Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tyler the Creator as Best New Artist

When you try to explain Rape Culture to people a lot of them don't really get it. Yeah, they'll give you a token head nod to let you know they're listening, but they don't actually agree with the basic idea of rape culture (that we live in a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are treated as common and normal). They like to think that since they believe rape is serious, it must automatically be treated as such by everyone. Well, the very fact Tyler the Creator won Best New Artist at the MTV's Video Music Awards is a prime example of how minimizing rape and even rapping about actually raping people can be seen as "artistic" without any consideration to actual victims of rape and sexual assault.

Assmilk by Tyler the Creator:
Uhh, addicts arise, when I arrive
In this cracked crack fag back slap in disguise
Fat sack of knives in the passenger side, bitch
Reach for the door, get your access denied

I'm not an asshole I just don't give a fuck a lot
The only time I do is when a bitch is screaming "Tyler, stop"
The big bad wolf to me you're just a minor fox
Red riding is getting some of this wolfly odder cock

We the niggas you scared of, like bad dentists
Flow is anthemic, dirty like it's plants in it
Sick, spit a pandemic, crack and cancer mixed with cannabis
To have a bitch, ready to stab a clit with some glass and shit

Your whole gang will be diminished, Bunch got the Brady's in it
Spit sick shit like my saliva got the rabies in it
Fuck rap, I'll be a landlord so I can rape the tenants daughter
Leave my house with a new stomach, and a baby in it

Face it, me and Ace's is sick like malaria carriers
Jim Carrey her to the cemetery to bury her
Listen busters, scarier when I finger fuck her
After I dig her up and then eat her out with a bit of mustard

Took karate, mommy told me "Tyler toughen up"
Rihanna haircut, somebody tell Chris Brown to fuck me up
Had to teach the bitch manners, now I gotta learn her
I'll beat the fuck out your bitch anonymous, Ike Turner

Over, sloppy seconds is my preference
Except for when I'm feeding on the flesh of a pedestrian
Nessy lock ma said stop Will he though? Probably not
Silly hoes lick my balls like FIFA lollipops

Get the certain tingle, eating Haagen Dazs
With some soccer moms where they like to fucking sit and mingle
Watch an Animal Planet document on the Eagles
In the flyest '06 Supreme beanie, Siegel

Your grind's feeble, I'm regal, really, I'm Willy Smith
I am Legend, a snicker dick in a vanilly chick
Come take a stab at it faggot, I pre-ordered your casket
This is known as a classic, yeah that chapped lips crack shit

Hat is always forest so the bitches call me Gump
But compliment her tits and then its off to hump her
Fuck her in a Hummer while I rape her then I put her in a slumber
It's not a figure of speech when I tell you that I dumped her

Known narcissists, sipping on arsenic
Carved carcasses in the garage, don't park in it
Hard as finding retarded kids at Harvard
It's Wolf Gang barking keep you up like car alarms and shit

Over the edge, yeah I hide in a potato sack
Cause I'm cold as ice like Anasia when she fucking Traq
I'm the type to put you down to bring myself up
So when I rape a bitch I hold her down and get my best nut

The reincarnation of '98 Eminem
60 Crip and Grizzly and some RMK Denim
Pay attention I'm stabbing your women friends, like a gentlemen
Then dipping with the fucking pen to go sin again

White girl, you can ask her what the dick be like
At monster madness doing drive by's on a fucking fixie bike
Fuck it moron, snorting oxycontin, wearing cotton
Oxymoron like buff faggots playing sissy dykes

This the shit that get cripple bitches to hop
Dirty crack pipes lit, bullshit to stop, halt
Boss broke, spouse choke, blouse open
Sly's little shop of horrors, now showing

I hate gays, gangbangers and fucking jerkers
Unless it's gay gangbangers that's fucking jerkers
Whoa yo, yo.. no homo, I'm not gay, faggot
Odd Future Wolf Gang, Wu-Tang banging in your system
Probably banging in your sister with my children swimming in her system
Let me say this shit in slow-mo, homo
You don't fucking skate, take off that box logo
Did you also notice that line about Rihanna and Chris Brown? Real fucking classy right? Don't forget the mention of female genital mutilation, a few "faggots" so we know Tyler likes chicks, and even a mention of date rape since one rape is never enough apparently.

