Peter S Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn,” is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help. (UPDATED)

Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle, the author of three novels that were foundational for me (The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place and The Folk of the Air), and many other novels and stories, is having financial trouble – trouble severe enough so that, according to his friend Adrienne Leigh, it’s currently difficult for him to buy groceries. (See update below!)

Here are three two ways you can help.

SHORT-TERM: Give a birthday gift directly to Peter Beagle via his paypal. If you’re known to me, contact me directly for Beagle’s email address (you can email me, or just leave a message in the comments asking me to email you; if you do that, make sure you comment using your real email address!); or you can go to Adrienne Leigh on Twitter and DM her for the email address.

These birthday gifts can be used by Peter Beagle for his household’s immediate day to day needs. (And yes, his birthday is this week!) Please say “happy birthday!” in the Paypal message area.

LONG-TERM:
Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.

BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!
Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.

To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.

UPDATE

Update #1: There was a glitch on the 23rd with donating to the legal fund, but it’s been fixed – so if people got a “not accepting funds” method yesterday, they should absolutely try again!

Update #2, quoting from Peter Beagle’s friend Adrienne:

It has been SUPER helpful! We apparently got a TON of money in to him as birthday gifts already – to the point where getting more into there rather than the legal fund would be counterproductive.

He’s got plenty now to meet immediate needs for him and his partner and also to get himself something nice as a birthday present. :) But [his ongoing legal situation] does have, obviously, ongoing expenses, and getting money into that legal fund means less of the income Peter has gets diverted into that.

He called me yesterday and he was absolutely *overcome* by the outpouring of support and birthday wishes, and he’s incredibly grateful not just to people who’ve donated but the people who have him in their thoughts.

He’s a very humble man, he really is, and on some level he *never* expects the kind of love and respect people have for him.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments  

New Comic Strip: “If It Looks Like A Duck”

duck-comic-teaser-imageI have a new comic up at The Nib today! This is a very unusual comic strip for me – it’s autobio, a genre I almost never do. It’s about what happened to me when I took a job playing a female duck.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc, Homophobic zaniness/more LGBTQ issues, Men and masculinity | 8 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Spiders Will Eat Us All Edition

