Another Summer Hiatus

For those of you that have noticed, I haven’t posted here in a while.  I’ve got a work project that’s got some long OT hours (for me, at least) including weekends.  Well, that means recreational writing gets pushed to the far back burner for now.  I should resume regular posting in a few weeks.

Which Crisis is More Bleak and Irreversable: Campaign Finance or Climate Change?

Climate Change Campaign Finance

Here’s an interesting conundrum that popped into my head the other day:  Which Crisis is More Bleak and Irreversable:  Campaign Finance or Climate Change?

Climate Change Campaign Finance

Campaign finance impacts the state of our American democracy; climate change concerns the livability of our planet.  It could be we are past the point of no return on both of them.

Campaign Finance.  It still costs a lot of money to run for office in America.  We attempt to regulate how candidates get and spend campaign cash in order to protect the idea that citizens are equal participants in our republican democracy.  This fundamental goal mildly conflicts with First Amendment principles, and we get to watch the Constitution eat itself.  Since McCutcheon, with the Supreme Court no longer recognizing everyday Americans’ understanding of corruption, wealthy donors can freely purchase influence by donating to every member of Congress and — just to be sure — every one of their general election opponents.  Lest we forget, the impact of Citizens United continues as unlimited “independent” expenditures are permitted.  Candidates’ official campaign organizations no longer have to bear the entire burden of the campaign; let some “independent” group produce and pay for that attack ad.

What are the odds of halting or reversing the slide from American democracy to plutocracy (no, it doesn’t mean “rule by Pluto,” though we might be better off under the control of a fictional cartoon dog than a handful of sociopathic 0.1%ers)?  Well, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy are getting old, and it looks like Democrats will control the White House for the next generation.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Democratic president cave in and nominate a “confirmable” choice for a Republican-controlled Senate to confirm.  If the Democratic president does grow a spine, we could be in for some kind of constitutional crisis.

Climate change.  My god, they’re still arguing over whether it’s real! Every time it snows, some dumbass will remark, “So much for global warming.  Har-har.”  The people/corporations with the most power got that power because the status quo worked out pretty well for them.  Changes dramatic enough to make a difference, won’t look good to their short-term bottom line.  After all, they’ll be dead in 60 years, why should they care if the rest of us have to deal with weekly Hurricane Sandys?

Can climate change be fixed?  Scientists have stated that the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million.  We’re over 400 this month.  It’s a global problem.  It is going to be hard to get all the industrialized countries on board, especially the recently developing ones.  China wants a chance to live like Americans, too.  I’m skeptical that we’ll be able to recruit the will to do enough and that when we do the damage will not have already reached some kind of tipping point (I’m looking at you so-called permafrost).

Well, both campaign finance and climate change are nearly unresolvable.  If I were to bet, I’d say we figure out how to manage our democracy just in time to watch Miami flooded.  It’s just as likely we’d be snapped back to sanity by some other unrelated natural catastrophe, like an asteroid strike or massive volcanic eruption.



MLB Power Rankings for June 16, 2014


Major League Baseball Power Rankings for June 16, 2014

We’re more than two months into the season and it’s getting clearer who are the “haves” and “have nots” this year.   The biggest risers this week are the Blue Jays; biggest falls go to Colorado and Boston.

I’ve divided the rankings in to 4 tiers of teams. The “Elite” are the best of the best right now. The “Contenders” are in the thick of the pennant race. Those in the “Meh-zo-sphere” cling to dreams of playing relevant September baseball, and once mathematically eliminated are shooting for .500. The “Suh-diddly-uckleheads” are already looking forward to October golfing.

Records through June 10.

Rank Record Team Rise/Fall
The Elite
San Francisco Giants +1
Oakland A’s +2
Milwaukee Brewers
Toronto Blue Jays +14
Los Angeles Angels +2
The Contenders
Detroit Tigers -5
Atlanta Braves -2
Los Angeles Dodgers
Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles
The Meh-zo-sphere
New York Yankees
Seattle Mariners +4
St. Louis Cardinals
Cleveland Indians +6
Miami Marlins
Texas Rangers -2
Kansas City Royals
Pittsburgh Pirates +9
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds +3
Minnesota Twins +4
Colorado Rockies -16
Houston Astros +7
Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets -4
The Suh-diddly-uckleheads
Boston Red Sox -14
San Diego Padres -7
Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago Cubs
Tampa Bay Rays -4

Another Mass Shooting and Will #YesAllWomen Strike at the Root of Misogyny?

Here we go again. Last month, a 22-year-old man went on a shooting spree — drive-by style — in Isla Vista, California, killing 6 people. The basics of recent spree shooter stories is there: an angry man with un- or under-treated, serious mental illness takes up his weapon of choice and extracts what he believed to be just retribution.

This California shooter’s beef was with women, according to his online video and manifesto. He sought revenge for their rejection of him. The misogynist flavor of his motive spurred an excellent viral response around the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. Women shared their own stories of dealing with everyday sexism, the seemingly little intrusions that objectify and threaten their human dignity.

This mass shooting opened a whole other can of worms, raising an issue that needs to be discussed. (I wouldn’t be surprised to find the NRA quite pleased with this little twist, gun control taking less mention this time).

Commentators are right to point out the misogyny in the shooter’s motive. After all, it’s why he chose those particular victims — the “why he decided to shoot at all” was provided by his untreated mental illness. The shooter has been linked to online subcultures “Men’s Rights” and the Pickup Artist communities, known for encouraging hatred of women.

