Last Straw on Cuomo: Public Funds for Faith-Based Initiatives

Posted in Editorials on October 10th, 2014
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This will be brief as evidence that Andrew Cuomo is a Republican who wants a Republican-controlled Senate is a mile high.

Remember back during President George W. Bush’s first term when he teamed up with Senators Rick Santorum and Joe Lieberman to promote faith-based initiatives? We do too.

Remember when Rick Santorum promoted government incentives to promote marriage, because in his view, marriage is the only answer to all of the world’s ills?

We do too. But we were also unsurprised. George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman and Rick Santorum have never been shy about injecting their religious beliefs into public policy.

Most Americans who believe in the importance of the separation of church and state understand the inherent danger in faith-based initiatives. Driving taxpayer funds to religious organizations is fraught with all sorts of concerns, especially when religious groups can be openly hostile and discriminatory toward those with whom they disagree.

So then, why, we must ask, is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo not only endorsing faith-based initiatives, but actually proposing a “State Office of Faith-Based Services”? Well the answer is simple to everyone. Well, maybe everyone except the Working Families Party.

Andrew Cuomo is not a Democrat. Andrew Cuomo is a Republican. And each day, we learn how much of a Republican he is.

He has now proved that by joining the ideological positions of Rick Santorum: One of the most Christian-right members of the Republican Party and a man who is unabashed about wanting to impose his Catholic Doctrine on the people of this country.

New York is a state which provides more social services than most others. Our state has the means to provide for any citizen who seeks out its services. Diverting tax dollars to religious organizations is not necessary, nor prudent. But the proposal to create an office specifically for such initiatives offers true insights into the Governor’s view of the role of government.

Election Day is November 4th. Send a message. Vote third party in the governor’s race.

Out, Damned Sperm! Why Everyone Is Freaked Out About Fruit Flies.

Posted in Editorials on October 10th, 2014
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This week the internet was aflame with the sheer idiocy that happens when you combine an ignorant misunderstanding of science with our culture of vicious misogyny.

Generally respectable websites like Alternet and The Telegraph were off and running with a study that claimed previous mates sperm could influence the future offspring of fruit flies. People got paid real money to write about this study as if it applied to human beings.

Caroline Weinberg at Jezebel did a good job of debunking this nonsense:

The immature eggs of newly hatched fruit flies ultimately develop a hard shell. The thought is that the development of the immature eggs can be influenced by non-genetic factors in semen but, once they have matured, the eggs are no longer susceptible to these changes.

Interesting indeed. But what I’m more interested in is why this study took off the way it did and why so many news outlets jumped to cover it as if it means something for people. Yes, it’s clickbait. But why is it clickbait? Why was this story so sensational?

Weinberg speculates:

Start with a scientific study that can be generalized to something people identify with or fear. Then lead with an eminently clickable headline about motherhood and promiscuity, striking fear in the hearts of the sexually active, raising concerns that the skeevy dude they picked up in a bar last year is actually going to haunt them forever through the face of their future offspring.

But I think it’s more than just fear that our exes can follow us, or somehow influence our future. The media found a way to push people’s buttons with the way they twisted this story, yes they pushed the “disgust” button, and the “eww my ex is gross” button, and even the “fear of cuckolding” button. But part of the reason these buttons exist in the first place is a deeper cultural stigma. There is a deep taboo about the way sex tarnishes women or makes them dirty. It’s tangled up with fear and denial of women’s sexual desires but its a slightly separate idea.

I’ve written before about how the disgust mechanism is a very old instinct. But this is is more than a general aversion to the “ickiness” of sex. The idea that the media was tapping into here was that sex in general and semen in particular makes women dirty in a way it does not make men dirty. In a way that a woman’s natural wetness doesn’t make women or men dirty. It’s odd to think of a substance produced by pleasure that creates human life as a contaminant (STIs aside). But we do.

We use the idea of semen in slurs like “cum dumpster.”