I know some people will think I'm overreacting by actually holding a performer accountable for his statements, but I don't understand why Tyler the Creator is getting a pass on this. Yeah, there's been a few articles questioning his lyrical content but most of them excuse Tyler's behavior by claiming it's just part of his "genius" or that he's too young to know better. To all those people, fuck you. Tyler has the right to rap about whatever he wants, but it's complete inanity that he actually won an award for the level of vitriol he spits out. While I realize there are many artists with misogynistic lyrics, Liza Roisman highlights my frustration with critics and fans who refuse to acknowledge the harmful effect these lyrics have by helping to normalize rape.

The Artistic Merit of Misogyny:
Understandably, given the cultural context, Tyler's main response to such criticism has been to argue that his lyrics are harmless and unremarkable, telling The Guardian for instance that "I usually just say what I'm feeling at the time, what I think is cool" and Tweeting that "It's Not That Serious." However, even if Tyler’s listeners do not take his words as direct license to enact sexual violence, these lyrics still contribute to a culture in which sexual violence is ignored, excused, and glorified. This is not to place the blame primarily on the artist: there is little utility in chiding him for his lyrics or attitude, regardless of how problematic they are. If Tyler is, as he claims, saying what he thinks is “cool”, then the people to blame for this album’s impact are the ones who, by embracing this album, publicly agree that sexual violence is, in fact, cool. The people who are responsible for normalizing these sentiments (or rather reinforcing their normalization, given how common glorified depictions of sexual violence are in pop culture) are the critics and listeners who have given this album a warm reception often without more than a cursory attempt to denounce its horrifying lyrics. The sexual violence against women at Odd Future concerts alone functions as proof that, regardless of the artist's intentions, publicly endorsing sexual violence does, unsurprisingly, create an atmosphere in which sexual violence is tolerated.

Additionally, even if, as Tyler claims, the more extreme elements of his lyrics are too absurd to be reenacted by most audience members, the casual misogyny surrounding his threats of violence is itself insidious. As reported in another article by The Guardian, when Syd da Kyd, another member of Odd Future, told her father that she was working with Tyler, the Creator, he commented that "'As a female, you're slapping a lot of women in the face,'" to which she replied, "That's what I do. I slap bitches." While I do not intend to undercut Syd da Kyd’s agency in crafting her own brand of misogyny, this anecdote usefully demonstrates what gets filtered through the denouncements of Odd Future’s misogynistic lyrics: even if Tyler is right in claiming that most people will not go home and practice murder or necrophilia as a result of his concerts, and even when critics do acknowledge that the violence he describes is extreme, the more subtle elements of sexual violence that he endorses remain untouched by criticism. If the problem with Tyler, the Creator is that he goes “too far”, how far is acceptable in the first place?
I don't think anything has artistic merit simply for being considered "shocking." And not to insult young people, but this is basically music for teenagers who think they have it harder than everyone else. Tyler himself has said, "I’m not homophobic. I just think 'faggot' hits and hurts people. It hits. And 'gay' just means you’re stupid. I don't know, we don’t think about it, we're just kids. We don’t think about that shit. But I don't hate gay people. I don't want anyone to think I’m homophobic." That alone shows a mean-spirited intent, even if it's not homophobic, and makes any claims to art pretty hallow. Sady Doyle wrote a post about not only Tyler and Odd Future's lyrics, but the way there live performances also involve harassment of women in the audience. So my question is, when is it real enough to matter?

Tyler, the Creator's Boy's Club
by Eric Harvey:
Judging either Odd Future or Lil B on purely moral terms isn't really adequate, though – and, in fact, is something of a red herring that precludes discussion of their art. What's interesting about their contrasting attitudes is how they affect the power of that art – and, in particular, why Tyler, the Creator, who relies so heavily on shock tactics, ultimately makes his music toothless. Fundamentally, for all the outrage and shock he garners from easily excited fans, his misanthropy is a cliche of angry male adolescence. He raps: "They claim the shit I say is just wrong/ Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone"; it's pretty much the Odd Future modus operandi in one couplet, but the problem is that so many "outsider" artists have affected transgression by telling the world about their dark thoughts that, wrong or right, it's become boring. Tyler doesn't transgress expectations; he follows a well-worn path of faux-rebellion trodden by everyone from the Sex Pistols to Eminem – and the alleged vulnerability Tyler reveals in rapping about his absent father is entirely part and parcel of this archetype.

