Ponce de Leon vs. Native Americans: Who is happier?

I recently came across this announcement of the University of Miami's 500th Anniversary commemoration for Ponce de Leon's voyages to Florida.  Since I am currently teaching a course entitled "Writing About Postcolonialism and Genre Fiction" (which I'll have to discuss in detail later), the event caught my attention.  Why?  Because the language used to describe the event seems, in my view, offensive towards those who were inevitable victims of Spanish, British, French, and American colonialism (in de Leon's case, we're obviously talking about the first). Those victims -- we call them Native Americans, which is a pathetic term to describe the enormous variety of tribes/groups that used to live freely in the U.S. hundreds of years ago -- were stripped of their lands, destroyed by colonial hands or disease, and otherwise decimated by the colonial system.  So to talk about Ponce de Leon, an understandably famous explorer, within the language of celebration ("A public conference commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the landing of Juan Ponce de León on Florida shores" -- commemoration associated, more often than not, with ceremony, memorial, and remembrance) is to privilege the imperial center (Anne McClintock's term from "The Angel of Progress") over the voices of the natives who survived him. While it's true that many of the talks have to do with the interactions of Ponce de Leon, the Spanish Empire, and the Native Americans (though too many use the derogatory term "Indians"), such talks are still held under the rubric of the celebration which speaks not of Natives in its title and description, but of those things which are the domain of the colonizer. When will we get a major "commemoration" which privileges indigenous voices in relation to the famous explorers who led to their near-extinction?  Perhaps we should have "Florida at the Crossroads: Five Hundred Years of Native Encounters, Conflicts, and Exchanges" instead of "Florida at the Crossroads: Five Hundred Years of Encounters, Conflicts, and Exchanges" followed by a reminder that this is all about Ponce de Leon's 500th anniversary... Then again, I'm one of those crazy liberal people.

Gentle Reminder: Jesse Jackson Isn’t Running For President

Amusing as it may be to play the "the liberal media is going after Herman Cain" card when it comes to the allegations recently made against Jesse Jackson, it is also prudent to remember one incredibly important fact:  Jesse Jackson isn't running for President.  Let's also be honest about something else:  if he were running for President, you better believe that liberals and conservatives alike would, in their own way, go after him for his numerous failings as a "moral person."  Jackson is not unfamiliar to the controversy bucket, as his 1984 comments about Jews (shortly after losing the Presidential ticket) and his numerous infidelities make clear.  And I think his history makes him unlikely as a legitimate Democratic candidate for the Presidency in the future.

Of course, The Huffington Post did report on the incident.  But I suppose we can just pretend they aren't part of the "liberal media" or the "media" in general.  Ever so insignificant that Huffington Post... In any case, the predominately right-leaning base will take this oversight as an indictment
of the evil liberal media and its evil ways of leaving out the truth.  This great conspiracy theory falls apart when you actually look at who comprises the liberal media:  corporate-owned, largely conservative agencies who are no more liberals than their right-leaning counterparts.
 While such agencies may espouse liberal values, they do so only by paying lip-service to them, for the moment any challenge comes to the conservative elite, those very agencies flip over like dogs begging to be scratched and pounce on their liberal audience.  We know this because various "liberal" papers supported the Bush post-9/11 narrative in order to justify gross human rights violations -- they did so by changing the language they used to describe "torture."  We know this because the way the Occupy Everywhere protesters have been presented by almost all of the major news outlets has been less favorable than similar coverage by media sources from elsewhere, often at the expense of the messages actually being presented by OWS and her allies.  This is because OE represents a threat to the establishment, who owns most of the so called "liberal media" and is quite apt at putting pressure where it needs to be in order to keep the narrative peddled by the media as divisive, entertaining, and supportive of the status quo as possible.

And that's really where all this rests:  talking about who is a liberal and who is a conservative and who has the right narrative, blah blah blah, is all a giant game of ideology that serves no other purpose than to keep people nipping at one another's throats.  The truth of matter is that very little "truth" gets through corporate media.  If you want to see what's going on in the world, you have to go to independent media sources, or the rare corporate media source that doesn't have its hands caught in the cookie jar (I would look at The Guardian as one such source).
But to return to the original point:  why is Herman Cain getting the shaft and Jesse Jackson a pass?

  1. Herman Cain is running for President.  I can't say whether Cain is innocent of the charges, but it goes without saying that a Presidential hopeful should be subject to public scrutiny.  This includes Obama, who I will undoubtedly criticize throughout the next year in my evil liberal circles.  But since Jesse Jackson is not running for President, and remains little more than an activist whose core values are really hard to disagree with (justice for people of color, etc.), I really don't see the point in putting Cain and Jackson on the same public pedestal.
  2. Cain has a tendency to shove his foot in his mouth whenever he talks, which makes challenging him on allegations of sexual harassment all the more important.  Any candidate who cannot keep his narrative straight deserves the kind of scrutiny Cain is getting.  Did Cain know about the settlement or not?  Should abortion be illegal or a choice?  Whose fault is it for the high unemployment rate -- those without jobs or the system?  I could go on, but I think the point is made.  I have the same misgivings about Romney and Perry, whose rambling and flip-flopping make it rather difficult to determine where they actually stand.  And I have the same misgivings about Obama, who I think betrayed his progressive base by cowering before the opposition.
  3. Jackson isn't really getting a pass.  Plenty of news sources are covering the incident.  But the truth is that very few people actually care.  That's not because Jackson is unimportant in a general sense.  It's that he's unimportant when compared to the vast array of problems and events happening all around us.  Are we really concerned with whether Jackson fondled someone's testicles or whether Presidential hopeful Cain sexually harassed a woman, or whether the economy will bounce back or Obama's Jobs Bill will get passed (and if it will be good for us), or whether Occupy Wall Street will effect any changes (or if it is really bad for the country), or whether the Arab Spring will produce good results in the Middle East, or whether we'll withdraw troops from Iraq or Afghanistan, and so on and so forth.
If you honestly think Jackson's discrimination against a gay man is more important than those other questions, then your priorities are out of sync.  And that's okay, so long as you admit that you are governed by your biases and not by a need to see the big questions asked and addressed on the national stage.  It's not like talking about the case publicly is going to change whether Jackson gets charged with sexual harassment or not.

