richardf8: (Ensign_Katz)
I don't often weigh in on this things but this one is special.

This is the exact opposite of the Jamar Clark case.

Phil Castile's encounter with the police should NOT have been fatal.  It was, according to his girlfriend, upon whom I am relying, a routine stop for an equipment violation.

The challenge in this stop was the registered gun that Castile was legally carrying.  As I listened to Valerie Diamond's account, I placed myself  in the shoes of both Phil Castile and the officer.  I will share here what I imagine each thought, and why this ended so tragically.

Officer: License and Insurance please.

Castile: Thinks: My License is in my wallet, I have to get past my gun to get it.  If he sees the gun, he may freak.  I had best set his expectations so there are no surprises. Officer, I am carrying a registered, concealed weapon.

Officer: Oh Shit!  Dude just threatened to pull a gun on me! Put your hands in the air.

Castile: Confusion - he asked for license  and insurance, should I give him that first and then put my hands in the air?

Officer: Panic - he's reaching for his gun!  I don't want  to die! [Shoots]

This is how I imagine the encounter went.

So, would it have played out differently if Castile were white?  It's difficult to know for sure, but I do think that a white man would have had a better chance for survival in this encounter.

White privilege is real, and does result in an officer giving a white suspect the benefit of the doubt.

About a year ago an officer in Mendota Heights died from white privilege.  Again, a routine traffic stop.  The suspect was white, but also a fleeing criminal.  He killed the officer.

I do not believe for a minute that Phil Castile posed any threat to the officer, but it would not surprise me if his blackness exaggerated the officer's sense of threat.

I do not believe that the officer was out to kill a black man either.  I think he just wanted to go home at the end of his shift.  I think he panicked, and I am not sure he would have done so if the suspect was white.  Although, if he had remembered what happened in Mendota Height, race might NOT have made a difference.  Hard to know.

And this is what makes it all so tragic; a man is dead, and another is certainly guilty of manslaughter.

It sounds like Phil Castile was a good man; may his memory be for a blessing.

A Caveat.

Jan. 20th, 2009 06:27 pm
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[livejournal.com profile] level_head has a post worth contemplating, regardless of its slant, called Unpatriotic.

It's noteworthy to my mind because it points to a way in which we, as Americans, have gotten sloppy in our thinking, especially over the past eight years, but going back farther than that even. We have become accustomed to an us and them style of thought. The right and the left alike have spent the Bush years assimilating the "if you're not with us, your against us" mentality. And here is my warning: any lefty who brings this framework to the Obama presidency is going to be disappointed.

What we have in Obama is someone who grasps realpolitik. And that tends to mean compromise. If the last 8 years have had any effect on our culture at all, it has been to make "compromise" on either side of the fence a dirty word. The partisanship that has been brewing since Nixon, that saw its full flowering in the "Republican Revolution" and the Bush administration have torn this nation limb from limb. Getting us to where we are now demanded that Franken take on Limbaugh, that Maddow deconstruct Coulter, but the battle is now lost and won, and its time for reconstruction.

I think that Obama's ability to blend that which I agree with along with that which I find distasteful speaks volumes about his ability to reintegrate a nation that has been separated as if by a centrifuge. To those who are seeking ideological purity, he will seem a sellout, but to those who want a nation at peace, he may just the ticket.

You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.


[Edit: [livejournal.com profile] bluerain notes: "I actually think it's grossly unfair to cast anyone who is angry at the selection of Warren as displaying an "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality." This assessment is correct and just, and I have therefore removed the reference from the body of the post. Thanks to her and [livejournal.com profile] orv for helping refine my thoughts on that.]
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Learned from [livejournal.com profile] level_head who learned it from [livejournal.com profile] rowyn that at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, an employee was stampeded to death by a mob awaiting the store's early opening. Do read the story if it is not familiar to you.

Now, where to even begin?

Well, let's see, let's begin on Thanksgiving, when people who were working retail had to be prepared to wake up at 2 or 3AM to be at stores by 4am for 5am openings. Many would have had to have earlier Thanksgiving meals, or given up on it in order to be alert the next day. This was noted by friend Stego.

This is in service of what?

Then there are those 5:00 store openings as well, littered with loss-leaders to entice people into the stores. Heavy discounts on flat screen TV's were common, not just at Wal-Mart, but at Best Buy, and many other outlets across the nation.

This is in service of what?

Then there are the people determined to be first in line, determined to beat their neighbors to those loss-leaders. Instead of getting a good night's sleep and spending the day after Thanksgiving in quality time with family and friends, they're up at God-knows-when so they can get this stuff that no one really needs.

This is in service of what?

There's desperation all over this scenario - the retail worker desperate for a paycheck, the retailer desperate for sales, the consumer desperate for the discount. And all this desperation collided tragically on Friday in Valley Stream, and a man died.

This in service of what?

Ben Zoma would say: "Who is rich, he who is happy with his portion." (Avot 4:11)

If everyone in America followed Ben Zoma, our economy would collapse in a heartbeat. So we live in a world of manufactured need, and discontent with our portion is the engine that drives our economy. And right now, problems in banking and industry are forcing some to learn to be content with their portion, and others to look for bargains that will allow them to assuage their discontent within the constraints imposed by those problems.

