Seriously, during part of the George W. Bush administration, U.S. Attorneys were ordered to make finding voter fraud a higher priority than any other case they were investigating. And after a lot of time and effort was expended, they came back and told the administration what state officials who run elections have been saying for decades: voter fraud is virtually non-existent. The most common forms of voter fraud, which add up to far less than one percent of the votes cast, are relatives of recently deceased people casting an absentee ballot for the dearly departed. The next most common is a relative who has been appointed a legal guardian of an elderly relative believing (incorrectly) that the power of attorney they have been given over the relative with a diminished capacity gives them the legal right to fill out the relative’s ballot. And the third most common are people who are wealthy enough to own homes in multiple states registering in all of them and voting there under the mistaken notion that because they pay taxes in more than one place, they can vote.
The Republican party of my state several years ago famously spent more than a million dollars tracking down four voters who had voted illegally in the very tight governor’s race that year: all four of the convicted felons who hadn’t had their voting rights restored had voted for the Republican (because the Democratic governor had been the state’s Attorney General before, and the four felons held grudges against her).
A lot of people ask, “What’s so hard about showing your ID?” Which seems like a reasonable question to a person who enjoys a certain amount of privilege. The funny part is, that the people asking this know how hard it can be and you can prove it to them. All you have to do, is ask them whether they look forward to going to the DMV to renew their driver’s license. They will either brag about how wonderful it is now that their state allows people to renew on line, or they will tell you a horror story about being trapped at said office for a long period of time. While it is an inconvenience to someone who is able-bodied, has access to their own transportation, and has a work schedule that allows them to take the time to go stand in line, to anyone who isn’t in that situation, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle.
Most poor people in the U.S. work multiple jobs. They aren’t hanging around on street corners waiting for a welfare check (that’s an even bigger myth). The typical low income family has trouble finding the time to sleep and cook meals for their kids, let alone try to find enough time during one of the days a licensing office is open to go stand in line for hours. That’s if they can even get to the office. The states that have passed strict Voter ID laws also happen to be states that have fewer offices where people can get an ID. And coincidentally, they tend to only have those offices in locations convenient to affluent neighborhoods.
So you have to add many miles of travel (and the time and expense involved) to the difficulties to overcome to get an ID. That’s if the person has their own transportation. And it just so happens that the same states the have strict Voter ID laws also spend the least amount of money on public transit. Yet more barriers.
I think about the hassle my mom went through a few years ago after a move when she was trying to get her license renewed and updated with her new address. I don’t remember how many times she had to go back, but it was several. One time it was because whoever she talked to before she went in didn’t tell her the right documents she would need to prove what her new address was. I don’t remember what the problem was the next time, but then after she finally got it after her third or fourth visit, they mailed it to her and several pieces of information on it were incorrect. So she had to go back to get it corrected, and that took more than one trip.
My mom is retired, so she theoretically had the time, and she can drive herself, and the office wasn’t very far from her apartment, but she’s got a lot of health issues, and some days she just doesn’t have the stamina to sit in a non-ergonomic waiting room chair for who knows how long, right?
And then there’s the matter of the fee to get the ID. The constitution forbids poll taxes but the requirement of having state provided ID for which you are required to pay a fee is essentially a poll tax. And even if you argue that the ID serves other purposes, the fee is yet another barrier for low income and fixed-income people.
So, Voter ID laws effectively take the vote away from low income people, people with disabilities or mobility issues, and people living in certain communities. And the lawmakers who pass the laws are well aware that those populations tend to vote in favor of one party more often than the other. They want to take that vote away.
Fortunately, there is something you can do about it: Donate to and/or Volunteer with Spread The Vote (spreadthevote.org). Spread The Vote helps people get their required ID. They provide volunteers to help people collect the required documents, transportation to the apply for their ID, assistance with fees, and so forth.
If you want to help with the fight at a legislative and legal level, consider donating to Project Vote (projectvote.org). Project Vote is working to improve voter registration processes and remove the barriers to make it difficult for people to get registered and to vote.
Now, the things I misremembered about the series had almost nothing to do with the episodes or the storylines. And I’m at least a little bit curious as to why my brain made the changes in recollection that it did. The gist is: my recollection was that the series premiered shortly before my mom, sister, and I moved out to the west coast following my parents’ divorce (when I was 15 years old), that I initially liked the series but became dissatisfied with it as the seasons went on, and was slightly curious years later when the follow-up series Galactica 1980 was released, but was even more disappointed in how poorly the show had aged.