For now, let's be honest.  Jackson doesn't matter.  He's not going to make the election for Obama.  He's not going to make the election for Cain.  He's not going to damage the Democrats anymore than their failure to act.  In the long run, we'll forget about Jackson because he doesn't really matter right now.  There are bigger, more pressing concerns to consider.

So instead of playing the silly game of whose out to get whom, let's move on to talk about stuff that actually matters.

Dear Rick Scott: Your (Anti)Education Plan Stinks

(You'll all have to excuse me while I rant about something political on this blog.)

If you haven't heard already, Rick Scott, the governor of Florida (where I live), announced his intention to change the Floridian university system by shifting funding away from the humanities towards "job creating" STEM majors.*  Plenty of folks have poked fun at him for singling out anthropologists (for having degrees in nifty fields, but which (apparently) do little for society).**  But I'd like to talk about a different problem:  Scott's assumption that STEM majors will create jobs or assure graduates that they will be able to find them.  I'll set aside, for the moment, that his program would likely affect me personally, since I am an English major in a field that would inevitably be cut.

To start things off, STEM majors don't produce jobs.  True, putting more funding into those majors will mean hiring more teachers, which would create some jobs, but this is counteracted by all those teachers in other fields who would likely get fired as a result of the budget shifts.  Scott's plan would do little more than produce more graduates in fields that are already overwhelmed with graduates.  There aren't enough jobs in the sciences to begin with.  When graduates in any field aren't able to get jobs in or relevant to their field, it's ridiculous to assume that producing more
majors in any particular field with result in more people going into the job market as STEM workers.  Roughly 42% of college graduates are either without jobs or working in jobs not related to their degrees.  That's not a number that can be ignored, since it shows how difficult the job market is for people who, in theory, are members of our professional and educated class.

But what people also need to pay attention to is the fact that Rick Scott, who ran on the Republican brand of "jobs, jobs, jobs," has also refused numerous opportunities to take on projects that would employ STEM graduates.  A prime example is the $2.4 billion high speed rail project he rejected because he thought it would be too costly on taxpayers.  That project would have been funded almost entirely by federal dollars.  While federal money comes directly from taxpayers, Scott's political maneuvering makes it seem as though he is saving taxpayers from having to pay for the project.  The problem?  That money was going to be spent anyway.  Scott's rejection only meant the federal government could take the money elsewhere.  Florida taxpayers are paying for a $2.4 billion project in another State, while benefiting not a lick from the economic boom such a project might have had for Florida.

And that's the key:  while Scott plays at being a pro-jobs governor with rhetorical pleas against the job-destroying humanities, his policies have effectively created an environment that is hostile towards workers, particularly STEM graduates.  True, Florida has added many jobs to its economy, but that has come at the expense of government employees and Florida's taxpayers, who now have to contend with a health and employment market that is less inclined towards their well-being.  In fact, Rick Scott is so disliked by so many Floridians that it's hard to pat him on the back and say, "Good job creating all those jobs."***  After all, Scott has screwed over or pissed off the elderly, teachers (twice), police officers and other public workers, civil rights activists, at-risk women and mothers, and anyone in a labor union (which includes teachers, firefighters, police officers, and on and on down the list).****

But more strikingly are the statistics about those jobs:
The fields of leisure and hospitality had the largest growth, growing by 58,500 jobs between September 2010 and September 2011. The field has grown 46,600 jobs between August 2010 and August 2011. 
State, county and local governments lost 14,000 jobs in September after shedding 20,400 positions in August. Construction jobs fell by 12,900 in September, after 17,600 positions were eliminated in August. 
Doug Darling, director of the new Department of Economic Opportunity, noted that there remain 977,000 Floridians eligible for unemployment.
Rick Scott likes to think that Florida's economy will be open to STEM graduates.  That all those engineers and scientists will come out of their degree programs and jump right into a field glowing with opportunities.  But what he won't tell you is that one of the largest growing industries in Florida remains the tourist industry, which puts little attention into STEM-based development.  And yet, what we see are governments losing thousands of jobs, construction workers going out of work by the thousands, and so on.  They are people who build the things engineers come up with; people who need projects to work on; and people who are, sadly, losing their jobs.  The tax breaks he gave to his corporate buddies, sadly, haven't exactly panned out the way his narrative would suggest.*****

What this all comes down to is a problem of ethos:  Scott doesn't have any.  His claims of being a job creator are specious at best, and so too are his claims that shifting educational priorities will result in greater job opportunities for Floridians (or anyone wanting to live here).  There's no rationality behind his claims.  Effectively, Rick Scott is a walking talking point.  He peddles the familiar arguments while functionally decimating what he perceives to be the bastions of the left.  And perhaps he should be worried about the leftist fields, because despite burying our faces in books all day and learning about the depths of human history, humanities majors have an insight into our underlying problems that continue to plague humanity.  We all may not come to the same conclusions -- in fact, most of us don't -- but the training we receive allows us to see between the lines in a political system that needs us to be under educated so we will avoid challenging the status quo.

And that's the problem.  The less willing we become to put intelligent people into office who aren't interested in coming out of the game rich and plump, the more likely our system will continue to suck the life out of the middle class and the poor to feed the amorality of corporatism.******

Maybe one day we'll wake up and realize America isn't a zero-sum game.  It's a country full of people.

-----------------------------------------------
*STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths.

**Anthropology, of course, is a valuable field.  Let's face it, almost all degree programs are valuable.  It's not like universities in the U.S. are offering degrees in Backpack Wearing or something ridiculous like that.  That's not to say it's impossible to have stupid degrees, just that they are rare or extremely unlikely.

***Scott, by the way, likes to take credit for job creation programs that began before he became governor.

****Full Disclosure:  I am a member of a public employee union.  Specifically, I am a member of Graduate Assistants United, which is itself a member of the National Education Association.  Not all unions are bad.  In fact, my union takes little money from me, negotiates on my behalf to make sure I get things like healthcare, uses my money to protect me (i.e., we get access to legal representation if we need it), and so on.  My union is everything but a "gang."  And I'd strongly suggest anyone who is against unions for public employees should actually spend some time in one.