Sales like the Black Friday sales are designed to capitalize on the discontent that our culture works so hard to manufacture. And that discontent is a powerful enough force that this year, it killed a man.
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Here are some thoughts of mine on the matter of the Real Estate market correction and its consequences.

The assumption that the bubble came about solely because of subprime lending unhinging home prices from inflation misses the point. The Fed lowering the Prime Rate to levels that were unsustainable in order to combat inflation near the beginning of this decade did a lot to make people seek new mortgages and re-finances who perhaps otherwise would not have. It demonstrates a failure of the "Free Market" that prices so quickly began to outstrip value. One thing this should teach us is that homes, real-estate, have an intrinsic value, separate from the market value. The bursting of the bubble is a "correction," but this is a more tragic correction than, say, a correction in the stock market, because rather than being stock certificates, these are people's homes. So these homes go into foreclosure because, in many cases, the homeowner is burdened with a debt that exceeds the value of his collateral. Seen this happen first hand.

Banks could have taken two approaches - 1) Take a loss by writing a new mortgage for the real value of the house, or 2) Take a bigger loss by foreclosing the home and reselling it in a depressed market, depressing it even further.

Banks seem, by and large to have chosen option 2. It seems to me that any "bailout" would have to favor option 1 - I suspect many homeowners currently faced with foreclosure would greet a manageable monthly payment at a fixed rate with relief.

And this brings me to my last point. If you are buying a house because you plan to fix it up and resell it within a year, perhaps an ARM makes sense. But if you are buying a house as a roof over your head, and a nest egg, then the ARM is a predatory instrument. Especially in times where the prime rate is unsustainably low. If subprime lending is to continue, ARMs should not be among the instruments used: a subprime loan presumes a precarious borrower, it is folly to imagine that such a borrower will be able to manage a higher payment when the rate goes up.

So, my proposals are as follows:

1) Do not write (or underwrite) loans for more than the home is reasonably worth.

and

2) Do not make ARMs available to subprime borrowers. The more precarious your economic situation, the more important it is that your housing costs be Fixed, not Variable.

Item 1 is tricky, because it raises the problem of how to assess a property's intrinsic value (by which I really mean the market value in a market which is neither inflated nor depressed). I suppose a formula that looks at average home prices over a fairly long period of time, adjusted for inflation would come close.

The effect of people not being to obtain loans for a ludicrously overvalued home would be that they could not make offers on them and the prices would have to reach sane levels before the loans would be written.
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Sounds like Imus may have lost his show if I heard the news right this morning.

That's fine, he'll find another venue.

I cannot help but note that its another in a series of similar scandals, whether of racism, anti-semitism, or misogyny.

These things aren't happening because Howard Stern, Don Imus, or Mel Gibson, or whomever are bad people. These things are happening because there is a zeitgeist that eats it up, because there is an audience that is receptive to, and even validated by it.

And when Don Imus finds a new venue it will be because of this infamy, not in spite of it, and the market it appeals to will be even more receptive to a diet of hate. So much so that Imus may find himself in the position of having to ratchet up the volume in order to retain them.

Is this a desirable outcome?

And more pressing: what is this zeitgeist that these speech acts validate it and do we REALLY think we can staunch it by suppression? Sure we can put a finger in the dam where Imus is, but that only increases the flow elsewhere, and I'm not sure who's going to put a finger in Ann Coulter.

When we hear speech we do not like, we are to apt, I think to react with outrage and punish, punish, punish. That makes martyrs, and feeds the perception of oppression held by those who regard their prejudices and perceptions as normative.

I would keep Imus on the air. But I would shuffle McGuirk off elsewhere, and pair Imus with, say, Jeannene Garofalo, a liberal humorist who will only be too happy to call him on his shit in a way that makes him look like a jerk.

Come on - this is Defense Against the Dark Arts 101, guys. The way to vanquish a boggart is to make it look ridiculous.
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The first time [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I ever set foot in Temple Israel was to see a talk by John Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword. After the presentation, which took place in the run-up to the Easter/Passover season, Morgan was buttonholed by an elderly man who had fled Poland in the wake of pogroms. Good Friday, for him, was the day the Christians would come out of the churches looking for Jews to beat up. And he had absorbed his share of beatings.

And so.

It is now 9/11.

I skim [livejournal.com profile] chipuni's friends list, because it is a rich and diverse bouquet, where so many viewpoints can be found, and I notice that someone has goatsed the [livejournal.com profile] muslimscommunity. There moderators act swiftly, but no sooner do they delete it than the same user posts an anti-Islamic Chick Tract rife with misinformation and fabrication regarding Islam. This is as close as you can get to mosque desecration on line. I wonder what we will see in the physical world as the day dawns.

The analogy is obvious. And it was the provincial and religious hatred that the Poles had for the Jews that built Auschwitz. A provincial and religious hatred not dissimilar than that which is growing bolder and bolder in the US.

If we allow such seeds to sprout, what vile fruit can we expect to harvest?
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George Lakoff has an excellent article regarding the reasons that the aftermath of Katrina has played out the way it has:

http://alternet.org/story/25099/

The following two paragraphs present the article's thesis very cogently:

The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.



