Monthly Archives: February 2016

Bad Media, Bad Politics

Racist_Sheep

It’s not just in the United States, folks.

I got into an argument the other day regarding protesting and choosing which political candidate to protest. I mentioned that it is unfortunate that the Black Lives Matter movement happen to protest Democratic candidates more, especially since it’s the democrats who are at least willing to have minorities in the room in this election cycle. The logic behind protesting Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, aside from the recently made-viral statements of Hillary Clinton years ago using racial-tinged comments (taken out of context), has been that the Democrats, especially under President Obama, have taken the black vote for granted. Barrack Obama hasn’t really done anything to help black people. Protesting Democratic candidates will at least have a chance of being heard, as opposed to protesting Republican candidates where protesters will not only be ignored, but also have a great chance of being met with violence.

The problem with protesting Democrats the way the Black Lives Matter movement have done is that it makes it appear that the candidates themselves are actively oppressing minorities. One can say that Bill Clinton hasn’t been really good to minority populations and that the Obama administration has been really weak in pushing progressive agendas, but the Democrats are not actively vilifying minorities and suppressing their rights. They are not actively relying on racial hatred to keep their campaign alive. The purpose of protests is to push an issue, to create dialogue. The Black Lives Matter group does not need to protest the Democrats as much when the candidates are willing to engage in a dialogue. You yell when you’re not being heard. You don’t yell when you already have a seat at the table.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Protests shape policies, and the United States and many countries have a history of protests affecting unjust systems. But in this election, I feel that the Black Lives Matter group is trying to find a perfect ally instead of working with the ally they already have. Bernie Sander’s core fight, to take money out of politics, would benefit minority populations and touch on so many issues without specifically taking on the cause of race. However, because the Black Lives Matter group protests Democrats, I believe it makes for a poor visual and discourages minorities to get involved. It sends a message that these politicians are not there for your interests, that they are not willing to listen, when in fact, the reason that they’re being protested is because they’re more likely to listen. It’s just bad politics.

Now, in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton wins big against Bernie Sanders. She won a bigger portion of the African-American vote than Obama did. Hillary Clinton would mostly likely do better for African-American communities than any Republican would, but she is a corporate creature the same way Barrack Obama is. Nothing will probably change under her administration, which will almost be like another term for Obama. I believe it is in the best interest of minority populations to vote for Bernie Sanders, someone who’s prescribing dramatic political change. But instead of engaging and participating in campaigns to try to shape policies, the protests make the Democratic candidates look like out-of-touch crooks, discouraging voters. This leaves both candidates running on popularity. And really, who can be more popular among Democrats than someone with a Clinton name?

 

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You’re losing me, online news.

Tommy_Douglas

Here’s to Tommy Douglas, a great Canadian hero. Because of him, Canadians’ taxes actually go to healthcare instead of just meaningless wars.

I no longer get my news anywhere but online, but seriously, these news sites that aggregate news stories need to get away from the click-bait and the ideology-driven model, otherwise they won’t last as long. I have a very rough relationship with The Huffington Post. The Daily Beast and Salon have already lost me. Now and then, Breitbart.com would have a story worth reading, but most of the site is ideologically driven garbage. There were fears in the west that Aljazeera would mostly be pro-Islam, pro-Palestine propaganda, but ironically, they’ve been pretty unbiased with the materials they publish online, definitely better than CNN.com.

Let’s look at Salon.com. Now I consider myself a feminist, but they’re “new feminist” agenda is getting ridiculous. An inordinate amount of stories are bent to become feminist related articles even on issues that aren’t or shouldn’t be seen from a feminist standpoint. Just recently, the singer Kesha accused her long-time producer of sexual harassment. She signed an exclusive contract with him and Sony and is thus obligated to work with him and produce six more albums. Her producer claims the allegations are just a ploy for her to get out of her contract. Now, I would give her the benefit of the doubt if she didn’t deny any rape allegations herself back in 2011. A simple Google search would provide that information, but instead, Salon.com ran article after article of Sony “forcing” the singer to work with her producer.

