That’s right, it’s time for my yearly Political Compass Test!
Almost identical to my result from last year – .25 deviation on one axis. Still pinker than raw chicken.
That’s right, it’s time for my yearly Political Compass Test!
Almost identical to my result from last year – .25 deviation on one axis. Still pinker than raw chicken.
Governmenting is hard work. Representing hundreds of thousands of people can’t be easy, what with those unwashed masses demanding ‘accountability’ and ‘doing your job’. Sometimes, what that job is might slip a representative’s mind. So, this Valentine’s Day, show you appreciate your U.S. Representative (or closest Republican rep) by sending them a gift. Here’s a suggestion:
All Representatives are sworn in, affirming that they “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” but maybe they don’t remember what that entails, or maybe they just haven’t read it. So get them a copy. It’s not an expensive gift (only $1.00 on Amazon!), but it’s the thought that counts. And don’t worry, I’m sure that if someone else decides to also get a copy for them, they have a few hundred staffers who could also use a copy, so don’t worry about duplicates.
Look, I have an idea. Let’s let the military handle policing.
What, that’s a bad idea? Yes, yes, I know about the Posse Comitatus Act. I know that “military occupation” isn’t exactly a happy thought. But hear me out here – this is actually a legitimate idea.
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about the Army or the National Guard taking over for the police. I’m talking more about something like the Coast Guard. A new, separate branch of the military. It would have an organizational command structure just like any other branch, with ranks and chain of command. As police forces already have this, I’m not not talking about a huge organizational change at the local level. What I am talking about is a unified entity on a national scale.
Recruits would be drawn from every part of the country, assigned to a training base in a group, and trained as a whole. Initial training would be the same as the military, with less of an emphasis on unit tactics and weaponry. Recruits would be indoctrinated into the rules of military engagement, which are, quite honestly, more civilian-friendly than what’s being taught to the police currently roaming the streets. Once the physical aspect of the training was over, there would be a more intensive criminal justice training. Graduates from this 4-month boot camp would then be assigned to a one-year training cycle with a senior patrol training officer. Assignments would be nationwide, not likely from the recruit’s hometown. A large emphasis on community-based policing would be employed, with patrol officers building relationships.
Once the one-year assignment was up, recruits would become full-fledged patrol officers, and begin working their way up the various ranks. They would be eligible for relocation assignments. Police stations would become micro-bases, and the chain of command would follow up to the Pentagon level. Internal investigations would be handled by a Judge Advocate General, a body far-removed from the patrol level and with much more transparency and oversight.
Military-style force (SWAT interdictions) would require authorization and coordination above the local level – the local police chief wouldn’t be able to call up a tank without going up the chain of command.
Look, we operate military and peacekeeping forces in active warzones, where anyone can be a combatant, and we still wind up with less civilian casualties from ground units. We forge relationships on the ground to help the local populations. When shit gets real and bullets start flying, we have rules for our soldiers, and when they break those rules, they are punished. We don’t have that for our police. We don’t have police forces that integrate with the community. I live in a relatively affluent, largely white area, and I don’t know a single police officer. The ones I’ve interacted with have made me feel uncomfortable and I was just a possible witness. And I’m about as white as there is.
My point is that our individual police forces have failed many communities, particularly communities of color. For those communities, the police are already an occupying force, one that abuses them with impunity. Having the discipline, training, chain of command, transparency, and oversight of a military branch would turn policing into the community defense that it should be.
It’s safe to say there are some problems facing America right now, and here we are in the midst of a presidential election in a year where there is no incumbent running. There will be a change in leadership. This should be a time to reflect on the issues of the day, such as:
One would think that the sober heads in the Republican Party, who have spent the past 8 years dutifully providing loyal opposition, would be using their convention platform to outline their vision for tackling these issues.
But hey, why bother with that shit when you can devote time to addressing the indiscretions of a president who left office 15 years ago? I’m sure that other stuff will solve itself.
