Little Things That Make Me Like Hillary Clinton (More Than I Already Did)

My cards are on the table at this point: I like Hillary Clinton. I think she’ll make a damn good president if she wins (which is looking good at this point). But in addition to her issues and her experience and her general capableness for the job, there’s something else that keeps happening as I learn more about her and her campaign: I keep learning about little things she’s done that make me like her more. They’re not the massive, media-blitzing actions of a campaign. They’re just the little things that you see here and there that suggest someone who has put together an operation that genuinely cares about people. I really appreciate that in a candidate and campaign.

Here are a few of those things.

Her website has a form where the “gender” field is a free-form text input. Follow that link to see why that’s important in more detail, but suffice to say: it’s very significant for nonbinary trans people, and I don’t think it’s because she expects to win on the strength of the Tumblr vote.

Her website also has a form where the “prefix” (aka “honorific”) field includes options for “Other”, and “Mx.” in addition to the usual “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Dr.”, etc. Same as the gender text input, this is a significant deal for people who don’t fit into the options traditionally provided.

I strongly suspect that her campaign is the first in history to do either of the above.

Her website is designed to be accessible to low-vision and colorblind users. The accessibility of the web may or may not be something that you have to think about day-to-day, but things like this are a big deal for a lot of web users. Being inclusive in this way matters, and it suggests a care about people and an attention to detail that, suffice to say, not all candidates or campaigns have.

In 2010, she was responsible for quietly enacting a rule allowing trans people to change the gender on their passports without reassignment surgery. This in particular feels like a microcosm of why I like Clinton so much as a politician. If she can get shit done — if she can help someone more — by quietly changing something instead of loudly running on it, she does that.

This is why I tend to trust her as much as I do. I believe her when she talks about having public and private positions on things. I believe that’s true for most if not all politicians (seriously if you think this wasn’t the case for, for example, FDR, I have some news for you), and for non-politicians as well. For the most part, it’s just how people work. And in her case, in this case, I believe that she decided that keeping her opinion — that trans people deserve to be able to determine what gender goes on their passport without surgery — keeping her opinion on that relatively quiet at the time made it more likely she would succeed at accomplishing something real that changed people’s lives for the better. That rule change is a big deal for trans people. And she got it done before trans issues had become at all front and center in US politics, because she wanted to help someone.

She advocates for issues affecting autistic people by advocating for the things they actually want and need. This may not seem like a big deal if you’re not aware of how frequently “advocacy” by major organizations, parties, and campaigns tends to look like “doing what we think is best for you” instead of “doing what you actually say you want and need”. But it is.

It isn’t just the shift in emphasis that I applaud, but the language itself. The extreme, pathological language that usually surrounds autism is almost totally absent from Clinton’s proposal. The word “epidemic” doesn’t even occur once. “Disease” only occurs in reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oftentimes, autism is portrayed as a sort of tumor – an unpleasant, discrete growth that can be separated from its “host” and destroyed. The thing is, autism doesn’t work that way, and Clinton’s proposal doesn’t act like it does. She doesn’t talk about combating autism. Instead, she provides concrete ways to improve the lives of autistic Americans. I am delighted.


None of the things I’ve mentioned are the kinds of things that get national attention. But they all matter. In my opinion, they are all the actions of someone who cares about making change happen in the little ways that, while important, don’t make headlines. They make me feel more confident that the perceptions of those who know her and have worked with her are the accurate ones. I think that those people, who see her as an incredibly smart, capable, and caring person who wants to help others, are the ones whose impression of her is most accurate.

As you know, I liked her already. These things just make me like her a little more.


* If you want reasons to vote for her, check out Greta Christina’s posts about why to vote for her. If you want reasons to be skeptical of the coverage of her scandals, watch John Oliver’s coverage of them. If you think this election is as important as I do and want to help her win, this handy Chrome extension can suggest things to do to help, or you can just go to her website for events to volunteer at and/or a phone banking app you can use to do phone banking from home. And of course, make sure you register to vote and find your polling place.

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Hillary Clinton, Alexander Hamilton, and Propaganda

Something you may not know about Alexander Hamilton is that during his time as treasury secretary, he was accused of corruption constantly. He was accused of it for years on end, in ways that had little-to-nothing to do with his conduct and everything to do with politics.

On February 24, 1794, a committee full of his political opponents was formed to investigate his time at the treasury department, and pin whatever they could on him. Here’s how that turned out:

In its final report in late May, the Republican-dominated committee could not deliver the comeuppance it had craved. Instead, it confessed that all the charges lodged against Hamilton were completely baseless, as the treasury secretary had insisted all along.

