30 April 2012

Rhetorical Analysis Worksheet


Note that this is assuming a singular speaker; if you’re looking at a conversation, you can focus on one speaker, or you can work through both (or all), depending on the purposes for which you’re hoping to use your analysis. If you're analyzing something other than a conversation or monologue within a novel, you can still use these questions, you'll just have to modify some of them slightly.

The People:
Who is speaking?
To whom?
What are their respective social positions?
Who has what kind of power?
How do those powers influence what is being said or not said?
Who is there, but not speaking?
What are the power dynamics between those people, the speaker, and the listener?
How do they influence what is being said and not said?

The Setting:
Where is the speech happening?
What else is happening there?
What has happened there (what kinds of histories are involved in that place)?
How do the people relate to that place?
How does that place influence what is being said or not said?
What other places come up in what is being said?
What has happened in those places?
How do the people – the speaker, the listener, the observers, the reader – relate to those places?
What other places, that might seem relevant, are left out?
How do the people – the speaker, the listener, the observers, the reader – relate to those places?

The Words:
What is the speaker saying?
What is the speaker not saying?
What histories is the speaker drawing on?
What histories is the speaker leaving out?
How does the speaker position him- or herself relative to the things he or she is talking about?
How does the speaker position him- or herself relative to his or her audience?
How is the speaker phrasing what he or she is saying?
What kinds of patterns is the speaker using?

29 April 2012

Confess, and then we'll test the DNA

Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me?

Standard operating procedure in Texas, apparently.

Story from NPR:

On August 13, 1986, Christine Morton was murdered in her home outside of Austin, Texas.

Her husband, Michael Morton, was quickly identified as the primary suspect.

He was arrested and convicted.

Police chose to ignore a bloody bandanna found outside the house:

A bloody bandanna had been found by a deputy behind the Morton home. Incredibly, the sheriff's office decided to ignore it and left it lying on the ground.
Police actively suppressed the testimony of the couple's 4-year-old son, Eric, who described a stranger entering the house and hurting his mother:
This determined avoidance of inconvenient evidence was complete the next day, when the Mortons' son, Eric, who was almost 4, privately told Christine Morton's mother what happened the morning of the murder. Eric told his grandmother that a "monster" came into the house, that the monster was big and angry, that he hurt his mother and his mother was crying.
[...]
The deputy who took her call told Kirkpatrick not to tell anyone else about her conversation with Eric and to keep Eric quiet too. Morton was the murderer — they were confident.
Police ignored the fact that Christine's credit card was used in San Antonio two days after her death:
This information should have had Williamson County investigators scrambling to San Antonio. After all, Christine Morton's purse was missing. This was possible evidence of capital murder, since murdering in the commission of another crime brings the possibility of the death penalty.

However, the Williamson County Sheriff's Department never even bothered to return the San Antonio Police Department's call. In a note found 25 years later in the sheriff's file, a deputy mocked the notion that Christine's purse really had been stolen, writing, "'Course, we know better."
Later, after Michael was convicted, police refused to test DNA left at the crime scene - semen on Christine's body and blood found there - unless Michael confessed first:
For years, Williamson County fought Morton's requests to have the evidence in his case tested. Prosecutors ridiculed his efforts and taunted him, saying they'd consider DNA testing the evidence only if Morton would first take responsibility for the crime. It was when a Texas appeals court finally ordered the bandanna DNA-tested last year that law enforcement's arrogance was blown to pieces.
Yep. As soon as they tested the DNA, they realized they had the wrong guy, and they let Michael go. After 25 years in prison. After Eric, his son, changed his last name:
From the tip about the credit card to the man in the green van behind the Morton house to Eric's eyewitness account of his mother's murder — all of this evidence was withheld from both the judge in the case and the defense attorneys.

And so Morton didn't get to see Eric grow up. When Eric was 12, he stopped seeing his father in prison. When he was 18, he changed his last name from Morton.

And... what's the official response to this chain of damning facts? Let's quote the press conference from the former district attorney, now a state judge, who prosecuted the case:
"There have been a number of allegations made about professional conduct by the prosecutors, including me, in this case," he says. "In my heart, I know there was no misconduct whatsoever."
Yeah, dude. Sure. Whatever. May your knowledge of your innocence do you exactly as much good as Michael Morton's knowledge of his own innocence did him.

28 April 2012

The come-to-Jesus email: a genre study

The following is an email I sent to my composition class after I received (or, more accurately, didn't receive) their most recent essay.

