Thursday, March 27, 2014

Free and Fair Elections

Two issues have come up recently in Ohio raising questions about how elections should be held. The first was a ruling by the Secretary of State establishing uniform voting rules for the state. This prompted outrage from the Democrats who allege voter suppression. The reasoning behind this is twofold.

First, they maintain that urban counties need special rules to make it easier for people to vote. This includes sending absentee ballots to all registered voters and having longer voting hours and more days.

Second, they maintain that the absence of Sunday voting hurts them.

There are also allegations that rural voters have more free time and can more easily get to the polls. This is ironic since the people they claim have been suppressed are unemployed or part-time workers.

It is no coincidence that what the Democrats desire is to increase voter participation in counties that are likely to vote Democrat and to suppress it in Republican counties. That is the heart of their desire to let individual counties change voting procedures.

That is also behind sending absentee ballots to everyone in Democrat-heavy counties but not to everyone in the state. There are other issues with this I will address below.

In order for an election to be fair, every voter must be treated the same. To claim voter suppression because likely-Democrats are not given special treatment is perverse.

Sunday voting is a special case itself. The reason for not including Sunday voting is cost. Most counties cannot afford to open the polls on both Saturday and Sunday. Why is Sunday important to Democrats? Because part of their get-out-the-vote effort involves having sympathetic ministers tell their congregations how to vote then busing the congregations to the polls in church buses. This is a violation of church/state separation and churches that do this should lose their tax-free status. They don't but they should. That's a part of election law that is never enforced.

The second issue was the appearance of Melowese Richardson who had been convicted of voter fraud at the kick-off event for the campaign for an Ohio Voters' Bill of Rights Ohio Constitutional amendment. Richardson was given a "welcome home" and hugged by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Richardson had committed two types of voter fraud. First, she voted absentee and in person. Second, she used her comatose sister's absentee ballot to vote. The judge at her sentencing was outraged because Richardson was a poll worker, entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the election so he sentenced her to 5 years. This was reduced to 8 months.

People at the kick-off event claim that she was simply being welcomed home after a harsh sentence had been reduced. If true, that was terrible judgement given the subject of the rally.

Richardson was caught because she voted twice under her name. Had she simply continued to vote once as herself and once as her sister she would never have been caught. This highlights one of the dangers of sending out unsolicited absentee ballots.

While Richardson was convicted under state law, she was never charged under federal law. This is important because the main argument that voter fraud is rare to non-existent is based on federal election law convictions. If someone who is known to have violated federal law is not charged then how many other cases has the government passed on prosecuting?

Nationwide, Republicans have been insisting on tighter controls for elections and the Democrats have insisted that this is solving a non-existent problem. They go on to accuse Republicans of voter suppression (surprise!). But the Richardson case shows that the statistics the Democrats cite are meaningless. Voter fraud is difficult to detect in the first place. If the feds decline to enforce clear violations then we have to idea at all how often it occurs.

In both of the incidents above, Democrats resort to crying voter suppression any time that election laws are not administered in a way that gives them a clear advantage. They need to be called out on this. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Appropriation and Priveledge

Writing in Salon, Randa Jarrar explains why she hates white  belly dancers.

Whether they know it or not, white women who practice belly dance are engaging in appropriation

I should explain, appropriation is the sister of privilege which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Privilege is something that other people posses and is always a pejorative. For example, someone can be the victim of white privilege.

Appropriation is when someone of privilege takes anything from another culture and, like privilege itself, appropriation is always bad.

Jarrar goes into some depth but she makes one thing very clear - the issue entirely consists of being subjected to a white person doing a dance that should only be performed by brown women. She admits that the dancer who inspired the column was a decent dancer. What's more the dancer had been trained for 15 years by someone Jarrar approves of. Jarrar brushes this off
Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.

When I have argued, online and in person, with white women belly dancers, they have assured me that they learned to dance from Arab women and brown women. This is supposed to make the transaction OK. Instead, I point out that all this means is that it is perfectly all right with these teachers that their financial well-being is based on self-exploitation...
If a white had made these arguments about an Arab or African performer playing classical music, he would be pilloried as a racist. That's the beauty of the terms privilege and appropriation. It turns the tables. Belly dancing has been done in the US for over a century. It predates the family car. You would think that by now it would count as part of American culture. But by using these loaded terms, Jarrar can justify objecting to a performer based on nothing more that the color of her skin.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Blame Bush

After Russia invaded the Crimea, President Obama was left looking powerless. With Syria and other incidents, he has shown that he has neither neither plans nor will to back up his threats. Republicans were quick to point this out. They did not, as many Democrats have claimed, blame Obama for the invasion. They simply point out his powerlessness (and laughed at it).

The Democrats have now stuck back. It turns out that the Russian invasion was caused by President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. That was such a terrible international crime that it changed international norms allowing any nation to invade any nation on any pretense.

There are a few differences that should be kept in mind.

The invasion of Iraq capped a decade of active hostilities beginning with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Even during the long lull, there wee weekly exchanges of rocket fire as the US enforced the no-fly zone.

Bush gave plenty of warning before invading and had wide international support with the "Coalition of the Willing".

In contrast, Putin invaded the Crimea a couple of days after its government fled and a new government was formed. The invasion was done with troops who wore no insignia on their uniforms.

Intent matters. There was never any question of the US annexing all or part of Iraq. In contrast, the former USSR had annexed the Ukraine for decades and Putin seems to desire to annex the Crimea.

A fair and impartial observer would say that the two invasions were nothing like each other but the Democrats have such a hatred of Bush that they can't help but blame him.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Sarah Palin:  I can see Russia invading Crimea from my house.

Mitt Romney: The 80s called. They want to lend you a working foreign policy.