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Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category

The Cowardice Of The Confederate Flag

Posted by Chris Bowen on June 24, 2015

naziconfederateI need to say this, up front: the Confederate Flag is evil. People who fly that flag are at the very best deluded and ignorant; in most cases, they’re just outright racist assholes, and this has every bit as much to do with what it’s come to mean since the Civil Rights Movement took off as it does the fact that it was the battle flag for a country that was founded literally to preserve the right to own black people.

But the speed at which it’s become toxic bothers me. Here’s the thing: the only thing that changed was one (1) asshole went into a church and blew away nine black people. The effect of the flag on modern society, what it means, whether it’s racist, or a symbol of heritage… all of this has been debated in the past, and frankly, the right side won. The problem is that people didn’t have the courage to go against what was, in most parts of even the South, a noisy minority. In short, the people who could have removed the Confederate Flag from state houses years ago were racists at best, cowards at worst.

But now, South Carolina’s taking it down from its capitol, and other states that have that setup are considering likewise. Many businesses are refusing to carry merchandise bearing it, despite the fact that it was A-OK at this time last week. Everyone’s running from it, and in the process, they’re demonstrating the same level of chickenshit cowardice that kept it flying in the first place.

I fucking hate fads. The desecration of a flag that should have been summarily desecrated decades ago has become a fad, much the same as listening to (and later disliking) certain popular music artists, or a hairstyle. This obviously right decision has literally nothing to do with right and wrong. It’s a business decision, pure and simple, and it’s shameful that the only thing that can get people to move is the fact that the wanton murder of nine innocent churchgoing black people tends to be bad for the bottom line.

Nikki Haley is not a brave woman for calling for the Confederate Flag to be removed from Columbia. She is a political coward who picks easy targets to bully, yet is skilled at turning a negative into a positive. Her inaction on this made her state look like a joke for years, and fostered a hostile environment for minorities. Evil thrives when the good do nothing, after all. The same goes for WalMart, Amazon and other companies who will no longer sell the merchandise of a nation of traitors. I don’t think they should get a pass because they made a bean counter’s decision off of the blood of nine innocents.

The free market’s impersonal nature is seen as a feature of its supporters, and not a bug. As a supporter of free markets, I agree. But nothing is ever perfect. The actions by these corporations, on an issue that was largely decided long ago, is a perfect example.

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If Bowe Bergdahl Is Found Guilty Of Desertion, He Should Be Executed

Posted by Chris Bowen on March 26, 2015

bergdahlToday, Bowe Bergdahl’s defence lawyer announced that his client was being charged with desertion and worse.

The saga of former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl took a new turn Wednesday, with the Pentagon announcing at a press conference charges claiming the U.S. Army sergeant deserted his post intentionally before winding up in the extremists’ hands in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s attorney, Gene Fidell, told CBS News his client had been informed of the charges earlier Wednesday.

The two articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that apply are Article 85 – Desertion – and Article 99, Misbehavior before the enemy. The last one is the heavy one:

Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle; shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

Both articles, in a time of war, are punishable by death, with article 99 in particular carrying a life sentence. However, it has been noted that prosecutors will not be seeking the death penalty.

They should. Forgetting the fact that servicemembers died to try to save him, and that we gave up five prisoners to get our one person back, there needs to be a penalty for this kind of cowardice.

One of the things I remember from my time as a junior enlistee was how not-seriously people in my rank took being in the military for the most part. Despite basic training, “A” schooling in many cases and being stationed on the equivalent of a flying city with combat jets and gigantic guns, many people I served with simply didn’t give a crap. One guy I used to serve with ran a barbershop inside the same space that housed machinery that was capable of transporting 130,000 pounds of airplane. Much of this is a consequence of just why people join the military – far more do it due to opportunism or a desire for perks such as college money versus a desire to actually help their country – but the reality is that many people don’t quite seem to fully grasp they’re in the military until shit goes down.

Executing Bowe Bergdahl would have the consequence of reminding anyone considering desertion that we are at war, and with that comes certain responsibilities. Simply put, it would be tactically advantageous to hang this man – a man who, again, caused five of our own prisoners to have to be released and six Americans to die in an unsuccessful rescue mission – for the crime of putting his brothers and sisters in harm’s way. In a crass way, killing Bergdahl – assuming his courts martial shows him guilty on all counts – would directly make the military stronger, as a means of steeling the reserve of other cowards in a direct way: either you can chance it with the enemy, or we can kill you. Your choice.