From: [email redacted]
To: engl111c_sp12@uw.edu
Subj: What's going on, folks?

Hi y'all -

A few things to think about.

The last three classes, we've had 9, 9, and 6 people present.

The last two essays, 8 and 7 of you have turned them in.

We're through 4 of the texts to be responded to (out of 5), and you've written a total of 6 responses. That's out of (14*4) 56 opportunities. For most of you, it is now impossible to write the two responses that are required of you.

Many of you have missed multiple reading quizzes.

Some of you, I haven't seen in weeks.

What's going on?

I mean, I don't particularly mind y'all not turning in essays. I've got more than enough to do without having to grade, and you're only hurting yourself.

I don't particularly mind y'all not turning in responses. They're meant to help you think through the texts we're working with.

But, c'mon now, it's kind of disrespectful to your classmates, to me (hi, I'm the guy teaching the class, I know some of y'all don't know me), and to the people who couldn't get together the money to come to the UW, for you to not bother doing jack shit in the class you're signed up for.

If you're very far behind... this is the point at which you should think about taking your annual late drop. It'll show up as a W on your transcript, which is a hell of a lot better than a 0.0. If you choose not to do that, you've got a lot of work ahead of you. Time to buckle down.

Good luck.

25 April 2012

Stand Your Ground: Just change the law?

So one of the most constant responses that I've been hearing from my conservative friends about the whole Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case is that "you shouldn't be upset about this case, you should be upset about the law." Often, this is phrased as "if you're upset about this, you should vote for somebody who will repeal the law."

There's a big, big problem with this logic, though, and it's one that the case of Marissa Alexander clearly exposes. From a Daily Kos article titled "Stand Your Ground: Just Not If You're Black or Female", we have a case that seems like a far more clear-cut example of the kind of situation the law is intended to address.

Alexander's husband, Rico Gray, who has been arrested for domestic battery in two previous relationships, threatened her. She stood her ground, eventually firing a warning shot into the ceiling of her house.
This case was subjected to a stand your ground motion hearing in 2011, but the motion was denied by Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, who told Alexander that she "could have exited the house during the altercation"
You catch that?  The judge said that she could have run away, so she didn't have the recourse of Stand Your Ground. Which is a law that is freaking named for the fact that it removes your legal obligation to run away.

This is the problem with trying to fix laws:

They don't get applied evenly.

They don't get enforced fairly.

The law isn't the whole problem. It's only a small part of the problem. So saying that people should just focus on fixing the law is stupid, shortsighted, and relies on an entirely, entirely undeserved and naive faith in the cops and the so-called "justice system."

If you can afford to have that faith, congratu-freaking-lations. But don't expect anyone who's ever actually had to deal with cops or the legal system to share it.


24 April 2012

Rick Scott hates women

Okay, so maybe that's an overstatement. Maybe he just has "no information" about women. You'd think that his wife would give him some. Except, she's the one in whose name Scott put $62 million in private healthcare company stock, right before he tried to privatize Florida's healthcare. Anyways, here's the link from the Huffington Post. Rick Scott just cut $1.5 million in funding for Florida's rape crisis centers. His press secretary, Lane Wright, said that the rape crisis centers do not have a statewide impact and duplicate programs already funded by the state. His press secretary, Lane Wright, suggested that rape victims go to domestic violence shelters instead. Hey, Lane. You do understand that rape is a different thing, right? Hey, Lane. You do understand that rape is a thing, right?
Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Florida Council, said she was "stunned" and "confused" by Scott's move and that she questions his reasoning for slashing the funds. "We say 'here's the need, here's the need, here's the need,' and frankly, nobody's paying any attention," she told HuffPost. "We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren't able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need." As for the $6.5 million that Scott said the government provides for rape prevention and sexual assault services, a large percentage of that money is distributed to education programs, not actual crisis centers serving the victims. "He's probably including rape prevention and education money," she said. "You think they would have asked us about that, and we could explain to them very clearly what money is available for our programs. It looks like $1.5 million is a lot of money to ask for, but frankly, when you spread it across 67 counties, it's not."
I really want to reuse the facepalm picture from yesterday, but I don't want to get too repetiti- oh, what's that? It's the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month? And the Republican Party is in the middle of defending itself against claims that it's conducting a War on Women?

