Representation and the Importance of Voting By Gregory Allen

Elections in the United States, such as the presidential election in November, are designed to appoint representatives that will reflect the opinion held by those who voted; essentially legislating and acting on behalf of the majority or prevailing perspective.
However, when candidates win a popular election (or via Electoral College) having been selected by the minority perspective, the design of fair representation is undermined. Unfortunately, the loudest voice that might appear in voting ballots this November may not represent the majority or be seeking steps toward tolerance when they cast their vote.

Stephen Colbert shared a survey on his Comedy Central television show The Colbert Report that identified the growing progression of tolerant and secular beliefs among young voters. The survey found that 63% of millennials (persons born 1981 or later), also known as Generation Y, favored same-sex marriage.

The survey also showed declining support directly corresponding to an increase in age.This survey, conducted by Pew Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Feb 7, 2012, was not the only one Colbert shared with his audience.

Colbert also cited Dan Merica’s CNN article “Pew survey: Doubt of God growing quickly among millennials” which, based on a Pew Research Center survey, explained of millenials, “Thirty-one percent disagreed with the statement ‘I never doubt the existence of God.’”
Gallup has also published poll results regarding changing American beliefs. In 2011, a record 53% of Americans favored legalizing gay marriage. In May 2012, Gallup reported that 50% of Americans still supported recognizing same-sex marriage. Despite a drop, the majority opinion is still identified as only 48% opposed gay marriage.
These views may not be reflected in the election results in November, as several conservative states are seeking to implement voter registration laws to censor and disenfranchise opposition. According to Pam Fessler in her NPR piece “The Politics Behind New Voter ID Laws”, Democrats claim in the effects of these laws, “students, the poor and disabled — those most likely to vote Democratic — will be hurt the most.”
Not surprising considering growing secular beliefs among young voters, religious states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – four of the top ten most religious states according to Gallup – are also pursuing voter ID laws.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; a record ten states are seeking these restrictions, and ID laws will force more than ten million potential voters – 500,000 who do not own transportation – to travel more than ten miles to register
Much higher than the data reported by Gallup, support for gay marriage among African American voters is now 59% (poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates). As the poor will face the most adversity from voter registration laws, it is relevant to provide the unemployment rate and poverty discrepancies in America.
Information given by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows African Americans face an unemployment rate of 14.4%, compared to white Americans 7.4%. And from the U.S. Census Bureau, 27% of African Americans live below the poverty line, while only 9.9% of white Americans do.
Proponents insist identification is free to obtain; however, offices that provide identification might only be open as little as one day a month as Rachel Rose Hartman for Yahoo News explains, also citing voters face challenges when she quoted Attorney General Eric Holder who said voters will “have to pay for the underlying documentation necessary to obtain the photo identification.”
Motivation behind these laws is not to prevent rare cases of voter fraud or enforce questionable Republican claims of preserving honest elections, but to dissuade voters who may vote in larger quantity against one group’s outnumbered beliefs.
Registering to vote is still easy, although this may not be a complete solution to divisive voter registration tactics. The United States Election Assistance Commission provides for download a National Mail Voter Registration form on their website, available to all U.S. citizens. This also includes state specific voting policies.
Massachusetts residents may find registration information and forms via http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm. The deadline for Massachusetts residents to vote in the November 2, 2012 State Election is Wednesday, October 17, 2012.
Voting ensures a fair perspective, one mirroring majority opinion – whether liberal or conservative – is represented in those passing legislation that will affect all citizens. Leadership should be decided by the majority, by the voices of those being led, not by the loudest or most aggressive opinion.

Freedom of favorable speech by Gregory Allen

[youtube]http://youtu.be/VRh_wMrbLZI[/youtube]

 

NFL linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo received caustic criticism recently for his support of marriage equality. Maryland pastor and state house of delegates-member Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) wrote the following of Ayanbadejo’s exercise of free speech, “‘I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player.'”

The letter was obtained by WBAL-TV and referenced by Dan Wetzel in his Yahoo! article “Maryland politician out of line for attacking Brendon Ayanbadejo’s support of gay marriage.” Wetzel cites that Burns attempted to force the Baltimore football franchise into silencing its player and depriving him of his First Amendment rights, writing, “Burns went nuts last week, firing off a letter on Maryland House of Delegate letterhead to Ravens owner Steven Bisciotti seeking action against Ayanbadejo.”
Wetzel isn’t being overly-dramatic when claiming the pastor’s words are out of line, indeed they are. The pastor has some manner of public recognition, so following his offered logic, Burns would have to forfeit his constitutionally protected religious beliefs because of his own manipulation of celebrity to share them. But few, if anyone, would suggest such a personal intrusion seriously (except of course, Burns).
Burns makes clear his intentions for censorship in the following quote, “‘I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.'”As Dan Wetzel reminds readers, New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has defined his professional and collegiate career wearing his Christian faith and beliefs publicly.