Tyler's combination of dubious fantasies, anti-gay slurs and emo whining about his upbringing recalls Eminem which doesn't leave much room for shock. In 2011, this feels impotent and tedious. Odd Future's defenders in the media emphasize Tyler's technical skills – and it's true that his gift for assonance and internal rhymes is impressive. But his talent is only half the story: the shtick they use it for is played out. And it undermines the rest of his aesthetic: he demands our empathy at every turn for his own tough life, but is too limited an artist to show empathy for people who, with all due respect, suffer much more on a daily basis than growing up in a single-parent household. Tyler's model of male anger ends up feeling a lot more like male privilege – and as conservative and regressive as that implies. As the critic Ann Powers noted recently, "Maybe OFWGKTA raps about rape because none has ever known a victimized woman, so it seems comic book to them."
Tyler's definitely not the only artist to pen hateful lyrics, but he's by far one of the most self-aggrandizing. Oh but he's just so young! Um...he's twenty. As Jay Smooth pointed out the only reason we think he's young is cause he tries so hard to convince us of his immaturity. Oh but his songs are meant to be ironic! What? Where is there any compelling evidence that Tyler the Creator has actually thought deeply about any of his violent rhetoric? He said it himself, he doesn't think about it.They're just words! And here we get to the real point Tyler and his fans want to make. They're just words and since they're just words no one has to take responsibility for them.

Well fuck that and fuck Tyler the Creator.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Obama and the Earthquake

I hate to be insensitive, but I don't really give a shit about the earthquake. I'm from California and earthquakes aren't exactly rare (I can still remember having earthquake drills in elementary school). No one was hurt and there was no major structural damage. Basically there were just a bunch of surprised people who live in the post 9/11 atmosphere of paranoia and assumed they were being bombed. Just to put this in perspective, the earthquake that struck Haiti was a magnitude 7.0. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, "Each point in the magnitude scale represents a 30-fold increase in energy. So the Haiti quake was more than 30 times more powerful than Tuesday's quake."

Megyn Kelly's Sensationalism vs Shep Smith's Realism:

The most amusing part of this story though is the criticism towards Obama.

From the Washington Post:
Turned out it was a natural disaster, not the economy, which pierced his vacation bubble. But now we have a photo that shows him trying to balance work and play during the 5.8 magnitude quake — and, not surprisingly, it has stirred up some snark.

“Obama is still playing golf. Not even an act of God can stop him from getting at least 9 holes in today,” Washington Times opinion page editor Emily Miller wrote on Twitter.

“Obama safe on the golf course during earthquake, but gets briefed later anyway,” Los Angeles Times Top of the Ticket columnist Andrew Malcolm posted on his Twitter account.

Not to be outdone, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter of the current president of the United States: “WH says potus didn’t feel today’s earthquake. No worries. Another is scheduled for November 2012.”

...By 2:50 p.m., the White House felt compelled to issue a statement, saying Obama has led a conference call with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and other geological and nuclear regulatory advisers.

“The president was told that there are no initial reports of major infrastructure damage, including at airports and nuclear facilities and that there were currently no requests for assistance,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, who is with the president in Martha’s Vineyard, told reporters. “The president asked for regular updates on the situation.”
As some random person on youtube said, "So? Was he supposed to put on tights and a cape, fly down and stop the continental plates from moving?" God forbid a plate fall off the counter. What do these people want Obama to do? The fact people would rather have the illusion of President Obama doing something in the White House rather than actually reacting appropriately is ridiculous.

Republicans: Tax The Poor More

More of the same old bull from the Republicans:

I recently posted about the claim that 51% of Americans pay no taxes, but unfortunately most people will never make the effort to fact check these claims. How people can say they vote Republican for fiscal reasons with a straight face is beyond me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In Which Our Heroine Rambles about Makeup

I've been wearing makeup regularly since I was a teenager. Sometime around ninth grade I discovered mascara and black eyeliner and never looked back. I went through phases where I wore this horrible blue winged eye liner that I thought was the bomb (god it was awful), and phases where I wore really light makeup. I also went through extreme phases with my clothing. From 70s plaid bell bottoms to arms covered in bracelets, it took me a really long time to figure out a way of dressing and wearing makeup that felt authentic to me. Even now, I change the shade of my hair to better match my mood and wear false eyelashes just for the hell of it. I guess part of me is a little theatrical and I've always felt like glitter ran in my veins.

