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- Don't be a poophead.
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My rabbits still exist, and this is exciting to me.

lots of picturesCollapse )


Time to play mock the homeless

On fanficrants, jinxy_sama reports on another member of her fandom calling her a "Stupid 30 year old homeless bitch". It doesn't matter why (though it was pretty ridiculous), though it is worth noting that the unnamed other fan also includes gaybashing in her reviews.

There are certain things that are just not insults, or at least shouldn't be. Instead, they're facts. Gender. Colour. Sexuality. Where you live. Religion. Occupation (or lack thereof). Health conditions, physical or mental. I cannot remember the last time I sneered at someone, "You are such a straight" or "Seriously, get your dumbass Christian delusions out of here." Nor have I ever exclaimed, "Dude! You live in a house?"

One similarity between all these categories is that most of them are either difficult or impossible to change. Yes, you can argue that religion and occupation are a choice, and that people can get off the streets if they just try hard enough, but typically religion is more than just "Hmm, what should I believe today?", occupation is either a career or something you're doing because living costs money, and, well.

Let's talk about homelessness.

There are all sorts of reasons someone might be homeless, even when the economy is good.

a) Previous life problems, either mistakes, illnesses that have since been treated, criminal involvement that's been overcome, make it hard to start over. When you have a specific budget, as most people do, there are a limited number of properties available to you, and with the wrong background and without references good enough to balance that out (or even in spite of same), you may find yourself repeatedly being turned down. This applies especially to released prisoners, whatever crime they may have been committed for.

b) Especially in countries without good social healthcare, medical problems can rack up huge bills, leaving people in debt and with no recourse when they're evicted.

c) Young people are often particularly vulnerable - those who are having trouble at home, whether due to abuse or something else, often feel they have no options other than staying there or leaving for a precarious existence on the streets. This is even more likely for gay, lesbian and transgender youths - up to 40% of homeless teens are GLBT.

d) These problems happen to adults as well - especially victims of domestic abuse. Many women leave their abusers only to end up with no where to go except for shelters with far fewer resources than they need.

e) The disabled and mentally ill don't typically make good tenants in the eyes of landlords. There is a reason there's a real stereotype of a homeless person talking to themselves or ranting unintelligibly - schizophrenics and sufferers of similar illnesses are unlikely to have access to or the means to pay for medication if they're on the streets, making it harder for them to improve their situation in a vicious catch 22. Psychiatric health is already an area that's highly variable in accessibility and services offered. Without it, the future of a mentally ill person can be very grim.

f) Banks are beginning to be much less strict about the financial status of mortgage applications - where once it was necessary to have a large amount of money as an initial deposit, newer schemes allow people to get into homes with less preparation. However, an unexpected change in financial situation can lead to foreclosure.

g) Natural disasters, which some scientists say are increasing in recent years, destroy property on an enormous scale, and even agencies set up for this purpose tend to give only minimal compensation. Home insurance typically does not cover "acts of god".

h) Social discrimination, such as prevailing attitudes against those from the Middle East in America, can also make it hard to find a residence. Though this is by all rights illegal, minorities may not have recourse if a landlord simply comes up with another reason to turn them down, and legal costs can be prohibitive.

Once someone is on the streets it becomes ever more difficult to get off them. There are a lot of services offered that require proof of residence. They will have reduced access to many things that most people take for granted - health care, dental, education, banking, mail, communications, etc. It's difficult to afford food, particularly as there is not likely to be a way to keep much long term and foods suitable for one or two meals are more expensive, so the cost of a mobile phone or PO Box are unlikely to be high on a priority list. As they generally have no access to storage, they will have to dump most of their possessions (if they're lucky they'll be able to sell these for an initial financial benefit) and keep only what they can carry. Any space taken up by treasured items (photo albums, reminders of family, religious paraphernalia) is space that isn't able to be used for clothing, personal papers, hygiene items, medications, food, etc.

The homeless are not seen as human by much of society. There was a recent case where a homeless man saw a woman being mugged and ran to help her. Both she and the assailant fled the scene, the assailant after stabbing the man, who then collapsed to the ground and began to bleed out as people walked past, one of them stopping to take a picture on his mobile phone. It is traditional "knowledge" that the homeless are drug addicts or alcoholics, and thus it is inadvisable to offer them money, and many people will feel unsafe in the vicinity of the homeless, at least subconsciously fearing attack and/or theft. In a hospital, they are viewed as more likely to be faking illness in an attempt to get hold of drugs.

