Thursday, October 18, 2018

Band Review: Dre Prada

I was followed by one Twitter account, https://twitter.com/CEOBigMov, which points to Dre Prada, who has a separate Twitter account, listed with the other links. The CEOBigMov account appears to be more active.

I may not be sure about the Twitter accounts, but I can confirm that Dre Prada is a young rapper from Toronto. It was interesting seeing a video flashing the flag and money, but that meaning a red maple leaf and images of young Queen Elizabeth II.

Unfortunately, that was the most interesting thing about the video. This flavor of hip hop is pretty typical, of the overproduced kind. Voices and instruments sound auto-tuned like a J. G. Wentworth commercial, and it saps all of the energy and authenticity.

I do think that Dre Prada's youth may work in his favor, in that as he matures and gains experience he may want to do something more and find the skills to do so. There are older people (he is listed as 16, though I am not sure how current the profile is) whose output sounds exactly the same.

Nothing terrible, but not memorable either.

https://www.whoisdreprada.com/

https://www.facebook.com/DrePradaBloomin

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNsCPeG3A7d91wNlxOOkaAQ


https://twitter.com/dreprada85

Taking time to think

Building on yesterday's post, speaking differently leads to thinking differently.

After the revolution in Cuba, you were a Communist or you were a "gusano". A worm. You could do a lot of terrible things to a worm. Some examples for school children included grading them down, not letting them go to the bathroom (no matter how desperately they needed to) and allowing other kids to beat them up. That's for school children. When you use words to transform people into "other", it opens the door for abuse.

I believe that if you decide that you will not resort to "libtards" or "snowflakes" as insults for liberals, that is an important step in closing the door. The word "liberal" may still have negative connotations for you, but not relying on easy labels forces you to think more. That matters.

Russia interfered in the last presidential election. That involved spreading false information, but it also involved stoking the fires of bigotry. (To be fair, that was a central part of the candidate's platform.) It has been interesting to see two other areas of Russian interference: vaccines and Star Wars.

https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2018-08-23/russian-trolls-targeted-vaccine-debate-to-sow-division-researchers-say

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-last-jedi-was-targeted-by-russian-trolls-study-says-1148475

Those were not random choices. People have strong emotions about both of those issues, and can be very passionate about those topics.

Those passions can also work out in specific ways. Much of the negative response to The Last Jedi pertained to the casting of women and people of color (and even a woman of color) in starring roles. You can see that as a nice nod to the reality of a universe where women and people of color do things, or you can feel threatened, see it as Social Justice Warriors (SJWs - another slur, but possibly one that's being replaced by NPC for Non Playing Character) ruining everything, and lash out in racist and misogynistic ways.

Given the current political climate, that is a target area that works better for people drawn to the right. What could be good for people drawn to the left? Enter stirring up controversy about vaccines.

It is an interesting gambit, because it is anti-science which normally veers more right. However, progressives who are against vaccines tend to be easily seduced by purity, which is the kind of thing that can get them to reject a reasonable candidate with normal flaws and be very self-righteous about it. It gets emotional.

That sounds like a criticism, but I value emotion. When people find it useful to talk to me, I know a lot of that is simply that I support feeling the way you feel. The instinct is to comfort grief and silence fears and do away with all of those negative things, but they are real, and they need to be felt. Trying to silence the emotions does more harm than good. It is part of our humanity.

However, no matter how important acknowledging and feeling your emotions is, said emotions are usually not the best basis for making a decision.

A few months ago I read a book, You Are Now Less Dumb, by David McRaney, which focused on bias. Humans have a lot, and that is natural, but you don't have to get stuck in it.

One of the early examples was how you can use a soda vending machine without knowing how it works, and various suppositions you could make about how it works. You could believe there is a small person in the machine, but that is also something you can look up. There are online videos showing how they work. You can buy them for cheap as a business opportunity (I have recently learned via Judge Judy), but you could then take it apart and put it back together. (I'm just trying to not encouraged vandalizing someone else's machine in the pursuit of knowledge.)

So you can find stuff out, and not be mystified or caught up in a myth.

For example, with vaccines, you could research Andrew Wakefield, and why his work has been invalidated. You could research mercury and thimerosal, and you could see how it was removed from the scheduled vaccines in 2002 and it did not cause a sudden plunge in autism diagnoses. Yes, the anti-vaccine movement has responses to that, but it would still help your brain to at least do some research and branch out.

One reason it is safe to sit with your emotions is that they can change so easily, especially as time passes and more information comes. Of course, that is also why they may not lead to the best decisions. Taking that time to learn more and understand more becomes a wonderful thing that you can do for yourself and others.

Next week I will be posting about this election.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Becoming a bad word

I am amazed and disturbed at the ubiquity of "libtard" as an insult.

On the one hand, as much as I know the right hates political correctness (i.e. speaking respectfully), I still know enough conservatives who have relatives with disabilities whom they love, where it should make that suffix unacceptable.

It's almost as if proximity to someone in danger of being marginalized does not automatically confer recognition of existing harmful structures.

There is kind of a separate issue here, where in our patterns of prejudice we can always make exceptions for the ones we like. This can be dangled as a reward: "You're not like those other women." "Of course we don't mean you."

It can also be used as a way of justifying one's alignment: "They're all nice to my child, so they can't be that bad."

But it is all connected.

Having totally bought into being respectful (political correctness), I have a hard time using this word and its variations, but I am going to make myself do it here to make a point.

Mentally retarded. MR. Various abbreviations of that last word. It referred to something intellectual - at least cognitive - but it wasn't used that way. There was a kid with ADHD who got called "Retarda" at my sisters' school, including by the gym teacher. I'm just saying, even if there were valid uses for the label, those were not the most common uses. I'm not sure the intended use was ever that helpful, making it for the best that it has fallen out of favor.

That pattern holds. A phrase will be used that is supposed to mean something, but it isn't being used accurately, and the use spreads as it becomes a tempting catch-all. I have heard "snowflake" justified as something specifically for today's young people, because they are raised with all the obstacles removed and are therefore weak (and apparently they think they are special).

There are problems with the logic of saying that kids that have to worry constantly about school shootings, cyber-bullying and and food insecurity have it too easy, but I can't help but notice that the slightest disagreement draws the term upon people my age and older.

If the point is being able to ignore people who say things that you don't want to hear, painting with a broad brush is perfectly logical.

It's wrong - not merely wrong but reveling in the wrongness and rolling around in it until it is completely absorbed. It's uncharitable, which is odd because a lot of people who think of themselves as religious and good do it. It's ignorant, so I guess it's blissful, but I think that's a false bliss.

And it is being used pretty hard on liberals.

I have to take that seriously. Most of what the president says has been pretty disturbing for anyone who has issues with fascism and authoritarianism anyway, but the comments lately about Democrats being ungovernable, that's a concern. It is more of a concern with government that has set up a process for re-examining citizenship.

History is my thing. I have... not exactly worried, but been aware... that in the direction we are going, academics always end up under attack. For all my reading, I am not really an academic; I have a BA from 22 years ago.

I am wholly liberal. That has not had anything remarkable about it for decades of a fairly normal political process, but that is changing. This is a change that looks similar to a lot of places that have ended in death and re-education camps.

If you don't have liberal values, that is your prerogative. However, if you have any value for democracy and representative government, you had better start respecting other voices.

One potential starting place is how you speak of those with whom you disagree.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Narrow targets

One of the oddest Twitter conversations I have ever had happened a few months ago. It included me being told "Lesbians are female homosexuals."

I had not realized that definition was in doubt.

We got there because this person was angry that TERF was starting to be used as a slur against lesbians. She had three examples!

If you don't know, TERF is an acronym for Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist, so someone who is all for feminism, except for including transgender women in feminism.

