, and never wavered from that contention. In spite of that, the USC administration insisted that she was actually the victim of abuse, and was incapable of determining exactly what happened.

The actions of the USC administration were definitely out of line, but they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did to Katz if it wasn’t for Title IX. It is laudable that they are trying to make it easier for true victims of sexual assault to report what happened to them, but Title IX has reached the point where it’s beyond just suspension of due process for individuals who are accused of rape (something that is categorically wrong as well.) Now, it’s reached the point where schools are telling women when they are victims, even in circumstances where the women are saying that they were consenting.

Since a great deal of what people from the world of kink could be considered abusive by outsiders who are unfamiliar with it, this new development should be highly concerning. In spite of the relative mainstreaming of BDSM, school officials in colleges apparently are unaware of the meaning of consensual kink – ironic since these same officials may have been defending the fact that seminars on BDSM are often included in their “sex week” activities.

Also, it should be disturbing to realize that self-proclaimed feminists apparently have no problems with Katz being ignored, and treated as though she is incapable of making decisions about her intimate relationships without the guidance of USC Title IX officials.

Maybe it isn’t such a terrible thing that the current administration is looking to scrub Title IX altogether. Now that it’s reached the point where it is infringing on the individual rights of women, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. There has to be a better way to deal with rape on campus. Maybe the universities need to take a page from the book of kink – start teaching empowerment, consent, communication, and the importance of trust in intimate relationships.

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Source: Kinksanity

Title IX, Kink, Women and the Loss of Individual Rights

Musings on Writer’s Block

Lately I’ve been coming across more and more people who have been searching for solutions to writer’s block. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or in my inbox, the issue seems to be more prevalent than usual. Of course, my standard advice is to write. It seems counter-intuitive, or even mean. How dare I suggest that someone sit down and write, when they’re telling me that they are unable to write?

The issue of writer’s block really isn’t about an inability to write at all. It’s really about not being able to write what we want at a specific moment in time. Our brains are keeping us from being able to concentrate on a specific bit of work that we want to do. For the fiction writer, maybe that means the characters he wants to write about aren’t “speaking” to him right then. For non-fiction writers like myself, maybe it’s a matter of missing the correct angle, or missing pieces to a puzzle we want to solve for our readers through words. Either way, the problem isn’t an inability to put coherent words together in sentences and paragraphs. It is simply a matter of our brains being too stubborn, and unwilling to focus on what we want at that moment.

So, why would writing in general be useful at that point? How can writing something random (or not so random but on another topic) be useful?

Simply writing helps to clear the mind, and usually makes it possible to focus on what we really want to do. Forcing our minds into submission, and putting words on paper (or the screen) helps. They may be useless words, or they might lead to something that we really want to share. No matter what, it’s training our brains to start producing words on command. Writers who talk about waiting for the muse to appear usually end up producing far less than writers who regularly force themselves to write even when the muse is absent.

The silly, counter-intuitive and mean advice is that writers need to own what they are. Their purpose in life is to write. Writing is not just a job, it is a vocation. The difference between the two is a deep emotional attachment to the work at hand. If you don’t love writing, and consider the concept of forcing yourself to write even when your brain objects a horrible chore, perhaps you should rethink things. You really may not be a writer after all.

Yes, that might seem harsh, but consider the reality. Writing involves dealing with editors, criticism, and often defending what you do in the eyes of the masses. There are rejection letters, rewrites, and all manner of obstacles to face from first draft to finished product. If you’re dealing with writing in the world of media, there is fast-paced work that can sap the creative soul out of the best of us. Writing is not an easy vocation by any stretch of the imagination, and becoming great at it requires a great deal of work and dedication.

Most people are not made for the life of writing, pure and simple.

So, the next time you see someone asking for advice about how to get beyond writer’s block, take a look at the responses. How many of the people offer advice that includes anything but writing? I’m willing to wager that you will see a pile of people suggesting a calm walk, a day off from writing, television binge watching, music (without a keyboard or pen nearby), and any number of other things. They mean well, and very well may be writers who have managed to convince themselves that anything but writing can resolve writer’s block. Of course, you won’t see anyone asking those people how many days they’ve gone without writing, by using all those other activities to break writer’s block. I get tempted to ask sometimes, but I never have. Maybe I will one day.

*The previous has a raw word count of 658 words, written in 15 minutes, using an iPhone timer – to break writer’s block.


Source: Liz Harrison

Musings on Writer’s Block

James Deen, Pornography, and the Difference Between Conscience and Hypocrisy

In the world of sexual freedom activists, sex workers, kink and pornography, we have a problem when it comes to determining right and wrong. This is an issue that I’ve been mulling over repeatedly for decades, and occasionally something hits the headlines which makes me take a few moments to put those swirling thoughts into words.

