31 January 2012

Scary Stuff: Florida SB 2036

Outsourcing or Privatization of Agency Functions; Providing that certain information relating to the outsourcing or privatization of an agency function which is expressly required by law is not required to be included in the agency’s legislative budget request until after the contract for such function is executed; requiring an agency to publicly publish the business case prepared for an outsourcing project on the agency’s website; providing that certain requirements that apply to Department of Corrections’ contracts do not apply to contracts for outsourcing or privatizing the operation and maintenance of correctional facilities which are expressly required by law, etc.

That's from the Florida Senate website.

Did you catch why that's so scary?
certain information relating to the outsourcing or privatization of an agency function which is expressly required by law is not required to be included in the agency’s legislative budget request until after the contract for such function is executed
So... they don't have to talk about privatizing government functions until after they've done it. Which functions, specifically, are they aiming to privatize sans the previously mandated discussion?
providing that certain requirements that apply to Department of Corrections’ contracts do not apply to contracts for outsourcing or privatizing the operation and maintenance of correctional facilities
Ah. Prisons. So. The privatization of prisons - something which, besides all its ethical concerns (laid out nicely in this document from Cornell) has been shown to have practical drawbacks (the case of two New York judges who took $2.7 million from a juvenile detention center in exchange for harsher sentences is one recent example) and only inconclusive results in terms of its purported increase in efficiency - is now to be exempted from conversation. It's to be reported after the fact.

If you're in Florida, and you have faith in the accountability of your elected representatives, this would be the time to call them.

Dorothy Allison Makes Me Homesick

I've been dreaming lately that I throw a dinner party, inviting
all the women in my life. They come in with their own dishes.
Marty brings barbecue carried all the way from Marietta. Jay
drags in a whole side of beef and gets a bunch of swaggering
whiskey-sipping butch types to help her dig a hole in the back-
yard. They show off for each other, breaking up stones to line the
fire pit. Lee watches them from the porch, giggling at me and
punching down a great mound of dough for the oatmeal wheat
bread she'd promised to bake. Women whose names I can't re-
member bring in bowls of pasta salad, smoked salmon, and
Jell-O with tangerine slices. Everyone is feeding each other, ex-
claiming over recipes and gravies, introducing themselves and
telling stories about great meals they've eaten. My mama is in the
kitchen salting a batch of greens. Two of my aunts are arguing over
whether to make little baking-powder biscuits or big buttermilk
hogsheads. Another steps around them to slide an iron skillet full
of cornbread in the oven. Pinto beans with onions are bubbling
on the stove. Children run through sucking fatback rinds. My un-
cles are on the porch telling stories and knocking glass bottles to-
gether when they laugh.
I walk back and forth from the porch to the kitchen, being
hugged and kissed and stroked by everyone I pass. For the first
time in my life I am not hungry but everybody insists I have a lit-
tle taste. I burp like a baby on her mama's shoulder. My stomach
is full, relaxed, happy, and the taste of pan gravy is in my mouth.
I can't stop grinning. The dream goes on and on, and through it
all I hug myself and smile.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.30

29 January 2012

Divisions: Micah 6

Let's take a look at two versions of the text surrounding Micah 6:8.

First, from BibleGateway.com - these lines form the ending of a section titled "The LORD's Case Against Israel." They follow a white-space break. The next section is titled "Israel's Guilt and Punishment." Verses 6-8 are quoted here. NIV.

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Second, from Bartleby - these lines form the beginning of a section titled "What the LORD Requires." The section continues through verse 16; verses 6-10 are copied here. KJV.

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

The LORD's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.

Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?

Context matters - and the way we divide scriptures is a concrete example of that.

By inserting a break after verse 8, we emphasize the command; by putting that command at the end of a section that we title "The LORD's Case Against Israel," we emphasize the failure to live up to that command as a (perhaps the) prime cause of the judgment that will follow.

Conversely, by burying verse 8 in the middle of a longer passage that we title "What the LORD Requires," we de-emphasize the command, placing it as part of a larger list of grievances.

Rhetorical analysis: it works. And by "works," I mean it shows us things that we might take for granted or fail to notice otherwise.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.28

27 January 2012

More Navel-Gazing (via Jennifer Knapp)

So... a little while ago, when, after some time away, I was getting back into writing here, I posted on an article talking about "Contemporary Christian Music," or CCM. In that post, I talked about the way that CCM is emblematic of "(one of) the major contradiction(s) in the Evangelical movement: it's an attempt to do something (in this case, music, but, more generally, image and brand creation) as well as the secular world does - but the image and the brand aren't supposed to be the most important aspects of what's being communicated, which means that they're always going to come up short."

I still agree with that, but I think it perhaps obscures another crisis that such an attempt creates. That is: that pushing an image, by definition, prevents you from being able to live honestly.

This is something I've been thinking about a fair bit lately, and it's come to the forefront as I've been (somewhat belatedly) reading about Jennifer Knapp.

If you don't feel like clicking through to the article (which is an interview that Christianity Today did with Knapp in April 2010): Knapp, one of the top CCM stars from the early part of the 2000s, left the business in 2003 and is just putting out a new album now. She's also coming out (has come out, now, since the article was 10 months ago). She still considers herself a Christian, still is writing Christian music - though she knows that it won't be put into the stores where her music used to be sold.

There are a few things that Knapp said in the interview that resonated deeply with me.

The struggle I've had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I've been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I've always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it's difficult for me to say that I've struggled within myself, because I haven't. I've struggled with other people. I've struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.


Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?

Knapp: I'm not capable of fully debating that well. But I've always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I've found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.


In the song's third line, you sing, "God forbid they give me grace." Do you really believe that no believers will show you grace?

Knapp: It's a much larger picture than that. I don't want anyone to think the song is targeted at the church, or at the ways we find judgment cast upon us. It's a challenge to break free of that and to own who you really are. That's my heart's cry for anyone I've ever met. It's not on my agenda to convert the world to a religion, but to convert the world to compassion and grace. I've experienced that in my life through Christianity.

"Inside" isn't about the church. It's about me, and how I struggle to be myself daily—honest and truthful to who I really am. It would break my heart if people got through this [album], especially the Christian audience, and found themselves with another artist that was just angry at the church. That's not where I'm at. If there's any anger or frustration on this record, it's the desperation to hold onto what is honest and true, and let the rest of it just burn.

While Knapp's come to a different - and, it seems, a happier - place than I have, she seems to have gotten there via some of the same questions. The first quote, especially, captures a sentiment that I've been trying to figure out for a long time. The last quote - which is from Knapp's response to the last question of a six-page interview - gets, I think, at why we've come to different places.

"It's not on my agenda to convert the world to a religion, but to convert the world to compassion and grace. I've experienced that in my life through Christianity." I don't believe I have. The compassion and grace I've experienced have come through a handful of dear friends - only a few of whom were even raised to be religious in any form - who picked me up when I fell, who talked me through bad nights, off of ledges, out of dark rooms.