I believe the prejudice is more focused on not accepting women who were assigned male at birth (AMAB and AFAB are other acronyms you will see), like the fear of having someone use a bathroom that does not correspond with what was on their original birth certificate. (This is one of the most common TERF talking points.)

This is far from my specialty. I am not even sure how I ended up in the conversation except that someone must have retweeted something and I thought I could be helpful. I guess that aspect was odd, but also I thought it was odd because - and this is what I replied that led to the explanation - most of the prominent TERFs appear to be straight.

Again, I am not expert here. I got the impression that Germaine Greer (probably the most prominent TERF) is straight, anyway, though I admit to limited interest.


The original context was a thread about infighting between cis women and trans women, apparently from someone refusing to retweet something she found transphobic, which led to someone asking about the term "TERF".

I know that people who fall under that category tend to find the term very offensive, because how dare you label their bigotry? I had also heard that there were people working to turn other queer people against transgender people - knock the T off of the LBG, if you will.

So when someone barged in complaining that TERF was a lesbian slur, my first thought was that misappropriating the term might be one way of sowing discord. By the end of that conversation, I started to think that person might actually be one of the people attempting to sow discord, but I almost always start out assuming good faith.

Still, looking at that profile again, I suspect a troll account built on what they think lesbians are like.

My takeaway at the time was was that as the right works to divide everyone, of course they will pick on the most marginalized. Trans women are already extremely vulnerable. That shouldn't be something that anyone would fall for, but also, speak up for the Jews and the trade unionists and the trans women - it doesn't matter if that is your group.

At this point I can't even say it's because they will come for you. They will, but speaking up is the right thing to do, and that has its own value beyond self-interest. We need people who will do something just because it is kind and just.

But your self-interest should also know that they always expand. That's just how it works. The narrow targets will expand.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Concert Review: Alkaline Trio





First of all, Alkaline Trio is currently touring (though that is wrapping up) with a new album under their belts, Is This Thing Cursed.

The album is great. I especially love and relate to the title track.

One of the great things about the band is their constant development and growth, which is not hurt by them doing other projects. For this album, I don't think morbidity is quite the right word, nor gothic, and it's not necessarily completely supernatural, but there are all of these dark themes that come out beautifully.

I remember when I first reviewed them four years ago I was pleasantly surprised by their early punk sound. Here they are still very melodic, but there are reminders of punk, perhaps this time in a little more Misfits way. (Actually, I may be wrong on this, but it suddenly occurred to me recently that "This Addiction" can go well with "Don't Open Til Doomsday/Hell Night".)

I also feel like I hear more Daniel Andriano on this one - not just singing more, though he is - but where I hear echoes of his solo project, The Emergency Room.

Everyone sounded and looked good. Singer Matt Skiba especially (I think) is looking younger or healthier or something.

What becomes painful about this review is that the concert became a horrible experience for me. That was not the band's fault, but I need to get it out.

There was some moshing going on at the show. That was not really my problem, but it was related.

It started a few rows back from center stage. I noticed this one idiot with a stupid mustache and a Hawaiian shirt first, but there started being more people joining in. I especially noticed one fairly short man that they kept hitting into.

Another guy who was in the group did apologize, and the second band - together PANGEA - thanked them for resolving it on their own. I was not sure that they deserved the credit; it was not long after that I saw the short guy take a hit to the back of the head that didn't look good.

Security kept looking, but they only really did anything when someone was crowd-surfing. To be fair, someone dropped on their head would cause a lot of problems, but it's not the only thing that can be a problem.

Anyway, I was distracted by that. Moshing is only fun if you want to do it. It is also hard to control. The only venue I have seen really handle it well was the Haunt. Their small size helped a lot for that, but also they are not even in business anymore. (There were cool things about them, but the location was terrible.)

So it distracted me, but it was also not anywhere near me. I started out as just aware.

I suppose the first sign that I was in a bad location was during soundcheck. I was in the second row of people from the barrier, stage right (house left). There was a mic right there, but based on what the tester was saying, it was Matt's mic. It's nothing against Matt, but I never get tired of watching Daniel play, and it would have been cool to be in front of him. It was still a good location. That was my problem.

Shortly after they came on stage, I felt this huge shove.

My previous experience during AFI was mainly with people shoving for the sake of shoving and then moving on. I thought this was that it was, which may have left me more unprepared. He actually wanted my spot and he won. I resisted but ended up behind him, and was lucky to still be on my feet.

There was a guy who played a thug on the last season of Once Upon A Time, Sandy Robson. He was clearly supposed to be Wreck-It Ralph, but his IMDB credits just call him "Perp". Anyway, this guy looked like that, and he was built like an ox, except with a less intelligent expression on his face.

I objected, but he completely ignored me, taking out his phone and filming and putting his arms up and posing and loving his position in the second row of people. There had been a cute girl in front of me, and I did see him steady her at one point, but after all, he could easily see over her. (He would have been easily able to see over me as well.)

I'm just going to tell you now that I was only there for four songs.

I had various thoughts about things I could do. I envied the shoulders spikes on the jacket of the woman a little to my left. I thought about knocking away his phone, unlatching his watch, or pouring the half water bottle I had left over him. I thought about shivs, too, but I didn't have one, and I wouldn't really do that, though the thought was surprisingly attractive.

I was willing to believe that maybe that was his special song, but then they played "Mercy Me"; that's my song. At this point I punched him. That was in the shoulder, from the back. He looked around, and I told him he had to move, that was my spot. He looked mildly surprised, and then turned back around.

The thing is, I am capable of fighting harder and dirtier, but I don't know that I can justify it for a position at a concert. Also, based on his solidity, the effort I would have had to expend to have any impact was likely to get me thrown out instead of him.

It ruined the concert for me and I left. I'm not proud of that.

I would just never do that to someone. Where I come from, if you want to be up front you come early and you commit. That means not taking breaks between acts for the bathroom or more water, but holding on to your spot. Well, not him. He took out a person a foot shorter than him. He must be very proud.

The thing is, I really needed that night. It is hard to arrange time away from my care giving responsibilities; that was my time! I had been wanting to see them for at least four years. I wrote that review in 2014 because their tour was not coming here, and it was at least a way of hoping that they would come. It was because I kept looking to see if they were touring again yet that I saw that Daniel was touring with Matt Pryor. That's how much I wanted to be there. That I needed it so much, and that I wanted it so much, made everything that much worse.

And it totally drove home the value of respite time, because I was not at my best the next day. There is this mental energy that you need to keep someone with dementia engaged, where you have to gauge where they are and what will work, and I did not have it. I was drained instead of replenished, and I don't know when my next chance will come.

I have thought of things I could do differently. My only chance was a long shot, but if I'd grabbed the barrier and kicked back, that might have worked. I would have had to have realized what he was doing right away, and been really quick, and I don't know that it would have worked. I will not say that he wanted the spot more than I did, but he was certainly a worse person in ways that were helpful.

And it's disappointing. So that's how it goes? Getting what you want is a result of how awful you are willing to be? To which I'm afraid the answer is, "Oh good! You do understand!" but I remain disappointed. I have the political climate and my mother's health as areas for feeling powerless. A concert should be a place to feel good.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Concert Review: together PANGEA





together PANGEA put on a pretty good show.

Honestly, a lot of that relates to the keyboardist/guitarist who slid around with amazingly smooth dance moves. He reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, except that his T-shirt said "Megadeath" instead of "Vote for Pedro".

But the music was pretty good too.

I hear elements of Seattle grunge - more on "Why" than on any other track - but it is not grunge. My favorite songs were probably "Badillac" and "Friend of Nothing", so those could be good starting places.

together PANGEA is currently finishing up a tour with Sharp Shock and Alkaline Trio, with a handful of dates left.

http://togetherpangea.com/

https://www.facebook.com/togetherpangea/

https://www.youtube.com/user/togetherPANGEA

https://twitter.com/TogetherPangea

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Concert Review: Sharp Shock






I loved Sharp Shock.

