Just wanted to drop in here and share this astounding chart from yesterday’s “Hour One” of The Young Turks show. They shared this while building an argument against the Washington establishment consensus that budget proposals should be revenue neutral. As reported in Huffington Post,
But from the perspective of the [Elizabeth] Warren wing of the party, corporations pay far too little as it is, so making any plan revenue neutral is a loser. Before companies managed to start gaming the system, Warren noted, three out of every ten dollars of federal revenue came from corporate taxes, today it’s only one in ten.
Then he dropped this chart that shows how the tax burden in this country has shifted from corporations to the working class. Social insurance and retirement includes the Payroll tax, and it has tripled since 1952. Meanwhile corporate taxes are a third of what they once were.
Want to find out how that happened? Watch The Young Turks video below. In the video, host Cenk Uygur is cheerleading Elizabeth Warren’s one-woman battle against corporate tax holidays. A clear, simple argument. However, side affects of watching this video include rage, hair pulling, compulsive blogging, and sharing the above chart on social media.
I just wanted to pull that screenshot out, to make it easier to share on all the social things.
Elizabeth Warren: End Corporate Tax “Holidays” (The Young Turks)
Over 100,000 Bernie Sanders supporters have signed a pledge, saying they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. The problem in answering the question, “is there a split in the Democratic party,” is that the goal posts on what it means to be a Democrat keep moving.
So there’s a clear message being sent that, despite their words to the contrary, the Democratic party doesn’t feel like Bernie Sanders is a Democrat at all.
The Democrats Need Those Sanders Votes
42% of Americans have no party preference, that’s compared to only 29% who are registered Democrat, 26% registered Republican. That means that no single party can win the election. It’s generally agreed that Sanders supporters are more likely to be independent voters than are Clinton supporters. Sanders pulls in voters who would otherwise vote for the Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party, or even Libertarian. This may be why he continues to beat Trump in nationwide polls, while Clinton’s numbers are flagging.
Whether or not those voters see themselves as Democrats, depends, in part, on what the Democratic party stands for. Independents aren’t fools, they understand a vote for a third party can’t have the same impact as the vote for one of the two major parties. These 42% of Americans don’t feel they owe their votes to Clinton (or Trump…not all of them will be progressive), because they already feel alienated enough from the establishment to register for a third party/no party.
Before Bernie Sanders entered the race, many of these people weren’t planning to vote Democrat at all. If his entry into the race brought in a bunch of new Democrats, the party’s reaction to this should be to welcome them with open arms. If they can’t do that, fine, they acknowledge that those votes were never the Democrats to claim in the first place. You really can’t have it both ways.
The recent events in Nevada only accentuate this. Why should the local Nevada Democratic party seek to disenfranchise or exclude Sanders supporters, if they see him as part of the Democratic party? Clinton supporters say bully to the Sanders delegates, that if the Nevada Democratic Party played the rules to exclude them, then it’s just too bad the Sanders supporters aren’t better at political gamesmanship. But there’s no reason that the Nevada establishment should be choosing sides in the first place, if Sanders delegates are indeed part of the democratic party. Rather, they act like they are fighting for their life, from an attack from within their own party.
This and so much more suggests that, at least to the establishment of the Democratic party, Berniecrats are not Democrats. One might say that Bernie’s calls for a revolution describe exactly this ambition to take over the party from the more progressive left, as the tea party did with the right.
What Is a Democrat?
However, if Bernie supporters aren’t welcome in the Democratic Party, where does that leave them?
The problem is that we have a two-party system. What makes it a two-party system isn’t the number of parties we have, but the way the candidates are chosen. There are more than thirty political parties to choose from in the United States. But those parties can’t gain a foothold, because the candidate with the majority takes everything. In contrast, societies with parliamentary systems award power by percentage. For example, if the libertarian party wins 30% of the vote, in parliamentary democracy the libertarians then would make up 30% of the congress. Whereas in the US, it’s winner-takes-all, no seats for second place. In order for a third party to have an impact, it would have to be the #1 overall overall winner, toppling both of the main parties…but if that were to happen (which it has, exactly once in American history) the third party would most likely take over the power of the losing party, rather than opening our democracy up to a third party system.
Therefore, if Bernie supporters are too progressive or too socialist for the Democratic party, that leaves them with no representation at all. They can join with the Democrats, or they can send a “message vote” that at best can only impact the election indirectly by pulling the main parties further to the fringe.
