Category Archives: Features

Entertainingly “Atypical”: The Current State of Autism in Media

 This piece is the first of the ongoing series “Neurowrites” – where disabled writers comment on politics, society, and media. Contributing writer Zoey Giesberg was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and writes about her life and experiences at Jumping Out of the Fishbowl and is a regular contributor to PopFront. She holds her masters degree in social work from the University of Southern California.

By Zoey Giesberg, MSW

When I was young and was unaware of my autism diagnosis,I did not have a reference point for autistic people because there was no representation of Autism in the media. I only knew about autism through a Baby-sitters Club book. The book, entitled Kristy and the Secret of Susan, was about one of the titular “baby-sitters” taking on a non-verbal autistic charge and I honestly don’t remember much about it, except that the main character Kristy decides to leave her autistic charge Susan alone after unsuccessfully trying to force her to integrate with other kids. I didn’t much care much for the book at the time despite being a big Baby-sitters Club fan, and I’m sure if I read it now I’d be appalled at how the characters were written and treated. Either way, I didn’t have a reference point as to what autism was because I didn’t really have that much exposure to it in media. I had characters that I liked and related to, but none that felt especially representative of me as an autistic girl.

I think it’s safe to say that the days of autism being a non-entity in pop culture are coming to an end. Since diagnoses have risen in the last twenty years, movies and television have slowly come to recognize and insert autistic people as characters. Various television shows like Girl Meets World, Sesame Street, Parenthood, and Community have featured characters explicitly stated or implied to be on the autism spectrum. The 2016 crime thriller “The Accountant“, starring Ben Affleck as an autistic accountant was a unexpected box office hit and is green-lighted for a sequel. And this August, Netflix premiered a dramedy series about an autistic teenager looking for love called “Atypical”: Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieHh4U-QYwU&feature=youtu.be

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Eleven Questions for Hillary Clinton, from Bernie Sanders Supporters

Hillary Clinton’s supporters’ argument that Bernie Sanders backers should throw their support to her in November relies on two main points: mainly, that the party must unite to defeat Donald Trump; but also, that Sanders has already pushed Hillary to the left, and hence 2016 Hillary is much more palatable to left-liberals than her earlier incarnations.

Photo courtesy Phil Roeder

On some issues, this might be true.  Hillary now claims to support raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, expanding the Social Security Trust Fund, and inaugurating a work-study program to eliminate college debt.

Still, Hillary’s stances on several key issues remain unclear, and if she wishes to sway Bernie voters to her side, she should answer the following questions:

1) Is Hillary for or against “capital f” Free Trade?  

A cynic might claim that Hillary opposes Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) while running for office, but supports them while in office.  Or, perhaps she opposes them generally, but favors them in every specific case—since every new FTA, unlike the previous, includes provisions that will protect labor rights and the environment.

As a candidate in 2008, Hillary opposed the Panama, Colombia, and South Korea FTAs, and promised to renegotiate NAFTA.  As Obama’s Secretary of State, she vigorously supported all of these agreements and did nothing to alter NAFTA.  In so doing, she stood far to the right of House Democrats (84%, 67%, and 65% voted against the Colombia, Korea, and Panama deals, respectively).  She also heaped praise upon the TPP, calling it the “gold standard” of FTAs. She now opposes it, and would adduce this flip-flop and her only other opposition to an FTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA) as evidence that she has always staunchly opposed them.

Debating in Michigan, Hillary stated, “I voted against the only multinational trade agreement that came before me when I was in the Senate. It was called CAFTA.”  This is true only in the most gymnastically semantic sense. Yes, technically, the Central American Free Trade Agreement was the only “multinational” FTA that Clinton voted on as a senator (she joined 77% of Senate Democrats in opposing it) if “multi-national” is defined as involving three or more countries, rather than two.  But as senator, she supported “bi-national” FTAs with all of the following countries: Oman, Morocco, Australia, Singapore, and Chile.

Substance-minded Sanders voters have strong reasons for disliking, distrusting and opposing her, and since Bernie's campaign is based on ideas, not idolatry, a remark or two won't sway them.

Her world-class prevarications notwithstanding, Hillary must do two simple things to impress Bernie voters: 1) Defend or repudiate her record or overwhelming support for FTAs, and 2) “Set the record straight” that she will unconditionally oppose similar FTAs as president. Continue reading

Does this study prove SFBARF’s mission is puke?

You’ve probably heard the urban planning acronym NIMBY, which stands for Not In My Backyard. Often used in a pejorative sense (as in nimbyism), the word recalls the political sentiments of neighborhood groups—nominally, wealthier ones with more clout—to cease any local development or change whatsoever, regardless of social benefit. The term could be applied, for instance, to Marin County’s perpetual efforts to stop BART from running through their county (much-needed 40 years ago when first proposed) —motivated by racist fears of diluting their lily-white demographic.

Then there’s SFBARF, a citizen activist group that promotes YIMBYism—the counterfactual to NIMBY, i.e. a philosophy of “Yes In My Backyard.” A punk-sounding acronym for “San Francisco Bay Area Renter’s Federation,” SFBARF advocates for building more luxury homes and condos as a way of reducing the housing crunch on middle- and lower-income households in the Bay Area. To that end, they travel around the Bay Area and attend city council meetings, lobbying on behalf of developers.

Condo illustration

Illustration by Naomi Rosenberg.

Does that sound confusing? Here’s the economic logic: lots of rich people want to move to the Bay Area, and they don’t necessarily want to live in poorer neighborhoods—but, they will if that’s all they can find. Better to keep building condos and luxury high-rises in wealthy areas, so as to keep the poor and middle-income neighborhoods for those who need them most.