Kesha filed for an injunction against her producer and Sony, but the judge in the case, not seeing any evidence of sexual abuse, rejected her claim. Unfortunately, the judge inartfully worded the judgment, saying that it was “my instinct to do the commercially reasonable thing.” Instead of saying that, she should’ve said that contracts cannot be annulled based solely on allegations. There was no evidence of sexual misconduct, and the burden of proof for sexual harassment is already lower than most crimes. If the judge allowed the injunction, it would have set the precedent for women to just make allegations in order to get out of what were normally binding agreements.

This was not a feminist issue. It wasn’t people ignoring the pleas of victims of sexual crimes. It was the law acting as it should, basing decisions on evidence and not on ideology. For the media like Salon.com to treat this as an example of miscarriage of justice not only betrays their role as journalists, but it also does a disservice to real feminism. Not to mention, it also tars the name and damages the livelihood of those who are accused of sexual allegations without any solid evidence. This was not the first time Salon.com and other online news outlets did this either. The same thing happened with Mattress Girl.

We really should listen and be more sympathetic to victims of abuse, but our sympathies should not cloud evidence or the lack thereof. Look at the Steven Avery case. He’s not the most sympathetic character if you look at his police record and his past behavior prior to getting incarcerated for rape the first time. But it’s exactly the sympathy for the rape victim and the hatred for Steven Avery that cost him eighteen years of his life the first time around. Forget the evidence. Let’s incarcerate the town villain! Then there’s OJ Simpson, some would argue that the social and political climate at the time convinced some members of the population to be on his side, regardless of the evidence of his guilt. (Of course, truly believing that the accused committed a crime versus believing that the case against the accused was proven beyond any reasonable doubt are two different things.)

But then again, this was Salon.com, the same Web site that argued that Magneto, a Jewish comic book super villain, should be black in order to reflect current racial tensions. Because you know, slow news day, so everyone decides to play lawyer and indict a man for sexual crimes on the press.

 

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A Dead Judge

Seoul_graffiti

So Judge Antonin Scalia passed away and the US presidential election got even more interesting. The current president still has eleven months to nominate a judge, and really, there’s no reason he shouldn’t. Whoever he nominates of course would be met with opposition from the people on the other side of the political spectrum, but to not nominate anyone would seem like an abdication of duty. It would be interesting to see the opposition and how the president could push the nomination through. Even Megatron, a robot that literally transforms into a gun, would face strong opposition from the right.

Judge Antonin Scalia, in my opinion, was one of the worst judges ever. Sure, there were a few times when he sounded reasonable and his writing style can be amusing, but all too often he was pro-torture, a champion of states’ rights (which in practice meant taking away people’s rights), and a pro-life nut. In many cases involving race, he refuses to recognize the disadvantage of being a colored minority in America. He was backwards when it comes to marriage equality, and has been described by Congressman Barney Frank as a homophobe. He was pro death penalty, even to those under 15 at the time of the crime. He was one of the judges which gave George Bush the presidency, which ironically led the US to Iraq, which led to his son being in Iraq. One of the worst decisions he made was the defense of the Citizens United decision and redefined personhood, free speech, and corruption.

Still, in his death, even some liberals lionized him and praised his brilliance. He was brilliant as a judge, but not as a human being regarding those judgments. It’s like praising Hitler for being a great leader in the most mechanical of senses, but a terrible human being. In the future, I’m hopeful that we’ll see him as being mostly on the wrong side of history.

As ghoulish as it is to look at the positive side of his passing, this is a good opportunity for Americans to finally tip the scales of the political leanings of their supreme court. In some ways, I’m a tad jealous of this. The Canadian Supreme Court has seven out of nine court judges appointed by conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Chief Justice is a libertarian, but she’s currently 72 years old and the mandatory retirement age for judges is 75. The Harper-appointed judges are anywhere from 50 to 68 years-old. Granted, the Supreme Court of Canada hasn’t been as conservative as one would expect. In fact, it often went up against the Harper government that nominated most of its members. The court was against mandatory minimum sentences and protected safe injections sites among some of its more progressive decisions. There were often talks about the Harper government losing to the Supreme Court, especially when it comes to drug cases. But it’s not nearly as progressive as one would expect out of Canadians. (Or perhaps I’m being foolish here and looking at left and right politics in a branch of government designed to ignore such leanings. But that’s just being naïve, isn’t it?)