So much to unpack in this image. So terribly, terribly much. First off, Jonathan Bachman deserves a Pulitzer for this. I understand right place, right time, perfect timing on the shutter, but this is an iconic photo. Iesha Evans stands like a perfect statue of peace, eyes closed against the oncoming wave, arms crossed in front of her as if containing her power. Her dress is caught ever so lightly by the breeze, giving her an ethereal, almost angelic quality, as if she’s just landed. The riot officers, (thankfully) slowing, appear to be encountering her aura and repulsed by it.
That’s just the composition.
The reality is that Ms. Evans is about to be dragged down and zip-cuffed by two men more heavily armored than combat soldiers, men both nearly twice her size. She represents zero threat. No reasonable onlooker would conclude that she is armed. She is not in any way aggressive. She is peacefully protesting, but committing the ultimate crime of blocking a thoroughfare. For this, the police deemed greater than military force was necessary.
Putting aside that I’m presented with yet another peaceful civilian being brutalized by a police force unconcerned with “serve and protect” and fattened on years of cheap military surplus, I have a different problem with this image and what it represents. It’s almost too perfect. It might actually work. It might start to change public opinion about how policing is handled. That’s great, but my question is: why this one? Why this image? Why this woman?
Because we’re looking for Black Jesus.
These protests arose out of the general impression that minorities, particularly African-Americans, are assumed by the legal system to be guilty until proven innocent, unworthy of justice if they are, subject to summary punishment, that the system is unaccountable when it errs concerning their rights. I could recite a litany of names here, but it would seem incomplete because there will be another one horrifyingly soon. The largest issue is that even when the dead black (typically) man has done nothing to warrant roadside execution, the narrative always circles back to assume he somehow deserved it, somehow brought it on himself. Maybe he was a criminal a decade ago. Maybe he was rude. Maybe he had a toy gun. Maybe he was being suspicious.
In 1956, Rosa Parks was hauled off to jail for not giving up her seat on a bus. Her’s wasn’t the first case, in fact, there was already a case working through the legal system that would successfully end Montgomery’s bus segregation. But why were the women involved in that suit not raised up as icons of the Civil Rights movement like Parks was? The first one to be arrested, Claudette Colvin, well, she was 15 and girl had a mouth on her. She wouldn’t play well in the media. She wasn’t a good face for the movement. She wasn’t the Black Jesus they needed to show the injustice. Similarly, all of these people who’ve wound up dead after interacting non-violently with police have been somehow less-than-holy. Michael Brown may have robbed a store. Freddie Gray was packing a knife. Sandra Bland may have mouthed off to an officer. Eric Garner was selling cigarettes. Alton Sterling had a record. No qualifiers for Black Jesus there.
Now we have Philando Castille, who, by all accounts, was a model citizen. Gunned down without hesitation in his car after informing the officer that he was going to produce his permit to carry, Castille seems like the perfect person to hold up and say “this man did everything right.” He yielded to the officer when pulled over. He informed the officer that he was legally carrying. He followed all of the motions, and still wound up bleeding to death from multiple gunshot wounds.
But, like Jesus, he hung out with a woman who may have been less than the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, and if there’s one thing this Christian Nation cannot tolerate, it’s someone who is not white and less than perfect. So maybe he’s not our Black Jesus after all.
It’s possible that Iesha Evans is the Black Jesus of protesters. Maybe not. I’m sure we’ll hear in the coming days how she once got a B on a midterm or said a bad word once, or was in some way less than perfect, justifying her treatment in the scene in which she’s been immortalized. But maybe we need to stop looking for Black Jesus. Maybe we need to stop looking for that perfection and understand that we’ve already seen enough to know that there is brutal injustice going on in this nation. Half of the country lives in fear of the law, lives with a sense that they are not equal under the law, lives with examples that they can be refused justice without repercussions. Even if this is just a perception problem, it’s a problem. We need to stop looking for a savior to be crucified before our eyes to start working for salvation.
It’s May, so, once again, it’s time to check the oil on just where I stand on the Political Compass:
Practically the same score, three years in a row! That’s right, I am a pinko commie through and through!
The only thing I know of Kesha’s music is this amazing piece, but I’ve heard a considerable amount about her case, and it’s appalling. The judge said that her “instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing,” because Sony would suffer “irreparable harm” if Kesha didn’t give them 6 more albums. Mind you, this is a label that has sided wholeheartedly with a man who has been accused of raping her. I can’t imagine she’d be comfortable dealing with any part of that entity, regardless of whether or not they were going to ease up on forcing her to work with the man.