23 April 2012

UF eliminates computer science

So... Blogger has redesigned their user interface in such a way that I have trouble posting from my home computer. I'm not very happy about this. Weighing whether or not to move over to Wordpress. In the meantime, take a look at this article from Forbes.
The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments.
Way to go, Florida. Way to commit to your educational system. I guess times are tough all over, you know? Sacrifices have to be - oh, what's that?
Meanwhile, just two days ago, Florida governor Rick Scott approved the creation of a brand-new public university, Florida Polytechnic University, to be located near the city of Tampa. In an unintentionally ironic statement, Gov. Scott said “At a time when the number of graduates of Florida’s universities in the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields is not projected to meet workforce needs, the establishment of Florida Polytechnic University will help us move the needle in the right direction.”

19 April 2012

List: 5 famous military quotes I say to my students

"Come and take them."
...your portfolios, I mean, that've been sitting in my office for the last quarter. Because if you don't, I'm going to throw them away, right after I figure out which of the pretty folders I want to keep for my own use. Yeah. You know that Zefron folder that I keep my yet-to-be-finished exam readings in? The one with the glitter? You really think I paid money for that?

"You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm."
...I mean, having lived in Georgia, I'm loathe to quote Sherman, but, seriously, take a look. I've got all your grades documented, all your attendance issues written down, all the emails I've sent you collected into this one folder right here. If we're wanting to stick with this metaphor, your grade complaint has no chance against this thunderstorm of meticulous documentation and righteous knowledge.

"Nuts."
...I, uh, seem to have forgotten my Powerpoint, and all my notes, and the book we were supposed to read for today. Prepare to be taught how to outline! Or lectured at on Foucault! Or something.

"Dig it out for yourselves."
...yes, I know this reading is hard. But when the assignment prompt calls for you to do a close reading of a passage from this text, and we've already modeled it in class using the "I do" and "we do" portions of the "I do, we do, you do" process, you really shouldn't expect me to actually do the work for you. At some point, you've got to actually do your own work. Yes, you can come to my office hours and talk about it. I'm happy to help.

"It is easier for the mediocre intelligence to become an authority on buttons than on tactics."
...sure, sure, your grammar is perfect. But your argument is, quite literally, a series of examples with no visible through-line, you've got no introduction and no conclusion, and you haven't referenced any of the texts that we talked about in class. Remember that grammar is only a small part of one of the four course outcomes. Yes, I know that your grammar is perfect. But fixing the formatting of every essay doesn't demonstrate that you have flexible tactics for revising and editing - it shows that you have one tactic for proofreading. Please try again.

18 April 2012

Regina Tasca: unfit for duty

Many thanks to Reason's Mike Riggs for posting the link that led me to this.

Story, from Reason.com, WPIX, and the Lehigh Valley Morning Call: Regina Tasca, a cop working with the Bogota Police Department in New Jersey, responded to a call from a woman asking that her emotionally disturbed son be taken to the hospital. Tasca brought two other cops with her for backup; the young man started walking to one side while he talked to them on the front yard of his house, and the other two cops tackled him and started beating him up.

Tasca pulled the other cops off of the young man - who was not charged with any crime, but was treated at the hospital with bruises on his head, back, arms, and wrists. The whole thing was caught on video.

So Tasca stopped a couple of cops from dealing out worse police brutality than they were in the process of handing out. For this, her department is calling her "psychologically unfit for duty" and trying to fire her.

From the WPIX story:

On the tape you can hear Tara, the mother, and Kyle, her son, screaming, "Why are you punching him?" and "Stop punching me!"

The two Ridgefield Park Sergeants are never heard refuting the claims that they punched the 22 year-old man as he was waiting for an ambulance.

Even worse, Kyle was never charged, nor arrested, for any offense. Tasca says it's because he never threatened, did not have a weapon, and indeed never resisted and was not violent. Eventually Tasca was able to pry the punching Ridgefield Park officer off Kyle, as seen in a picture taken by the Kyle's mother, who also later commended Tasca in a phone call.

The call came in to Tasca's answering machine and was kept on a recording: "Thank you Regina. I appreciate you standing up for him, for protecting him while the officer attacked him. I can't figure out what i would have done without you at the scene."

Catherine Elston is the attorney helping Tasca prepare for a week-long departmental trial. Elston is also a former police officer.

"This was excessive force used against an emotionally disturbed person," she said. "This was an unlawful tackle, this was a punching an emotionally disturbed person whose arms were pinned under his chest with his face pushed into the ground."

What happened next is so baffling to so many.