My point in all this is that there are a lot of misconceptions about makeup that really annoy me. Instead of arguing why makeup is a feminist issue though, I just want to say a few things. Keep in mind, I'm not saying my choice is any more valid than any other. In fact, it's that very attitude that bothers me. This also isn't about any particular comment or post. It's just the culmination of a general attitude that drives me bonkers.

1. Makeup is no more "fake" than any of the hundreds of other ways we alter our appearance. Tattoos, clothing, heels, tanning, nail polish, plastic surgery, hair dye, grooming, and jewelry are all examples of how we change/enhance our appearances regularly. They are no more "authentic" than makeup.

2. Most people don't spend hours putting on makeup every day and the color of my eyelids does not change my appearance as much as some people seem to assume. I wear a lot of makeup and yet you'd still know who I am completely barefaced. Even if this wasn't the case though, who cares? I never wear sweats out in public since I like to dress nice. Dressing nice is a distinct part of how I express myself in fact. Does that mean people should think I'm not being true to myself if someone is surprised to see me in sweats? Obviously not.

3. I'm me when I'm wearing makeup. That is the "real" me. I'm not wearing a mask or being dishonest. This type of thinking is problematic for a lot of reasons.

4. While there are definitely societal pressures to wear makeup (though it usually focuses on wearing "natural" looking makeup that must both enhance and be unnoticeable), this is not the only reason people wear makeup. I don't wear makeup to enhance anything but my invisible eyebrows (seriously, I look like Sean Patrick Flanery in Powder). Makeup is an art form for me. It's one of the ways I express myself. I feel like I'm putting on a costume in a way actually. (Retro or rocker?) My makeup depends on my mood and often reflects my inner feelings about myself and the world.

5. Makeup makes me feel nice. It's like that extra bounce you get after a getting a great haircut. I like knowing I was able to perfectly wing my eyeliner or make my eyelids look like glitter incrusted disco balls. Makeup is indulgent in that way and it can also act like a suit of armor. If you're sick or have bad skin, makeup can provide you a measure of peace and solitude from prying eyes. Also, I'm pretty good at applying makeup (this is what happens when you practice for years). Who doesn't enjoy doing something they're good at?

6. It's one of the ways I take care of myself. A lot of people say they don't want to "waste" time putting on makeup, but for me that's akin to saying you don't want to waste time bathing. It really doesn't take that long, but it's my time to waste either way. If I want to spend it doing something that makes me happy then what do you care?

I could say more, but I think I've made my point. When people say "you're beautiful the way you are" I can't help but get annoyed because it sounds incredibly judgmental (even though the intentions are usually good). It's like when people say "real women have curves." This is the way I am and deciding not to wear makeup doesn't make a person any more authentic/genuine/true than people who decide the opposite. The only people who aren't being true to themselves are people who wear or don't wear makeup because they feel like they don't have a choice. While no one should ever feel forced to wear makeup, or be fired for not doing so, I'm tired of being told I'm somehow wearing a mask or hiding my true self. Do what makes happy. I do. And it involves lots of makeup.

Also, I like knowing I'm giving a big "fuck off" to people like this:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Wisconsin's Third Recall Election

As it stands, yesterday was the last election in this round of recalls. Whether or not Governor Walker will be recalled waits to be seen, but this should be the last recall election for a while at least.

Last night two Democratic state senators, Robert Wirch and Jim Holperin, both managed to hold onto their seats. (They were among the 14 Wisconsin state senators who left the state earlier this year.) This means the gains made last week stand today. Even though the state senate is still controlled by Republicans, the margin is so small (17-16) things should prove to be interesting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roundup: the UK Riot Edition

You're probably as tired of hearing about the UK riots as I am, but as the situation dies down I thought I'd share some interesting posts I've come across lately. I also want to recommend checking out The Grasshopper for a point of view from someone living in the UK. Everyone has their own opinions on why the riots occurred, but Anthony's are particularly interesting.