To me, the conservative philosophy is best characterized by Peter Yarrow in the song "Greenwood"

I've seen a thousand people kneel in silence
And I've seen them face the rifles with their songs
I always thought that we could end the killing
But now I live in fear that I was wrong

The killer and the cynic waltz together
Their eyes are turned into their skulls

They do not feel the bullets in the bodies
They do not hear the dolphins or the gulls

If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?

If we don't stop there'll come a time when women
With barren wombs will bitterly rejoice
With breasts that dry and never fill with promise
Gladly they'll not suckle one more life

Is this then the whimper and the ending?
The impotence of people raised on fear,
A fear that blinds the sense of common oneness
Common love and life or death are here


If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?

Will no one light the candle in the darkness
Will no one be my guide, not let me fall
I've lost the sense that tells me where the path is
I feel the chill of winter in my soul

There's no way I can say the words more plainly
There's no one left to point at anymore
It's you and me and we must make the choice now
And not destroy the life we're living for

If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?
If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?
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Many years ago, I was working at Zeos computers, doing technical support. My co-worker, Lyle - a Lutheran minister who served as an Air Force chaplain, co-worker Colin - a recent grad from Saint Olaf's who is legally blind, and co-worker Bill - like Lyle, a USAF vet who also happened to be triumphing in his struggle with alcoholism, all carpooled together. Well not "carpooled" really, since Lyle was the only one of us with a car; it would perhaps be more accurate to say that Lyle, in an act of loving-kindness, chauffered us.

One day he came to pick me up, with Colin already in the car, and we headed over to the street corner where Bill would reliably be waiting with his morning coffee and his Pioneer Press.

He was not there.

So we traced the steps of what we knew to be his morning walk back to his home. There were fire-engines and first-responders all over the place. The building Bill lived in was being evacuated, and evacuees sent to the hospital because of a Carbon Monoxide. Lyle spoke to a fireman who was controlling access to the site. He gave Bill's full name to the fireman, told the fireman that Bill had not been where he was expected at an appointed time. He urged the firefighter to make sure that Bill was accounted for before they left the site. He even offered to go look himself. He was turned away with a cursory "Yeah, we'll get everyone out." We accepted that, trusted them to do their jobs, and went off to do ours. When, by 11:00am, we'd heard nothing from him, we went to HR and got his emergency contact. It was his girlfriend, an RN herself. I swapped contact info with her, and she assured me she'd look into it and call back.

She did. I came home to a very tearful message on my voicemail. Bill was dead. He'd been found by another tenant, in the communal bathroom on the first floor. Although the responders had emptied all the dwelling units, they had not checked the bathrooms (very possibly did not even know they were bathrooms. Bill liked a long morning soak, and the comfort he took in it was the reward of his own work. He had personally weatherproofed the bathroom, being faced with an apathetic landlord. The bathroom was directly over the boiler that was putting out the carbon monoxide. Bill was probably dead before we even got there.

At least that's what I tell myself. I have to believe it, because the alternative is that we stood by and LET Bill die. That our ovine acceptance of what the authorities told us killed him. It's what I told Lyle two years later in a server room at Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie. I reminded him of his clear articulation, and of the Fireman's refusal to let us pass. I assured him that we had done what we could, and that if Bill WAS still alive then, it was a failure of communication that was beyond our control that killed him.

And I felt like a heel, doling out mealy mouthed rationalizations like some Nazi at Nuremberg professing ignorance and deference to authority to explain away his role in the Holocaust.

Lyle was never able to escape the feeling that we should have persisted until Bill was rescued (or recovered) or until we were arrested. Instead we turned away like meek lambs at the shepherds' urging. I, too, always wondered if we could have caused a difference for Bill with more persistence. Lyle lives with the guilt. I live in a house whose windows leak like sieves all through the Minnesota winter. So what if the heating bill exceeds the mortgage payment so I can shiver under two blankets in a 40 degree bedroom? At least I wake up in the morning and the cold winter's air slipping through the casements is the smell of life to me, the smell of NOT DYING LIKE BILL.

It weighs.

Then I see what's happening in New Orleans. So I donate, and my wife donates and a guy at our synagogue is running a truck down there so we plan to donate supplies. Tampons. A blanket. An air mattress. We hope it helps and can be used. But what's worse I hope it gets there.

FEMA has been turning away people bringing tools and skills to help while not doing much at all to lend help themselves. The Red Cross is not being let into New Orleans to give direct assistance. Mostly, it seems that it is at FEMA's request, but the Red Cross is doing a good job running interference for the feds in this link.

Looking some of this material over, it seems as if the feds WANT these people to die. It seems like a passive aggressive holocaust, like "oopsie, we've had a little hurricane thingy. Well we got the people able to transport themselves out, and if the others die, well it's a disaster, people die in those. Not our problem." It makes me want to hop on the truck headed down there and do something hands on. I both envy and admire [livejournal.com profile] odanu who is headed down there.