two-countries

  1. LSE Business Review – Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man
    “Quotas aren’t anathema to meritocracy: they increase competence levels by displacing mediocre men.”
  2. White Women Are Less Likely to Protect Black Women From Sexual Assault, Study Finds | Teen Vogue
  3. Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk – ProPublica
  4. Women Supreme Court Justices Are Interrupted More Often During Oral Arguments, Despite Talking Less
    Gender is far more influential a factor than seniority.
  5. Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year – The Washington Post
  6. Opioid Deaths Plummeting in States with Legal Weed
    Jeff Sessions, of course, doesn’t give a shit. The willingness to have more people die in order to preserve the moral purity of one’s anti-drug stance is, to me, perhaps the most bewildering conservative position. (Think also of the needle exchange issue.)
  7. Toxic masculinity is bad for the Jews
    “It’s not an accident that the JDL is trying for a comeback in the US now. Fascism, white nationalism, Trumpism, are ascendent, and so is antisemitism.”
  8. Complaint Alleges Immigration Detention Center Sexual Assaults Are Ignored | Teen Vogue
  9. KY law would allow student groups to discriminate against LGBT people | TheHill
    This is what “religious freedom” means to the Christian right – the right of a (taxpayer-funded) Frisbee Club student club to exclude queers. (In theory the law is limited to “religious or political” student groups. Sincere thanks to Michael for the correction.)
  10. Election 2016: Did New Voting Laws Tip the Balance?
    The answer: No, it didn’t, according to this study. In fact, voter suppression laws may have hurt Trump more, because – in a reverse of what typically happens – in 2016 Republicans had more first-time voters, who are more likely to be deterred; and perhaps also because Democrats mitigated voter suppression laws through get out the vote efforts.
  11. Few Democratic voters back Syria bombings. So why do so many Democrats in Congress? – Vox
  12. The Debate Link: What We Now Know About Sex Discrimination
    “In a landmark decision, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that discrimination on basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
  13. My Third April Fools’ Confession | Thing of Things“In Patria, it is generally agreed upon that every man a woman has sex with the month before she conceives a child is that child’s father. … Most children have five to ten fathers. Of course, few women have five to ten lovers at any given time; it is usual, when a woman decides to try to conceive, for her to choose a small number of beloved friends to have sex with once or twice.”
  14. Doctor Who’s Bill Potts to be show’s first openly gay companion | Television & radio | The Guardian
    Captain Jack was openly bi, I thought? Although he was more of an occasional guest star than a companion.
  15. GOP lawmaker: The Bible says ‘if a man will not work, he shall not eat’ – The Washington Post
    This was said to justify cutting SNAP (aka food stamps).
  16. Economic growth in the US: A tale of two countries | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal
  17. FBI Arrests Hacker Who Hacked No One – The Daily Beast
    He wrote software that hackers (and also, legit users) have used.
  18. Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women from Power – The New Yorker
  19. The American economy isn’t actually becoming more concentrated – Vox
    In short: In the past, a lot of people moved to areas where economic growth was concentrated, and this was good. Today, economic growth is concentrated in coastal cities like San Francisco; but people don’t move there, because the rent is too damn high, because we have too many single-family houses and not enough apartment buildings.
  20. If I Ran The Zoo: 16 recommendations for Fixing Obamacare
  21. Kansas’ Governor Brownback Stops 150,000 Poor People From Getting Health Care
  22. No, Diversity Didn’t Kill Marvel’s Comic Sales – CBR
    But it’s frightening to see how much their sales have collapsed – including in their best-selling comics about white men. If they don’t find a way to stop that trend it’s hard to see how they stay in business as a comics publisher.
  23. No, millennial men don’t want to keep women in the kitchen.
    How bad statistics leads to a clickbaity headline about sexist millennials.
  24. Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ movie reveals a weakness in a key argument for diversity – The Washington Post
    I think a more compelling argument for diverse creators is, we’re leaving talent lying on the table. (See link #1).
  25. The Death of the White Working Class Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
  26. And also: Is white mortality rising? Not really.
  27. Why It’s Time to Legalize Prostitution – The Daily Beast
  28. New poll shows what Americans really think about taxes: the rich should pay more – Vox
  29. Even among lower-income Republicans. But the poll could have asked more nuanced questions, imo.
  30. Settling the birth-order debate once and for all – The Globe and Mail
    Birth order has no effect on personality, according to the largest study yet done. First born children are smarter on average – but only by a single IQ point.
  31. Speaking of legalizing prostitution, I had an argument about that over at A Moment of Cerebus, which took place first on this thread, and then on this thread.
  32. Lies, damned lies and sex work statistics – The Washington Post
  33. Students Blockade Athenaeum to Protest Conservative Speaker
    Not only is this behavior wrong morally (because censorship), the speaker – Heather MacDonald – will only have her profile raised by this. I would be surprised if she doesn’t get more bookings because of the publicity this brought her.
  34. I’m kinda in love with this cover of We Will Rock You by Max Raabe.
  35. The voting rights issue no one talks about: Ending the disenfranchisement of felons will strengthen democracy – Salon.com
    This is an issue that swings some congressional elections.
  36. Nation’s largest Jewish denomination encourages congregations to protect undocumented immigrants
    Although the way ICE been acting lately, I’m not sure they wouldn’t enter a synagogue to arrest someone.
  37. Creationist ‘teach the controversy’ bill presented in Iowa Legislature
    The bill also requires schools that teach students about climate change to also teach them climate denialism. This is what conservatism stands for – anti-science, pro-lying to students.

bumper-stickers

Posted in Link farms | 50 Comments  

Cartoon: On The Creation of the Electoral College

electoral-college-1200

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon! Even a pledge of $1 means a lot to me!

