Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scotland's 'Not Ever' Rape Advert

According to BBC News, this advent is "Scotland's first TV advert aimed at tackling prejudice against rape victims is being broadcast." And even though this was July of last year, this is the first time I'm seeing this advert. What a shame!

I had to watch this video twice because the first time around my brain turned mushy and all I could think was "they sure do talk purdy." (Also, my voice totally lowered and turned into some parody of a guy in the south who owns a pick up truck and cuts the sleeves off all his shirts. I have serious stereotype issues apparently.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ad for the National Association of GLBT in Israel

Just came across these two ads for the National Association of GLBT in Israel (via):

“If you’re not with your son, you’re against him. If you love your son, love him the way he is. Just listen to him, and you might get to know who he really is. The process of getting out of the closet should begin at home.”

I know they're pretty obvious, but I don't hate them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt's Protests

Here's someone far more knowledgeable than me to explain what's happening in Egypt. Just in case you've been living under a rock:

If you're interested you can find live updates at the Guardian and there's a great picture gallery of the protests here.

A protester throws stones towards riot police in Cairo. Photograph: Victoria Hazou/AP
Secretary Clinton at a press conference on today answering questions about the protests:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mom Convicted of Felony for Sending Kids to the Wrong School District

The story of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the mother of two who was convicted of a felony and sent to jail for falsifying records so her kids could attend a safer school, has gotten a lot of traction online. One of the more interesting posts I've read on the story was by Dr. Boyce Watkins though, and I thought I'd share.

Dr. Watkins post focuses on the race of Williams-Bolar, but it is obvious that class is inseparable in this case. (Though the fact most of the poor in this country are people of color keeps race relevant to the discussion.)
When I read about this case, a few thoughts went through my mind. First, it’s clear that the court is trying to make Kelley Williams-Bolar into an example. Even the judge in the case, Patricia Cosgrove, said that her sentence was appropriate ''so that others who think they might defraud the school system perhaps will think twice.''

Secondly, it’s interesting how courts find it convenient to make someone into an example when they happen to be poor and black. I’d love to see how they prosecute wealthy white women who commit the same offense. Oh, I forgot: Most wealthy white women don’t have to send their kids to the schools located near the projects.

Third, I’m not sure why the court is treating this law-abiding mom like a thug who ran into a building with a shotgun and robbed the district of $30,000. Instead, they could simply subtract the amount it costs for her kids to go to the second school from the amount that would be spent for them to attend the first one. I’m sure the difference would still be substantial, since American educational apartheid dictates that schools in poorer neighborhoods are of significantly less quality than other schools. The racial divisions within American schools are nothing less than a blatant and consistent human rights violation and should certainly be treated as such.

A final interesting blow by Judge Cosgrove that reflects the experience of marginalized African Americans in the criminal justice system relates to Williams-Bolar’s quest to obtain a teaching degree. The single mother was in school studying to become a teacher so that she could create a better life for her girls. But that won’t happen for her family now, given that the judge has all but shut the door on her chance to fulfill her dream:

''Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today,'' the judge said. ''The court's taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.''

This case is a textbook example of everything that remains racially wrong with America’s educational, economic and criminal justice systems. Let’s start from the top: Had Ms. Williams-Bolar been white, she likely would never have been prosecuted for this crime in the first place (I’d love for them to show me a white woman in that area who’s gone to jail for the same crime). She also is statistically not as likely to be living in a housing project with the need to break an unjust law in order to create a better life for her daughters. Being black is also correlated with the fact that Williams-Bolar likely didn’t have the resources to hire the kinds of attorneys who could get her out of this mess (since the average black family’s wealth is roughly 1/10 that of white families). Finally, economic inequality is impactful here because that’s the reason that Williams-Bolar’s school district likely has fewer resources than the school she chose for her kids. In other words, black people have been historically robbed of our economic opportunities, leading to a two-tiered reality that we are then imprisoned for attempting to alleviate. That, my friends, is American Racism 101.