It's bad enough when first responders make honest mistakes. Bill died in an understandable oversight, though I'll never understand why they didn't kick EVERY door in in that place. What I'm hearing from NOLA is far from understandable though, and if I can't shake some sense of culpability in Bill's death, how can we, as a nation, expect to live with ourselves in the aftermath of this?
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Today, I was reading in the paper about a local band calling itself "The Olympic Hopefuls" which, receiving a C & D from the USOC, changed its name, quite simply, to the hopefuls. It seems that "Olympic" was trademarked in a 1950 Congressional act.

I see stuff like this happening all the time. Copyright owners (more often companies than artists) cracking down on fan web sites and fan fiction. Trivial suits over whether one can use the word "Spam" or "Windows" or the time Coors Brewing company sued R.J. Corr's natural sodas. Here in Saint Paul, there was once a local Pizza shop, owned by a man named John, called "Papa John's." When the national chain by the same name moved into the area, his business had to bcome "John's Pizza Cafe."

Seems to me that we've got a lot more trivial lawsuits in the arena of Intellectual Property than in Liability. But since IP Lawsuits tend to entail corporations winning against ordinary people and small business owners, rather than ordinary people and small business owners winning against corporations, I don't for see any calls for IP Law reform forthcoming.

Indeed, I think it can be safely argued, that with companies needing to do expensive and exhaustive "prior-art" searches before investing in invention, and given that the Garage inventor does not have the resources to do this, that our IP law has crossed the line from fostering innovation to inhibiting it.

Here is a link to the Spider Robinson story "Melancholy Elephants" which I think is an essential read for our times, dealing as it does, with the ultimate consequences of IP law: http://www.baen.com/chapters/W200011/0671319744___1.htm
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I am a person of faith. So are many people, Jewish and Christian, Muslim and Buddhist who read my journal. And I feel that there is a war being raised against some of the fundamental tenets of my faith, from people like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. (I don't know who the speaker of the House is these days, so upstaged has he been by DeLay).

These people have been seeking to put into law very specific elements of the very specific splinter of Christianity in which they engaged. And every time Liberals talk about "the separation of Church and State," these wingnuts have a cow about how evil secularists and atheists are on a crusade to destroy Christianity in America. Their perception seems to be that they are being oppressed if their beliefs, and their beliefs alone are not being legislated, are not forming the basis for jurisprudence, and are not being enforced at home and on the world stage.

As many conservatives will point out, there is no "separation of Church and State" in the constitution. And they are right - this concept is the result of judicial interpretation. The Constitution gives us the "establishment clause" in its first Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . ."

Let's take a good hard look at this, leaving behind for the moment the notion of "separation of Church and State" and asking ourselves why it is there at all. First and foremost it codifies an important religious sentiment that we find in the Concessions and Agreements establishing the colony of New Jersey, written by William Penn, namely that "that no man, nor number of men upon earth, hath power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters" (Joseph Story). This is an important notion to understand: the establishment clause is there not to prohibit prayer in schools, necessarily, nor to prohibit display of the Ten Commandments, necessarily, but to guarantee the the state does nothing to compromise the individual's relationship with God. Now this remains true regardless of whether that relationship is one of disavowal, a belief in an abstract "creator," or a belief in a personal God or gods.

Justice Thomas Black, writing in EVERSON v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EWING TP., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) illuminates for us the historical milieu from which the establishment clause arose:
A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government favored churches. The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife, and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to [330 U.S. 1, 9] maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews. In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government of a particular time and place, men and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, nonattendance at those churches, expressions of non-belief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them.


What we are witnessing today is precisely this scenario: a particular flavor of Christianity is seeking to forge an alliance with the government, though which it can force loyalty to its notion of "family values" or "morals" or whatever the buzzword of the day happens to be. The first amendment is intended to safeguard the relationship between man and God, such that it cannot be hijacked by any single religious persuasion.

So this, then is the right wing War on Faith: If you are Presbyterian, Quaker, United Church of Christ, Reformed Jewish, any kind of Jewish really, Muslim, Buddhist, etc, then according to these people YOUR FAITH IS NOT VALID. And here comes the sticky part: because we are not so prideful as to say "You're wrong because God said so," we do not appear to speak with the moral authority that they do.

So what can we do? For starters, we need to invoke God. Seriously. Even in a war of prooftexting, we can win this thing if we so choose. We tend to be afraid to do this, because we can't know that God is on our side. However, I don't think that's true - I think God IS on our side, and that it can be demonstrated from any holy text we care to cite. I was once asked by a fellow learner in Torah Study "How can we know?"

It's a valid question. The answer is a matter of history and projection - if we examine the pattern that has given us Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and look at what it parallels in the past what do we see? I see a Holocaust survivor in my congregation describing how, upon being seen with a scrap of Army blanket she had found to keep herself warm, she was made to kneel with her arms over her head for five hours, during which she fainted three times. Her treatment was virtually identical to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as described in a report by the ICRC:

The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time. . . .