But, the Baltimore Ravens’ player may have a more diverse history of controversial remarks, as the Yahoo! News article cites his history, “He’s written columns for his hometown paper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He’s fought for federal legislation requiring schools to monitor kids’ physical activities and promote proper nutrition. He’s worked relentlessly on environmental sustainability issues.”

Wetzel also provides the following, and conclusive information: as Maryland has recently approved same-sex marriage, and that it now faces a ballot in November elections; Burns is desperate and biased – as he himself helped approved the coming ballot to try and overturn Maryland’s step toward marriage equality.

If a professional athlete’s actions are “inconceivable” in these matters. . . it’s because he’s actually taking the time to care about issues that may not directly involve his image or in fact be placing it in the unfavorable views of others to support a greater good.

Brendon Ayanbadejo does not sacrifice his freedom of speech because he has attained celebrity as a professional athlete. He does not have to sacrifice his right to free speech because it is unfavorable to the opinions of another. Free speech used to support freedom should, however, receive special attention, and Ayanbadejo’s use of his time and celebrity to draw attention to issues that affect others is far more honorable than it is reprehensible.

Has controversial television gone extinct? by Gregory Allen

The Dick Van Dyke Show first aired on television October 3, 1961. Immediately, the show began challenging cultural traditions, most noticeably gender roles. Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) frequently happened upon satirical situations involving his strong-willed wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and the show found a chance to provide genuine criticism on American culture in Rob’s unorthodox reactions.

One of the show’s most blatant criticisms can be found in “The Bad Old Days” (1.29). Rob is confronted by a friend with an article claiming the American male is in decline, corralled to impotence by dominant women. Rob is rendered insecure and refuses to participate in domestic responsibilities, avoiding chores commonly assigned to women, despite normally aiding in these tasks without conflict.

Rob convinces himself he desires the “good old days”; a time when women were docile, unquestioning, adopting opinions and orders from their husbands. During his sleep, Rob is visited with a dream that reminds him of the reality of demoting one gender to the role of servant and the tyrannous role played by the counterparts imposing this unequal condition. Rob wakes, realizing his dream was a nightmare.

The Dick Van Dyke Show presented ideas that were controversial because they challenged common opinion, forcing the audience to consider new ideas they might not have practiced, rather than simply seeking to entertain and preserve the show’s following. Questioning gender roles became a recurring theme throughout the series.
Challenging in similar fashion seems absent many modern television shows; shows that instead pander to shock in trivial fashion. Ideas about gender and sexuality that were controversial and provocative have been desensitized and then transformed into entertainment by glamorous editing.
Game of Thrones receives attention for its use of sexuality and violence, but this material is not controversial or ahead of its time. Depicting female characters as rape victims, prostitutes, and treacherous fiends who betray men presented as warriors obsessed with displays of physicality and sexual prowess is not original; and provides viewers with much titillation but little reflection.
Game of Thrones presentation of rape and male dominated sexual perspectives does not make ethical statements about these practices, but rather idealizes these gender roles to entice viewers into following the show and allowing its profitable production to continue.
Mad Men is often praised, but the show provides little reflection of 1960’s times when sexist ideals prevented women from working and participating in society. Admiration for the show’s presentation of misogyny is only a fascination with its depiction for the purposes of stimulation. The show is essentially American Psycho without teeth: Mad Men is appreciated only for nostalgia because it lacks critical narratives.
Controversial topics like social equality or the lack of genuine female/LGBT representation in media and government are seldom driving forces on television, all too often only appearing as means for stealing attention in the same way nudity and sexuality are exercised by stale producers.
Unfortunately, challenging issues won’t likely recur in a television series until America accepts them first; and those who provide controversial themes will always risk displeasing audiences and condemning themselves to cancellation or censorship.