We have issues with the concept of saying that anything anyone does is categorically wrong, even when the actions in question literally land people in criminal court (or should.) I’m not referring to the kinky things that are done with informed consent, which can still lead to legal difficulties. I’m still on the front-lines of the relative battle to get legal protections for those things. No, I’m referring to things that are non-consensual or at least highly unethical – the kind of things that James Deen had been accused of doing.

A while ago, The Atlantic published portions of an interview Deen gave for a podcast, and somehow managed to construct the theory that he was having a crisis of conscience over his career in porn. This article is like many others out in the mainstream media about the porn and kink industries in general since it places Deen’s comments in context with the “everyday knowledge” that is already out there. It misses the nuance of his words, even though he said it plainly enough.

In a nutshell, while Deen thinks it’s bad that kids have access to pornography on the web, his actions to prevent them from seeing his own content are limited by the demands of his bottom line as a businessman. It is important to point out that the interview in question that yielded Deen’s comments against kids seeing porn was conducted by people who are definitely on the side of placing all “adult material” behind pay-walls, since that’s as close as we can get to a true age verification procedure. The fact that Deen is at least self-aware enough to realize that his work doesn’t resemble “real sexual relations” for the majority of people out there might also be recognition of the audience he was dealing with – two ostensibly conservative interviewers who Deen had to realize were hoping to get him to admit that his work was “wrong” or “evil” on some level.

This is a cynical view, but given that this involves a man who ended up with a reputation for blurring the lines of consent and non-consent both on set and in life, it’s fair. There’s no reason for anyone who is aware of how things work in the world of porn should view Deen’s comments as a “come to Jesus” moment of contrition, even if the mainstream media almost bought it completely. The Atlantic already built a reputation for itself when it comes to being clueless about kink, when they ran a first-person feature from someone who decided to take advantage of a “BDSM therapy” session – something that in kink world still should be considered highly unethical at best.

The bottom line is that Deen should be seen as a hypocrite, not a porn star with a conscience. If he truly believed that the films and websites he produces are harmful to children, then why doesn’t he quit?

There is one film where he is listed as a participant that also gets deep into the territory of misrepresentations of kink world to the mainstream. Kink, the documentary directed by Christina Voros, and produced by James Franco, blithely wanders through the studios of Kink.com, where Deen worked. People from the world of ethical BDSM should cringe when viewing this film, but it’s likely that many hold that back under the excuse of not wanting to be judgmental. There’s nothing wrong with being hopping mad at a film director who takes an actress to the point of nearly losing consciousness, then merely smacks her to startle her awake instead of fully stopping the action that caused her medical problems on set. The fact that this scene is in Kink, is offered as a “normal” day on set, and no one from the BDSM community seriously calls out against it is a problem. Deen, while not in that particular scene of the documentary, has repeatedly been accused of going “off script.” They brushed over this in the documentary, because they were from Hollywood. What’s the big deal if people go off script?

In their world, it’s fine.

In porn world, that means you might have actors doing things to each other without informed consent on film.

To an activist like me, that’s the break point where I want to say, “I quit!”

How can anyone expect any of these things to get legal protection if what they’re doing already is intentionally going into the territory of rendering simple contracts void?

This is why I say that Deen didn’t have a crisis of conscience, because if he had, it wouldn’t have been just over kids seeing his stuff online. If he’d truly had a crisis of conscience, that interview would have been about the ethical dilemma of going “off script” on set at Kink.com. That’s not even taking a leap into the allegations against him, but it certainly makes them understandable. While it pains me to say this, why is anyone surprised that Deen probably ended up with no clue how to respect boundaries when he was encouraged to ignore them on set at Kink.com? It’s a fair assumption, since at least one of those situations was depicted for all to see on a mainstream documentary!

But, we’re not supposed to be judgmental, so we can’t speak against that, right?

Image: By Queenofthesky (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Source: Kinksanity

James Deen, Pornography, and the Difference Between Conscience and Hypocrisy

What Gig Employees Wish Employers Understood

If you haven’t heard the term “gig economy” yet, you probably haven’t been paying attention to a major shift in the job market. For various reasons – from complicated benefits requirements for traditional employees, to changes in technology, and everything in between – more and more employers have been opting for contracted labor. The people who are willing to fill those positions often juggle multiple contracts at one time, out of necessity. That “should” be obvious, since it’s not likely that any single gig will pay enough to make ends meet. Employers are theoretically using this option to save money.