Abstinence only sex education is notorious for invoking the idea of semen defiled women in their rhetoric. A sucked on lollipop, chewed gum, or a cup everyone has spit into have all be used to represent a woman who has had sex. The students actual saliva makes an approximate substitute – but the message is clear, a woman is defiled by semen.

And so it should come as no surprise that at the mere hint that semen has more than a symbolically tarnishing effect on a woman’s body people will spiral into an absolute panic.

Weinberg wrote:

I even received an email from a pregnant friend that read, “Shit. Does this mean my kid is going to look like my ex?”

I wrote back to her, “Not unless you’re a fruit fly.”

We aren’t fruit flies. We’re people living in a culture that has a lot of fear about sex. Try not to let it ruin your day.

For Further Reading: The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis

Governor Cuomo Thinks That Corruption Is The Same As Adultery

Posted in Editorials on October 9th, 2014
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Although I praised Governor Cuomo for enacting an affirmative consent standard on SUNY campuses, it’s not as if that one great policy can heal all ills. In an interview with the New York Times about his new book, the governor was asked:

You write that the Albany press loves to foment scandal. Do you think recent scrutiny over your handling of the Moreland anticorruption commission is an example of that?

He answered:

There’s no doubt. But that’s what sells newspapers — negative sells, sex sells, scandal sells, it always did.

Andrew Cuomo thinks that preventing his own administration from being investigated for corruption is the same thing as if the press had taken a prurient interest in his sex life. The possibility that he or someone in his administration might be indicted for obstruction of justice or witness tampering is just negativity, man. Chill out! They’d be mad if I fucked an intern so I might as well screw the whole state, lulz.


Voting day is Tuesday, November 4. Polls open 6am -9pm. Find your polling place here.

Affirmative Consent Comes to New York

Posted in Editorials on October 9th, 2014
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I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and therefore I am very happy and proud to learn that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has instructed the State University of New York (SUNY) to make affirmative consent the standard on all 63 of its campuses.

“Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary,” the SUNY rules will say. “Consent is active, not passive.

“Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.”

Consent need not be verbal, but it must be unambiguous and mutual. “Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity,” the rules will say.

An alumna of a SUNY school, I’ve written before about my perceptions of sexual assault on campus and how among my group of friends it was considered something to be expected that was our responsibility to avoid. When I was seventeen years old, I had no concept that rape culture was something that could be changed or fought against. But with time I realized that point of view was flawed – individuals have a choice to commit sexual violence or not and there’s nothing inevitable about it at all. So I’m very glad to see this change being made.

Not everyone is happy about the new rules, however. Cathy Young at Newsday writes:

No court would treat incapacitation, or submission to an explicit or implied threat, as consent.

She couldn’t be more wrong. In the most high profile example of this in recent memory, a woman who was both incapacitated by alcohol and under the implied threat of force from two armed police officers was raped in her own apartment and the men who raped her were acquitted.

Affirmative consent standards target far more ambiguous incidents in which one person initiates or escalates sexual activity in a consensual situation and the other person goes along — possibly because she or he feels pressured and doesn’t have the nerve to say no. But surely equating such experiences with rape is insulting to victims who are actually forced to have sex against their will — and generally to women, who are presumed under the new standard of being incapable of saying no to unwanted sex.

Young contradicts herself here. A person who feels pressured and cannot say no is being coerced, is being threatened implicitly.

And she falls into the trap that so many do. It’s not that people who support affirmative consent standards don’t think women are incapable of saying no. It’s that we don’t think they should have to. Here’s Twisty Faster who explained it all brilliantly:

Although this condition does not obtain with regard to any other crime you can think of, when it comes to rape, women are currently considered to exist in a state of perpetual “yes!”. This is because “yes!” is consistent with global accords governing fair use of women. Victims of robbery or attempted murder don’t have to prove that they said no to being robbed or murdered; the presumption is that not even women would consent to being killed. But because penetration by males is what women are for, if we are raped we have to prove not just that we didn’t say yes, which is impossible to prove, but that we specifically and emphatically said no, which is also impossible to prove.

