Political Flavors


Archive for December, 2013

My Favorites of 2013

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Podcast Reviews, Site News on December 31st, 2013
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Happy New Year everyone! Here are some of my favorite things about 2013.

Favorite BookEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. In 1889 two women writers raced around the world to see if they could beat the fictional record from the famous Jules Verne novel. This is an amazing story and Goodman writes this non-fiction book like a novel. I feel like I have a grasp on what New York and other cities felt like in the late 1800′s and although a lot is different now, in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I read Around the World in Eighty Days before I read this book so I could understand the inspiration for the trip. Like Gulliver’s Travels, many people think this is a children’s story. But it’s mainly an homage to British Imperialism. Jules Verne is to H G Wells what Stephanie Meyer is to J K Rowling.

Verne was terrible at writing women, something that is actually addressed in Eighty Days. Bly gets to meet him on her travels and Verne’s wife says she thinks his books need more women characters. And although it seems redemptive that two women took on the challenge of Verne’s male heroes, unfortunately Bly and Bisland still had many of the same racist attitudes as Verne did.

Still this book is a fascinating read. Every page is better than the one before it. And send these quotes to anyone who tries to justify something sexist by making an appeal to tradition. Bly and Bisland quite frequently expressed feminist sentiments.

“After the period of sex-attraction has passed, women have no power in America.” -Elizabeth Bisland

“A free American girl can accommodate herself to circumstances without the aid of a man.” -Nellie Bly

“Criticize the style of my hat or my gown, I can change them, but spare my nose, it was born on me.” -Nellie Bly

New TV ShowMaron I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I do really like Marc Maron’s show in IFC. The show brings to life all of Maron’s delicious and sardonic humor.

Podcast Host – Lindsay Beyerstein. Lindsay is a new host for the Center For Inquiry’s Point of Reason Podcast. Check out her interviews with Katherine Stewart, Paul Offit, Barry Lynn and Kathryn Joyce.

Blog PostThe Retro Husband by Ruth Fowler is my favorite blog post by anyone on the internet in 2013.

Video GameFiz: The Brewery Management Game This game is similar to the classic Lemonade Stand or newer Facebook games in that you are running a shop and have various aspects of products and personnel to manage. But it is so much more than that. There is a storyline that I got wrapped up with and very clever dialogue and plot twists. I played it through in a week, which took me about 22 hours total. Good thing I’m on vacation, it’s hard to put this game down once you start it.

Most Popular Posts at Political Flavors in 2013:
What’s Wrong With The Lingerie Football League? I didn’t know how many people search for the LFL online. I’m also quite pleased that I was linked by the Huffington Post and the French women’s magazine madmoiZelle.

For our Girls to Succeed, We Must Reign in Rakish Boys
aka “What if dress codes for boys looked like dress codes for girls?” I had fun writing this post although at times I felt that I was being incredibly creepy. I’m very glad people like it.

Best wishes for 2014!

Disingenuous Racism Should Fool No One

Posted in Editorials on December 23rd, 2013
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As noted by Amanda Marcotte, Dan Savage, and others, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson not only made homophobic comments that lead to his suspension from A&E, he also made racist remarks.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Some have speculated that perhaps the reason that the anti-gay comments got more attention in the press is that they were more blatant and more easily quotable. And by quotable, I think it means some people will no doubt be titillated or exaggeratedly scandalized by Robertson’s inane remarks about bodily orifices.

But another reason why the anti-gay remarks have gotten more attention than the anti-black ones is that conservatives in America have a history and a tradition of using “dog whistles” or coded language to express racist sentiment. I have no doubt that there are or will be ways to convey homophobic messages but we have not yet reached a point where when a Republican talks about “traditional marriage” we pretend he’s talking about the bride wearing white rather than opposing same sex marriage. But for some reason the press plays along with racists when they are even slightly ambiguous about their obvious meaning.

Steven Pinker’s explanation as to why people use euphemism and innuendo is that language both conveys meaning and negotiates relationships. He explains the concept of mutual knowledge – you and another might know a fact but you don’t know if the other person is aware of it.

But I think that dog whistle racism is not like asking someone if they want to come up for coffee and to listen to a new album you just got after a date. In a dating relationship people are trying to make a good impression on each other and being too forward might end things prematurely.

Who are the racists trying to impress? Other racists? People of color? White people who are anti-racist?

It doesn’t quite make sense to me. Everyone knows what Phil Robertson was getting at. No one can pretend otherwise without sounding foolish. Did anyone really think that Rick Santorum regularly used the expression “blah people?” If anything it’s an outright display of contempt. Dog whistles and euphemistically racist remarks aren’t about trying to be polite, they are an outright show of hostility toward both their intended targets and anyone who would disagree.