It's not difficult to see where the policy leads. And as for the notion that it is hyperbole or hysteria to draw on the Holocaust for comparison the only thing I can say is that the notion that the Holocaust was somehow a unique or aberrant evil is the greatest assurance that it WILL happen again. All of us have within us not only a spark of divine goodness, but an evil inclination as well, and when that inclination is appealed to on a national stage, it scales up better that a Linux Beowulf cluster. We insist on believing that the holocaust was perpetrated by inhuman monsters, when in fact is was perpetrated by people JUST LIKE US, to whose worst instincts a simple megalomaniac appealed. When we see a nation being encouraged to vote against granting a right to a particular population, when we see a nation that looks the other way when it's citizens are denied justice and due process, we see a nation that has not God, but the evil inclination perched on it's shoulder.

We need to understand that as people of faith we have the RESPONSIBILITY to invoke God. Because if we do not, then we sell Him into slavery to the false prophets who invoke the divine crown for the sole purpose of increasing their power and wealth.



Works Cited

Story, Joseph. COMMENTARIES ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES; WITH A PRELIMINARY REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF THE COLONIES AND STATES, BEFORE THE ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION. Harvard University, 1833.
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One of the things I've always found puzzling about Calvin and Hobbes is the exact nature of Hobbes. At first glance, he seems an A.A. Milne type stuffed animal whose life is led solely in the imagination of a child. In form and action he reminds one of no one so much as Milne's "Tigger," complete with overwhelming greeting habits. This theory of Hobbes is well supported by the "Yukon Expedition" storyline (Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, 64-70)in which Calvin decides to run away to the Yukon after being told to clean his room. In many ways, this storyline seems a tribute to Milne's "Expotition to the North Pole," but one of the important distinctions between the Milne play-world and the Watterson play-world is that while Christoper Robin is Lord and Master of the the 100-Acre wood, sought by all for wisdom and judgement, Calvin is very often the butt of some joke of Hobbes'. The Yukon expedition, however, appears to make it clear that Hobbes is a stuffed toy whose life is led entirely in Calvin's imagination, because after a tiff with Hobbes, Calvin leaves Hobbes and the Tobboggan outside. Hobbes must be sought for and returned to the house by Calvin's dad.

As if to drive the point home, the first strip after the resolution of the Yukon Expedition shows us Susie with a "Mr. Bun" complaining of Calvin and his inanimate Hobbes never playing with her and Mr. Bun. When Susie is safely away an animate Hobbes describes Mr. Bun as seeming comatose (Authoritative, 71). This leaves the reader to wonder what imaginary life Mr. Bun and Susie might share.

Well this is all well and good, but there is a problem with the simple-stuffed-toy theory, and that is that, on very rare occasions, actions undertaken by Hobbes have real-world consequences that cannot be explained by Calvin having taken those actions on Hobbes' behalf. This is glaringly apparent in the "Houdini" storyline, (Authoritative, 97-98) in which Calvin asks Hobbes to tie him into a chair so he can escape. When Calvin proves unable to, Hobbes renders only perfunctory and minimal assistance, appearing to amuse himself at Calvin's expense. We see Calvin bound in the chair in a manner that would be impossible if he had bound himself, since his arms are completely immobile. Only Calvin's Dad can rescue him at this point, and can only ask how Calvin got himself like that. He has no theory, only wonder. When Calvin explains (truthfully, near as the reader can tell) he is admonished by his father not to lie. His response to this is to lie about Hobbes' motivation, saying that Hobbes was going to hold him for ransom. As soon as Dad is away, an animate Hobbes calls Calvin a "big fibber."

This storyline leaves little doubt that Hobbes can act in the world in ways that leave empirical evidence of his action, even if his action is not accepted as an explanation of that evidence. From this, one is left to believe, perhaps, that Hobbes is a magical creature whose animate form is visible only to the child with whom he has bonded. He seems often to be a moral guide for Calvin, not in the sanctimonious "Jiminy Cricket" style, but rather as a trickster who ensures that Calvin gets to not only to act as he wishes, but to feel the full consequences of those actions.

So, anyone have any other thoughts, or has Watterson ever commented on the matter?
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CNN, via Flayrah: http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/12/30/cat.killed.ap/index.html

Of course, it should be noted that Wal*Mart suspended the employees in question as soon as this became public, but one must wonder about an environment in which this would seem like a good idea, and in which such an order would be obeyed.
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I am not a consumer of pornography, and I never have been. But back in the 80's when Larry Flynt was under fire, I was content to take his side. Not because I have any taste for his product (I once looked at a Penthouse and found it . . . disturbing), but rather because I understood what few Americans understood at the time - that ANY restriction on speech is EVERY restriction on speech.

Larry Flynt was an excellent choice for an attack on free speech. The right didn't like him because he was Im-MOE-ral, the left didn't like him because his portrayals of women perpetuated a rape culture. In short he was someone that you could love to hate regardless of your political persuasion, and to many on both sides of the fence, restricting his press freedom seemed a good idea at the time.

But it wasn't.

It was the groundwork for the actions of the moral majority, giving the FCC ever greater enforcement power over what was said on the airwaves. It was the bedrock of rules regarding Indecent and Obscene speech. And there is a VERY fine line between enforcement and retribution. And where government retribution becomes a possibility, basic freedoms are lost.

We are approaching the final stages of this game. Our media is useless. I will refrain from arguing whether it is "liberal" or "conservative." Truth is, it doesn't matter any more because primarily the media are a)Greedy and b)Fearful. The result is this:

CBS and UPN have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ that states that it welcomes gays and lesbians. Here is the reason they give:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Contemplate that for a moment: The federal government has proposed an amendment to the constitution, and rather than engage in speech that would foster discussion, major networks are prattling about "controversy."

The problem can be summed up in this one single event: Janet Jackson's Boob. That event set the stage for the FCC levying unreasonable fines for something over which the network had no control, and this was followed swiftly by fines for Howard Stern's material, at which they had looked askance for decades.

The message, of course, is that the Federal Government has retributive powers over broadcast media. Because sex sell and because obscenity rules or vague, if a broadcaster publishes a message that runs afoul of the government, it may be subject to the government's arbitrary punishment.

The result is a media that is, in essence, the executive's mouthpiece, afraid, by its own admission, to run afoul of that executive's mouthpiece, both because of the threat of fines and because of the carrot of increased market share.

With such a media, the most important fundamental of democracy, a population well informed about all sides of the issues, is destroyed.
richardf8: (Default)
This is going to be a bit tricky to write but here goes.

My previous post addressed only half the problem we are facing right now. Now it's time to look at the other half.

If you are one of those Christians - conservative or liberal - who built a web site making the Christian case against George Bush, bravo! If you were out there protesting the war, dressed like Jesus and carrying a sign that says "not in my name!" Bravo.

And if you created or passed around the JesusLand map, or are comparing "Christian" voters to the hillbillies in Deliverance, shame! [livejournal.com profile] the_ferrett makes a good point when he says that if one were to say the things some of us have been saying about Christians with regard to say, Blacks, or Jews, or Gays, it would unleash a firestorm.

And please, spare me any crap about how it's impossible, by definition, to oppress the dominant regime. People are people, and whether or not one is part of the "dominant regime" is every bit as much an accident of birth as any other trait they might possess. And derision hurts, regardless of who you are.

In my previous post, I quoted someone very slightly out of context. I'm going to give you a bit more of her comment now, because it raises some important questions:

As a lesbian Catholic, I have not spoken from my religious views on LJ. I'm constantly amazed at what people will say about how it's WRONG to be a Christian here.

Is this what we've done? Have we forced our Christians into the caves? Has the left, with its great claims of "Diversity" been actively silencing the very voices we most need in our choir?

Indeed, we have cultivated a culture in which anyone who is affiliated with the dominant regime is too afraid of giving offense to speak their minds. We have such a great fear of conflict that we let our differences fester without discussion until they explode into major rifts. So now we some sort of holy war raging in our midst between the camps of faith and reason, and we have placed our allies on the defensive against us.

Good Job!

Diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gives us e pluribus unum, from the many, one. On the other hand it gives us "divide and conquer."

Which one of these things do you think Grover Norquist is counting on?

So, grab that beat-up six string, the one with the sunflower applique around its sound hole and sing with me, folks:

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.
richardf8: (Default)
I've been coming across lots of diatribes like this since the election.

OK. You're Liberal. You're smart. And you're Christian. And you're tired of hearing how those ignorant, bigoted red-state Christian podunks got us four more years of Bush. You don't want to be lumped in with them, and you don't want Christianity characterized as a religion of ignorance, hatred and bigotry. So you start screaming at us liberals to stop the hatred.

Well I've got some news for you Sunshine. You're responsible.

That's right. Because instead of claiming your faith, you pull mealy-mouthed crap like this: As a lesbian Catholic, I have not spoken from my religious views on LJ.

It raises the question "why the hell not?" Why are you allowing only those people who invoke Jesus to rationalize their bigotry to be the ones speaking from their "religious views." And how DARE you turn on the rest of us when your silence has let them steal your God.

So, let me teach you a new phrase: "I am a Christian. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson do not speak for me, and they do not speak for the Jesus that I know."

Try repeating it, backing it up with relevant scripture, and showing the world how the haters have rejected the moral values of the New Testament. It's not that hard. If Mad Magazine can do it, surely a smart, liberal, Christian can.

It might take a little time to win us over though. You've let Falwell and Robertson "brand" Christianity for a little too long, so we associate it with the product that they're selling. And if you start now, it's still going to be a little too little, a little to late - because we're all going to suffer from this sin of omission for the next four years.

In the meanwhile, stop returning friendly fire. If you point your guns in the right direction, you'll find us dug in beside you in no time.
richardf8: (Default)
I present two articles here

The First, from Adbusters:
Adbusters Article discussing the Jewishness of Neo-Conservatives

The second, from the Washington Post:
Survey on Jewish Responsibility for Death of Jesus )

In truth, I am more concerned about the "Jewish Conspiracy" libel than the "Christ-Killer" thing, but whenever the two come together things do not go well. It is one thing to hate Paul Wolfowitz because he is an ass; but quite another to suggest that his Jewishness should be raised as an issue. This is a further example of the the growing neo-liberal anti-semitism that has kept me from peace marches against even wars I oppose. I cannot bring myself to stand beside someone who equates the Israeli (over)reaction to a constant barrage of terrorism with Nazism, a not infrequent practice of neo-liberals.