This cartoon was largely inspired by reading “The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College ,” by historian Paul Finkelman .  Here’s a quote from Finkelman’s paper:

The  most  influential  delegate,  Madison  argued  that   “the  people  at  large”  were  “the  fittest”  to  choose  the   president.    But  “one  difficulty  .  .  .  of  a  serious  nature”   made  election  by  the  people impossible.  Madison noted that the  “right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the  Southern States; and the  latter  could  have  no  influence  in  the   election  on  the  score  of  the Negroes.” In   order   to   guarantee    that   the   nonvoting   slaves   could   nevertheless  influence  the   presidential  election,  Madison  favored  the  creation  of  the   electoral  college.

Hugh  Williamson  of  North  Carolina was more open about the reasons  for southern opposition to  a  popular  election  of  the  president.     He  noted  that  under  a  direct election of the president, Virginia  would not be able to elect her leaders president because “[h]er slaves  will have no suffrage.” The same of course would be true for the rest of  the South.

None of the records we have indicate that the framers even discussed protecting the interests of small states when electing the President. As far as anyone can tell, that wasn’t a consideration.

Drawingwise, the fun part of this cartoon was drawing Madison’s outfit, which is  pretty much one of the outfits worn in the musical Hamilton.  At least to my eyes, Madison really did have a sharp pointy nose, although of course I’ve exaggerated it by a thousand. I could have drawn several delegates to be Madison’s straight man here, but I chose Rutledge because I wanted to draw his huge puff hairdo.

Thanks, as always, to my patrons; this is a slightly bizarre subject for a political cartoonist to take. The support I get from you folks is what allows me to take my own path, and I really appreciate it.

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

Panel 1
This panel has a big caption labeling the scene “1787.” Two white men in Colonial-style clothing are speaking; one of them, who is labeled “James Madison,” is smiling and holding up a sheet of paper. The other man, listening, is labeled “John Rutledge.”
MADISON: I’ve figured out how we will elect Presidents!
RUTLEDGE: What’s the plan, Mr. Madison?

Panel 2
Madison presses a hand to his chest, looking reverent. Rutledge cheerfully offers his idea.
MADISON: My Virginia is the largest state in the Union! And I want to protect Virginia’s interests.
RUTLEDGE: So we’ll have people vote directly for the president, to take advantage of Virginia’s large population?

Panel 3
Closer shot of Madison, who is angrily shooting Rutledge’s idea down.
MADISON: Are you on crack? 40% of Virginia is slaves. Salves can’t vote. Direct democracy would be a disaster for us!

Panel 4
A shot of Madison, spreading his arms and smiling as he explains.
MADISON: In my plan, we’ll have “electors” who vote based on the total population, including slaves! That’ll make Virginia the biggest, most powerful state!

Panel 5
Madison is still grinning, but his expression looks a bit evil now. He’s clutching one fist in the air.
MADISON: In fact, all the slave-owning states will get a boost! Which we’ll use to protect slavery! I call it “The Electoral College.”

Panel 6
A large caption says “TODAY.” The image shows a hand holding a smart phone; on the smart phone’s screen, a pundit-type white lady is talking directly to the camera.
PUNDIT: …and then James Madison created the Electoral College to protect small states!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics | 1 Comment  

Feminism Test – What Kinds of Feminist Are We?

So I took this what-type-of-feminist-are-you test that someone created. It’s 42 questions, but only took me a few minutes.

feminism-test

Is this a meaningful result? I’m skeptical. I did expect to be pegged as a liberal feminist, but the test said I’m just as much Marxist as liberal, which seems odd but not impossible. I was even more surprised that I scored as high as I did for radical and cultural feminism, since I think of myself as somewhat opposed to both.

Still, it’s fun to take tests. If you take it, please post your scores in the comments, and also how you expected to be classified before taking the test.