If I'd had the courage to say something when I was younger, my experience would have been different. It might have been better, it might have been worse. But the fact that it would have taken courage, that it was less frightening to me to hide from my family and my church - the people who were supposed to be my support system - says something. The things I've written in this blog speak to some of my experiences with the American church; growing up, for a good while, as a preacher's kid (which... has there been any actual research done on the way that PKs relate to the church after they grow up, or why?) meant, largely, that my idea of my family was linked to my idea of the Church.

What was that idea of the Church? Image before substance, largely, or, rather, image as substance. It's less important that you be a Christian than that people know you as a Christian, that you put forth the appearance of holiness. Wear the right clothes, smile the right way, be able to quote scripture and discuss it. Talk about how moving the worship service was, how you 'felt the Spirit moving' or how 'the presence of God was in that room.' It didn't matter if you actually did or not, just that you know the words. Almost a Pascal-via-Althusser kind of situation, though I don't believe it was ever thought through that clearly by those enforcing it.

Anyways... I'm still thinking through a lot of this stuff. Y'all doubtless have different levels of attachment or closeness to me as a person, which will shape the ways that you read this; I hope the self-obsession of the last few major posts hasn't been too off-putting.

Time to get back to work.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.26

Weak, Angelfire. Weak. Replacement PTotD:

26 January 2012

Graeber on the Academy and the Situationists

From pages 22-23 of Stevphen Shukaitis and David Graeber's introduction to Constituent Imagination:

If you ask a scholar in, say, a cultural studies department what they think of the Situationists, you are likely to witness some kind of intellectual brush of the hand. The usual response is a dismissal of them as silly '50s or '6os Marxists, along the lines of the Frankfurt School who believed that capitalism was an all-powerful system of production and consumers were hapless dupes being fed manufactured fantasies. Eventually, you will then be told, students of popular culture came to realize this position was elitist and puritanical. After all, if one examines how real working people actually live, one will discover that they construct the meaning of their lives largely out of consumer goods but that they do it in their own creative, subversive fashion and not as passive dupes of marketing executives. In other words, real proletarians don't need some French bohemian pamphleteer to call on them to subvert the system, they're already doing it on their own. Hence, this sort of literature is an insult to those in whose name it claims to speak. It doesn't deserve to be taken seriously.

This is one reason we think the case of Baudrillard is so telling. After all, if Debord and Vaneigem are being elitist, Baudrillard is obviously a thousand times more so. Debord and Vaneigem at least thought it was possible to strike back against the spectacle. Baudrillard no longer does. For him, we are nothing but helpless dupes and there's nothing we can do about it; except, perhaps, to step back and admire our own cleverness for at least (unlike the pathetic fools still insisting they can change things) having figured that out. Yet Baudrillard remains an academic superstar. One has to ask: if the cultural studies folks are right to dismiss the Situationists as elitists with contempt for the real lives of non-academics, why is it that non-academics continue to buy their books? Why is it that non-academics are pretty much the only people who continue to buy their books? Because it's not just info-shops. Since the late '70s, Situationist ideas, slogans, and forms of analysis have become so thoroughly inscribed in the sensibilities of punk rock that it's almost impossible to listen for very long to certain strains of counter-cultural music without hearing some catchy phrase taken directly from the works of Raoul Vaneigem. The Situationists have managed to become part of popular culture while cultural sties has remained completely trapped in the academy. It is these practices of do-it-yourself cultural production that Ben Holtzman, Craig Hughes, and Keven Van Meter describe in this volume as forms for developing post-capitalist social relations in the present.

The obvious conclusion is that it's precisely Baudrillard's elitism that makes him palatable for academics, because it's the kind of elitism that tells its readers not to do anything. It's okay to argue that it's not necessary to change the world through political action. It's okay to argue it's not possible. What's not okay - or anyway, what's considered tiresome and uninteresting - is to write works that cannot be read as anything but a call to action. Debord can be read simply as a theorist, though it requires a good deal of willful blindness. In the case of Vaneigem it's nearly impossible. Hence, in the eyes of the academy: Debord is a minor figure and Vaneigem does not exist.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.25

24 January 2012

The Caging of America

Adam Gopnick has put out - or is about to put out, since the date on the article is January 30 - a great piece in The New Yorker on America's prison-industrial complex and the downfall of its criminal justice systems. While he doesn't hit every issue associated with it, he does a very nice job of breaking down why, even for middle-class white Americans, the system is something that is terribly flawed in both conception and execution.

No pun intended.

In any case - it's a fairly wide-ranging article, and it has points that are sure to infuriate you no matter what side of the political sphere you're on. Worth taking a look. I'm not going to quote from it here, because I'd either wind up quoting things with which I agreed - which would turn people off - or things with which I disagreed - which would put me in a bad mood as I try to get a little bit more writing done this morning.

All y'all have a good one.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.23

23 January 2012

Dwight Freeney is ridiculously tough

This is from ESPN's #NFLAnyEra series, wherein a number of old-school football players talk about modern guys who they think would have fit in well across a wide swath of NFL history. Freeney is 17th on the list.

FREENEY ON HIS TOUGHEST NFL MOMENT: Freeney severely sprained his ankle against the New York Jets trying not to hit Jets QB Mark Sanchez and avoid a personal foul penalty in the AFC Championship Game. "I got my ankle rolled up under him and it just popped. I heard it. I knew it was done."

To have his ankle fully heal, Freeney would have needed 4-6 weeks of rest and rehab. The Super Bowl against New Orleans was two weeks away.

My toughest moment in the NFL was the preparation going into the Super Bowl in 2009 against the Saints. I had a third-degree high ankle sprain, which means my ligaments were completely blown in my ankle, completely torn in my ankle. I was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks and I basically only had two weeks to get ready for the Super Bowl.

It was a lot of training, rehab, making sure throughout the week I was in the hyperbaric chamber, making sure I was eating the right stuff, doing all types of rehab 24 hours a day. The preparation to try and get ready to play in the biggest moment, the biggest game of the year, so it was 24 hours of something, whether I was sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber or some type of treatment day in and day out to get my ankle good enough where I can go out and perform. The game itself was a very tough moment because as well as I could get it, it was only about 65 percent, yet I was able to go out and still perform.

I got a sack, so I was actually effective. The result of the game wasn't good, obviously we lost, but it was probably the toughest moment in the NFL that I could think of, for me, in terms of preparation, being ready for the Super Bowl, playing on an ankle that probably most people wouldn't have played on -- jeopardizing whatever just to go out and play a game, and being effective.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.22

22 January 2012

How to Argue About Politics

If you're a conservative, or a liberal, or have any belief in the reformability of the United States political system, you might want to read this New York Times article. Essentially, it argues something that I've tried to formulate a few times before, but it does it more straightforwardly - and, because it's the New York Times, you're far more likely to believe it than you are to believe me.

It's a short article, with four particularly relevant parts:

- A suggestion that Democrats approach key Republican positions generously.