1. Riots Q&A: What really happened? And, what happens next?
Why did this happen?

The million-dollar question. Everyone has a theory. Chronologically, it began on 4 August, when Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of three, was shot dead by police in Tottenham. The handling of the shooting, particularly by the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, seems to have made a bad situation worse. About 100 people staged a vigil on Saturday 6 August, marching towards Tottenham police station. It escalated into outbreaks of violence, looting and arson, but there was nothing inevitable about what followed. A perfect storm of school holidays, rising living costs, warm weather, cautious police tactics, rolling TV news and social media arrived, with deep-seated social and cultural problems, including poverty, failing schools, gangs, joblessness, materialism and poor parenting, playing a part.
This post has loads of information in a very straightforward and no-nonsense way.

2. Big Brother isn't watching you:
This week's riots are sad and frightening and, if I have by virtue of my temporary displacement forgone the right to speak about the behaviour of my countrymen, then this is gonna be irksome. I mean even David Cameron came back from his holiday. Eventually. The Tuscan truffles lost their succulence when the breaking glass became too loud to ignore. Then dopey ol' Boris came cycling back into the London clutter with his spun gold hair and his spun shit logic as it became apparent that the holiday was over...

These young people have no sense of community because they haven't been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron's mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there's no such thing.
Russell Brand brings attention to the class issues that are at play here. Something a lot of people like to ignore.

3. Don't blame the looters – blame our hypocritical leaders
I find it a bit rich when Cameron and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, blather about looters, when they both belonged to the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University, where no evening was complete without a bit of pointless destruction. Even Nick Clegg admits to setting fire to things as a youth. Johnson's alleged marital infidelities hardly make him the right person to pontificate about broken homes. As for antisocial behaviour, politicians and bankers are both guilty of diddling the taxpayer – and I didn't see many of them go to jail for nicking a bottle of wine or a television set on expenses. Journalists can't be too self-righteous either, as the number of arrests in the phone-hacking scandal reaches 12, with more expected.

Talk of moral decay is just as pathetic. These children are the product of the Blair years – even Ed Miliband admits that Labour was better at reshaping the fabric of society than instilling ethical values. Citizenship classes seem a sick joke these days. Cameron's big new "responsible" master plan should be implemented from the top down, and never mind enforcing it, jackboot-style, on the lower orders.
4. Panic on the streets of London:
Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.
5. On the UK Riots, Part Two:
I feel like I'm stating the obvious here (although this idea appears to be anything but obvious virtually everywhere the riots are being discussed), but "hundreds of youths" don't go on a "rampage" without any reason, even if that reason is simply having no incentive not to. And, truly, feeling utterly devoid of any reason to not take to the streets of your community and destroy it is a profound injustice.

That sort of collective apathy, or antipathy, particularly when marked by a stark generational divide, is indicative of a cultural failure to provide something to young people worth personally investing in. Most observers claim to see no connection between black Londoners rioting against police oppression and white Mancunian teens "rampaging for no reason," but there is an overwhelming—and evident—plume of dispossession, neglect, marginalization, purposelessness, voicelessness, disconnection from the life that Britons are supposed to have, and supposed to want, emanating from every street upon which are running rioters dismissed as incomprehensible animals.

"People are all at home—they're scared," London convenience store owner Adnan Butt is quoted as saying by the AP. Sure. Except for the people who are rioting. Who, at best, are not considered to be People Who Matter, and, at worst, are not considered to be people at all.

I keep coming back to that "disused library* in nearby Salford," and it just seems to hang there like a symbol of the plague of neglect that creeps across any nation in the shadows of robber barons who hoard bootstraps and champion austerity measures.

And I am reminded of the video to which Kevin Gosztola linked, in which teenagers from Haringey in London are interviewed by The Guardian about the closing of 13 youth clubs by the local council and express their concern about how they won't have anywhere to go and no more creative outlet, and the idleness and boredom will fuel violence between gangs set adrift.

When parents neglect their children, we (rightly) call it criminal. When governments neglect their people, well, we might call it criminal if that government is a dark-skinned warlord who's stealing food intended for his country's starving citizens. But when a "civilized" government neglects to provide choices, resources, options for meaningful work, opportunities for participation in conversations about national needs and identity, cultural inclusion, some basic sense of being valued, to its citizens, we call that "democracy," and call criminal any display of frustration, despondency, rage at that grotesque injustice.