Does #YesAllWomen Strike at the Root of Misogyny?

A lot of the response ends there:  highlighting widespread misogyny, like a form of terrorism, and pointing to online subcultures as its al Qaeda. Condemn and spread fear. It’s great for fundraising and venting, but does it stop the next similar killer?

The most common reaction just calls out the shooter’s bigotry and stops there.  “He is a bad person; it must be in his DNA; don’t be like him, or we’ll call you names.”  Is that really enough of a deterrent?  Don’t be a bigot or you’ll reap the scorn of all right-thinking people?  If the people contributing to #YesAllWomen really want to make a bigger difference in preventing the anti-woman bigotry from developing in men, they need to dig a little deeper into the causes.

Stopping the analysis here does not prevent men from devolving into misogyny. Why not dig deeper? Perhaps to do so would require uncomfortable reflection about the norms of sexual relations in our culture. It doesn’t deliver the simple answer like saying “Misogyny and sexism are rampant. Men, stop being pigs!”

Is there anyone attempting to unpack the misogyny to help find practical ways to prevent it? Let’s look at a couple of issues with this shooter.

Unpacking “Entitlement”

Many have looked at his twisted screed and called him entitled, that he felt women owed him attention and sex. Yes, it’s wrong and bad to feel entitled to sex.  If you want to prevent this form of misogyny, just calling it out is not enough.

How did he come to feel this way?  Well, he wanted sex.  He looked for ways to make it happen and the answers were all around him.  Buy this, wear that, go there, say that and you will get the ladies.  Peers, TV, movies, and especially advertising offered the implied promise.  Reports are he also turned to online snakeoil salesmen, the PUA community.

The shooter thought he did what he was supposed to, yet didn’t get what he wanted.  That’s the entitlement:  he put in the effort and didn’t get the reward.  He feels ripped off, frustrated, and angry. Imagine you went to college for 4 years, took the “right” classes, paid the tuition, sacrificed other opportunities, passed the tests, earned the pile of credits, yet on graduation day the school refuses to give you a diploma. You believed the promise, put in the work, but get denied the reward. Of course, the anger and frustration is real.  Unfortunately, the shooter blamed the women and not the system that tricked him into believing an empty promise.

(Arthur Chu also did a great job trying to unpack the entitlement issue.  Check it out.)

When Sex is More than Sex

Why do men fall for this empty promise?  The norm has taken hold in our society linking a man’s worth with the amount of sex he gets from women. Maybe it’s a corollary to the “sex is love” norm: if you’re not getting frequent sex, you must be unlovable. If you can’t persuade a woman to have sex with you, you must be some kind of loser. Now sex becomes not just a natural reproductive urge, but a psychological need. This is feeding the frustration that grows into misogyny. We need to weaken the link between sex and men’s self-worth.

Was this a natural evolution of our civilization’s structure of sexual relations? Perhaps. On the other hand, maybe somebody/something wanted to amplify men’s natural demand for sex.  After all, as they say, “sex sells.”  Knowing this, is it really hard to believe the same folks are also incentivized to sell promote sex? “Sex is happiness” — they endorse that message; it helps sell more product.

They sell men with an implied promise: do or buy this and you will get the sex and happiness you crave. Have profit-seeking members of our culture taught (or brainwashed) our men to overvalue sex?  Is it so hard to predict an emerging frustration that is ripe for conversion into misogyny, especially in the face of toxic influences of certain online communities?

It is important to reduce women’s fear, but shouldn’t one method be to reduce causes of male anger and aggression? Prevent the rise of misogynistic attitudes in men by showing them that it is not women’s fault; that they’ve been indoctrinated into a system that is a scam.

Fight Misogyny by Empowering Men to Take Back Control of Their Self-Worth

Maybe a solution is, if you encounter a person dealing with frustration and worry that he is sliding toward hatred of women, try to get him to understand that it is not women’s — and especially an individual woman’s — fault. Women were also raised in a society that taught them rules of sexuality, norms that commodify and present women with their own distinct and often conflicting entitlements.  The scam has a different angle for women, selling them different myths and products.

Next, point out the lie that gives rise to this entitlement idea.  When we do, we’ll find men are willing to engage in a backlash against a system where they are being used, manipulated, and exploited.  Men could be inspired not to play the game, to not base their sense of self-worth on how frequently and with whom they have sex.  Men should be liberated by the notion that their happiness is not in the hands and subject to the whims of individual women who, like all persons, you cannot reasonably rely on to always act kindly or rationally.

Teach men to be wary of this scam.  Men, pull back the curtain.  Know they are trying to manipulate you. They want to amplify your demand for sex, telling you that it is the key to happiness, that your worth as an individual depends on it. They amplify your demand for sex to make you more susceptible to advertising selling their goods/services as the way to increase your chances of getting sex. They are setting up the entitlement scam: do this and you’ll get some.  They have no right to promise you anything.

Some day I’ll tell my sons:  Look, sex is great, but it is not going to be the most important thing in your life.  If you let that hunger drive you and define you, you’ll be ripe for manipulation.  People will take advantage of your pursuit of your “needs” to serve their own ends.  Making sex your all-encompassing purpose in life will lead to frustration, perhaps so intense to cause you to suffer some form of extreme mental illness.

Will #YesAllWomen Strike at the Root of Misogyny?  So far it has been useful to spread awareness and vent, but it needs to dig a little bit deeper to have any lasting impact on reducing misogynist aggression.

Yes All Women