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Ha. Ha. Ha. You Already Paid For This [Dec. 22nd, 2014|02:39 pm]
Ta-Nehisi Coates addresses the state in police state:
The idea of "police reform" obscures the task. Whatever one thinks of the past half-century of criminal-justice policy, it was not imposed on Americans by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are, at the very least, byproducts of democratic will...

To challenge the police is to challenge the American people, and the problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that we are majoritarian pigs. When the police are brutalized by people, we are outraged because we are brutalized. By the same turn, when the police brutalize people, we are forgiving because ultimately we are really just forgiving ourselves. Power, decoupled from responsibility, is what we seek. The manifestation of this desire is broad...We are the masters of the American gulag, a penal system "so vast," writes sociologist Bruce Western, "as to draw entire demographic groups into the web." And we are the ones who send in police to make sure it all goes according to plan.

When defenders of the police say that cops do the work ordinary citizens are afraid of, they are correct...

When the elected mayor of my city arrived at the hospital, the police officers who presumably serve at the public's leisure turned away in a display that should chill the blood of any interested citizen. The police are not the only embodiment of democratic society. And one does not have to work hard to imagine a future when the agents of our will, the agents whom we created, are in fact our masters. On that day one can expect that the tactics intended for the ghettos will enjoy wider usage.
Link1 said it|what you say?

So Long, Joe [Dec. 22nd, 2014|02:23 pm]
Linkwhat you say?

A movement against getting killed is not to blame. [Dec. 21st, 2014|10:51 am]
My first response to the recent shooting was, "Great, an endless parade of whiny cops will now pretend they aren't the problem."

The slogan of the protesters is "hands up, don't shoot". The central and explicit demand has been cops to face legal punishment and regulation, not murder. The majority have been peaceful, avoiding rhetoric about killing cops and at times said such rhetoric would harm their goals. Even those expressing sympathy for the violent minority addressed property not people and took care not to condone it outright.

The immediate response of protest leaders was to denounce the shooting.

As I wrote on Thursday there are many examples of disturbed people seizing upon some dramatic issue - political or not - as a pretext for a killing spree. Whether participants in an issue are culpable for encouraging such violence is highly conditional.

Armed groups who consistently adopt the rhetoric of war and extremism are accountable at some level for the inspiration the violent take in it. It can range from a thoughtless influence to tacit advocacy of violence as a strategy. When anti-government white supremacists went from the Calvin Bundy supporters to a cop killing spree, it made sense to see a connection. When Men's Rights groups regularly express empathy for spree killing virgins, one can point to this as contributing to the problem.

The conduct and rhetoric of the anti-cop protests contains no such collective responsibility for someone who shot his girlfriend then targeted two minority officers who were the first he saw. (Corrected)

It's particularly annoying seeing the whining on a local cop blog. In addition to being racist and generally scornful of all "civilians", it stridently opposes nearly all gun regulations. How does one reconcile thinking some citizens are irredeemable sociopaths and advocating an almost no restraints on weapons? I guess it does fit the view of a war between good people and thugs in which the good are magically infallible.

Cops who use the term "civilian" act like an occupying army, not public servants. It's that sort of war posturing which, perhaps unintentionally, attracts the violent. Not treating people like insurgents strikes me as a better response than saying critics are to blame.
Link5 said it all|what you say?

Recognize what's oppressing you. (Edited for clarity.) [Dec. 18th, 2014|05:36 pm]
Recently Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a lecture because someone threatened violence and the venue was legally unable to check for weapons. She could not put her audience or herself at risk, because all it takes is one guy with a gun.

In 2012 James Eagan Holmes, a guy who really admired the Joker, shot up a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and wounding 70. Lawsuits were filed, but failed, in large part because it was an unpredictable event.

In recent years there's been many examples of disturbed people seizing upon some dramatic issue - political or not - as a pretext for a killing spree. Consider the recent hostage situation in Australia by a person whose history of violence appears to be more central than the ideology he used to frame it.