I was pretty sure I would. I had never heard of them before I looked up the openers for Alkaline Trio, but I was able to check them out a little before the show and they sounded really good. I thought they sounded good starting out, and then the second track I heard was "Superficial" and I knew they were awesome.

(For that one it may be the bass line that puts me over the edge, but I like the overall message too.)

Anyway, I went in with high expectations that were then exceeded. 

The band bursts with punk speed and energy. One great thing about punk songs being short is that you can fit a lot of them into even only a half hour set. I think they played everything I could have wanted. That definitely included "Dancing All Night" and "Infatuation".

When singer Davey Warsop first addressed the crowd, his Birmingham accent immediately make me think of Oi!, but the band's origins are a bit more complicated than that. Regardless of birthplaces, Sharp Shock is currently operating out of Los Angeles.

As much as I appreciate the sheer fun of them, I also need to point out their general decency. The things that make punk work also easily go along with obnoxious to possibly worse behavior. The band hints at that connection with songs like "Bad Lad" and "The Reds", but they stay above it, going out of their way to speak against racism, sexism, and other bigotry.

They were a great start to the night, and I am glad to have found them.

Sharp Shock currently has about another week on the road with together PANGEA and Alkaline Trio, and will be playing the Surf City Blitz in Huntington Beach on October 27th. That is going to have some good bands, and Sharp Shock is one of them.

http://www.sharpshockband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sharpshockband

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC303JPAPUKkeqZh8AIbgKOg/featured

https://twitter.com/sharpshock

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Thanos was wrong

Yes, this is about Avengers: Infinity War.

Again, there will be spoilers, but it came out in April so I like to think we're good.

It is a reasonable follow-up to writing about the aspects of each individual mattering in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There is a huge body count in Infinity War. It's almost like a DC film, except there aren't piles of dead bodies at the end, just something like ashes floating away.

Even more to the point, you see a real impact from the loss of those lives as well.

Many people were torn up by the death of Peter Parker. He got more words in - possibly because he felt it coming, possibly because he can talk a lot, quickly - and he said them to Tony, who had previously shown guilt about getting Peter into dangerous situations, and who had started the movie talking to Pepper about having a child.

(Also, somehow in the impossible to detect pattern of the destruction, everyone else on the planet's surface had gone, except for Nebula, a cyborg stranger to Tony, leaving him terribly alone.)

The fadings happening in Wakanda stuck with me more: Rhodey looking for Sam and just missing him, Bucky and Cap's eyes meeting just before, and T'Challe reaching out to help Okoye. I was sure he was going to see her go, which would have been one kind of tragedy, but then the one who faded was him.

Beyond that, you could see how the randomness was leading to immediate complications. Back in New York, a plane was going down, and if the former occupants of the crashed car weren't going to feel the impact, that doesn't mean that similar accidents would not have casualties.


(And yes, I assume it will all be undone, even rolled back to save the Asgardians from the beginning. Dr. Strange saw the one plan that worked, and he still handed his stone over to Thanos. Obviously it will all be fine. No arguments.)

From that immediate awful aftermath, I can see the chaos extending far beyond that. 

Part of that is that in some of my readings about authoritarian regimes, I have seen that once you expel the foreigners, the economy goes stagnant and there isn't enough food. That can also happen when you nationalize markets. When you target people who are more educated and have more money, that is not a guaranteed combination, but it tends to get rid of at least a few doctors and people with good skills to have (some dead, some escaping). That causes problems. It causes suffering.

Thanos could defend his plan of ending suffering by reducing the universal population in half all he wants, but it caused immediate suffering with a promise of more suffering in store.

It doesn't make sense to get all worked up over a movie adapted from comic books, especially when I believe the next installment will resolve everything. However, much like there being a large contingent of people declaring that Killmonger was right in response to Black Panther (my thoughts on that), there has also been a contingent declaring that Thanos had a point.

And sure, that's mainly a subreddit where you shouldn't expect too much from the inhabitants, but yes, there are a lot of people who with infinite power would still see more point in eliminating people than increasing resources or improving the distribution thereof.

People reference Malthus a lot in relation to this. He was not twisted in that manner (he could be faulted for an understandable lack of vision), but Malthus' writings have been used in some really twisted arguments about why sometimes you want to let people suffer and die. Really, he just wanted people to wait longer to have kids, which has several advantages.

Infinity War was a pretty good movie in general. Given the size of the cast it was impressive in what it managed to balance, and the fun it managed to have despite some serious and painful situations.

It also gives us something worth thinking about. That isn't so much whether or not individuals have worth; the film comes down pretty clearly on the side of that. It is worth thinking about how hard some people fight to avoid accepting that.


Remember, the problem with #alllivesmatter isn't that it's not true; it's that it misses the point of specific lives being counted as less. Truly believing in the value of each life requires examining the structures that endanger lives, which are sometimes very specific. It's a deflect when the opposite is needed.

The damage of lost lives is never merely collateral.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thoughts on Ant-Man and the Wasp

I adored Ant-Man and the Wasp.

It worked on several different levels for me.

The following text contains spoilers. The movie also came out July 6th, so I hope we're good.

The sheer charm of Paul Rudd was one factor, along with the the room that the script gave him to be a goofy and endearing father. It would be easy to get a crush on him from this film alone.

I liked the way they played with size. Stan Lee once said that a weakness in the original Ant-Man comics was that they didn't do enough sight gags to take advantage of how the shrinking. There were some great contrasts here, with some pretty clever gags. Having Scott stuck at an odd size and getting around it by posing as a child, having two people of mismatched sizes stuck in the same closet, and many pieces with buildings and vehicles changing sizes (plus one large Hello Kitty Pez dispenser) was both cool and fun.

What I ended up liking most was the caring. Every person mattered. That included cold-hearted criminals and mostly competent but somewhat insecure government agents. (Yeah, getting actors like Walton Goggins and Randall Park doesn't hurt.)

It included a very messed up villain. Ghost caused a lot of problems, and was willing to do worse. The visual effects they used to convey her being out of phase were effective, but you were also able to feel empathy for all of the loss and for the constant pain.

It would have been easy to let her character go, and it could have happened in multiple ways. She could have been taken out by other characters as they attempted to defend themselves or protect Janet. She could have gotten to Janet, started the energy absorption, and have it backfire horribly, killing her that way. She could also have had a redemptive arc, where she decided that costing someone else's life and someone else's parent was not worth it, and let herself fade away.

I really wasn't expecting her to just be okay, to be healed, and to have someone standing by her, even when arrest was likely. She was around people who understood that she mattered too, though. That's what made the difference.

Finally, I really loved the scale. No, that's not about the size jokes.

I think I remember Gail Simone once saying that she would rather read a story about someone trying to save a dog than save the world. Those big whole world stories can get exhausting, and a bit repetitive. So for me, much of the emotion came down to Hope. Hope's desperation to see her mother again, her hope that it could be possible, and fear of losing that hope again. I needed them to be reunited.

That's not that the big world movies can't have emotional impact, or even that I won't write about that tomorrow, but this was a really good film.

But for all of the many things that Ant-Man and the Wasp did right, the one that stays with me most is that lives mattered. Even ants getting eaten by sea gulls mattered (even if you laughed at Scott's cry of "Murderers!"). And when you care about life, you try and preserve it.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Band Review: Nothing

Having just seen Johnny Marr two weeks ago (review posted one week ago), I have been reminded of jangle, and of how downbeat it can sound.