*****Remember that the corporate/rich tax break narrative says that giving more money to the rich will resolve our economic woes.  Adherents to this model, of course, look towards Reagan as an example, despite the fact that Reagan was more liberal (relatively speaking) than most Republicans (and despite the fact that the economy didn't recover until the end of his presidential term, which, unlike Roosevelt, had nothing to do with a war or the ending thereof).

*****Corporations, after all, are neither moral, nor immoral.  They have only one function:  to make money.  And there's nothing wrong with that -- in principle.  But that means we have to regulate our economy so that "making money" doesn't come at the expense of the economic and social security of the rest of American society.

Misunderstanding the LGBT (QUILTBAG) “Agenda” — Or Why It’s Not “Bigoted”

(I originally posted this on Google+, but since most of you probably don't follow me there, I figured you'd like to read this.  No, I don't cross post everything.  That would be annoying...)

To this day, I still find statements (or logic) such as the following ironically amusing: "I love you, but homosexuality is a sin." It's similar to "I don't support discrimination against LGBT (QUILTBAG) people, but I don't support same-sex marriage."

Such statements point to a failure to understand the other side. To LGBT (QUILTBAG) people, the various issues they are campaigning for, which extend from the right to marry to the various protections afforded to almost everyone else (job protection, protection against abuse, discrimination, violence, etc. etc. etc.), are all Civil Rights. In other words, regardless of what one might think about these people and their "agenda," they believe to the core of their being that this is a Civil Rights movement.

Within that context, can you really blame them for seeing bigots everywhere? From the mindset ofCivil Rights, any contradictory statement like one of the two I listed above would present a bigoted position: that is that saying "I don't support same-sex marriage because I believe it is a sin" is an dogmatic position, the adherence to which links one to bigotry within the context of a Civil Rightsdiscussion.

The fact that LGBT (QUILTBAG) people are right -- it is a Civil Rights movement -- is secondary to understanding why they are so adamant about their beliefs. Some like to say that these folks are just as intolerant as the people they claim to be against, which is little more than linguistic trickery to support a victim mentality. The reality is that almost all (notice the qualification) LGBT (QUILTBAG) people do not believe they have a right to control what you do and do not believe, just that you don't have a right to impose those beliefs on them by denying them the rights and privileges heterosexuals take for granted on a daily basis. At the end of the day, LGBT (QUILTBAG) people aren't trying to take something away from their opponents. Their opponents, however, are -- that's where bigotry finds a home.

The Children of Tomorrow and What They Will See (or, Obama-mania’s Future)

One of my friends on Facebook recently posted this on his profile:
the internet scares me. it makes me think people really would vote for trump. it makes me think people really believe obama is part of a conspiracy hatched decades ago to put a racist homosexual kenyan marxist-anarchist-fascist (say what?) in the white house. i'm losing faith in people with each new facebook group dedicated to shit like this.
I'm not going to give out his name in case he doesn't want it to be any more public than his FB account.  I initially wanted to respond straight to his post, but then decided I should say the following here (after the fold):

Imagine what the world looked like to African Americans pre-1865 or the years surrounding and leading up to the Civil Rights Movement in the south. Maybe it's because we're older and more aware of what's going on around us, but the country is losing its damn mind again, for the second time in the last decade-ish. We went batshit on Muslims and look-alikes, and now we're seriously entertaining buried racist ideology simply because Obama is one of those brown people, and just can't possibly be one of us. But that's not enough. The same people have to other him even more by making him the brown person who is also a socialist commie fascist pigdog, because once we accept that as the truth, we can do anything to him and feel no remorse.
The Joker Socialist -- a double othering...
This is the same rhetorical practice used to justify the Holocaust or the Gulags or slavery or the countless other racist and ideological evils that have been thrust upon humanity like a stain. It's the same practice used to make it acceptable to murder homosexuals by dragging them by a rope behind a moving car or raping them with broom handles.  It's the same practice which everyday makes people afraid or irreparably damages families all over the country.
Because we have a rabid fear of terrorism...
And in 20 or 30 years, or maybe 60, or 100, our children will look back, if indeed our children still exist, and they'll wonder what was wrong with us. What unspeakable mental illness had befallen us as we continued to perpetrate great evil against humanity, against people who aren't actually different, but are made different by arbitrary social "rules." And if we're still around, or more enlightened people are there to say something to those curious children, they might say we were infected with a festering hatred so buried into our blood that we couldn't contain it...couldn't hold back the tide of thousands of years of human bloodlust and fear, and in that brief little span of history we were weak, pathetic, and undeserving of the mountains luxuries and freedoms thrown at us like cheap magic tricks in a casino hotel.  We were undeserving of the men and women who die on the battlefield at the behest of their country and honor.
Because clearly they've done so much harm to humanity...
Some of us will have to look into our children's eyes and see that overwhelming childish confusion, much as many children today look at us when they ask us questions about slavery or, sometimes, even racism and sexism (though not so much the last of those great evils, because we still live in a world entwined in the old ideals of male superiority).

Personally, I dread that day.  I wish I lived in a country where the future of my children would not be so fraught by what will undoubtedly appear to them as utter stupidity.  But that's not the future my children or your children will have.  Maybe one day we'll get it right, and the evils of everyday life will be relatively minor, dealt with on a case by case basis.  The history of humanity, however, says otherwise, but I am always hopeful for a better tomorrow...