Thus the need for an affirmative consent standard:

My wacky consent scheme flips it around. According to my scheme, women would abide in a persistent legal condition of not having given consent to sex.

Women can still have all the hetero-sex they want; if they adjudge that their dude hasn’t raped them, all they have to do is not call the cops.

It’s not that I don’t think women can say no. It’s that our partners should want us to say yes.

For further reading: Affirmative Consent As A Legal Standard,
On Deciding What Counts: Elizabeth Ellen and What Makes A Victim
, Our horrible consent culture is a tax on women

Komen isn’t the only hypocrite about breast cancer.

Posted in Editorials on October 8th, 2014
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So right now the internet is awash with the irony that is the pink drill bit that the Susan G Komen foundation is hyping to promote breast cancer awareness. They painted a fracking tool pink to raise awareness about a disease that is caused by fracking. Because this is the world that we live in today.

Just as the pro life movement doesn’t seem to care about the impact of pollution on fetuses, it seems like many aspects of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement make hypocritical mistakes. Until this year, Avon, which sponsors a walk for breast cancer, also sold cosmetics laden with carcinogens. They agreed to make their products safer in April 2014. Right now, the campaign for safe cosmetics is pressuring Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Cover Girl, Max Factor, Olay, and Pantene to do the same for their products.

I’m glad that corporations want to give to charitable causes. But it’s hard to take them seriously when they are claiming to try and solve a problem they had a direct impact in creating without first doing as much as they can to stop filling our bodies and our environment with carcinogens.

Related Post: I Speak For The Lorax

Stop Talking About #GamerGate Like It’s Real.

Posted in Editorials on October 8th, 2014
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Background reading in case you haven’t been paying attention:

Attacks on women in gaming are so obviously not about ethics, but about misogyny
by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon

We must dissent: Intel bows to GamerGate campaign to silence feminist video game critics
by Katherine Cross at Feministing

All caught up? Good.

I’ve been thinking about Intel’s decision to pull ads from gaming site Gamasutra. Intel is not a cable news anchor who thinks 4chan is a person. According to Wikipedia, Intel is one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue. People who work there understand what’s happening here. They can see the AstroTurf and false flags.

So that leaves us with a few options:

1. Intel didn’t know that it was a manufactured controversy or didn’t care and was swayed by the arguments.

2. Intel didn’t care about the arguments and was worried about bad publicity. In other words, they’re afraid of 4chan.

3. Intel knows that it’s not a real grassroots campaign, but agrees with the arguments anyway.

From the apology they issued soon after pulling their ads, all signs point to #2.

“We recognize that our action inadvertently created a perception that we are somehow taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate in the gaming community,” Intel wrote. “That was not our intent, and that is not the case. When it comes to our support of equality and women, we want to be very clear: Intel believes men and women should be treated the same.

“And, diversity is an integral part of our corporate strategy and vision with commitments to improve the diversity of our workforce,” Intel continued. “And while we respect the right of individuals to have their personal beliefs and values, Intel does not support any organization or movement that discriminates against women. We apologize and we are deeply sorry if we offended anyone.”

Oh ok, so a bunch of bullies convinced a giant corporation to drop some ads. I suppose that’s newsworthy.

But that’s not how the narrative is being told. Gaming journalists are still talking about #GamerGate like it’s a real thing and not a bullying campaign from the bowels of the internet. This is disingenuous at best, and misogynistic bullshit at worst.

The idea that corporations or journalists should need to expend any special effort to avoid “taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate” is ludicrous when you realize that there aren’t two sides here. There’s a bunch of trolls who are mad at a woman they don’t know for things that allegedly happened her private sex life as told by a vindictive ex-boyfriend so they’re throwing a temper tantrum on the internet. And there’s women who work in gaming and play video games who don’t want to be harassed. If you see these sides as at all equal, you are deficient in your logic or your morals. Or you’re just lying.