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc | 18 Comments  

The Ethics of Bearing Witness in Poetry to Violence and Trauma

The issues raised when one chooses to make literary art out of trauma are complex and, as have issues surrounding trauma in general, they have been getting more and more attention. Over at the Ploughshares blog, for example, Tracy Strauss has a series well worth reading called Writing Trauma: Notes of Transcendence. On October 15th, at the Western Maryland Independent Literary Conference in Frostburg, MD, I had a chance to offer some remarks on the topic as part of a panel called “After Violence: The Poetics of Trauma and Resistance.” I’d like to share them with you here. (I also urge you to check out the three wonderful poets who were on the panel with me, Margot Taft Sever, Ellen Kombiyil, and Susana H. Case.)

Thirty or so years ago, when I was a graduate student at Syracuse University, a common topic of discussion among poets was what it meant to write “political poetry.” Hayden Carruth, one of my teachers, using the word relevant instead of political, wrote in an essay that “poets are failing more and more in the substance of their work. I mean they do not write relevant poems….I’ve ‘taught’ three poetry workshops [since becoming a professor late in my life and] not one student has turned in a poem that deals either directly or indirectly with the impending end of the world…in nuclear war.” (“A Few Thought Following Professor Clausen’s Essay,” in Effluences from the Sacred Cave, pg. 154)

Carruth’s assertion that poets ought to be writing “relevant” poetry, and his implication that we are responsible and accountable when we don’t, resonated with me. Not two years earlier, at Stony Brook University, in the very first poetry workshop I ever took, June Jordan had said much the same thing, though in very different terms. “You write,” she once told me in her office, “because you have something to say, and you write poetry because you want the person you’re saying it to to be changed by what they hear. The change might be big or small, something of which they are conscious or completely unaware, but if that change isn’t what you’re after, why bother turning what you want to say into a poem? You could summarize it for them much more easily.”

The thing that I have to say, that motivates me to write “relevant poetry,” emerges from my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual violence and how being a survivor has shaped the way I choose to live in the world. To put it in different terms, my poems explore what that experience feels like, and here’s the paradox: While sexual violence is anything but beautiful, a poem is, by definition, a beautiful thing made of words. To make a poem that somehow contains sexual violence, then, will inevitably be to falsify, or at least misrepresent, not only the violence itself, but also the victim’s experience of it, by turning it into something it is not: beautiful.

When I say beautiful, of course, I am not talking about loveliness, the simple, straightforward beauty of surfaces, but rather about the beauty that puts us in touch with the full depth of what it means to be human, that does not force us to choose between loveliness and ugliness, or between the impulses towards compassion and dehumanization, but allows us to experience them as they always already exist within us, and in the world around us.

That state of simultaneity is, in large measure, where the misrepresentation I am talking about lies, because there is nothing simultaneous about being violated, or about the shame that follows it, or about the fact of survival, or about not surviving.

To write what Carruth called relevant poems, then—whatever the subject of relevance may be—is to take responsibility for this misrepresentation, and to hold ourselves accountable to our readers for the fact that we do it. It’s what makes writing that kind of poetry the difficult and necessary undertaking that it is.

I’m going to read a poem of mine that I think illustrates what I’m talking about here. It’s called “Because I Can’t Not Know What He Saw” (published, in an earlier version, as “The Rape of Nanking” in Unlikely Stories Mark V). The subtitle refers to the fact that one detail in the poem, the sword in particular, diverges from what the actual photograph depicts, though I did not realize I had misremembered the image until I went back to check the page on which the image appears. I chose not to “correct” the poem because, at least for those who might choose to see the picture for themselves, I wanted the act of misremembering to be part of what the poem is about.

Because I Can’t Not Know What He Saw

—remembering a photograph from Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking

This month, Harper’s “Readings” brings
from the people of Boro in eastern India
a list of verbs impossible in English:
khonsay, to pick an object up with care;
dasa, not to place a fishing instrument;
asusu, to feel unknown in a new place.
Some sound like Yiddish curses:
“You should ur,” dig soil like a swine,
or “May your children gobray,”
fall in a well unknowingly.