Politics: A Critique Deconstructed (Part Three)

(Part One and Part Two) The third and final part of my long-winded political nonsense is here.  You can read the post that I am responding to here. Now for part three: VIII.  Creationism No matter what you call it, it's not a scientific theory.  It's religion.  Creationism/intelligent design has never become a scientific theory, since nothing, short of theoretical/experimental physics, becomes a theory in science without following the scientific method (and I have a huge problem with theoretical physics using the term "theory" for every crackpot hypothesis that proposes an answer to life, the universe, and everything).  This means that evolution has gone from a hypothesis (a guess or a series of guesses based on evidence) to a theory (an established scientific fact) by means of providing evidence (mountains of it) and proving its case time and time again to the scientific community through peer review, research/experiments, and so forth. Creationism1 Creationism, however, has never met the burden of proof that evolution has.  Evolution is proven.  Not only that, it has even been observed in the lab (more than once).  Creationism, on the other hand, has zero observable evidence for a designer.  In fact, most of what Creationism and ID call for is directly refuted by well-established scientific practices.  The fact that creationists and IDers claim that such practices are wrong is more paranoia than anything else.
So it's not a matter of squashing a "scientific theory," as Wrighton seems to suggest.  It's about preventing fake science from being taught in a classroom, on top of preventing religion from being used as a basis for scientific education.  Evolution is irrefutable unless you live in a bubble.  Creationism and ID are simply attempts on the part of the radical religious community to assume more power for themselves.  Why?  Because we can see what happens in other western nations that have accepted science for what it is (a logical, observable explanation for the world around us); such nations have become rapidly secular.  They have a problem with that because a secular nation (even if its members believe in God, as a great deal of secularists in secular nations do) is a nation that can't be controlled by religious dogma, and some people have a hard time letting go of that control (humanity has a history of it).
But this is a well-worn argument, and we're not going to convince each other of anything by debating it.  The facts speak for themselves.
IV.  The First Amendment Ain't Truz
This particular point makes me laugh.  He accuses me of not knowing my history, but then cites Wikipedia as if it is the most accurate database in the world.
In any case, it doesn't matter if government has changed how it interprets an amendment.  What matters is that the federal government supersedes state and local government, and so its application of the First Amendment to protection for and from religion applies universally, particularly to those places that receive federal funding (which is almost everywhere).  Since schools are partly supported by the federal government, they are also subject to federal law.  As such, public schools cannot teach religion, though there isn't any reason why a public school cannot have a course about religion as a concept (i.e. a historical examination of religions--yes, plural).  But Wrighton seems to think that it's a-ok for public schools to have a Christian class.  The problem is that it would violate the Constitution by extension of public schools being protected and funded partly by the federal government.
It's also really awesome...
But then there's the fun part:  namely, that since states are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and, thus, funded in part by it, they are, as a whole, subject to the laws of the fed.  Like I said:  the fed supersedes state and local governments.
Yeah, that's what I feel about it...
Wrighton, of course, simply disagrees with the interpretation of the Amendment as applying to anyone beyond Congress.  There's not much I can do to change his mind on that, except to point out that a number of Amendments have been interpreted this way, and that by his logic, he would have to suggest that the Constitution must not apply universally in such cases.  But then there's that tricky part about the 8th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 24th, and 25th Amendments, all of which pretty much suggest that Congress has a lot of authority when it comes to applicability. X.  Lies and Misdirection and Other Things Politicians Do Wrighton finally asks some important questions about my request that Republicans stop lying or misinforming the public and to stop taking campaign contributions from corporations and protecting them from persecution (or from making it legal for them to hide where they get their money from).  The problem?  While his questions are good, they don't address the key point in my original argument:  I wasn't talking about all corporations; instead, I was referring only to situations in which protecting or taking money from corporations is not in the best interests of the majority of the people.  The problem is that Republicans are notorious for doing this.  When they protect businesses, they do so when such protection isn't actually good for the rest of us.  Take BP as a prime example of this.  A number of Republicans went to great lengths to defend and protect BP, even though the company not only failed miserably to deal with a crisis situation, but was also responsible for it.  Instead of paying attention to the devastation and the complete ruin of the Gulf economy, Republicans continued to take money from oil companies and continued to support policies that would protect oil companies from government regulation and so forth.  How exactly is that in the best interests of most Americans?  We're talking about an industry that is notorious for violating federal regulations and has a history of destroying ecosystems and economies.  The fact of the matter is that we need clean oceans to eke out an existence, and oil companies, for the most part, aren't particularly interested in that.  Republicans are traditionally in the same boat.
If only it weren't true...
But, as I said, Wrighton does ask some important questions:
First off, there are politicians on both sides of the aisle lie, misinform and misdirect every time they open their mouths. Sadly, those lies, misinformation and misdirections are not always purposefully or maliciously done. Sometimes they are "honest" in the sense that the politician either truly believes in what they're stating or they don't know better. Next, why single out corporations as not being an acceptable source of campaign contributions? Why not talk about other forms of businesses? Why not talk about lobbies? Why not talk about Think Tanks? Why not talk about PACs? Why not talk about Unions? Why not talk about individuals? All of those things given money to politician's campaigns for the purpose of getting specific people into power. To stop one of them, you must stop them all.
I can't speak for Wrighton, but he and I likely differ on one crucial thing:  I hold politicians to higher standards than regular citizens.  Why?  Because they are people who have power; as such, I expect them to know what they are talking about and to represent the interests of citizens, rather than corporate interests.  They're there for "the people," not for "the corporations."  Corporations don't vote them in.  We do (yes, corporations are made of people, but that's not the point).  So, for me, if a politician lies, misinforms, or misdirects, even if it was unintentional, they are immediately thrown in my box of undesirable people.  You can get out of that box, but that depends on one's integrity.  Some politicians can admit when they are wrong.  Most can't. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="246"] I'm not so sure he was smart enough to be a liar....[/caption]   As for the rest:  well, when I was talking about Republicans and corporate funding, I was talking a lot about corporate lobbyists.  The problem is that Wrighton is again missing my primary point:  it's not about everyone, but about those who are giving money to push politicians to vote for things that don't represent the best interests of Americans.  But even if we ignore that and go along a different logical track, there are other problems.  If politicians are supposed to represent "the people," and "the people" aren't the ones largely funding politicians, then it doesn't seem very likely that politicians will represent "the people" when they push legislation.  Historically, this is true.  Outsourcing, healthcare discussions, and so on.  Corporations have largely controlled these debates, and Republicans have done a damn good job trying to keep such contributions secret (they've even gone so far as to support legislation that will make it legal to keep such things confidential).
Then again...he did say this...
Now, that's not to say that Democrats are innocent.  A number of them have taken corporate funding too, and there are plenty of iffy organizations, past and present, that have supported both political parties.  Millions and millions of dollars have been poured into politicians from body-less entities.  I'm more for a political arena that is even.  I would even advocate for the removal of all public funding if I thought that was legal (I would opt for a system where everyone gets the same amount of money from a central source, and where corporate and lobbyist contributions were illegal, even if that meant places I support couldn't donate).  The problem for me is that our political system is oriented towards money, rather than who is best for the job.  I want a system that isn't controlled by the rich.  We'll never get there, but I can always hope. --------------------------------------------- And that's that.  A long freaking critique, but so be it.  If you want to contribute to the discussion, the comments are all yours.