This case is also an example of how racial-inequality created during slavery and Jim Crow continues to cripple our nation to this day. There is no logical reason on earth why this mother of two should be dehumanized by going to jail and be left permanently marginalized from future economic and educational opportunities. Even if you believe in the laws that keep poor kids trapped in underperforming schools, the idea that this woman should be sent to jail for demanding educational access is simply ridiculous.
At the end of the day this woman broke the law so I understand the need to hold her accountable. The amount of other parents breaking similar laws doesn't really matter in that regard. But what I don't understand is why this is a felony. Would probation and a misdemeanor charge not have sufficed? Williams-Bolar's father was already paying taxes so the $30,000 dollars Williams-Bolar is said to owe also seems vastly inappropriate.

When you look at the state report card for Akron vs Copley-Fairlawn (both pdfs), you can see why this mother would do what she did. Copley meets the 26/26 state benchmark while Akron clocks in at 4/26. Four. And while Akron has similar amounts of white and black students (40% to 47% respectively), 84.4% are considered "economically disadvantaged." Unsurprisingly, it's completely opposite at Copley. Copley is not only 75% white, but only 14% are economically disadvantaged. To pretend these percentages don't matter is a bit naive and the fact these two schools are in the same county and less than ten miles apart is appalling. That's the true crime here.

Also, what kind of school hires a private investigator for something like this? How many resources were used in the evidence gathering and prosecution of this crime?

I want to add that the judge who sentenced Williams-Bolar sent a letter to the state board of education asking them not to "suspend Williams-Bolar's teaching assistant's license or any teaching license she might obtain in the future." But even though Williams-Bolar is only a few credit hours short of a teaching degree at the University of Akron, this sentence has taken her ability to provide for her family out of her hands and placed it with the whims of the school board. Let's hope they do the right thing.

Random facts:

American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago.

In Summit County, the KKK claimed to have fifty thousand members, making it the largest local chapter in the United States during the 1910s and 1920s.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Rep. Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Response to State of the Union

Rep. Michele Bachmann gave her own response to the State of the Union Address on behalf of the Tea Party (because apparently we feel the need to continue pandering to the illusion of political power the Tea Party has somehow conjured up for itself). As to be expected, the speech was unimaginative and a bit silly.

I have no idea why Bachmann isn't looking at the camera, but it's kind of annoying. I also felt like I was being talked down to the entire time. I'm sure that will appeal to the delicate sensibilities and lack of humor the Tea Party apparently has, but I just found it a bit disconcerting. I must admit Bachmann gave a better speech than Bobby Jindal in my view though.

As usual Bachmann is talking out her ass for most of this speech. Media Matters has done an excellent fact check on everything she said. I would definitely recommend it (you can find it here). Too bad the audience Bachmann was speaking towards are also the same people least likely to actually research her claims.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Roundup Time

Here are just a few interesting things I've come across lately on the itnerwebs.

Random picture:


1. How You Shop When You Are Poor on tumblr really resonated with me.
And this is where I will lose a lot of people: Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t next. “Fun” foods are. Whatever food is fun for you: snack cakes, chips, beer, tea, coffee, soda, string cheese. My mom wasn’t happy unless she had tea and ice cream in the house. Why does this take precedence over “virtuous” foods? Because poor people get tired of being fucking virtuous all the time. Because we don’t have the expendable income that middle class people do, to buy other things which comfort us like nice furniture, nice cars, electronics, trips to do fun things, etc. I may be inviting a lot of hate by admitting this, but sometimes when you’re poor, eating for entertainment is the only entertainment you can afford. If a dollar box of Twinkies makes you feel happy when the rest of your life is no fun, that is a dollar well spent. Sometimes my mom and I would spend $20 per trip on just junk food, but that was the only $20 we spent on anything frivolous the entire week/month/whatever. And by frivolous I mean anything other than bills and gas money. Again, living without this stuff makes you feel poor. Sometimes you need to have some small luxuries to feel human, and personally, my need to feel human is more important than my need for broccoli.
2. The Unbearable Whiteness of Pro-Lifers and Pundits is an interesting read about the comparison of abortion to slavery that some people make.
In that difference lies the racism implicit in the abortion/slavery analogy Santorum employs and Klein defends. The analogy necessarily holds that the enslaved were the equivalent of embryos--helpless, voiceless beings in need of saviors. In this view of American history, the saviors, much like the pro-life movement, are white.
3. Amnesty report condemns US death rates of women in childbirth which ranks us "41st in the WHO's league table of maternal mortality, with a risk of women dying in childbirth at one in 4,800."
The death rate of women giving birth in the US is worse than in 40 other countries, including nearly all the industrialised countries, Amnesty International said today in a report that describes the country's approach to maternity care as "disgraceful and scandalous".
4. Optimism About State Of The Country Hits Highest Point Since 2007 is simple and to the point.
Americans' brightening view on the country in general correlates nicely to a recent uptick in their confidence in the economy. A CNN poll released last week showed optimism about the economy inching up, while pessimism dropped to its lowest level since August 2008. Also, a recent Pew poll found that fewer people were hearing "mostly bad" economic news than at any time since December 2008, when Pew began polling the question.
5. Across the Universe’s Cover Racefail is about another case where a book cover has been whitewashed. I'm always interested by these situations for some reason.
...I can’t help but wonder what Razorbill was thinking: Was it that the boy on the previous cover wasn’t seen as handsome enough, as if a boy of color can’t be handsome? Didn’t anyone think it might be problematic to alter the identifying racial characteristics of the existing cover model, or to dangle an accurate cover in front of reviewers but not the teens who will ultimately buy it? Did anyone really think that a parent wouldn’t buy this book for their kid because the silhouette of a person of color is floating suggestively above the female lead? Why are we still catering to these really messed up, racist perspectives? Why did Razorbill throw Elder–the real Elder–out the airlock?!
6. Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance -In 1798 makes a case that the Tea Party is wrong to assuem the founding father would be against Health Care Reform.
The moral to the story is that the political right-wing has to stop pretending they have the blessings of the Founding Fathers as their excuse to oppose whatever this president has to offer. History makes it abundantly clear that they do not.

Jon Stewart's 24 Hour Nazi Party People:

Teen Sex:

It is kind of hard to read all the graphics but you can see a large infograph version of it here.

Hip Hop vs. America (Misogyny):

This video is one of the most thought provoking videos I've seen in a while. The correlation of the black church and the portrayal of women in hip hop is something I never thought about. And who wouldn't love a man who seriously uses the phrase "ecclesiastical hoes?" Dyson is the man.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Feminist or Womanist? (Video)

Poetry by Stayceyann Chin:

Am I a feminist or a womanist? The student needs to know if I do men occasionally and primarily, am I a lesbian? Tongue tied up in my cheek, I attempt to respond with some honesty. Well, this business of Dykes and Dykery, I tell her, it’s often messy. With social tensions as they are, you never quite know what you’re getting.

Girls who are only straight at night, hardcore butches be sporting dresses between 9 & 6 every day. Sometimes she is a he, trapped by the limitations of our imaginations. Primarily, I tell her, I am concerned about young women who are raped on college campuses, in bars, after poetry readings like this one, in bars. Bruised lip and broken heart, you will forgive her if she does not come forward with the truth immediately, for when she does, it is she who will stand trial as damaged goods. Everyone will say she asked for it, dressed as she was, she must have wanted it. The words will knock about in her head: ” Harlot, slut, tease, loose woman” – some people can not handle a woman on the loose. You know those women in pinstriped shirts and silk ties, You know those women in blood-red stiletto heels and short skirts. These women make New York City the most interesting place. And while we’re on the subject of diversity, Asia is not one big race, and there’s not one big country called ‘The Islands’, and no, I am not from there.

There are a hundred ways to slip between the cracks of our not so credible cultural assumptions about race and religion. Most people are suprised that my father is Chinese. Like there’s some kind of preconditioned look for the half-Chinese, lesbian poet who used to be Catholic, but now believes in dreams.

