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Short thoughts on Drumpf

If you voted for Trump, you should absolutely be ashamed of yourself. Forget the politics for two seconds. Let’s talk about the person. You voted for a man who is personally responsible for a 90% increase in hate crimes against muslims, increased attacks on SIKHS (people who haven’t done ANYTHING except be brown, wear a turban, and allowed ignorant people to confuse us with Muslims), who makes fun of the disabled, who doesn’t believe in women’s health rights OR gender rights, who COMPLEMENTS the worst leader the world has seen since WWII (Putin), who let’s forget if he actually did or didn’t rape women, he sure as hell thinks it’s acceptable and PERPETUATES rape culture and sexual assault, and who has the temperament of a small child but somehow has nuclear codes now. What you’re saying is that your own white privilege is more important to you than the safety and health of ALL of these communities, because he’s actually threatened all these communities. You’re saying that my health and my family’s wellbeing doesn’t matter to you, because along with myself, I’ve never seen so many people absolutely terrified to live in a country they love. And most importantly, you’ve never had your family members physically attacked and bombed because they’re different, so beyond not even understanding the fear your friends face, you clearly don’t have the empathy either. And any rebuttal or excuse you make for him, clearly shows HOW little your understanding is, or worse, you do understand and don’t care. You are absolutely and undeniably shameless.

For the Good of the Party

I’ll get straight to the point: this article is about the U.S. Presidential Primary process, especially in the context of the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic Primary Election that took place on February 9th, 2016. As much as I’m tempted to delve into the actual politics of the event, what I want to discuss here is the role of the electoral system in this context.

There does seem to be a general, if not common, perception that the mechanics of primary presidential elections necessarily reflect the premises of the democratic system of the U.S.; this is mostly true, but it also has a moderate mix of the premises of privatization. Horray for the privatization of the political process! And what’s more: this is all actually quite new! Superdelegates weren’t introduced into the electoral system until after 1968 (Source)

But they really haven’t been too relevant in the political process until the 1984 election in particular (Source), and then

Check out the Twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Source)

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;–The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice…. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President to the United States.

And also, Article II, Section 1:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Parsing the speech is a bit tricky for me, but in terms of relevance to this article, I gathered this:

  1. Number of Delegates for a Given State = Number of Senators (2) + Number of House Representatives (variable by state).
  2. The state legislatures are responsible for their own delegate selection.
  3. The votes of the electors are the ones that are directly counted to determine the president.
  4. The Vice-President is supposed to be elected separately from President (I actually didn’t know this tidbit until researching this article)

So those “Presidential Tickets” with the President and VP bundled up together? That’s purely a construct of the political parties. It would be quite inconvenient for a president to have a VP that might be from the opposing party.

Now, I’ve heard MANY different renditions of how “voting is completely useless because the Electoral College is what decides the president and votes have no control over that”, but a closer look at the way electors are decided on a state-by-state basis reveals that electors are almost entirely beholden to the voters they are supposed to be representing.

The purpose for the Electoral College is clear in historical context: in the late 18th Century, information traveled much more slowly. While the postal service did enable more efficient communication than ever before, it still couldn’t be carried across large distances any faster than a horse’s gallop. The electoral college was designed to consolidate voting results and send them over to wherever the president was to cast their vote on behalf of the people they represent. Electors are pledged to vote for a certain candidate, though ‘Unpledged Electors’ were allowed up until the 1964 election, after which NO state has filed a slate for any unpledged electors, though these delegates were allowed to vote for any candidate they chose on election day, much like superdelegates… but I’ll get to that later.

In the past, there HAVE been ‘Faithless Electors’ who pledged to vote for a certain candidate, only to actually cast a vote for a different candidate. The most recent instance of a faithless elector was in Minnesota in 2004 (Source), and have never had a decisive impact on any presidential election. since the late 19th century.

So that’s the electoral college in a nutshell, and also why some states (like Maine and Nebraska for the first time in 2008) split their electoral votes, while others are all-or-nothing as far as how delegates are allocated for each presidential candidate.

But how does this relate to superdelegates?

Well, one important point that is worth bolding in text: the presidential primary system as we know it in the United States has absolutely zero explicit ties to the Constitutional electoral system. They’re similar and closely related, and the former is specifically designed to feed directly into the latter, but the primaries are not a part of the government; they are purely constructed by political parties.

The Democrats and Republicans have both designed their primary systems very deliberately similar to the Constitutional electoral system. After all, the whole point is for their nominee to head right into the actual presidential election, so the best way to prepare them for that race is to emulate it within their own. The primaries not only enable the party to narrow down exactly who they want running, but also allows them to probe for strategies in the national election; public reactions to primary debate questions can give hints on how a candidate might handle that issue in the general election.