Which is all very, very wrong. And some of it was wrong in ways that are kind of flabbergasting. The original series premiered the same month as my 18th birthday and a little over a year after the worldwide premiere of the original Star Wars. It was only on the air for one season (24 episodes). And the gap between the ending of the original series and the premiere of the follow up was only 8 months.
Glen A. Larson originally conceived the series in the mid-sixties as a group of about three television movies called Adam’s Ark. It was a synthesis of space opera themes with Mormon theology (Larson having been raised in the Church of the Latter Day Saints). Larson had been unable to sell the idea to anyone. Even when a couple years later Star Trek became briefly a minor hit series. (Star Trek, of course, wouldn’t become a sci fi behemoth until later, after reruns had been running in syndication for several years).
Then, in 1977, the movie Star Wars was a worldwide blockbuster hit, and suddenly every network, movie studio, and anyone else in the entertainment/media/publishing world was looking to cash in on its incredible success. Larson’s pilot script looked very attractive.
They filmed the pilot, ABC bought it, put the series on the air with an incredible budget that wouldn’t be exceeded by any other TV show for many years, and we were off. The show did incredibly well in the ratings for the first month or so, until CBS shifted its schedule to put the very popular All In the Family and Alice up against it, causing Galactica’s ratings to slip a lot. Of course, the series might have slipped anyway. The initial spectacle of billions of people killed in the opening battle (not to mention the show’s willingness to cast more famous actors in roles that died within the first several episodes) really seized the imagination. Whereas a lot of the filler episodes were, well, pretty bad. And some things, like the robotic dog pieced together from parts to replace the real dog (killed in the pilot) that had once , were very cheesy.
And while those special effects were lightyears beyond anything seen on television before, they were very expensive. So the network expected not just good ratings, but unbelievably good ratings.
Still, the show had a lot going for it. It didn’t hurt that I had a big crush on Starbuck, of course. But I also had a different kind of crush on Apollo. It wasn’t until some years later, when I got to rewatch some of the original series after I had actually admitted to myself that I was gay that I realize I had the hots for Starbuck, but Apollo was who I wanted to fall in love with and settle down.
Hatch’s character was different than the typical leading man at the time. Unlike the reboot series, Apollo had a warm relationship of mutual respect with his father, Commander Adama. In the pilot he met and practically adopted Boxy (the young boy whose dog had died) helped reunite the boy with his mother, prompted fell in love with said mother, married her, and even though she is killed shortly after the wedding in a Cylon attack, remains a good father. Heroes had been family men before, of course, but unlike some previous fictional fathers, Hatch made you believe that he loved his stepson.
There was a lot to like about the original Galactica. Cool space battle, for one. The Cylon Centurions were a bit cheesy–their chrome colored bodies were always so shiny and unscuffed, even after tramping through a sandstorm on yet another planet that looked like a Universal blacklot generic Western landscape with inexplicable lights added to make it look spacey(?), for instance. But both individual Cylons and the fleet were appropriately menacing. The show did a good job of making it feel like the stakes were real. And the notion that even after the mass murder of billions of people, a group of survivors would claw hope out of disaster and look for a new home was more than just heartwarming.
The show had some problems, as well. Some of them are typical problems of producing a weekly science fiction television series with 1970s technology and practices. Others were more thematic. The fundamental premise from the beginning was that contemplating disarmament as a step toward peaceful co-existence was the most foolish thing people could do. Given the nuclear stand-off between the U.S. and our NATO allies on one side, and the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies on the other, and the very active policy and treaty debates going on at the time, the show was staking a blatant political position. Related, throughout the original series, the military leaders were shown time and time again to always be right, while civilians (particularly any who advocated non-violent philosophies) were always wrong–and not merely wrong, but naively and disasterously wrong again and again.
Remember that the next time someone claims that sci fi has only become political recently.
While caught up in an individual episode it was easy to ignore those problematic elements. Besides, I loved Commander Adama, he was a hero and a great leader! And his son, Apollo, respected him, and we saw a lot more of Apollo in action on screen and he was clearly a good man, brave, loyal, and so forth. Even the sort-of-rebellious Starbuck respected Adama! Therefore our affection for Adama was not misplaced, right? Except, of course, that the examples of civilians who had a different opinion than the military command tended to be one-dimensional or transparently designed to either be unlikeable or pitiably naive.