This sounds cruel to the ear, and even a bit Stalin-like, but to the complainers, I offer a simple “tough shit”. This is the military, and we are at war. We are at war with an enemy that murders by the thousands. Argue about our reasons for being there all you want; I did, when I was in, not being in favour of the Iraq invasion, but I did my job anyway. I had other sailors relying on me.

Furthermore, this isn’t Vietnam. No one is being sent to war against their will1. The United States military is 100% volunteer. We’re not drafting anyone. If that was the case, then I would not be pushing for this. Bowe Bergdahl made a conscious decision to join the Army after we went to war; it’s not anyone else’s fault he had buyer’s remorse.

Of the people that don’t take the American military seriously, a not-insignificant portion of that includes its own sailors, marines and soldiers. After all, we are all shown the UCMJ, and the parts that say that they can kill us if we do certain things, but no one really takes it seriously. It’s about time to show that the military has bite when it comes to our own, too.

1 – I’ll list one exception here: the National Guard. If you’re a National Guardsman who was made to go to Iraq or Afghanistan for what was essentially a lie to benefit a few companies with White House ties, then yes. You have a legitimate right to be pissed.

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Triggered by Triggers

Posted by Chris Bowen on March 25, 2015

In the Sunday edition of the New York Times, Judity Shulevitz pointed out something that’s been an issue within left-leaning groups for awhile: the increasingly onerous push by college students, primarily left-wing liberal arts schools, to demand “safe spaces” where they can be free of offensive language.

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.
So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”
Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.
The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Hold on. Let’s stop right here. A college student at Brown University – an Ivy League school – can’t handle different viewpoints to her “dearly and closely held beliefs”? So she has to go into a room that even a six year old would wrinkle their nose at to “recover”?

Go on…

Two weeks ago, students at Northwestern University marched to protest an article by Laura Kipnis, a professor in the university’s School of Communication. Professor Kipnis had criticized — O.K., ridiculed — what she called the sexual paranoia pervading campus life.
The protesters carried mattresses and demanded that the administration condemn the essay. One student complained that Professor Kipnis was “erasing the very traumatic experience” of victims who spoke out. An organizer of the demonstration said, “we need to be setting aside spaces to talk” about “victim-blaming.” Last Wednesday, Northwestern’s president, Morton O. Schapiro, wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal affirming his commitment to academic freedom. But plenty of others at universities are willing to dignify students’ fears, citing threats to their stability as reasons to cancel debates, disinvite commencement speakers and apologize for so-called mistakes.



BZZZZT. This is where I draw the line.

Forgive me for never having been to college, but the way I understand it, it’s a place to be challenged, to have your “deeply held beliefs” challenged in an environment where having them disavowed will do no real damage. It’s much better to learn you’re wrong about something as a 20 year old kid than a 40 year old adult with a career, after all. But now we’re disinviting speakers based on their controversy? Not even speakers, but friendly speakers, who are generally on the side of those that are having them removed?

This is the liberal equivalent of book burning, which does no one any favours.

All of this reminds me of something Dan Savage, the founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign to help bullied LGBT1 teenagers cope with the awful abuse they get in school, went through when he was literally accused of committing a hate crime:

During this part of the talk a student interrupted and asked me to stop using “the t-slur.” (I guess it’s not the t-word anymore. I missed the memo.) My use of it—even while talking about why I don’t use the word anymore, even while speaking of the queer community’s history of reclaiming hate words, even as I used other hate words—was potentially traumatizing. I stated that I didn’t see a difference between saying “tranny” in this context and saying “t-slur.” Were I to say “t-slur” instead of “tranny,” everyone in the room would auto-translate “t-slur” to “tranny” in their own heads. Was there really much difference between me saying it and me forcing everyone in the room to say it quietly to themselves? That would be patronizing, infantilizing, and condescending. Cox gamely jumped in and offered that she had used “tranny” in the past but that she now recognizes its harm and has stopped using it. The student who objected interrupted: as neither Cox nor I were trans, “tranny” was not our word to use—not even in the context of a college seminar, not even when talking about why we don’t use the word anymore. I asked the student who objected if it was okay for me to use the words “dyke” and “sissy.” After a moment’s thought the student said I could use those words—permission granted—and that struck me a funny because I am not a lesbian nor am I particularly effeminate. (And, really, this is college now? Professors, fellows, and guest lecturers need to clear their vocabulary with first-year students?) By the not-your-word-to-use standard, I shouldn’t be able to use dyke or sissy either—or breeder, for that matter, as that’s a hate term for straight people. (Or maybe it’s an acknowledgment of their utility? Anyway…)
This student became so incensed by our refusal to say “How high?” when this student said “Jump!” that this student stormed out of the seminar. In tears. As one does when one doesn’t get one’s way. In college.