Being vulnerable, however, the homeless are at increased risk to be taken advantage of by drug dealers, criminals or pimps. Many homeless women resort to illegal prostitution (defined as such as there is legalised prostitution in some countries provided certain conditions are met), as do some teenage boys, particularly among the GLBT (who, remember, make up 40% of homeless teenagers). Drug dealers will sometimes offer the first few hits for free to get someone on the habit, and once this process is started it can be hard to break. Sure, you can say no to drugs, but if your life is utterly miserable and you can't see a way out of it, you can be emotionally coerced by someone touting a pill that will make everything feel okay for a while. It is seen as less of a crime to attack a homeless person than to attack someone with a home and a job and a place in society - another recent case involved the rape of a prostitute who was told by the two assailants that she would not be able to get justice because no one cared about her. (Happily, at least one was found guilty when the case went to trial.) Crimes against the homeless can be hard to track even if people try, as they do not have a permanent residence and the view is that they move around enough that if they go missing, they've probably simply gone somewhere else. Additionally, bodies can be hard to identify and figuring out past movements or knowing who to question can be difficult to impossible.

Homeless women who are raped, sexually abused, coerced, taken advantage of, or even who have entirely consensual sexual relationships, may find it hard to obtain birth control or the morning after pill. Pregnancy is extremely dangerous to a homeless woman. She is unlikely to have access to medical care or the extra nutrition required for a fetus. As she gets more heavily pregnant she becomes a more obviously easy target for crime. She is unlikely to go to hospital to give birth, knowing that it would likely lead to a hospital bill, which can cause or exacerbate problems, giving her a higher risk of maternal mortality. If both she and the baby survive, she now has to provide for an infant who needs to be fed, diapered, given somewhere to sleep, clothed, as well as more medical problems for a child exposed to the elements. Vaccinations are unlikely, but malnutrition is. A baby also means more necessities but less ability to carry them.

Because homeless people are not idiots, they are fully aware that crimes against them are highly unlikely to be followed up on. Most crimes are never even reported. Police forces are typically not trusted, as they are made up of people who have the same attitudes that any other average person is likely to, and one sour experience can reflect badly on the entire law enforcement. Illness and injury are less likely to be treated with the minimal access to healthcare, meaning deaths from preventable causes.

Organisations that provide support and services are often run by churches in the Western world. On the whole they are a good thing, providing things that people cannot get anywhere else. However, they have their own problems. The Salvation Army is known as being "rabidly" anti-gay, though they do provide services to people regardless of sexual orientation. However, many shelters do not take in transgendered people, or if they do, force them into the rooms appropriate to their biological sex at birth, leading to attacks and assaults from other shelter guests. Many people have heard of Jennifer Gale, a transgender activist who died overnight apparently after being turned away from a homeless shelter. (There is some debate over the exact circumstances of the events preceding her death.)

For those who have left an abusive partner, there are often also conditions. Almost all services for victims are directed at women, who make up the vast majority of those affected. However, men can be and are affected by domestic violence, either from a female partner or a male partner in the case of homosexual couples. They will rarely find help, as shelters for the abused will not allow men in, prioritising the security and comfort of the women already there, and do not have facilities to house them. Often, they will find it hard to convince people that they are victims at all - "men don't get abused" is a common belief. I knew a man once who attempted to get help who was told, "We don't provide services for abusers" even after trying to explain himself.

Shelters also often have no facilities for pets. Typically a family unit where one or more members are abusive does not only have human victims - it is rare that a pet in this situation will be untouched, and often those who escape take their beloved pets when they go, rather than leave them behind to be likely killed in anger or revenge. Animals are often suggested as a theraputic aid, incidentally, to the mentally ill, particularly those with anxiety disorders. These people are also particularly vulnerable to abuse. And many victims who have nothing but their pet and perhaps children are going to feel a strong need to stick together - the pet becomes an important part of the new family unit, one that cannot be left behind. The issue is highlighted in an article published by USA Today last Christmas, which I posted here.