After Penn State, what next for America? by Gregory Allen

Penn State’s sex abuse scandal takes a step toward concluding and disappearing from the media spotlight with the NCAA’s decision to levy substantial penalties against the university. According to the Associated Press and The Huffington Post, the punishment includes a $60 million dollar fine (representing one year of football revenues), and that “These funds will go to child sex abuse awareness programs.”
The punishment also includes “a postseason ban, and loss of scholarships and previous wins” as well as placing Penn State on a five-year probationary period “with the NCAA reserving the right to implement further punishments.” The sex scandal and the punishment has garnered Penn State significant media coverage, not unlikely connected to the case’s proximity with the popular football program.
Penn State can now begin taking steps forward to correcting problems of sexual abuse on campus, but what steps will other American universities take going forward? Penn State University is not the only American campus dealing with significant sexual abuse, as Crisis Connection reports a rape is committed on an American college campus every 21 hours.

Media obsession fell on Penn State and its punishments, but rape and sexual abuse and violence on college campuses remains a larger, more frequent problem. Feminist.Com supplies the following:
  • The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years (Fisher 2000).
Other statistics indicate that one in twelve college men admit to completing or attempting rape, 47% of college rape victims also suffer external physical injuries, of college women who are raped only 10% report the attack, and 90% of all college rapes occur under the influence of alcohol.
Also disturbing is the lack of prosecution for those who commit rape; according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) only 9% of rapists face prosecution, and a mere 3% of rapists ever spend a single day in jail. 97% odds of evading jail time are not significant enough to deter sexual violence.
Even Penn State University’s Center for Women Students lists the following on their website, “Rape is a significant problem on college campuses across the nation, where most victims are acquainted with their assailants. At Penn State approximately 100 students sought assistance for sexual assault during the 1996-97 academic year.”
While the punishments and consequences given to Penn State are a significant and appropriate reaction to the traumatic and poorly responded to sexual abuse experienced there, media and popular attention should not drift into apathy until another serious case emerges.
A welcome reflection in the conclusion of Penn State’s case includes considering the problems of college sex abuse across all college campuses. Serious questions should arise, as Penn State is not alone in dealing with sexual violence.
What steps will American’s take to change the culture and environment that allowed these horrific acts to occur? What will be done to create a better college environment? Will alcohol abuse on campus, the lack of prosecution, or other contributing or non-deterring factors be corrected?

Boy Scouts of America earns merit badge for intolerance by Gregory Allen

After two years of (hopefully) considerate and serious thinking, the Boy Scouts of America have decided to preserve intolerant policies that discriminate against children and LGBT Americans.
The Boy Scouts of America claims, “The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions.” The statement contains further statements which contradict the actual policies historically held and currently in place.
The decision and its explanation, as provided by the Scouts website, evades the use of language that would accurately describe the behavior and ideology they are preaching; behavior that is unacceptable in civilized communities.
According to the Scouts, “the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board released the following statement: “Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting.”
Yet this suggested cooperation seems incompatible with the organization’s choice to, as writes for Huffington post, “continue to exclude gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders.” They claim to wish to “work together” but refuse to compromise.
The message directly implies that there are differences among children, and that people who are heterosexual are directly better or superior to others – completely removing the honor from the values of the Scouts mission, as they see it: “The Boy Scouts of America provides the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, which helps young people be “Prepared. For Life.™”
Ironically, the Scouts decision to exclude children and others simply because they have private and personal differences mirrors the mindset of children or adolescents who employ similar social-popularity stratification, confused by those who are different – these are behaviors lacking factual or mature consideration.
If the Boy Scouts of America were genuinely concerned with leading by example, they would pursue moral and intellectual decisions rather than following an immoral perspective simply because it is popular amongst its members.
As Signorile explains, “The BSA’s argument is that the majority of its members believe in such discrimination, therefore it must continue to discriminate.”
If they are preparing American youth for life, the Boy Scouts of America are not encouraging an open-minded or tolerant perspective, but rather preaching and pandering hatred and ignorance.

Victim Blaming pairs well with Celebrity Pardoning (UPDATED) by Gregory Allen

Several blatant and public statements have been made in the fashion of victim-blaming in regards to victims of sexual assault. One case, regarding recent Stanley Cup winning defenseman Drew Doughty, has drawn attention, as well as Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh’s remarks on rape. Both cases also bring attention to the deliberate attempt to pardon members of popular culture who have considerable celebrity.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is under investigation for an accused sexual assault. The woman accusing Doughty or rape filed her claim on March 1, 2012 (the same day of supposed incident). Supporters and fans of Doughty have spoken publicly on MSNBC’s website and through other sources claiming the accusation was made to garner attention as Doughty recently won the league’s championship. The Kings, however did not win the Stanley Cup until June 11, 2012.
The response is a definitive style of victim-blaming, and makes little sense logically or sympathetically. The opponents of Doughty’s accuser have made comments on discussion posts and through online sources, many times accompanied by similar supporters. Their identity remains anonymous, and presents the “pack-mentality” that often enables victim-blaming. Face-to-face with a victim, and without peer support, the claims likely remain unspoken.