An experience many people who are oppressed in some way have in common is being on the receiving end of a rude comment or behavior and not knowing if that person directed their behavior at you because of their identity or for some other reason. Although I pass for white I do have a common Latin@ last name. One day at my job I received an email correspondence from someone I had not met complaining about a bit of bureaucratic wording and exclaiming that “Your organization needs to hire someone who speaks English as their first language!” I had no idea if this person was raging against the jungle of acronyms and jargon that are present in my industry or if they had a complaint about my work and were attributing my deficiencies to my ethnicity. In this way, euphemistic language is a one-two punch for racists. First, degrade your target. Then gaslight them and claim your “plausible deniability.”

But most of the time, there is no explanation that is remotely plausible. Everyone knew what Trent Lott meant when he said that if Strom Thurmond would have been elected president, we “wouldn’t have had all of these problems.” Similarly, we know exactly what Robertson means. He is explicitly praising the way he thinks black people thought and acted before they had even their rights enshrined into the law. We are meant to infer that he disapproves of black people today and that he blames the social safety net and perhaps the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act for the fact that they are more active in voicing their concerns and participating in society. There is no other way to interpret his remarks. Anyone who says differently holds you in contempt and is insulting your intelligence.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the rhetorical tactic of forcing someone to defend their own indefensible position. If you have a question you think the other side can’t answer, ask it anyway. This is pretty much what A&E did here. Their suspension forced not just Robertson, but many on the right to defend his remarks, and they are failing spectacularly. The best the can come up with is that Robertson has the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. But no one is arguing that he does not. No one can defend the content of what he said, so they are changing the topic. In a round of debate, this is known as dropping the argument. And it means that you have lost.

Buying Kathleen Rice

Posted in Editorials on December 18th, 2013
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“Nearly $300,000.”

According to the New York Daily News, that’s how much Nassau County District Kathleen Rice received from the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, its partners, and their spouses. Weitz & Luxenberg isn’t just any firm. And it’s not just known for its masterfully-produced “Metal-on-Metal” hip replacement surgery ads seeking your willingness to sue.

This is the law firm of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Yes, in New York State, there’s absolutely no conflict of interest (apparently) to make money at a personal injury firm while also determining if tort reform legislation makes its way to the floor of your chamber.

What’s interesting about the donations Ms. Rice receives from Mr. Silver’s firm is that she’s also co-chair of a Moreland Commission in New York that’s investigating government corruption, with a focus on the New York State Legislature. According to the Daily News, “No one else on the 25-member corruption commission received contributions from Weitz & Luxenberg.”

A spokesperson for Ms. Rice said that she is “immune to fear or favor.”

Sidebar: Kathleen Rice has also received contributions from a partner at Thor Equities, who was subpoenaed by the same commission of which she is a co-chair.

Now we know why she is “immune to fear or favor”: vaccines are so expensive these days.

Speaking of vaccines, what do you have to do in a Republican stronghold like Nassau County to repeatedly have the GOP refuse to nominate a strong candidate against you? It seems odd that when Republicans hold three out of the four countywide posts, that they would give Ms. Rice, a Democrat, a free pass when it came to her own elections.

Maybe it’s her record.

In June 2013, Ms. Rice “investigated” the Republican County Executive Ed Mangano’s use of government employees to hand out flyers that touted his repeal of an energy tax and for not raising property taxes. Such language, it seems, would be more suited for campaign literature handed out by volunteers. Luckily for Mr. Mangano, Ms. Rice’s office found nothing wrong with this exercise. She deferred to a county ethics board which is controlled by Mangano-appointed members.

Ms. Rice’s actions resulted in even greater and more egregious taxpayer-funded literature being mailed out by the county right before the fall elections. One of these flyers stated that: “Democrats Are Playing Politics with your Health.” But it’s all okay, right? Because none of these used “objectively overt political statements.”

It seems putting up token opposition in District Attorney’s races can have benefits for the opposition’s party.

But this story isn’t over just yet.

Apparently it’s just dandy for Republicans to use intimidation to win an election as long as Democrat Kathleen Rice occupies the District Attorney’s Office.

But now circumstances have changed and the Democrats have finally woken up to her “immunity.”

Ms. Rice most recently found “no criminality” when the local police commissioner who, according to the Daily News (glad someone is actually reporting this) “at the urging of Gary Melius, a politically connected donor, personally directed officers to arrest a key witness in a case connected to the county executive race.”

To sum it up, according to the Daily News:

The witness, campaign worker Randy White, was set to testify in a case involving a third-party aspirant for county executive who Dems believe was a strong candidate designed to help GOP incumbent Edward Mangano.

Two days before the testimony, White was arrested — while riding on a bus — on an outstanding warrant over a $250 fine he hadn’t paid from an unrelated misdemeanor conviction.

The Daily News also writes:

Some question how aggressively Rice’s office investigated, given that the situation touched major Nassau County political figures: Mangano, who Rice found to have no involvement, his police department, and Melius.

