283. glocal

Standard

DevinCook, and Jacobolus. Today I am taking a respite from the wonderful world of mental health, apostasy, and AD/HD to talk about the sujet du jour:

The shitshow that is American politics.

In general, I try to avoid discussing politics on this site, seeing as political news is pretty much unavoidable most places these days, and nobody wants to hear about it.

To my readers outside the United States, I probably follow your coverage of American politics more closely than I do American news, so I’m aware of what most of the world thinks of the United States and of Americans in general.

It’s humiliating to be reminded every day that an ignorant bunch of racist, homophobic, gun-toting xenophobes living in isolated pockets in the most conservative (and least populated) states throughout my country handed an incompetent nitwit the election thanks to the arcane, wibbly-wobbly math of the Electoral College¹, which apportions…

… oh fuck it. I don’t even understand.

Nobody understands.

CGP Grey does, thankfully.

So if you’ve been paying attention to the flurry of lies and spin coming out of the White House since the Orange One and his deplorable band of criminals took over, one of their favorite lines is to insist that “the American people” voted for Donald Trump, as if his winning the Electoral College vote grants him the mandate to ban Muslims from entering the country, building his fucking wall along the U.S/Mexico border, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord… etc.

Except that we didn’t. Here’s how it breaks down.

How Did Americans Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election

That “Voting-Eligible Population” is particularly important because it excludes anyone under age 18, along with non-citizens, convicted felons (depending on state law where they reside), and mentally incapacitated persons².

Roughly 1 in 40 Americans are prevented from voting due to a felony record, and thanks to racial disparities in policing and sentencing, many of them are non-white. Something as simple and non-violent as copyright infringement or possession of marijuana without intent to distribute (i.e., for personal use) can land someone with a felony conviction.

Thus, permanently denying them the right to vote.

According to Michael McDonald’s website analyzing the results of the 2016 election votes, 3,249,802 Americans were ineligible for this reason.


If you’ve been paying attention recently, one of the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast’s primary obsessions since the election is the fact that he lost the popular vote.

By roughly 2.9 million votes.

It appears to literally be driving him crazy—which is terrifying when you consider that this is the man who holds the nuclear codes.

Since November, he has repeated the baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Besides the Russian hackers operation, there is no evidence of any voter fraud, let alone three million votes. That’s insane—and yet, that is precisely the narrative being peddled by the current U.S. administration.

So this “witless fucking cocksplat” of a president has ordered the formation of a commission to look into supposed voter fraud.

And this past Friday, that commission released 112 pages of unredacted emails of public comment in response to their request to the states for hand over voter information, including sensitive personal data such as birthdates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and felon status³.

My favorite response was the Mississippi Secretary of State responding that “the commission can ‘go jump in the Gulf of Mexico’.”

But what is especially frightening about this recent initiative is the unprecedented move by this administration to cast doubt on the integrity of the results from the popular vote, seemingly in order to lend themselves the appearance of legitimacy that will allow them to carry out their reign of reckless incompetency unopposed.

However, the most striking feature of the results from the 2016 election is the fact that nearly 94 million Americans did not cast a vote for president. They may have voted for their local representatives, but 40.7% of the voting-eligible population essentially cast a vote of no confidence in how Americans elect their president.

It speaks to how disconnected many people feel from Washington, D.C., and how fed up many are with the divisive partisanship, lack of effective leadership, and utter lack of appealing candidates that were the hallmarks of the 2016 American election cycle.

The upset that resulted in the Republican victory speaks to the reality that the concerns of Americans in many (especially rural) parts of the country have gone unheeded for too long. Life is a struggle for significant parts of the population while a disproportional minority at the top enjoy undeserved tax breaks and kickbacks.

Clinton’s loss speaks to the influence of Russian meddling, yes, but also the reality that the Democratic party has lost touch with a majority of Americans in the middle and working classes, to the point that it cost them many states that traditionally go blue in elections—namely, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida.


The point of all this is that although the United States government is currently helmed by a sexual predator and racist Cheeto, the reality is that he does not speak for a vast majority of Americans—72.7% of us, to be precise.

He does not speak for us, or represent the type of American ideals set out in documents like the Constitution (which he clearly hasn’t read). He is the ugly face of an ignorant minority who are desperate to turn back the clock on progress towards realizing the dream of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

He is Not My President.