- A generous recounting of those key Republican positions: free-market capitalism, small government, and Christian charity.

- An identification of the assumptions that lead to those positions.

- An identification of the key contradiction that holding those positions creates.

Now, I've talked about this contradiction before. When I did, I said some harsh things about contemporary American Christianity.

The essential point: Christianity as it exists in contemporary America is a sick, contradiction-riddled joke.

A philosophy of "love your neighbor as yourself" is fundamentally incompatible with a philosophy of "greed is good". At some point, "I got mine, so fuck all y'all" - or, perhaps, "I got mine, so God loves me," (health and wealth, anyone?) replaced "go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven" (pardon any imperfections in my quoting, I'm working from memory, but I think it's Matthew 19, the whole "eye of a needle" story).

Thomas Paine said of the fledgling USA that "our plan is commerce." That was the founding principle of the country, the justification for the whole project. It seems to be the primary reasoning behind religion these days. Remember "no man can serve two masters"?

Here, though, that point gets phrased a bit more nicely, and in a political rather than a religious context:

In particular, there is a basic tension between the two main elements of the conservative view: Christian ethical values and the free enterprise system. Christian morality is a matter of love for others and self-sacrifice on their behalf. A market economy assumes that all agents (employers, workers, buyers, sellers) act in their own selfish interests. The problem is evident in the New Testament’s unease with the wealthy and sympathy for the poor; see, for example, Matthew 13: 22, Mark 10: 23-25 and James 5: 1-3.

The standard response to this sort of moral objection is that the “invisible hand” of the market produces public goods out of private selfishness. If we all act for our own selfish ends, there will be far more material goods for us to share than there would be otherwise. But this is a utilitarian argument; that is, one that judges actions as moral because they increase our material happiness. Christian morality, however, denies that moral good and evil depend on what maximizes such happiness. Christian love and self-sacrifice, in particular, are moral goods in their own right, regardless of their consequences. Conversely, conservative Christian morality would not allow homosexuality or same-sex marriage, even if it turned out that doing so would increase material happiness.

Yup. All y'all have a good evening.

On the Sending of Hex Objects to News Executives

The time for real violence is not yet, if only because the production of violence remains the monopoly of the Institutions. There's no point in sticking one's head up and waving a gun if one is facing a star war death beam satellite.

Our task is to enlarge the cracks in the pseudo monolith of social discourse, gradually uncovering bits of empty spectacle, labeling subtle forms of mind-control, charting escape routes, chipping away at crystallizations of image suffocation, banging on pots and pans to wake a few citizens from media trance, using the intimate media to orchestrate our assaults on Big Media and its Big Lies, learning again how to breathe together, how to live in our bodies, how to resist the image-heroin of "information".

Actually what I've called "direct action" here might better be known as indirect action, symbolic, viral, occult and subtle rather than actual, wounding, militant, and open. If we and our natural allies enjoy even a little success, however, the superstructure may eventually lose so much coherence and assurance that its power will start to slip as well.

The day may come (who would've thought that one morning in 1989 Communism would evaporate?), the day may come when even too-late Capitalism begins to melt down -- after all it's only outlasted Marxism and fascism because it's even more stupid -- one day the very fabric of the consensus may start to unravel, along with the economy and the environment.

One day the colossus may tremble and teeter, like an old statue of Stalin in some provincial town square. And on that day perhaps a TV station will be blown up and will stay blown up. Until then: -- one, ten, a thousand occult assaults on the institutions.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.21

21 January 2012

Damage and Desire

This is a link to and discussion of a three-part blogpost that a colleague posted on Facebook; I figured I'd toss them up here for those of us who aren't into the whole Social Networking Site scene, at least partly in the hopes that it might spark some conversation (or at least some reflection).

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

What these posts do, basically, is break down, in some (though limited) detail, the way that the church trains us to think about desire, pleasure, dating, and marriage.

The first post (same link as above) talks about what the author calls "a really poor, really shallow theology of desire" that gets taught in most churches. I immediately flashed back to I Kissed Dating Goodbye and C.S. Lewis; the author mentions Every Man's Battle, another book I was made to read when I was youngish.
The way that theology of (anti)desire got preached to me was this. Desire outside the context of marriage is dangerous, it’s unpredictable, uncontrollable, and wrong. It’s so dangerous that if you choose to entertain it in any way, shape, or form, it will seriously and permanently fuck you up for life. It’s so unpredictable and uncontrollable that you should have nothing to do with it whatsoever because you can’t predict what you can’t control and you can’t control what you can’t predict. And it’s so wrong that we’re going to immediately brandish you with white hot shame if we even suspect you’re dabbling in it in any way whatsoever… because that’s how much we love you.

In that first post, the author talks about that theology primarily in terms of its concrete effects: its ineffectiveness (something I, and most of my friends, can vouch for); its dysfunctional emotional results (likewise); and the misogyny that it too-often inspires (something else that I still struggle with).

The second post (again, a repeated link - just making sure y'all can find everything quickly and easily) gets a little bit more personal and talks about the ways that the ideas of "courtship" and marriage that are getting taught (or at least that were when he and I were in these places, and that still seem to be where he is) are very similar to what he calls "transactional theology" - the idea that there's a cause and effect relationship between behavior and reward.

One common place you hear this idea is when preachers talk about tithing. They’ll quote Malachi 3:10 where God seems to be saying, “test me on this – if you tithe, I will bless you.” See how that works? If you do this thing (tithe) then God will do this other thing (bless). It gets preached as a transaction and it’s supposed to be bulletproof, a sure thing, quid pro quo.

The way this idea got related to dating was this. IF you set aside your filthy, carnal urges; IF you worry less about finding the right person and worry more about being the right person; IF you spend diligent, consistent, considerable time in prayer and study of God’s word THEN (and only then) God will bring an amazing woman into your life. Just like that. Happily ever after.

This isn't a connection I'd thought about before, but it makes a hell of a lot (pun slightly intended) of sense - and it gets at some of the reasons that I wound up leaving the church. Not all of them, of course. Some of them I keep to myself, some of them I've talked about with my family and close friends, some of them are probably pretty obvious if you know me at all or read anything I write. But there's a point that the author makes in another one of his blogposts that echoes a constant thread in my own experiences:

See, for most of my Christian life, I attended churches that preached what you might call Transaction Theology. This is a view of God that says that X, Y, and Z will happen if you do A, B, and C for God. The most common expression of this theology can be seen in this popular Gospel presentation: “If you accept Christ into your heart, you’ll never feel alone again (or) your life will be filled with a sense of purpose and direction (or) God will set things right in your life.”

This kind of Transaction Theology was ubiquitous. It was drummed into me at church retreats, in church services, in Christian books, on Christian radio, all over the place. It always took the form of, if you do this certain thing for God then you can expect God to do this other thing in return.