This is one of those rare cases where I look at the South Korean justice system and see what the Canadian and the US system could benefit from it. In South Korea, judges in the supreme court are not given a lifetime appointment. They’re only given four years. A four year appointment, in my opinion, might make them open to political sway, especially when considering their position after their appointment, much like politicians turning into political lobbyists. However, a lifetime appointment doesn’t insulate a judge from political forces either. Just look at Clarence Thomas. Perhaps a middle position would be wise. Instead of a lifetime or a near-lifetime appointment, maybe a ten-year appointment would be better. It would ensure the regular flow of new blood into the judicial system and not have political legacies continue long after they’re in fashion. Looking at Scalia, he was Reagan’s ghost, a two-term president who extended his influence far longer than his eight years. This seems to be counter to what a democracy should be.

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AIDS Cures on TV

Serial

My niece colors like a serial killer.

I saw Bill Maher interview Dr. Samir Chachoua, the doctor who is currently treating Charlie Sheen. He’s the doctor who advised him to get off his regular meds, use a treatment that he claims cures HIV (not therapy), and apparently even injected some of Sheen’s own blood to himself in order to assuage Sheen’s fears. It is a bit concerning that Bill Maher would give the doctor a media platform when prior to the interview, Charlie Sheen said in Dr. Oz’s show that his “numbers are back up” after getting on Dr. Chachoua’s treatment. Still, the booking was not much of a surprise. Bill Maher keeps giving questionable people platforms. He once talked to Sam Wurzelbacher or “Joe the Plumber” as if he was a serious person. He also basically birthed S.E. Cupp who often comes up with the most ridiculous points on issues.

But aside from the doctor’s many dubious claims on the program (“I’ve cured entire countries!,” “Sheen is HIV negative.”), I believe there’s value in the message that we shouldn’t be complicit with the status quo. We should have healthy skepticism of what’s being told as well as keep an open ear to what’s new. Is the current HIV and AIDS treatment truly the best science has to offer? Perhaps we should be looking at other options. I haven’t done much reading regarding Dr. Chachoua’s claims. But my skepticism goes both ways, to the established science which is married with corporate interests and to the unknown Dr. Chachoua. My skepticism for the doctor comes from Sheen himself. His numbers are back up. I already fear that he’s leading Sheen down the wrong path, whether the doctor knows it or not.

The many claims Dr. Chachoua put out on Bill Maher’s show paints a great picture of possibility regarding curing AIDS and other disease, but the media tries to ridicule him and his treatment based on arthritic goats. While he may indeed be a “quack,” we should not dismiss the possibility of finding cures in the least likely of places, even arthritic goats. There is value in looking at all alternatives and not just surrendering to what the established truth is. Scientists right now are looking at sloth hair clippings for new antibiotics. However, it all must be evidence and results-based. And right now, I still haven’t looked at evidence that supports the doctor’s claims.

I guess the fear here is that this will produce another Jenny McCarthy: more “experts” that would convince people to forego proven treatments to their detriment. This is generally a symptom of the mistrust against authorities, and unfortunately in many cases, people rail against scientific authority for the wrong reasons. This is why there’s a resurgence of flat earthers and creationists along with the climate change deniers. The Charlie Sheen/Dr. Chachoua HIV thing could very well be explained as a similar reaction against established scientific authority. I am hoping it leads to more creative zeal regarding the treatment of diseases, not necessarily from Dr. Chachoua who may or may not be a “quack,” but to many people in the scientific community. I’m hoping it doesn’t result in a wave of AIDS denialism. So yeah, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the doctor’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

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