Endnotes:

¹ None but a handful of Americans understand the Electoral College, which was ultimately established in 1787 to preserve the institution of slavery in the United States by way of the Three-Fifths Compromise, wherein black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of census taking in order to grant states with high slave populations more votes in the electoral college.

² McDonald, Michael P. “What is the voting-age population (VAP) and the voting-eligible population (VEP)?” United States Elections Project. July 7, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/faq/denominator.

³ Neuman, Scott. “Vote Fraud Commission Releases Public Comments, Email Addresses And All.” NPR. July 14, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/14/537282309/vote-fraud-commission-releases-public-comments-email-addresses-and-all.

152. concatenate

Standard

 

Last week I watched my news feed with excitement for the much-anticipated landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. Since I don’t watch television, radio and online news are my primary sources of information, and I was admittedly somewhat embarrassingly anxious to hear how the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory would fare on its “seven minutes of terror” landing. Seeing those first few pictures of the Martian landscape is still breathtaking—images of literally another world that isn’t earth.

This mission has revived a public conversation that’s been raging in the scientific community for decades. What is life? How do we define it? How do we recognize it when we see it? Since the dawn of the science-fiction genre with the second-century Roman satirist Lucien’s True History,we’ve been imagining other forms of life in our own image, which really isn’t all that different from how we’ve crafted our gods. Until recently, sci-fi shows and movies almost always portray aliens as humanoid, partly due to budget or material constraints.

In an article on NPR today, Marcelo Gleiser ponders the implications of finding (or not finding) evidence of life on Mars. “The expectations are high that Curiosity will find a trace of life, even if long extinct,” he writes. “However, if results turn out negative, we will still learn a lot. After all, the question we are asking is whether life on Earth is the exception or the rule. If life is not found on Mars, it will be harder to justify that life is abundant in the universe.”

The human race is currently emerging from its infancy. Until a certain age, young children are egocentric, incapable of empathy and recognizing that other people are separate individuals. Their brains haven’t developed that ability yet. (Some people never grow past that stage.) Similarly, the human race is finally learning that there might be other ways to be alive. We’re now conjecturing what silicon-based life form might look like, how it could evolve, how it could evolve intelligence, and how we might recognize any of those things. Depending on planetary conditions and the elements its parent star are rich in, a life form might find chlorine, arsenic or methane nourishing, and water a lethal poison.

Analogously, the human race is also discovering that there’s more than one way to be human. (Yes, I just managed to link the Mars mission to gay rights. Bite me.)

Earlier this week I was having several discussions over this infographic that’s been floating around cyberspace:

In case you haven’t seen it, the gist of it is that we dismiss much of the Bible now as being either culturally contextual and therefore irrelevant to modern-day society (such as wearing clothes woven from different fabrics, or any of the Old Testament laws and regulations), or flat out wrong (such as forcing rape victims to marry their rapists).

Naturally, it’s caused a firestorm of controversy and disagreement.

The two central questions this debate has raised seem to concern the definition of marriage and the definition of sexuality. What does it mean to be married today? What has it meant historically? Is heterosexuality the only way to be sexual, or are there alternatives? That was the central issue in the California Proposition 8 case—whether homosexuality is a learned “behavior” or it’s a natural variant of human sexuality. The answer to that question determined whether the GLBT community could be considered a legal protected class and therefore entitled to protection under the Due Process Clause. In his ruling decision, Judge Walker overturned Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, saying that “no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

Walker’s decision harkens, of course, to Chief Justice Earl Warren’s landmark 1967 ruling decision in Loving v. Virginia, when he wrote that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

I’ve encountered a number of people of the anti-gay persuasion this week, most of whom continue to insist that being homosexual is a choice. They’ve also claimed that gay men have hundreds of partners, are riddled with STDs, rape and molest children, and bring down God’s wrath and judgment on any society that doesn’t persecute us. But I haven’t heard one argument that has cited a scientific study proving categorically that homosexuality is indeed a perversion of human sexuality, that anyone is harmed by homosexuality (including homosexuals), that children are placed at risk of harm or indoctrination by an insidious “gay agenda,” or that the institution of marriage itself is endangered by including same-sex relationships under the umbrella.

And that is the central issue at stake here. You can argue that “God says it’s wrong” until you’re blue in the face. That argument doesn’t hold any water in a secular society and government—which America is. And the second president of the United States would agree with me.