Aside: I think the terminology for “general election” and “primary election” subtly suggests that the two are somehow two phases of the same process. That’s how the pattern has been, and ‘the way things work’ of course, but I want to really emphasize how the “primary election” is not even on the same plane of necessity as the “general election” in terms of how a president is elected.

So the parties have, instead of electors, delegates, which are invariably elected officials (usually from Congress) that are not only members of, but are very closely tied to, the political party. The individual delegates and even their numbers are decided by the parties on a state-by-state basis. Mind you, pretty much everything about this whole process is simply decided by the party, though they tend to prefer methods that don’t stray too far from Constitutional design and also keep them somewhat grounded in their constituencies. According to the Associated Press, the Democrats have 4,763 delegates and the Republicans have 2,472. These numbers (and their relative proportions of superdelegates) changes between elections. Mind you: the primary election is won by winning a majority of the delegates, regardless of how those delegates are distributed.

These superdelegates are unpledged: they don’t have to explicitly pledge to a candidate up until decision day. In fact, the 2008 Democratic Primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama raised quite a  few concerns about superdelegates; the election started with Hillary having more endorsements from superdelegates, but that shifted later in the primary process, presumably to match popular opinion. Indeed, the race was close enough that the superdelegates could have swung it. Ultimately, enough of them voted for Obama to win him the nomination. (Source)(Source)

 

Why the superdelegates? Well, remember, the political parties do their best to resemble the Constitutional system, but they are not a governmental entity. While the courts can act on the legality of their actions in the context of the constitution, political parties are not bound to do exactly what the people say… and doing so has bitten them in the past. The Superdelegates were introduced into the Democratic Primary system after 1968, when (Vice President at the time) Hubert Humphrey was nominated by the Democratic Party… and not by the primary votes. While the primary system was based on the Constitutional election system, it was, in practice, largely ceremonial. The Democratic National Convention, when convening to decide who to officially nominate for the Presidential race, were not bound to select whomever won the primaries… in fact, they didn’t even need to select a nominee from those who ran in the primaries. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey was selected as the Democratic nominee despite not having run in a single primary. The party’s leadership completely disregarded the will of the voters that was expressed in the primaries and selected one their influential leaders. The Democratic voters did not vote for Humphrey in the primaries and frankly felt betrayed by their own party leadership. Consequently, Humphrey was smashed by Nixon in the election, 301 to 191 electoral votes. (Source)

After that, the Democratic Party members decided they needed a way to prevent something like that from happening. The party’s nominees would necessarily need to reflect the desires of their constituency… though not entirely. The party leadership was not about to cede ALL power of nomination to the voters. Enter the Superdelegate.

 

So how are they relevant now? Well, the New Hampshire Democratic Primary on February 9th of 2015 between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (and also technically Martin O’Malley) yielded very interesting results from news sources.

Across the board, Bernie Sanders won the popular vote by a margin of over 20%.
Yet… many news agencies also reported a 15-15 split in delegates between Sanders and Clinton. Why? You guessed it: Superdelegates. They flocked to support Hillary.

This prompted quite a bit of backlash against the Democratic primary system, and in  my mind, understandably so.

Here are some graphics on the state of two candidates shortly after the N.H. primary:

Disclaimer: While I also believe that CNN has a clear bias towards the establishment manifested in very selective reporting, I have yet to see them flat-out lie. They may neglect to show numbers that don’t support their preferred narrative, but I don’t think they’d outright lie about them.

Clinton:

HRC

Source: http://www.cnn.com/election/primaries/candidates/hillary-clinton as of 2/10/2016

 

Sanders:

Bernie
Source: http://www.cnn.com/election/primaries/candidates/bernie-sanders as of 2/10/2016

 

Remember: pledged delegates are committed to the candidate their constituencies vote for immediately once the results are settled. Superdelegates can change their vote all the way up until decision day, so those numbers ARE subject to change, but regardless, the disparity is glaring.

Again, this article isn’t about supporting one candidate over another, but to draw attention to the sharp disparity between democratic ideals and reality. It can be easy to conflate the primary elections with the actual Constitutional electoral process. The parties are in it for themselves, and cater to their constituents at least as much as they need to in order to retain their votes. While they have yet to take any drastic strategic measures with Superdelegates, their effect on the election is palpable.

Expert Advice: If You’re Being a Jerk, Calm Down

Howdy all! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a wonderful year’s beginning! So while we’re in the middle of writing our mini-series, I don’t want you guys to get bored! So the solution?: Our first “Expert Advice” article! Here’s the thing, this article isn’t so much a traditional “Ask Amy” or an “If I Were You” (my preference) type article. More just an excuse to allow me to rant about something I’ve noticed that’s prevalent in society (I haven’t done one of these in a while!).