Who Will Be The Next Republican To Endorse Andrew Cuomo?

Posted in Editorials on October 7th, 2014
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Today New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo released endorsements from Republican county executives Joanie Mahoney from Onondaga and Ed Mangano from Nassau. Here at Political Flavors, we’re wonder who the next GOP member will be to throw their support behind the Governor. Our money is on New York State Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos from Rockville Centre. The following is what we’re betting it will sound like…

No one knows more than me how important it is that we stop campaign finance reform dead in its tracks.

And that’s why I’m supporting Andrew Cuomo’s re-election.

I’ve already used Andrew Cuomo’s might to keep me in power in the State Senate. When we meet in his mansion over semi-homemade meals, he affectionately refers to me as “his tool” – and my ego has never felt better.

Where would we be without Andrew Cuomo’s steadfast leadership in pushing for sustained Republican control of the State Senate? Well, we’d have codified protections of reproductive rights, a ban on fracking, tax laws that didn’t overwhelmingly favor top earners, we’d have universal workplace protections for all minorities, and we’d have fair, balanced, independent redistricting.

What an awful mess that would be! It would make New York more of an egalitarian democracy. Ugh.

That’s why I’m here today to say that Andy’s my guy. I even got Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who I affectionately refer to as “my tool” to endorse him.

As a Republican, I look forward to further reaping the rewards of an Andrew Cuomo administration as we ensure that New York continues to be the least progressive “blue” state in America.

The Untenable Incel

Posted in Editorials on October 6th, 2014
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Reading about the online “involuntarily celibate” or “Incel” community (also called “Love-Shy”) in the wake of the Isla Vista mass shooting, I find myself compelled by the incel narrative. Most people feel similar feelings in times of hurt, but they do not let those feelings define their concepts of relationships and romantic interests. This piece is not to professionally diagnose or treat those who self-identify as “incel” or “love-shy,” but I do want to examine their narrative in the context of the personality traits associated with narcissism.

The “incel” or “love-shy” community is the soft, squishy version of the MRA/PUA/Anti-PUA/RedPill/etc community, which believes that being involuntarily celibate is indeed a failure on their own part and which is often less aggressively violent while more sympathy-seeking in their rhetoric. Obviously, most of the participants of the MRA/PUA/Anti-PUA/RedPill/etc rabbit hole of misogyny don’t actually act on their voiced violent impulses, but they are clearly expressing a powerful and captivating narrative of angst and confusion which is projected onto an external source which is most commonly women. In direct contradiction of their title, the celibacy of many of their members is entirely voluntary. While trying to describe the complexity of their condition,  involuntarycelibacy.com states “Some incels have had opportunities for casual or paid sex but have declined them because they don’t consider them a real relationship (or in the latter case it’s illegal for them in their residential jurisdiction.)  What they are truly missing is the affectionate touching, holding and kissing and unconditional give-and-take that true couples the world over enjoy.” The Love-Shy Wiki defines love-shyness: “Love-shyness is a proto-disorder [sic] characterized by an extreme fear of romantic interactions with the opposite sex.”

The incel community seems to see it’s lack of sex as “involuntary” (or externally imposed) but also caused by an internal flaw. Those who identify as incel consider themselves part of an under-served group of people suffering from an under-studied psychological disability which is their involuntary celibacy. By definition, being celibate is not a mental condition. It is an interpersonal (lack of) interaction. Having difficulty in romantic endeavors can be a symptom of an underlying anxiety or self esteem issue, but in and of itself, not getting laid is not a psychological condition. The paramount feature of those who self-identify as incel seems to be narcissism combined with not being able to get laid.