The truth is, anyone can become homeless. Even those who consider themselves to have high financial security could unexpectedly lose everything they have and find themselves in a situation they never planned for or anticipated. Homelessness is not restricted to the lazy, the stupid, the criminal, the addicted. And even if it were, those people were most likely not always homeless. Once, they were human, just like anyone else.

x-posted from mailing list

I am laughing so hard at the moment. I've just been out with my babies and Nellie spent the entire time very busy cleaning up the place. She would run around to wherever there was hay and get as much in her mouth as she could until she looked like a dog with a stick, then run upstairs and put it in the sleeping box and spend a while arranging it around the walls. I'm thinking it's to do with the weather starting to get colder? I know Holly's been getting his shaggy winter coat ready. I went and got the bag of hay and sat there putting piles of it in the yard for her, Holly would hop over and munch on it and Nellie just kept running back and forth taking alllllll the hay upstairs. She had even brought up one end of the sisal grass tunnel I bought them that she had mostly destroyed, so it's just this ring of wound sisal. I wish I'd seen her dragging that one upstairs.

My camera batteries were nearly dead but I got an 18 second video of it:

Imagine that, for half an hour! lol


The news website is a pain to search sometimes, but in the paper today was a small article about one of the archbishops in Brazil saying that "society is paedophile these days" and this led people to "easily fall into it". It's not all bad though - he thinks it's a "positive sign" that it's being denounced.

Then it went into the typical "homosexuals are getting themselves rights and paedophiles will soon too!"

I want to know his opinion on the cases that are sixty years old, before homosexuals were accepted, protected, or often even acknowledged.

Police dog slashed in AOS call-out

Article text under cutCollapse )

From the animal welfare section of the NZ Herald, which is usually full of utterly depressing stories because only horrible cases actually make the news. Oh, and PETA. Obviously it's because police dogs are so much more high profile but I like how it's reported - "no other police members" is subtle but very affirming.

Incidentally, tasers were only given out to police officers recently, hence the focus on the use of it and how it helped the situation. They're still trying to prove it was a good decision.


Words mean stuff.

Use of word Negro on 2010 census forms raises memories of Jim Crow
US census 1020 lists 'Negro' as an option
'Negro' Race Choice On Census Form Sparks Outrage
Census Bureau Director Apologizes For 'Negro' Category On Form
The word 'Negro' on US census form 2010 offends some blacks
Use of 'Negro' on 2010 Census Form Upsets Modern-Day Sensibilities

It's interesting to see how news outlets advertise stories. There's been a couple of cases recently on sf_drama of stories being posted because of a ridiculous headline - "Bullies target unpopular kids", you don't say? - and fairly often when I'm getting my breakfast together in the morning I'll glance over the headlines in the paper to see if there's anything worth reading.

Without getting into the actual subject of the census, I just find something curious about these six headlines. The first four are pretty self-explanatory and factual. Then we have "offends some blacks" and "upsets modern-day sensibilities", both of which seem a little minimising to me.

Technically it is true that it "offends some blacks". However, the phrasing both puts the onus of action on black people - a word, an object with no thought or awareness, offends blacks, people who are often stereotyped as playing the 'race card' (even though as people smarter than me have pointed out, said card is probably equivalent to the two of hearts) - as well as limiting the numbers with the use of "some". When I was a kid I learned the use of vague number words - one, a couple, a few, a handful, some, several, many, most. Some is not very many. Some is a small group. Now it could well be that only a small number of blacks are offended. I don't know - I don't live in America, I haven't seen opinion polls specifically directed at black people, I'm just skimming over news stories. Personally, though, I'd suspect that the number of older black people who identify as Negro is smaller than the number who really don't like the word. Again, could be wrong.

As for "upsets modern-day sensibilities", think about that last word. What phrase do you often see it in? Delicate sensibilities. Sensibilities are things that modest, old-fashioned women have. The kind who swoon when people use foul language and who are thoroughly versed in etiquette. This is, obviously, an exaggeration, but the phrase 'modern-day sensibilities' just really bothers me in this context. It brings to mind the idea of the too-PC namby pamby liberal agenda where no one is allowed to say anything because it might upset someone else - the strawman that some (note that small number word) conservatives construct as an excuse to be a douche by painting the other side as ridiculous, in other words.