Mind you, Savage – who, it should be stated, seems to be going through his own dilemma regarding “old” vs. “new” liberalism here, much like many of us – didn’t say anything like “that trans asshole” or “trans people are terrible”. He used it as a noun. A neutral descriptor, even after long ago explaining why “trans” is good but “tranny” is very, very bad, basically the transsexual equivalent of “nigger”. Speaking of The N Word™, I’m reminded of an old Carlin bit on this matter that is apropos here:

“They’re only words! It’s the context that counts! It’s the user, it’s the intention behind the words that make them good or bad, the words are completely neutral, the words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about “bad” words, or “bad” language. Bullshit! It’s the context that makes them good or bad! (…) For instance, you take the word nigger, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the word nigger in and of itself, it’s the racist asshole using it that you aught to be concerned about. We don’t mind when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it because we know they’re not racists… they’re niggers!”

Personally, I’m not worried about the idiot on the street corner screaming “nigger!” at every black person. I’m concerned about the person saying how horrible that person is out loud, but secretly clutching his bag a little tighter, patting his wallet down to make sure it’s there, and doing work behind the scenes to make sure “unseemly elements” don’t get into his neighbourhood. The first person is a buffoon, but the second one is the kind who makes sure, when a black person is hanged or choked or shot2, who brings up even the spectre of a criminal history, whether it was five days or five decades prior. They’re the dangerous ones.

This brings me back to what some students are trying to do on campuses, and goes back to the now-old debate about “triggers”. Even mentioning rape, or violence, or anything that happens in the world now seems to elicit screams to put in “trigger warnings”, lest what’s being said irreparably harm the person hearing or reading it. Effectively, it’s a very bad Tumblr thread in real life, but we try, because we’re not terrible people and would really like others to feel comfortable. In fact, I differentiate liberal activism from conservative activism in the sense that liberal activism is based around “we’d like everyone to be happy!” while conservative activism is based around “Fuck you faggot, I got mine!”.

But people screaming about triggers are not being actually triggered in most cases, and if they are, they should be seeking psychiatric help and never reading history, ever. They likely don’t know what a trigger is. I know what a trigger is. When you’re actually triggered, you are viscerally reliving parts of whatever caused you to be damaged in the first place. Your eyesight gets wonky. Your breathing escalates. Your body tenses. In worst cases, it can trigger a person’s fight-or-flight instinct. This can be in response to various types of trauma – rape, war wounds, domestic abuse, anything that causes intense, life-changing pain – but a trigger goes beyond “this makes me uncomfortable”. That’s when someone brings up a tough subject and you start to fidget. A trigger is when you hear, say, Cat Stevens on the radio and if you don’t pull over, turn the radio off and calm down, you will lose control of your car and crash and die.

Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that people equate any view of society that doesn’t equate to their own to be a fatally flawed human being. I’ve been called a “traitor” by liberals, feminists and others I typically see common cause with that I sometimes wonder if they’re more of an “enemy” than conservatives who would just as easily make many minority groups second class citizens if the Constitution allowed them to. This mindset makes enemies of moderates, and actually sets back the cause of equal rights. We cringe at people in the “meninist” movement screaming about “SJWs” as if that was an insult, but things like this give them easy ammunition, and damages the cause of those who have legitimate issues that will never be adequately addressed because the movement spent political currency poorly.

I would advise liberals to remember a hard truth: when it comes to creating social good and – dare I say it – social “justice” – that boxing rules apply: if there’s a draw, the title doesn’t change h ands, and powerful interests who are hell-bent on keeping the status quo – and are buttressed by the apathy of the average person who doesn’t care so long as they get to watch Modern Family at night – currently hold a lot of titles. Enabling an environment that is open to change means making as many friends with as many reasonable people as possible. Calling everyone a racist who is beholden to an unseen patriarchy, and then trying to either ignore or silence well-meaning protests, is not the way to do that.

