Monday, July 25, 2016

The House Divided

We are horribly polarized as a nation on lines of race, class, ethnicity, and religion.  Squabbling family members in different rooms can't agree on how to fix the problems of our common home.   There are too many people shivering in the basement, while the ones in the penthouse don't seem to care what happens to the garbage they throw out the window.

Clearly , we need renovations, and we need them badly. We agree on that, though we haven't agreed on how to make them.  There are some new ideas, which have not persuaded everyone.  Indeed, one faction has lit the place on fire.

Here's the point, my friends.  You can't make renovations to the structure of the house unless you join together to put out the fire first.  You may not be very enamored of the house mother, but no one will have any place to live unless the fire is extinguished and the arsonist's influence defeated.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The response to "All Lives Matter"

Of course they do.  But This:

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any! 
The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out. 
That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society...... 
Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem. - by GeekAesthete


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trumpism and the end of the GOP

Andrew Sullivan on the first night of the Republican Convention:
The degeneracy of conservatism – its descent into literally mindless appeals to tribalism and fear and hatred – was on full display. You might also say the same about the religious right, the members of whom have eagerly embraced a racist, a nativist, a believer in war crimes, and a lover of the tyrants that conservatism once defined itself against. Their movement long lost any claim to a serious Christian conscience. But that they would so readily embrace such an unreconstructed pagan is indeed a revelation. 
If you think of the conservative movement as beginning in 1964 and climaxing in the 1990s, then the era we are now in is suffering from a cancer of the mind and the soul. That the GOP has finally found a creature that can personify these urges to purge, a man for whom the word “shameless” could have been invented, a bully and a creep, a liar and cheat, a con man and wannabe tyrant, a dedicated loather of individual liberty, and an opponent of the pricelessly important conventions of liberal democracy is perhaps a fitting end. 
This is the gutter, ladies and gentlemen, and it runs into a sewer. May what’s left of conservatism be carried out to sea.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Stop it now

We do not live in a world of absolutes.  We live in a world of shades and nuance.  The mediatainment industry does not thrive on nuance, but on soundbites and outrage.

It is possible to deplore the actions of a few police who disproportionately use violence against black men, while recognizing that the majority of police work bravely to serve the public.

It is possible to deplore the violence against officers by an angry black man, while recognizing that he is in no way representative  of nor supported by people who are concerned about police violence.

I am deeply concerned at the divisions I see between those who are angry at the death of Philando Castile, shot during a traffic stop, and those who see themselves as police supporters, who feel that the shocking attack on police is a consequence of media and liberal outrage.

It is possible to see both these events as deeply wrong and deplorable, and to mourn all victims.

 Frankly it behooves both sides to recognize that there are no absolutes. It would help if the police supporters would admit that sometimes cops do the wrong thing. Take Tamir Rice, for example (the boy shot in Cleveland with a toy gun):  the police officers arrived and immediately started shooting. In contrast, in another Cleveland Park earlier this year, two boys playing with toy guns were safely apprehended by an experienced officer who did not screech up with his gun out.

 Similarly, it would be helpful if those concerned about police violence consider the snap reactions an officer must make.  For example, Michael Brown (in Ferguson) was not shot in the back, and evidence supports a close struggle with the officer for a weapon.  The officer's subsequent pursuit of Brown may have been a wrong judgment, but the physical evidence supports his story.  No favors are done by pretending otherwise.

We all have work to do on racism and knee-jerk reactions, on community building and common goals.

There are plenty of forces who right now thrive on division, on us-v-them, on race wars, or police wars, or violence.

 We must not let them win.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"I can't breathe" and guns

In 2014, New York police were videotaped holding down a black man who was being arrested for selling CDs illegally on the sidewalk.  They had him pinned.  A passerby filmed it with a cell phone.  Eric Garner (the black man) groaned "I can't breathe!" as a police officer held him pinned in an illegal choke hold.

Garner died.  The coroner determined that holding him and choking him to death was a homicide.  Despite this, despite the video, the policeman responsible was not indicted.

Earlier this week,   Alton Sterling was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The police arrived to arrest him (why, is not yet clear).  They claimed he was threatening people with a gun, and they used a taser.  He was on the ground, pinned down.  They shot him.  He is dead.  But he had a gun in his pocket, which the police say is the reason he was shot. There is video of this, which disproves some of the police claims.

Last night, a police officer in a suburb of St Paul, MN pulled over the car driven by Philando Castile    for a broken tail light.  Castile  told them, appropriately, that  he was a licensed owner of a gun.  The police officer  told him to put his hands up, but shot him in the arm 4 times as he did so.  He died.  This was recorded on video by Castile's girlfriend, who asked why the police shot a man who was just getting his license? She was pulled out of the car, handcuffed, and put in  the back of a police car with her 4 year old daughter.

Remember John Crawford, who was shot by police in a Walmart for carrying a BB gun he wanted to buy?  (And then the police tried to badger his girlfriend into saying he was a threat.)  Remember when   Tamir Rice, a child of 12, was  playing in a Cleveland park with a toy gun (as boys do), and was shot literally within seconds of the police arriving?   These killings were also videotaped.   The police were not charged.