Is anyone surprised to know that the last two examples both seem to be from conservative sites? One of them was Fox News, and I really should not have looked at the comments. They were utterly toxic, unashamedly racist. If they weren't opining that those silly black people were just whining about things for the sake of it, they were painting them all as welfare bludgers, drug addicts, criminals. There was also a good deal of "colourblindness" - stating that race should just be taken off the census, because everyone is just American and caring about your culture at all just perpetuates divisiveness in a homogenous society. Not to mention the idea that the only hyphenated identity one poster had was "by-God", as in "by-God-American" and anyone who puts African in front of American should just immigrate there.

To be clear, I'm not precisely upset about this quirk of phrasing. It doesn't make me angry. It just strikes me, the different ways you can construct a sentence to convey information in startlingly different ways so as to place blame or not. It makes me a little bit uncomfortable, because the onus shouldn't be on the people who are offended. It should be on why they're offended, on what offended them, and what can be done about it. (And in case anyone's wanting to ask, "sparks outrage" doesn't hit the same buttons because there's no mention of who is outraged. It's not "outrages some blacks". It's not "outrages the politically sensitive". It's just "sparks outrage".)


You know what's better than being gay?

I'm watching the late night news after Criminal Minds ended. Along with a piece about the guy who's barricaded himself at the top of Christchurch Cathedral to protest ACC's ineffectiveness, there was a story making the claim that 8% of the US Army are taking medication for mental health reasons.

Now, most people know that I have quite a bit of experience with this sort of thing. I've been on antidepressants, sedatives and anti-anxiety medication on and off (mostly on) for many years. They are not an easy fix. There are many, many different medications, all of them have side effects (some of them truly horrifying, such as increased risk of suicide), and each of them may or may not work for any given person. Or they might work, and then stop working - which is what I've had trouble with. You have to be on a medication for at least two weeks before it even starts to show any benefit, and it can take months to find one that works with an acceptably low number of side effects.

The fact is, we don't actually know that much about antidepressants. We don't know why they work. Even worse, overall, we're not actually sure that they do. (And I do mean overall. In my personal case, they definitely do. It is literally unbearable to be off them.) I did an internet search on "antidepressants suicide" to look for stats and the first two results were from an informational website and a medical article. The Google summaries included, respectively, "But there is still no convincing evidence linking antidepressants and suicide." and "Surprisingly, direct evidence that antidepressants prevent suicide is hard to find." Later results on the first page claim that some medications double the risk of suicide attempts in those aged 18 to 25. How old is a soldier when s/he is first deployed?

Apparently soldiers are being given these on the front lines. Drugs, but not therapy. Those who are in the US on leave may have more access to mental health services, but it's clear that the numbers of people needing these services have grown in recent years, and from experience I'm guessing that the services that are available are probably insufficient. (Though admittedly, I'm not in the military.)

A quick Googling throws up the number of 1,097,050 soldiers in the 2008 financial year. A calculator tells me that 8% of that is 87,764.

Ninety thousand people serving while on medication for an illness that affects how they think, how they react, how they perceive, how they feel, how they judge. Medication that may or may not work. Medication that could make them worse. Medication that might ease depression or PTSD but dull their emotions and slow their reaction time. Medication that between three and seven people per thousand (that's four hundred and fifty soldiers) commit suicide despite of.*

I know what it's like to be mentally ill, and the idea of people like me being sent back to war, the war that caused the problems in the first place, is terrifying. You don't know what it's like until you've been there. You can't trust yourself. You have to be constantly aware of how you're thinking because you don't know if it's rational or not. For people who develop mental illness later in life (I don't have this experience, but have spoken to many people who have), you have the added frustration of being able to remember what you were like before. It's horrible. And that's without the way society and the medical establishment deals with mental illness.

Thirteen and a half thousand people have been discharged from the combined US military under DADT. Most of those were before 9/11, but even so, every year hundreds of service members are discharged who could be taking the places of those worst affected by the trauma of what they're experiencing in the Middle East. Instead, they are being told that they are not worthy. They are not worthy of serving their country, to the detriment of their colleagues' lives and health.

Apparently, the Pentagon thinks it is better to be mentally ill than it is to be gay. This is why there needs to be reform.

* As a comparison, the suicide rate in America overall is about one in a thousand, though obviously the suicide rate of depressed people in America is higher - exactly how much higher is hard to say as studies have given different figures, but probably around three or four in a thousand. Let me be clear: all of these statistics are muddy. We simply don't know.