Yet many Bay Area activists have called for SFBARF’s head, claiming that they’re a “faux-grassroots” group that only encourages developers, and poses as progressive. Is there any basis to that claim? Continue reading

The Way Out is Through: Class Conflict in Bogota

 by Julia Raskin

For many in Colombia, the election of Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro represents a step forward for democracy and the fight against poverty. The former leader of the revolutionary-socialist guerrilla faction M-19, Petro’s policies in office have explicitly recognized class tensions in the city and work to transform them. For the city’s wealthy, however, the election of an extreme left-wing politician threatens Colombia’s newfound security—or at least that of its monied neighborhoods. A recent proposal to build affordable housing in a wealthy enclave, isolated in the north of Bogotá, reveals the class conflict that defines life in the city. Continue reading

Finding Fandom

OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE A’s

By Lark Omura

When it comes to sports, calling me a fair-weather fan would probably be… well, fair. At the last Super Bowl party I attended, I announced my intent to leave after the next inning, to the chagrin of everyone around me. I was swiftly corrected, my colleagues seemingly less concerned over my departure than my attempt to count the innings in football. I’d thought it was simple: there were four. Continue reading

Who Wants to be the Bad Guy?

Last month, news of a possible real-world purge in multiple American cities spread across the internet like wildfire. Inspired by Facebook posts from Louisville announcing that all laws and emergency services would be suspended for a twelve hour period, copycat hoaxes soon popped up Jacksonville, Detroit, the Bay Area, and other major US cities. The news went viral, Louisville police took the threat seriously, and, in the end, nothing happened. While the hoax sparked fear of looting and homicide through social media and news sites, it was fortunately anticlimactic. But it raises the opportunity to discuss current events and the ideology that drives them. In particular, why anybody would be attracted to enacting a purge-like scenario in the real world?

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INTERVIEW: Dan Siegel, Progressive Candidate for Oakland Mayor

Illustration by Kristin Jensen.

Illustration by Kristin Jensen.

Dan Siegel is running for mayor of Oakland on a progressive platform of a higher minimum wage, housing and tenant’s rights, public internet and police reform. Siegel, a civil rights attorney with a history of organizing and activism, was voted “Most Progressive Oakland Mayoral Candidate” in the East Bay Express.

Unusual for a politician, Siegel—who referenced the idea of “radical reformism” in discussing his political views—has nuanced views on crime, gentrification and civics that hint at a deeper understanding of society and economy. We sat down with him to talk about his politics, his background working with the left, and his vision of the future of Oakland.

The Salesperson’s Stories

Article Illustration 3With a wallet freshly fattened by my first commission check, I proudly marched into my place of employ for the first time not as a salesperson, but as a customer. My feet springing on the buoyant surface of the socioeconomic level to which I had ascended, I readied myself to at last engage in the ritual to which my newly heightened stature earned exclusive participatory rights. In so many words, I prepared myself to make a purchase. But this wasn’t just any purchase. For I wouldn’t return to the grand threshold of Barneys New York with eggs or bread, pots or pans, socks or underwear. My purpose at this moment was singular in its irreverent flouting of necessity for the sake of paying worship to its opposite. Luxury, a quality that I saw living and breathing in the seams of that Fall 2010 Balenciaga dress. A design roused from the house’s storied archives, it was classic, it was modern, it was fabulous. It was most definitely worth $1,395.

The concept of such an object’s value, ensconced as it is within the artificial structures of  production and consumption that gird the tenuous constructs of the capitalist economy, is necessarily divorced from the reality of its utility.  Rather, the value assigned stems from a collective illusion, internally generated and externally sustained, of the worth of that object’s possession.  Such worth is illusory because the desire to own an object is preceded by the desire to acquire the object.  In other words, the desire to have obscures the more pressing desire to shop. Continue reading

In Defense of Venezuela, Part 2: Different Class, Different Interests

Today we continue the second part of a two-part series on the ongoing protests in Venezuela. In part one, Nick Laursen wrote about the history of the Venezuelan constitution, the oligarchical parties that dominated the political landscape until 1999, and the Chávez administration’s dedication to a democratic process of constitutional revision. Now we move from history to a discussion of the current situation.

burned-venezuela-seal

What drives the current opposition to Maduro? The answer is mostly economic—the current protests are related to a rise in crime and inflation, as well as shortages. However, at their core, these grievances are more the ails of the wealthy, propertied classes, and they highlight the economic tension and disparate interests between rich and poor Venezuelans.  In order to understand these, however, we have to go back to economic history. Continue reading

This is Class War: In Defense of Venezuela

Coat_of_arms_of_Venezuela

In considering the political firestorm in Venezuela, it may be best to start with a quantitative measure of populist will: elections. The government of Hugo Chávez—and the associated Bolivarian Revolution, more movement than literal revolution—came to be in 1999, following the elections of 1998 in which Chávez won a majority, 56%, of the national vote. In second place came the center-right candidate, Salas Römer, with 40% of the vote. Chávez’s margin of victory was particularly impressive given Venezuela’s abundance of political parties.

After less than a year of governance, the Chávez administration called a public referendum to approve the creation of a Constitutional Assembly, which would be charged with the task of drafting a new constitution to replace the outdated and outstanding one written 39 years prior by rural and business elites, and engineered to preserve their interests. The referendum passed with an unprecedented 88% of the vote. Continue reading