As for those of you in the safe room? There’s nothing wrong with telling you to grow a spine and grow up. If you are a minority group, many people automatically dislike you. They are fools, yes, but they have to be dealt with. It doesn’t matter when or how, they have to be dealt with or you will never affect change for anyone, including yourself. Despite what a few Tumblr blogs made by a 15 year old say, you are not special and you deserve nothing. Either learn to stand up for yourself or you will never accomplish anything. That includes listening to people who might offend.

And if you are actually “triggered”, do what I did: learn to cope with it. Life is much tougher than that.

1 – I know the acronym has been updated… what is it now? LGBTQR… STLN And A Vowel? At some point, “inclusion” has to involve people who are willing to meet somewhere near the middle in order to be included.

2 – Make sure to read this link of what George Zimmerman has to say about his murder of Trayvon Martin. Holy shit! This man hasn’t been committed yet?

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Jumbled Thoughts On Trayvon Martin’s Unfinished Legacy

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 20, 2013

The verdict came down late last Saturday night: George Zimmerman is not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. In the sense of the law, it was the right decision. If I sound depressed in saying that, it’s because the whole case is depressing. It really doesn’t matter which side of the partisan divide you sit on, or what your opinion on Zimmerman or Martin are. If you’re sympathetic to Zimmerman, you see a kid that would be alive if he didn’t fight the guy and force him to stand his ground, and why was he dressed like “that”? If you’re sympathetic to Martin, you see a rejected mall cop who decided to chase down and attack a teenage boy largely because he “looked” like a thug – being black and hooded and all – and ended up shooting him when he started losing a fair fight.

I haven’t been following the case as voraciously as some, but I’m obviously more sympathetic to the unarmed teenager with the Skittles than I am to the idiot with delusions of grandeur. But it’s not depressing for any of those reasons. It’s depressing because a kid was needlessly gunned down, weather the defendant was pronounced innocent or not1. It’s depressing because of how people are reacting. It’s depressing because of how we expect certain others to react. And it’s depressing that all of the introspection – what little is going on – is going to get drowned out by the next big scandal, nothing will change, and by most accounts, Trayvon Martin will have died completely in vain.

The most depressing thing about this whole issue is that it made the participants largely irrelevant while shoving so many issues with America, and Americans, to the forefront, begging to be looked at, and yet no one seems to be looking at the real issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Conscience of a Liberaltarian

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 1, 2013

My political awakening – the merger of ideas, ideals and learned experiences that have morphed into my internal belief system – is notable in two aspects. The first is that I’ve managed to become at least semi-sophisticated when it comes to political issues despite possessing virtually no formal education of any note in that regard. While my state-run high school and locally run public schools could – and did – teach me math, English, science, and in the case of my high school, a vocational trade that I apply to my job every day, the system is fundamentally broken when it comes to teaching history and political theory. To put it bluntly, most of what I was taught is either whitewashed or outright wrong, as the majority of my 20s was spent learning that most of what I was taught about America’s selfless benevolence was wrong, usually with the same zeal that a child reacts to the news that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fictitious. The second notable aspect is that it’s in no way complete. Unlike the college educated people that I tend to associate with, my formative adult years were spent in the military, where even someone as resistant to jingoism as I am can get caught up in the jet stream frequently. Therefore, everything I know, and everything I believe, is the product of self-teaching, asking the right questions to people I respect, being open-minded, and having the courage to admit that I’m occasionally wrong.

Like most young people from Connecticut, I started out as a solid Democrat. I adored Bill Clinton1, supported easier immigration, and supported a lot of social welfare programs. Miraculously, I managed to make it through my military career as a Democrat, despite being stationed in Norfolk and Portsmouth. However, I learned that I didn’t fit in well with Democrats; I supported the second amendment, didn’t think much of Affirmative Action, and thought it was wrong for a local zoning board to tell a private property owner how they were allowed to use their legally owned space. However, joining the Republican Party was unthinkable, so after looking at their list of ideals, I decided to formally become a member of the Libertarian Party. This was kind of like going from missionary sex to ball gags and swings, but bear with me. The thought process was that I had some very libertarian views even as a Democrat, so why not join the party that saw things like I did? Unfortunately, the reality was more grim. The Libertarian Party, as I would painfully learn during the 2008 Presidential Election, is less about ideals than it is about a bunch of rich, white, C-list Republicans trying to find another way to remain relevant. I’ll go into more of what I learned while dealing with the Party later, but I became a man with strong political ideals, but without a political identity.