Tasca's voice began to waiver as she recounted the meeting with her superior officer:

"The next thing I know he asks me to turn over my weapon and be sent for a fitness for duty exam," she said.

Bogota PD, after hearing Tasca's story, believes she is psychologically incompetent to be a police officer, and she is being sent for testing. The Ridgefield Park Police officers seen tackling and punching an emotionally disturbed man waiting for an ambulance are never questioned. never interviewed by an Internal Affairs Investigator, and are still working the streets today.

If you believe that police brutality and corruption in the United States are the result of a "few bad apples", you need to think again. Corruption, violence, and a sense that the public are the enemy are absolutely pervasive throughout the entire system; indeed, given the history of American policing, one might say that they are foundational to it. The most positive thing you can say about our police is that, scattered from place to place, keeping their heads down and trying to keep other cops in check, are a few good apples - like, apparently, this Regina Tasca.

Of course Ms. Tasca is "psychologically incompetent to be a police officer." Being "competent", for the pigs, means being a racist, a sexist, a classist, and more than just a bit of a sociopath. Try to stop two cops from bashing some poor kid's head in? Psychologically incompetent. Do the bashing, and, like the two cops that Tasca tried to stop, you're good to go.

17 April 2012

Jon Stewart: War on Everything! ...except women.

In this clip, Jon Stewart points out the utter hypocrisy of Fox mocking "war on women" comments... by the simple technique of pointing out a bunch of things that Fox has accused the government of declaring war on.



The list, which starts at 5:28:
- Hanukkah
- Easter
- Fall holidays
- Halloween
- Fossil fuels
- The Constitution
- Ladies' nights
- Fishermen
- Salt
- Chocolate milk
- Sugary drinks
- Food
- Spuds

As Stewart puts it: "Seems like women are the only thing there isn't a war on!"

Jon Stewart: Mitt's War on Moms

Near the end of this clip, Jon Stewart points out that, like, three months ago, Mitt Romney said PRETTY MUCH EXACTLY THE SAME THING that Hillary Rosen (who, as the Washington Post points out, isn't actually a democratic adviser) has been getting pilloried for.

Just going to say that again: PRETTY MUCH EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Here's the clip.

Greenwald slams liberals over Manning

Glenn Greenwald is increasingly becoming one of my two or three favorite journalists. Brilliant piece from him came out today in Salon talking about the way the Democrats (and liberals more generally) have betrayed Bradley Manning.

If you haven't been following the story, Bradley Manning is the soldier who gave information to WikiLeaks; he's been held without trial, now, in what the UN has called "cruel" and "inhuman" conditions, for almost two years.

Two passages that I want to quote here, and I'll let you read the rest of the piece (which has a rundown of the narrative that's quite useful) on your own. First:

“The whole civil libertarian message only really seems to catch fire among liberals when there’s a Republican in the White House,” says Madar. When there’s not a bumbling Texan to inveigh against, all the sudden issues that were morally black and white become complex, and liberal media starts finding nuance where there wasn’t any before.

That much is clear in the case of Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking State Department cables and evidence of war atrocities to WikiLeaks. Under different conditions, he might be a liberal hero. After all, much – though certainly not all – of what he exposed, from the killing of Iraqi civilians to US complicity in torture by the Iraqi government, happened during the Bush years. But it is the Obama administration that is imprisoning him. It is Barack Obama who pronounced him guilty before he so much as had a trial (which he’s still waiting for after almost two years in captivity). And so justifications must be made.

Second:

To be fair, liberals can’t really be blamed for their reaction to Manning. What he did was fundamentally radical, not reformist. He didn’t settle for working within a system explicitly designed to thwart the exposure of wrongdoing, through a chain of command that callously ignores concern for non-American life. Having access to evidence of grotesque crimes no one around him seemed to care about, he engaged in direct action, exposing them for the benefit of the world and those paying for them, the U.S. taxpayer.

“[I]f you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time,” Manning reportedly wrote to the man who ultimately turned him in, “and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? ” We know what his answer was. And we know what the guardians of establishment liberalism would have had him do: Nothing.

Judge for yourself which is more defensible.

I agree with everything Greenwald is saying in these passages. American politics in the general sense has disgusted and continues to disgust me - Obama and the Democrats almost as much as the Republicans. When an act of conscience - and no one's arguing that what Manning exposed was wrong, only that he was wrong to expose it - is something that both parties agree should be punished, your politics are broken.

14 April 2012

Beyond Nonviolence...