I would not be at all surprised to learn that Nothing - an alternative band from Philadelphia - was inspired by The Smiths. They may not have been, but there is some similarity in how downbeat the treble-y guitars manage to sound. I think what is more important to note, however, is that they sound a lot less depressing than they look. I am not speaking about the physical appearance of the band.

Artwork for their 2018 album, Dance on the Blacktop, is disconcerting. It's subtle, but ever so creepy.  Videos tend to be really downbeat as well, though "Blue Line Baby" is also beautiful.

I wouldn't have expected that just from the music. The songs are low key, and it would make sense if some people like to listen to them while sad, but you don't have to be sad to enjoy them and listening does not specifically make you sad. The videos can be pretty creepy, though, and I wouldn't necessarily have expected that if not for the album art.

(I guess the name should have tipped me off. "Nothing" must imply at least some existential angst.)

So don't be caught off guard, but don't hesitate to check them out either. Especially if you have been missing those Sheffield bands from the 80s, Nothing could be a very good fit.

I checked them out on the recommendation of Frank Iero, and he does know his stuff.

https://bandofnothing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BANDOFNOTHING/

https://nothing.bandcamp.com/


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHVPhO-aRf57XFYQOpZKSGg

https://twitter.com/BandofNOTHING

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Band Review: S A Reyners

S A Reyners is a singer-songwriter from Wellington, New Zealand.

Most of the tracks have a pop cheeriness, but with an off-beat, lo-fi quality that does not sound like many other artists. It is not at all surprising that he has expressed admiration for Kate Bush, though he does not sound like her.

The songs do sound kind of similar to each other, but "Wanted For Ages" is probably the most interesting, which has kind of a hint of menace running through it..

https://www.facebook.com/sareyners/

https://sareyners.bandcamp.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK4z6elyxEQmtyaonakuLqA

https://twitter.com/sareyners

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Kavanugh, Thomas, and Graham

There is one main memory that has stuck with me from the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. I know a lot more about everything that was going on now than I did then, and it does bring up a lot more similarities. For example, I only learned later that there were other complainants that they decided they didn't have time to hear. Now we know that other people have come forward, even if we are not going to hear from them. See, information technology has improved!

FYI... https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/dozens-potential-sources-information-have-not-been-contacted-fbi-kavanaugh-n916146

Not that I expect it to affect Jeff Flake's vote.

No, the strongest memory I have from when Anita Hill was testifying was that regardless of all the attempts to paint her as a liar, it was not that they didn't believe her. They didn't want to be bothered with her.

That doesn't feel that different today.


Yesterday I may have seemed hard on Republicans, what with the references to racism and corruption that were absolutely accurate but could sound biased. I hope any concerns about that will consider the potential ramifications of Kavanuagh on the court voting that state charges for crimes that were pardoned on the federal level constitute double jeopardy. Given the context of the current administration, that comes really close to putting the president above the law. It would not be automatic, but there are reasons to believe both that this president would abuse it and that the court as he desires it would support it.

(Really, there are a lot of ways in which Kavanaugh resembles Bork more than Thomas.)

As much as that should raise concerns and give lawmakers pause, Republican senators are pushing this through. It was okay to hold Merrick Garland off until after the election, which was a much longer time period. Here there is a rush. Yes, I am sure they will be happy to overturn Roe v Wade, but the hurry is for Gamble.

Not only that, but were any of you a little taken aback by Lindsey Graham's tantrum about the "most unethical sham"?  I was. I mean, I know he's been in politics long enough to see worse ones, and I don't expect him to have any integrity, but it still seemed a little out of nowhere.

It wasn't. It happened after questions were starting to zero in around the July 1st entry in the calendar.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/09/27/kavanaugh-is-pressed-key-july-entry-his-calendar-only-point/?utm_term=.9ff97a01ebe2

It is frustrating to see people hear "no contemporaneous evidence" and repeat "NO EVIDENCE", but look, there appears to be some contemporaneous evidence too. Instead of stepping back and thinking maybe we could find someone better for this lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, tantrum time. This is the kind of corruption that enables treason. There will be no apologies for saying that.

These posts have all pretty much been about the political and not the personal. I have things to say about that, but I think I will have more to say if I wait a couple of weeks. I am willing to wait. It's not a wait to be less angry; just to have more information. I will still be plenty angry.

For now I will leave this here:

https://www.theroot.com/revisiting-anita-hill-on-racism-stereotypes-and-respe-1829447283

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Déjà vu all over again

Some people have drawn comparisons between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and those of Clarence Thomas in 1991. Those comparisons tend to focus on the nature of the accusations and the conduct of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but there is another important correlation that has been largely missed: like Kavanaugh, Thomas was not a particularly impressive appointee.

Thomas was not a great scholar. Other than the Anita Hill's testimony, Thomas is best known for hardly ever asking questions or dissenting in interesting ways, but just being a solid but not distinctive conservative vote.

(Scalia often sounded nonsensical, but he made much more of an impression.)

Thomas's lack of contribution was to be expected. His service previous to the appointment was not really distinguished. The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is not an unreasonable place to look for candidates (his predecessor there was Robert Bork, who was also nominated, though not appointed), but Thomas had served there less than two years.

That could again be a situation where you wonder why this person, and then why not just let him go once the harassment allegations arose, but Thomas presented a crucial combination of traits for the Republicans of the time: in addition to being reliably conservative, he was Black.

That sounds cynical (especially given Thomas's antipathy to Affirmative Action), but there were considerations. The appointment was due to the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black man on the Supreme Court. Returning the court to its prior all-white state would have been viewed as a step backward. As important as white supremacy was to the Republican party even then, they were still going for quiet dog whistles and plausible deniability of their racism at the time. Bush really needed a Black man.

Bush also wanted that reliable conservative vote. While there would have been good Black candidates who leaned liberal, that would not have moved the court in the manner that Bush wanted and needed. Most intelligent and legally experienced Black people were well aware of what the dog whistles meant and were not okay with them; finding someone who was meant searching through the dregs. Thomas didn't have much competition.

With Kennedy being white and pretty conservative (yes, sometimes a swing vote), that should leave a pretty big pool open for potential replacements, where they could have done much better than Kavanaugh. However, there is something that Trump wants that Kavanaugh seems best able to provide.

Gamble vs United States is pending. It could be heard this month. It has the potential to decide that a federal pardon would make state prosecution fall under double jeopardy.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/09/trump-pardon-orrin-hatch-supreme-court/571285/

This would be a real gift to a corrupt president who has expressed a lot of interest in his ability to pardon (including speculating on pardoning himself). It would undo a lot of work done by Mueller on investigating Russia's interference and corruption in the 2016 election. Many of the crimes being established would still be eligible for state prosecution even in the event of a federal pardon under current law. So far.

In other words, if you like this administration and want to be able to see them continue unfettered, this may seem like a good deal. It is still not great for the Constitution, or for the rule of law meaning anything. Because of that, there are a lot of potential distinguished candidates for the Supreme Court who would not look favorably on such a resolution.

Kavanaugh seems like the best bet for the ruling Trump wants. That says a lot about him. Once again, to find the policy you want (in the body that is supposed to be non-partisan) involves rummaging around in the dregs.

Sure, it is hard not to see certain similarities between Trump and Kavanaugh, where you would expect a sympathy to exist between them. They have a similar tenuous hold on their composure. They claim credit for things that were given to them, though Kavanaugh tends credit hard work more, as opposed to Trump's superior genes and genius. (Like, I can see where Kavanaugh might not believe that his prep school attendance and his grandfather affected his getting into Yale, but does he really believe he was first in his class?) Neither man does anything with his personal conduct to contradict the many accusations of sexual abuse against them.

Sure, they could get along famously, but that's not what this is about. Trump and the people around him think Kavanaugh will be useful. They're not even wrong, but it's a problem if you want to hold on to the republic.