Let’s get real sister-boy in the double-x hooded sweatshirt. That blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus in the Vatican ain’t right. That motherfucker was Jewish, not white. Christ was a middle-eastern rasta man who ate grapes in the company of prostitutes and he drank wine more than he drank water. Born of the spirit, the disciples loved him in the flesh.

But the discourse is not on those of us who identify as gay or lesbian or even straight. The state needs us to be either a clear left or right. Those in the middle get caught in the cross – fire away at the other side. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. People get scared enough, they pick a team. Be it for Buddha or Krishna or Christ, I believe God is that place between belief and what you name it. I believe holy is what you do when there is nothing between your actions and the truth.

The truth is I’m afraid to draw your black lines around me, I’m not always pale in the middle, I come in too many flavors for one fucking spoon. I am never one thing or the other. At night I am everything I fear, tears and sorrows, black windows and muffled screams. In the morning, I am all I ever want to be: rain and laughter, bare footprints and invisible seams, always without breath or definition. I claim every single dawn, for yesterday is simply what I was, and tomorrow even that will be gone.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Johann Hari and US Tax-Dodgers

Another video. What can I say? Johan Hari is one of my favorite journalists and I think this video is really interesting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Court reviews when police may enter someone's home without warrant

I am shocked this guy got eleven years for a marijuana drug charge. Child rapists usually get less time then that. What a joke.

The bigger story here is really in regards to whether or not police can basically create exigent circumstances which would allow them to circumvent warrants. And not too surprisingly Justice Scalia sees nothing wrong with the idea.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Closed Caption Does Not Equal Applause Prompt

I just read a post about a bunch of crazies trying to blame President Obama for people clapping during the Arizona memorial service because they saw a picture of a jumbo tron with the closed captioned word [Applause] on it and assumed the President was telling people when to applaud.


Damn those deaf people for wanting to know what's going on and shit. Fucking closed caption reading bastards.

Update: A spokesman for the University of Arizona has come out and also debunked the claim.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My First Week of Classes

This week was my first week of Spring semester and I thought I'd ramble on about my classes so far since I have nothing else to talk about.
  1. English. Pretty straight forward and unsurprising. We have to think of three ideas for one major topic we want to right about all semester long. I'm thinking of Hip Hop as social commentary, the Industrial Prison Complex (including the disenfranchisement of felons), and maybe something about the "ghettoization" of YA books and Genre fiction.
  2. Personal Ethics. This class has a ton of reading, but so far it is pretty interesting. Not sure I like our professor though. She's kind of...easily distracted? I don't know what it is, but I have a feeling I'll learn the most from the readings and not our class discussions. We started with Utilitarianism which was all kinds of awesome.
  3. Social Dance. We started with the cha cha and I love it. I almost dropped this class and I'm so glad I didn't. I did have a few partners who didn't smell so fresh, but it's worth it. I think.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning. Exactly what you'd expect from a math class. This class focuses on real life applications of math though, so I'm looking forward to that. 
  5. Communications. I think this class will be interesting but I wish it wasn't so long (three hours). My professor likes to ramble and I was ridiculously bored. He also said Reagan did more to enrich and protect the lives of Americans than any other president in his 8 yrs in office and that Obama is a good communicator only if he has a teleprompter. Otherwise he's not so good and Clinton would be a good communicator if he hadn't lost credibility by lying. Then he told us the academic and political elite in the country want us to think they're smarter then we are but they aren't and we should know that.
  6. Conservation Biology. This is an online class so we haven't really gotten started yet. I'm super excited though. The class talks about global warming and how to keep animals from going extinct.
So far this week didn't suck. And even though I'm taking more classes then I'd like, I'm really looking forward to all the interesting things I'll be learning.  there's something about being in a classroom that just makes me happy.
    Hope everyone had a good week!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday (on Thursday)

    Why not regulate guns as seriously as toys?

    I just read an interesting article by Green Change entitled "Why not regulate guns as seriously as toys?" I really liked the way the author seemed to have an even-handed approach to gun control and offers up real solutions to try and curb gun violence.

