Tag Archives: politics

I Didn’t Build That


So I own or co-own a few businesses that have experienced varying degrees of success. I am in the educational video business, and the book-writing business, and the merchandise distribution business, and the conference running business, and the making YouTube videos with my brother business, among others. These businesses employ people and generate more jobs per dollar of revenue than Pepsi or Google or most other large corporations.

If small business is indeed the engine that drives job growth in America, then we are certainly trying to do our part. And so as a small business owner committed to job creation, let me just say:


You know why there aren’t a lot of small online media companies emerging from Somalia these days? Because they don’t have a freaking government. They don’t have bookstores where I could sell books, or roads I could use to get t-shirts to your house. My businesses—like all American businesses—exist because we live in a successful and stable country, which is only successful and stable because for generations, we’ve paid taxes that have allowed us to build an infrastructure and make investments in innovation that allow for increased economic productivity and efficiency.

The free market has shown again and again: It can’t make such a world without government assistance. (Witness, for instance, how bad the free market is at developing new classes of antibiotics, even though such antibiotics would be very useful at keeping people healthy, which in turn increases our Gross Domestic Product.)

My work—like almost all work these days—depends upon the Internet, which wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for government investment. If I hadn’t received excellent free primary school education, I could never have written books. And if primary education weren’t free and compulsory in the United States, I’d have fewer readers, because fewer people could read. 

In his stump speech, Mitt Romney has said, “The other day, you know, I thought about a kid that works hard to get the honor roll. And she works real hard. I know that to get the honor roll she had to go on a school bus to get to school. But when she makes the honor roll, I credit the kid, not the bus driver.” 

Well, I credit the bus driver, for providing a safe and comfortable environment for that student. But drivers aren’t just collecting a paycheck: They’re performing a vital service, and one that involves tremendous responsibility. So yes, I credit them.

And I credit the kid’s teacher, who works tirelessly to get the kid excited about learning. I credit the kid’s parents, and I credit her peers. I credit the school’s cafeteria staff, who work to get the kid as nutritious a meal as budget cuts will allow. I credit the school librarian, if the school still has a librarian, who teaches the kid research skills that will serve her well throughout life. I credit the politicians who raise taxes to pay for better schools rather than cowardly arguing that taxes should always be lower, even if they’re already lower than they ever have been. I credit the school board and the people who repave the roads to school to keep them safe.

I credit the kid. But I also credit her community. They recognized the kid (like all kids) was worth investing in. They cared for her. They made it possible for her to succeed. 

Over the years, I’ve encountered a few successful people who believe they did it all themselves and achieved success because they are just better than their fellow human beings. Some were bankers; some were writers; some were lawyers. Some male, some female. Some rich, some not. Some were born into privilege, some weren’t. I guess they’re a pretty diverse crowd. They only have one thing in common, really: They’re all assholes.

I don’t think I’ve ever tagged something with both ‘awesome’ and ‘politics’ before.


The World of 100 (People)

Invisible Children and KONY 2012

Last night I started to notice the KONY 2012 video popping up everywhere. I find this sort of thing extremely upsetting, so I didn’t look into it until today. There are a lot of problems with the KONY 2012 campaign, and Invisible Children as an organization that concern me. I have seen videos from Invisible Children in the past, but none that have gone viral the way this has. I believe that the creators of the video, and the people who are sharing it have good intentions. Here are some of my opinions on the matter.

First off, if you find the situation in Uganda upsetting I strongly encourage you to do further research into it. Here is a collection of articles about KONY 2012 and what’s happening in Uganda. Many of the articles I found throughout the day were gathered there, and they are mostly critical, rational analysis of the situation. There is a wealth of information out there, but those are some of the articles I found useful.

Second of all, please, whether you are considering giving to Invisible Children (or buy action kits and whatnot) or another charity, take the time to research them first. This way you can be sure you give your money to an organization who’s goals and practices are honorable.

Now I’ll be mostly summarizing points other people have brought up. If you want to go straight to those articles that’s great, but this is what I’ve come away with from my own research.

Financial Concerns

  • Invisible Children’s financial information is available here because they’re a registered non-profit
  • Out of approx $13 million dollars raised last year, over $1 million went to wages, another $1 million went to travel costs, and about $750,000 went to video production. Only about $3.5 went to direct aid, which is under 30%
  • They have a 2/4 rank on accountability and transparency (link)
  • IC has been investigated for fraud multiple times in the past
  • The three main people between IC pay themselves about $80,000 salaries out of fund-raised money

Educating How?