The response from various circles has been loud, with female artists (just now!) lining up to voice their support for Kesha, (not prior to the ruling, but nothing motivates like outrage). The infighting and gatekeeping has already started, as well. Taylor Swift tossed Kesha a quarter million to do what she needs to do. Considering Kesha has only two albums to her credit, and her second, from over three years ago, being a commercial flop partially due to some bad timing, it’s safe to assume that her legal fees alone have her looking at some financial hardship. $250k was probably the best news that she’s had in a long time. But that wasn’t enough for some people, apparently, because Swift didn’t voice her full-throated support for Kesha.
Putting aside that in America, money is speech, so in effect, this was the largest statement possible, there’s a few other considerations here. First, Taylor Swift is also signed to Sony, so coming out in direct support of Kesha has, at the very least, financial concerns above and beyond $250k, and quite possibly has legal ramifications. Second, the statement is pretty clear: that money is a huge show of support, regardless of statement. It says “I am putting my money where my mouth is. I support you in a very real, very tangible sense. I have your back in a non-theoretical way.” Third, and probably most importantly, how Taylor Swift deals with what is a horrible subject is her call. Maybe she’s not comfortable with a statement because of something she’s experienced or someone close to her experienced. No one should be gatekeeping how women deal with sexual assault. No one gets to say that her response is any less appropriate. Her support is there, it shouldn’t be diminished because it wasn’t the exact kind of support that someone else gave.
I made only one official New Year’s resolution last year, which was to lose 30 pounds. Considering the time-worn tradition of making such laughable resolutions and not following through, I figured I’d aim high.
It took me until June to actually attempt to start, so I was off to a good start. However, by October, I was pretty much done. I’ve gained about 3 pounds back from my low, but as of this time last year, I weighed about 210lbs, and I’m at 178 today.
2015 was, by many measures, a year I can only describe with a great deal of profanity, and I will be pleased to see it consigned to to the toilet bowl of history. In that spirit, I have compiled a new list of resolutions for the coming year. We’ll check back in a year to see how I did.
That’s it. I’m working on becoming a better human being, but that’s always going to be a work in progress with little in the way of quantifiable success. These are solid goals.
So, as it says at the top of the page, Slàinte Mhath, and a happy New Year.
It’s taken me a few days to coalesce my thoughts about the attacks in Paris, but in writing this I was really waiting for the inevitable reaction. Unfortunately, I could have written this days, or even months ago, and it would have been the same.
I can’t imagine what the people of Paris are going through. In many ways, this is a more horrifying attack than September 11th, or even the Charlie Hebdo attack. This was not an attack on a specific target – even the Bataclan was not really a ‘target’ per se, other than having a high concentration of victims available. 9/11 was a strike against a symbol made by ultimately faceless killers, as everyone they directly terrorized died with them, and the overwhelming body count actually veers into Stalin’s ‘statistics’ category. Charlie Hebdo was a directed strike against a singular group that the average person likely had a strong opinion on but didn’t think about often. The attack probably reinforced their opinion, and left them with the comforting notion that as long as they didn’t do what Charlie did, they’d be safe.
This attack, however, is the kind of attack I’d have been making against the west since 2001 were I a terrorist mastermind. This is visceral, up front, random violence that leaves a lot of blood and even more witnesses. This is the kind of attack that truly terrorizes a population. It doesn’t give them the option of staying away from symbols or comforting themselves with notions that if they don’t poke the bear, it won’t eat them. This is what terror looks like.
With all the outpourings of sympathy, for the changed user icons with French flag overlays, one would think that this is a rare occurrence. I suppose it is, if you’re a privileged white Westerner. But these kinds of attacks happen almost daily around the world. 147 people were murdered in an attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in April. 233 civilians were massacred over two days in Kobani, Syria in June. 145 people were murdered in a series of bombings in Borno State, Nigeria in September. Those are just a few of the ‘larger’ attacks, but we almost never hear about them on the news, or they’re part of the background noise that’s quickly forgotten. I say this as an NPR listener – I remember all of those events being reported, but they were tucked into the regularity of other reporting and had a shelf life of maybe two days. In contrast, the Paris attacks became the only news on for hours, and is still being discussed.
We care now because the bodies are white, because they were enjoying music that we like when they died, because we saw first-hand accounts on social media. To put a fine point on it, the people who died were us. There’s a perception that everywhere that’s not speaking English is a dirt-poor third-world country where this sort of thing is an accepted part of life, but that is not the case. People die in these attacks doing the same things the people in Paris died doing, and it gets broadcast on social media just the same. We don’t see it, because we don’t speak Swahili or Arabic or Yoruba.
The death toll in Paris is tragic, but the real tragedy will truly unfold in the days and weeks to come. The mindset of France today should be familiar to anyone who remembers September 14th, 2001 in America. We were numb, we were angry, we were ready to bomb anyone who didn’t give full-throated support to our desire to bomb everyone. We were looking for enemies under every rock, and when we found people who looked like them, we didn’t stop to ask questions first. France is ready to lash out at Syrian refugees, even though those refugees are fleeing the very same violence. They’ve come to Europe to escape incidents like this happening on a daily basis. What they’re finding is a a disturbingly familiar othering from voices on the right that has led, in the past, to some rather dark times.
Of course, France isn’t just focused on internal threats. Long the cultural symbol of hesitance in the face of danger, unwillingness to fight, or outright cowardice (a relatively undeserved stereotype), France is gnashing its teeth and vowing, in the words of President Hollande, a “war which will be pitiless” which sounds like the perfect response to point to when I have to write this again in 10 years. Hollande is George W. Bush standing at Ground Zero, vowing that Al-Qaeda would “will hear all of us soon.” 14 years later, we have a line of futility drawn straight from that pile of rubble to the attack in Paris, and it’s labelled “the Islamic State.” This is a beast of our own making. Hollande’s pitiless war is just going to be more of the same. Wars of vengeance do not solve problems, they create them. The U.S. war in Iraq created IS. IS has no borders, so attacking it means attacking Syria and Turkey and Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan, and even breaking the military capacity of IS is effectively meaningless considering they weren’t rolling tanks into Paris. Adding more death and destruction to the Middle East is the exact opposite of a solution to the problem, and it is fundamentally what IS wants.
The Islamic State is no stranger to massacring Muslims, as their targets are, by a wide margin, mostly people in their own neighborhood. The goal of this attack in Paris and others perpetrated in the West is to get the West to strike back. Our own cultural insensitivity works both ways – they kill 140 people in Paris, and the average Kurd or Syrian doesn’t care in the same way we don’t care if 140 of them are killed. Similarly, if the response is French war planes bombing targets up the street, or French soldiers going door-to-door, the people directly affected aren’t going to sit there calmly and accept that this is because of an attack 2,500 miles away. All they’re going to see is France wrecking their town. And eventually, an IS ideologue is going to sing sweetly to their children that they can get revenge, all they have to do is wear this vest and go to heaven.
So yes, I mourn for Paris. But we need to stop acting like this is the only real terrorism, or that the responses we’re seeing are acceptable or even useful. Because if we do, I’ll just be able to change a few names and post this again. And again. And again.
Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for making a hoax bomb. That’s the official reason for his arrest. But that’s not why he was arrested. The why of why he was arrested is a little more complicated, but it boils down pretty succinctly to bigotry, xenophobia, and terrorism.
Let’s get a few things straight, this wasn’t a “post-9/11 overreaction.” This was a number of people actively taking their racism out on a 13-year-old boy. There was, at no point in the ordeal, an actual fear or even belief that he had made a bomb or even intended to make a device that people would believe was a bomb. Ahmed’s English teacher decided that it would be better to err on the side of lynching than let this opportunity to be a terrible example to the class pass by. Upon seeing the clock, the teacher declared that it looked like a bomb, despite Ahmed’s calm protests that it didn’t.
This teacher, this brave first responder, then had Ahmed taken out of class. Note that the teacher didn’t immediately call for a lockdown and evacuate the class. The teacher didn’t actually think that it was a bomb and the teacher at no point believed that there was any danger. The teacher was (to use the accurate terminology) a fucking asshole racist bigoted xenophobe who had found the perfect excuse to toss the local Muslim kid to the wolves. But the fun didn’t stop with Ahmed’s English teacher.