The case Doughty is now involved in also highlights victim-blaming and adverse pressure unfairly placed on the accuser. The woman accusing Doughty of rape was urged by police to contact Doughty via telephone after making the claim; and this may be perceived as intimidation to deter the witness from pressing charges. Also, according to the L.A. Times, police reported the woman was “less than cooperative,” or in reality – acting exactly in the manner someone suffering from a severe trauma would behave.
Regarding Daniel Tosh of Comedy Central, the comedian presented a joke in a comedy club claiming rape jokes are never lacking in humor or appeal. A woman in the audience refuted the bit aloud, and was allegedly greet by Tosh with this reply, “‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…'” Tosh was quick to offer an evasive apology, but has made little effort to take responsibility for behavior performed in front of the crowd at the Laugh Factory. 
Tosh apparently pandered to the comedy club crowd and received supporting laughter, further exacerbating the situation, and encouraging the remarks made by the comedian. Tosh is now also moving quickly to remove further rape jokes from reaching the public, and perhaps supporting the behavior he has been accused of. The owner of the Laugh Factory has also attempted to deny the event took place (not that the Laugh Factory’s reputation as the graveyard of comedic careers is capable of reversal).
Tosh’s example more clearly highlights the anonymous-crowd mentality behind victim-blaming, as supporters were able to heckle an individual speaking out against a very poor display of judgement and childish behavior. In fact, another woman, Karen Elson, openly criticizing Daniel Tosh has recieved similar online treatment, with one anonymous person claiming via Twitter, “@KarenElson_ Needs to be raped, she might lighten up after getting some for once.”
Similar to the first woman criticizing Tosh, Elson has stated, “”Daniel Tosh didn’t get the memo that [rape] never was and never will be funny.”
Both instances contain unmistakable instances of victim-blaming, first in the manner of anonymously slandering a possible victim with police appealing to a victims aversion to suggest culpability; and second in the style of supporting a public figure undermining the serious nature of rape and sexual assault.
Both imply that victims deserve the trauma and assault they face, whilst denying the responsibility for making these claims by remaining anonymous and disguised in the shadow of a crowd. This aversion to sympathizing with the victim also emerges easily as those doubting and blaming the victim are motivated to protect the celebrity’s whose behavior they adopt.
UPDATE:
According to the Huffington Post, “Prosecutors have declined to file a date-rape charge against Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty, citing insufficient evidence.”
Linda Deutsch who wrote the article, explains “The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office issued a report Wednesday concluding there was not enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
American judicial ideologies insist persons are innocent until proven guilty, but our notion of “beyond a reasonable doubt” seems to have changed into “direct eye-witness experience” or a standard completely favoring personal impression over logical guidance.

If you disagree with a law…go around it! (UPDATED) by Gregory Allen

A new state law in Mississippi has created more obstacles for women seeking constitutionally promised health rights. Women seeking abortions may now be forced to drive to another state to obtain the health procedure, or as opponents desire, deliver the unwanted pregnancy for lack of medical access.

Not surprisingly, according to NYDailyNews.com, Mississipi has the highest teen birth rates. Amanda Peterson Beadle explains for Thinkprogress.org, that Mississippi does not require sex-education in school, “Mississippi does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard.”

Mississippi may not have an objective or well-informed perspective on sex-education or reproductive rights, but this does not give its citizens claim to deny the rights of others, simply because they disagree with the premise or procedure. As a means of circumnavigating Roe V. Wade, conservative states are seeking obstacles to make access to abortion more difficult for women.

The new law, taking effect around July 2, now requires those who perform abortions to be certified in credentials difficult to obtain and exercise.  In doing so, many clinics, included the single remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, may be forced to close.

As Emily Wagster Pettus describes for the Huffington Post, “The law requires anyone performing abortions at the state’s only clinic to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. Such privileges can be difficult to obtain, and the clinic contends the mandate is designed to put it out of business.”

The mentality personified by the new law is childish, selfish, and designed only to prevent others from accessing health care certain individuals disagree with for privately-held beliefs. If displayed in another form, the ideology would be soundly criticized.

For example, fundamentalist Darwinian enthusiasts might oppose heart, lung, or kidney transplants because this disobeys and breaks with the conventions of evolution. This cruel perspective would not be legislated, however, because of the negative effects and grossly intrusive results it would have on persons seeking to obtain a healthy lifestyle in a manner they personally select.

