Monthly Archives: November 2018

#MeToo and pop culture

Currently there is much in the news and in politics about the #MeToo movement and how women are so often mistreated, sexually harassed, or worse, especially by men in power. Of course such treatment of women is terrible. What I’m curious about is why men feel they can treat women that way. Part of the reason for sure is that they can and they can get away with it. Just look at who’s president (past and present). For some reason, even a great many women seem to accept this. I think a good part of it is that a lot of people, women included, are brought up being taught that’s the natural order of things – men dominate and maltreat women and it’s their place to accept it. This may not be the message they get from their parents, but they are being taught this every day in pop culture such as music.

Here are some lyrics going back a ways. The women accept that they love their man so much he can treat them horribly and they’ll still be there for him.

Walk (Back to Your Arms) – Tami Neilson
No matter what you say or do or
What kinda hell you gonna put me through
I’m gonna walk (walk walk walk)
Back to your arms

Under My Thumb – Rolling Stones
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb

A Fool In Love – Ike & Tina Turner
You know you love him, you can’t understand
Why he treats you like he do when he’s such a good man
Without a man I don’t wanna live
You think I’m lying but I’m telling you like it is
He’s got my nose open and that’s no lie
And I, I’m gonna keep him satisfied

These are tame compared to a whole bunch of the more modern lyrics in the rap/hip hop world, such as eminem’s. As long as people keep listening to (and buying) such “music” the attitude isn’t going to change much. Watching a few politicians or movie stars fall from grace isn’t going to change it. We need to stop the abuse of “freedom of expression,” a term that’s used as a false justification for glorifying violence in many forms.

It’s more than music, too. I’ll skip YouTube, Reddit and other media outlets, but there’s plenty to find there. If you watch the local TV news you’ll see cases every week of some abused woman who sticks by her abuser when he commits some violent crime. Unfortunately there are plenty of women who feel totally dependent on their men, even very bad men, and will take the abuse in exchange for financial or even emotional support. This teaches women, especially impressionable young girls, that “sticking by your man” is the right thing to do no matter what. This has to change.

Testimony by Scott Turow

Testimony (Kindle County Legal Thriller #10)Testimony by Scott Turow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Scott Turow novel has all the elements that make his other novels good and some that make them not always so good. It’s set in The Hague where the main character, Bill ten Boom (Dutch name), a former U.S. Attorney in Turow’s fictional Kindle County, has accepted assignment as a prosecutor investigating an alleged war crime. The International War Crimes Tribunal is centered there but the Americans never signed off on the treaty establishing it nor do they agree to allow it to operate in the U.S. or subject U.S. soldiers to its jurisdiction. The alleged victims are a colony of Roma (gypsies) massacred during the Bosnian War. The questions is by whom? Bill and an intrepid Belgian investigator set out to find the answer and bring the perpetrators to justice. The possible suspects: A Serbian commander with a reputation as a vicious megalomaniac, a local gang, U.S. soldiers outraged over the fact the Roma may have stolen a cache of U.S. weapons that led to the death of a cadre of U.S. soldiers. The plot is twistier than a box of pretzels and heavily dependent on a great deal of knowledge and research Turow must have done about the workings of the Tribunal, the Roma people, the Serbs, Croats, NATO, and the U.S. Military. His works are ten levels more sophisticated than the average crime novel where the author doesn’t even understand the concept of jurisdiction. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried and don’t want to spoil it for you, but I can say it is full of many colorful characters of many different nationalities. They’re almost all very likeable, but don’t trust any of them.

So what complaints do I have? Only one: Turow can’t write about sex without making it sound terribly unappealing, but he insists on putting a lot of it in his novels. We could stop the population boom by making everyone read his books. There must be a word for the style – somewhere between tacky and tawdry. There are seven pages of words in my Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate between them but none of them seem appropriate.

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Redistricting explained (and illustrated)

In talking with friends, I’ve found there is some confusion over why redistricting is important, First of all, what is redistricting? It’s when a state government divides up the state into voting districts for election purposes, such as for Congressperson or state assembly. It could also be the same action by a city or county government for local seats like councilman. The U,S. Constitution as interpreted by the courts requires that each person’s vote be of equal value, sometimes called the “one man, one vote” rule. In practical terms this means that districts must be drawn to have roughly equal number of voters in each. This can be done fairly or unfairly. It is usually done by a committee appointed by a governor and thus dominated by the governor’s party, although methods vary in different states. Redistricting committees usually end up trying to protect their party’s power, or at least protect specific incumbents.The Constitution requires a census every ten years followed by redistricting to ensure that Congress reflects the current population distribution.

Here are three examples to illustrate why it’s important. Assume the state in the drawing has five congressional seats and two parties we’ll call orange and green represented by the 20 icons. The voters are 60% green (12 icons) and 40% orange (8 icons) distributed as shown.

One would expect that two of the five seats (40%) would go to the orange party and three (60%) to the green if lines were drawn in a neutral, unbiased manner. Courts, by the way, have also ruled that lines must be drawn logically from a geographic viewpoint, too. The next image illustrates what would probably be considered fair.

Based on where majorities are located, orange would get two seats and green three, and the districts appear to be logical geographically, too. However, if green is in control of redistricting it might try to draw the lines as follows:

See how that almost certainly gives Green four of the five seats since they have a 3-to-1 voter ratio in four. Notice also that the districts have odd shapes. This is where the term gerrymandering comes from – districts drawn this way are said to resemble salamanders. Courts often strike these down and have been known to appoint their own committees or special masters to redraw the lines more fairly.

Now consider the following district lines.

There are two safe districts for Green in the middle, but the other three districts are split 50-50. They could go either way. The district lines appear to be rational from a geographic standpoint. A court would probably consider this fair even though it might result in Green representatives in all five districts or three being Orange. However, suppose the two purplish districts are currently represented by popular Orange incumbents who consider their seats safe. The Orange party, if they’re lucky enough to be in control, might like this one better than the first (fair) one above, assuming the incumbents aren’t worried about the 50-50 split in their districts. This way they have a 50-50 chance at picking up a third Orange seat. In real life it is quite possible, and has often happened, that a minority party can retain, even guarantee, control in its state.

A friend recently seemed worried that redistricting could affect the U.S. Senate. No, it can’t. Why not? Because there are no U.S. Senate districts. The entire state is the one and only district for any Senate race. There are simply no lines to draw. You can’t redraw state boundaries. Every voter in the state can vote on every U.S. Senate race in their state. State senates, however, like state assemblies or legislatures, have districts, so they are subject to being gerrymandered.