Ultimately, I was less comfortable with that than I should have been. Someone running for a local office once made the point that “indies get laughed out of the polls”, and while I think he’s a buffoon, he’s right. Nothing can marginalize even good political points more than simply not being a part of some hive mind or another, which became my fear. Thankfully, I was able to meet a good combination of people from across all political spectrums, who seemed to be in the same boat. From the dedicated Democrats, to the dedicated liberals, the libertarians, a couple of conservatives I haven’t wanted to strangle yet, and one or two odd ducks with similar views to mine, we all debated our points, disagreed, and then did something that seems impossible at times in today’s charged atmosphere: we would shake hands and move on. It’s hard to find a group like this, but I’ve succeeded, and it’s helped mold a lot of what I think, either solidifying existing beliefs or making me take an alternative tack or – unthinkably, to some – causing me to change my position.

It was Jeremy Kolassa who coined the phrase that I have since come to use to describe me: Liberaltarian. Read the rest of this entry »

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Educatin’ On The Mind

Posted by Chris Bowen on September 11, 2012

As anyone who knows my dealings in local politics can attest, education is my cause celebre, an ironic statement considering the fact I was a poor student in school myself. Today, education news and tidbits hit me across the bow throughout my day.

The first one was an interview I was listening to on WICC in my never-ending quest to try to avoid the endless meandering about the NFL that comes from every Monday in the autumn. It was Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, once again making his point for an appointed Board of Education in Bridgeport during an interview by Mike Bellamy, something he attempted this year until the State’s Supreme Court ruled it was illegal to do that. I didn’t hear the whole interview, but the gist of Finch’s point: democracy is hard! To summarize: the minority party system (read: you can’t just have a bunch of Democrats. Derby has the same setup, you can’t have, I believe, more than two Democrats than Republicans, meaning 5-3 is good but 6-3 is bad) is bad because it’s not-democratic, but that’s OK because democracy doesn’t work anyway as Bridgeport’s voters are too stupid to know quite what the Board of Ed does, only voting for them every four years. And hell, if Finch appoints focused (read: Democrat) people to get politics out of the way, the CHILDREN~~~ benefit! If not for those evil Republicans, who the voters spoke about! Why not just be like Chicago! If the people don’t like how the schools are doing, just vote the Mayor out!

Yes, it honestly came off that way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oklahoma Doctor Refuses To Provide Rape Kit Or Exam

Posted by Chris Bowen on June 3, 2012

According to a report by Oklahoma’s News 9, a 24 year old woman who went to the hospital after being raped was refused a rape kit or an examination by the doctor in the emergency room (a female) who went to treat the victim.

The mother said she and her daughter did file a police report about the rape. She’s angry that she brought her 24-year-old daughter to the Integris Canadian Valley Hospital emergency room on Sunday, and that the doctor who came in and saw them refused to do any sort of exam or to provide them with any emergency contraceptives.

Not only that, she says the doctor was less than sympathetic when dealing with her daughter, even though she was told she was a victim of a rape.

According to the video, the doctor refused to treat the woman because of her beliefs, and said that upfront. She reportedly received better treatment at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, which is a 20 minute drive from Canadian Valley Hospital.

Am I the only one who thinks her getting the proper treatment at the hospital with “Baptist” right in the name is a bit ironic?

But more importantly, it’s obviously this woman’s word1 against the doctor’s. But assuming every word she said is true, the doctor is most likely protected; Oklahoma has what’s called the Freedom of Conscience Act, and looking at the language of the bill (available in a .rtf format document), not giving emergency contraception would seem to be under the language of the bill, even if it’s meant to protect against abortion.

However, legal protections mean nothing in a case like this. Any doctor who would willingly not treat the victim of a violent crime because of her conscience does not need to be in health care, full stop. This is health care and science you’re dealing with. Someone’s precious religious beliefs should never determine the kind of treatment they give. This, to me, is as cruel as the parents of a sick child refusing treatment because of their own religious beliefs; either way, the affected person has had their rights taken from them by someone in power. It’s humourous how conservatives yammer on about reducing the government imprint in our lives, and yet they’re perfectly accepting of that same, smaller government taking away the rights of women when they see fit.

But hey, it’s OK, she was probably just wearing a short skirt, right? Bitch probably deserved it. I’m sure some conservatives – who believe in Jesus very strongly, apparently – would make that very point. The people behind the conscience laws are sick people who hide behind the cross.

The hippocratic oath that all doctors take says that “there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” (CAUTION: sourced from Wikipedia) This woman violated her oath, and her and other doctors who would do the same should be removed from practising medicine.

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