And of course, I wanted to be blessed, I wanted to have God fill the void of loneliness, to give me peace and understanding, I wanted to see my cup overfilled with the oil of joy. And so I did the A, the B, and the C to the best of my understanding and ability and waited for the X, the Y, and the Z, but far more often than not, I’d be left waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting and waiting and waiting.

The failure of this "transactional theology" for me is something that I've written about before, more than once, and probably will again. I guess I kind of am right now.

The third post in the series begins with a history lesson, breaking down a few of the changes that have occurred in terms of cultural norms about marriage between the time when the Bible was being written and the time we're in now. It then moves to a discussion of the ways that many of the verses - Matthew 5:27-30, for example - that have been used to govern single people's desires were written for a largely married audience:

Read those verses while keeping in mind that they are speaking to an audience that got married in their teens (and almost all of them would be married) and you begin to see that they have nothing to do with the dating/courtship world we live in today. These are verses concerned with protecting the sanctity of marriage – keeping husbands and wives committed to one another in a covenant relationship – NOT with controlling the desires of single people.

Today, we might look at the ancient world and say, that it’s awful that they got married so young – we consider that statutory rape. But really, there’s a kind of genius to it. All those budding desires, all of those bodily changes and the curiosity and exploration that goes along with them? Because they got married young, all of those new feelings could be freely explored within their committed marriage relationship. And that’s the way it was meant to be.

This makes a lot of sense to me, even though I'd be one of those people saying it's awful.

After that lesson, the post moves into a discussion of desire and of pleasure that leads finally into a brief discussion of grace - a topic that has been missing from so much of what I (and, I believe, most other folks coming out of similar contexts) got drilled about growing up.

I might post more on this later, I'm not sure. For now, though, read those blogposts; they're a perspective that too many young Christian people - or, as in my case, young people who grew up Christian and then ran for the hills as soon as church attendance wasn't mandated - need to hear.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.20

20 January 2012

The Raid on MegaUpload: An Analogy

Scene: two cops are talking to each other outside of a Bob's U-Stor-It.

Cop 1:
"So some units in this storage facility are being used to hold cheap knockoffs of luxury goods?"

Cop 2:
"Yeah - fake Gucci bags, fake Prada shoes, and a bunch of other stuff. Weird thing is, people aren't selling any of it - they're just giving it away."

Cop 1:
"That is weird. Well, we can't have them giving these knockoffs away. They'll undercut the profits of the people who are making the real things - because why would you buy a real Gucci bag when there's a fake one available for free that looks half as good?

Cop 2:
"You make a persuasive economic argument. There's a complication, though: there's a bunch of people who are just storing their own possessions in the facility, and it's going to be a lot of trouble to sort out who is who, which storage units belong to which people, all that."

Cop 1:
"Well, if it's going to be complicated telling apart the innocent citizens from the guys who are giving away knockoff handbags, let's just burn the whole facility to the ground and arrest the people who own it."

Cop 2:
"But what about the personal possessions of the people who were just using as a storage facility?"

Cop 1:
"If they wanted their belongings to be safe, they should have kept them in the glass-walled containers we've set up inside the police station."

Cop 2:
"You're right, that's what they should have done. But what will we arrest the facility's owners for?"

Cop 1:
"They sold billboard space on top of their building. Some of the people who were giving away the knockoffs must have seen the billboards, which means the people who own the facility profited off of the knockoffs. That means that they committed a criminal conspiracy."

Cop 2:
"Still, that can't be more than a few grand, right?"

Cop 1:
"Nah, we'll prosecute them for the full amount that the knockoffs would have been worth if they were the real things and they'd been stolen directly from the fashion houses."

Cop 2:
"That makes sense. Flame on!"

Cop 1:
"That's hot."

They destroy the entire facility.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.19

19 January 2012

Why We're Liberals

First off, this song's been stuck in my head for a couple of days.

(warning: rap)

Macklemore - Can't Hold Us

Second, the main point I'm going with here. This article, a userpost from Salon.com, is (somewhat hyperbolically) titled "The 3 Reasons All Young Adults Are Liberal."

While not all young adults are liberal, most of us (yes, I am one) are. I don't consider myself liberal or conservative; if you've been reading this blog for a while, or you know me in so-called "real life," you probably have some sense for what my politics are.

Anyways: the author makes what I think are a number of really good points. I'm not going to recap them all (you can read his or her actual post if you want to do that), but I will pull a few paragraphs of particularly good material to whet your appetite.

Almost everyone in our age group knows someone who is unemployed. Not because that person is lazy, but because the lowest percentage of Americans age 16 to 29 are employed since World War II, with 55% of young adults employed. If we dwell on the fact that many of those jobs are not careers, and many of those are part-time, the picture gets bleaker.

We haven't had the time, nor reason, to develop the near-ubiquitous attitude of conservative Americans: “Well, things worked out for me. Why wouldn't they work out for everyone?”


I was listening to a song a few weeks ago and a verse came on that said, roughly, “And poor kids are dying for billionaire's profits.” I actually sighed. “This again?” I thought. That's when it dawned on me: we actually live in a time where the exploitation of American lives for corporate revenue is a cliché.


That's a general evolution in the early twenties, granted, but, again, I just don't see the Republicans appealing to my generation by fervently maintaining the same tired Bushisms of the past and hoping no one notices. Honestly, why are all young adults “liberal?” Because there's no real conservatism anymore. We're not old enough to remember any kind of Republican other than Bush. What are we supposed to think?

Worth reading.

Also: yes, it's "whet." Not "wet." Why would I want to pour water on your appetite? I want to sharpen it.

Music, politics, grammar. Have a good afternoon.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.18

17 January 2012


So we were expecting a blizzard last night.

Didn't happen. Now it's supposed to happen this afternoon, this evening, and tonight.

I'm not happy about this - I was supposed to ride my bike, last night, up to Lake City (have I mentioned that I have a bike that I love dearly? Probably. But I will again soon!) to meet with people, but I took a pass because I was concerned about my ability to get back.


Every touch of ice falling out of the sky out here gets instantly met with hundreds of panicked "SNOWPOCALYPSE [INSERT YEAR]" posts on Facebook, Twitter, and I'd say MySpace but [joke about how MySpace isn't popular anymore].

I find this to be boring and uncreative. SNOWMG is a much better way of greeting the cold wet white stuff (ew), as is "You know what time it is? Get yer fiddle and yer boots, honey, 'cause it's time for a snowdown," and the even-rarer "Time to bust an urban legend, bro - we're visiting Snowpes.com."


Without further ado: here are my top 5 Snowpocalypse / apocalypse / [x]pocalypse puns. Because they've been stuck in my head all day, and I'm not going to be able to do more work until I put them on a page.

Like most things, they work better if you say them in the voice of the "In a world..." guy.