Upon being escorted to the office, highly not dangerous clock in tow, the police were called. Someone in the office called the police on a 13-year-old with a clock. They did not call the police and say HOLY FUCK THERE IS A BOMB HERE SEND HELP, because a few officers showed up in orderly fashion, not the entire bomb squad. Helicopters did not circle. Students were not evacuated. CNN was not on scene in minutes. No one at any time actually thought this was a bomb.
Ahmed, for his part, consistently maintained that he had made a clock. He did not mention to anyone that this was a device intended to emulate a bomb.
The police arrived, and began questioning Ahmed, who asked to speak to his parents. That request was denied, because he was “in the middle of an interrogation.” I understand that the maximum IQ for a police officer is at least 24 points lower than the minimum to get into Mensa, but even the most barely-functional police officer should know that this is a blatant violation of a person’s Constitutional rights. So it’s safe to say that the intent here was not to discern whether there was any threat here, it was to intimidate. The interrogation was simply to send the message “your freedom is at our whim.”
After the interrogation, this cooperative, whip thin 13-year-old boy, who could have been snapped like a twig by any of the officers, and that everyone knew was not building a bomb, was handcuffed, “for his safety and for the safety of the officers,” in full view of his peers, and frog-marched to the local precinct, where he was processed and charged with creating a hoax bomb.
He was wearing a NASA t-shirt. I don’t claim to know a lot of jihadis, but I can bet that none of them have screamed “DEATH TO AMERICA EXCEPT FOR YOUR SPACE PROGRAM!”
The charge was, of course, bogus, and quickly dismissed after social media turned up for the circus that the authorities were putting on. The media, for its part, immediately began pushing the narrative that Ahmed had been arrested for making a hoax bomb. But he wasn’t. He was arrested for being brown. The clock is even incidental here: when the first police officer saw him, his reaction was “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” He wasn’t expecting the quiet white nominally-Christian boy who is far more likely to be a mass shooter. He was expecting Ahmed. They wanted to arrest the brown kid. They wanted to haul in the Muslim like he was a trophy.
There’s another part to this story, one that actually involves terrorism. Ahmed’s father is a political person. He’s a vocal opponent of anti-Islamic activity in America who happens to live in a town with a mayor who is leading the charge against “Sharia Law,” as if that’s actually a thing that is happening in America. He often returns to his native Sudan to run for president. He has debated notorious bigots. He’s outspoken in claiming his rights.
And now, seemingly out of nowhere, his son has been rounded up, had his rights violated, and been accused of egregious crimes that no one involved actually believes he intended to commit. They weren’t even polite enough to disguise it. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” the police said. They knew who this was. They knew what they were doing and who they were targeting. This arrest was an act of terrorism.
- the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
This was unambiguously the use of intimidation (and, it could be argued, violence), in the pursuit of political aims. It doesn’t matter that they tried to do it under the color of law, this was thuggery, pure and simple. This was an act of terrorism, against American citizens, on American soil.
The real crisis that we face is that, even though Ahmed has been invited to the White House, even though he’s going to be held up as an example by well-meaning groups, Ahmed case isn’t unique, and his case is not an outlier. This happens every day. Ahmed is fortunate that his interaction with police didn’t involve a coroner’s report. The media isn’t going to call this an act of terrorism. Even people who should be calling it an act of terror (people like the President and even Ahmed’s father) don’t recognize it as terrorism, because they don’t recognize that it is, because most Americans can’t even think in those terms. Terrorism is something that happens over there or is perpetrated by people who aren’t white.
White terrorism is never called terrorism. We need to start calling it that. We’re going to keep seeing stories like this, stories like the shooting in Charleston, stories like the shooting in Oak Creek, and we’re going to keep viewing them as isolated incidents. They’re not. They’re fomented by a culture that gives implicit backing by ignoring what they are. They’re abetted by an investigative and preventive framework that refuses to accept that they are actual politically-motivated threats to public safety. This is terrorism. We need to start treating it like terrorism.