Politics: A Critique Deconstructed (Part Two)

(See Part One here.)
Part Two
IV. Global Warming Ain't Real
The title of this section basically sums up Wrighton's argument.  Of course, he has no citations, so I have no idea where he is hearing about all the lies.  I suspect FOX News, but that's because that network is sort of like McCain:  really happy to talk about what supports his opinion, but suddenly screaming "BIAS" when something doesn't.
Finish him!
As for global warming evidence:  a handful of bumps doesn't prove something wrong.  Facts speak for themselves.  Well, unless you think National Geographic and NASA are making it all up.  Just like they did with the Moon Landing, right?

V.  Racism Against the Whites
Whether Affirmative Action is the right approach to preventing racism or sexism from being institutionalized at a jobs level is certainly worth debating, but it is currently the only reasonable system by which we can prevent people of color and women from being actively discriminated against (rather than for).  Wrighton makes an indirect argument that whites are actively discriminated against because colleges and employers look at one's skin color or gender and select people based on that rather than on test scores.  While this is true in part (as per AA and other policies), it completely ignores the socio-economic factors that contribute to poor test scores and performance (the same problems caused by underfunded schools)--not to mention that it ignores how utterly useless test scores really are (I'm a college teacher, and people who do well on the tests are still ridiculously disadvantaged in things like writing, etc.).  If we went only by test scores, pretty much everyone going to college would be white, with the exception of those entering sports programs.  David Duke would be very proud of this line of thinking.
This is what the inside of Atlanta's airport looks like.  Only, you know, inside.
Likewise, his point doesn't deal with the fact that even with AA pushing more diversity into schools and jobs, both women and people of color are underpaid and prevented from rising up in the ranks even when they are just as qualified as white men; in fact, his point ignores it, instead opting for the "white men are being discriminated against" argument instead of actually looking at the problem.  But this is all part of a problem that is too big to take on in a post like this.  I just hope that Wrighton isn't making the "let economics decide" argument for dealing with racism/sexism.

VI.  Keep Your Government Hands Off My Healthcare
I'm going to break these apart piece by piece:

"[Government] run health care does not work."
People who have such systems would be surprised to hear that, since it works a hell of a lot better for them than our private healthcare system works for us.

"Look at the wait times for doctors in places like France and Canada."
Most of these wait times are myths or manipulations of statistics.  People who oppose universal healthcare often take one bad statistic in one specific place (like Paris, a very large city in France) and then apply that to every single situation in the country.  But then they also conveniently ignore the fact that we have wait times in parts of the U.S. (not all parts).  I know from personal experience of having to wait three weeks to get an appointment with my general practitioner and having to wait upwards of six hours in the emergency room with a serious respiratory problem (it turned out I had cancer around my airways and my aorta).

But then there are the two times in my life when I received free health insurance and access to a government-funded, university-run clinic.  In my current situation, I can get an appointment with my doctor tomorrow, and pay next to nothing for it (free for appointments; $25 for medications).  Fun how that works, no?
But socialism is evil!
"There are two choices to make here. We use the free market to regulate the cost, thus granting access to everyone willing to pay, or we make it a "public" controlled system, and institute rationing, where only certain people gain access."
Wrighton seems to think that the free market hasn't been in control of the system to begin with, and that they haven't been regulating costs in their benefit for the last thirty or so years (then again, he seems libertarian, so he might suggest that any government regulation is bad, thus believing that people who run corporations must be trustworthy by default--you'd have to in order to be truly free market).  He gets his information from some Austrian institution I've never heard of, but since said institution seems to think the government involvement in making employer-provided health insurance tax free is the same as the government subsidizing health insurance, it's really hard to take them seriously (they basically don't understand the employer-provided health insurance system).

In any case, there are problems with this logic.  First, it offers a false dichotomy--i.e. an either/or that is intentionally limiting and fallacious at best.  The RNC mastered this when the health debate was in full swing.  It also is hilarious for trying to apply to the "public option" things that already exist for the magic "private market."  Rationing is already occurring.  It's called socio-economic rationing.  People who can't afford health insurance or healthcare don't get it.  Fuck the poor, right?  It's not always about being willing to pay, and trying to simplify the argument to money is really just a lame way of avoiding dealing with the human aspect.

But then Wrighton says that cheap healthcare for all will never happen, which tells me he's already given in to the idea that some people just aren't important enough to care about.  Fuck the poor, again, right?
Like I said.  Socialism is evil!  Screw Little Timmy!
Now, I'm not suggesting that universal healthcare is perfect.  It's not.  No system is perfect.  If there was a perfect system, we'd either find a way to ruin it, or do everything we could to replicate it.  But what exactly is wrong with having a public option for health insurance?  If one wants a free market, then one must also want competition, right?  And what's a better way to get insurance companies to compete than to drop regulations that prevents cross-state trading and then institute a public option that anyone can buy into?  I can see the arguments building for this one, so I'll go to the next point.

VII.  Teach or Get Canned
Wrighton says the following in response to my point about changing how schools are funded:
Schools are traditionally funded based upon the property taxes collected by their districts. He's advocating that some schools be given money based solely on the number of students of a particular skin color. Instead, we should make schools accountable for the performance of students. Additionally, we should make each school have to actually earn its keep. If it cannot teach students, or provide them a decent education, then parents should be free to remove them from those schools.
To clarify, while my original point did indicate that race was a factor, the logic I was setting up was aimed towards the poor, who are typically under-served by public education precisely because the places they live in have always been poor.  What Wrighton doesn't seem to understand is that the way a school is funded affects what that school can do for its students.  Poor areas are poor for a reason.  They're typically places full of uneducated people, who then raise kids in an environment that isn't conducive to learning well.  Schools that don't have the funding to counteract the lack of furthered learning at home, and, thus, to deal with the various problems extended from socio-economic status, are essentially stuck.  How students perform is not just about effort.  Studies already show that even being raised in a household without books can put you at a disadvantage in school, and many schools simply don't have the funding to counteract such disadvantages.
Spankings for everyone!
You can't deal with a very complicated problem by simply saying "hey, do it or you're fired."  That's the kind of logic that we need to do away with, because it intentionally ignores the consequences.