In a world where people expect a blizzard, but nothing happens:

In a world where a reggae festival invades a conservative Midwestern town:

In a world where solar flares disrupt the world's satellite network, knocking out most of our communications:

In a world where zombie sheep have overrun most of New Zealand:

In a world where there's nothing to do but make lame puns about the way people choose to update their Facebook statuses:

I'm sorry.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.16

16 January 2012

Excerpts from "The Other America"

AKA the "I have a dream" speech - delivered at Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968. The full text - along with a recording and pictures - is available at this link


I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.


While America refused to do anything for the black man at that point, during that very period, the nation, through an act of Congress, was giving away millions of acres of land in the west and the mid-west, which meant that it was willing to under gird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. Not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges for them to learn how to farm. Not only that it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming and went beyond this and came to the point of providing low interest rates for these persons so that they could mechanize their farms, and today many of these persons are being paid millions of dollars a year in federal subsidies not to farm and these are so often the very people saying to the black man that he must lift himself by his own bootstraps. I can never think ... Senator Eastland, incidentally, who says this all the time gets a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year, not to farm on various areas of his plantation down in Mississippi. And yet he feels that we must do everything for ourselves. Well that appears to me to be a kind of socialism for the rich and rugged hard individualistic capitalism for the poor.


Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a succor for consensus but a mold of consensus. And on some positions cowardice ask the question is it safe? Expediency asks the question is it politics? Vanity asks the question is it popular? The conscience asks the question is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politics nor popular but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.

The Girls with the Dragon Tattoos

Let's cut to the crucial question: How is the new girl in David Fincher's version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"? She's fine, thank you very much. That is to say, Rooney Mara looks just as bizarre as Noomi Rapace did in the role of Lisbeth Salander, the poster girl for punk and spunk in the Swedish-language trilogy. And she cuts just as striking a figure riding a motorcycle, surfing the web or taking and giving terrible punishment. But there's a crucial difference. Lisbeth 1 was black-light incandescence, burning with focused anger. Lisbeth 2 is recessive, haunted, sometimes bummed and occasionally blank but clearly alienated from the vile world in which Lisbeth 1 fiercely claimed her place.

- Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

Truth. This is conveyed visually (look at the structures of their faces, look at the directions they're looking (one usually straight out, one usually down), look at their eyes, look at their hair, look at their clothing). It is conveyed in the dialogue - or the lack thereof, or the way it is delivered.

At one point in the film, Mara's Lisbeth asks Blomkvist, "May I kill him?" This is not a question that Rapace's Lisbeth, I think, would have asked. At the least, it's not a question that I remember her asking.

The difference is conveyed in the films' respective endings. This was what struck me the most, watching Fincher's version (or Mara's, if you wish to keep the focus on the actress) - there's a series of scenes, right at the end of the American version of the film, that emphasize Mara's attachment to Daniel Craig's Blomkvist. I don't recall these scenes being in the Swedish version - and they wouldn't fit Rapace's Lisbeth as I remember her.

Yes, this is scattered. I'm trying to think this through as I write it.

From The Tattooed Girl (a site I've looked up while writing this post) -

I can say Rooney did an excellent job—very different from Noomi, but excellent.

However, I think Fincher and his team made a couple of serious, even unforgiveable stumbles, in the characterization of Lisbeth and in the overall cosmology of the film. The key moment for me came in the final, climatic act, when Lisbeth had just beaten back Martin Vanger by whacking him with a golf club, thereby saving Mikael Blomkvist’s tenuous life. “May I kill him?” I recall Lisbeth asking Mikael, referring to Martin.

Not! Lisbeth would never ask for permission for anything, let alone permission to respond to an attacker. The soul of this character is that Lisbeth lives by her own code. She never asks for permission. She does what she believes needs to be done in the moment.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.15

15 January 2012

A True Story

There used to be an anarchist collective in Gainesville that
met at a greasy spoon on Twenty-third Street called Firpo's.
The collective was called the Re-Levelers and there were
four people in it: two couples, boy-girl. So the four anarchists
were sitting around their table, eating the food they had
ordered and which they would pay for, and trying to draft
a manifesto. They were discussing whether to identify the
Re-Levelers as anarcho-communist or anarcho-communal,
and the discussion had gotten fairly heated. The men were
screaming at each other, starting to draw attention to them-
selves, and ignoring their girlfriends, who were each trying to
get in edgewise some words of their own. Eventually the two
women flipped over a place mat and scribbled out their own
manifesto, declaring their secession from the Re-Levelers
on account of its inherent sexism, and naming themselves
the Anarcho-Feminist Solidarity Brigade. The men were
still arguing with each other, and had not noticed that their
collective had just been weakened by half. The women left
their manifesto on the table for the men to find and rode their
bicycles back to the house where they all lived together, where
they would later tell their bewildered boyfriends, firmly, that
this was no joke; there were indeed now two anarchist collec-
tives in town, and any alliance between the two groups would
have to be negotiated and earned.

Mitt Romney is a Serial Killer

Three (non-political) Things I Think Today

(or, it's snowing out, and I've graded eight essays so far today)

(or, apologies to Peter King; I'm not completely ripping off your concept - I changed a word or two!)

(or, everything's political, but I felt like writing about music and sports for a minute)

1. More people should cover Karma Police, and fewer should cover Creep.

The former is just a better song; the latter, while good, is terribly overplayed. Seriously. Covers of "Creep" available via a quick YouTube search: Damien Rice, Weezer, The Pretenders, Pearl Jam, Moby, Ingrid Michaelson, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Palmer, Sad Kermit, and several hundred random people with guitars singing into webcams. Covers of "Karma Police"... Panic! at the Disco, Tori Amos, The Dresden Dolls. And... that's about it.

Moral of the story: Amanda Palmer likes covering Radiohead. But we already knew that.

2. Tebow doesn't suck just because he lost a football game.

He's not a great NFL quarterback. More than likely, he's never going to be. And he's not the quarterback you want playing for you in any situation where you're needing to pass - i.e. any game against the Patriots, the Saints, or the Packers. He is, though, the kind of quarterback you can win with if you've got a good defense, your opponent has a mediocre to decent offense, and you're okay with every game coming down to a field goal. He'll keep you at 8-8 or 9-7 every year.

Speaking of the Patriots, the Saints, and the Packers...

3. Defense doesn't win championships if the rules keep you from playing defense.

Let's talk about the AP writeup of the 49ers' 36-32 victory over the Saints.

Paragraph 7:

Smith ran for a 28-yard TD with 2:11 left and threw another scoring pass to Davis in the first quarter. Coach Jim Harbaugh's NFC West champions (14-3) proved that a hard-hitting, stingy defense can still win in the modern, wide-open NFL by holding off one of the league's most dynamic offenses.

A "hard-hitting, stingy defense"? Drew Brees passed for 462 yards! 462! And four touchdowns! 7.3 yards per attempt!

Hard-hitting, maybe - or, perhaps, the headline for the article says it better: "Alex Smith, 49ers bounce sloppy Saints, charge into NFC title game". It's hard to win when you turn the ball over five times (two interceptions, three fumbles). But don't call the Niners' defense 'stingy' here - or, do, if you mean stingy in the way that government agencies define -

oh, damn. Back to politics.