The question we should be asking is not whether homosexuality is wrong. The reparative therapy crowd has admitted that the homosexual orientation is 99.99% fixed; the scientific community has a plausible explanation for how homosexuality could indeed be genetic; conservatives have yet to produce one marriage destroyed by homosexuals (though the Miller family of Pittsboro, NC might disagree after their harrowing ordeal); and children of same-sex parents seem to grow up perfectly normal—perhaps even more well-adjusted.

In the absence of any compelling reasons, the Constitution of the United States of America weighs in via the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Bottom line: Either all citizens deserve equal protection, or no citizens deserve protection.

146. pensée

Standard

Earlier today I got the following e-blast from John Helmberger of Minnesota for Marriage:

General Mills Declares War on Marriage

The Green Giant, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kix, and Trix have all declared war on Marriage.

General Mills has made billions of dollars in marketing these cereals to parents of young children, and they have just declared War on Marriage here in Minnesota.

In what could go down as one of the stupidest PR decisions of all time, General Mills has pro-actively inserted themselves into a divisive social issue that flies in the face of their very business model.

A survey last year by the Alliance Defense Fund found that 63% of Americans with children living at home believe that marriage is ONLY the union of one man and one woman. Those are the very customers that General Mills has just insulted!

Aren’t you just sick and tired of big corporations ignoring your wishes to pander to special interests? It’s actions like those taken by General Mills that sometimes help me understand the whole “Occupy” philosophy against corporations that have lost touch with the people who have made them wealthy.

Just because General Mills is doing exactly the opposite of the very thing conservative groups have been doing doing recently (i.e., big corporations pandering to special interests and investing money in order to oppose the constitutional amendment), it means General Mills has declared nuclear war on apple pie and puppy dogs?

And, because it’s right on the tip of my tongue, lest I be accused of just throwing the word “bigot” around too flippantly, here is the definition from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especiallly : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

It is not hateful or intolerant for those of us on the “anti-amendment” side to call out those who want to deny equal treatment of GLBT couples and individuals (in stark opposition to the provisions afforded to citizens in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution) on their prejudiced and discriminatory rhetoric and tactics.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Head over to Project 515 if there’s any doubt in your mind how GLBT citizens (not to mention non-traditional families) are being treated unequally under current Minnesota and Federal law.

To those on the other side…

We hear your concern and your fear, and we understand that this is an important issue to you. We’re trying to listen, and we want to respect you as much as we can. Most of all, we hope for as amicable an outcome as possible for both sides so that we can, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, come together, “with malice toward none, with charity for all … to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Because, just as in 1865 after the end of the American Civil War, we do despise each other right now. There are gaping wounds, and we in the GLBT community have been deeply hurt by how we’ve been treated. But we have to move forward if we’re going to grow up as a nation. We got past slavery, we got past women’s rights, we got past racism and inter-racial marriage. We can get past this.

However, this is also an issue that is important to us as your fellow tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, and the fact that you’re terrified of change doesn’t give you the right to treat us like second class citizens because we happen to be attracted to members of the same sex.

We don’t want to destroy your marriages, your families or your homes. You heterosexuals seem to be doing a fine job of that on your own. We are a nation of immigrants whose diversity makes us stronger, and we want to strengthen marriage and family in our country by affirming it for everyone.

We don’t want to force you to accept us, because ultimately we can’t change your mind for you, but we hope that you will eventually come to see us as your neighbors and not as a threat.

We don’t want to recruit your children into the ranks of the homosexual army (or whatever it is that you’re worried will happen in public schools if same-sex marriage is legalized), but we do want GLBT teens and kids to feel accepted and safe in schools and their homes to be who they know in their hearts that they are.

We don’t want to force churches to perform same sex marriage ceremonies, because who wants to celebrate their love and commitment in a place filled with hatred and animosity towards them? (There are plenty of places that do want us and our money, and we’ll go there, thanks very much.)

As one who grew up gay in a conservative religious home and spent years denying and fighting against who I was, I don’t want another teen to live with the pain and anguish that comes with thinking that you’re an abomination to God, that you’ll have to choose between living free or losing your family, community and God; and that you’ll go to hell for the sin of loving someone of the same sex as you.

Most of all, we want you to stop being afraid, because you’re missing out on so many opportunities for rich relationships with co-workers, with friends, and with your children and family members.