Just wanted to throw y'all a quick link to a blogpost that a fellow wrote talking about the eviction of Occupy St. Louis.

The last two paragraphs here are the ones that stand out to me, insofar as they line up with the things that I've said and that I wholeheartedly believe. The bits before it - which tell the story of the cops running down, tackling, and beating Occupiers - are also familiar, and also worth reading. But the ending, here, the takeaway, is really smart, and really well put:
The rhetoric of violence vs. non-violence is utterly irrelevant and insulting. My friends disappeared for 24 hours. Some strangers, who were weaponized and free from scrutiny, were deciding what was to be done with them. Pigs and judges have been given the power to determine the course of their lives. There is no such thing as non-violence. There is no such thing as safety. These ideas are complete illusions, and one can only hold on to them as long as one has the privilege to avoid the violence that maintains society. As we participate and live our lives, all we are doing is avoiding repression.

I am traumatized. I am having flashbacks, and the more I try to make the motions of my mundane life the more vivid they become. Work, school, friendly conversations all seem completely devoid of meaning. All I can do is tell the story of my experience and force the people I surround myself with to question the society we participate in. I am so fucking angry.

13 April 2012

Segments from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" that are strikingly similar to contemporary American political discourse



Close, except, you know, they think Dennis is older than he is, and they don't call him a communist even once. "Oh, there you go, bringing class into it again..."





Ahh, that's better... except that everyone in that clip is far too reasonable and articulate to be an American politician or commentator. Let's see what else we can find.





A dead-on preenactment of Romney-Gingrich, eh?





Ron Paul: "I'm not dead yet!"





Been paying any attention to the contraception debates? I mean, Christine O'Donnell would be the low-hanging fruit here, but...

11 April 2012

What the heck, Allen West?

Now, you might just remember Allen West as the comma-splicing troll who called DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives," and "a coward." Or you might know him as a Republican congressman from Florida.

Now you can add "uninformed conspiracy theorist" to the list. Quote from Politico:

In a video clip of the event posted Wednesday, West was responding a question from a constituent asking “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists?”

“That’s a fair question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West says in the video.

...and here's the video clip:



...and he's not backing off, either. From the Politico article again:

“He stands by his words,” Edson said in statement Wednesday afternoon. “But the words the media needs to pay attention to are the words of the members of the Progressive caucus. They speak for themselves. Call it what you may, but these House members are clearly not proponents of capitalism, free markets or individual economic freedom.”

Sure, buddy, whatever. But you know that there's a difference between not adhering to your radical ideas about what constitutes "capitalism, free markets, or individual freedom" (note: I added the Oxford comma) and being a Marxist? And that there's a difference between being a Marxist and being a Communist? And that there's a difference between being a Communist and being a member of the Communist Party?

You know that, right?

And you know, or you would if you followed the news at all, that the actual American Communist Party has put out a statement correcting you.

Their spokesperson commented - quite rightly - that what you said was "kind of a sad ploy." He also noted - again quite rightly, and it's funny how that happens when one actually uses facts - that there are no "members of the Communist party" in Congress at this point, and that, even if there were, there would be nothing wrong with that.

In conclusion, then... way to go, Allen West. You've made it through your (I'm guessing) Tea-Party-mandated McCarthy impression (are my readers to young to know who McCarthy is?) for the week. Can we please put your idiocy behind us and get back to having a functioning government?

Oh, wait, I forgot, your GOP pals don't want us to do that, either, until they get back into the White House.

09 April 2012

Kissing a Dog of the Day

Damn, bro! (Ashley Judd just *told* you)

So I know I've been a little negative for the last week or so... sorry about that. I've been under a good deal of work stress. I'm still under a great deal of work stress. I've got a major meeting tomorrow afternoon that will, for better or worse (hopefully better), determine the course of my next six weeks. I recognize that this colors my perception of everything.

For the next half-hour or so, though, I'm in an awesome mood. Just had a great meeting with one of my committee members (literally: I walk in, talk about what I've been doing, she says "that sounds great, sounds like you've been doing good work. Have a good day!") and then I skipped, danced, and sang my way back to my office (I think there were fist-pumps in there somewhere too), log onto Facebook, and see that one of my friends has posted a link to this article by Ashley Judd.

Which is awesome.

Quick summary: Judd's been sick, and, as a result, has gained some weight and has been on steroids that have made her face look puffy. People have been gossiping about whether she's had plastic surgery, why she's gaining weight, etcetera, and she's gotten pissed off and written about it. Really intelligently.