We pretend that "almost everyone has food and can scrape by, and anyone who can't is just a shiftless waster, anyway" is good enough, and we pretend that the government and upper classes in wealthy countries aren't constantly conspiring to wage a civil war of economics and access against people living lives of quiet desperation who are accused of being irrational and crazy and savage and uncivilized by their oppressors if they have the temerity to object to their oppression, and we pretend that a sustained campaign of marginalization and denial and subjugation doesn't amount to a lifetime of abuse committed against vulnerable people by their own government.

And we pretend that a government in service to an ideal that ostracizes many citizens by virtue of poverty and others by virtue of indifference to its ostensible rewards is a functional government and not simply a tool of privileged elites.

Those pretenses are going up in smoke across the UK.
I have a strong dislike for Shakesville, but Mellisa hits the nail on the head here.

6. Police revolt against David Cameron's reform agenda:
Despite the scale of the riots, and claims that the police mishandled the initial disorder in Tottenham, public trust in the police seems uniformly strong. Overall, 61% of those polled say they are confident that the police enforce the law fairly, uniformly and without prejudice, while 36% say they are either not at all (10%) or not very (26%) confident.
Interesting. 30% think David Cameron responded well and 54% think police are under resourced.

7. UK riots aftermath: live updates

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quote: A riot is the language of the unheard

“When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.”
                                                               — Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday Thursday

White Teens Kill Black Man In Mississippi

Every once and a while I come across someone who doesn't think hate crimes should exist. They say things like, "aren't all violent crimes driven by hate?" and stupidly look at you like they just solved the answers of the universe (on par with people who say "then why are there still monkeys?" when talking about evolution). Well, this video highlights the difference between hurting someone and hurting a someone in order to terrorize an entire group of people pretty freggin well:

Why have only two people been charged in this case? Those girls sitting in the truck get nothing? Wow. Maybe if they had smoked a joint we could get some jail time for everyone involved. Seriously, our justice system is a fucking joke.

I guess this is the post-racial America everyone keeps talking about. Sometimes I hate everyone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Electoral Reform meets California

This week California became the largest state to join the National Popular Vote movement:

Is it weird to admit electoral reform gets me excited? I absolutely despise our current electoral college and I think reform is inevitable. Most people aren't even fully aware of how the political college works (here's a previous post where I broke it down) and there are several flaws with our current system. As everyone already knows, the electoral college cannot ensure that the candidate with the most votes actually becomes president. It's no secret Al Gore received over half a million more votes than George Bush (which is refereed to as the "popular vote" but doesn't actually exist since we don't vote directly for any presidential candidate). Our current system also gives the votes in small states more heft. A good example of this is the most populous state, California, versus the least populous state, Wyoming. California has fifty-five electoral votes for a population of 33,871,648. That means California gets one electoral vote per 615,848 residents. Wyoming, on the other hand, has three electoral votes for its population of 493,782 equaling in one vote per 164,594 residents. This means a vote in Wyoming is more influential than a vote in California and is another way the electoral college undermines equal representation.

The complaint that the founding fathers wanted the electoral college to be the way it is currently is a bit silly as well. For one, it was only created as a compromise between the ideas that the President should be elected by Congress or by a nation wide popular vote. While the states were given the same number of electors as U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators combined, the founding fathers expected the House of Representatives would eventually decide the winner (as was the case in the election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr). It was up to the states to decide how they would vote with the electors they were given, not the founding fathers or the constitution. Most electors were chosen by state legislators at that time, but eventually states gave voters the right to vote for electors in their own states creating our current system. This is important because there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that gives the people the right to vote for President. Even the supreme court has been very clear on the issue.

McPherson v. Blacker:
"The constitution does not provide that the appointment of electors shall be by popular vote, nor that the electors shall be voted for upon a general ticket nor that the majority of those who exercise the elective franchise can alone choose the electors...

"In short, the appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the states under the constitution of the United States."
The fact two states, Nebraska and Maine, don't use the "winner-take-all" system (they use the District Plan) highlights the ridiculousness of questioning California's right to decide how to award it's electors.

While I think it's good people are critical of any new way of voting in presidential elections, the electoral college has basically failed four out of 44 elections. Those aren't great odds and it seems silly to hold so strongly onto the system that gave us George Bush. There is the real concern that presidential candidates would spend more time in large population centers campaigning while ignoring more rural states, but many presidential candidates skip the time and expense of campaigning in states where the outcome is already known already under our current system. While they'd probably have to be some kind of threshold requirement and maybe instant runoffs, voters sould be able to have real control over the election of their president.