I don't know if this phenomena is better or worse than it was before, but it is easier to be aware of it.

Which points to the reason Sony responded as it did a threat which may just be trolling: liability.

One person takes that shit seriously and Sony faces a legal nightmare because it was a known risk. It doesn't have to be a North Korea supporter, just a guy who came strapped and thought he saw a terrorist. At this point a mild dustup could unleash a shitstorm. EDITED TO ADD: Someone could get scared and injure themselves while bolting for the exits and it would be an expensive national punchline with a million tweets of discussion

Distributors might also have sued Sony if the film lost money, or caused all screens to lose money by scaring people off. Or just sued to get out of their distribution contract, citing liability. Edited to add: They probably seemed ready to sue if popcorn sales were a bit slow, because a good excuse cannot go unexploited.

Sony is already facing lawsuits over the data breach itself. ETA: And holy shit, they don't seem to have given a crap about compliance at all.

ETA: I find the idea of North Korea doing anything non-virtual remote, but pissed off theater owners suing over half-full theaters (because maybe not enough people are in the mood for a comedy with an ultra-violent climax on Christmas), someone spraining an ankle because a kid yelled BOMB or this playing into someones well armed meltdown are somewhat more possible (or highly in the case of lawsuits over imaginary losses).

It's still wrong to self-censor in response to terrorist threats - although I don't see many people tweeting that Sarkeesian lost integrity when she caved, and she only had the security of one audience to consider. It's scary that threats can shut down speech (no matter how shitty the movie is; that's no reason to pretend it doesn't matter).

But those decrying it should recognize what actually determined the response: mostly the financial bottom line of a company already taking a hit, but also our propensity to flip out in violent and/or expensive ways. Corporations are not brave, they are profit driven and the possibility of losing money matters most.

A gun saturated, paranoid, capitalist culture is significantly vulnerable to mere threats almost by design.
Link18 said it all|what you say?

What if he's just an asshole? [Dec. 17th, 2014|03:57 pm]
When I first started going to poetry readings, one of the first good poems I heard was this guy talking about a moment of crisis at his day job as a therapist.

Alas I do not recall the poetic structure, just the prosaic content:

The poet is listening to a patient confess all the unpleasant things he's done and problems he can't handle. Clearly the patient has issues, but another thought intrudes:

"Wait...what if he's just an asshole?"

This patient admits to treating people like shit, particularly those with less power. The reason he entered therapy was guilt over treating his wife like garbage, but he's as interested in blaming others for choices as the choices themselves. What if therapy merely helps him use pain to as an excuse for being a real asshole?

The poet can't say any of this, of course, and there is no resolution. After momentary discomfort the poet finds a way to make himself not think about it and just continue treating the guy.

The poem has faded, but every now and then it crosses my mind, in reference to my own angst as much as those of others. Whatever legitimate struggle is going on, another option is possible:

"What if they're just an asshole?"
Link11 said it all|what you say?

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a very good writer. [Dec. 9th, 2014|09:33 pm]
White people are often sincerely and greatly pained by racism, but rarely are they pained enough. That is not true because they are white, but because they are human. I know this, too well. Still, as of last week there were still no black writers on TNR's staff, and only one on its masthead. Magazines, in general, have an awful record on diversity. But if TNR's influence and importance was as outsized as its advocates claim, then the import of its racist legacy is outsized in the same measure. One cannot sincerely partake in heritage à la carte.

In this sense it is unfortunate to see anonymous staffers accusing TNR's owner Chris Hughes of trying to create "another BuzzFeed." If that is truly Hughes's ambition, then—in at least one important way—he will have created a publication significantly more moral than anything any recent TNR editor ever has. No publication has more aggressively dealt with diversity than BuzzFeed. And not unrelated to this diversity has been a stellar range of storytelling and analysis, that could rival—if not best—the journalism in the latest iteration of TNR.
Linkwhat you say?