Nevertheless, it frustrated him that after this exhaustive investigation his opponents still rehashed the stale charges of misconduct. He had learned a lesson about propaganda in politics and mused wearily that “no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false.” If a charge was made often enough, people assumed in the end “that a person so often accused cannot be entirely innocent.”

Chernow, Ron (2005-03-29). Alexander Hamilton (pp. 456-457). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but feel like it sounded eerily familiar.

While a lot of ink has been spilled over how GOP propaganda has created Trump’s base on denial of basic facts, there has been less talk about how the same forms of propaganda have impacted liberals. While it’s hard to find a liberal supporting Trump, it’s easy to find liberals who resent the hell out of Hillary Clinton.

People talk about her stealing the primary, about her dishonesty, about her corruption, about her being “basically a conservative”. Yet none of these claims seem nearly so clear-cut under scrutiny, and many (if not most) of them fall apart entirely with a closer look.

If decades of conservative propaganda paved the way for Trump, then decades of conservative propaganda also paved the way for the world’s current impression of Hillary Clinton.

People call her dishonest when she’s been rated more honest by Politifact than any other candidate who ran this year. People talk about her stealing the primary when she won it by a considerable margin on every conceivable metric. People talk about her e-mails, a “scandal” in which she has been investigated and found to have done nothing illegal, and which would barely register on the scandals-scale for any other politician.

Genuinely, the things that have passed as scandal for Clinton lately seem to do more to recommend her than to diminish her. The idea that this quote: “The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry” is the worst thing anyone can find in her Wall Street speeches is telling. The idea that people think “Those in an industry should have a seat at the table” is the same as saying “Those in an industry should be totally self-regulating” speaks to the low level of nuance of the accusations, and to the credulity with which many of us are reading the accusations against her.

But, as Alexander Hamilton mused more than 200 years ago after his own Benghazi-esque investigation and exoneration, “no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false.”

If you think Clinton being dishonest is a major problem for her, but you didn’t think it was a problem for Sanders, who has rated almost exactly the same level of honest as her (and that’s without having to go through all the trumped-up investigations she has), and who cried “scandal” at primary rules that have been the norm for decades, and at 100% standard responses to reports of compromised data, then you are susceptible to media propaganda as well. I say this as someone who liked Sanders’ platform and much of what he had to say.

Believing propaganda may be a problem that is worse among Trump supporters, but this isn’t just a Trump supporter thing. Liberals have been taken in by propaganda, too. I have been taken in by propaganda, too. My distrust of Hillary Clinton has only evolved into trust over a long period of reading details about each of the scandals that have been reported. It was only in reading the details that I found that most of them are meaningless and none of them are remarkable.

Is Hillary Clinton a perfect politician? No. Neither was Alexander Hamilton. But they have the shared experience of (A) being imperfect (A. Ham. having cheated on his wife and, while not engaging in corrupt dealings himself, certainly being lamentably blind to the corrupt dealings of someone under his direct employ), (B) being constantly accused of corruption in ways that were eventually revealed to be baseless, and (C) their exoneration making hardly a dent in the minds of people already convinced they were crooked. Yet in spite of his faults, we don’t look back and scorn Alexander Hamilton for being imperfect, we look back and celebrate him for being capable.

If you think “Well, there’s so much more to the accusations about Clinton”, you should understand that in Alexander Hamilton’s time, the papers were absolutely inundated with accusations against him of all kinds — accusations that sounded plausible if you took their version of things at face value. Much as the accusations against Clinton sound plausible if you take them at face value.

In my opinion, a refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton isn’t a protest against corruption, it is an endorsement of it. It is an endorsement of campaigns of baseless propaganda and a reinforcement of the idea that they can work wonders on people from any (or no) political party. Not just the party of Trump.


If you want more reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton, check out Greta Christina’s posts about why to vote for her. If you want reasons to be skeptical of the coverage of her scandals, watch John Oliver’s coverage of them. If you think this election is as important as I do and want to help her win, this handy Chrome extension can suggest things to do to help, or you can just go to her website for events to volunteer at and/or a phone banking app you can use to do phone banking from home. And of course, make sure you register to vote.


By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Hillary Clinton and Protest Votes

When I’ve heard people this election season talk about not voting, or voting third party, a lot of people talk about wanting to change things. Voting for the lesser evil, they say, will do nothing to change the system. How will we get real change to happen if we don’t rebel against the system that has made everything so fucked up to begin with?