Rice spokesman Shams Tarek said the DA is “completely unfazed by all this commentary and is used to ignoring political pressure as she follows the facts and applies the law.”

Well, obviously she is unfazed…she got a vaccine and is now immune.

But this isn’t as simple as going soft on GOP corruption to have an easy ride on Election Day. It’s much deeper than that. The gentleman mentioned above, Mr. Gary Melius, who is he, exactly?

Well, it turns out he owns Oheka Castle. And he might have skipped out on a $27.9 million mortgage payment due last year.

But that’s beside the point. Gary Melius is Executive Director of the Nassau County Independence Party. And his COO at Oheka is Chairman of the same party. It must be one helluva castle!

Why is this significant? Ms. Rice doesn’t need the Independence Party’s support for her DA races. When the Republicans choose to leave you virtually unchallenged, your opposition doesn’t really matter.

But she will need the Independence Party’s backing should she run for Congress next year, as is widely speculated. She could also use the party’s assistance for other races, including a future County Executive run – or anything else.

That’s why her “immunity” should be questioned. And it’s why it’s so perplexing when she repeatedly finds so little wrong with matters she “investigates.”

So how much does it cost to buy Kathleen Rice? Much like a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

Updated Site Design

Posted in Site News on December 16th, 2013
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I’ve been getting a lot of feedback regarding my blog’s design and so I made some changes today. I tried to make it simpler and cleaner and easier to read. Let me know what you think.

No, Policy Mic, Barack Obama being a good host doesn’t mean that Democrats and Republicans are all the same deep down.

Posted in Editorials on December 13th, 2013
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There’s a post by Policy Mic going around, “8 Photos You Didn’t See From Obama’s Trip to South Africa” which shows the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes traveling together to Nelson Mandela’s memorial service and exchanging pleasantries. The article ends,

Perhaps, instead of giving in to the frantic us-or-them discourse proffered by the media (Funeral selfies! Handshakes! Ted Cruz!), it’s time that we acknowledge that conservative and liberal politicians spend more time together, and have more in common with one another, than we’d like to believe.

There is a little bit of truth here. Real life is not an internet chat room. There are layers and nuance to human relationships. I have a few friends that identify as right of center and several conservative family members. While I disagree with their ideas, we can still enjoy spending time together, and some of them even know how to have a political discussion without name calling or taking things personally.

But. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have deep moral differences. And the pictures Policy Mic published might make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but they don’t mean that our differences don’t matter. Barack Obama once said, “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.” They are not only that but I believe they are the cause of our liberty. If nothing is up for debate or open to question we are not free.

Being a politician means that you have to be “on” all of the time with everyone – even with people you don’t like. Even in the back bench minor leagues of local politics – I have made some genuine friends, but I have also suffered through many a cocktail party where everyone seemed fake. Just because the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes can pull it off better doesn’t make it any less fake. Having a permanent smile plastered to your face to keep up appearances doesn’t mean there aren’t deep moral disagreements between liberals and conservatives. We aren’t all alike.

I hate to be the one to deliver this reminder, but George W. Bush lied us into a war with Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and instated a policy of torture. Barack Obama later ended both the war and our torture policy. We aren’t all alike in that the Clintons and the Obamas believe that a woman has a right to bodily autonomy and the Bushes do not.

Being charming is a part of the job of being president. But we should not pretend that this charm has any deep significance. It’s a pleasant illusion meant to smooth over how deep our differences really are.

Who Said It? Radical Feminists or The Red Pill?

Posted in Editorials on December 11th, 2013
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I’ve read several radical feminist texts, including “Intercourse” and “Right Wing Women” by Andrea Dworkin, and the wonderful “I Blame The Patriarchy” by Twisty Faster. Radical feminism is something I think is fascinating as a theory but not very practical. I also tend to view it as hyperbole rather than absolute truth.

I’m also very familiar with Men’s Rights/Pickup Artist/Red Pill online communities and I understand their arguments very well. Something I have noticed is that many red pillers seem to prove one of Andrea Dworkin’s most famous (infamous?) theories – that the practice of heterosexual vaginal intercourse is degrading to women because it is constructed as being degrading to women. Red pillers, however, clearly believe that it is inherently degrading to women.

Some radical feminists also focus on misogynistic messages in both pornography and popular culture. These messages can paint a rather grotesque picture of cis hetero male sexuality. Red pillers believe that a sexuality based on dominating and degrading women is inherent to their masculinity and their humanity, and that any critique of it is misandry. Therefore many red pillers and racial feminists alike paint a bleak and grotesque view of men and masculinity, although they differ on what causes it to be that way.