So go California!

Wisconsin's Second Recall Election

Yesterday was the second round of recall elections and four of the six challenged Republican Senators managed to hold onto their seats with Democrats only successfully recalling two senators (incumbents Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper).

This video describes the situation in Wisconsin perfectly:

I have a few thoughts on the elections last night:

1. The fact the GOP is claiming this as a win is really symbolic of their failure to understand the reality of the political landscape. Their insistence that they have a mandate, that the voters support them in ever endeavor, and the idea that Republicans winning in Republican districts is earth shattering are all examples of this. If someone came into my house and told me I had to race them for dinner (that I made), I would not say I won if I managed to keep four out of six dishes. (I'll admit that's a horrible example but whatever.) Want to be proud you didn't lose? Then great. But not losing is not the same as winning and the fact Walker claims the recall shows voters want both sides to "work together" is a major victory for the Democrats.

2. A shit ton of money was spent in this election. It's a bit appalling actually.

3. Everything could shift again on Tuesday. As the video pointed out, as long as Democrats can hold onto the other two seats then there will be a pro-labor majority. That's a big "if" though. Personally I think it's too early to be too excited about anything and I hope people get out to vote just as much next week as they did yesterday.

4. People really hate Kathy Nickolaus.

In the end though, I agree wholeheartedly with Sarah. It doesn't really matter who won or lost. The recalls themselves were a major victory for voters and I think both sides should respect that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spongebob's Green Efforts rile Fox and Friends

Fox and Friends is accusing Nickelodeon of promoting man-made global warming during an event for children:

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First of all, I love how conservatives take claim to public education only when they want to bitch about it. Secondly, after taking conservation biology I find the idea that climate change is based on faulty science hilarious. While certain aspects of climate change are debatable, mostly was to do about it and the extent fossil fuels play a role, the vast body of science that makes up climate change is agreed upon by thousands of scientists. Climate change is basically suffering from the same idiocy as evolution and the emphasis that science can't be trusted over gut feelings.

The real question is, what is the other side of climate change though? I can't figure this one out. Should Spongebob be praising the oil spill? Fox and Friends should be glad Nickelodeon didn't cover the ocean in black sludge, kill off Bikini Bottom, and blame the GOP for it.

Wisconsin and Nagasaki

Today is the first big batch of recall elections in Wisconsin. I am excited to see the results since the whole recall effort feels like what democracy should be about. For a good post on what can happen, I'd go here. I'm sure I'll have more to say later.

Also, a few days I posted about the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and today is the anniversary of the bomb dropping on Nagasaki. Often forgotten and yet even more tragic, I'd definitely recommend the post, "The Crime of Nagasaki."

This is America

Someone on Goodreads that I follow added the book 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen The Diversity Gap, by Maura Cullen, and it interested me enough to check it out.

Here's the summary:
EVEN WELL-INTENDED PEOPLE CAN CAUSE HARM Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say: "Some of my best friends are... (Black, White, Asian, etc.)"? "I don't think of you as... (Gay, Disabled, Jewish, etc.)"? "I don't see color, I'm colorblind"? These statements and dozens like them can build a divide between us and the people we interact with. Though well-intended, they often widen the diversity gap sometimes causing irreparable harm personally and professionally. If you've ever wanted to be more effective in your communication with others, or have been afraid of saying the wrong thing, then this concise guide is essential to becoming more inclusive and diversity-smart.
So the summary isn't all that specific, but it gets that job done well enough I suppose. I'll probably see if the library has it since it's been too long since I read a non-fiction book, but what really interested me was one of the reviews.