And I’m going to warn my audience and make a Dan Carlin-esque disclosure: I’m 100% going to offend literally everyone with some part of what I’m about to say. If demand is high enough, I’ll delve deeper into my individual topic opinions, but this article, as opposed to my usual style, is more stream of consciousness and a culmination of my overall personality. It isn’t going to focus on one topic and in fact, is going to jump around quite a bit. But, I think it’s INCREDIBLY important that when you see a fault in society, you point it out, in a kind and gentle way. Because at the end of the day, terrible things are going to happen. We can’t put all instances on the same plane of good and bad. But what matters is the person’s intention. Sometimes in life, I try my absolute hardest to help someone, and in the end, I end up messing everything up so badly that I wish I hadn’t done anything at all. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t trying to mess everything up; I was trying to help. And that’s what matters. And I want to make clear that that is what I’m trying to accomplish with this post. My goal is ultimately to make a more comfortable social atmosphere where ideas and perspectives can be exchanged, rather than starting a fighting match and having a preschool reminiscent argument of “No. MY opinion is better. You suck.” And what’s the point of having a blog if I don’t make use of it? So. You’ve been fairly warned. Enjoy the rest!

It’s become obvious to me that our society is becoming more and more liberal as time has been going on. Disregarding the current political atmosphere (I’m not even going to bother talking about what a cancer Trump is), we see that even the older folks who have been traditionally conservative are being swayed, or just passing away, to make room for the more liberally minded youth. However, this new liberalism is creating an equally disturbing atmosphere of “extreme liberalism” where everyone has to been politically correct all the time, jokes are not acceptable, and anyone who disagrees with your sentiment is a bigoted-fool who deserves ridicule. I’m going to be very clear on my stance: Nothing good has ever come from being on any extreme. I don’t care if you’re Hitler or Gandhi (either Indra or Mohandas), you’re equally bad in my book. The same applies to present day issues, whether it be abortion, video games, sexuality, sex, and yes, even rape. The only category I would argue is excluded from this is genocide or mass-murder. If you’re ok killing multiple people, whether it be ten or a thousand, you deserve to burn in hell. That’s a personality trait that is going to bleed into everything you do.

So, let’s roll back for a second. Did I just say rape? Am I saying rape is ok? Am I some sort of weird rape-apologist or even worse, a rapist? The answer: Hell no. No where close. Here’s what I am saying: Let’s say you have a pediatric neurosurgeon. This guy (or gal) has saved thousands of children’s lives. He’s part of Doctors Without Borders. He was in Zimbabwe saving children (on that note, Mugabe can rot in hell too). Started a non-profit that does pro-bono surgery for children in impoverished nations. Great guy, right? Maybe even deserves a Nobel prize? Here’s the thing: this guy is a serial rapist. Does that mean all the good he’s done in this world is discounted? No. He’s saved thousands of lives and no matter what you say, those children and their families are thankful. But does that mean he’s excused for his actions? Absolutely not. He gets to go to jail. He’s committed an atrocious, inexcusable crime and can rot in jail. Those aren’t contradicting statements. What I’m saying is the person is separate from their work. You can do AMAZING work, and still be the scum of the Earth. Whether you want to admit it or not, Hitler’s programs moved medical science forward by at LEAST a hundred years. Was it ethical or even right? No. But you can’t ignore facts because “You don’t like someone”. Statistically, almost everyone in the world has done something wrong, or something you might disagree with. But if you go with the theory that “If all my heroes are criminals, then I have no heroes”, well then you’re excluding yourself from some amazing life lessons. We don’t need to like every part of a person at all times. We just need to value certain aspects of them. You can love how great of a doctor the neurosurgeon was, love Gandhi’s dedication to his cause, and love Hitler’s charisma, and still hate all of them as people. But if you go against every aspect of everyone you dislike, you will never vicariously learn life lessons, and you won’t grow as a person.

So, at this point, some people might call me a terrible person or a rape apologist. Here’s what I have to say to them: Screw you. You have no idea what my life has been, what the hell I’ve been through, and my experience with domestic violence or sexual assault. And here’s the thing: I don’t owe you an explanation. My knowledge and opinion can not only be verified by me telling you my life story. I have been through my own personal hell, just like everyone else. And let’s say I didn’t have any personal experience – it doesn’t matter. My opinion is my own and I am entitled to it, just the same as everyone else. Can you imagine the trauma an individual has to face every time they have to recount their story, just to TRY and allow you to understand their opinion? Just think about it this way. You get into an argument with someone about the death penalty. You  are adamantly for the death penalty and your opponent is adamantly against it. You both bring up several valid points but at the end of the day, you say “You don’t understand. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve never had to deal with someone who’s life got taken away and you would change your mind if someone you knew was murdered.” Immediately, the other person breaks down crying and runs away. You have no idea why. It turns out, this person’s father was murdered by his best friend back in the 90s, and they saw it happen in front of them. That’s traumatic. And you brought it up completely inconsiderate of their backstory; not intentionally, but how could you have known. And that’s a perfect example of why we have to be sensitive when judging someone else. You might also be having a tough time with the conversation because of your own personal reasons. But if you only attack the other person, you’ll never figure out that you guys have a common experience or ally that you can bond you together and help you fight against the aspect you both wish to fight against. There’s no movement forward without cooperation. Only stagnation. And you might think that’s an incredibly rare situation and when does that happen. Well, right off the bat, I’ve been put into a similar situation multiple times, so don’t discount something just because you think it doesn’t happen. It happens a lot more than you think.