All y'all have a good morning!

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.14

13 January 2012

The Felice Brothers - Fire at the Pageant

Seduction of the Cyber Zombies

For the leftwing Stirnerites the favored tactic was always the General Strike (the Sorelian myth). In response to Global Capital we need a new version of this myth that can include syndicalist structures but not be limited by them. The old enemy of the anarchists was always the State. We still have the State to worry about (police in the universal Mall), but clearly the real enemies are the zaibatsus and banks. (The biggest mistake in revolutionary history was the failure to seize the Bank in Paris, 1871.) In the very near future there is going to be "war" against the WTO/IMF/GATT structure of Global Capital --- a war of sheer desperation, waged by a worldfull of individuals and organic groups against corporations and "the money power" (i.e. money itself). Hopefully a peaceful war, like a big General Strike --- but realistically one should prepare for the worst. And what we need to know is, what can the InterNet do for us?

Obviously a good revolt needs good communication systems. Right now however I'd prefer to transmit my conspiratorial secrets (if I had any) through the Post Office rather that the Net. A really successful conspiracy leaves no paper trail, like the Libyan Revolution of 1969 (but then, phone-tapping was still fairly primitive then). Moreover, how could we be sure that what we saw on the Net was information and not disinformation? Especially if our organization existed only on the Net? Speaking as a Stirnerite, I don't want to banish spooks from my head only to find them again on my screen. Virtual street-fighter, virtual ruins. Sounds like a losing proposition.

Most disturbing for us would be the "gnostic" quality of the Net, its tendency toward exclusion of the body, its promise of technological transcendence of the flesh. Even if some people have "met through the Net", the general movement is toward atomization---"slumped alone in front of the screen". The "movement" today pays too much attention to media in general because power has virtually eluded us---and within the speculum of the Net its reflection mocks us. Net as substitute for conviviality and communicativeness. Net as bad religion. Part of the media-trance. The commodification of difference.

Mitt Romney: Speaks French.

Really, Newt Gingrich? You're attacking Mitt Romney for speaking French? That's the best you've got?

"And just like John Kerry... he speaks French, too."

No, this isn't a parody. The strongest attack possible against a Republican candidate for president... is that he speaks more than one language.

Link to ABC article.

Link to BBC article:

Some commentators have highlighted a possible irony in that Mr Gingrich, a former House Speaker, has a doctorate in European history. His 1971 dissertation, Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960, contains a number of sources in French in its bibliography.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.12

12 January 2012

Caring: a labor on stolen time

This is an essay by a friend of mine talking about her experiences working and organizing at a Christian nursing home in the Seattle area. It's definitely, definitely worth a read if you have any thought for the way that the structures of our society interact with some of our most vulnerable populations, or what happens when people try to work against those structures or survive within them.

It's a longish piece... and every word of it is worthwhile, well thought-out, and important.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.11

11 January 2012

Wikileaks: U.S. Diplomats work for Monsanto

Quick little article that you may have missed last week:

Wikileaks information shows the US threatening trade wars with the EU, and especially Spain and France, and pressuring the Vatican, over a rejection of a genetically modified corn strain.

In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

"The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the Dallas/Fort Worth-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

Right. We're supposed to "cause some pain" and "make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests" because... uh... they don't like Monsanto's corn.

More than don't like. They don't think it's safe. So the clear and straightforward Monsanto response, as per everything Adam Smith wrote about the operations of the free market: spend millions of dollars lobbying the US government to put pressure on the governments that don't think your product is safe.

Back to the Guardian article:

In addition, the cables show US diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto. "In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain's science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention."

It also emerges that Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws. In one cable, the embassy in Madrid writes: "If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow."

Brilliant. Don't say anything, folks. Just close your mouth and chew.

Rahm Emanuel vs. Michelle Obama

Wanted to throw y'all a link to a pretty excellent review of Jodi Kantor's new book The Obamas, which paints a portrait of a feud that apparently went on for some time within the White House. Two of the bigger issues that come out (though the whole thing is worth reading):

It was when the jockeying between the two moved into the policy arena that matters grew most complicated. According to Kantor, in the lead-up to the 2010 midterm elections Emanuel and Michelle Obama were at odds over whether the president should give an address on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The president wanted to do it. The chief of staff saw no point in pushing for legislation that had no chance of passage. The first lady, who had just been confronted by a second-grader in a Maryland elementary school whose mother didn't have immigration papers, felt that ignoring the issue was fundamentally at odds with her husband's own political story.


Perhaps the greatest point of friction between Michelle Obama and Rahm Emanuel involved the push for health care reform. Like several staff members (specifically David Axelrod), the first lady was skeptical of, if not outright opposed to, the backroom deals being cut to advance the legislation, wary that it would tarnish an image her husband had worked years to build. But the president, "his competitive juices stoked and his most important initiative on the line, did not halt his chief of staff's horse trading," writes Kantor.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.10

09 January 2012

First Baptist Church of Out-of-Context Numbers

So, for a while, before I moved out of my parents' house, I used to attend the First Baptist Church at the Mall, in Lakeland, Florida.

That's not a joke in my description. They bought an old shopping mall and turned it into a church.

Anyways. The preacher at this church is named Jay Dennis. Other than a little bit of a Marcus Bachmann thing that he has going on, he's a pretty effective rhetorician.

One habit that he has, though, that I used to pick on: he tends to begin his sermons with a little story, an anecdote, a joke, a list, some kind of icebreaker that makes his audience sit up and pay attention.

You might think that this tendency is a good thing! Well... it would be, except that (as I repeatedly complained about while I was a part of the church) these icebreakers are often frustratingly incoherent: either irrelevant to his point, urban legends, or facts that, upon further examination, offer little support for the point he's using them to make.

Case in point: Pastor Jay's sermon from January 1st. This was a sermon called "Generosity Goals that Slay the Giant of Debt."

Let's go to the video, shall we?

Generosity Goals that Slay the Giant of Debt from First Baptist Church at the Mall on Vimeo.

There's a lot that we could analyze here, but I just want to pick on the list that Dr. Dennis offers starting at 3:05.

American consumers spend enormous amounts of money on things that don't matter, on non-essentials! Listen to the following, which were gathered from various websites that represent annual spending on things. Annually [note the finger in the air], 604 billion dollars is spent on going out to eat. 20.2 billion for video and computer games. 18.8 billion on home entertainment products. 10.5 billion on self-help products and services, 7 billion on virtual goods, which is defined as nonphysical objects purchased for use in online communications or online games, they have no intrinsic value and by definition are intangible! 5.9 billion on weight-loss products and programs. 1 billion dollars spent on fees paid to the top 5 thousand U.S. motivational speakers, and 315 million on stress management programs.

Those numbers are outrageous, right? Look at how crazy Americans are with the spending and the stress and the oy!

Sorry, Jerry Lewis. I really am.