Down with Nerdism [Dec. 9th, 2014|02:12 pm]
As a word, nerd has its uses. As a sociopolitical narrative, nerdism must be destroyed.

I say this after reading "When Nerds Collide: My intersectionality will have weirdos or it will be bullshit" which left me wanting to disown the word, even though nerd is a handy term for certain aspects of my life. [It also seems like a highly camouflaged gamergate excuse screed.]

It begins with a cringe inducing analogy which equates respect an outsider needs to work within Japanese culture and working with "weird nerds" a term she just invented because "nerd" isn't special flower enough.

It escalates into "The effects of gentrification on minority and outsider communities" used to frame white libertarian asshole sayings as a tribal culture which requires understanding. Then it pretends "weird nerds" somehow own the internet. It reaches a climax of sorts by complaining
The voices clamoring for change offer us no money, a social role reversal back to “disempowered outsider,” and a status demotion to “likely sexual predator.” (The polite euphemism for this is “creepy,” a pejorative applied indiscriminately both to those who actively transgress other people’s boundaries and to those with the unmitigated gall to be attracted to someone else while being funny-looking.)
Yes, I am stunned a woman offers up the nice guy defense of sexual harassment.

White people (and perhaps others) need to stop using nerdism to hijack civil rights rhetoric for self-aggrandizing mythos. Particularly a myth in which self-pitying intransigence is a natural, even positive, part of nerd "tribal" culture one must respect to work with them. A myth in which nerds own abstract concepts like the internet and have been denied the love, sex or popularity they rightfully deserve by Them. Particularly when the alleged tribal culture and oppression justifies an inability to take criticism of reactionary techie bullshit.

Once one is past adolescence, how much one can learn social graces, acknowledge others as people and confront one's flaws and insecurities is a personal issue, not The Way Of My Nerd People. Certain traumas and larger politics can shape an individual's handling of these issues, but nerdism seeks to shift blame.

Nerd is at best a weak identity, a social narrative which varies in relation to other constructs and the self-serving ideas of those using it. At worst, it cements frustrations from an awkward point in human development into self-perpetuating denial and politics of resentment. If one cannot use it with perspective, best it not be used at all.
Link8 said it all|what you say?

Take Solace Where One Can [Dec. 4th, 2014|12:53 pm]
No matter how annoying working in IT is today, I am comforted by the fact I am not Sony's CIO. Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Link1 said it|what you say?

Obvious post about usual bullshit. [Dec. 3rd, 2014|03:36 pm]
Grand juries decide whether to bring charges, not guilt or punishment. Prosecutors can offer several different charges. Reports speculated they could range from manslaughter to felony assault, but right now very little is known about the decision:
Recent events in other jurisdictions may have created unrealistic expectations regarding what can be disclosed regarding the proceedings of a New York grand jury...under New York law everything that happens in the grand jury is secret; therefore only very limited or no disclosure is permitted. Moreover, those limited disclosures can only be made after an application has been made for a court order allowing disclosure, and said application has been granted...For example, the gender and racial makeup of the grand jury is not disclosed.

...In New York, the District Attorney does not make opening statements, closing statements or arguments to the grand jury, nor attempt to influence its decision. The District Attorney presents evidence, instructs grand jurors on the relevant principles of law, and the grand jury makes its decision based on the evidence and the law.
Whether prosecutors are actually as neutral and secret as the rules say is up to debate.

We do know: a) the jury dismissed all charges; b) the city medical examiner ruled it a homicide, saying cops killed Garner by compressing his neck and chest; c) there's video of him saying "I can't breathe" as he dies and d) video shows Daniel Pantaleo using a chokehold banned by the police department.

At this point it's unclear if Pantaleo will even lose his job. It's stunning bullshit.
Link12 said it all|what you say?

Maybe Media IS The Problem [Nov. 27th, 2014|01:03 pm]
So I saw this on Twitter:

It struck me as the stupidest (and creepiest) affirmation I've read in some time.

