Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Last Call For It's About Game Journalism

Reminder: you are not allowed to publicly discuss harassment culture in the gaming community.  At all.  Ever. The consequences are brutal.

SXSW Interactive, the annual technology event in Austin, Tex., decided on Monday to cancel two panel discussions on game culture that prompted threats of violence against the conference. 
In a blog post, Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive, said that the event organizers made the decision to cancel the two sessions after receiving “numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming” in the week since the panels were announced. 
The panels that were scheduled for the conference, which is being held next March, were titled “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.” Both appear to have been dedicated to exploring different sides of an issue that has polarized the gaming community since last year, when an online movement known by the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate first formed. 
GamerGate supporters have railed against what they view as politically correct critics of games and their allies in the press. Some people who have attacked games for sexism, including Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist culture critic, have been the targets of online harassment and have had to cancel speaking engagements because of threats at the events. 
Neither of the listings for the panels at SXSW explicitly mention GamerGate. The description for the “Level Up” panel said that it would include “experts on online harassment in gaming and geek culture, how to combat it, how to design against it, and how to create online communities that are moving away from harassment.” 
The “SavePoint” panel, meanwhile, was to “focus heavily on discussions regarding the current social/political landscape in the gaming community, the journalistic integrity of gaming’s journalists, and the ever-changing gaming community, video game development, and their future.”

Seems like a great time to mention that BuzzFeed has pulled out of SXSW in response to the event giving in to GamerGate.  But that's the point, of course, to make ever questioning the supremacy of male gamers on the internet so unendingly toxic that anyone who deviates from the "hot games, hot guns and hot girls" script gets crushed.

Close Your Eyes, Marion!

Well, as if I needed yet another reason never to set foot in a Hobby Lobby store, there's this story from the Daily Beast.

In 2011, a shipment of somewhere between 200 to 300 small clay tablets on their way to Oklahoma City from Israel was seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis. The tablets were inscribed in cuneiform—the script of ancient Assyria and Babylonia, present-day Iraq—and were thousands of years old. Their destination was the compound of the Hobby Lobby corporation, which became famous last year for winning a landmark Supreme Court case on religious freedom and government mandates. A senior law enforcement source with extensive knowledge of antiquities smuggling confirmed that these ancient artifacts had been purchased and were being imported by the deeply-religious owners of the crafting giant, the Green family of Oklahoma City. For the last four years, law enforcement sources tell The Daily Beast, the Greens have been under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq
These tablets, like the other 40,000 or so ancient artifacts owned by the Green family, were destined for the Museum of the Bible, the giant new museum funded by the Greens, slated to open in Washington, D.C., in 2017. Both the seizure of the cuneiform tablets and the subsequent federal investigation were confirmed to us by Cary Summers, the president of the Museum of the Bible. 
From its founding in 1970, the Greens’ Hobby Lobby chain has been more than simply a suite of craft stores. The Greens have used it as a model of a business run on Christian values. Stores are closed on Sundays in order to give employees time to attend church. The company employs four chaplains, and offered a free health clinic to staff at its headquarters long before free health care came into political vogue. The Greens have also used the Hobby Lobby platform to spread their Christian message far and wide: The company annually places full-page ads celebrating—in their words— “the real meaning of Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day” in newspapers across the country. 
But the Greens went from evangelical players to bona fide Christian celebrities in June of 2014 when they won a Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It granted them exemption from the Obamacare mandate to provide certain forms of contraception to their employees; forcing the company to do so, the Supreme Court ruled, would have violated the Greens’ deeply-held Christian beliefs. 
If the investigation ends with a decision to prosecute, on either criminal or civil charges, the Greens may be forced to forfeit the tablets to the government. There may also be a fine involved. The Green family, who successfully forced the federal government to legally recognize their personal moral standards, now find themselves on the other side of the docket, under suspicion of having attempted to contravene U.S. laws.

The abhorrent practice of looting antiquities aside (and all the Raiders of the Lost Ark jokes too) should the FBI actually go after the Green family, the Republican party will go absolutely bonkers over this.  The outrage may in fact melt through the floor and destroy the inner core of the Earth. Drudge will have "Obama's jackbooted thugs persecute Christians over Obamacare" headlines daily through the November 2016 election.  I actually expect the GOP Congress to convene hearings in order to interfere with an ongoing FBI case.

So yeah, close your eyes on this one, or you might end up like the bad guys in Raiders.

Orange Julius Plays Let's Make A Deal

The Tea Party loses again when it comes to the tentative budget deal worked out over the weekend, and it looks like Orange Julius is giving President Obama everything he wanted as he exists, stage left.

GOP leaders from both ends of the Capitol met privately with their rank-and-file Monday evening to outline the general contours of the emerging agreement between Congress and the White House. It would boost defense and domestic spending over the next two years, and lift the nation’s debt limit through March 2017 — thereby eliminating the twin threats of a government shutdown and a debt default until after the November 2016 elections.

But conservative lawmakers, eager to keep the strict spending caps from a 2011 budget agreement intact, were very skeptical of the deal after they emerged from close-door briefings with their leaders on Monday night.

Asked about the tentative agreement after the briefing, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions replied: “My knees quiver at the sound.”

In an interview, Sessions expressed frustration that outgoing Speaker John Boehner was hammering out the deal just days before he plans to give up the gavel for good. “What does Boehner got to do with it?” said an exasperated Sessions, the former top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “I’m worried about how fast it’s moving. I see no reason for that. Based on what I know now, it appears the president got whatever he wanted.”

Suckers.  You lose again.  And you always will...and it prevents major cuts to Social Security in the future.

Not only will the increased spending levels make for heartburn with conservatives, but many of the offsets touch on political hot buttons.

Those pay-fors include a repeal of a piece of Obamacare, according to congressional sources. It would repeal Obamacare’s requirement that large employers automatically enroll employees in their health plans. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a different bill to repeal that provision would save the federal government $7.9 billion over a decade.

The plan would also prevent a 20 percent across-the-board benefit cut to the Social Security Disability Insurance program, resulting in $168 billion in long-term savings. The tentative deal would also be paid for by extending the Medicare sequester that was approved in the Budget Control Act for another year and setting up additional cuts to hospitals.

The tentative agreement would also impose policy changes to disability insurance, tax compliance, crop insurance, spectrum and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Lawmakers and aides cautioned that the negotiations were not completed, and some details could change before details are made public — likely by later Monday night.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas dryly acknowledged: “I don’t think you’ll hear anybody popping any champagne corks.”

Indeed, conservatives across the country have been watching for months to see how GOP leaders handle the spending caps that many on the right view as a major victory. Many conservatives are likely to interpret the budget deal, even with some new spending paid for with cuts and new revenues, as a retreat from the blunt spending restrictions of the Budget Control Act that was enacted into law in 2011.

So yes, a big reversal of sequestration cuts that have been hurting the economy for years now.  No wonder the Republicans are furious.

Will the deal pass?  We'll find out.


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