Because third party candidates are not likely to win, a vote for anything other than a Republican or a Democrat is seen as a “throwaway vote.” And if enough people “throw away” their votes on a more progressive spoiler candidate, the Democrats don’t get enough votes, and the GOP wins (or vice-versa).
If you’re an American, it’s *likely you already understand this. There’s a good chance you yourself have discouraged a voter from voting third party, because it will waste their vote, and if Trump wins it be “their fault.” You might have mentioned Ralph Nader.
Because the Democrats are further left than the Republicans, any progressive who wants their votes to count would have to vote Democrat. By this logic, if you believe that people should not vote for third parties, you believe that Berniecrats are Democrats by default. Regardless of who you support, there’s a logic here that can’t be denied. But there’s a problem too: it’s a paradox.
I’m starting to get pissed at HRC supporters claiming Sanders supporters “have to” support the Democratic nominee or it’s “their fault” if the GOP wins the White House. It’s irksome because it seems these same voters will argue that we shouldn’t support Sanders because his ideas are too grand or go too far… Fine then, if what I want is big, grand ideas, and the Democratic party can’t deliver them, they’re basically saying the Democratic party is not and won’t ever be our party. So why are we obligated to support them?
They can’t have it both ways. Don’t tell me I’m obligated to vote for a party if in the same breath you laugh at the notion of Democrats getting behind Bernie’s platform. And don’t claim Sanders and his supporters are really independents if you feel they owe their votes to Democrats.
*likely, but I’ve seen some voters who still don’t understand this, so I think it bears explaining.
SPOILERS WARNING: This post assumes you’ve seen the first season of Game of Thrones or read the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire. There are spoilers for the latest episode, S05E03, “High Sparrow” but they are clearly marked in the post.
Make no mistake, Sansa Stark is one tough cookie. Sansa isn’t, however, a typical “strong female character” like her sister Arya. Her strength and power lie in her mind and in her ability to assess, adapt to, and manipulate situations by means other than brute force—something that’s rare on Game of Thrones. In show’s assortment of extremely powerful women, Sansa may fade to the background. But that’s actually part of her goal as a character, because she thrives by sticking to the shadows rather than attracting attention to herself.
The actress playing Stark claims Stark has figured out how to “weaponize femininity, how to turn what looks to casual viewers like a disadvantage into an asset.” Another article asserts:
It annoys me that people only like the feminine characters when they act like male characters. And they always go on about feminism. Like, you’re rooting for the people who look like boys, who act like boys, who fight like boys. Root for the girls who wear dresses and are intellectually very strong.
I too want traditionally feminine characters who manipulate their situation without brute force. But the problem is that Sansa Stark is not meant to be a powerful, feminine woman. She is written to be weak. On purpose. She is forthright when she should be withholding, emotional when she should be strategic. Always reacting rather than planning, always the victim, being batted from one danger to the next.
In fact, the entire clusterfuck of terrible events that happens in season one could all have been prevented if Sansa Stark hadn’t been so foolish to trust the queen mother with things she shouldn’t have said (I’m being vague here for the sake of spoilers). This intel gives the queen the chance to betray Sansa’s father, an event which sets in motion all the terrible things that befall Sansa and her family. Moreover, it’s not as though Sansa took a calculated risk that went awry. She naively thought the queen was her friend. Naivety, not inner strength, seems to be her primary character trait.
I feel like these feminists want to believe that George R.R. Martin has set Stark up as a “strong woman of intelligence” because they want to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he intended to have such a character. They want to believe that Martin means well. But they aren’t giving him enough credit. If Martin wanted to write a character who is “quietly wearing pretty dresses and pushing teacakes around on her plate as she maintains a façade, refusing to break character and betray herself” (as the Bitch article so nicely puts it) he would, and there would be no bickering about who she is and what she stands for. It would be clear. I know that, because he already wrote a character to fill that role, and it isn’t Sansa Stark.
(And no, it isn’t the mother of dragons either, though I think one could make a convincing argument that Daenerys Targaryen’s strength comes not from her army but from her strategy.)
The Strong, Clever, Feminine Heroine of Game of Thrones
If you want proof, then you need look no further than Margaery Tyrell. Margaery is easily a foil for Sansa, in that both of them have been engaged to the king, and both are living in the same lion’s den. But they handle this situation very differently.