So Galactica was hardly nuanced.
I liked it. The idea of fighting on against impossible odds is almost always appealing. People who snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with nothing more than hope, courage, and a bit of cleverness are fun to root for. And Galactica gave us that aplenty.
And you can hardly fault a story for that.
It’s been a really long time since I wrote any book reviews, so I’m going to try to get back in the habit of writing them more often.So, let’s start with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This novel is set in the late 80s and concerned a Mexican-American teenager named Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza. Ari is the youngest child in his family, but there’s a significant age gap between him and the next oldest. The other kids were born before Ari’s dad went off to fight in Vietnam, while Ari was conceived after his father returned. Ari is troubled by at least two family secrets: his older brother was sent to prison when Ari was too young to understand what was going on, and no one in the family will talk about what happened. The other secretive thing bothering Ari is that his father never talks about his experiences in the war, and many other things which Ari thinks might be important.
Ari narrates the book, and frequently describes himself as having no friends, until one summer day when he met Dante Quintana at the city pool. Dante discovers that Ari is hanging around in the shallow end because he doesn’t know how to swim. So Dante undertakes to teach him, and soon Ari and Dante are inseparable.
Even when Dante confesses he is gay, while Ari assures Dante that he is not, their friendship remains strong.
The official summary the publisher slaps on the back cover is: “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship – the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
That summary doesn’t really do the book justice. But I can’t explain much more about the plot without giving things away which I think a reader will enjoy discovering right along with Ari and Dante. Two different events that could have been tragedies happen over the course of the two summers plus that the book describes. Neither comes out of the experiences unscathed. Along the way both young men make important discoveries. And yes, by the time the book is over, they really do discover secrets of the universe.
One of the things I love about the book is that despite Ari feeling that his father is keeping part of himself distant, the relationship between each of the boys and their families is close. Each set of parents express their love and respect for their sons in different ways, but despite the secrets in Ari’s family, the relationships being shown here are not dysfunctional. That’s refreshing in itself.
The story explores lots of themes. Yes, there’s a coming of age through-line, but the novel also deals with identity (particularly intersectional identity: class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation), social expectations (what does it mean to be a man; what does it mean to be a Latino, et cetera), familial expectations, the nature of friendship, the meaning of the many kinds of love, as well as what it means to find answers. The characters feel real, their problems feel real, and nothing in the plot every requires any of the characters to be stupid. Yes, the teen-age characters (not just Dante and Ari) make foolish choices, but they are realistic foolish choices.
Unlike some books (and movies and series) I could name, none of the characters suddenly start acting idiotically so the plot can go a particular way. This kind of storytelling leaves me, at least, rooting for most of the characters—and that is not at all a bad thing!
I’m hardly the first person to notice that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an awesome book. It was awarded a Youth Media Award by the American Library Association, as well as a Pura Belpré Narrative Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, a Michael L. Printz Award for the best writing in teen literature, a Lambda Literary Award, and an Amelia Elizabeth Walden honorable mention. Perhaps the most interesting recommendation I have read of it was a fellow subscriber to a literary mailing list who said that when another award-winning novel had wrenched her heart, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe had restored her soul.
This all may sound like hype, but the novel really is very good. I loved it so much, that after finishing the book, I bought the audiobook (narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda who does an incredible job), and listened to it again. (Spoiler: I cried and laughed at all the same points the second time through as I did the first).
If you want a story that will restore your faith in humanity—and restore your faith that good books are still to be had—you can’t go better than Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
It boggles my mind that someone can claim to be a follower of Jesus while spewing such hate. I mean, seriously, being overjoyed at murder? Looking forward to committing murder with impunity yourself?
What boggles even more is that people who claim to believe in the man who said “love thy neighbor as you love thyself” will follow these hatemongers and proclaim them great faith leaders.
We have people like Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio saying things like ‘The Real Brownshirts Are In The Homosexual Movement’. That’s pretty rich coming from a guy who was removed from one of this jobs at the American Family Association because his anti-semitic and anti-muslim comments raised a bit of an uproar too close to a Republican fundraising event in 2015.
