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From the amazing David Pope

 

From the wonderful Cathy Wilcox.

Image result for unemployed bettong gets tudged

From First Dog on the Moon – see the whole thing here, it was brilliant.

 

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Let’s talk about discretion and trust.  And perhaps also the public interest.

These are not the usual words I would use when introducing a discussion of the Disclosure principles in privacy law, but right now they seem apt.  Because right now I am hopping mad about the disclosure by our government of one woman’s personal information to the media.

The matter I am talking about involves a single mother, but at a deeper level it involves all of us.  We are all citizens, we are all ‘clients’ of government agencies at various times throughout our lives, and we all entrust our personal information to those government agencies.  We expect that our privacy will be respected in return.  This is the story of what happens when it isn’t.  This is the story of Andie Fox, but it could just as easily be the story of you or me.

From Anna Johnston’s “Just because you can disclose, doesn’t mean you should”at Salinger Privacy. 

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But if you read Malone’s piece, as I did, you’d know that it didn’t actually dispute anything of moment in what Fox wrote – not the prehistoric hardware, the clunking website, not the wait times, the mindless bureaucracy, the searing hot shame of sharing private lives in a public space that would lead you to any conclusions Fox made. All Malone really did was divulge, on behalf of the government, information about Andie Fox that was irrelevant to her story. He helped them frighten her.

From the writer, Mary-Rose MacColl’s piece, “If we want writers like Andie Fox”.

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This has been such a disturbing experience.

Recently, I wrote an article critical of Centrelink’s debt collection processes based on my personal experiences. That article is here. It was written with the intention of drawing people’s attention to how impenetrable the debt collection process can be and also, to encourage women to consider fighting against ‘sexually transmitted debt’.

Paul Malone, writing for Canberra Times, has since obtained personal information from my Centrelink file (I’m still not sure how privacy legislation allows this) in order to write an article about my story from the government’s perspective. The article is optimistically titled, “Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story”.

It seems the story most neglected is not the helpless ‘client’ of Centrelink, so often powerless in the face of an enormous bureaucratic machine, but the Centrelink machine, itself.

I am incredibly reluctant to go further into my personal details but here we are.

Among the problems I have with Malone’s article:

The agency says Ms Fox’s debt is a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt for the 2011-12 financial year which arose after she received more FTB than she was entitled to because she under-estimated her family income for that year.

As I outlined in my article, when your ex does not lodge his tax return for a year in which you received the Family Tax Benefit it seems your family income will be classified ‘under-estimated’, and consequently, you, who filed a tax return may be required to pay the tax benefit back. My article drew attention to the ways in which this can penalise women.

The original debt was raised because she and her ex-partner did not lodge a tax return or confirm their income information for 2011-12.

My tax returns were up to date before I learned of a Centrelink debt and said tax returns noted my new status as a single parent.

However, it is true that I filed my own tax return late that particular year, the circumstances behind this were subsequently shared fully with Centrelink. Given the nature of those circumstances, I am under the impression that my late tax return was forgiven. I will not be sharing those details, but I will note that the extreme sensitivity of factors considered by Centrelink for pardoning late returns includes such things as serious domestic violence and so, I would urge journalists to tread very carefully in this space.

Centrelink says that after Ms Fox notified the department that she had separated from her partner, the debt due to her partner’s non-lodgement was cancelled.

This feels somewhat disingenuous to me. The fine was finally cancelled by Centrelink after acknowledging that their previous decision to impose the debt on me had been a mistake. My notes indicate the process I had to go through took more than 12 months. That seems long to me, and arduous (it included insisting upon a review of my case) – it seems worthy of an article, which is why I wrote it.

But Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen says Centrelink made numerous attempts to get in touch with Ms Fox via phone and letter but many of these attempts were left unanswered.

During the process the department and I discovered they had old contact details for me. This has been a common story across many Centrelink debt stories with false debts escalating to debt collectors before people even realise they have a Centrelinke debt.

You would think a combination of my taking a day off work to visit Centrelink and following that, spending hours  on the phone with Centrelink, would be evidence of a desire to both understand the debts and to resolve them. That I remain, to this day, confused about elements of both is a sign not of my disengagement but of a very complicated, demoralising and problem-ridden process.

However, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of a couple of individual Centrelink staff members. Due to an editorial decision about word length their supportive comments were not included in my article. But I would note that they sounded almost as sad about the frustrations I was experiencing with Centrelink as I was, and in the end I couldn’t help but think we were all trapped in a kind of maddening maze.

Thank you, also, to the lawyers who came forward with suggestions after reading my article. All my love to those who work in this system and who wish for the system to work justly.

Something is going very, very wrong in government policy at the moment. But I am filled with hope because it has also brought out some very, very good people.

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Y’all I’m really struggling with this attempt to displace vaginas from feminist conversations. Honestly, I don’t think this is the move.

Here’s the thing: feminism taught me to love my vagina. (Hip Hop) Feminism gave me the courage to use the word “pussy,” when I need to make requests in the bedroom. (Cues Missy E.) But feminism a la bell hooks also taught me about the historical politics of “selling hot pussy.” Feminism taught me years ago not to feel embarrassed about telling y’all a period story and gave me the structural analysis to think about why we ask women and girls and all people who have periods to hide them or feel shame about them. Even in 2017, I still have to walk into women’s and gender studies classrooms and tell my intro students about the historical reasons for period shame. Their faces still turn beet red – all of them.

But also: we live in a world that doesn’t love vaginas. Vaginas are structurally maligned, and considered the property of men. Just ask your new president. Let us not forget the transvaginal ultrasound fiasco of a 5 years ago, when several states tried to make it legal to put a phallic like ultrasound probe into a woman’s vagina against her will. In a hierarchy of genitalia, penises are chief. Vaginas are near the bottom. And then the genitalia that intersex people have labor and languish in epistemic obscurity, by which I mean, that up until only the last few decades or so, science chose not even to acknowledge that penises and vaginas aren’t the only configurations of genitals that exist.

When I think about what it would mean to build a Black feminist framework which decenters the pussy, it gives me pause. The call is of course to decenter cisgender Black women from Black feminist frameworks. Again, this move, and the ways in which, in far left social justice spaces, such moves are assumed to be a clear mandate, a clearly desirable end of our politics, gives me pause.

From The Crunk Feminist Collective with “Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now: The place of vaginas in black feminist theory & organizing”.

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But the pathology that’s animating these viral conspiracy theories is different. It’s a determinism of a far more granular sort: It assumes, quite improbably, that the Trump team knew exactly what sort of thing would happen after their every move, that they were only testing out the details. As if Jared Kushner could see through time, as if Stephen Miller could read our thoughts. Its universe is one that’s programmable. To adopt their own hermeneutic stance: What’s really going on, underneath all the layered lies, and what little puncta might give it away? The most notable clue here is that neither Zunger nor Fuentes are political analysts or journalists or academics or even civil servants. Instead, both come from the tech industry.

Zunger is on the privacy team at Google; Fuentes was behind LevelMoney, an app since acquired by Capital One. They belong to a particular class, with a particular way of looking at the world. Silicon Valley doesn’t really approach politics as a sphere of competing social interests, a space in which people have the ability to make collective demands and collectively alter the conditions of their existences, but as a system—something with an input, an output and reams of complex programming in between. Whenever the tech world turns its attention to politics, there’s always the hint of this nerdish fascination for system: an inattention to what politics actually is or does, but a fetishization of efficiency, the latent notion that all these 18th-century structures really should just be replaced with something you can download on your phone.

From Sam Kriss’ “Liberals on the edge of a nervous breakdown” in Politico Magazine.

All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.

Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank god. The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren’t homogeneous — they are, pretty much by definition, politically heterogeneous. And there is not a single radical or revolutionary on earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas.

Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of existing system mock, deride, or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.

From  Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “How to build a mass movement” in Jacobin. 

 

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Spend it on mental health, according to this very interesting policy research. In terms of government expenditure, it is both super cheap and leads to super impressive outcomes.

What gives you best future outcomes? Spending money on the mental health of mothers and schooling systems that focus on the emotional health of children (especially in high school).

(And I suspect some of the income inequality effects in this research are crowded out by work intensification lifestyle effects).

 

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