Let’s compare. Sansa Stark had a schoolgirl crush on on the prince, Margaery recognized right away that he was a dangerous psychopath. Sansa Stark’s reaction to figuring this out was to plot her escape (an act that she was too timid to plan herself) while Margaery played on the prince’s sadism to get closer to his shiny, coveted crown. Sansa wants to be a Disney princess; she thinks nothing of politics beyond her own survival. Margaery went out among the people and heard their grievances, and was so bold as to challenge the queen about representing their interests. Sansa fails to recognize her natural ally in the imp, and is way too trusting of Little Finger. If their roles were reversed, there is little doubt that Margaery would have found countless way to exploit a marriage to Tyrion Lannister.
Sure, Sansa lies about her allegiance to stay alive, but this doesn’t make her clever. It’s always tentative and tinged with fear. In contrast, Margaery lies to get what she wants. There are grey areas here: it’s partly due to Sansa’s disclosure that Margaery knew of prince Joffrey’s depravity. But the actions of Margaery show clearly how Sansa is meant to be perceived. Margaery is intended to be the feminine beguiler these other feminists long for while Sansa is intended to be read as weak and naive. Martin demonstrates this not only in their actions, but in the consequences to their actions.
For example, in the latest episode Sansa is again forced to lie **SPOILERS S05E03** when she is offered as a marriage candidate to the psychopaths who brutally murdered her people. Sophie Turner plays this perfectly, showing Sansa’s lies to be believable, while all the time you know she’s doing all she can not to scream bloody murder. Meanwhile, Margaery lies in this episode too. She speaks to the young king about his mother with words of flattery, her intended message buried so far down that when the king questions his mother, he doesn’t even recognize it as her idea. Then when the queen confronts Margaery, her false worship of the queen is laid on so thick the queen is left with no rational way to suggest Margaery may be at fault. Margaery is a gifted deceiver, she does it naturally and well and in the end it gets her what she wants, all the way to the crown. **END SPOILERS**
When Margaery’s ploys succeed, the author is showing us how clever and sly she is. All of her scheming is disguised as someone else’s idea. She plays the innocent, but is constantly advancing her position. She is smart enough to recognize that the queen is her biggest adversary, and daring enough to to look for opportunities to push the queen aside.
In contrast, Sansa Stark is where she is because she has little sense of who she can and should trust. The current scheme she is thrust into was not her idea at all, but Little Finger’s. Imagine if Margaery had the chance Sansa has, SAME SPOILERS AGAIN to regain her castle and avenge her people? I have no doubt not only would she be eager to wed the psychotic Ramsey Bolton but, critically, it would have been her idea. But because this is Sansa, and Ramsey Bolton is just about the worst character in a world of deplorable characters, we get the sense that the Little Bird is again being led into a terrible trap. END SPOILERS Sansa is still too naive to have schemes of her own.
Hating Sansa Stark, Just Like I’m Supposed To
While I don’t like Sansa Stark, I’m not with the unsophisticated reader who would have her shunted from the books, dying suddenly so we can get back to the other characters. I don’t see Sansa’s weakness as a failing of the author. Sure, in a world where most of the other characters are marked by their brilliance, honor, or strength, it’s easy to hate Sansa Stark, who is none of these things.
But we must remember that Sansa is barely more than a girl, and a royal at that, who has lived a sheltered life. Martin needs at least one character like that in the series to show us: this is what happens to naive girls (or boys) in a brutal world. If he killed her off, we’d not get to see how the slings and arrows of fate will turn Sansa into more than a survivor, but a leader.
Much of the world of Game of Thrones centers on this process. We watch young Arya turn from a little girl into a trained killer. We watch Daenerys Targaeryan learn to rule nations. These are plots that have developed not over chapters but over thousands of pages.
Those who would argue that Sansa is strong overlook that her weakness is a deliberate decision the author has made to show us that she is not ready to lead. That’s good writing. That’s character development. In the end, she won’t be another Margaery. Margaery has always been conniving. Her family raised her to be shrewd and careful. Every scene shows that is who she is; that is where she comes form. It makes her wicked, but likeable.
But Sansa is a Stark. She was raised to be honorable. Truth and justice were the values of her parents. She was taught that survival means looking out for your people (after all, winter is coming!) and there will be suffering in any case (did you hear about winter?). She was not taught to be shrewd, and this has led to the ample poor decisions that make her unlikeable. The choices she has made to stay alive go against all that the Starks hold dear. How will she become a worthy daughter to the unimpeachable values of her parents, while navigating a world where such honor will get you killed?