    A snippet:
    Bebe Gun Hold Up 1
    By Jolynntech
    Jared Loughner was considered too mentally unstable to attend community college. He was rejected by the Army. Yet buy a Glock handgun and a 33-round magazine? No problem.

    To protect the public, we regulate cars and toys, medicines and mutual funds. So, simply as a public health matter, shouldn’t we take steps to reduce the toll from our domestic arms industry?

    Look, I’m an Oregon farm boy who was given a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I still shoot occasionally when visiting the family farm, and I understand one appeal of guns: they’re fun.

    It’s also true that city slickers sometimes exaggerate the risk of any one gun. The authors of Freakonomics noted that a home with a swimming pool is considerably more dangerous for small children than a home with a gun. They said that 1 child drowns annually for every 11,000 residential pools, but 1 child is shot dead for every 1 million-plus guns.

    All that said, guns are far more deadly in America, not least because there are so many of them. There are about 85 guns per 100 people in the United States, and we are particularly awash in handguns.

    (The only country I’ve seen that is more armed than America is Yemen. Near the town of Sadah, I dropped by a gun market where I was offered grenade launchers, machine guns, antitank mines, and even an anti-aircraft weapon. Yep, an N.R.A. dream! No pesky regulators. Just terrorism and a minor civil war.)

    Just since the killings in Tucson, another 320 or so Americans have been killed by guns — anonymously, with barely a whisker of attention. By tomorrow it’ll be 400 deaths. Every day, about 80 people die from guns, and several times as many are injured.
    Read the rest here.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    The Arizona Shooting and Sarah Palin

     Update: Sarah Palin is holding true to her track record of trying to erase anything people can criticize her on. The video is now password protected. You can read a transcript here though.

    Update 2: I found a video on youtube so I replaced the old one. Let's see how long it lasts.

    After the shooting in Arizona by Jared Loughner that killed six people and wounded 14 others, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, people from both political parties have come out of the woodwork to talk about how the other party is to blame. While most people would ultimately blame Loughner for the tragedy, it is not surprising for some people to think that vitriolic political rhetoric and an obsession with violent revolutionary imagery has contributed to a hostile atmosphere in which "second amendment remedies" seem like reasonable solutions.

    The one person who has been singled out for inciting violence particularly is Sarah Palin. This is no surprise considering Palin's media popularity and the target list of Democratic districts featuring gun-related imagery. As Alex Pareene said, "When she's not talking about God, Sarah Palin's talking about guns. Practically all her rhetoric is blood-soaked, and proficiency with firearms is a key element of her persona."

    In response to these accusations, Palin released an eight minute long video where she bemoans the media as usual and claims they're manufacturing a "blood libel." Yes, an actual blood libel.

    Even though Palin's use of the term "blood libel" is incredibly insensitive and ridiculous, especially considering the fact Giffords is Jewish, I'm actually more bothered by her statement that Loughner is some kind of evil monster that has nothing to do with the rest of us: "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle." Not only is Palin attempting to dehumanize Loughner by making it seem like there's no purpose in trying to understand his actions, but she also attempts to minimize the way we've all collectively fueled the violent rhetoric flames. Whether it be by continuing to vote for politicians who use violent rhetoric or watching news programs that fetishize the American Revolutionary War, this isn't a time to distance ourselves from this newest tragedy so that we can forget all about it until it happens once again.

    Palin is right that she isn't personally to blame, but it's silly for to say so in the same breath that she claims the media has the power to incite violence. And as much as Sarah Palin wants us to believe she's not part of the media machine, she is. She's just as much of a part of the media as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Keith Olbermann summed it up perfectly by tweeting, "the 'my words have no consequences but words ABOUT my words can incite violence' claim is laugh out loud funny."