So let’s back up again. How do we fix this? You can’t just pre-monese someone’s life story. The answer: Be kind. Be understanding. Know that just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own reasons and own perspective. And even if they don’t, so what? If someone disagrees with you, you don’t get to say “you HAVE to do this, or else” or “because you feel this way, I’m going to do this to you”. By all means, if it bothers you so much, stop talking to them, unfriend them, don’t talk to them – as close-minded as that is, you’re welcome to your own opinions and actions. People will judge you on your actions. But, there is no way you get to tell other people to not talk to them or unfriend them, without repercussions. That’s abusive and frankly manipulative. Honestly, you’re a shitty person. But guess what? Just cause you’re a shitty person, it doesn’t discount all the good stuff you’ve done. Isn’t it funny how things come full circle?

And on that note, we as a society need to learn how to take a joke. Not everything in life is terrible and needs a fight. Note the person’s intent. And then maybe, we can all have a good laugh together. Honestly, that sounds really nice. Not everything has to be so PC. I think Chris Hardwick and Wil Wheaton described this sentiment best on Hardwick’s podcast “The Nerdist”. In reference to the Bill Cosby scandal, “It’s not like we’re saying ‘Let’s make Cosby jokes a lot!’ It’s in the news a lot and it’s at the forefront of comedians minds…But it comes from ‘You’re trying to make rape funny’. No. It’s the guy. He needs to be taken down. And a comedian can’t go punch in the face, so the only thing a comedian can do is punch him with jokes…we have to keep him down and shamed where he belongs” [1]. And it’s not just comedians who handle things that way. There’s a lot of people out there who have dealt with traumatic issues and express their anxiety or anger through joking. Just the same way that some people handle it through outburst or sporadic crying or even depression in some cases. But everyone handles their issues differently and by trying to stifle that because it doesn’t appeal to you, is factually damaging to another person’s mental state. Because the comedian’s purpose is by no means to attack or hurt anyone’s feelings, except for the person they’re making the joke about (i.e. Cosby, Hitler, etc.). And if the intention is pure, attacking that person is going back to essentially mentally and emotionally abusing this individual for dealing with their demons in their own way.

This ability to separate people from their work is part of what we call “being an adult”. We’re not in high school anymore, people (and if you are, you’re getting an early life lesson). The world isn’t going to get any better by everyone being assholes to each other. Listen to people. Work together. If you’re a Trump supporter, you’re not going to accomplish anything by throwing poor Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, and other minorities out of the rally. If you’re a feminist, shoving your propaganda in someone’s face isn’t going to help your cause. In both cases, you just make people resent you, and not look out for your best interest. I’ll adamantly agree that we need to fight against the normalization of negative behavior like rape/murder/sexism/etc., but a socially violent backlash against every joke, comment or perspective only succeeds in making that entire discussion more hostile for both sides, and no one leaves any happier or the wiser. By belittling someone’s opinion, you have put yourself in a situation where people are actively making a decision to not help you and maybe even stay away from you. And bless you if you have friends, that even though they feel threatened by you, they still stand up to help you out. But frankly, most people aren’t that nice. Which means sooner or later, history will repeat itself and those who take an extreme stance on anything will be marred by history, torn down, and the entire cause, no matter how just, will be tarnished by how you were perceived, and nothing to do with how amazing of a cause you might have.

Hopefully, this article has given you a different perspective to think about. Hopefully, if you’ve attacked people in the past on their opinion, you’ll man up and take a moment to apologize. I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means. I have some apologizing to do too. But, if we don’t all take a step forward together, we stay stagnant or worse, move back. And if this article did the complete opposite, and you hate me for it, that’s fine too. Feel free to unfriend me, hate me, talk shit about me to whoever you want. That’s 100% your right as an individual. But if that spills over into attacking others based on their opinion, just know that you are a toxic person. You are not contributing to society or your cause in any way. Simply making others see your cause with an associated negative light. But again, that’s your right as an individual. And even if you don’t care about the individual because “The cause is more important than any one person,” well that’s fine too. But it benefits you to approach the situation the same way because if you don’t, that associated negative light will eventually spread through not just people who know you, but through the entire cause as a whole, and at the very least, you care about the cause. The best examples of this are the current perception of “3rd-wave feminists” or PETA members, or even churches and religious institutions like the Westboro Baptist Church, that are just overall all seen as “full of crazy people.” You can’t tell me that reputation has helped any one of those organizations.