Commonly, when we think of narcissists we think of charming (and not so charming) extroverts—the kind of people parodied in the song “Selfie.” Outgoing and seeking extremes of adoration and attention, these narcissists belong to a category called “overt” narcissists. Often personified as female, desperately seeking male attention and social status, it is easy to spot and label these people, and many of them are likely aware that they are significantly more interested in themselves than others (they just believe that this is because they are just that much more interesting). It is easy to see that they struggle to create and maintain deep relationships with others because their interactions are purely instrumental in order to meet their own needs—behaviors that would likely repel those who seek a deeper connection and a more equitable partnership.

Less known is the category that I have come to believe those that self-identify as “incel” fall under: “covert” narcissists. Their needs are equally as wholly self-centered as the overt narcissists, but their expression is somewhat different. For further reading on the two types of narcissistic presentation the chapter in “Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic, Clinical, and Empirical Implications” is publicly available on Google Books and the original article that published the useful table (reprinted in the chapter linked to above) which compares overt and covert expressions of narcissism is not available online (sadly, the earliest issue of this journal available is from 1996, and this chart was published in 1989). It’s also available (in decidedly unacademic-looking comic sans) on an Appalachian State University Psychology course website.

Obviously, not everybody who exhibits one symptom, or even many symptoms, of narcissism can be described as having narcissistic personality disorder and I am not diagnosing any one person with a mental illness. The incel narrative, however, has many expressions of the clinical features of NPD. Being a sad sack with low self esteem is not a guard against narcissism. The covert narcissist is described as feeling “morose self-doubts… feeling ashamed; fragility.” Extremely negative navel-gazing is still navel-gazing.

The description of the covert narcissist’s interpersonal relationships reads that they are marked by an “inability to genuinely depend on others and trust them; chronic envy of others’ talents, possessions, and capacity for deep object relations; lack of regard for generational boundaries; disregard for others’ time” (object relations here meaning interpersonal caring relationships). I think this speaks most clearly to what people who self-identify as incel and love-shy are identifying with. “That Incel Blogger” (or “CoAlphaAntiModernistIncelBlogger” as he now calls himself) says “It is a great misconception that being an involuntary celibate means you are somehow defective. In fact, it is the completely opposite – in modern society you pretty much have to be degenerate scum to succeed with women.” showing that simultaneous sense of superiority and resentful envy of those he views as more successful than himself. In spite of his belief that incels are above the “degenerate scum” who have relations with women and that they are not defective he still believes the very point of his blog’s existence is to advocate for “government intervention to incel problem [sic] by using non-coercive, voluntary programs” .

Furthermore, the shy/covert subclass is described in romantic relationships to have an “impaired capacity for viewing the romantic partner as a separate individual with his or her own interests, rights, and values.” Well, here we get to the actual relationship portion of the self-identified incel’s narcissism. We can see that their concept of the person they want to become voluntarily coital with is highly simplified and distorted “ The western woman’s choosing criteria, as she can have relation with whoever she please under feminism, she will be part of the harem of an “Alpha” male that is tall, muscular, square jaw, etc.” Here, we can also see how the “Pick Up Artist”’s whole “human relationships as a game in which winning means a man sleeping with a woman who doesn’t want to sleep with him” philosophy and vocabulary infects the incel narrative, this one belonging to  “surviving incel,” which is an article of it’s own.

Sex is an issue fraught with anxiety and private shame for many individuals including later-life virgins and people with partners in the triple-digits. The landscape of intimate personal relationships is scary without prior experience and without support from empathic members of a social network. I don’t blame people who have felt that they have been denied a seemingly universal part of the human experience for being frustrated. People who have struggled with intimacy in romantic or sexual relationships deserve help, but those who self-identify as members of this incel community are displaying something wholly other than the pro-social behavior of seeking help and going through the difficult work of a therapeutic process with a professional to view the roots of their issues with relationships. They display narcissistic traits and proclaim that they both want sex with anybody, but don’t want it with just anybody; they are simultaneously better and worse than everybody else; and most sadly that they do and don’t need help (from psychologists or the government), that they do and don’t have internal mental traits that are keeping them from forging sexual (let alone otherwise meaningful) relationships.

How Andrew Cuomo can win my vote.