  • IC says they want to educate people, but their website has very little educational information, and their videos tend to be drastic simplifications of incredibly complex conflicts
  • What credentials or understanding do these filmmakers have that make them experts on Uganda, or good teachers?
  • Education and awareness, say they did achieve that, doesn’t really do any good to the people in Uganda who are actually suffering
  • In addition, I stand by the opinion that awareness is not useful without being paired with positive actions, and I don’t feel the actions that IC is endorsing are positive (I’m not a fan of the more guns approach)

The Name ‘Invisible Children’

  • Suggests that these children aren’t seen, when they are extremely visible to their communities, and all the people who have been working to improve the situation for them
  • Further implies that they are invisible unless white North Americans see them

Problems with ‘Getting Kony Famous’

  • The war in Sudan has been going on for 25+ years
  • Kony is well known among political powers, and anyone who reads or watches news about what’s going on in that region
  • Awareness =/= Change
  • Why does the awareness of a bunch of white university students matter to the actual war that is going on?

What’s up with the Time-frame?

  • Some footage is at least four years old
  • Current situation is not accurately represented, currently the LRA is down to about 1000 scattered members, and there is not much activity
  • Uganda is currently experiencing a more peaceful period
  • This information is left out to emotionally manipulate people in to action, which is unethical in my opinion

Proposed Solution – Military Action (and buy our merch!)

  • IC’s proposed solution is sending US troops into Uganda
  • Previously troops have been sent in with the intentions to capture Kony, and the result was that he got away and slaughtered 900 people in retaliation
  • Some types of peace negotiations have been made, military action would likely negate them
  • The Ugandan Military has it’s own record of raping and looting, and yet IC defends and supports them, but I’m not buying the lesser of two evils shit
  • Adding more military power in a war ravaged country seems like a bad move to me

Undermining Progress

  • As previously mentioned, Uganda has been doing better lately, and things are not in the same state they were 4 years ago
  • By leaving out any mention of positive progress made, or peace negotiations or the hard work the Ugandan people and other non-profits have put in, IC is discrediting them
  • By focusing on the war, and encouraging more military action, they take attention away from developing sustainable infrastructure, education etc. in Uganda

Where are the Ugandan Perspectives?

  • This video could have given voice to the Ugandan people, but it instead focuses on the white people
  • I can hear white people talk about how bad things are all the time, that is not as interesting to me, they are not the ones who have to overcome this
  • Ugandan people are largely treated like victims i the video, instead of showing a balance of the suffering, and the cases they have been empowered and have caused positive change
  • Basically I would be more interested to hear their experience, than how white filmmakers see their experiences

Perpetuating Stereotypes

  • In the video Ugandans were treated like victims
  • Uganda was portrayed as a war torn, impoverished, violent place, and  nothing else (the nothing else is the problem, there are always multiple sides to things)

Manipulation and Making it Easy

  • I personally disapprove of scare tactics when it comes to awareness, I don’t think it lasts
  • Exaggerated facts and skewed time frames make me suspicious of the integrity of IC
  • The actions that IC is suggesting maybe easy for everyone to do, but I don’t believe they are actually useful actions, raising money for IC is inefficient if they only pas 30% along, and military action may cause more harm, even if well intentioned
  • In addition, LRA and Kony are only one piece of what’s going on in Uganda
  • Catching Kony will unfortunately not make everything magically better

The Failures of a ‘Good vs. Bad’ Story

  • The simplified story painted portrays a clear good and bad side, it is not like that, in fact, this is just one piece of the much larger picture of what’s going on in that region
  • Taking down Kony is desirable, but have you considered that he is protected by an army of children
  • Much of LRA is made of children who have been psychologically and physical tortured – they are both victims and perpetrators
  • It is easy to say that the crimes committed are still unforgivable, until you consider it being your brother or sister or child who was abducted and forced to kill and gunpoint
  • The Uganda Army which IC supports has been accused of inhumane acts as well, and, in my opinion, should not be treated as the ‘good’ side, or given additional military power

What’s the Full Picture?

  • Too nuanced and complex to be able to understand from a 30 minute video/

So the Moral Is?

  • If you want to give to charity that’s great! Do your research first!
  • 25+ year conflicts are complicated, and hard to understand and accept, we should not do them the disservice of simplifying them
  • Do your research before forwarding viral videos, no matter how well meaning you are.
  • Mostly, just do your research and think critically.


I was just winding down and going to bed, when I was closing facebook and saw a feminist post. I am a feminist so I clicked on it, but I wish I hadn’t. It was about abortion, and the comments on it were mostly awful, I mean, there are so many ignorant people out there, and I honestly became quite upset reading their responses. It probably doesn’t help that I was reading http://not-homophobic-but.tumblr.com/ earlier today, and was therefore a bit riled up already.

I just am really very upset with the arguments pro-lifers provide for the most part. Also the way people talk about feminism, and the way people justify using words like gay as slang.

I just can’t even deal with it, I’m so tired.

Please don’t ever talk to me about politics or feminism or human rights or abortion or any of it when I’m tired, it’s too frustrating.

I mean, how can people say, everything is equal now, how can they convince themselves that is true?

fASDKFASKDLFSKDFSDKF I need sleep, goodnight.

Please read the following on the difference between being a fetus and being a human being. If even one of you reads it I might feel a little better. I mean, what can be done besides one person at a time learning and gradually understanding.