We are not doing a good job of keeping it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Non-rapey reasons against confirming Kavanaugh

While I do have feelings about the assault allegations against Kavanaugh, there are plenty of other reasons to not appoint him to the Supreme Court. I want to quickly go over those first, because they make it clear that he is not a great selection. That makes a lot of the indignation on Kavanaugh's behalf even more stupefying. Let's go over that aspect before we get into the rest.

1. Kavanaugh's a liar.

Yes, he did lie during this interview, even about very minor things like watching Dr. Ford's testimony.

That raises a separate point of interest in that it kind of paints him as a habitual liar, doing so instinctively even in the absence of a clear benefit. However, I am more concerned with false answers given to the Senate Judiciary Committee in previous years as he was considered for other appointments.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/09/brett-kavanaugh-lies-senate-testimony-supreme-court.html

The motivation for those lies was pretty clear - personal advancement - so that raises ethical questions. Beyond that, the lies were covering dishonest behavior that was politically-motivated and related to lower-court nominees. Granted, for the Republicans partisan dishonesty is probably part of what makes Kavanaugh most attractive, but still it should be possible and desirable to find someone cleaner.

2. Mysterious debt

One thing about a known liar - whether habitual or just sometimes when they are in a crunch - is that you can't trust other statements, even relatively probable ones.

That $200,000 debt having been accrued through season ticket purchases for friends and suddenly paid back right before confirmation hearings is not a probable story.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/new-strike-against-kavanaugh-season-tickets/565022/

The origin seems more likely to be gambling; the resolution seems more likely to be favors. Those are assumptions, but as conditions that could indicate Kavanaugh is compromised and has a weakness that could be easily exploited for further compromising, that makes him look like a terrible candidate.

Even if you can't find someone above reproach, you can find someone less obviously below reproach. You can also often clear up bad appearances through investigation. This is not being delved into enough.

3. Temperament

We probably would not have seen so much of Kavanaugh's lack of fit temperament without sexual assault allegations against him. Having seen it, it should not be ignored. It's not just that he avoided answering direct questions, had difficulty controlling his anger, and only really seemed comfortable talking when praising himself and his achievements (there were a few more lies in there, by the way), but also his inability to be deferential even to US senators.

I have seen some people justify his rudeness to Sen. Feinstein by calling her a liar; sure I can say, "No, that's him", but it goes beyond that. Senator Klobuchar expressed empathy as she asked about his drinking; he still avoided the question and threw it back at her. That was completely unprofessional.

His lack of respect was most evident with women, but even with his interaction with Patrick Leahy - interrupting, argumentative, evasive - isn't the Supreme Court supposed to have some dignity?

Yes, I realize Senator Leahy is a Democrat, but still, they are at least supposed to pretend to be non-partisan.

I know the conservative argument is that Democrats are just being obstructionist. I promise you it was not because everyone liked Neil Gorsuch so much that there were no comparable allegations about him.

I don't know who else was on the short list for this seat. They could have all been terrible, but that is more of a problem with the list. Regardless, the first allegations (I think we are at five complainants now) came while he was still on the short list, making an already terrible candidate look much worse.

It kind of makes you wonder why him, and why the rush.

Or maybe you already know, but I am still going to write about it tomorrow.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Concert Review: Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr put on a great show. I saw him Saturday night at the Roseland.

To be fair, that was expected. He is a fantastic guitarist and has been a huge influence on rock. It is generally pretty cool to see legends play. I wasn't expecting how fun it would be.

Full disclosure: not only was this my first time seeing him live, but I have not kept track of his many projects following The Smiths. Press photos often have him looking a little dour, which kind of goes along with my previous level of familiarity.

I didn't know that he smiled and told jokes. I was not surprised that he played a lot (I think about two hours) and well. It was wonderful to see how much he was enjoying himself, and to hear the energy from the band and the crowd, and to always be glad for another song, no matter which song it was.

Marr played some Smiths songs and that highlighted the difference for me. While there is a definite emotional truth in feeling that you are wasting time on people who don't care about you, or that you don't belong, there is only ridiculous vanity in thinking that you know how Joan of Arc felt or that anything you are being asked for would make Caligula blush. Marr's singing is fine on its own, then even better because you can believe that he gets the joke.

(I am tempted to say he is more down to earth, but there are themes on Call the Comet that deal with the future and the universe and it can feel kind of metaphysical; it just doesn't feel pompous and twee.)

So it is not just that Johnny Marr is a great guitarist and a good singer, but also he is utterly delightful.

In post-concert listening I have really enjoyed Call the Comet. Favorite songs include "The Tracers", "Hi Hello", and "Spiral Cities", but I also want to mention "New Town Velocity" from 2013's The Messenger and "Easy Money" from 2014's  Playland. I can also see that I really need to check out Electronic.

Let me also call out the coolness of the band. Yes, they are under his name - which probably draws more attention - but it feels like there is a good harmony of relationship and unity of play there. That included Doviak who played keyboards and guitar.

There was also the distressingly familiar (I can't figure out whom he reminds me of) Iwan Gronow on bass and Jack Mitchell on drums. They were all wonderful and I am really glad I was there.

The Call the Comet tour continues through December, but the last US date is October 22nd in Philadelphia. Go if you can.

https://johnnymarr.com/

https://www.facebook.com/officialjohnnymarr

https://www.youtube.com/user/officialjohnnymarr

https://twitter.com/Johnny_Marr

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Concert Review: The Belle Game




I really enjoyed The Belle Game. (I have seen their name with and without the "The".)

They opened for Johnny Marr Saturday night at the Roseland.

There was passion and poignancy in their performance, with some new age undertones in the music.

They still also totally made you want to dance, and did not let the need to play instruments stop them from feeling the beat. I would not be able keep up the music playing and move like that.

The dance-ability is not as obvious listening to recordings, but then you are still left with passion and poignancy, so it works out.

"Spirit" is a good song to start with.

http://thebellegame.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheBelleGame/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXv_KiC9M-0jRU54oz7Uxhw

https://twitter.com/TheBelleGame

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When the fix is in

I read many things about the role of misogyny in the 2016 election.

There were items about the higher standard women are held to for aesthetics and demeanor. There was definitely some focus on a double standard for liberals and conservatives, and I do want to get back to that later, but there were many ways in which sexism played a part and it looks different now.

At the time, I pretty much viewed the misogyny as a result of structural sexism; it was so ingrained into our society that it is easy to not even notice that sexism is happening, like with structural racism.

However, one of the more memorable examples of unfairness was Matt Lauer's twin interviews, where he lobbed softballs to Trump and interrupted Clinton while asking her stale questions. Given that those specific interviews were supposed to have a military focus, there could have been some interesting insight from the former secretary of state. Not on Lauer's watch. It was frustrating, but it was also possible to believe that it was just more boorish sexism.

Except Matt Lauer is a rapist. Yes, they mainly talk about sexual harassment, but at least one of the stories about him is something that you have to call rape unless you are specifically avoiding the word in order to not be too sensational (which happens more than it should).

Charlie Rose has sexual misconduct allegations. Les Moonves has sexual assault allegations.

See, I use the careful language too there. It's partly a habit, and also partly a deference to due process, which is not an unreasonable thing.

This post isn't about any one of them anyway; it is about how so much of the media is controlled not by mere sexists but by actual predators.

Funny thing about Les Moonves; one of my most recent Twitter dust-ups was with someone who "works in Hollywood". He was swearing up and down that diverse casting doesn't make money and studios shying away from diversity has nothing to do with racism, just finances. I provided many examples of films making money overseas while being diverse, but those were all cherry picking which is no good compared to actual studies and he blocked me for being closed-minded (which is much easier than providing data).