Then there’s Scott Lively Scott Lively: Trump Must Ban Gays From Intelligence Agencies Because They’re Conspiring Against Him. Lively is currently involved in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity (I kid you not), because he gave encouragement and material assistance to get Uganda to pass kill-the-gay laws. And that’s some of the least insane evil stuff he’s been involved in. But he’s the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, so he is, of course, hailed as a Christian leader.I’m not sure what has prompted Manning to turn on Trump again this week. There’s probably a new sermon up on his youtube channel explaining it, but I can’t deal with listening to any more of his hate and craziness. I have to admit that I kind of like the nickname “Tribulation Trump” for Donald. But I’m sure that Manning will flip-flop back to loving Donald again, he just needs to do something hateful enough that Manning recognizes him as a fellow devil, again.
There are even more poorly disguised devils in the news, of course. Yesterday a lot of people, particularly right-leaning news and blogging folks, were being shocked, shocked to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos has argued in favor of adults having sexual relationship with underage teen-agers. He has specifically insisted that this is not only good, but tried to claim that it is normal in the homosexual community. All of which is BS, but really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s not as if he hasn’t said this sort of thing many times before. Nor is it at all inconsistent with his other attitudes.
So let’s unpack that a little. In the past, Milo has espoused a lot of undeniably racist opinions. He has orchestrated harassment campaigns against women, particularly women of color. He has encouraged violence against trans people. He has excused actual calls for genocide from some of his neo-nazi friends. He has advocated so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He has previously made sexual references to teen age boys. But it is only when he has specifically advocated for adult men having sexual relationships with 13-year-old boys that the Republican party, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, his fellow writers & editors at Breitbart, Bill Maher, and Simon & Schuster are objecting? In other words, all of those people and institutions are okay with racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide.
Let me repeat that: the Republican party, conservatives who organize CPAC, Breitbart writers & editors, Bill Maher, and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster don’t just turn a blind eye, they happily endorsed racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide. When people show you who they are you should believe them.
Also, it seems a lot of people are easily fooled by someone who says outrageous things when those outrageous things are attacks on people they dislike.
In other words, there are a lot of public figures and pseudo-celebrities and wannabe pundits out there who are advocating neo-Nazi opinions and neo-Nazi policies, but we aren’t allowed to call them Nazi. Because that’s rude. Or it’s hyperbole. Or something.
Never mind that these proponents of opinions and policies that exactly (sometimes word-for-word) repeat actual neo-Nazi publications and demands Have previously called any woman who objected to their sexist pronouncements “feminazis.” Or that any of us who called out their racist or misogynist or homophobic statements were called “PC-nazis.” And then if we objected to that, they would make arguments about why the word “nazi” isn’t actually an insult. When it’s used back at them, suddenly we’re the ones who have crossed a line.
Some of these guys have demanded apologies, and even gotten retractions from some publications, insisting that just because they have said things like “In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction” or “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” or “some degree of separation between races is necessary for a culture to be preserved” that it is ridiculous to think that means they’re white nationalists or neo-nazis. We’re the bad guys for even suggesting such a thing! They aren’t bad guys for advocating forced deportment or relocation or so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing3”
Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, has called for at least the separation of people by race, ethnicity, and religion. He has also spouted various racist, misogynist, and transphobic beliefs. He has sent hordes of his internet followers to harass women with rape threats and racist attacks. He has said all sorts of awful and false things about trans people and has encouraged his fans to attack and harass them. And not just in general, he has handed out private address and contact information of specific trans people and suggested that someone should teach them some manners.
Yiannopoulos then defends himself by insisting that he’s simply stating an opinion. And besides, he’s gay, so how could he possibly be a bigot? Not only is he gay, but he’s white gay man who only has sex with black men, so he can’t possibly be racist (never might that racial fetishization is deeply entwined with racial hatred). And by the way, he doesn’t endorse all the white nationalist policies of a bunch of his friends (even though he frequently makes some of the same arguments they do), he just thinks they’re interesting people. So it’s wrong to call him a white nationalist or a neo-nazi of a nazi sympathizer.
He’s an editor of a news site which describes itself as the platform of the alt-right. The alt-right is a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer in order to make white supremacy seem more like just another political option4. He argues racial opinions of white nationalist are reasonable–not just that they have the right to hold the racist opinions, but that those statements are fact rather than opinion. He attacks people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, or gender identity. He defends not just the right of the neo-Nazis and white nationalist to hold their opinions, but he actively campaigns to write those opinions into law. One day those same white nationalists who currently enjoy having his support may well turn on him, just as the historical Nazis eventually rounded up their own gay members and executed or imprisoned them. But right now he’s a white nationalist and a nazi-apologist. That’s a fact.