Putting aside the irony of a pastor chastising us for purchasing things which "have no intrinsic value and by definition are intangible," there's a point I'd like to make. He's talking about what Americans spend every year.

Key point: Americans. There's more than one of us. There are, in fact, according to the most recent census, slightly more than 307 million of us. So what would Pastor Jay's list look like if it took this into account? Well... it wouldn't completely undercut the case he's trying to make, but it would be somewhat less stunning. I've rewritten it to be less of a distortion:

The average American consumer spends enormous amounts of money on things that don't matter, on non-essentials! Listen to the following, which were gathered from various websites that represent annual spending on things. Annually, an average of $1967 is spent on going out to eat - that's about 325 Big Mac extra value meals (size medium), or about 90 trips to Olive Garden (if you don't drink alcohol). A little over $65 per person per year on video and computer games (or about one new game per year). The average person spends $61 per year on home entertainment products - that's about three DVDs, or half of a DVD player. $34.20 on self-help products and services. $2.28 on virtual goods - about 1/2 of a single small DLC pack per person per year. The average person spends $19.22 on weight-loss programs in a year - which is to say, a little under a half-month's membership at the YMCA. The top tier of motivational speakers average about $200,000 in income per year (just think how many jobs they're creating with that), and the average U.S. citizen spends just over $1 a year on stress-management programs.

The point is: when you aggregate numbers, especially from a large population, they get really big, really quickly - and if you don't talk about the size of the population you're aggregating from, it's easy to compile numbers that seem ridiculous or stunning.

Let's talk about the one number here that still seems significant: that $1967 on "going out to eat." That's a lot of money.

Question, though: do you buy a coffee when you go to work in the morning? How much does that cost? Say you're a little fancy, you buy a latte. $3. Times how many days a week? 5? Times how many weeks a year? We'll say you've got a decent job, you get 6 weeks a year off, and you never once buy coffee when you're not going to the office... 46 weeks. That's... $690.

Say you go out to eat once a week. That's 52 times in a year. You spend $15 each time - because, while you're going to decent places, and you tip well, you don't drink (add minimum $5 to each trip if you do). Say you're good-looking, a little bit of a romantic, so 10 of those times you take someone with you and pay for their meal. Well, shoot... that's $930. If you're buying one drink at each meal, that's $1240 - which puts you right at the average for the year, even assuming you don't go out to a bar a single time all year. Does that seem ridiculous?

It's funny how quick numbers add up - and it's a little sad how effective they can be at making an impression if they're just handed out without context.

None of this invalidates Dr. Dennis' points - I actually agree with some of what he has to say, and, if I were operating from the same assumptions he is, I'd probably agree with a lot more of it. I just find bad logic and the abuse of statistics to be painful and illuminating, and, in the context of a sermon about debt, worth talking about.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.8

06 January 2012

Glitch Mob on the Philosophy of History

The awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the revolutionary classes at the moment of their action.

The great revolution introduced a new calendar.

The initial day of a calendar serves as a historical time-lapse camera. And, basically, it is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance.

Thus the calendars do no measure time as clocks do; they are monuments of a historical consciousness of which not the slightest trace has been apparent in Europe in the past hundred years.

In the July revolution an incident occurred which showed this consciousness still alive.

On the first evening of fighting it turned out that the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris.

An eye-witness, who may have owed his insight to the rhyme, wrote as follows:

Who would have believed it!
we are told that new Joshuas
at the foot of every tower,
as though irritated with
time itself, fired at the dials
in order to stop the day.

The Stranger's End-of-Year Corrections Article

It's awesome.

I'm often critical of this local alternative newspaper (the quality of their content is uneven, and they try too hard to prove that they're EXTREME while still tending to fall comfortably into middle-class white sensibilities), but every once in a while, they put out a really great article. I've praised their coverage of the Seattle tunnel debate, criticized some of their coverage of Occupy.

Now they've put out their end-of-2011 corrections article - which consists of a long string of things that are being regretted, by The Stranger, the Stranger staff, or random other people. It's pretty hilarious. I'm only going to include two representative samples; I'd recommend you click through to the article itself (linked in the 'it's awesome' at the top of this post).

Representative sample 1:

In the April 27 issue of The Stranger, Christopher Frizzelle, the editor of The Stranger, wrote an obituary for the book-events impresario Kim Ricketts in which he praised her for not "always blindly towing the public-relations line," misspelling "toeing." We regret the error, although not as much as we regret the passing of Kim Ricketts. This city sucks without her.

Representative sample 2:
Jen Graves regrets that in an October 4 post on The Stranger's music blog, Line Out, she described the wonders of the cello in advance of a performance of the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 with the Seattle Symphony. It turned out that the Bach was instead going to be performed by a tuba. Ms. Graves hopes no one emerged from the concert believing that a tuba is a cello.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.6

05 January 2012

SPD sues lawyer for making public records request

Yes, you read that right. The good-ol-boys at the SPD are at it again.

Here's a link to the article from Seattle Weekly.

According to that article, city attorney Pete Holmes - representing the city and the Seattle Police Department - is suing local attorney James Egan for requesting public information.

[Holmes] says he's seeking "guidance" from the courts, arguing that the videos taken by public servants in public places is somehow private information.

He says in the lawsuit that the state privacy act prevents such videos from becoming public until any litigation surrounding them is concluded.

Egan says that's hogwash. A Seattle attorney who represents clients suing the police, Egan - making a public records request as any average citizen might - sought 36 dash cam videos. He was turned down. Then notice of Holmes' lawsuit arrived.

"I was floored," he told KING-TV. Should Holmes prevail, it would take at least three years to obtain the vids - just when the statute of limitations for lawsuits against SPD runs out and when the department routinely erases stored videos.
Here's another article on the subject from KOMO News.

This article gives us a bit more context. Egan is representing (pro bono) two victims of the SPD's brutality. Videos from those cases - which the SPD originally attempted not to share - were important in establishing that unnecessary force had been used. Egan was attempting to find out if this was a pattern from those particular officers or not.

The situation involves two cases Egan handled pro bono. He believed the videos in each case show officer misconduct. Egan wanted to know if those officers had other questionable arrests, so he asked for 36 additional dash-cam videos.

But the city refused, citing privacy laws. Egan appealed, and now the city is suing him.

"This is ridiculous. It would be comical if it weren't alarming," he said.

Egan believes the city is retaliating for making these other videos public.

"I kind of expect for something like this that they really do have something to hide," said Egan.

The KOMO article also clarifies the "three years" note from Seattle Weekly, unlinking it from the particular case and tying it into a more specific plan from the city and from SPD:

The city argues it doesn't have to release any videos for three years. That also happens to be when the statute of limitations runs out for suing the city and, as a KOMO News investigation discovered, it is also when dash-cam videos are routinely erased from the system.

KIRO's article on the topic identifies one of the cases that caused Egan's inquiry.