And you’re right. Without work, nothing will change. The good news is, people are doing that work. There are activists and activist organizations all over the country working to improve the lives of citizens and to change the things that are fucked up about the system in which we live.

Real change happens slowly and with the combined efforts of thousands or millions of people. It is hard, and it is long-term.

And it is not going to happen if all of the people putting in that real work are in jail for having abortions. Or for peacefully protesting against police brutality, or for being politically inconvenient for those in power.

If Trump wins, your protest vote will put the people working hardest to change this country at tremendous risk. Refusing to vote for Clinton to stop Trump is not working to make the US better, it is being complicit in allowing it to become much, much worse. Whether you think Hillary Clinton will be a good president or not, there’s no reason to think she will overturn Roe vs. Wade, jail political opponents, or put up to 4 carbon-copies of Antonin Scalia on the supreme court.

The people working for real change: do you want them to be able to continue that work or not? Do you want them to be organizing initiatives to save lives, or in jail for having abortions? Do you want real change? Then you need to do everything you can to stop Trump, and that includes voting for Hillary Clinton.


If you want more reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton, check out Greta Christina’s posts about why to vote for her. If you want reasons to be skeptical of the coverage of her scandals, watch John Oliver’s coverage of them. If you think this election is as important as I do and want to help her win, this handy Chrome extension can suggest things to do to help, or you can just go to her website for events to volunteer at and/or a phone banking app you can use to do phone banking from home. And of course, make sure you register to vote.


By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

If You’re Against Assisted Suicide, You Are Either Monstrously Ignorant or Monstrously Selfish, Pick One

Update: some well-needed information and nuance has been added to this discussion by a reader. If you read this post, please also take the time to follow this link to a very thoughtful response.

Another day, another person generalizing their experiences and decisions to everyone else for no justifiable reason.

Back when I was dealing with more pain than I am now, I thought about assisted suicide. I never got close enough to start going through the nitty-gritty details, but it’s something I would have seriously considered if I had run out of things to try pain-wise. My back pain, back then, was constant and excruciating. A life where that experience was all there was would very likely not have been worth it to me.

Considering that option doesn’t mean, obviously, that I didn’t try to get better. I did try that, and as a result, I have gotten (somewhat) better.

Even so, it makes me very angry when people talk about how they don’t think assisted suicide should be a thing. About how if things hadn’t gotten better, I should have had no choice but to live in constant, excruciating pain.

Here’s what I think: I think that if you’re against assisted suicide, you think other people should have to suffer immeasurably so that you can avoid being uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to realize that there are people in situations where death is preferable to life. It’s not a happy thought, but it is a true one. I sympathize with wanting to believe that everyone really wants to live, or that everyone really would want to if they really thought about it. What a nice world that would be.

But that’s not the world we live in. The world we live in includes people who live with more pain than they can handle every single day of their lives. It includes terminally ill people who would rather go while they’re still coherent, aware, and not completely incapacitated by disease-induced disability and pain. If that reality makes you uncomfortable, I understand. If you think catering to your discomfort by legally requiring others to endure torture so that you can pretend it’s what everyone really, truly wants deep down inside, you can go fuck yourself.

Make no mistake, that is the decision. When you say you’re against assisted suicide, you’re saying, “That person should have to live in unimaginable pain for an indeterminate amount of time so that I don’t have to face reality”. Which is monstrous.

Sidenote: yes, legalizing assisted suicide brings with it the potential for abuse. It brings with it the potential for people to be pressured into suicide. That is a big issue, and a complicated issue, but “It’s complicated therefore we should just pretend it’s not complicated by not allowing it at all” is not a solution to it.

Help Fund the Secular Women Work Conference

Women in Secularism is not happening in 2015, but a bunch of the most awesome event organizers in skepticism (including those behind Skep-Tech, possibly my personal favorite event) are trying to put together the Secular Women Work Conference this year, and it should be awesome, but of course only if it gets funded. There’s a day to go and it’s at about 3/4 of the $13,000 needed to put it on, so it’s still got a good shot at getting funded, but it’s not there yet. GO THERE AND GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY **.

I mean, you know, if you have some to spare and/or would like to attend it, contribute to awesome people doing awesome things, etc, etc.

** I’m not really sure if my blog has enough readers that this is actually a thing that will help, but better to try when it won’t help than not try when it will, so: if you contribute something (any amount) to the Kickstarter, show me and you can ask me to write a post about a thing, and I will write such a post about such a thing (within reason).

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

I Have a Question

This is going to be short, because I’m just asking a question I’ve had in my brain for a while, and I’d be curious to have others’ opinions on it.