Mississippi is not alone in seeking these restrictive laws, or exercising the ideology of finding a way to eliminate freedoms regardless of their constitutionality. The behavior is soundly absurd, and this terminology is not used for dramatic effect; imagine the chaos and cruelty that would result from a society where citizens would only have to follow the laws they chose to?

Updated:

MSNBC recently reported that Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, has delayed implementation of the law, although it is still unclear how long this delay will last.

From msnbc.com and news services:

Supporters of the new law have stated their motivation is not to end abortion, but to protect the health of women, and that the new bill is “designed to protect patients.”

Opponents of the bill claim this is only a “thinly veiled attempt to ban the procedure in Mississippi.”

“In his July 1 ruling to temporarily block the law, Judge Jordan wrote that the plaintiffs, the state’s sole abortion clinic, “have offered evidence — including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers — that the Act’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi. They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage. This evidence has not yet been rebutted.””

Reminder from the LGBT Community: Sharing By Gregory Allen

In recent weeks, efforts have been stagnant passing legislation to recognize gay marriage, prevent bullying of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) students in schools and on college campuses, while derogatory slurs and statements have been used by media figures to slander their opponents, rather than focus on issues that affect more than themselves.
A minority of the American public seems devoutly opposed to sharing equality with those who have different sexual orientations and identities, while the majority of Americans have grown silent and indifferent.
Despite being denied rights that others enjoy free for unfounded and oddly superstitious beliefs; the LGBT community has not deprived society of their talents, and have shared many unique and exceptional accomplishments with the world, proving they are an integral part of society, even if they are not always recognized as such.

 

Many would deny rights to others while still enjoying the literature, musical, artistic, scientific and cultural innovations of gay and bisexual men and women and transgender individuals.
While many examples of social and cultural accomplishments can be described, one such feat has been utilized by many: the computer.
Widely recognized as one of the “fathers” of the computer; British mathematician Alan Turing was persecuted for being gay, and his mistreatment ended only when he committed suicide.
Despite helping pioneer the computer, as well as being a crucial member of “Ultra”, a secret British contingent that helped crack the German Enigma codes and facilitate a speedier end to the Second World War; Alan’s greatest and most memorable trait in the eyes of his peers was his sexual orientation.
Turing was charged and convicted of homosexuality; private homosexuality being a crime in England until 1967. While homosexuality is an imaginary crime – like witchcraft – the punishment he would have received was very real.
Rather than endure punishments he had not earned, prison or chemical castration, Turing committed suicide. His past accomplishments were forgotten by those who judged him, he was denied recognition of who he was; and instead condemned only for what he was.
Turing spent many years of his life fighting for and bettering a society that would never accept him. But this did not impede him from creating and pioneering technology many use today. While his “crime” harmed no one, his brilliance has and will always affect many.
A social reminder is necessary to those who would deny the rights of others; sharing.
LGBT artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and others have developed society and American culture despite equal recognition, in spite of hate crimes, and have defied fierce intolerance to do so. Sadly, anyone identifying or recognizing themselves as anything but heterosexual do so at some risk.
If LGBT individuals are not considered equal to participate openly in society, and are legislated as inferior to their heterosexual counterparts, then their technology, art, their talents and endeavors should not be taken advantage of either.
If you oppose equality for others of different sexual orientations, at least recognize the hypocrisy of using your computer to alienate or persecute others on Twitter or Facebook, simply for bearing a different identity.
There are many choices we can make, and those choices should only affect the consenting individuals who decide to pursue and experience them. One choice: we can choose to give up the gifts the LGBT community has provided.
Or we can choose to start sharing and support equality for everyone; because while many have shown courage in the face of opposition to share their talents and gifts, not all will make this choice, and exceptional gains in all aspects and fields of society will be lost.

Disrespecting Women will not Encourage People to Respect Animals By Gregory Allen

In this, one of PETA’s latest ads, they have chosen to exploit the topic of sexual violence and and abusive relationships to draw attention to an unrelated cause.

Adding humor and sexual appeal to violence shouldn’t appeal to men (or women), and the people it does appeal to don’t care about the rights of other humans, and therefore likely don’t care about animals rights either.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/m0vQOnHW0Kc[/youtube]

Disrespecting women will not encourage people to respect animals. Its hypocritical and insensitive. Find a better way to make people care about the rights of others, including animals. And do it without creating more victims.

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