I want that kind of verb
for the way whoever-it-was
pulled the woman’s robe
up over her head,

for how the men
the man who did this to her
forced to watch—brother,
father, husband, son,
neighbor—for how each of them
invades my sleep;

and for the way I felt
when I first saw it,
what I feel now
remembering it,
the way I kept taking Iris Chang’s
The Rape of Nanking off the shelf
and crouching in the corner
of Borders’ lower level
to stare, and to stare—
for that too I want a verb;

and I want a verb as well,
and it’s not rape,
though certainly he raped her,
for the sword hilt rising
from between her parted thighs,
and for the way I hate myself
for hoping she was already dead
when he buried his blade in her.

Cross-posted

Posted in Writing | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: What Bathroom Bills Do

bathroom-bill-2

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Another week, another cartoon!

This is something I’ve seen trans friends and advocates point out – that access to public bathrooms is, to a great extent, a prerequisite for access to public life. And this is in contrast to bathroom bill advocates, who tend to take a “what’s the big deal?” approach to this.

Writing this paragraph now, I just remembered that the movie “Hidden Figures” (which I loved, you should see it if you haven’t already!) makes this point very well. Bathroom access is required to be able to do something as simple as being effective at a job.

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
Panel 1
Three people stand talking. They’re on a sidewalk with a field behind them. A man with black hair and a mustache is speaking cheerfully; the other two, a man with a beard and a woman with glasses, look skeptical.
MUSTACHE MAN: Stop acting like “bathroom bills” are a big deal! It’s only the public restrooms! When do you need to use those?

Panel 2
A closer shot of beard boy and glasses girl, as they explain. They’re not yelling, but they are intent.
BEARD BOY: You mean, apart from work, school, college, airports, train stations, bus stations, rest stops….
GLASSES GIRL: Movies, plays, concerts, museums, ball games, public meetings, courtrooms, stores, malls, the DMV, Congress, jury duty… And a million other things! You mean apart from all THAT?

Panel 3
Mustache man confidently blathers on; glasses girl and beard boy yell back in unison.
MUSTACHE MAN: Right! So it’s not like we’re trying to completely ostracize you from society.
GLASSES GIRL AND BEARD BOY IN UNISON: IT’S EXACTLY LIKE THAT!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 48 Comments  

The Pleasure and Pain of Starting Over

One of the things I decided to do when I signed with Guernica Editions to publish my second full-length book of poetry was totally revamp my website, not just its look, but its organization and content as well. I’ve been blogging on WordPress since 2004, when my first book of translations was published, but my “online face,” as it were, has always been the face of the blog. Whatever I’ve accomplished as a writer—the books and other work I’ve published, the interviews I’ve given, news coverage I’ve gotten—all of that and more was pretty much hidden behind the far-more-complex-than-necessary network of menus and links that had evolved over the years. I wanted to take the opportunity this new book would offer me to create a website where it would be much easier for people to find out who I am and what I’ve done as a writer, not just as a blogger—and that would also allow me to keep the website up to date in a more organized and efficient way than I’ve been able to do in the past.

Making this happen was not a simple process, as it required me to gather and organize everything I’ve done dating back to 1989, when I published my first article in the-unfortunately-long-defunct Changing Men. Then, because I didn’t have the money to pay a web designer to redo my website for me, I needed to find a WordPress theme that was not only easy on the eyes, but also powerful and flexible and easy enough to learn that I could manage it all by myself.1 Finally, I needed to figure out how to structure the site to accomplish what I wanted, and then I had to take the time build it.