Then there are the people who angrily argue that they aren’t defending neo-nazis or white supremacists just because they are telling people like me to shut up about them. Seriously. “You must let them advocate genocide without calling them on it” isn’t defending them? Of course, the most recent person to send me that message personally also slipped in two bigoted dog whistles5 before I blocked him
Then, of course, there are the free speech arguments. Okay, I’m an advocate for free speech. You have the right to your opinion, and you have the right to express it. But I, as a private citizen, am under no obligation to give you a platform. I am under no obligation to sit quietly and listen. I am certainly under no obligation to sit quietly and listen while you advocate policies that will cost me my job, my home, and my health care. I’m allowed to argue. I’m allowed to boycott. I’m allowed to call you a neo-nazi. I’m allowed to shun and shame people who enable your advocacy of hate.Disagreement is not censorship. Boycotting is not censorship. Shunning is not censorship. Calling you a bigot or similar is not censorship. Calling you an idiot is not censorship. Staging a protest when you come to my community to preach your hate is not censorship. Boycotting businesses that give you a platform to preach your hate is not censorship. Repeating word-for-word things you say (particularly if you go on TV or stand up on a stage to address supporters) is not censorship nor misrepresenting you. Pointing out which of your statements are factually wrong is not censorship. Even going so far as to call you a liar (particularly when it has been documented numerous times that you repeat false information again and again) is not censorship.
Free speech means you can express your opinions if you like. Free speech does not mean that those opinions have to be taken seriously, or treated reverently, or accepted without argument.
To circle back to the original point, if you:
- repeat neo-nazi and white supremacist slogans,
- advocate the same programs of racial, ethnic, religious, misogynist, and/or homophobic discrimination and oppression as neo-nazis and white supremacists,
- attack anyone who disagrees with neo-nazi and white supremacist proposals or hate speech,
- thank the avowed neo-nazis and white surpremacists when they repeat your words and deeds and hold you up as an example on their white supremacist video blogs, news sites, and/or conferences,
- are publicly and unapologetically friends with neo-nazis and white supremacists after they have repeatedly (often in your presence) called for the extermination of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity,
then you are a neo-nazi. And no one should apologize for calling you a bigot, a nazi, a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a nazi sympathizer. Because you are all of those things. And that is a fact.
1. Godwin’s Law was first articulated by author and attorney Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually evoke the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, et cetera. While it is phrased as if it were a law of mathematics, it’s really just an adage based on observation2. As Godwin himself has stated, it was intended as a tool to remind people not to resort to unnecessary hyperbole. He also wanted people to not trivialize the Holocaust. He has pointed out on several occassion that sometimes such comparisons are quite apt.
2. Godwin’s Law gets abused a lot. People have interpreted it to mean that if someone ever makes a comparison to Hitler, naziism, et cetera, that this immediately invalidates all of their arguments. Part of this comes from rules that were established on some Usenet groups in the 1990s by which if a thread reached the Hitler comparison, the thread would be ended. Note that this was a convention that some people chose to adopt. Godwin’s Law is not an actual law nor does it articulate anything that even approaches a logical fallacy.
3. This oxymoronic term is deployed frequently and unironically by actual neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, the president of a literal white supremacist “think tank” among other things. He has also called for non-peaceful ethnic cleansing, for example: “humanity doesn’t need the Black man, and having concluded that, we must decide how efficiently to dispose of them.”
4. There some subjects upon which people can legitimately disagree. Details of tax policy, for instance. But when one side is literally calling for the mass murder of the other side (or mass incarceration, or denial of fundamental human rights), then we are no longer talking about a disagreement.
5. Dog-whistle: coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. For instance, in American politics the phrase “states’ rights” seems to be a mere reference to the Constitutions delineation of some powers and rights belonging the states (and other to the people or to the federal government), but signaled the politician’s commitment to segregation and institutionalized racism. “Real Americans” is frequently used to refer to conservative white Christians. Similarly, calls to “cut entitlements” are understood by the target audience to mean that “undeserving minorities” will be kicked off public assistance (when it fact it means that everyone will lose their benefits in order to funnel more tax money to the uber-rich and corporations).6
6. The dog-whistles in question in this particular exchange made it clear the guy arguing with me was both anti-semitic and homophobic. I thanked him for identifying himself just before blocking him.