    What should be a time for real conversations about how we handle mental illness, the accessibility of treatment, our obsession with gun ownership to the point that even people with mental illness have easy access to them, how Congresswoman Giffords said she felt threatened by Palin's cross-hairs map and we shrugged it off, and the high cost of allowing violent language to become part of everyday politics has turned into another way Palin can play the victim. The best post I've read about Palin's persecution-complex is by Anthea Butler (the post is amazing so I'd definitely recommend reading the whole thing):
    It matters not whether the shooter was a tea partier, a libertarian, a Democrat or a Republican. It is clear that he is a troubled young man. What matters is that people like Palin, Beck and others can't take time to figure out that this time is not about them, but about those who have lost loved ones, and their incredible hubris in not owning up to their own sideshow of hate. Palin and Beck tout their faith as a badge of honor, but it is in moments like these that their shallowness belies the God they claim to believe in.
    If you read Alex Pareene's post, Watering the tree of liberty, you can see example after example of the violent language politicians are using without a second thought. I also think this can be a good time to talk about the different ways the media handles these types of crime based on race. In the end though, this conversation shouldn't be about Palin specifically or her imagined hurts. In fact, that's the last thing this conversation should be about.

    Register to Vote on Random Thoughts

    I just added a Rock the Vote button to my blog. You should see it on the right in the sidebar. If you haven't yet registered, just click the button to get started. Remember, if you don't register you can't vote and voting is our civic duty as citizens (not matter how infuriating and time wasting it can sometimes seem).

    This post feels like a cheesy infomercial, but I really do think voting is important. It's one of the few ways our voices are heard (even if they are often ignored). I feel like you shouldn't bitch if you don't vote. And I like to bitch. So hop to it.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Some Ramblings about Makeup

    makeup lineup, originally uploaded by carinasuyin.
    I watched a video on youtube earlier called "How to lose a guy in 10 Makeup Mistakes" that's been bothering me for some reason. And I realize some of you are probably thinking I'm being overly sensitive and in dire need of something to take up my time, but it isn't really the video that I have specific problems with. I realize this video was made to be taken lightheartedly and I think it's cute in a sort of unoriginal heteronormative way. My problem is with the overall messages women hear about makeup that this video highlights in some ways.
    1. First and foremost, I cannot stand the idea that women wear makeup solely for the pleasure of men or think only in terms of what men will find attractive. Not only does this poignantly ignore the large portion of people who don't want to attract men (people in relationships, straight men, and gay women are a few examples), but it also disregards the makeup wearer's wants and intentions.  Maybe I want to look like a clown. Maybe "pasty" is my normal skin tone. What's wrong with that?
    2. A lot of the "tips" women are given emphasize the importance of looking "natural" while wearing makeup. This pisses me off to no end. Not only does it put "naturally" beautiful people in some upper echelon of acceptance, but it also implies that people who wear makeup are artificial in some way. This is just bullshit. Makeup can be a statement to the world or just a way to cover up an uneven skin tone and to say only some makeup, the "natural" looking kind, is acceptable is just another form of body policing. Makeup is simultaneously seen as a requirement for femininity and yet the women who wear makeup are also often considered less feminine because of the perceived artificiality of makeup.
    3. Makeup is often associated with insecurity and I don't think most people who wear makeup feel this way. While I do think there's a conversation to be had about the way women are told they should wear makeup in order to fix their "flaws" or avoid looking any day over 25 (cause there's nothing worse then an old woman), assuming all people wear makeup for the same reason is silly and presumptuous. I wear makeup because I enjoy painting on my face. It has nothing to do with me being uncomfortable with my crooked teeth. 
    4. I've found these conversation usually revolve around men telling women what is or isn't acceptable in terms of makeup. Not only it that ridiculous, but most men have no clue what makeup a person is or isn't wearing. I've had many guys point out "natural" looking women who were actually wearing more makeup than I was. It was just done in a more subtle way then the bright ass pink or green eyeshadow I tend to wear. No one person's personal preference should dictate how other people behave.
    In the end I feel like makeup is one of the ways I can truly control my body and I think some people are intimidated by that. There's tons more to be said on the subject, like how it's considered okay to comment publicly on women's bodies, but I'll just leave it there for now I guess.