I had some thoughts about how studies and studios can and do cherry pick data, but it came back to me after reading Linda Bloodworth Thomason's letter to Les Moonves:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/designing-women-creator-les-moonves-not-all-harassment-is-sexual-1142448

How about that? She was making them money and getting critical acclaim too, and yet he still kept stifling her career despite her track record. It's almost as if sometimes they do care about other things than money.

Don't get me wrong; I am positive that he could tell himself that no one would want to watch this if he didn't want to, but these kinds of decisions happen.

With Moonves, he was also on the record as saying that Trump was great for CBS, if not for America. That just sounded like vulgar capitalism. However, when you are someone who benefits from a structure of power that allows you to sexually assault women, it is plausible that there might be some bias against the strong woman getting more power. There could be some kinship with the other sexual predator.

I remember noticing in the CBS lineup a lot of shows with crime enforcement teams made of up rebellious individuals. I found it interesting that they managed to be both authoritarian and anti-authoritarian, which is kind of perfect for adhering to the status quo but still believing you are a rugged individual playing by your own rules.

I didn't think about how many of those shows were procedurals where the majority of the victims were women until after reading her letter, but it makes sense. That goes along with the status quo too.

Think about the power of what you see. That includes the movies and television shows you watch (Weinstein, Spacey, Toback, Moonves, Louis C.K., Ratner), the news you watch and hear (Lauer, Rose, Brokaw, Halperin, Anthony Stack at NBC News had a reputation for protecting predators, O'Reilly though it pains me to call Fox "news"), and it includes the judges who make the laws, though I think that needs its own post.

The question for today is what kind of environment does this create?

Definitely one where rape accusations are considered more damaging than being raped.

It is a world where having wealth and fame and retiring with a large payout, or not getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court counts as a life ruined, but PTSD doesn't. Also, anything you do to make things better for people with PTSD - like trigger warnings - will be mocked.

In this world being raped while drunk means it was your fault, but raping while drunk is not your fault.

It is clearly a world with a lot more predators than you see on the surface, it looks like more things will be floating up.

Also, in this world even the men who don't rape and harass still tend to get pretty angry when women talk about the men who do. They should think about why that bugs them.

But mainly this is a world that ignores female pain. That is the accepted price of male convenience and success. That is the bonus for the highest success.

Fight your initial reaction to see this as an exaggeration and just sit with it for a while.

Then you need to be ready to fight it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The failure of the press

The March series merged a lot in my mind with the movie Selma, They cover many of the same events, though with three books March fits in more.

I mention that because I remember having those feelings about the importance of the press while watching the movie, four years ago. It was seeing the photographers and reporters rushing to phones (no Periscope back then), and seeing people watching the news and then going to volunteer. I remember talking to people who saw those news reports and were shocked by them. I can this wasn't really that long ago.

Those memories came back when I was finishing March: Book Three. It was important that people could see. It was important that the eyes of the world were on the actions of Southern racists. It was important that people who turned a blind eye to the persecution were forced to see.

One of the disturbing things from earlier Black History months was hearing that when they were searching for the bodies of the three murdered Civil Rights workers (Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney) they found other bodies. In a way it wasn't so surprising that in a climate like that more murders happened and were hidden, but also it felt like there should be more about that. This month I finally got some answers:

https://dickatlee.com/issues/mississippi/mississippi_eyewitness/valley_of_fear.html

Those answers came to me because I follow good people and this is a good thread: https://twitter.com/RustBeltRebel/status/1039193758389166080

Beyond that, the answers exist at all because of one reporter who went digging. He was not satisfied with sticking to the key story. He could see that those other lives mattered, and he put his skill and ability into finding that.

In 2014 a movie reminded me how the press could be good and it was inspiring. In 2018, similar images from a comic felt different, because 2016 and after showed me how much damage the press could do. When revisiting "her e-mails" daily was more important than actual financial scandals and racism, and negative stories (like knowledge of the Russia investigation) were held back, that was damaging. Even now the feelings of Trump voters are revisited again and again, despite more people voting for Clinton, and them also being people who have feelings and thoughts about this.

(Also this year, while I was starting to think about this post, one NYT  figure who is one of the worst offenders demonstrated a sad fragility about it, but that wasn't really that surprising.)

None of this is really new, but I found surprising evidence of it in Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, by Leon F. Litwack on page 304:
“... the New York Times correspondent tried very hard to maintain his detachment – and he succeeded. “Whipping, paddling, and other customs, peculiar to the palmy days of the institution, are practiced, and the negro finds, to his heart's sorrow, that his sore-headed master is loath to give him up. There is fault on both sides and equal exaggeration in the representation of his difficulties, by both master and servant.” (NYT, August 2nd, 1865)
This sounds too stupid to have to say, but there is no moral equivalence between the person who is sad to no longer have slaves, thus keeps beating them, and the former slave who should be free - should have always been free, but now the law has caught up - but is still subject to slave treatment. That is a false equivalency. It goes beyond being stupid to being morally repugnant. It is neither honest nor fair.

And it does not succeed in afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

I have some thoughts on why it happens for tomorrow. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Making it

I almost forgot one of the Black History month topics.

It cam from reading Ain't No Making It: Leveled Aspirations in a Low-Income Neighborhood by Jay MacLeod.

MacLeod was working with youths as a student, and found an idea for his thesis in looking at two different groups of boys. He dubbed them the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers. One group was focusing on academic achievement and the other leaned toward more criminal activity. His initial work came out in 1987, but reconnecting with the grown boys later led to some additional understanding in 1995.

I personally leaned toward academic achievement, so I tended to favor the Brothers and root for them. It turned out that they didn't end up having much better job success than the Hallway Hangers.

One interesting thing to me is that the Hallway Hangers gained more from the group solidarity. They had a sense of community and belonging. It helped them because they knew that the odds were against them being able to get good-paying jobs and create better lives. That belief may have motivated some anti-social tendencies, but nonetheless, knowing that they did not have much they still had each other. Perhaps they felt some sense of accomplishment in knowing that it was rigged all along (thus being smarter than those chumps who kept studying).

The easy tendency is to call that a victim mentality and excoriate it; buckling down and working hard will fix everything. Pull up your pants!

The Brothers did that. They bought into the system and tried to work according to the rules of the system, but without significant improvements in their lives. I know hard work is supposed to be its own reward, but when there aren't any other rewards, eventually that is bound to raise questions. The Brothers were feeling much less positive eight years later.

Learned helplessness is one thing, but a deluded belief in the possibility of accomplishment is much worse. It's not that no one ever makes it - with the right combination of luck and circumstances it can happen - but more people are set up for failure and told that it's them.

The Brothers had a harder crash, but the Hallway Hangers weren't happy with the situation either. They just dealt differently. It saved them some grief, but only what it was possible to save.

Setting young kids up like that is rotten. Barring a better system you should at least be honest with them. No one wants to admit anything that ugly - especially if they are benefiting from it - because once you admit it you have to change it.

I want the change. I want a better world than this. 

First you have to be honest about it. That's why we're going to talk about the press.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Band Review: The Alpacas

I really liked The Alpacas; I still don't know how to describe them.

I guess the indie rock/pop that the band chooses is reasonable, but it is also almost meaningless.

I'd like to find a good way of describing that hippie-ish vibe I get. It's not that listening to them makes me think of the dirt and drugs of Woodstock, but the peace and love thing does seem to exist there. I can easily imagine them cheerfully busking.

Their videos are sweet and touching. My favorite song - "I Miss You Girl" - does not have a video yet, but I like "These Train Tracks" and "Pictures of You" more after watching the videos.

I recommend checking them out. It is probably also a good idea to use the links below, as there are at least two other bands called The Alpacas.

http://www.thealpacas.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/alpacasofficial/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZoWMfGJILEVscxmyPHqQDg

https://twitter.com/LasAlpacas

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Band Review: Jose Aguilar

Jose Aguilar is an experienced singer with roots in Michoacan, Mexico and Porterville, California.