In the game of thrones, “you win or you die” so Sansa must sharpen up, or meet her father’s fate. Watching her story is like watching a pawn advance across a chess board. Martin has written her as a pawn, and rightly so, as her weakness makes the brutality of the knights and queens clashing around her more fearsome to behold. That little pawn keeps moving forward, and it is excruciating to watch unfold. But everyone knows what happens to a pawn that makes it across the board. That is what Sansa’s character is about: not who she is, but the powerful lady Stark she will become.
Photos from San Francisco Pride, Sunday. We started out at the Indie Oasis stage, because some of our favorite San Francisco DJs were working that stage: A Plus D of Bootie and the couple who DJ’s Fringe in the Haight. Unfortunately, they were blowing out the speakers in order to compete with the nonstop spectacle in every direction, so every song sounded terrible. After hanging out there for way too long, we found another stage that was thoroughly delightful. We danced through to the last song.
I like candid shots, so most of these aren’t posed. I also like to take photos of some of the people who aren’t getting as much attention as seven-foot drag queens in mirrorball leisure suits, etc. Which is to say, this collection of photos in no way captures the bounty of glitter, feathers, and gender-fucked awesome sauce that is the San Francisco Pride. Nor can my camera capture the perfect summer sunshine and cool Bay breezes or the camaraderie strangers found dancing together. It’s just a sample of the few of the things I enjoyed in our one little corner of the SF Pride festival.
South Carolina Mayor Prefers Drunk Drivers to Lesbians
My jaw dropped when I heard the recording of South Carolina mayor Earl Bullard’s reasoning for firing his lesbian sheriff…and replacing her with a guy convicted of drunk driving.
He was caught on tape saying, “”I would much rather have somebody who drank, and drank too much, taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.” Bullard now smugly denies it.
There’s still a lot of confusion about net neutrality and why it matters. And no wonder people are confused, even the media often gets it wrong. Take for example this recent statement from Real Time With Bill Maher.
There’s a big misunderstanding about what net neutrality actually is. What’s happening is you have certain companies like Hulu and Amazon, they’re streaming videos, and that actually takes up a lot of bandwidth. And so what they’re trying to do is make it such that those people pay more. Why should they pay as much as the woman on Etsy selling hair bows?
The point of regulation is not to be neutral. It’s to protect the little guy. It’s to create competition. Where we don’t have competition right now is with broadband providers. There’s very few of them. We need to have more competition in this space so that all of this flow continues to flow. I actually think a lot of politicians don’t really understand the issue. People making the rules really need to be under 32 to get this right.
Monica Mehta on Real Time with Bill Maher, proving she is over the age of 32
Bill Maher goes on to verify he too has no idea how the Internet works with two simple words, “good point.”
Nope, noppity nope. Mehta’s heart may be in the right place, but her facts are painfully wrong. You can listen to Monica Mehta’s quote on net neutrality here, it begins at 47:30 and goes on for a minute…one little minute, and yet this statement is riddled with problems.
Now to unravel all the ways she got it wrong, so you don’t make the same mistake.
1. Mehta is Confusing a Web Host With an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Big companies do pay more for streaming video. They pay that money to their web hosts, which provides the computers where their websites live. Granted, a big company like Netflix probably owns their own servers, but they are definitely paying a lot more for bandwidth than some seller on Etsy.
(Further showing her lack of clarity on this, the gal on Etsy pays $0 to a web host—instead she pays Etsy to use their site and then Etsy pays a web host, but that’s nitpicking and besides the larger point.)
Every person who visits a web page is downloading data from the web host, so the more visitors a site has, the more they will have to pay in bandwidth fees. These transactions are between the company and the web host, they have nothing to do with the Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast).
Comcast is not hosting the sites for these big companies, they simply provide the pipe that sends it into your laptop and living room. They are a middle man, and in the tradition of middle men everywhere, they now want to charge extra fees. Net neutrality is about not allowing them to do that.
2. Those Opposed to Net Neutrality Aren’t Advocating Government Regulation
This isn’t “government regulation” any more than it is when we cover our eyes and allow factory farms to self-regulate. So when she says “the point of regulation is not to be neutral” she is further confusing matters. Comcast is not a regulator. They are a business, looking to profit.
In this particular case, they want to charge Netflix more because Netflix competes with them as a cable provider. It would be like Barnes & Noble marking up the price on all copies of The Idiot’s Guide to Amazon.com. That’s all fine and dandy until Barnes and Noble is the only bookstore in town, which is the case for most Internet Service Providers.