Finally, rhetoric filled with gender essentialism and absolutes is common to both radical feminism and red pill bloggers and commenters. Although I think these are used in different ways – radical feminists are explaining women’s oppression in order to dismantle it. Red pillers use sweeping language to uphold the status quo or to idealize the past. They are both describing patriarchy, and the gender binary – though they disagree on whether it is a good thing or what should be done about it. Red pillers seem to be the platonic ideal of the way radfems talk about masculinity.

It’s for the reasons explained above that sometimes I find myself reading a red pill blog post or comment thread and thinking that it sounds exactly like a radical feminist critique. I find this amusing. Red pillers are some of the most vocal misogynists on the internet, and yet much of their writing would support a radical feminist analysis.

Can you tell the difference?

#1

In times gone by, women were submissive to the male in large part due to the sexual act. The emotional response to having another human being penetrate your body and deposit their genetic fluids inside is not to be overlooked in terms of establishing a power structure.

#2

A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solidness a lie… She is, in fact, human by a standard that precludes physical privacy, since to keep a man out altogether and for a lifetime is deviant in the extreme, a psychopathology, a repudiation of the way in which she is expected to manifest her humanity.

#3

A woman having sex with a man meant to some degree that she had given herself away to that man, that she was under his umbrella.

#4

Man penetrates. Woman is penetrated….Man acts. Woman is acted upon

#5

[A man] could never respect or listen to anything that bends over and takes it

#6

Intercourse as an act often expresses the power men have over women.

#7

Entered, she has mostly given something up.

#8

Physically, the woman in intercourse is a space inhabited, a literal territory occupied literally. In the experience of intercourse, she loses the capacity for integrity.

#9

Sex can never be a politically neutral interaction as long as the interests of one party are by universal decree prioritized over the interests of the other.

#10

Prostituted women can never say no to sex because they are sex.

#11

If Men existed in a universe where fully formed, hot 16-18 year old girls with long, silky hair and .7 hip-waist ratios grew out of the ground without agency, wants, needs and desires of their own and without families to care for and protect them, men would kill each other to collect as many of them as possible–replacing them with new ones as the older ones cycled out.

#12

The only thing he can think about is lust and sex. Have you ever heard a woman ask the question “how do I tell the difference between lust and love”? Well, there is a reason you’ve never heard a man ask the same question. Because for a man, the answer is obvious, it’s entirely lust.

#13

Men are distinguished from women by their commitment to do violence rather than to be victimized by it.

#14

I’m 99% sure sex is much much more fulfilling for the woman.

#15

Females, unless very young or very sick, must be coerced or bribed into male company.

#16

It is the increase of fatherhood, resulting from the increased and more widespread affluence that fatherhood needs in order to thrive, that has caused the general increase of mindlessness and the decline of women in the United States since the 1920s. The close association of affluence with fatherhood has led, for the most part, to only the wrong girls, namely, the `privileged’ middle class girls, getting `educated’.

#17

The `hippy’ babbles on about individuality, but has no more conception of it than any other man. He desires to get back to Nature, back to the wilderness, back to the home of furry animals that he’s one of, away from the city, where there is at least a trace, a bare beginning of civilization, to live at the species level, his time taken up with simple, non-intellectual activities — farming, fucking, bead stringing. The most important activity of the commune, the one upon which it is based, is gang-banging. The `hippy’ is enticed to the commune mainly by the prospect for free pussy — the main commodity to be shared, to be had just for the asking, but, blinded by greed, he fails to anticipate all the other men he has to share with, or the jealousies and possessiveness for the pussies themselves.

#18

The nicest women in our `society’ are raving sex maniacs.

***

Answers:
1. Red Pill “Men Should Assert Their Dominance Over Women Through Anal Sex” – The Return of Kings
2. Radical Feminist “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin, chapter 7
3. Red Pill “Men Should Assert Their Dominance Over Women Through Anal Sex” – The Return of Kings
4. Red Pill “A man penetrates, a woman gets penetrated. Different physiology, different psychology.”
5. Red Pill Red Pill Women comment by DanaBanana
6. Radical Feminist “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin, chapter 7
7. Radical Feminist “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin, chapter 7
8. Radical Feminist “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin, chapter 7
9. Radical Feminist “Spinster Aunt Prattles on About Pornography
10. Radical Feminist “About consent, or, the legalization of women’s humanity
11. Red Pill “Toward a Reconciliation of Male and Female Nature in Red Pill Thought
12. Red Pill Red Pill Women comment by Fleeting Wish
13. Radical Feminist “Pornography: Men Possessing Women” by Andrea Dworkin, Chapter 2
14. Red Pill “The ‘Game’ is Rigged?
15. Radical Feminist – The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanis
16. Radical Feminist – The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanis
17. Radical Feminist – The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanis
18. Radical Feminist – The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanis

Hat Tip to The Blue Pill. I wouldn’t have noticed this odd parallel if it wasn’t for you.