In that case, police pulled a car over for speeding, running a stop sign, and endangering pedestrians, then proceeded to pull the driver and his passenger out of their vehicle and taunt them, saying, among other things, "This ain't Yakima, homeboy. This is the big city. You talk like that to the police and you get hemmed up. I’m not a Yakima County fucking bumpkin police officer." (It should be noted that "saying mean things to the police" isn't a crime.) One officer was also recorded threatening to "skullfuck" one of the men and drag him down the street.

None of this would have come out if Egan hadn't been able to get the video - which also showed the car stopping at the stop sign in question, then driving through a crosswalk with nary a pedestrian in sight - from the SPD. Small wonder that they're attempting to keep Egan - and anyone else - from obtaining other videos.

Are you in an abusive relationship?

is capitalism jealous or possessive toward you?

does capitalism try to control you by being very bossy or demanding?

does capitalism isolate you or demand you cut off certain relationships?

is capitalism violent and/or does it lose its temper quickly?

does capitalism pressure you sexually, demanding sexual activities you are not comfortable with?

does capitalism claim you are responsible for its emotional state?

does capitalism blame you when it mistreats you?

does capitalism have a history of bad relationships?

have your friends or loved ones warned you about capitalism?

are they are concerned for your emotional well-being around capitalism?

does capitalism keep track of your time?

does capitalism control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?

does capitalism destroy or take your personal property or sentimental items?

does capitalism have affairs?

does capitalism threaten to hurt you, your children or pets? threaten to use a weapon?

If you feel you are in an abusive relationship with capitalism, help is readily available for both parties.

Now, remember: these relationships cannot be changed from one side. By staying, you are condoning and enabling the abuse – and helping capitalism stay sick. If capitalism is unwilling to get help, the only safe course of action is to totally remove yourself from the situation and seek help with us.

This post taken from Anarchist Without Content, who credited Schizogram.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.5

04 January 2012

ICE deports citizen to Colombia, can't get her back

File this one under "oops." Also under "WTF, government."

ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement - accidentally deported a 14-year-old runaway.

They sent her 'back' to Colombia. You'd think that, somewhere, they might have noticed that she was African-American? Or didn't speak Spanish? Or that they would have taken any kind of measures to make sure that she was actually who they thought she was, as opposed to a scared kid who'd run away from home after her grandfather died and her parents divorced?

From the article:

News 8 learned that Jakadrien somehow ended up in Houston, where she was arrested by Houston police for theft. She gave Houston police a fake name. When police in Houston ran that name, it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Colombia, who had warrants for her arrest.

So ICE officials stepped in.

News 8 has learned ICE took the girl's fingerprints, but somehow didn't confirm her identity and deported her to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her.

Right. So the 14-year-old girl gave the cops a fake name. The cops called immigration, who then didn't take any steps to confirm that she was who they thought she was, and just sent her to Colombia.

And now they can't get her back. The crazy thing? The girl's grandmother found her via Facebook. From the article:

Through her granddaughter’s Facebook messages, Turner says she tracked Jakadrian down.

U.S. Federal authorities got an address. U.S. Embassy officials in Colombia asked police to pick her up.

But that was a month ago, and the Colombian government now has her in a detention facility and won't release her, despite her family's request.

"I feel like she will come home," the grandmother said with tears in her eyes. "I just need help and prayer.”

...yeah. Good job, ICE. Way to keep us safe from the scary outsiders by deporting 14-year-old citizens. Well played.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.4

Yes, two Tilda Swintons in three PTotD posts.

03 January 2012

iPhones vs. the Cops

The image of the 'protester with the iPhone' is one that's been constantly ridiculed since Occupy began some, now, three-plus months ago.

One example from the Free Republic forums:

"Unsurprisingly, those that claim to be "oppressed" at Occupy Seattle have laptops, iPhones, internet access, and movie projectors. They also have a website on which they have published a schedule of upcoming events."

...because you shouldn't be able to speak out about injustices unless you're completely destitute.

Time Magazine and The New Yorker, though, offer a look (beyond just mocking) at some of these technology-wielding people. From Time's profile of "The Protester" -
Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist who fled to Cairo, brought his battered iPhone. He showed me some of the most intense protest footage I’ve ever seen. A Spanish protester named Stephane Grueso brought his iPhone too, referring to it as a “weapon.”

And, from The New Yorker's excellent article on the way that iPhones and readily available cameras are changing our relationship with the police:

Why does someone like me defer to a policeman, after all? It’s probably because, in the old days, if he and I were to present to a court conflicting narratives of what happened between us, the court would more or less be obliged to take his side, not because the court was certain he was right, but because the court had an institutional relationship with the policeman to maintain. Knowing that, it made sense for me to concede that the policeman had an advantage: he was going to have the privilege of telling our story.

But things are different nowadays. Smart phones have cameras, and almost everyone has a smart phone. A court is therefore less likely to be ignorant of what actually occurred between the policeman and me. The policeman and I may have videotaped it. Bystanders might have, too.

...worth thinking about.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.3

...yes, that's the Dalai Lama with Mr. Rogers.

02 January 2012

Military Detention of American Citizens.

It's now, officially, the law.

Obama, that mewling, spineless, idiotic, unprincipled piece of shit that came into office promising 'hope' and 'change,' just formally legalized the indefinite military detention of any person suspected of terrorism.

Indefinite. Forever. Without trial. Without charges.

Military detention. You're going to fucking Guantanamo. Or anywhere else they feel like sending you.

Of any person. That includes American citizens. That includes you. That includes me.

Suspected. They don't have to prove it, they don't have to have any standard of evidence. Suspected.

Of terrorism. Which is defined... how, exactly? When you have Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, immediately after 9/11, blaming those attacks on gay people and abortion doctors, when you have British police naming Occupy as a terrorist group and the NYPD's counter-terrorism unit monitoring Zucotti Park, when the FBI is systematically targeting groups, sending in agents, and actively creating and developing plans which they then claim credit for foiling (see: Eric McDavid, Newburgh 4, Liberty City 7)?


And Obama's defense of his actions is... what, exactly? From the article:

Despite his objections, Mr. Obama says he signed the measure, known by its initials NDAA, because it authorizes needed funding to defend the nation, support the military and renew "vital national security programs."

Among the provisions to which the president objects is a grant of permission for the indefinite military detention of terror suspects by the military.

Mr. Obama said he didn't ask for such authority and doesn't want it.

"I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation."

Mr. Obama says his administration will interpret that provision "in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

Right. He didn't want to sign it, but he did anyways, but it's okay because his administration isn't going to act on it. Even if we believe that, Mr. Obama - and your track record thus far hasn't led us to believe that a single word that comes out of your mouth is worth believing - you're not going to be in office forever. You can say whatever you want about your administration - but there's an election coming up in a year.

Pretty Thing of the Day 2.2

01 January 2012

Neil Gaiman's New Year's Benediction

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.

I hope you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now - I hope that you will, when you need to be, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

Many thanks to AG for pointing me towards this.