That brings us to the first thing that gig employees wish employers understood:

No, you probably aren’t my only employer – If you’re an employer who is having trouble filling a contracted position, take a close look at the time you’re expecting from a potential employee. This isn’t just about the raw amount of time you expect a person to work. If you’re expecting the candidate to commit to being essentially “on-call” all the time, or if you’ve set up hard and fast deadlines spread out through more than just an eight hour day, you’re probably not going to find someone to do the job. That’s especially true if the pay you’re offering isn’t remotely close to market rates for a full-time position in the field. Time is money for a gig worker, and if you’re saying that you expect a person to be willing to jump every time you call, you are setting expectations too high (unless you’re willing to pay for that ability.) Either expect to be told that your work will be done within a reasonable period of time, or be willing to pay handsomely to get your projects to the top of the proverbial pile every time.

Yes, I often do prioritize my projects based on pay scale – This is something that some gig workers might not want to admit out loud, but we’re human. Of course we’re going to get the work that is paying us the most done first. We might push other deadlines to the extreme limit, even to the point of getting ourselves in danger of losing a lower paying gig to keep the higher one. We know we’re expendable on the job market, and usually the first to lose our positions when budget cuts happen. That means we’ll put the highest paying and most stable gigs first, since it will hurt us less in the pocketbook if we lose something small. Sadly, most gig workers won’t let an employer know what the “break point” is – what pay and time commitment level is needed to put a gig on the top of the pile. If you’re really serious about making sure that your work takes priority, ask what it would take. Don’t be surprised if a candidate doesn’t answer easily or at all. (There’s advice to gig workers here, too. It’s better to be honest about this, if an employer asks.) Keep in mind that a lot of people are new to this type of employment – employers and employees alike. We’re all on a learning curve on how to negotiate terms.

I do gig work for the flexibility – That might seem obvious, but it gets lost once the contract negotiations start. Employers get requirements floating in their heads, and potential employees start weighing the wages versus time commitment. Also, it’s important to remember that gig workers have to shift gears from one employer to the next on a daily basis. Not all employers have the same expectations, even within the same field. Don’t set yourself up to lose gig employees on a regular basis by expecting them to know everything you want immediately. For example, in my own field of writing and editing, I regularly shift between writing styles – AP, APA, and Chicago – and occasionally that gear shifting is a bit rusty. If every employer I had assumed that I was incompetent when I would occasionally use the wrong style for them, there would be major problems. Thankfully, I haven’t dealt with that often, but on the rare occasions that I have, employers who insulted my intelligence quickly found out that while they considered me expendable, that thinking was mutual.

Yes, gig workers do talk to each other – This can work for or against employers who hire people on contract on a regular basis. There isn’t a formal “black list” per se, but word travels fast if someone is slow to pay, too demanding for the pay offered, or just generally “difficult.” On the other side, there are companies that get recommended as great employers, too.

I do know how to find other gig workers – If you already have gig workers for one type of work, and need them for another, a good place to start looking is among the ones you already have. Some people have multiple skill sets, so you might have what you’re looking for already. When we apply for a gig, we don’t necessarily say anything about other skills we have. Failing that, we know other gig workers personally, and we usually have favorite places to look for gigs. (Very few of us will ever go to Craigslist, but we probably are registered on at least one or two freelance job sites.) Ask us, and we’ll tell you where to find the cream of the crop, or ask around for you.

Offices are overrated – In my industry – writing and editing – there are rare circumstances when it’s absolutely necessary for people to actually work in an office together. In spite of the movement toward team-building, open office plans, and living room style work spaces, there is still a large contingent of people who like to call the coffee shop their office. Gig workers are usually in that set. Let’s be honest – we do this so we don’t have to deal with set hours, commuting to an office, or changing out of our pajamas to go to work. Beyond saving on overhead for office space, offering remote gigs opens up your options, too. You’re no longer limited to your local area when you’re searching to fill a position. If your argument for having your employees under your own roof is that you want to be able to keep an eye on them, you might need to rethink your staffing choices and management style. Yes, you do have to trust remote workers – a lot. Ask yourself, do you really want to feel that you can’t trust your own employees to do their jobs without needing someone to watch?

This list is generally interrelated, and only scratches the surface. There probably could be a few books written on the in’s and out’s of gig work, and how to break down some of the walls that often end up between the workers and their employers. The bottom line is that gig workers are usually a mix between the “work to live” and “live to work” crowds – the two extremes. Either they’re doing just what they need to be able to pay the bills and afford what they want, or they’re total workaholics who wish for 48 hour days and 14 day weeks. The ones who stick with it aren’t the kind of workers who need hand-holding and excessive amounts of guidance. They’re doing the same thing the business owners they work for do, just on a smaller scale. It’s a business, and when you hire one, you’re hiring a “boss.” Maybe just remembering that is a good start for employers who are stepping into the world of hiring gig workers.


Source: Liz Harrison

What Gig Employees Wish Employers Understood