I've never been a big fan of hers - mostly because she cheers for Kentucky - but this is definitely worth a read, and almost enough to make me want to seek out one of her movies.

Excerpt:

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

WHAT. Dude. Awesome.

07 April 2012

Wars on young, on blacks, on women

Few quick links here before I get back to work. I just need to rage at the computer for a couple of minutes, blow off a little steam.

First, from Esquire (I swear I read it for the articles!) is an amazing piece on the way that young folks in this country are continually and systematically getting screwed over. I feel compelled to note that I disagree with the author on (crucially important) things like race and gender, but he makes some good points, cites relevant data, and makes his case clearly. Impossible to ignore, if you're under about 50.

Cynicism rises to fill the emptied space of exaggerated and failed hope. It's all simple math. If you follow the money rather than the blather, it's clear that the American system is a bipartisan fusion of economic models broken down along generational lines: unaffordable Greek-style socialism for the old, virulently purified capitalism for the young. Both political parties have agreed to this arrangement: The Boomers and older will be taken care of. Everybody younger will be on their own. The German philosopher Hermann Lotze wrote in the 1870s: "One of the most remarkable characteristics of human nature is, alongside so much selfishness in specific instances, the freedom from envy which the present displays toward the future." It is exactly that envy toward the future that is new in our own time.

[...]

Youth should be the only issue of the 2012 election, because all the subsidiary issues — inequality, the rising class system in America, the specter of decline, mass unemployment, the growing debt — are all fundamentally about the war against young Americans. But the choice young Americans face is between a party that claims to represent their interests but fails to and a party that explicitly opposes their interests and actively works to disenfranchise them.

Second, from the University of Illinois: a new study is out that shows (unsurprisingly) that colorblind ideology - the "I don't see race, and if you do, you're racist" idea that has been the territory of Rush, Beck, Malkin, et al for years now - is pretty conclusively linked to, uh, actually being racist.

Specifically, results from an exploratory factor analysis suggest a 3-factor solution: Unawareness of Racial Privilege, Institutional Discrimination, and Blatant Racial Issues. A confirmatory factor analysis suggests that the 3-factor model is a good fit of the data and is the best of the competing models. The CoBRAS was positively related to other indexes of racial attitudes as well as 2 measures of belief in a just world, indicating that greater endorsement of color-blind racial attitudes was related to greater levels of racial prejudice and a belief that society is just and fair

Third, a rage-fueling story from Nebraska: a woman's water broke at 22 weeks; Nebraska has a law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks; the woman had to give birth to a one-pound, ten-ounce girl and immediately watch the child die in pain. The state senator who sponsored the law (Mike Flood, and, seriously, fuck that guy) says that this is a perfect example of what the law was supposed to do. In this case - as this article on the issue from ABC points out - that involved not letting doctors even induce labor:

Consulting their lawyers, the Deavers' doctors said it would be impossible to induce because the fetus still had a heartbeat and the mother's life was in no immediate danger.

The exceptions to the law were unclear, according to Dr. Todd Pankrazt, who was Danielle's obstetrician/gynecologist.

"The risk of the baby developing an infection and the placenta coming out were real," said Pankrazt. "The mom was also at risk for an infection."

He said that a year ago, granting Danielle Deaver's wishes would "not have been an issue," and he could have induced labor for a vaginal birth.

"This is not at all a partial birth abortion," said Pankrazt. "She could deliver and hold the baby and do all those things.

"With the change in the law, we were advised by three different lawyers that if we did this, we would be held to the fullest extent of the law, which meant loss of license," he said. "Without having any case precedent risk of a law like that, [it] tied everybody's hands."

Under the law, doctors could face felony charges, five years in prison and a $10,000 fine by authorizing the procedure.

On a happier note, because I don't want to go back to work so utterly pissed off, here's maybe the sweetest coming-out Facebook thread that I've ever seen. Is it any wonder that my friends are geeks? I mean, yeah, the culture isn't perfect (far, far from it), but where else is something like this going to happen?

06 April 2012

Cops draw guns on Torii Hunter; also, wtf America?

...because the LameStream Media [tm, although I'm not sure whose] sure as hell isn't writing insightful articles about important things, here are four articles from AlterNet that are pointing at the absurdity and rage-fueling injustice of everyday life in These United States...

Article 1: "10 Unbelievably Sh**ty Things America Does to Homeless People."