In essence, as long as you are kind and open-minded to the other individual, we can make progress in a many number of issues. But we will only remain stagnant as a society if we refuse to work together. So to sum it all up: if you’re being a jerk, calm down.

 

Sources:

  1. http://nerdist.com/nerdist-podcast-wil-wheaton-returns-again/” ~48 minute mark.

Untangling Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese State

These days, Muslims everywhere seem to be labelled as terrorists, killing innocent people in the name Allah. Disregarding how false this statement is, Muslims are facing genocide in a very unexpected part of the world – Myanmar.

Myanmar has long been a hotbed of political instability. In the late 1940s, General Aung San led a revolution against British rule. However, right before his dream could be realized, he was assassinated [1]. Afterwards, the military took control of the government, followed by years of targeting the natives of the country and active genocide against many groups of ethnicities.

Enter Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Revolutionary General Aung San. Suu Kyi is seen as the leader of the democratic movement in Myanmar and leader of the NLD or National League for Democracy. However, she has faced incredible adversity in her fight. Suu Kyi married a Britisher and mothered two British-born sons. She then went back to Myanmar to fight for progress in the country. The country’s military led government did not approve her actions and forced her into house arrest for 15 years. During her house arrest, her husband became increasingly ill in England. The government claimed that it would allow her to break her house arrest to visit her dying husband after incredible protests in the country. Suu Kyi claims she knew better though; if she left, she would not ever be allowed back in the country. She chose to stay under house arrest, and never saw her husband again, solidifying her devotion to the cause in the eyes of the people.

In 2010, she was finally released from her house arrest, being praised internationally for her resilience. Her troubles would not stop there, however. Since her release, there have been speculations that she may be reconciling with the current government. However, in June of 2015, the military government made an amendment to the constitution that keeps any candidate who has immediate-foreign born relatives from becoming president – a move many speculate is targeted specifically against Suu Kyi. By July, Suu Kyi and the NLD had decided to stand up to the government and run in the elections, whether Suu Kyi was able to become President or not.

Not everyone is a fan of Suu Kyi’s return to power. Among them, the minority Muslim group, known as the Rohingya, who currently do not have the support of the NLD or the ruling government. The Rohingya are Muslims who have lived in Myanmar for several generations, but are not considered to be citizens of the country. However, the 2015 election is the first time that the 500,000 eligible Rohingya voters (out of 1.3 million) are NOT allowed to vote – a fact that they are understandably not taking well. The government has declared them to be foreigners, thus barring them from entering the polls.

Over countless years, the Rohingya have been persecuted and recklessly murdered by others in the nation, which the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has labelled as “ethnic cleansing” – particularly the 969. The 969, lead by (crazy) monk Ashin Wirathu, who is known as the “Burmese Bin Laden”, are known for their stance against the Rohingya, warning that they are taking over the country. The HRW has been cited saying, “Burmese officials, community leaders and Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population…Included in the death toll were 28 children who were hacked to death, including 13 under age 5.” in a 2013 report [6]. Not all Buddhists agree with the 969, though (thankfully). In fact, the Dalai Lama has openly condemned the actions of the 969 and they are seen as a terrorist organization by many, but at the least, Buddhist extremists. That all being said and done, the government does not openly condemn the 969’s actions, which has caused a lot of strife on an international scale.

If you thought for a moment that the current discriminatory atmosphere was the only thing making this year’s elections difficult, I regret to inform you that’d you’d be completely wrong. There’s several things to take into account when looking at the elections this year. The first is that even if the NLD win’s a majority of the democratic elections held throughout the country, 25% of the parliament is reserved for military personnel. And though the NLD wants to change this law, they’ll have to win a majority of the seats to even have a chance, which could also take years. Furthermore, these elections aren’t for the president, but for the parliamentary seats, who THEN choose the president, something that doesn’t need to be done until March of 2016. Suu Kyi, who is also the favorite to become president, legally can not do so since the constitutional change earlier this year. When Suu Kyi was elected to a position last time in 1990, the government declared that she could not take office until constitutional amendments that were in progress were completed – a process that took 18 years (conveniently). This is not to mention the economic effect this will have on the country (which I’m not even gonna bother to go into… but it’s in a bad place right now) [4]. There’s also the actual population of the state to look at, 70% of which lives in rural areas and use firewood as their main source of energy for cooking. That should tell you a bit about their technological development and outreach as well.