I relaunched the website some weeks ago, and I am very happy with the results, even the fact that I screwed up entirely the process of transferring my blog posts from the old site to the new one. That might seem an odd thing to say, especially since I’ve written more than ten years worth of content, but the screw up has given me a chance to look through what I’ve written and to think more clearly and systematically than I have ever done before about my blog’s content—especially now that it is not merely a personal blog. So, I have been reading through my old posts to see which ones I think are worth reposting, which ones I will archive because I might some day have use for them, and which ones I will consign to the trash. The first three reposts (1, 2, 3) are relatively recent ones that tell the story of my experience with antisemitism from third through twelfth grades—the kind of thing I think it has become ever more important to talk about since the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

To put all this another way, I am in the process of reinventing my online presence from top to bottom. There are still some finishing touches to put on the website, and then, once those are done, I will start to look really critically at how I use and how I want to use social media. I don’t, however, want to get ahead of myself, so I will stop there and share with you some happy publication news:

  • My translation and accompanying essay, “Attar’s ‘Tale of Marhuma:’ The Woman with a Manly Heart” appeared in the most recent issue of Modern Language Studies. (I’ve posted a copy to Academia.edu.)
  • Also, while it was originally published on Unlikely Stories in December of last year, and while some of the content is a little dated (since it was written before Trump was elected), I’d like to remind you about my essay, “The Lines That Antisemitism and Racism Draw: Reflections on White Jewish Intersectionality.” Writing it is what moved me to write the posts about antisemitism that I mentioned above, and it’s my attempt to add to a conversation about being white and being Jewish that all too often does not occur. (The white-text-on-black-background of the Unlikely Stories website is hard for some people to read, so I’ve posted a copy of this essay to Academia.edu as well.)

If you do get a chance to check out my new site, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. If you find the blog posts worthwhile, please share them with others and, as always, if you have a response, please leave a comment. I’m always interested to hear what you have to say.

  1. I chose Writer, by Acora Themes. I recommend them highly; their customer service is wonderful. []
Posted in Writing | 2 Comments  

The Electoral College Was Created To Protect Slavery

trump-and-jefferson

The common belief that the electoral college was created to protect the interests of smaller states is a myth. Historian Paul Finkelman writes (pdf link):

The implication of Hardaway’s argument is that the electoral college was created to placate the small states. However, in all the debates over [how to elect] the executive at the Constitutional Convention, this issue never came up. Indeed, the opposite argument received more attention. At one point the Convention considered allowing the state governors to choose the president but backed away from this in part because it would allow the small states to choose one of their own.

Any discussion of the original reason for the electoral college that doesn’t talk about slavery is nonsense.

The Electoral college was proposed by the slave-owning states, and supported by the pro-slavery coalition at the Constitutional convention, in order to give extra influence to slave-owning states.

The most influential delegate, Madison argued that “the people at large” were “the fittest” to choose the president. But “one difficulty . . . of a serious nature” made election by the people impossible. Madison noted that the “right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes.” In order to guarantee that the nonvoting slaves could nevertheless influence the presidential election, Madison favored the creation of the electoral college.

Hugh Williamson of North Carolina was more open about the reasons for southern opposition to a popular election of the president. He noted that under a direct election of the president, Virginia would not be able to elect her leaders president because “[h]er slaves will have no suffrage.” The same of course would be true for the rest of the South.

Direct election by voters would have meant that (for example) Virginia’s 200,000 slaves wouldn’t give them any extra power in presidential elections. With the electoral college, however, Virginia and other slave states got an enormous boost in electoral power.

Virginia – at the time the most populous state, but not if only free citizens were counted – was the state that initially benefited most from the electoral college.

Virginia emerged as the big winner—the California of the Founding era—with 12 out of a total of 91 electoral votes allocated by the Philadelphia Constitution, more than a quarter of the 46 needed to win an election in the first round. After the 1800 census, Wilson’s free state of Pennsylvania had 10% more free persons than Virginia, but got 20% fewer electoral votes. Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.

If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.