[Edited to clarify the separateness of the two articles.]
richardf8: (Default)
Here is an Excerpt from an article discussing the first televised Presidential Debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon:


In August, Nixon had seriously injured his knee and spent two weeks in the hospital. By the time of the first debate he was still twenty pounds underweight, his pallor still poor. He arrived at the debate in an ill-fitting shirt, and refused make-up to improve his color and lighten his perpetual "5:00 o'clock shadow." Kennedy, by contrast, had spent early September campaigning in California. He was tan and confident and well-rested. "I had never seen him looking so fit," Nixon later wrote.

In substance, the candidates were much more evenly matched. Indeed, those who heard the first debate on the radio pronounced Nixon the winner. But the 70 million who watched television saw a candidate still sickly and obviously discomforted by Kennedy's smooth delivery and charisma. Those television viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Studies of the audience indicated that, among television viewers, Kennedy was perceived the winner of the first debate by a very large margin.


The full text of the article can be found here

Now, with that bit of background under our belts let's turn our attention to this article, in the New York Times, by Maureen Dowd. Her stated purpose in this article is to pose questions to Kerry designed to provoke emotional responses so that she can discern whether or not he is using Botox.

With all the fuss about the 60-year-old John Kerry going from Shar-Pei to whippet, I figured a physiognomic quiz might be in order. The candidate's more serene visage has spurred rampant speculation that his attractive 65-year-old wife, Teresa, a Botox aficionado, turned him on to the wrinkle diffuser, which paralyzes the muscles that deepen wrinkles.


Note that this is the same Maureen Dowd who hamstringed the Dean campaign by casting aspersions on his wife, and who has confessed to thinking that W. looks hot in a flight suit.

As was the case with the NYT/CBS debate that posed questions like "what are your religious beliefs?" and "do you think you have enough 'Elvis' to beat Bush?" this is about 700 words devoted to something that has no bearing on Kerry's ability to govern. What's worse it is a mere accusation, impossible to prove within the context of Dowd's poorly designed experiment. Ultimately it is little more than an ad hominem attack on Kerry without any real purpose. Even if this accusation is true, no crime has been committed, no wrongdoing

The reason I'm bringing this up is to call attention to the fact that a presidential campaign is something that takes place within an environment that is wholly controlled by the press. The Kennedy/Nixon debate cited above demonstrate the power of appearance. The Dowd article focuses again on appearance and perception. And I think that in the televised debate, we can expect to see a red spotlight on Bush, making him appear robust and healthy, while a green spotlight trained on Kerry confers upon him that Nixonian pallor that served Kennedy so well in 1960. I also expect that questions will be posed to Bush in a respectful manner while Kerry is treated as a hostile witness, in order to decrease his discofiture.

This tight control that the media have over our perceptions should worry us, especially in an era of unprecedented media consolidation fostered by a sympathetic administration.
richardf8: (Default)
Thank God for Plan9 Publishing. While the good folks at the Gutenberg project are industriously converting printed and manuscript texts to electronic media, making them more accessible, and more readily searchable, Plan9 is doing work that is arguably more important: converting electronic media to print. This is important work because of the inherently ephemeral nature of digitally stored data. The entire reason that Gutenberg can do what it does is that it has source media to work with that are not, by their nature ephemeral. Our cultural predecessors left us permanent records of their philosophy, their literature, even their government. As the ideal of "paperlessness" is extolled, I wonder if we will be able to leave an enduring legacy or if large swaths of our culture will be lost to media obsoloscence. I also wonder how trustworthy even the information we do record is, given the mercurial nature of digital media.

A book, a scroll, a chiseled stone are all artifacts. This is the key distinction between these things and a web page. If I alter my web page, what it was before dies as if it never was. It may know a brief half-life in google's caches, may survive a little bit longer in spaces like the Internet Archiving project, and I will confess to being amazed that when I google my name, one of the items that I get back is a joystick port pinout that I posted to a newsgroup over a decade ago. But we are deluding ourselves if we imagine that these electonic records will survive a complete decay of civilization. Print records, however, have. Many have been lost over the millenia, it is true, but so many have survived that we can put together a reasonable picture of the cultures of Greece and Rome, and even get glimpses of legal customs in cultures older than those.

The other concern raised by ephemeral media is the ease of revision. Information may be excised without leaving a trace behind, an embarassing remark excised from the record without so much as a palimpsest to betray the change. This opens up important questions about knowledge and history. If we rely on the internet to record our history, we should not be surprised when something we remember being said or done is suddenly gone from the record. Indeed, the ephemeral nature of electronic media remains the strongest argument against electronic voting.

This is why I sing the praises of Plan9. They are pioneering the conversion of ephemera to artifact. And I know that in a hundred years, when the web is a barely remembered fin de siecle phenomenon, copies of Regime Change and Gone with The Windows will remain as monuments to the artistry of the information age.
richardf8: (Default)
First things first. The New York Times On The Web has dropped Ted Rall from its line up of political cartoons. Primarily because they were tired of dealing with flack from dittoheads, but I've also noticed a bit of a shift to the right in their editorial policy generally. It was apparent in the debate I excoriated in a previous post, Lisa Bumiller being one of theirs. It is apparent with the addition of David Brooks to the line up of commentators, and it is apparent with the move striking Rall (whose work they were able to present for free; they paid him nothing) from the lineup of cartoons on their web edition.