Posted in Editorials on September 10th, 2014
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As I knew it was an incredibly long shot, I am not too disappointed that Zephyr Teachout lost her primary bid last night. She made a strong showing and I am very happy with the message that she sent.

But this leaves me with the question of what to do in November. I’m not voting for an antichoice, antigay Republican like Rob Astorino. So Howie Hawkins of the Green Party is looking pretty good right now.

However, my opinion is not set in stone. Here’s how Andrew Cuomo (whom I voted for for both Attorney General AND Governor) can win me back.

1. Ban Fracking. You can read the Sierra Club’s explanation of the issue here. I used to think that a good middle ground on this issue would be to go back to the law as it was in 2005. Fracking used to be a lot less dangerous. Companies would use water, salt water or carbonated water to extract natural gas, rather than a mix of poisonous chemicals protected as proprietary trade secrets. However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted fracking from the Clean Water Act. This is why states must take action to protect their drinking water supplies. (Congress isn’t going to repeal this loophole anytime soon.) But my opinion on this has changed recently. Bill McKibben’s editorial in Mother Jones explains why fracking has an even bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change than were previously thought. Governor Cuomo needs to ban fracking once and for all in New York State.

2. Explain what the hell happened with The Moreland Commission. Governor Cuomo set up a commission to investigate corruption and then stopped them from investigating his own office. Transparency does not work that way. Now, he is under federal investigation for his actions. He needs to explain himself.

3. Show some remorse over creating the IDC. Evidence has come to light that Governor Cuomo played a key role in the “rogue Democrats” that caucused with Republicans in the New York State Senate. This is unacceptable. The common wisdom is that he did this so that he would look more “bipartisan” and “moderate” when he wanted to run for president. Considering that this has come at a cost to his constituents, this is outrageous. The Women’s Equality Act, GENDA, a bill banning gay “conversion therapy” and the state version of the DREAM Act all suffered because of the IDC. Allowing Dean Skelos to retain control of the New York State Senate means that a true progressive agenda cannot be enacted. And for this, Governor Andrew Cuomo owes the people of New York an apology.

I seriously doubt that any of this will happen, much less all three of my requests. But this is what it would take to get me to vote Cuomo in November.

Albany is a little more corrupt this morning

Posted in Editorials on September 10th, 2014
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In case you were wondering, Albany got a little more corrupt yesterday. While Sen. Malcolm Smith, who allegedly tried to rig the NYC 2013 Mayoral election and is awaiting trial, was defeated, it was the only ray of light in a rather bad day for those seeking a more ethical Albany.

Republican Sen. Tom Libous, under Federal indictment, defeated his primary challenger, and fellow senator John Sampson, a Democrat and also under indictment, won his race as well.

To top it off, Andrew Cuomo was yesterday’s victor, along with his flip-flopping deputy Kathy Hochul. Hopes were that Hochul would lose to Tim Wu, and Wu would refuse the Independence Party nomination, thus finally killing the scandal-ridden organization.

In other bad news, senators Jeff Klein and Tony Avella both won. These individuals were elected as Democrats, but then caucused with the Republicans under the guise of the “Independent Democratic Conference (IDC)” to give the GOP control of the chamber.

And the icing on the cake: moderate Republican Senator Mark Grisanti was defeated in his primary. He was defeated with the help of the teachers union, who said Grisanti was not “conservative enough.” While this was done as a way to help Democrats reclaim the seat in the general election, it ultimately served to make the IDC even more powerful as both Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be willing to give away more chits to garner their support in January. Ironically, it was Skelos who refused to usher through campaign finance reform that would have made it harder for the teachers union exercise its tactics.

So, New York, the winners in yesterday’s primary are a governor under Federal investigation, two senators under indictment, the corrupt Independence Party, the teachers union, and the sleazy Independent Democratic Caucus.

As usual, the loser is all of us who live in this state and must deal with the consequences.

Hey New York: Voting takes about five minutes. Try showing up next time.