Of course, most of these aren't actually all that unbelievable if you've been paying attention - but this is a comprehensive and smart little article that points out some of the more egregious and stupid ways in which our governments are attempting to punish people who don't have a place to live. For example, the first paragraph of point 3:

3. Making it illegal to give people food. Two weeks ago, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter announced a citywide ban on giving food to the hungry in public parks. Amidst outcry by homelessness advocates and religious and charity groups, Nutter insisted the policy is meant to draw unhoused people to indoor facilities where they might benefit from medical care and mental health services. Critics pointed out that the policy -- rushed to go into effect in 29 days -- may have more to do with planned renovation of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the construction of a new museum, as Isaiah Thompson reported in the Philadelphia City Paper.

Article 2: "Protesters Beware: U.S. Supreme Court Expands Invasive Strip-Searches"

This one's a little calmer than the last, but it's enough to make me grind my teeth in rage (seems like there's a lot of things having that effect on me these days). Essentially: the Supreme Court's five conservative judges said that if you're arrested, no matter for what, then you're obviously a threat to police and need to be strip-searched.

It is notable that the attorney general's brief seeking to expand strip-searches—written by Michigan’s attorney general—argued to reverse the law limiting suspicionless searches in that state, which also was the case in Colorado. The other states that wanted more authority for strip-searches were Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Other jurisdictions seeking the expanded authority for the strip-searches were Maine, Texas, several New Jersey counties, the National Sheriffs Association, Cook County—or Chicago, where the NATO Summit will be held this May -- and the city of San Francisco.

Article 3: "Conservatives' Twisted, Racist Logic in the Trayvon Martin Case"

I know a lot of y'all are going to avoid this article just because of the title, but I'm going to urge you to anyway. It's important. The article starts out by saying, quite rightly, that the Trayvon Martin case is "a Rorschach test for American society." Can we all agree on that? Everybody's seeing what they expect to see?
Some folks imagine themselves, their children, and members of their communities as Trayvon Martin. To their eyes, Trayvon is a symbol of how American society all too often devalues the lives of people of color.

Other people imagine themselves as George Zimmerman. To them, he is a victim, a good man who only wanted to protect his neighborhood from crime and “suspicious” people. Moreover, the assertion that George Zimmerman acted out of racial bias in his hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin is personally offensive to them.

Because Zimmerman is “them,” and “they” are Zimmerman, he is quite simply a "law-abiding" citizen who is being made a victim of “reverse racism,” “race hustlers,” and the "liberal media.“

Does this sound familiar? These are the two major narratives that we're hearing? Good, because here's where the article starts getting interesting, where it becomes a challenge to any open-minded reader of the case by examining the assumptions that are going into the attacks on Trayvon Martin:

A surrender to a basic and fallacy laden argument that black people, and black young people in particular are uniquely and especially prone to violence, oversimplifies the nature of crime in America. As the old saying goes, “numbers lie and liars figure.” Or alternatively, the lazy recitation of statistics is a dumb person’s idea of how a smart person sounds.

That black people commit more crime is a fallacy of both process and outcomes. African Americans are subject to discrimination in the legal system at every level. As documented by the Sentencing Project, and detailed in such works as Race, Crime and the Law, and The New Jim Crow, African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police without cause, more likely to be aggressively questioned, receive longer and more severe charges for the same crimes as white defendants, and have fewer resources to defend themselves in court.

You catch that? It's a simple point: that more black people are in jail isn't because more black people commit crimes - it's because more black people are targeted by police. If you're deeply invested in believing that American cops are even-handed and honorable defenders of the innocent (I've put a lot of time into building a case against Seattle cops, but less into talking about the as-evident shortcomings of other departments), you may struggle with this, but there's data to back it up. From the link (to a New York Times piece from 2001) in the article:

In Maryland, for example, 73 percent of those stopped and searched on a section of Interstate 95 were black, yet state police reported that equal percentages of the whites and blacks who were searched, statewide, had drugs or other contraband. In New Jersey, where police have admitted to racial profiling, searches in 2000 conducted with the subjects' consent yielded contraband, mostly drugs, on 25 percent of whites, 13 percent of blacks and only 5 percent of Latinos.

A study of stop-and-frisk practices in New York City in 1998 and 1999 found that while police disproportionately stopped young black men, the hit rates were actually marginally higher for whites than for blacks or Latinos. And while 43 percent of those searched at airports by the Customs Service in 1998 were black or Latino, illegal materials were found on 6.7 percent of whites, 6.3 percent of blacks and 2.8 percent of Latinos.