That’s not to say some things haven’t gotten better. In the urban setting, the use of cars has increased by 42% and the number of cell-phone users has increased 15 times. The number of buildings being constructed has also drastically increased. There are 1,400 LESS political prisoners now than there were just 4 years ago. But there’s still incredible social issues taking place. In a country that had a staggering 1,700 political prisoners in 2011, and 140,000 displaced citizens due to violence, we must heed Suu Kyi’s warning [7]. She has consistently warned the U.S. and the world, that we must not only look at their progress, but have a “healthy skepticism” about the reforms taking place.

As confusing as all of this is, and however dim the light of hope seems at the end of the road for all the groups involved, I strongly believe that if we heed Suu Kyi’s words, and keep a level of skepticism whilst trying to move forward, we can truly begin to make a difference in the part of the world. At the very least, the election results, which should come out in a few days, will allow us to speculate about the future a little bit better.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi in present day

Aung San Suu Kyi in present day

Ashin Wirathu on the cover of Time in 2013

Ashin Wirathu on the cover of Time in 2013

Rohingya massacre surrounded by the Buddhists who massacred them

Rohingya massacre surrounded by the Buddhists who massacred them

Sources:

1. http://time.com/4103734/burma-myanmar-shan-ethnic-groups-elections-nld-aung-san-suu-kyi/
2. http://time.com/4103972/burma-myanmar-election-day/
3. http://www.wsj.com/articles/myanmar-goes-to-the-polls-1446972211
4. http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2015/09/08/5-things-to-know-about-myanmars-election/?mod=e2tw
5. http://time.com/4104035/burma-myanmar-nld-aung-san-suu-kyi-election/
6. http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/2/myanmars-buddhist-terrorism-problem.html
7. http://graphics.wsj.com/myanmar-election/?mod=e2tw#changed

Terrorism Revisted

Hello all. Look at what a good job I’m doing already! Two posts in two days!

Anyways, with it being September 11th today, I thought it would be an excellent time to revisit the progress our nation should have made in the last 14 years. Despite over a decade having passed, ignorance and intolerance are at an all time high and it seems not all that much progress has been made.

A little bit of backstory, a couple of days ago, a Sikh man was attacked and brutally beaten in Chicago. You can find the article here [1].

Now there’s a lot of things I want to say about this topic, because I feel incredibly passionate about it. I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a member of the Sikh community, and since the September 11th attacks, our community has faced a number of assaults, bigotry and hate-crimes. Our temples or Gurdwaras have been vandalized, our people beaten, and discrimination has been abundant. Personally, I feel a large part of this is ignorance on the part of the American community. Many Americans felt angry after the attacks and wished to target Muslims and take out their anger on them. Though this act in itself is the exact opposite reaction the bigotted American community should have had, the end result was that most of the anger got taken out on Sikhs. Why? Because we wear turbans or paags, and many Americans seem to think this is somehow a Muslim trait (for the record, Muslims don’t wear turbans as a religious ornament, despite common misconception). I’ll save for another post why the Sikh community has these traditions and their purpose, but for now, what I want to say is that the discrimination ANY person faces because of their perceived faith or religion is absolutely unacceptable.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. And one of these podcasts has been “Waking Up” by Sam Harris. I would absolutely recommend this podcast and you can find it here [2]. Sam has a lot of strong opinions on meditation, politics, philosophy, but mainly, Islam. Now as much as I love him, I disagree with a lot of his attitudes about the Muslim community. And Sam (an incredibly educated man) is perpetuating this hatred towards Islam and Asian cultures. Now, in Sam’s defense, he actually has a very well-educated and thought out opinion on the matter, but the problem is that it takes an open-minded and intelligent person to really understand his combination of politics and philosophy, which leads to a lot of people saying “Sam Harris is great! He hates Muslims! Let’s kill them all!” which is not the point he is making at all. And when we really take the time to look at tolerance towards minorities, discrimination against Asian communities has gotten so much worse in the last 14 years. Granted a part of this may be due to the worsening conditions of the nation as a whole, but when you have what must be described as hate crimes and domestic terrorism taking place on a regular basis, to the point that President Obama has had to address more national tragedies than any other president, we really need to take a hard look at ourselves.

The United States is inspiring a culture of close-minded, racist bigots, despite mountainous efforts against these groups. In no other country would it be acceptable for a potential presidential candidate to say something akin to “send all the ______ back to where they came from,” with the most recent injuries coming from Presidential candidates Donald Trump in regards to Mexicans and Jeb Bush with Asians. If any other Presidential hopeful in another nation stated that, the US would immediately jump on the “That’s racist. Are we going down a genocide path?” and ardently be against said candidate the entire time. However, it’s fine in the US because “we’re the best nation on Earth”? These double standards are exactly what’s creating an increasingly unsafe environment, with more and more US citizens looking away from domestic terrorism because “terrorism isn’t an internal issue”.