Of course, slavery was defeated eventually – but the unjust and anti-democratic electoral power held by the slave states, both in the electoral college and in Congress, meant that it took a war to end slavery. It’s interesting to wonder how American history might have gone differently if the Constitution hadn’t been written to give a powerful boost to slaveowning states. Historian Gary Wills writes:

Without the federal ratio as the deciding factor in House votes, slavery would have been excluded from Missouri; Andrew Jackson’s policy of removing Indians from territories they occupied in several states would have failed; the 1840 gag rule, protecting slavery in the District of Columbia, would not have been imposed; the Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery from territories won from Mexico. Moreover, the Kansas and Nebraska bill outlawing slavery in Nebraska territory and allowing it in Kansas would have failed. Other votes were close enough to give opposition to the South a better chance, if the federal ratio had not been counted into the calculations from the outset. Elections to key congressional posts were affected continually by the federal ratio, with the result that Southerners held ‘the Speaker’s office for 79 percent of the time [before 1824], Ways and Means for 92 percent.’

The malignant effects of the pro-slavery Constitution continue to the present day, of course, most obviously in the election of Donald Trump, which almost certainly would not have happened without the electoral college.

Posted in Elections and politics, Race, racism and related issues | 53 Comments  

Cartoon: On Stopping Bigots From Speaking

free-speech-campus

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon. :-)

I’m not shy about being partisan; most of my cartoons are unambiguously from the left. But I don’t agree with all lefties about everything. This is one of the relatively rare cartoons in which I’m criticizing the left.

As I said in my previous cartoon on campus free speech issues, the panic about this issue is overstated. There are much more crucial free speech issues that get far less coverage. And the majority of student protests are completely non-violent.

But there have been a few incidents this year of protestors on campus (not all of whom were students) not just protesting right-wing speakers, but physically preventing them from speaking, by blocking the building, by breaking windows and setting fires, and by drowning out the speakers with ceaseless noise so they can’t speak at all, and even with direct violence attacks. These are tactics I disagree with entirely.

It’s wrong morally – who can speak shouldn’t be literally decided by mobs – and it’s also terrible tactically. When people like Milo Yiannopoulos (I have seldom felt  schadenfreude  as strongly as when  Yiannopoulos’ career crashed and burned) or Charles Murray are prevented from speaking by a violent leftist mob, that makes them appear sympathetic and mainstream. It only increases the number of people hearing their views.

(I should clarify, when I say it’s wrong morally, I’m referring to preventing a speech through physical means – such as violence, physically blocking access, or unceasingly drowning them out. Stopping a speech through free speech means – such as a successful petition which persuades the college to disinvite the speaker – may or may not be good tactics, but I don’t see any moral problem with it.)

Research  has shown  that violent protests tend to reduce popular support for movements and issues, both in polls and in how people vote. I understand that the protestors are angry, and frustrated, and have real and important grievances. But the tactic is a form of censorship, and it’s self-defeating.

TRANSCRIPT

Panel 1
Two students, both dressed in black hoodies, are in front of a wall of flames, speaking to each other cheerfully. Both of them are holding protest signs, showing a guy with a mustache, with a circle and cross “not allowed” symbol superimposed over his face.

MALE STUDENT: We stopped that bigot from speaking in our college auditorium!
FEMALE STUDENT: And we stopped his hateful message from spreading!

Panel 2
The mustache dude, wearing a jacket and tie and looking happy, stands behind a podium speaking. Many, many cameras and microphones are pointed at him, and various off-panel reporters yell questions at him.
REPORTER 1: Sir? Over here!
REPORTER 2: Were you frightened?
REPORTER 3: Tell us more about the mob of violent leftists! We’ll print every word!
REPORTER 4: What would your speech have said?
MUSTACHE DUDE: Please! One question at a time!

Panel 3 (A tiny “kicker” panel at the bottom)
The two students are being spoken to by the mustache dude. The students look grumpy, the mustache dude cheery.
MUSTACHE DUDE: Please don’t stop my next speech! … Do you need the address?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 15 Comments