If you had to pick one barometer for whether a relationship, either yours or someone else’s, was healthy or not, what would it be?

I’ve had the same answer to this question in my head for quite some time, and I think it’s a decent one to take a step back and ask sometimes. If I had to pick just one, it would be this: how much more or less do you connect with the people other than the one the relationship is with?

I think good relationships help people connect *in general*, not just with the people they’re with, and that bad ones tend to, to a greater or lesser degree, not do that. What do you guys think?

Dealing With Sensitive Spots

“No.  It’s not difficult between two sane, consenting adults.  It rarely is.

Unfortunately, we’re also rarely entirely sane.

Thing is, sanity is a percentage.  We all have weak spots where if you poke us, we melt down.  We all have embarrassing hotspots that we reflexively conceal, whether we should or not.  You can be perfectly sane about 99% of things, but everyone has some crazy spot that triggers them into overreacting.  And everyone has some emotional issue that, when raised, makes them word not so good that communicates are mall workingfail.

And when someone skips across your insane zones – you have them – then you react in bizarre ways, and God forbid your bizarre reactions trample on your partner’s insane zone.  If you’re lucky, eventually you deal with it.  But that doesn’t make it magically “not hard” to do, especially when your monkey-brain wants to bite their face off for leaving toothpaste on the sink again.”

This Should Not Be Hard Between Two Sane, Consenting Adults

I have been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately. Historically, the “zone” of mine that has perhaps the most history and at times absurd intensity is my sensitivity to flakiness and imbalance in relationships with people (I have written some about this before).

A lot of this sensitivity is on account of a couple of relationships early in my life where flakiness was an issue. More generally, I think the way that my life looks right now is unfortunately conducive to poking at this sensitive spot on a regular basis for reasons that are nobody’s fault. I still can’t physically work a full work week without aggravating repetitive stress symptoms. I am accordingly almost always a lot less busy than most people are. This means I have a lot more time to fill than most people do, which makes me generally more likely to be looking to interact with people more frequently than most.

Essentially, if I and another person are about equally enjoying hanging out with each other, let’s say that means that we each feel like spending time together about once per every 40 hours of free time. Because I have more free time, I will hit that 40 hour threshold faster even given a similar level of interest. Additionally, my having more time means I am also less likely to have uncontrollable schedule things come up that might necessitate my flaking out. This means I am often more likely to feel like initiating more interaction and less likely to flake versus other people without being an inherently more interested or less flaky person.

The sense of imbalance that creates is the Boss Battle Weak Spot of my ability to be levelheaded and rational about things. When it gets hit there are YEARS of frustration and anger behind it the origin stories of which would make this post several times longer. All that accumulated angst gets piled up and directed at completely different people and situations. Knowing about it and navigating around it is a determining factor in a LOT of my social decision-making. Even with all that management, though, there is no way to avoid triggering it entirely.

When that happens, I do my best to communicate about it. While that communication certainly helps and is certainly better than not communicating, it isn’t a cure for the feelings that happen. I am still in the pretty early stages of figuring out how to deal with and process those in a way that makes me feel better. I am also still figuring out how to deal with and process them in ways that do not cause undue distress or hurt to those in the Feelings Splash Zone.

I’m curious if any readers might have experience dealing with the feelings that result from having sensitive spots like this in a way that accomplishes those things? It’s one thing to generally have a sense of a reaction being out of proportion and a wholly different thing to apply that sense and whatever tools are available in a way that actually successfully ameliorates the feeling. Doing scary, haphazard Feelings Science to this is exhausting and, well, scary, and I would much rather just cheat off someone else’s homework.

Willpower is Overrated

Willpower is a finite resource. I may have different amounts on different days and I may need different amounts on different days. One of the things that has become a philosophy of mine in interacting with the world is “Never accomplish by willpower something you can accomplish by making it easier.”

I am shit at getting myself to the gym. I could try to muster up the determination to go every week or some such, but that tends to not work. What does work is getting myself some cheap weights I can keep in my room.

It’s a lot easier to “get to the gym” when “get to the gym” means “walk five feet to where I put down the weights last time”.

I do this kind of thing as often as possible. I am a messy person, but I come across less messy than I used to, because instead of trying to get myself to be not messy by willpower, I analyzed how my messiness worked and figured out ways to make my messy habits just so happen to be less messy. The main trick was: always have somewhere to toss something that incidentally happens to be where it goes.

I put things down, and I give very little thought to where I put them down and when I’m done working I have no interest in doing any more thinking than absolutely necessary. I have drawers within arm’s reach of my chair for most of the things I might be carrying with me in a given day, because that means I actually put things in them instead of piles.