Although his Youtube channel has many videos, many of them do not contain singing. For official recordings, there is really only audio and video for "Te Reconquistare".

You can get a general sense of Aguilar as a singer through some of the other videos, with excerpts of live performances and some informal recording sessions. The playfulness of those relieves the drama of "Te Reconquistare".

It's not bad that it's dramatic, and Aguilar delivers the drama really well. It is still nice to know that the music can be fun too. A few more songs organized in a playlist to give a better idea of his range would be helpful. It also seems really possible for someone who has been singing for twenty years.

https://joseaguilarmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/joseaguilarofficial

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzv9PV6qzFvvQ86G_tYZZnw

https://twitter.com/joseaguilarofic

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reparations Happy Hour

Here is one article on a local Reparations Happy Hour:

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2018/05/reparations_happy_hour_portland.html

Black, brown, and indigenous people could show up and be handed $10 for drinks, the money coming from donations by white people who did not attend. About forty people attended, so that was $400 total, which - depending on the location - is not extravagant for drinks. No one was forced to donate or attend. People had a good time.

That shouldn't make people particularly angry, despite the long list of white people calling the police on Black people enjoying themselves, but there were some very angry responses.

I have some thoughts about why that would cause anger, but for now I just want to go over why it could be reasonable to give much more than $10. I had pictured this as turning into a screed of righteous anger; and it might be more of a weary lament. I should still get this on the record.

It is not just slavery.

Slavery would be enough. The beatings and family separations and loss of culture and the hard labor to build wealth that you do not get to share creates plenty of reason for reparations, with that last reason possibly being the most concrete.

However, it is not just slavery.

It is also that when land owners were finding it difficult to let go of their indentured servants and they were looking for a way to hold onto that labor without spending more money, and when Bacon's Rebellion reinforced the danger of letting poor people of all races unite, that whiteness became a weapon to use to strengthen hierarchies of power. (See Theodore W. Allen.) It gave racism deep roots.

It is that Bacon's Rebellion happened in Virginia, and racist shoring up of greed became formalized there, "the birthplace of presidents", and so became a huge part of the nation's birthright.

It is that for all the talk of state's rights, it was not just the desire to keep slavery in the Southern states but to be able to make the rules for the Northern states, as with the Dred Scott decision. They would do anything to hold onto that slavery.

It is that even after Emancipation freed slaves were not allowed to leave plantations, and that Freedman's bureaus would often take the sides of the former owners, and that even supportive bureaus workers couldn't prevent outright murder, which happened.

It is that after creating wealth former slaves were not considered to have any part in that wealth, starting new lives with zero assets.

It is not being able to take advantage of the Homestead Act, if not officially, largely still true in practice. (https://aeon.co/ideas/land-and-the-roots-of-african-american-poverty)

It is that immediately after Emancipation debt peonage started, not only depriving many Black people of their freedom, but making it more economical to have slave labor than it had ever been. (See Douglas A. Blackmon.) This did not help white people regard their Black neighbors as fully deserving of life and liberty.

It is that even though during Reconstruction education and opportunities were expanded for poor white people too, that poor white people still feel threatened by progress against racism.

It is that Reconstruction was abandoned so quickly and cheaply with the Compromise of 1877.

It is that lynching was used to punish Black economic success, but was painted as a necessity because of the brutality of Black men, continuing the tradition of their dehumanization. (See Ida B. Wells.)

It is the constant tradition of white men accusing Black men of raping white women, but white men raping Black women. (See At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire.)

It is Plessy vs Ferguson upholding segregation while paying mere lip service to equality.

It is Woodrow Wilson re-segregating government offices because even a little progress is too much, and because he was a huge racist.


It is that it wasn't enough to lynch some Black business owners individually or in small groups, but that sometimes whole business districts and towns needed to be destroyed. (See Rosewood and Black Wall Street.)

It is that the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot that destroyed Black Wall Street and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre seem to have been at least partly inspired by the return of Black veterans who had served in World War I and felt that they had earned equal treatment.

It is also that redlining and other corrupt real estate practices and very corrupt lending practices and even racist design practices kept Black people limited in where they lived. This allowed for some wonderful communities, but it also severely hampered growth of home value, a very reliable investment for white people. (There is interesting information on New York and Robert Moses, but that is not the only big city with issues.)

It is also that this concentration of people of color has made it easy for some areas to be subject to worse industrial pollution. There is some information on that in Harriet A. Washington's Medical Apartheid but also Flint, Michigan.

Also, if we are going to refer to Medical Apartheid it is the Tuskegee syphilis study, and J. Marion Sims experimenting on slave women, and many other examples.

It is parts of the New Deal being set up specifically to exclude Black people.

It is Black people serving in World War II and then not being able to use the VA loans, or to get into some of the programs that they were technically entitled too, but somehow still not allowed to.

It is white men getting off and avoiding punishment for rapes and murders of Black people.

It is Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Jimmy Lee Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. but also Alberta Williams King. It is Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, but also Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware. It is other Black bodies being pulled out of the water when they were looking for James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. It is James Meredith imprisoned because he dared to apply to Ole Miss, and not getting out until he was dying of cancer.

It is so many people. The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward E. Baptist - that title comes from a quote about slavery, but it is true about so much more than slavery.

It is about white artists getting rich off of copying Black artists - even when they give credit - because the white performers are always more palatable. 

It is about braids being unprofessional on Black women but being daring and fun on white women.

It is about film not taking Black skin into account for decades.

It is about getting the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed and then work immediately beginning on undoing them.

It is about integration sending whites to set up private schools rather than giving up their discrimination.

It is about the Southern Strategy where the racism becomes less blatant but is still there. It is about the war on drugs.

It is about white people assuming that affirmative action means that people who weren't good enough on their own get in, when the issue was that being good wasn't enough unless you were white.

It is about Affirmative Action primarily benefiting white women. It is about a Black man making on average $15 an hour to a  white man's $21, and a Black woman $13 to a white woman's $17. It is about it being as easy for white high school dropout to get hired as a Black college student.

It is about white people taking advantage of pot legalization to start profitable new businesses while the jails are full of people of color in there for nothing worse than possession.

It is about our police system being based on Southern slave patrols and still being used to enforce the social order. It is about police budgets being supported by over-policing low income communities that disproportionately affects people of color, because they can get away with it.

It is about Ferguson.

It is about the over-policing leading to full jails of people who haven't even been convicted languishing because of the cash bail system and full court dockets.

It is about Kalief Browder.

It is about video showing us cops escalating incidents, using unnecessary force, planting weapons and murdering, and still not being convicted of murder. It is about Walter Scott and Eric Garner.

It is about unnecessary and patently false 911 calls and the police shooting before there is a chance to respond, and still there are no charges, just dead bodies. So it is about John Crawford and Tamir Rice, but not just about them.

But with Tamir and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, it is about Black teenagers and children being seen as scary men, but Ryan Lochte and Brock Turner (and Kavanaugh) get youth as an excuse.

It is about the police searching Botham Jean's apartment but not Amber Guyger's.

It is all the fatal shootings, but it is also all of the calls that don't result in a shooting; only humiliation. There are all the reminders that Black people are not allowed to barbecue, or sell water or ride in a car with their white grandmother, or own a legally registered gun, or play golf or ride a wine train or use the bathroom at Starbucks or use coupons or use their community pool. That even though sundown towns aren't supposed to exist, they still do. That even though we are not yet officially a police state, you may always be required to justify your presence and may be asked to leave.

It is about Sandra Bland.