And there will be one more post before I close everything out.

Politics: A Critique Deconstructed (Part One)

I've been critiqued!  On politics, if the title of this post didn't make that obvious.  Stephen Wrighton of KrashPad has written in response to my post in September on what it would take for Republicans to earn my vote, and according to Law One of the Internet, I am going to respond (Law One, if you didn't know, is as follows:  "If someone is wrong on the Internet, you must correct them").  I'm going to make this a series of three posts, though, since what I've written is quite extensive and, thus, too damn large for one single post.

Part One

The first thing to do is throw out the stuff that I don't think needs to be addressed at length.  There are certainly things to be said about how Wrighton shortens my list--namely, that he unfairly reduces my list to talking points, which is not what I initially offered--but what I want to focus on are the real meat and potatoes of his post, which I will take down methodically below.

I.  Political Slurs
I am always amused by the way political discussions are often reduced to single terms as if the terms themselves represent a negative.  In the case of Wrighton, he refers to my thoughts as being "leftist" and "liberal," both of which have been used by politicians (specifically those opposed to the imaginary picture of "leftists" and "liberals" they have in their heads) to destroy the credibility of the "enemy."  The problem?  Doing so is a clear attempt to avoid dealing with what is actually being said.  Wrighton, of course, does try to address my points, but by starting out with references to political negatives, he immediately colors what follows in his post.

What isn't asked when someone says "liberal" or "leftist" is whether what is being identified by those terms is actually right.  There are no absolutes in politics.  People from any of the "sides" are not infallible, nor are they wrong all the time.  Being "liberal" doesn't mean one is necessarily wrong.  Nor is being "conservative."  But we'll get into that a bit another day, since there is much more to say.

II.  The Economy
Wrighton responds to my call for a change in Republican economic policies (which you can read at the link above) by saying the following:
First, the economic policy. It's a great thing, to believe that the government can be some grand equalizer, sharing out wealth and handing out bags of gold and food to everyone who stops by. But, that's an unsustainable form of growth. Government can not create wealth. It cannot create jobs, and it cannot do anything but take money from those who do create wealth and jobs, and hand it out to others. Typically and traditionally, we call those who take things they have not earned thieves, and those who wait with open hands for handouts beggars, yet when Congress is involved, we call them the Taxman and Welfare Recipients. But, in a sense, he is right, in that we do not need an economic policy revolving around extending Bush-era tax cuts. After all, those did not go nearly far enough. Instead, we need to cut taxes even more, and do away with un-Constitutional programs and departments. Taxes and Government spending only removes capital resources from out economy.
There are a lot of fairly obvious untruths here:
  1. The government can and does create jobs.  Millions of them, actually (that link is for State and local governments).  We can argue about whether these are "good" jobs, but the fact remains that most of these jobs would not exist without the government (note also that most of the jobs created are for the public good).
  2. The government can and does create wealth.  World War Two.  Look it up.  One of the largest federal spending periods in history (because of the war) and the result from 1940 to 1948?  An increase in personal income, massive job creation, and so forth.  And we seemed to have come out of that quite well considering...
  3. There seems to be an assumption here that people who benefit from tax dollars, such as unemployed people, poor people, and so on, are beggars.  Or perhaps Wrighton is just talking about the massive debt owned by the fed.  Either way, the first is a lie and the second is oversimplified.  People who ask for help from the government are just asking for what they paid their taxes for (unemployment benefits and so on are paid for in our taxes dollars).  There's a lot more to say about this point, but that would take all week.  (To be fair, some people don't pay taxes, and some people do get more back than they put in--though the government makes interest on the money paid in--but anyone who is legally employed pays into the unemployment pool.)
  4. Wrighton assumes that cutting taxes more than they are already will actually do something beneficial for the economy.  The interesting thing?  History proves otherwise.  Trickle-down economics has never worked the way people wish it did.  If companies were willing to take the massive profits they pull in from what they sell to everyone else and trickle that down to, well, everyone else, then America would not have as much unemployment as it did pre-Recession.  The reality?  The tax cuts and Bush's various other policies have actually drastically increased the gap between the rich and the poor.  Median income has remained the same for those in the bottom 40%, while the top 10% have actually acquired more wealth than they ever had before (close to 70% of all wealth in the country).  Where is the trickling happening?
There are also a few differences to mention here.  The first is that the government is not like a thief.  A thief uses the things s/he steals for personal gain, while the government uses the money they acquire from taxes in order to serve the public good.  That includes maintaining forces to protect the nation from outside attacks, and to protect ordinary citizens from lawbreakers.  While the government doesn't always get its spending right, the main objective of the government's spending, with reasonable exception, is to serve the public good.

Now, I don't want to make it seem like I'm suggesting Obama's policies are the best for the country.  There very well might be a better idea out there, but trickle-down economics isn't the better idea for the majority of Americans.  In fact, that's pretty much the worst idea for anyone who isn't in the top 10%.

III.  The Gays (*insert ooglies sound here*)
As someone who has a personal connection to the Gay Rights Movement and an academic interest in it, I am always amused by falsehoods and discriminatory arguments made against homosexuals.  I don't know Wrighton personally, but based on the language found in the following quote, it's hard to see him as one who isn't using the same discriminatory rhetoric found in anti-LGBT groups across the country:
There should be no difference, from the Government's point of view, between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Yet, that does not mean that two men (or two women) need to be married. There is strong scientific evidence that a two-parent (male/female) nuclear family is the best form to raise children. That is the purpose for which society supports the concept of marriage, and thus two people of the same sex don't need to be in that type of recognized union. Much the same way that the government does not need to recognize when someone marries their dog.
Well, nothing like having people you care about compared to dogs, right?  Oh, I imagine that wasn't what Wrighton intended, but the fact that this particular point ends on a discussion of marrying one's dog is hard to avoid.  Why bestiality is related to homosexual relationships is beyond me.  This would be like comparing love of one's car to love of one's child, with the exception that neither of these leads to illegal activities (usually, anyway).