From Jilian:
In regards to Dr. Maura Cullen’s book “35 Dumb Things Well- Intended People Say”, I am utterly shocked at the hypocrisy and self-righteous attitude the book displays. I was given the book at a college orientation session, where I had the words diversity, community, and acceptance thrown in my face for eight hours. I am a white female, I am straight, I come from a good neighborhood, a great family, and I am Christian. I’ll bet you just formed a judgment of why I am writing this review, right? I don’t know where this arrogance comes from, but it is disgusting. Dr. Cullen, I believe is a gay women, and though her sexual orientation is not anyone’s business besides her own, I can guarantee that if an average American male or female, straight, and of an ordinary faith, had written this book, it would not have been as widely accepted as it is. Let us remember that America was built on Christian beliefs; meaning this new policy of “acceptance” towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender are against everything this country was built on. It is not my responsibility to accept these people nor is it my responsibility to write a book proclaiming how one should properly communicate with them. This is American, the land of the free. If a person wants to be gay or lesbian or whatever, I do not have to accept it and I sure do not have to watch my way of speaking to better accommodate their feelings. If anything, this new breed of people should watch their speaking, their attitudes, and their beliefs because it goes one hundred percent against what America is about.

Why is Dr. Maura Cullen any smarter than the next person; because she has an opinion and wrote a book about it? Why should anyone choose to listen and follow a self-righteous author who decided to write a book because she was not accepted properly by society? Number 13 in the book is “Saying to GLBT people, ‘What you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business.” It states that people make this remark to “convey that a person’s sexual orientation is not their business.” IT’S NOT! Since when do we have to walk around and point out whose gay, and who was once a female? WE DON’T. If you don’t want to make people uncomfortable, don’t talk about your sexual orientation publicly. As far as I know, it is not polite to put your sex life out in the open anyways.

Number 33 on the list is “Asking a transgender person if they’ve had “the operation”. Once again, if you don’t want people asking questions, don’t put your business out in the open. Odds are if you’re in a conversation with a transgender, they will openly tell you “Yeah, I had penis attached.” If one of the parties in the conversation can’t deal with that, I think we all know how to walk away.
Those are only a few examples of the idiocy of this book. If everyone followed this books guidelines, no one could say anything. We would all have to tiptoe around to make sure we didn’t piss anyone off or hurt anyone’s feelings. Once again, this is America. We can say what we want, when we want. If I want to dislike gay people, so be it. If a transgender person wants to have the operation, terrific! No one, especially, not Dr. Maura Cullen is going to tell me how to speak and communicate to make sure the weirdoes of this world are comfortable. It is not my responsibility to openly talk with GLBT people. It is not my responsibility to accept them. It is not anyone’s responsibility to alter their beliefs, their way of speaking, or their manner in general to better accommodate the people of this world who make odd choices. This book was written by someone who has a formed opinion of everyone is isn’t like her. Therefore, if you are white, black, straight, Christian, or basically the majority of people on American, you are the one who is expected to read this book and change YOUR way of life. The gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, atheists, foreigners, the weak are too continue on feeling sorry for themselves because they are not “accepted” and diversity isn’t what they want it to be.
Would you guess that Jilian also joined Goodreads just to write this review? It appears that way. I don't even know what to say, but her response is what really sold me on the book. I take comfort knowing people like this are a dying breed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quote: Where were S&P last December?

“I find it interesting to see S&P so vigilant today in downgrading the US credit rating. Where were they 4 years ago when they, and other credit rating agencies, helped cause this horrendous recession by providing AAA ratings to worthless sub-prime mortgage securities on behalf of Wall Street investment firms? Where were they last December when Congress and the White House drove up the national debt by $700 billion by extending Bush’s tax breaks for the rich?”
                                                                                  — Senator Bernie Sanders

66th Anniversary of Hiroshima Atomic Bombing

Today is the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Hiroshima has the unlucky privilege of being the place where the world's first atomic bomb attack took place on August 6, 1945. The bomb killed anywhere between 90,000–166,000 people in the first few months and most of the causalities were civilians. Three days later, the second a-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing 60,000–80,000 more people.

In my personal ethics class we discussed the ethical dilemma of terrorism and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mentioned as an example of U.S. terrorism. While many people disagreed with calling this tragedy "terrorism," I have a hard time considering bombs dropped on citizens and surgical clinics as anything but.

Now, I don't really care to get into whether or not terrorism is ever necessary, since the case can definitely be made either way. Really I just want to share this poem by Janice Mirikitani we read in my International Literature class. It's about Mirikitani's experience visiting Hiroshima and the infamous "Human Shadow Etched in Stone." People believe the spot was made by someone sitting on the steps waiting for the bank to open. When the bomb fell, the intense heat lightened the area all around the person and left an imprint of their "shadow." Whether or not you agree with the decision to drop the bombs, the loss of human life should always be remembered.