It is that even when Jacqueline Woodson win an award, her "friend" Daniel Handler still has to make a watermelon joke, 17 years after Fuzzy Zoeller directed his remarks at Tiger Woods. It's not that there is anything terrible about watermelon or fried chicken or okra, but that they always need to be brought up, always reminding you that you are other, and that will always take precedence over your accomplishments.


It is that a quiet and respectful protest gets you fired from the NFL, and that an ad campaign makes people care about sweatshops who never cared before. It is about people thinking that kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality is offensive to the flag, but waving Confederate flags is just about heritage, as are ugly statues that were raised quickly at times when there was a threat of rising equality.

It is about progressives saying "Listen to Black women" and then getting mad about things they say. It is about Sanders calling people who didn't vote for him "low-information".

It is that even in progressive Portland, this site exists and never runs out of material:
https://browninpdx.tumblr.com/ 

It is about another event from the Reparations Happy Hour people being planned because a Black woman was put out of the shop by an employee.

So yes, in Portland, forty people of color got $10 to spend on drinks. It that is what makes you angry, the problem is yours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Status of limitations

Last night I posted really late.

Tonight I was trying to get my rant going, and it is again really late. I don't think I can do a good enough job of it. I thought about getting my journalism bit in, but I may want to take that a little deeper, where putting it in next week makes sense.

I am going to give a little update on me instead, which I had thought I might do next week or the week after anyway.

The most obvious status update is that I am so tired. It doesn't even make any sense, because it feels like I am not accomplishing anything. I have been trying to think about potential health issues, but my sisters have similar tiredness issues, and it looks most like it is the mind-body toll of living with dementia. That was the most obvious answer.

I avoided it for a long time because then it feels like being a bad daughter, and assigning blame that I don't want to assign. She's not even that bad, in a lot of ways. I can see a lot of things that could be worse. It is still tiring. My sisters have demanding jobs, and I have this.

To be fair, I feel like I am doing really well at it. She is mostly happy, and we have gotten better at navigating certain things. With a progressive condition every time you get adjusted it changes again, but it is something to have successfully adjusted over and over again.

The biggest part of what makes me sucessful is everything I have let go. When this started, I was going to cure it. Even in June with her last MoCA test, I was thinking about ways of working on the specific testing areas. I have a stack of connect-the-dot worksheets on my desk just for that. It wasn't to game the test, but if exercising those areas could slow the progress... but it may not work that way. Also, people with higher scores are leaving the house in their pajamas and not realizing it, so you can't depend too much on the number. It presents and progresses very individually.

My biggest concern is that I am forgetting how to relax. At that last assessment, I was reminded of the tendency for dementia patients to wander. Shortly after that, I got two glimpses of how it could happen, with a very small distraction or moment of restlessness. Nothing terrible happened either time, but then later as I was taking a deep breath in the shower I gasped; what if it happened then? That scared me.

And still, we are mainly getting along okay. I know people who have it much worse. My faith is a huge help. There are still a lot of fluctuations with fear and sadness and worry. I might have a lot of difficulty responding to "How are you?" right now. Maybe I am several contradictory things at once.

Actually, I was asked recently how long I have been care-giving, and that was really hard to answer as well. Definitely since I lost my job, and when I realized that I could not have another job, but what about when I started telecommuting and it was such a relief to know I would be there? What about when I was still working downtown and I would do meal prep and write notes to give a schedule the day before? Did that count? Because it's been a while.

Currently the blog has been a source of stress. The time writing and the time spent listening to the music for band reviews is becoming harder and harder to find. I keep thinking maybe it is time to give them up. I would miss them, but also then I think "Now? I am so close to finishing my Black History Month blogging!"

Right now it still seems to serve a purpose, and I still usually like what I write, but that could change. If it does, this will be why.

Right now, anything I do that isn't care giving is a major accomplishment, even if it wouldn't be for someone else. You have no idea how much feels overwhelming and then gets done anyway.

The care giving is a pretty good accomplishment too. It has some complicated feelings associated with it, but I know it matters and is where I am supposed to be.

It also leaves me very tired.

Among many problems

I was planning on closing out my Black History month posts with a rant in response to some anger at a reparations happy hour that took place in Portland recently.

The idea was to list all of the various obstacles that have been placed and are still placed in the paths of African Americans, concluding by saying something like "if this is what bothers you, you are the problem!"

That feels right as an expression of exasperation at how badly wrong people can be. It is still false.

That there are all of the obstacles in place - many the result of structural racism, but some that go beyond that - is a bigger problem than that some people get really pissy any time the existence of bigotry is hinted at. Still, that reaction is a real obstacle to getting over any of the others.

I still intend for the rant to happen. I may even use that concluding sentence despite debunking it right now. (Also, today was supposed to be a related thing on journalism, but I think that will go up Wednesday instead.)

For now, though, I want to write a little about the obstacles to people seeing the way things work. It looks like that will focus on privilege, just because that's what's been floating around lately.

That is Matt Stoller's fault. He didn't start it, but he bloviated the most about it. He bloviated without understanding how people use the word, either, therefore various people were having discussions on it. Here are two that I appreciated:

https://twitter.com/TGTalker/status/1041361374776123393

https://twitter.com/NoTotally/status/1041551963345715200

(I do not believe that it is a coincidence that these smarter and more nuanced takes come from people with more marginalized statuses. There are no guarantees, but sometimes patterns appear.)

Now, here's another place where I am going to amend the words that are easy to say and feel right.

By complete coincidence, I had recently read an essay where a man - Richard S. Orton - refers to his "blank spaces" in the way that we would normally use "privilege". I don't know when he wrote it, but the original edition of the book it was in was 1993. While the use of "privilege" does go back further than that, it was not common, and I doubt he was specifically avoid it. Instead, he was probably just trying to find a way to express something that was new to him, and he found a reasonable way.

(The essay was "Learning to Listen", which I found in Transforming a Rape Culture, and it was really good.)

I remember thinking at the time that because so many people get offended by the word "privilege", maybe "blank spaces" would be more palatable. Then I got irritated that it needs to be more palatable.

There is more to write there that I am going to postpone for now, because it goes along with different things. I do want to debunk the coincidence though.

I try really hard to learn. It means listening to people with different backgrounds and different areas of expertise. It means taking book recommendations from a lot of sources. It means periodically reviewing intended reading, and what I have on the backlog. It also means being sensitive to impressions on things that I need to be looking into now.

So it was not a complete coincidence that I was reading Transforming a Rape Culture. It was not a coincidence that I felt the need to delve into gendered violence.

It certainly could have been avoided. I am still finishing up one reading list while bringing up two others (that I will write about eventually). It's not that I don't have other things to do.

It could feel like a coincidence that reading something that had me thinking about the very term "privilege" came up so close to online discussions of the terminology, but the truth is those discussions are always happening.

The gendered violence list has ten books on it and I have completed four; do you want to guess how relevant they are right now? But if I had read them all right at the time I marked them as "to-read" - going back a few years for some - they would have been relevant then too. That's not even a partial coincidence, let alone a complete one.

It would be nice to think that if someone were to replicate that reading list a few years from now, that it would only be relevant as history. That doesn't seem likely.

That is a combination and culmination of many problems. You could possibly combine them all into a single broad problem of misogyny, or even bigotry (evil?), but that could also result in losing various key points. It is helpful to spend time on the individual aspects of the big problem, and even divide it into many problems.

(I'm not particularly in the heuristics of it all at this point, but that could change.)

Still, without it being the only problem, the people who get angry that they even have to think about misogyny and the harm it does, and who are more concerned with #notallmen or the possibility of false accusations, or worry about the path to redemption for harassers and rapists before worrying about the path to wholeness for their victims...

YOU ARE A PROBLEM!

Even if you've never raped anyone. Even if no one in your family ever owned slaves.

You are a problem.