The last place I lived I noticed I tended to put the containers for the Omega-3 and vitamin D pills I take on the floor next to my chair without thinking about it. Instead of trying to stop myself from doing that, I bought a little container and put it right where I’d been putting them anyway. Suddenly my uncleanly habit was magically, effortlessly cleanly.

I think our culture idolizes the idea of accomplishing things by force of will, often at the expense of accomplishing things by doing what works. Getting things done by force of will is a very romantic idea and all, but it doesn’t work as well as making things easier. At least it never has for me.

Can’t get myself to practice an instrument? I decided to try the harmonica, an instrument I can literally have on my person 24/7, instead of having to find or get to a practice space. Random paper piling up? Now, there’s a tiny scanner that’s on top of my desk that I can scan things into and throw them out. Can’t get myself to go out and buy new food supplies when I run out in time to stave off the inevitable stopgap fast food run? Switch to using mostly supplies I can freeze or that otherwise aren’t very perishable, and buy them in advance of needing them.

For me, willpower is great for getting myself to make that phone call I’ve been dreading, because for that I only need it once. Right then. For ongoing stuff, though, force of will is a shit strategy compared with making the things I want myself to do easy and the things I don’t want myself to do hard.

That’s the one that works. Willpower looks good on paper, but I think there’s a reason people are legendarily bad at New Year’s Resolutions, and I think maybe if we spent less time on “I should really get myself to the gym more often” and more time on things like “Getting Wii Fit instead”, the success rate might be a bit a lot better.

Also, as a person with a lot of physical and pain issues, I think if physical therapists spent less time saying “You really need to be doing these more!” and more time on “How can we make this easier for you to do more?” or “What can you do that is easier to get yourself to do, but accomplishes roughly the same thing?”, their success rate would go up immensely.

written 1/16/2014, posted 1/20/2014

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Gosh, Why is Everyone So Easily Offended These Days?

“Everyone is offended by everything these days!”

“This generation is so thin-skinned; people didn’t used to get so angry over nothing.”

“Why is everyone so oversensitive about everything now?”

I keep hearing variations on this over and over and over and over and over again, and there is a lot of thoughtful, complex, intelligent stuff that can be said about it, but for now I’m going to keep it simple.

It isn’t that people today are more sensitive. It isn’t that this generation is thinner-skinned than the last generation. It’s that now, the people you hurt by your words and actions have more spaces and louder megaphones with which to tell you what the effects of your actions are. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know what has always been true. It isn’t that these issues weren’t issues before, it’s that until recently, you could remain unaware of these issues by the simple expediency of not deliberately seeking out the thoughts and words of the people who experience them.

That is why when you hear people call out comedians contributing to rape culture or biologists being incredibly racist or video games being incredibly misogynistic or people in general not respecting trans identities or pronouns, just to name a few, it isn’t the world that has changed, it is the amount of knowledge you have about it that has changed. If you think it’s the world that has changed, then you are a first-class example of how easy it used to be to remain completely ignorant about these issues.

Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are “too easily offended” or somesuch, it isn’t different now than before. You didn’t know people had issues with these things before, and now, because so many of them have voices and platforms to talk about them that they didn’t used to, maintaining that ignorance isn’t as easy as it used to be.

It’s not them that are different, it’s you. These issues have always existed, and the only thing that’s different now is that you know about them.

Click for further reading.

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

“The Friend Zone”, and Other Superstitious Beliefs

I remember reading a long time ago that superstitious beliefs are most prone to develop in situations, cultures, professions, etc., where there is a lot of dangerous and unpredictable risk. A high incidence of superstitious rituals and beliefs among sailors, for example, was attributed to this phenomenon because of the high level of unpredictability and risk associated with their jobs.

It struck me yesterday that this serves as a pretty decent model for why people hold so many different absurd beliefs about dating. Concepts like the friend zone or the three day rule are good examples of this. The friend zone is essentially a superstitious belief, and the three day rule is essentially a superstitious ritual–it is a prescribed type of action believed to bring about a particular result without evidence outside the anecdotal.

Dating is, let’s face it, pretty unpredictable, And is an activity that for most people is high-risk emotionally in that peoples’ dating lives can have a pretty significant impact on their emotional state and self-esteem. One might posit, therefore, that it is one of those situations of high risk and low predictability that are particularly conducive to superstition. Maybe that is the reason why whole books have been written to debunk the ever-growing list of superstitious beliefs that have popped up around them. One circumstance’s 13th floor is another’s collar-touching is another’s three day rule.

Food for thought.