This is disturbing to me because Rall's voice is a voice from the left, from the far left, that has been one of the strongest voices of dissent under this administration. And I cannot help but think that that may be one of the reasons he is being struck. He says unpleasant things that a lot of Americans don't want to hear but need to. He asks us to entertain the possibility of the unthinkable, so that the fact that an action is unthinkable does not become a cloak behind which the person who takes that action can hide. His art sucks, but it's no less pleasant to look at than McCoy's, and he knows his art sucks. He also gave me a much needed belly laugh after the extended episode of hate speech that was the State of the Union address.

For that reason encourage you, all of you, yes, even the conservatives, libertarians, and libertines among you, to appeal to the New York Times to keep his feed on their website. Not because you agree with him, but because the moment we start silencing certain views while privileging others, democracy, which depends upon an informed electorate becomes a sham.

You can e-mail the New York Times ombudsman at public@nytimes.com
richardf8: (Default)
What you're trying to do is trying to decide for the voters how we go forward. The voters need to hear this morning from four candidates, or say the media now is going to select candidates. . . . Let's have an open debate and go into Super Tuesday, or say that you guys want to decide the nominee.
Al Sharpton to CBS News' Dan Rather and the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller during the pre-Super Tuesday debate.

I just finished reading the New York Times transcript of this debate. It is very clear from this debate that CBS is hostile territory to any Democratic candidate. The questions posed were, in and of themselves, attempts to smear the candidates. And, in addition, Sharpton and Kucinich, both of whom had interesting things to contribute to the discussion, had to fight tooth and nail with Bumiller and Rather to make their voices heard at all.

Anyway, here are a few highlights:

The first question required the candidates to expound on their religious beliefs. The question of why this is relevant or even appropriate in a nation that is ostensibly not a theocracy burns brightly in my mind. Interviewing for any other job, the question would never come up because anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of creed, yet this was CBS's opening salvo in this debate. This question is irrelevant to fitness to serve and serves no purpose other than to allow voters to discriminate among the candidates on the basis of creed. They do all believe in God, by the way, and Kucinich can even quote scripture.

A bit later Kerry and Edwards are asked if they are Liberals. The question is posed as if a charge is being leveled, as if being "Liberal" disqualifies you not only from public office, but from proper society as well. That was alarming enough, but Edwards and Kerry both responded as if they had just been accused of killing kittens and devouring their entrails. Only Kucinich was willing to publicly confess to the crime of possessing a social conscience. How long are we going to allow the rhetoric of the opposition deprive us of language?

Another apalling question was when Edwards was asked if his supporters knew the kind of wealth he possessed. What purpose does this question serve except as an attempt to somehow smear him? Kucinich appropriately asked what Edwards' wealth had to do with anything. And really, does CBS imagine that Edwards' supporters are too stupid to have noticed that presidential campaigns tend to be a rich man's hobby?

More appalling behavior from CBS occurred when a very good discussion among the candidates of how best to resolve the situation in Iraq was interrupted so that the candidates could be asked whether they would attend servicemen's funerals, even being asked to defend the statement (which none of them had made) that the president should attend every funeral. The candidates answered well enough, but an important policy discussion was thwarted so time could be given to what was essentially an appeal-to-emotion question.

On the question of keeping America safe, Edwards was handed a loaded question challenging his credentials. He answered adequately, but when Sharpton interjected to point out that Bush was stonewalling the 9/11 comission, he was interrupted by Bumiller and the question redirected to Kerry, who changed the subject to ecomomics.

Back in the land of superficial questions, CBS asks the candidates if they think they're likable enough to beat Bush. The stupidity of such a question is resounding; the voters will assess their "likablility." The real purpose of such a question of course is not to seek an answer but to sow doubt among the voters about the "electability" of these candidates.

And now for the final outrage, the coup de grace, Bumiller asks: "Really quick, is God on America's side?" This is a loaded question if ever there was one. To answer "yes" is to appear every bit as sanctimonious as Bush, to answer "no" is to appear to hate America. Kerry was caught off guard. Edwards answered beautifully by citing a story in which Lincoln, upon being asked to join a prayer that God would be on his side opted instead to pray that he was on God's side. A graceful escape from a question should not have been posed.

This debate was very frustrating because of CBS insisted on posing questions that were thinly disguised attacks rather than serious questions about policy. Sharpton's quote above is, I think, the best overall summary of this debate. CBS is framing questions in ways designed to sow distrust in all of these candidates, even as they give Bush a free pass on some very serious problems with his presidency.

I imagine this is what the presidential debate will look like:

Rather: Mr. Bush, can you tell us your favorite color?

Bush: Certainly. Blue, because on the flag blue represents the unquestioning loyalty Americans must grant me to keep terrorists from eating their children.

Bumiller: So, Mr. Kerry, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Kerry: Errr. . .

But hey, it's what I'd expect from the Cheney-Bush Sycophants.

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