I started off this article wanting to talk about Sikh rights and the issues we face as a community, but really, this issue extends to all non-male, non-white individuals. I’m not going to go through the countless examples of hate taking place in our nation. If you haven’t noticed, that’s a completely different issue. However, I would recommend you simply Google any minority group and articles will pop up with numerous accounts of beatings and discrimination. It’s 2015, and we JUST had the first Sikh policeman be allowed to display his faith openly in the US [3]; we JUST legalized gay marriages [4], though by NO means does that means we’ve legalized LGBT rights; we JUST had the first FEMALE coach in the NFL [5]. We’ve still never had a female president. Honestly, if we’re so proud of ourselves as a nation, shouldn’t we be “beating” countries like India and Pakistan and even Liberia in terms of social equality? We, as an AMERICAN community, need to come together as a nation, and make it unacceptable for hate-crimes and domestic terrorism to take place against ANY group of people. Otherwise, we really are living in a terrorist state.

Sources:

  1. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/crime/ct-police-investigate-after-sikh-man-called-terrorist-beaten-in-darien-20150910-story.html
  2. samharris.org/podcast
  3. http://saldef.org/news/riverside-police-department-uniform-policy/#.VfPWMv2FPYo
  4. http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-ruling/
  5. http://onlyagame.wbur.org/2015/08/22/jen-welter-arizona-cardinals-nfl

Bigotry – Alive and Well

Hi guys! I know this is my first post in a while but something really pissed me off today, and I’m going to rant about it. If you know me at all, I’ve been told numerous times that my rants are very “interesting”, which is perfect because it matches my name so well (Ruchi means “interesting”). So strap your seat belts cause this is going to be a ride.

I’m all in favor of progression, much like most people. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of harping on the negative because I feel it’s usually biased and only serves to bring people down. That being said – What the HELL is wrong with this country?? Today was a very progressive day in my book. Although not a happy one (49ers got owned by the Seahawks), a proud AMERICAN-Indian woman won Miss America. As a woman of Indian descent myself, this news put a smile on my face. I went to Facebook to have my joy supported (that was my first mistake), only to find rants from “Americans” about an “Arab” and a “terrorist” winning. Complaining that she wasn’t an American, and that the country is failing because we didn’t let Miss Kansas, an “All American-woman” win instead. Here are just a few examples:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/adambritten/8-people-who-dont-realize-that-miss-america-is-in-alfr

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman?bffb

To those people, I have some words for you. First of all, I’m not sure if you are in fact aware, but Miss America IS in fact just that – American. She was born in the States and represents New York. She wouldn’t BE in the competition if she wasn’t. This logic applies to all you people who think that Obama can’t be president because he isn’t American. He would not be able to legally run in the election in the FIRST place if he wasn’t. If someone’s running, you can guarantee that they’re American, so stop trying to push off your pettiness and anger that YOUR contestant pick didn’t win by using a faulty argument.

Second of all, if you’re going to have the gall to peg someone for not being American, at least get what they ARE correct. Miss Nina Davuluri’s descent is Indian and she is a Hindu. She’s not an “Arab” (the correct term is Arabian for the record, so at least get that right too), she’s not Indonesian, she’s not Muslim and she most CERTAINLY is not a terrorist. Its bigots like the wonderful aforementioned examples here that perpetuate the absolute WRONG ideal that 1. Muslims are terrorists and 2. All brown people are Muslims. I’m not even going to focus on #2 because of how OBVIOUSLY wrong that is (not that #1 isn’t just as dumb, but people don’t seem to catch that so much), but let’s keep in mind that most Muslims are AGAINST terrorism. In fact, every single Muslim I know, love or have even met is blatantly against any terrorism and condemns the actions of terrorist networks. What’s worse is that they are being grouped into a category with people they hate. It’s like saying the KKK and African-Americans are the same because they’re both from the South. That doesn’t even MAKE any sense, so why is it ok to say that terrorists and Muslims are the same? The British consider the IRA terrorists so they must also be Muslim! …oh wait…they’re Catholics and Protestants and Christians. Hm…what about all those Mafias that governments consider terrorists! …dang it, they’re Christians as well…. So if we look at this correctly, aren’t the MAJORITY of terrorists in the world actually Christian? Well hell! I better start discriminating against all the Christians I know because they MUST be terrorists! …I say to a MAJORITY to America! So I guess if Muslims are terrorists and Christians are terrorists….80% of the world is filled with terrorists? Well that’s just wonderful….