But where to start?  First, whether someone "needs" to get married is completely irrelevant.  Nobody "needs" to get married.  Nobody "needs" to own a Toyota either.  In fact, there are very few things that people actually "need" (food, water, and shelter pretty much sums it up).  It's not about needs, but about what is right.  The fact of the matter is that marriage is being treated as a religious institution, which isn't a problem unless there are legal benefits for such an institution (which there are).  But let's drop that for now.  Instead, let's talk about the fact that the system in which marriage is placed isn't even consistent.  For example, why is it that heterosexual atheists are allowed to get a marriage license and participate in the union (benefits and all), while homosexuals cannot?  Atheists are not religious, and, thus, are not bound by "religious law."  The law has no qualms granting marriages to atheists, since the law does contain a secular component to marriages (one does not have to be married in a church or by a priest to actually be married).  Homosexuals, as such, should be equally as capable of participating in the legal form of marriage based on the secular nature of the system (even if you ignore the 1st Amendment).

But they are denied on all grounds for religious reasons, which would make marriage--if we go back to the religious thing for a second--a religious institution, and not a legal one.  In this case, there is an either/or.  Marriage either is a secular institution that allows for certain people to participate in religious terms, or it is a religious institution only.  If we're talking about the former, then very few groups can, legally, be excluded from marriage; if we're talking about the latter, however, then all legal benefits for marriage must be removed, since it violates the secularity of the government.  (Oh, and there are good reasons for this secularity.  But we'll get into that later.)

As for the other points:
  1. Very few credible studies suggest that heterosexual couples are better for kids than homosexual couples, and when such studies arise, they suggest that the problem isn't that they are raised differently, but that discrimination from outside groups has significant influence on the psychological well-being of the children.  Again, we've gone from dealing with the problem to displacing that onto something else.  Regardless, the evidence seems to be in favor of homosexuals.  In fact, a number of recent and older studies prove that homosexuals can be just as good, if not better parents that heterosexuals (which is sad news for me, being hetero).  Sadly, most statements and research that argues against homosexual parenting are from religious institutions or groups with clear political agendas.  When the APA considers homosexual parenting pretty much a-ok, you've pretty much lost the battle.
  2. It's about loving families, not patriarchally preserved ones.
That should do it for part one.  Part two will be up a couple days.

TSA (Totalitarian Sexual Assault): My Thoughts on the TSA’s New Procedures and People in General

(Warning:  explicit language and politics are below; ignore if you're not interested in either)

I'm going to take some flak for this post (at least, I expect to).  This is because I'm not going to say anything particularly kind about the TSA (or Totalitarian Sexual Assault, as I will now call it) or the large portion of my fellow Americans who have decided the new measures aren't that big of a deal.  Of course, if you've been ignoring the Internet, or don't pay attention to politics or the news, you have no idea what I'm talking about.  So, I should probably clear that up first.

The TSA recently changed their search policies for the security lines in U.S. airports (Nov. 1st, I
think) to allow the use of full-body scanners OR, if you refuse to be scanned or the image of your naked torso appears suspicious, TSA agents will perform a pat-down that includes a groin and chest search.  What does that mean?  It means that your options, should you be selected for the special TSA treatment, are to have your body x-rayed, allowing a TSA agent to see you naked, or to be sexually molested by a member of your own sex.  In the case of the first, the agent is supposed to delete the images, but, of course, the feds are particularly bad at that--that link also points out that the images that were leaked on the net.  In the second case, you literally will be subject to full groping of your private parts, whether male or female.
All your testicles are belong to them.
I first learned about this from this guy, whose story about his refusal to subject himself to the new measures at the San Diego International Airport resulted in a threat of a $10,000 civil suit and expulsion from the airport (you should read the full story to get the bigger--and more disturbing--picture).  Needless to say, I was pretty damn shocked.  I wanted to know how these new policies came to be and how we, as citizens, could sit idly by and let it stand.  Now?  I'm livid.  The body scanners and the new pat-down procedures are obvious violations of our rights.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that requiring Americans to subject themselves to sexual assault or body imaging in order to fly is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects everyone from unwarranted search and seizure.  Read the Amendment for yourself.

The fact that the TSA sees these measures as acceptable is even more shocking.  They say it's in our best interests--to protect us.  The terrorists, after all, are real resourceful, what with all those successful bombing attempts in the U.S. since 9/11.  Well, except for the fact that they haven't been.  The problem is that I don't feel any safer now.  I have no reason to be.  My rights mean jack shit in this post-2001 world, and my government regularly violates them in the interest of my "safety."  To say that the terrorists have already won is an understatement.  Look at what we're giving up.  We frequently claim that America is the freest country in the world, the one beacon of hope and yadda yadda in the world.  Except it's not.  Far from it.  We're allowing our rights to be stripped from us faster than a stripper takes off her clothes.  And we're doing it because we're told we should be scared.  The operating word in "terrorism" is "terror."  It's objective is to create terror.  I'm not going to go so far as implying that our government is a terrorist agent, but it would be fair to say that the terrorists we're supposed to be fighting have already begun the slow process of destroying us.  The difference is that it's happening from the inside--ourselves.
Turn your head and cough, please...
Child abuse in action.
But more alarming to me is the fact that so many Americans have shrugged off the new TSA procedures.  Some Americans have even said that they're worth it to feel safe.  I think those people are cowards.  Every one of them.  I also think they barely deserve the rights the Constitution grants them, since they clearly hold them in such low regard--you can't think highly of something you're not particularly interested in preserving.  Why have the Constitution if we're not even going to uphold is laws?  I'm not willing to go so far to say that they should lose their rights.  I think everyone should have the rights we're supposed to be celebrating every 4th of July.  (And don't get me started on parents who allow TSA agents to grope their children.  Those people are committing child abuse, and how you expect to convince your four-year-old that nobody should touch their privates after allowing a TSA agent to touch them is beyond me).  But it makes me wonder if people's opinions would change if the situation were different?  Maybe if the government decided you need to have your belongings searched before purchasing milk, because they're afraid you're going poison the milk supply, people would say something.  I don't know.  It seems to me that so many people are crippled by the fear of something they can't even properly describe, and, thus, are willing to give up anything just to have their pathetic little security blanket wrap them up and proclaim that they are safe.