Yeah. This is important stuff.

Anyways. Article 4: "Police Draw Guns in Black Baseball Player's Own Home"

This one's largely sourced from Torii Hunter's Twitter account, and it's only a few minutes old. Apparently, Hunter accidentally set off the alarm in his Newport, California home; cops then came to check on it, didn't believe he lived there, and walked him upstairs at gunpoint to get his ID.

Hunter's being amazingly chill and nice about the whole thing - going so far as to thank the cops for "protecting my home" - but one of his teammates, CJ Wilson, has been a touch more outspoken. From the article:

When Angels pitcher CJ Wilson said to Hunter, “That’s racist,” Hunter responded, “lol... Now u know I can’t say that.”

Meh. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say that Hunter is lucky he didn't get Kenneth Chamberlained - that any time there's any kind of encounter between a person of color and the police, it's a matter of luck whether that person is going to get out alive or unharmed - on the other, I'm hella impressed at how nice Hunter - who's been one of my favorite non-Braves and non-Rays players for a while now - is being about, you know, cops pointing guns at him in his own house for no reason at all.

05 April 2012

Racist NY cops kill veteran in own home

Ran across this article on BoingBoing - and then researched it further. There are now pieces on it in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, and the New York Daily News.

Basic story is, Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former Marine with heart troubles, accidentally triggered his medical alert pendant. After officers came to his house to check on him, he told them, through his door, that he was fine. He also told the people from the medical alert company that he was fine. The medical alert company called the cops and asked them to step down, told the cops that everything was okay. The cops then insulted Chamberlain, knocked down the door, tazed him, and eventually shot and killed him.

Audio from the whole situation was recorded. Video from parts of it were recorded - the cops turned off the video before they shot Chamberlain.

From the Guardian article:

Chamberlain Jr repeated what he heard his father say on the tape: "He says, 'I'm a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me?' … You also hear him pleading with the officers again, over and over. And at one point, that's when the expletive is used by one of the police officers." One of Chamberlain Jr's lawyers, Mayo Bartlett, told me about the racial slur. Bartlett is a former Westchester county prosecutor, so he knows the ropes. He was explicit in recounting what he heard on the recording.

"Kenneth Chamberlain Sr said to the police, 'I'm a sick old man.' One of the police officers replied, 'We don't give a fuck, nigger!'" The recording also includes a taunt from the police, as related by Bartlett, "Open the door, Kenny, you're a grown-ass man!" It was when Chamberlain Jr related how the police mocked his father's military service that he broke down. "He said, 'Semper fi.' So they said, 'Oh, you're a marine. Hoo-rah. Hoo-rah.' And this is somebody that served this country. Why would you even say that to him?" Chamberlain Jr wept as he held his father's marine ring and veterans administration card.

The LifeAid operator that November morning, hearing the exchange live, called the White Plains police in a desperate attempt to cancel the call for emergency medical aid. Chamberlain Sr's niece, who lives in the building, ran down, trying to intervene. Chamberlain Sr's sister was on her mobile, offering to talk to her brother. The police denied any attempt at help. One was heard on the recording saying "we don't need any mediator".

From the New York Daily News:

During the past several days, nearly 200,000 people have signed an online petition demanding justice in Chamberlain’s case. White Plains Mayor Tom Roach on Friday issued his first public statement of condolences to the dead man’s family.

That’s a far different atmosphere and tone than in November.

Back then, police reports stated a deranged man had attacked officers with a hatchet and a knife before cops shot him in self-defense. White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong quickly declared it a “warranted use of deadly force.”

But as the weeks passed, the official story became riddled with holes.

From the Daily Mail:

On the recording an officer is apparently heard screaming 'I don't give a f*** n*****, open the door', a second yells 'I need to use your bathroom to pee', while others taunted him about his military background.

On one of the videos, police are shown prying part of the door open. A metal object, which could be what police thought was a hatchet, slips through the gap and falls in the hallway.

They remove the hinges to the door and, on entering the flat, see Chamberlain standing in his boxer shorts, with his arms at his side and hands empty.

Family lawyer Mayo Bartlett, a former Westchester assistant district attorney, told the New York Daily News: 'The minute they got in the house, they didn’t even give him one command.

'They never mentioned 'put your hands up.' They never told him to lay down on the bed. The first thing they did ... you could see the Taser light up ... and you could see it going directly toward him.'