I’d also like to point out on a side note that people hating on Muslims doesn’t JUST affect Muslims. Unfortunately, this bigotry has affected the Sikh community heavily as well. Not only have we had several of our Gurudwaras (Sikh temples for those of you who don’t know) been attacked and blown up and disgraced with graffiti and the like, but members of our community are also facing harassment because we’re being mistaken for Muslims. First of all, Muslims don’t wear turbans. Sikhs do. That should actually be your first identifying factor. Secondly, what kind of world do we live in where my people should FEAR being associated with another group, who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters? Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Native Americans – it shouldn’t matter what you are, you should NOT have to fear being persecuted or harassed!

Which brings me to point number 3. A lot of these twitter idiots claimed that Miss Davuluri isn’t American so she shouldn’t be able to win. Are you telling me that because she is a minority, she is no longer an American? I’m not sure if these tweeters are aware, but America is FOUNDED on minorities and immigrants. The ONLY people who can technically claim that they aren’t descended from immigrants is Native Americans, and even they technically descend from tribes that migrated from Northern Russia. Furthermore, America is known as the melting pot of the world. We have the greatest number of ethnicities gathering in one place in the whole world. We should be the most TOLERANT of people, not the least. The fact that it’s even taken this long to crown an Indian should be a sad thing. But it’s a step forward. It’s progress. It’s not a step back to be crowing someone who isn’t a white, Southern belle. It’s not a step back to be unbiased. It’s not unfair to create opportunity to those who aren’t in the “majority”. It’s progress. And anyone who doesn’t see that is clearly delusional.

And this doesn’t apply just to Americans by the way. For all you Europeans or Canadians or Asians who say “look how uncultured and idiotic Americans are” or who are just grouping ANYONE into categories, not all people are created the same. I’m a proud American. I’m proud of my Indian heritage. And if I was uncultured or a terrorist, I wouldn’t be writing this article.

Death of a Lawyer

Firstly, yes, the title is a play off of the play “Death of a Salesman.”

Secondly, it’s been quite some time since i wrote a politically related story. To be honest, i don’t think i would have heard of this story, if my mother hadn’t heard it on NPR today. Basically, this story illustrates the simple corruption, not only in Guatemala, and South America in general, but just how twisted the human mind really is.

To start off here are some links:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1898360,00.html
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/04/110404fa_fact_grann
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/03/rodrigo-rosenberg-murder-video.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/guatemala/7860474/Guatemalan-brothers-surrender-over-murder-of-lawyer.html

Ok, now that you’ve either read/watched the links, or decided to completely ignore them, i’ll first tell you guys the background. Guatemala is a notoriously corrupt country. A while back, a man name Musa and his daughter Marjorie were both shot dead at a stop light. A man had come up to their car as though he was going to ask for directions, but instead shot Musa 6 times in the chest. One of the bullets, however, missed and his daughter instead, killing her instantly. Musa’s lawyer, Rosenberg, was also deeply in love with Marjorie. After her death, he went on a quest to find out who it was that murdered him. Fearing for his own death, Rosenberg gave one of his close friends a tape, telling him that if he died, he was to immediately make copies and to distribute them. Only a few days later, Rosenberg was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting while riding his bike. At his funeral, when the tape was played, Rosenberg blamed the President, his wife, and other high level government officials of the country for assassinating him. He claimed that they had threatened him on several occasions for inquiring on the death of Musa. The president denied all allegations and claimed it was a ploy to kick him out of office by the opposing party. Within days, the country was on the verge of collapse (not that it hadn’t been before). An impartial UN official decided to investigate the situation. The results were startling. Rosenberg had been investigating his lover’s death, but unable to find out what had really happened, he decided to use his lover’s death to bring down the current Guatemalan regime! He told his driver to get 2 cellphones, but to make sure not to sign any papers and to pay only in cash. He then gave himself one of the phones, and used it to make the threatening calls to himself, and then gave the second to the hitman he was to hire. He then called his cousins, and told them that he was being blackmailed and needed a hitman. He then hired the hitman to kill himself [Rosenberg], and made a video telling everyone that he was being targeted by the President and other associates. He was then killed by the hitman, and the government was on the verge of toppling after the blame was placed on them. After a bit more investigating, the UN investigator discovered that Musa was actually involved in some very shady dealings, and that the Mafia had in fact killed him.

To me, this whole story is so messed up. Forget the shady dealings, or the lies and deceit. Simply the fact that a man is willing to HIRE someone to murder HIMSELF to blame a COMPLETELY innocent person is a disgusting and….perverted mind indeed. Hopefully, there aren’t too many other people in this world like this. The worst part though? The UN official said that NONE of this would have been discovered if 1. Rosenberg and Musa weren’t from oligarchical families 2. The driver didn’t sign any papers, but he did later sign a tax form, which was the ONLY mistake in the entire plan.

At any rate, i hope you guys enjoyed this twisted story! I’ll try to bring out some more interesting articles in the future! In the mean time, if you guys have any suggestions or genres, LET ME KNOW! THANKS~ 😀

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