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, among them Slate’s Double X Gabfest. In a recent podcast they discussed the concept of the “basic bitch.” Immediately I thought of Kreayshawn’s 2011 hit, “Gucci Gucci” which proclaims “Gucci Gucci Fendi Vendi Prada: basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” At one point in the show one of the hosts declared she wanted a remix of that song, and I am here to supply. How can I resist when Party Ben’s remix is so damn good?
The hosts discussed basic bitches as compared to hipsters. They seem to me to be perfect binary opposites. Both groups are lashing out at the presumptions they expect from their counterpart. The basic bitch thinks the hipster is uppity for not following social conventions (I gave a perfect example of this in my first article on hipsters, sourced from Urban Dictionary’s hipster definition). While the hipster thinks the basic bitch is just the sort of girl who made fun of him/her in school for not wearing the right clothes or participating in sports.
If you’ll allow me to further digress, I was having a tangential conversation last night with a Puerto Rican woman I’d just met. We were drunkenly discussing Florida racial politics (a favorite pastime of mine) in particular the ongoing hatred between Cubans and Puerto Ricans.
She felt that Cubans were the ones keeping this going, always accusing Puerto Ricans of selling out, for not revolting against the Yankee oppressor. This parallax view fascinated me. As one raised amongst Cubans, the narrative was similar, but different. My upbringing taught me it was the Puerto Ricans who started it all, with their big flag necklaces and upper-middle-class pride. True, Cubans were proud of their revolutionary status, but the hatred was coming from the Puerto Ricans. They were the ones bragging about their status, thinking the Cubans were lesser, for both their poverty and their questionable legal status.
Now there’s a lot to this conversation, (and much of it that most people wouldn’t be willing to discuss or admit even sober), but the part that is germane here is that in both cases the prejudice towards the other group stemmed from some underlying insecurity. If that Puerto Rican in fifth grade hadn’t gone basic bitch on me for accidentally referring to her as Cuban, I’d not have had prejudices against Puerto Ricans and their pride flags. The prejudice was born out of my own insecurities. And if hipsters weren’t so frequently taunted and bullied as kids, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to brag about their current elite taste in coffee, music and thrift shopping.
It’s so easy to see one side of that coin, from whatever side a person happens to identify with most closely. What is fascinating to me is that there’s insecurity coming from both sides. That the basic bitches and the Puerto Ricans were hating from a place of insecurity too. It reminds me that deep down there are no bad people, just terribly broken people in search of healing. And that all gets back to the opening of the Gabest episode, where they discuss the gender confidence gap. Nice when things come full circle, isn’t it (discuss!)?
OK I really only meant to start this post as an excuse to share this Kreayshawn remix. This junk will really get you dancing. Seriously one of my favorite remixes of the decade, though Kreayshawn won’t inspire the Oakland hipsters like she used to. And for your patience during my rant, I’ll throw in this cover by suspected-hipster never-to-be-a-basic-bitch Neon Hitch. Neon Hitch drops the “basic bitch” from her version, take from that what you will.
If you like this cover, it’s in my Best Electro of 2011 list. There may be more there to your tastes.
PS, the women of the Double X Gabfest claimed Kreayshawn is now a “mommy blogger.” As a media professional well-acquainted with mommy bloggers, I’m going to challenge that. Having just visited her Tumblr, I’d say that Kreayshawn is not at all a mommy blogger, but simply a public figure how happens to be a mom and have a blog. A distinction a group of feminists should surely acknowledge!
More importantly, as my regular readers may recall, I’ve written two articles about hipsterhating, which were republished in a Kansas City entertainment weekly.
It’s this weird quirk of mine that I’m opposed to threats of violence against strangers, simply because of their fashion, beer and bicycle choices, no matter how strange those choices may be. The post in The Awl chronicles what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such threats, and reminds us that people doing weird things (like God-effing-forbid, taking a typewriter out in public) often do them for perfectly understandable reasons. Personally, I take an even more radical position that I don’t think people should be bullied for weirdness, even if there’s absolutely no rationale for their fashion crimes. If only the people posting their hatred of hipsters could devote that passion to fighting climate change or fixing the economy. But no, those are not issues they feel affect them personally, not in the way a guy with clunky glasses, shorts, and a typewriter does. I mean, WHO GAVE THAT GUY THE RIGHT TO SIT IN A PARK WITH A TYPEWRITER?
Before you call the lynch mob though, I ask that you please read the articles I’ve posted on this. Maybe some reason can be talked into you hipster haters before your pitchfork and torches army burns down the whole village.