Except for Garner, all these deaths involve black men (or a boy) with a gun.  These leads one to conclude that an African American exerting his second amendment rights is quite literally taking his life in his hands.

Indeed, I am not the first to suggest that if you want gun control, encourage African Americans to buy guns.  But you'd better buy them body armor too.   Because the response of the police to a black man with a gun appears to be "shoot first".

This is a living nightmare.


Friday, July 1, 2016

The politics of cynicism

In the breathtaking aftermath of the UK Brexit decision, we learn that the proponents of the departure of the UK from the EU, principally Nigel Farage of the odious UKIP party, and the gadfly Tory Boris Johnson, really didn't expect to win.

They have no plans.

They are backtracking on what they promised (more money for the National Health!  No immigrants!)

The whole campaign was a cynical exercise in lies and mis-statements, intended to inflame the right wing of the party and gain them power.  They didn't expect to actually have to DO anything, like drag the UK out of the EU (and potentially shatter the UK).  Indeed, Johnson as a journalist has a long record of telling lies.  (Does that remind you of anyone?)

The media treated pronouncements on both side as equally sober, because the UK media like the US  is not about journalism, but about false equivalence that makes a horse race.  (Rupert Murdoch has much to answer for).

And now that the referendum has passed, the truth is revealed (though it was known all the time).  And Boris Johnson's plans to be PM are over.

Similarly, the far right in this country has cynically manipulated the electorate to believe that Obama is a crazed commie liberal Muslim and we are going to hell in a handbasket because of environmentalists and homosexuals.  They have merrily blown up any concept of sober governance and compromise purely for power and leverage.

So much for the best of the country and the governed.  It's all a game, scoring points.

The Conservative Establishment in the UK tried to call the right wing's bluff by calling for a Brexit referendum, and now they are careening into economic unknown.   The Prime Minister has resigned and who knows what is next.

The Republican Establishment in the US thought the could control their right wing, but lo and behold, DJ Trump is now their candidate, on an explicitly racist platform.  Now, as they move into the general election, the Elites are trying to figure out how they can manage this disaster.  And the mediatainment industry loves it.

In neither case is anyone actually interested in the well-being of the country.

The peasants are revolting and the big cats are still trying to make it to their advantage. It is sobering and not a little frightening.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pause to remember

Let us remember the African American victims of the shooting in Charleston a year ago, and the LGBT victims at Pulse this last weekend, targeted for who they were.

And let us remember all the other victims and come together in one human family to mourn, and to love.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Words fail in response to the horror of the shooting in Orlando where 49 young people were murdered because a madman was angered when he saw two men kiss.

Our "crime" is to love, so we will love, and defeat hatred by our love.  We will teach love. We will not be afraid.

And still we rise.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Under the influence

A while back, we were all shocked by the hit and run death of a cyclist in Baltimore, by a (now former) Bishop who was drunk.  The alcohol may have been the reason for her impairment but not an excuse for driving drunk and causing grievous harm.  She's in jail, as she should be, for years.

Apparently, though, if you are a privileged white athlete at Stanford, alcohol absolves you of personal responsibility and it's somehow acceptable that you have "20 minutes of action" (as his father actually put it) performing a violent sexual assault on an unconscious woman.  The judge gave this nice white man a mere 6 months since he's suffered already.  In return the rapist promises to talk about booze and promiscuity on campus.  The media has a winsome picture of this blond haired, blue-eyed, boy-man looking sad.

As his victim wrote in a searing letter, the problem isn't promiscuity.  It's CONSENT.   The whole thing is disgusting, not least of which what it says about any man who physically violates an unconscious woman's body.   (Go read her letter.  It is powerful.)

Interestingly there was a case in Tennessee this spring as well, where a former Vanderbilt football player was convicted of raping an intoxicated, unconscious woman.  He's going to get at least 15 years.   What's different in Tennessee?  Either their judges get it, or, black football players get different rules than white swimmers.  What do you think?

As one internet meme put it, we make laws against trans people using the bathroom to prevent women from being assaulted, but apparently we can't convict a man who actually assaults a woman.

Because, well, it's going to ruin his life.  Poor boy.

Talk about privilege.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Predators don't need a bathroom

So to those of you who think you’re being helpful by “protecting” me and my fellow women, you’re like a shark sitting in the lifeguard chair. I wasn’t uncomfortable until you showed up at the pool and the only potential predator I see is you. 
Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters don’t need you to walk them to the bathroom for safety. Your fathers, brothers, friends and sons need to walk themselves away from their own double standards. Women are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on school campuses, on the street, at their jobs, on the Internet, in their own homes, in ANY public place. And it has been excused or ignored for so long because of what you and I are taught from the first years of our interactions with each other: You, as a male, are not accountable for your own actions. It’s MY responsibility, as a female, to not “provoke” you. But then you get to knight-in-shining-armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren’t you outraged every single day? 
If you’re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a “loop-hole” to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms.