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May 4th, 2015
Not The Problem
by Bruce |
Captain Jack on what the problem is…
For most of last week I was confined to quarters after 10PM, here in Charm City, aka Mobtown, aka Baltimore. I didn’t have it as bad as many here did…I have a small, but nice little Baltimore rowhouse to bounce around in and anyway I’m usually in bed by 10PM. I am not a service working trying to make ends meet on a job I suddenly can’t work because it’s closed during my shift. My income does not depend on tips from late evening revelers. And as the people of Hampden, a largely white neighborhood just down the street from me proved last Saturday, even if I strayed for a little while from the curfew orders, the police probably wouldn’t start beating the crap out of me. Unless I had one of my cameras and my press badge on me anyway.
And while I am completely sympathetic with the protestors, the frustration and anger generally with police unaccountability, and was greatly relieved when our State’s Attorney leveled what seems to me to be thoroughly appropriate charges against the policemen and women involved in the death of Freddy Gray (there was a joke going around about how, acting on a request by the Roman Governor, the Baltimore City Police determined that Jesus fell into a box of nails and accidentally nailed himself to a cross…), I was mostly in favor of the curfew. Human consciousness isn’t all perfect rational thinking even when it keeps telling us it is. When a mob gets started…and we are every single one of us vulnerable to getting swept up in one…then it’s the lizard brain in charge and the first thing is you have to break up the mob.
But on twitter the other day Atrios was saying that curfews don’t solve anything and that is absolutely true too. A curfew doesn’t solve a problem anymore than a fire extinguisher does. A fire extinguisher puts out a fire. The fire was the problem you didn’t solve.
Yes that extension cord keeps getting hot…yes it’s a little frayed…but it still works…
For a good overview of the problem Baltimore (and the nation generally), didn’t, isn’t, won’t solve, read this…
There is a difference people keep missing, conveniently or ignorantly, between excusing violence and explaining it. Humanity didn’t fall from grace, we rose from the jungle and the hot African plains, seeking it. But we carry the jungle with us, and it lives within us…all of us…and any animal will fight back when it’s cornered. The problem isn’t the rioters, don’t be pointing your finger there, the problem is the attitude generally toward the neighborhoods that rioted, and the people who live in them. They are our neighbors, they are our fellow Americans, and look what we’ve done to them.
Look at what we are becoming.
April 30th, 2015
Less Than Toilet Paper
by Bruce |
I’m sharing this entire Facebook post from Marci Tarrant Johnson one of the Public Defenders working at Baltimore City Central Booking today. I saw the other day that one of the protesters accused Wolf Blitzer on CNN of thinking a broken window was worse than a broken spine. But it’s the broken respect for the rule of law here in America that leads to broken spines in, police vans, with prisoners inside that are being given “screen tests“. Rioting in the streets is amateur business. Take a look at what professional disrespect for the rule of law looks like…here…
OK…here it is…
I’m going to try to keep this as brief as I can, but I’ve been asked by several people about Central Booking today, so I’ll give you guys the shocking highlights. As much as I’d like to, I can’t describe the particulars of some of the more egregious arrests, due to attorney/client privilege issues, but I would like to describe the Civil Liberties violations, and the deplorable conditions which people have had to endure.
As many of you know, more than 250 people have been arrested since Monday here in Baltimore. Normally when you are arrested, you are given a copy of your charging documents and then you must see a commissioner within 24 hours for a bail determination (“prompt presentment”) and given a trial date. If you are not released after the commissioner hearing, you will be brought before a judge for a review of the bail set by the commissioner. None of this was happening, so we sent some lawyers to Central Booking yesterday to try to help. I heard, however, that only 2 commissioners showed up, and the correctional officers only brought about 9 people to be interviewed because the jail was on a mysterious “lock-down”.
Today we were divided into two groups. Some of the lawyers were assigned the task of actually doing judicial bail reviews for as many folks as they could get interviewed and docketed. I was assigned to the other group. We were the “habeas team”, and we were to interview folks that we felt were being illegally detained, so we could file writs of habeas corpus. Governor Hogan had issued an executive order, extending the time for prompt presentment to 47 hours. We believed that this order was invalid because the governor has no authority to alter the Maryland Rules. As a result, all people who were being detained for more than 24 hours without seeing a commissioner were being held illegally.
Knowing all of this, I was still not prepared for what I saw when I arrived. The small concrete booking cells were filled with hundreds of people, most with more than ten people per cell. Three of us were sent to the women’s side where there were up to 15 women per holding cell. Most of them had been there since Monday afternoon/evening. With the exception of 3 or 4 women, the women who weren’t there for Monday’s round-ups were there for freaking curfew violations. Many had not seen a doctor or received required medication. Many had not been able to reach a family member by phone. But here is the WORST thing. Not only had these women been held for two days and two nights without any sort of formal booking, BUT ALMOST NONE OF THEM HAD ACTUALLY BEEN CHARGED WITH ANYTHING. They were brought to CBIF via paddy wagons (most without seat belts, btw–a real shocker after all that’s happened), and taken to holding cells without ever being charged with an actual crime. No offense reports. No statements of probable cause. A few women had a vague idea what they might be charged with, some because of what they had actually been involved in, and some because of what the officer said, but quite a few had no idea why they were even there. Incidentally, I interviewed no one whose potential charges would have been more serious than petty theft, and most seemed to be disorderly conduct or failure to obey, charges which would usually result in an immediate recog/release.
The holding cells are approximately 10×10 (some slightly larger), with one open sink and toilet. The women were instructed that the water was “bad” and that they shouldn’t drink it. There are no beds–just a concrete cube. No blankets or pillows. The cells were designed to hold people for a few hours, not a few days. In the one cell which housed 15 women, there wasn’t even enough room for them all to lay down at the same time. Three times a day, the guards brought each woman 4 slices of bread, a slice of american cheese and a small bag of cookies. They sometimes got juice, but water was scarce, as the CO’s had to wheel a water cooler through every so often (the regular water being “broken”.)
My fellow attorneys and I all separately heard the same sickening story over and over. None of the women really wanted to eat 4 slices of bread 3 times a day, so they were saving slices of bread TO USE AS PILLOWS. Let me say that again. THEY WERE ALL USING BREAD AS PILLOWS SO THAT THEY WOULDN’T HAVE TO LAY THEIR HEADS ON THE FILTHY CONCRETE FLOOR.
Interviewing these women was emotionally exhausting. Quite a few of them began crying–so happy to finally see someone who might know why they were there, or perhaps how they might get out of this Kafka-esque nightmare. These women came from all walks of life. We interviewed high school students, college students, people with graduate degrees, people with GED’s, single women, married women, mothers, the well-employed, the unemployed, black women and white women. Almost all of them had no record. Those that did, had things like dui’s and very minor misdemeanors. Our group didn’t interview any of the men on the other side, but my colleagues reported very similar situations. On the men’s side there were journalists and activists, as well as highschool kids with no records, barely 18 years old.
As we were getting ready to leave, we heard that many of these folks might be released without charges, after being held for 2 days. When we returned to the office, our amazing “habeas fellow”, Zina Makar, single-handedly filed 82 habeas petitions. That is when we heard that 101 people were released without charges. I’d like to think that the amazing legal response to this injustice played a large part in their release, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. They may be charged later, but I’m guessing most of them won’t based on how minor their alleged infractions are. There are still over a hundred folks in there that need to see a commissioner and/or a judge, but hopefully we have thinned the ranks a little, and we will keep fighting until everyone has received due process. (We are concerned about these folks potential bails, as we are hearing about bails in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for misdemeanor charges).
I’ll wrap this up by reminding everyone that all lives matter. We are all human beings. And we are Americans, and as such we are afforded protections under the law, the guilty and innocent alike. If one person is denied due process, we all suffer. If one persons rights and freedoms are trampled on, it’s not only a reflection on all of us, but it puts our own liberty at risk. The moment we view some individuals as more important than others, we cheapen ourselves. At the very essence of our democracy is the right to question and stand up to authority. During these trying times, we should all keep that in mind.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful picture that was taken today of one of the women who was released without charges. Her husband had been waiting outside CBIF trying to find something…ANYTHING out about when she might be charged or released. This was taken moments after she walked out the door…..
This is why Baltimore keeps paying out millions in lawsuits that might otherwise be spent on our crumbling infrastructure. But pay attention to what this lawyer says at the very end…
I’ll wrap this up by reminding everyone that all lives matter. We are all human beings. And we are Americans, and as such we are afforded protections under the law, the guilty and innocent alike. If one person is denied due process, we all suffer. If one persons rights and freedoms are trampled on, it’s not only a reflection on all of us, but it puts our own liberty at risk.
We’ve all seen how the wingers love to wave the constitution around like it means something to them. Yet they are completely fine with all of this as long as it’s happening to everyone they hate…the darkies, the dirty f*cking hippies, anyone and everyone as long as it isn’t them. If this is your idea of liberty and justice than the U.S. constitution is less meaningful to you than a roll of toilet paper.
So next time one of them talks at you about how much they love the constitution, next time some winger starts babbling that Barack Hussein Obama or Hillary or someone, anyone in government whose policies they don’t like is VIOLATING THE CONSTITUTION and they’re all against that, laugh in their face.
April 29th, 2015
How About Not Throwing So Many Of Those Fathers In Jail Then?
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream just now. It’s the kind of thing that just sets me off and I start seeing red. No…first I see a face. My Mom’s face. Then I see red…
I was raised by a single divorced mother you drooling brick-brained ideologue and her son’s police record is a hell of a lot cleaner than your’s is.
I had good public schools to go to…which you want to take away from America’s kids.
Even in a time when women made less than 60 cents on the dollar than a male co-worker for doing Exactly the same job my mom could still afford to raise a child back in the 50s and 60s. And that was because we had an economy that benefitted middle class and service workers like my mom. …something else you want to kill so your rich benefactors can buy more yachts. All those high paying union jobs gave paychecks to people who actually bought goods and services with them instead of gambling at the Wall Street casino. But your kind hates unions.
Mom was able to afford health care for me when it was desperately needed, after I came down with Scarlet Fever when I was 6 and then was laid up in bed for months with complications. Once upon a time working people and even a poor working single mother could afford health care for their kids. And you are trying to kill off the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Mom could afford to feed me, even on her meager salary back then. It wasn’t a fabulous diet I had back then but I never went to bed hungry. And it was reasonably healthy You want to take food stamps away from poor kids and let the food industry feed everyone else junk.
And even on that meager salary she could buy me books to read.
Face it Paul…you don’t give a good goddamn about those inner city kids. Broken homes is it you’re worried about? What ruins more marriages than money problems? You are making home life for everyone but the rich worse and worse so they can have more and more and more and you’re bellyaching that kids don’t have fathers? I’m laughing in your face. It isn’t lack of fathers that drove those kids into the streets, its lack of any concern whatsoever for the rest of America you can’t see from inside your nicely furnished cocoon. They’re just little people. If you and your kind were really concerned about them not having fathers, maybe so many of them wouldn’t be in jail right now for piddly sh*t that very few white men ever face arrest for, let alone jail time. Maybe the life those kids are looking wouldn’t be a school-to-jailhouse pipeline.
April 6th, 2015
(Message In A Bottle) So This Was Why You Warned Me Not To Send You Any Of Those!
by Bruce |
Just now on Facebook…
Relax. They probably have your colonoscopy photos on file too.
[Update…] I’m queer…I can’t stop myself…
…I’m so ashamed…
March 29th, 2015
Thou Shalt Not Tell The Mirror Lies
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream this morning…one of many stories about the so-called Religious Freedom bill the governor of Indiana signed into law the other day…
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Pull the other one. I’ve seen apologists spinning criticism of the Indiana law as some kind of militant gay hysterics, that the law has nothing whatever to do with discrimination against gay citizens, it’s just about preventing government from forcing The Devout to violate their Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs. We all believe that people should be free to practice their faith don’t we? But in Georgia a similar law was amended to make it clear that it wasn’t a license to discriminate and rather than pass it with that amendment they withdrew it. And in Oklahoma when a legislator proposed that businesses wanting protection under that law had to post signs alerting customers they would not serve anyone if it violated their religious beliefs, that law was also withdrawn.
Laws like these aren’t actually originating in the various state legislatures. The new thing is to first cook up a law in a right wing legislative think tank like ALEC and then pass it around to friendly state representatives. If you want to know the purpose of these ersatz religious freedom laws, ask the folks pushing them on the states…
Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer): “Dear Indiana legislators: any legislation “clarifying” RFRA will be abject surrender to the homosexual agenda. Don’t do it.”
I’m sure part of the song and dance now is Don’t Say The G-Word during hearings on the law. But there’s plenty of talk about what the purpose is elsewhere and if you doubt the actual legislative purpose take another look at what happened in Georgia when they added the clarity that Pence claims now to be seeking. Or take a look at this image from GLADD…
There will be no clarification forthcoming, Pence knows it, this is just wash, wash, washing his hands before the angry multitudes. What? What? I asked the legislature for Clarification…they did not provide any…so don’t blame me!
Some of you may recall a lot of this started when a same sex couple wanted a wedding cake and the bakery refused, citing their Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs. There have been several more cases like that, but in the one case I’m thinking of, I think it was the Colorado bakery, what hasn’t gotten as much press was a local radio station had various people go to that same bakery and ask them to bake cakes for divorces, out of wedlock births, heterosexual couples shacking up but not getting married, and so on…and they were perfectly willing to bake those cakes. Just not the one for the gay couple. I don’t think that even qualifies as Sunday Morning Christianity.
The ninth commandment is you don’t tell lies about your neighbors. There needs to be one for telling lies about yourself. Because, really, that’s where soul rot begins. All this yap, yap, yapping now about how everyone is completely misinterpreting Indiana’s law would be hilarious on The Daily Show but it’s pathetic to watch people really saying these things with a straight face. Anyone saying this law has nothing to do with nullifying the effect if not the reality of same-sex marriage needs to go look in a mirror and ask that poor lost soul staring back at them which is worse: repeating a lie because you don’t want people to know the truth, or repeating it because you don’t want to know the truth.
March 3rd, 2015
Simple Is Only Better Conditionally
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win.
I know this place…sort-of. I stayed for a time at the libertarian vacation resort myself, when I was mostly young, and yes I am a white guy, and yes I had high ideals. I like to think I still do. But what attracted me to it back in my early twenties wasn’t the idea of my own Galtish godhead and sticking it to all the lesser beings who were dragging me and my innate man-of-the-mind genius down. It was the nerdish appeal of its beautiful social simplicity. I was being raised by a single working mother, so it isn’t as if I was surrounded by family wealth exactly, and visiting Dad in prison is probably more life experience than a lot of kids my age had. Plus I was being raised by Baptists and the whole idea of selfishness as being good was anathema for a number of reasons; materialism, vanity, greed all being big deal sins. Harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle was what I was told. The moral being that not only was wanting things bad but also that having them blinded you to the essential spiritual Truths. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God…blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…and so on…
(Just try to find that attitude in the republican party of Jesus these days…)
No. What attracted me to Rand and eventually to the Libertarian party was the beautiful simplicity of its ideas: All human interaction is based on trade. To initiate violence is always wrong. A decent stable productive society will emerge from the free and unfettered marketplace. More Is Less! Make It Simple Stupid. Here at last, was the beautiful elegant answer to all our social ills!
What I failed to realize was something H.L. Mencken said many years before I was born:
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
I thank Ronald Reagan for showing me the error of my ways…
The shining city on the hill Reagan promised America…look, look…here it is:
The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.
On the mainland there are two kinds of neighborhoods, slums that seem to go on forever and middle-class neighborhoods where every house is its own citadel. In San Pedro Sula, most houses are surrounded by high stone walls topped with either concertina wire or electric fence at the top. As I strolled past these castle-like fortifications, all I could think about was how great this city would be during a zombie apocalypse…
October 20th, 2014
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
IMO the constitution does confer a right to individual citizens to own their own firearms. IMO the right to own your own firearms is an eminently democratic right. I own a few myself, though I’m not an NRA member (have you Seen the people they endorse for public office??). And every time I hear someone babbling that private gun ownership is a check on government power, that it was intended by the founders to prevent tyranny, I just want to scream.
The ballot box is our check on government power! Without that America is a lost dream of liberty and justice for all and it won’t matter how many guns you own. How can anyone seriously think a disorganized armed rebellion can possibly succeed against a government that has, never mind the shear force it can bring to bear on a situation, the vast array of intelligence gathering technology it can put to use. They weren’t shooting everyone right and left in East Germany during the cold war. They didn’t need to. They just watched…everyone.
It is pure absolute genius how the tyrannical right manipulates this issue so they can keep chipping away at access to the ballot box. Do you approve? Do you think they won’t come after your vote too? Do you think that when Those Awful Other People can’t vote anymore you’ll finally get your country back? Lenin had a way of describing people like you.
August 19th, 2014
You Should Wonder About This From Time To Time…
by Bruce |
Walking in to work this morning, I came across a small and very old woman trying hard to push her loaded grocery cart across the street before the light changed. She didn’t make it, so I stood out in the street and waved oncoming traffic around her. She looked to be going from the big new Giant into the rowhouse neighborhood just down the street from that intersection which wasn’t too far for her to go. But at that age nobody moves very fast either.
She began struggling to get her grocery cart up over the curb and onto the sidewalk and I walked over to help her. It took me back years.
I was raised by a single working mother, and grew up in a household that couldn’t afford a car until I was well into my teens. One of my duties as the “man of the house” was pushing the loaded grocery cart back home from the store a couple miles away. It wasn’t difficult, not even for a young boy. If you balanced the load just right on the wheels once you got it moving it was pretty much easy to keep it moving.
When I was 7 or 8 and I would look down at the wheels and pretend I was driving a car.
Nowadays the grocery carts have four wheels on them. I suppose that’s for older people like the lady I was helping just then, who couldn’t always keep a two wheeled cart balanced. We struggled together getting her cart up off the road and onto the sidewalk, she had the thing pretty well full. I’m guessing it was her food for the next couple weeks. But we got it up and she thanked me and went on her way, happy I hope to see a little politeness still left in the world.
I looked up. The light had turned red again and a city police car was stopped right there at the crosswalk. The cop inside was looking at me, smiled and nodded and I smiled back and went on my way. I suppose it does the police good to see people actually helping each other out from time to time too.
…and then I wondered what would have happened had I been a young black male and he saw me and that old woman struggling there with that grocery cart.
March 16th, 2014
The Closet Is The New Tolerance
by Bruce |
The story, as passed down to me, is that several generations back on mom’s side of the family, an Irish man fell in love with an English woman who also loved him very much. And against the wishes of both their families they married. And were promptly disowned by both their families. So they came to America, and that is why mom’s side of the family tree became Americans.
I could see it…the lovers wanting to come to the New World instead of settling down somewhere in England or Ireland away from their respective families. Even at a young age I understood that the English and Irish didn’t get along very well. It wasn’t until I scratched below the surface of the history the books like to call the Great Potato Famine that I began to grasp why it was such a hard history to put to rest, why the old hatreds kept boiling over. What I never got was why the Irish kept facing ignorant discrimination here in America too. Wasn’t this the Great Melting Pot? Wasn’t this the land of the Golden Door? Some years back, while perusing the stands at the big Labor Day Flea Market in the little Virginia town mom had retired to, I saw a No Irish sign for sale along with other signs from ugly days gone by. White Only. Colored Entrance. No Indians Served. They made my skin crawl, yet I hoped someone was preserving all that. I’d been out of the closet for about two decades by then, and had experienced over and over how bigots could be alternatively proud of their cheapshit prejudices, righteous even, and then suddenly turn on a dime and deny they had a prejudiced bone in their bodies.
We don’t discriminate against homosexuals…we are moral people who believe that open sexuality has no place in public… The double standard being of course that an opposite sex couple holding hands in public is but a simple little display of their mutual love and affection that should put a smile on everyone’s faces, whereas when a same-sex couple does exactly the same thing they’re flaunting their sexuality in everyone’s faces. We don’t care what you do in the bedroom…just keep it there…
I don’t think in my entire life I ever saw a No Gays sign, or a want ad that said Gays Need Not Apply. But you always knew what would happen to you, the moment you stepped out of the closet. Our struggle was about the closet. It was always about the closet. As long as we had to stay in the closet the only things people would know about us was were the lies. I grew up with those lies. I knew how they were killing us, how they would always keep killing us, until we could live our lives openly, without fear, and people could see us for the human beings we were, not the monsters they were constantly being told we were.
This came across my news stream this morning…
Foster and his friends and neighbors are not marching Sunday as part of a gay organization. They are marching as South Boston residents who have coalesced around building a park in a corner of the neighborhood known as the Lower End. Many of the people working on the float just happen to be gay. And they have been embraced by the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s longtime sponsor.
That would be the longtime sponsor that took their right to discriminate against their gay Irish neighbors all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won a pyrrhic victory. Every year now the breadth and depth of notable people, politicians and companies boycotting these No Homo parades grows. But Boston Globe reporter Andrew Ryan would like us to know that diversity is afoot this year in South Boston. Yes…a Tolerance Float built by gay south Bostonites has been accepted into the parade. No..embraced. And I can see exactly why they were embraced too…
“They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,” said Foster, an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and who has lived with his husband in South Boston for seven years. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: “How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, ‘I’m different than you?’ ”
Compromise. Yes, quite. And the compromise between staying in the closet and being out is you pretend you aren’t being pushed in and they pretend they didn’t push you. Such a deal.
“The only way for this to work was to keep quiet. We had to wait it out and prove what we said when we first started, that we’re not here to make a big statement,” Foster said last Saturday, taking a break from float construction. “We all thought, if we just show up on parade day and we march and have a cool float, people will understand.”
There was a time I thought I was working toward this “understanding” myself. I kept it low key among certain friends…I figured by giving their sensibilities breathing room I was giving them time to work out for themselves how everything they thought they knew about homosexuals was wrong. I could be the living example that taught them to see past their assumptions and prejudices. But prejudice is by definition irrational, and in the end I discovered all that was happening was they thought they were teaching me to keep it quiet.
Never doubt, that this is what the Allied War Veterans Council thinks they’re teaching the gays. The compromise from their point of view is they’re willing to let people they know to be homosexual into the parade. As long as they…you know…keep it quiet…
Lead parade organizer Philip J. Wuschke Jr. acknowledged that the inclusion this year of two groups with gay marchers represented “a little bit of a step,” but he pushed back against the assertion that the parade is intolerant.
“Gay people march in this all the time. Every year. This isn’t the first time,” Wuschke said. “We don’t ban gay people. We ban groups that are trying to make a statement.”
This is the sort of convenient circumlocution people use to prevent themselves from looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing a bigot staring back at them. It’s also pathetic. Does this man truly know nothing of the history of Irish people in the United States that he can honestly believe the St. Patrick’s Day parades do not now and never did have a political overtone to them?
Celebrating a people and their history is making a statement. So is excluding a people. Being proud of who you are is making a statement. So is telling someone to hide what they are in exchange for acceptance.
And when gay people willingly closet themselves in exchange for acceptance they are also making a statement. They may think it’s a statement about building bridges, but in reality it’s a statement of self worth. That is what Allied War Veterans Council is happy to have finally taught them. The Irish have a long and hard history they can be proud to have endured and overcome. Gays…well…they just have sex. And Irish gays are best not spoken of in public.
October 22nd, 2013
Today In Connect The Dots…
by Bruce |
This came across my Twitter stream just now…
@ThePlumLineGS: “WaPo poll shows that protected House Rs, while safe themselves, are doing huge damage to GOP’s nat’l appeal”
He links to this article of his on the Washington Post site…
Now…perhaps you’ve read those stories that started appearing right after the shutdown ended, about various Tea Party groups agitating for a repeal of the 17th Amendment. That’s the one that overrules prior clauses of the Constitution by which senators were elected by the state legislatures. Nowadays they’re all elected by statewide popular vote. That’s a problem for the extreme fanatical right. Here’s why: Gerrymandering only gets you wins in local elections. So in red states the hard right can dominate the legislatures and in congress they can get enough people in safely gerrymandered far right districts to make it difficult to do anything in that one branch. Batshit crazy tea party representatives in the house as we have seen, can wreak havoc without a care because their seats are safe because they only have to answer to their batshit crazy voters in that one gerrymandered district. But in statewide or nationwide elections you’re screwed. And especially so if you’re pissing off everyone outside of your little gerrymandered districts.
But repealing the 17th amendment would allow those little gerrymandered districts to capture the Senate, by way of control of their state legislatures. Or at least enough of the senate to insure control by filibuster indefinitely.
And take note, they’ve been making this move on the Electoral College too, with propositions in some states to give all that state’s electors to whoever wins the most Districts not to whoever wins the popular vote.
October 6th, 2013
The Noble Work Of Public Service
by Bruce |
This came across my Facebook stream this morning…a status post from a frustrated federal employee…
I’m really tired of being vilified as a federal worker. I WANT to WORK. I want to support myself. My colleagues do as well. We want to be productive and we don’t deserve to be accused of living off the backs of taxpayers or lazy and worse. I’m truly offended that members of my own family and some that I thought were friends have bought into this crap. I’ve tried to hold my tongue but I’m pissed off! If you truly feel that way, then unfriend me and don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life!
I remember a time, in the afterglow of the FDR days I guess, when “public service” jobs were considered noble work done for the good of the nation. I have watched the right wing, over time, chip away at that notion, not because they genuinely thought that government workers were lazy but because they hated democratic government and all that liberty and justice for all stuff. It seemed in my lifetime to culminate in that famous Ronald Reagan campaign quote, “”The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
Think about what he’s saying there, the next time you call for a policeman or a fireman, or listen to the hurricane track forecast from the national weather service, or you throw away some food in your pantry because it was recalled due to salmonella and you’re glad you heard the warning before you ate any of it. Think about it the next time you drive on the Interstate Highway System, or fly somewhere. Private enterprise wants to help only its bottom line. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a different thing from work that benefits the nation as a whole, and we have seen clearly now since the phrase “trickle-down” became an economic policy how that simply does not work. The libertarian pipe dream of a society that magically assumes a stable, productive shape solely by the force of the invisible hand of the marketplace is a fantasy held on to by people who want that free lunch of a nation they don’t have to be bothered with the work of maintaining. When it’s not the carefully crafted propaganda of sociopaths. A civilized society needs people to work for the government and be here to help us all.
Once upon a time the saying on Wall Street was what’s good for business is good for America, but that has it backwards, tragically, woefully backwards. It’s what’s good for America is good for business. What’s good for democracy is good for business. What’s good for the people is good for business, because without customers no business can prosper. But there are some who don’t give a good goddamn about America…or business. They care only for their own private wealth, their own power and glory. Reagan was half right about those words being the most terrifying words in the English language. To him and others of his kind, second only to the words “Liberty and justice for all.”
[Edited a tad…]
October 2nd, 2013
I’ll Take ‘Who Poisoned The Well’ For $1000 Alex…
by Bruce |
This, from Der Spiegel this morning…
“What Washington currently offers up is a spectacle, but one in which the spectators feel more like crying,” writes the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.”Because Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, Congress and president could not agree on a stop-gap budget, hundreds of thousands of federal employees were sent on involuntary leave and many agencies were forced to shut down,” continues the editorial. “The main actors in this dispute, which brings together many factors, both ideological and political, took a huge risk and, unhindered, proceeded to validate everyone who ever accused the political establishment in Washington of being rotten to the core — by driving the world power into a budgetary state of emergency. The public is left wondering how things could have been allowed to get to this point and why there is so much poison in the system.“
(Emphasis mine…) Poison in the system…did you ask…?
I became an American citizen only so I could own some U.S. TV stations…
June 24th, 2013
Let’s Have A Conversation Past Each Other
by Bruce |
A Facebook friend posted this graphic a short while ago…
Some days I think I’m the only person in the world who sees the various factions in the argument over gun control talking past each other so…Devotedly. Actually, yeah, people do talk about banning the private ownership of guns, usually in the context of saying that it would be impractical at this time or that, like a lot of other idealistic notions it just isn’t practical, so let’s do what we can today. In other words, gosh wouldn’t it be nice if nobody had guns. Well, some of us think not so much, and we’re not all Ted Nugent crackpots or Moloch worshipers. So what some folks insist The Other Side should be paying attention to is “we don’t want to take all your guns away” and the what other folks are paying attention to is that “at this time” or “because it isn’t practical” and so it goes.
Yes we can talk. We can for sure talk about how wonderful a world where nobody but the government can own a weapon, and no I am not an anti-government crank, I am a liberal FDR democrat and I believe that our best defense against tyranny is the ballot box and if you don’t use that wisely your damn household arsenal will not save you and I don’t care how big it is. I am a liberal FDR union supporting social safety net defending equality for all Americans democrat and I don’t see how rendering the common man and woman defenseless improves their lives much. However I Can see how sensible regulation of firearms does. But of course sensible is in the eye of the beholder. Convince me.
Yes, we can talk. We can talk about what sensible gun regulation is. But to have That conversation it would be helpful to hear some general agreement that the second amendment does in fact confer a right on individual citizens to own guns. No more of this “what part of ‘well regulated militia don’t you understand’ crap. What part of “the people” don’t You understand.
How about: “We agree people have a basic democratic right to own their own firearms. But like a lot of basic democratic rights that isn’t absolute either. Freedom of speech for example, doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. It doesn’t mean you can slander someone without there being consequences. The right to own a gun isn’t absolute, and especially so where our commonly shared public spaces are involved. Simply requiring a background check does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means that right comes with the responsibility to be peaceful and law abiding. Everyone has to be that. Simply restricting the capacity of ammunition clips does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means that your gun is for your personal protection not for criminal activity, waging armed rebellion, or terrorism. Simply restricting weapons fit only for military uses to just the military does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means if you want to be a solider you need to join the Army.
“But yes, you have a basic second amendment right to own a gun.”
Yeah…if only we could have that conversation. But it isn’t just one side of the argument that isn’t interested.
June 17th, 2013
Couldn’t You At Least Pretend We Have Facts On Our Side?
by Bruce |
This comes across my Google news stream this morning…
News organizations are far more likely to present a supportive view of same-sex marriage than an antagonistic view, according to a content study by the Pew Research Center to be released on Monday.
Yes, yes… I hear they take a pretty positive stance on the theory that the Earth is round too.
We’ll be hearing all about how this proves the news media is biased against Christians from the kook pews for years to come, but what’s happening is that the Proposition 8 trial pretty much destroyed the idea that the case against same-sex marriage has anything to support it other than animus. Think back to how completely taken by surprise so much of the press seemed to be after that trial was over, that there wasn’t more to the case against letting same sex couples marry. Those of us who have been in this struggle for decades knew exactly how empty their rhetoric was, how utterly bogus was their junk science. For decades they’ve been burying the political debate in bullshit and you have to admire how energetically they went about it. Their think tanks and research institutes produced tons and tons of deceptive, mendacious, carefully crafted bullshit and the fact that there was just so damn much of it coming out of them seemed to convince even tolerant middle of the road types that there was something to it, that homosexuality was if not an abomination, at least a tragic outcome that ought not to be encouraged if possible. And then came the trial, and they had to put all of that bullshit on the witness stand…
“In a court of law you’ve got to come in and you’ve got to support those opinions, you’ve got to stand up under oath and cross-examination,” Boies said. “And what we saw at trial is that it’s very easy for the people who want to deprive gay and lesbian citizens…to make all sorts of statements and campaign literature, or in debates where they can’t be cross-examined.
“But when they come into court and they have to support those opinions and they have to defend those opinions under oath and cross-examination, those opinions just melt away. And that’s what happened here. There simply wasn’t any evidence, there weren’t any of those studies. There weren’t any empirical studies. That’s just made up. That’s junk science. It’s easy to say that on television. But a witness stand is a lonely place to lie. And when you come into court you can’t do that.
“That’s what we proved: We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost.” -David Boies
There were never any facts. It was always about prejudice. It was always about hate. That’s not trivial. Hate has motivated the passage and enforcement of laws that persecute homosexuals for generations. But hate is factual only in the sense that it exists, not that its excuses are themselves factual.
So another way of putting the outcome of that Pew study is that news organizations are likely to give greater weight to the facts than to bullshit, even passionately squawked bullshit. And that’s because, at least in theory, newspapers are supposed to report the facts. And there are no facts that support bans on same-sex marriage. There are only myths, lies and superstitions. Those are the facts.
June 8th, 2013
In Theory You Could Add A Check…
by Bruce |
The EFF as usual, gets it right…
In response to the recent news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, President Barack Obama said today, “When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” Instead, the government was just “sifting through this so-called metadata.” The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a similar comment last night: “The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber.”
What they are trying to say is that disclosure of metadata—the details about phone calls, without the actual voice—isn’t a big deal, not something for Americans to get upset about if the government knows. Let’s take a closer look at what they are saying:
They know you rang a phone sex service at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don’t know what you talked about.
They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.
They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don’t know what was discussed.
“In theory, you could add the check of exposing the system to the light of day, but that means wrecking much of its intelligence value”, they’re saying over at Volokh, exposing to the light of day the usual contempt wingers have for democracy. That would be the Voters you’re talking about there Baker, and why goodness gracious the system Was exposed to the light of day, otherwise known as the Voters, we’re all arguing about it now aren’t we, and if they ever catch the whistleblower who let the voters know what their government was doing to them that person will think Bradley Manning had it easy.
But I am just a computer geek who just happens to be working on a space science program which will itself fling a fucking torrent of data back at planet earth for astronomers to make sense of. Every now and then I get a bit worried when I see the disconnect between my understanding of how electronic information systems work and everyone else’s. Then I see articles like that Forbes Magazine one where they described how Target figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her parents did and sent her helpful offerings of child care products and I feel a little better. Then I see this. Oh they’re not listening to our phone calls, just capturing the metadata…nothing to worry about citizen.
But never mind the metadata. If the deep secrecy going on here, where not just court orders are secret but the government’s interpretation of the laws its supposed to be following are secret too isn’t scaring the hell out of you then I have to wonder why you even bother following the news or taking the trouble to vote.
I am not an anti-government crank. I am a liberal FDR democrat. I believe in democracy. But for democracy to work you need elections, and for those to work you need voters who know what the fuck is going on. Oliver Willis stupid shit reductio ad absurdums notwithstanding. Nobody is demanding Geraldo Rivera follow CIA agents around with a TV camera while Jerry Springer provides a running commentary. But when oversight itself becomes a state secret, when the governments own interpretations of the laws binding it are kept from the voters, then it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. I am not an anti-government crank, I am a liberal FDR democrat, and I believe in democratic government. And one reason I believe in democratic government is power corrupts. The light of day is a good thing.
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