The reality?  You're not safe.  Nobody is.  You could die tomorrow in a car crash.  Should we have checkpoints at every door in the entire country to make sure nobody drives while drunk?  You might also die of food poisoning, perhaps by your own action.  Should the government force you to let licensed cooks make all your food for you?  People seem so desperately concerned over something that is both incredibly unlikely, but also just as nameless and faceless as an unexpected asteroid attack.  The difference is that nobody is freaking out about the asteroids we don't know about (oh, and if you only knew how many times we've discovered a near-Earth asteroid too late to do anything about it if it were actually going to hit us).

The fact is that you could die at any minute.  Right now, you could die of a cerebral hemorrhage or a heart attack.  Maybe a robber will break into your house and shoot you.  Or you could flip your car tomorrow and die.  Or a bus could run you over.  Or you could choke on a piece of food.  Or you could contract a terrible wasting disease and die slowly.  Or your plane could literally just fall out of the sky.  And maybe if you're really unlucky, you'll be on the plane that terrorists decide to destroy.

Instead of accepting that and moving on with your lives, so many of you are simply bending over and giving up personal privacy to defend yourself against something that could happen anyway.  If you honestly think terrorists are going to be stopped by these new procedures, then you are a cowardly, ignorant fool.  Terrorists don't need airplanes to do damage.  Some terrorists are already here in the country (or will be here) and have figured out unique ways to do damage (physical and psychological damage).  Nothing you do is going to deter them.  Yes, we likely will prevent a number of attacks from occurring with the new procedures, but the fact is that in six months, terrorists will have figured out a way through our security measures, or they'll have directed their sights to different forms of terror.  The sad truth is that they don't have to actually do anything.  The threat is enough, because we've played beautifully into their hands by doing little to nothing about the continued removal of our rights.

But I'm not going to pretend that I think all Americans should stop flying.  I understand that a lot of Americans have to fly to see family or even do to business.  But the least you can do if you have to fly is voice the dissent.  Contact your representatives, the President, the TSA, and maybe even the ACLU.  You should wear t-shirts at the airport telling the TSA just what you think about all of this.  But don't sit there and take it.  Do something about it.  Because with the way things are going right now, I wouldn't be surprised if sterner measures are taken to restrict the movements and actions of potential terrorists, while also restricting the rest of us who have done nothing wrong.

We live in America.  It's supposed to be the land of the free.  Maybe being free means we'll have to face a little danger along the way, but that's exactly what the Founding Fathers and all the soldiers who have fought (and sometimes died) for in this country were trying to protect:  freedom.  Don't sully their sacrifices by giving in, even if you are scared.  They were scared too when the Nazis and the Japanese Empire stood before them in WW2.  They were scared when we invaded Afghanistan and when the British Empire attacked the American colonies in order to destroy the movement for independence.  We've done enough damage to our soldiers by sending them to wars they never should have been in, but let's not shit all over the people who died fighting so every amendment in the United States Constitution would remain the law of the land.  They deserve better than that.  Your children deserve better than that.  It's about time we stand up and say "enough is enough."  Show the enemy that you're not afraid anymore.  Show them that no matter what they do, you will stand vigilant and fight for the rights that make this country great, no matter how small.

If this sounds like a call to action, that's because it is.  Stand up for what's right.  Stand up for your personal freedom.  Speak.  Protest.  Wear a shirt.  Tell your friends.  Just stand up and say something.

Or don't, and let your freedoms slip right through your fingers so you can feel little safer every day.  Just don't complain about your rights if you do.  You only have rights if you're willing to fight for them.  The second you stop and let them go is the day you lose them forever.

The Election: My Late Thoughts (In Case You Care)

My original intention was to do a long post about what exactly went wrong for Democrats, with bullet points and the like laid out and organized appropriately.  But then I realized that doing that would mean this post would be extraordinarily long, and unnecessarily so.  Besides, if you want to see some interesting opinions on the election, Scalzi has fairly detailed ones here.

But I do want to throw out my two cents, in contracted form, for those that actually care about my political opinions.  Considering the outcome, I am not surprised.  Democrats got exactly what they deserved.  I hate saying it, but it's true.  That's not to say that they haven't done anything good since taking control of the Presidency, the House, and the Senate.  They have, albeit not to the extent many of us had hoped, but they've also taken an extraordinary amount of power and squandered it by trying to appease an opposition who publicly declared that they were essentially going to be the party of obstruction (anything Obama was pretty much not a-ok with them).  Democrats allowed Republicans and Tea Baggers to control the dialogue and turn public opinion around based on false information and half-truths, and the result was exactly what I thought would happen:  Democrats would lose power.

At the same time, though, the election didn't go as poorly as I had thought it would.  Democrats
barely control the Senate, which means that even if a Republican were our President, hardly any major Republican policies woiuld make it through (assuming the remaining blue senators have the spine to stand up for Americans over corporate interests).  There's a glimmer of hope there, and maybe Democrats will have learned a lesson about what happens when you don't control the dialogue and point out your opposition's lies.

So, on the one hand, I'm disappointed.  Despite pulling in over 800,000 jobs this year (paltry as it may be compared to the 8 million lost) and the announcement that the recession is actually over (which is different than saying that the economy has fully recovered), people decided that the party that claimed to want to change things was better than the party that said the same thing two years before with an actual plan of change, but who didn't do that at all.  The fact that Republicans are essentially running on an economic platform that prizes trickle-down economics hasn't registered with many voters, perhaps because we constantly hear about how great the system is without also paying attention to the fact that it doesn't work.  It sucks, but I also understand it.

There's good news, though.  Several Tea Bagger crazies lost their races (like O'Donnell, who lost by 17% to Coons).  Amendment 62 in Colorado was shot down something awful (71% against) and almost 75% supported providing tax benefits for military service men and women in Florida, which is pretty damn awesome in my book.  The one thing the election reminded me of is that there are things that we can agree on (like benefits for soldiers, etc.).  So, it's not all bad, and you better bet that I'm going to latch onto the good as things go quickly into the toilet.

So, that's how I view the election.  What about you?