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!
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.
One of my friends asked me recently “what makes you such a liberal?” This was in response to a discussion we were having about capital punishment. It was an honest question that deserved an honest answer. I’ve had a few different answers over the years that tended toward snark, but I kind of surprised myself when I quickly came up with a solid answer that very concisely explains my political beliefs.
“A lot of examination,” I replied. “I look at things from the eyes of the lowest common denominator.”
On any given socioeconomic subject that I find myself in need of an opinion on, I ask myself two questions. These might not always be conscious questions, but in retrospect, these two questions are the only ones that matter to me.
1) Who is hurt the most by various outcomes, and what do they think?
2) What does the science say?
His response was “Isn’t that just a matter of common sense at that point?” As Stephen Colbert has said, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”
Let’s take the capital punishment example we were discussing. Who does capital punishment hurt? The answer to that is easy: the poor and minorities. The death penalty is applied so lopsidedly to people of color and people who can’t afford their own defense that it’s impossible to look at the numbers and not immediately see the correlation (unless, of course, you don’t want to see it). The difference between life in prison and a needle is, almost universally, your ability to hire competent council, and the color of your skin.
Now, what does the science say? It says that states with capital punishment have a higher murder rate than those without. It’s not a deterrent. If anything, it’s an aggravating circumstance. These states don’t value life, why should their citizens?
Every issue I have an opinion on fits this framework, and almost every single time, I end up with what is typically held to be the “liberal” position. Not necessarily the Democratic Party’s talking points, but what is commonly viewed as the far, but not necessarily radical, left.
Note that there’s no consideration to faith, religion or dogma there. Science, and a concern for the most affected, are my guiding principles. Almost everything I have a position on doesn’t affect me. I’m a white, middle-aged, heterosexual male smack dab in the center of the middle class. I am, demographically, about as close as you can get to the most privileged person that you can find (the only thing I’m missing is a few million dollars in annual income), so things like being racially profiled by the police, easy access to healthcare, and being paid only a percentage of the standard due to my plumbing aren’t things that directly affect me. That being said, I know people that they do affect, and my concern for them becomes a general concern for everyone in that situation.
Weeks like this don’t come along very often. Victory after victory after victory, with barely enough time to breathe in between, and most of them coming from a recently suspect Supreme Court.
That’s a solid string of wins for a lot of people, and everyone who views them as losses is going to be viewed by history as backward relics hanging on to barbarism (if they’re not already). I really can’t overstate how great these four things are – the last one, in particular, is something I will never forget reading about, something I will cherish as a defining moment of a generation. Marriage equality! FINALLY!
Seriously, great job to everyone who fought for this, from Stonewall to today. People bled for this, please don’t ever forget that.
Does it sound like I’m leading up to a big ‘but’?
Weeks like this are great, and there’s a lot to celebrate, but my fear is that the wins in these battles are so big, so earth-shattering, that they set back the rest of the war. They take attention and momentum away from other, related battles. They drive opponents further into the trench and embolden them to fight even harder for anything they can hold on to. They make it that much harder to get with less flashy wins on even more important issues.
Great, yeah, the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is finally being fully recognized as a symbol of horrific racism and treason, and is being pulled down and thrown on the garbage pile of history where it belongs. Even Walmart is refusing to sell it. Of course, removing this symbol required a blood sacrifice of 9 innocents, and has become the point of focus. Not the fact that a known radical was easily able to obtain a firearm, not the fact that he was a radicalized terrorist, not the fact that an ingrained system of hatred lead to this horrific act. It was the flag that did this, and if we take it away, everything is fine!
We’ve got marriage equality now, and thousands upon thousands of people who were denied basic human rights based solely on their gender are legally entitled to those rights. But, in the meantime, there are still 27 states where you can be fired or evicted from your apartment for legally getting married to the wrong person. There are 31 states where you can be tossed out on your ear for not dressing/acting/being the person your genitals say you are. Everyone cheered Obama schooling a heckler without a thought to the fact that said heckler was protesting the government’s horrible detention of LGBT immigrants and asylum seekers. These are issues of livelihood and shelter and freedom that are still up for debate, but now people can get married, so what more do you people want?
To make matters worse, the politicians that we would hope are leading the charge on these wins are simply riding their coattails. They claim victories that they had little or nothing to do with and have actually been counterproductive toward in the past. The very leaders we need to drive the fight forward are the same ones who would have us declare the war done. They are, if anything, more detrimental to the fight than the vocal opponents.
These are the fights we can’t forget about. These are the issues that we need to point to and realize that the war is far from won, that there is so much work left to be done. This was a good week. These were a lot of victories. Don’t expect every week to be like this.
It’s May, so it’s time to check the oil on just where I stand on the Political Compass:
Economic Left/Right: -9.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.46
Basically the same as last year, so just as cranky and disaffected as ever!
I think it’s safe to say at this point that sports hasn’t been exactly charitable to women, and that has been put on display time and time again recently. Yet for all the many high profile cases where various leagues and teams have completely failed women and their growing female fan bases, we tend to gloss over the various day-to-day miserableness that women who enjoy sports have to put up with.
Recently, I’ve started following a lot of people who talk hockey on Twitter, and the majority of those new follows are women. They’re smart, funny, and know their sport, as least as well as, and typically better than, their male peers. There’s probably an argument to be made that they do because they have to be better to be taken seriously, but I’m not even talking about bloggers here – just casual fans who are independently commenting on the sport that they love.
Most of these women I’ve started following because they said something intelligent about hockey. What keeps me around is that they’re, each and every one, pretty awesome people. Turns out most of them are passionate about other things I am passionate about, non-sports related things (please see the image at the top of the page for a random sampling). I tend to get a little mad when people I consider awesome are dumped on simply because of their plumbing.
Nearly three weeks ago, someone I respect on Twitter (despite the fact that she persists on rooting for the wrong team) called out a paid commentator of the team she roots for on yet another entry in his long documented history of being an absolute scumbag in his treatment of women. His response was, predictably, to cast himself as a victim and then double down on being awful.
I can imagine that there’s a temptation to look at the firestorm that ensued as a neutral observer and say “just a random fan getting into it with a shock jock,” but that’s not what it is. I say ‘is,’ because nearly three weeks on and it’s still going on, despite now being an entirely one-sided affair. Called on his awfulness, the commentator started by deflecting and claiming he was terribly wronged in a way that he was obviously not, and then very quickly ramped up to full-blown threats against her career in order to silence her.
Let me recap – A paid mouthpiece for a professional sports franchise overtly threatened a fan of that franchise with actions that could have lead to dramatic loss of income because she accurately pointed out he was being a misogynist bully. Can you guess what the reaction from that franchise was?
Oh, sorry, I left this box of crickets here.
Eventually, while not exactly concerned over the threats, she locked down her Twitter in order to remove herself from what was an unresolvable situation that was being tacitly supported by said franchise. But he was having none of that, preferring to mention her on Twitter in a manner akin to a third-grader playing “I’m not touching you!” Mind you, this is someone who has nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, many of whom “mobilized” on his behalf to back him up, horribly wounded victim that he is. He gets to amplify his signal many many times over to people willing to step into the fray for 30 seconds. While she has a number of people willing to actively defend her, the effort that they have to expend in defense is far and away more taxing than all of the offense combined. This is a gross power imbalance, and most of the people on the short side are already weary from having to deal with this kind of shit every day.
We’ve seen this type of behavior from various big-name GamerGate supporters who mobilize their flocks to anonymously peck at their targets while casting themselves as the real victims. The difference here is that, despite the distributed nature of GamerGate, there actually is a central authority to appeal to here – the team itself. Unfortunately, that team doesn’t seem to care. I’ve imagined they’ve done the math already and concluded that even passing acknowledgement of the issue would generate a backlash they don’t want to waste the time addressing. “So what if the commentator was harassing someone? He interviewed our favorite player and we like him!” This calculation effectively sells out 40% of their fanbase that, due to various social reasons, tend to be less vocal (and less heard when they are) in favor of not upsetting a rather small minority existing in the other 60%, a minority that gets shriller and more aggressive even as it grows smaller. Eventually that math is going to look very bad, but the damage is going to be long since done.
An argument I’ve been making for a few years now is about a certain piece of technology that we should have by now but don’t. It’s 2015, and we’ve launched a handful of human beings toward the moon and brought them back, harnessed the power of the atom to flash-murder a few hundred thousand people at once, and cured smallpox. Science really has no limits.
No, I’m not talking about hoverboards or self-lacing shoes or even flying cars.
Driving along a windy, hilly road in the rain last night, I came across what is essentially my driving nightmare scenario. I see, for just a split second, a deer on the road ahead in my lane, before the guy coming toward me also sees the deer. His reaction is to put on his high beams. The deer instantly vanishes, drowned out by the light I’m trying to see through. If I’d blinked in that second, I would just have though it was some random jerk with his brights on, and plowed merrily into the deer that was apparently quite pleased to wander in traffic.
My point here is why did this scenario have to happen? With all of the advancement in vehicle technology – GPS navigation – fuel economy, impact safety, handling, etc. – why is it that we don’t have night vision? Why do we need anything other than running lights for safety? At night, in the rain, the lines on the road practically disappear. Why doesn’t my windshield compensate for this? I’d rather see that deer in green than have it come flying through my windshield.
And yeah, I understand cost. But I can guarantee you that all of the aforementioned technology that we already have was developed at significant cost, yet is now considered standard.
So get on it, science. Imagine all of the light pollution we could cut out if we didn’t have 250 million sets of headlights on the road.