Which led me to wonder: where does someone get the idea you never know when a bus coming?

Link17 said it all|what you say?

Thought [Nov. 27th, 2014|02:16 am]
It's not as likely on a less active site, but at one time it was almost inevitable that someone would post Burrough's Thanksgiving Prayer on the Holiday.

While I have often been moved by the mournful anti-patriot cynicism, maybe, just maybe, this is not the year to express it with a poem that includes the n word by a wealthy white guy who blew his wife's head off and got away with it.

I believe art transcends the artist, and his art is good, but context and timing can matter as well.

Plus at this point it's a fucking cliche. Give old Bill a rest this season.
Link5 said it all|what you say?

Well Shit [Nov. 24th, 2014|08:52 pm]
Link2 said it all|what you say?

Man, Fuck that Guy [Nov. 24th, 2014|01:33 pm]
I don't expect any charges, because of racism and decades of courts giving cops leeway to kill people on flimsy pretexts in this country, particularly if the flimsy pretext involves a minority. If they won't/can't do anything else, it would be nice if there was some finding which stripped him of his job and protection from civil suits. Except that's not only improbably but perhaps impossible, so him losing his job should be the rock bottom minimum. If he walks and keeps his badge or gets a payout because he's a huge liability, fuck everything.

Here's the most annoying thing: if he walks it's due to a system of justice and a level of careful due process he did not extend to Brown and the system does not extend to minorities in general. The cop is protected from similar hasty, biased, emotional responses to a highly charged situation and lethal escalation without pause to reason. If he was subject to his own response level, his ass would have been dead shortly after he shot Brown.

On the upside: fuckall is going to happen if he goes free. People have gotten the message from the fuckton of manpower and threats. White people itching to shoot "rioters" will be disappointed they don't get their purge.
Link1 said it|what you say?

Why the fuck would you say that, part One Million [Nov. 20th, 2014|10:23 am]
Update: He has now apologized, but I'm still wondering why.

Why in the fuck would David Handler, a white guy whose successful career as a YA writer involves a deftly packaged persona and carefully cultivated fanbase of kids and their parents, someone who thinks about presentation, performance and public facades a whole fucking lot, decide this was the fucking way to host an awards show:
After [African American Author Jacqueline] Woodson's heartfelt acceptance speech for her National Book Award, the ceremony's host—Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket—says this:
I told you—I told Jackie she was gonna win, and I, uh, said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer. Which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind. And I said, you have to put that in a book. She said, YOU put it in a book. And I said, I'm only writing a book about a black girl that's allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison and Barack Obama saying "This guy's okay, this guy's fine." [Laughs] Alright, we'll talk about it later.
Previous to this, Handler introduces Sharon Draper, another award-winning black author, by mentioning that she's won the Coretta Scott King Award—"a prize I hope to one day receive myself. That's a children's publishing joke. We'll explain it to you later."...Handler also apparently referred to two black poetry nominees as "probable cause."
I mean is there any explanation besides motherfucking reflexive racist arrogance? Does he have a brain tumor? Did his family get kidnapped by Vox Day and Tom Metzger? Did the head of Netflix say "We'll greenlight the Unfortunate Events series, but you gotta get your name out there. I suggest a bunch of 'edgy' racial jokes at an awards ceremony."? What in the fucking fuck dude?

As Roxanne Gay points out:
As David Perry puts it:
Handler is a smart guy...he knows this history, and he thinks that because of his disclaimer, this is funny.

It's not. Woodson can make that joke about herself. But for a powerful white author to make a watermelon joke when handing out an award to a black author, the message is - no matter what you write, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, you will always be a BLACK author, not just an author.

That's not Handler's intention here, but that's the effect.
See also this great comment about how the panic over being an interesting author onstage informs - but does not excuse - such bad decisions.
Link10 said it all|what you say?

Afternoon provocation [Nov. 19th, 2014|02:22 pm]
John Hodgman and Jessica Valenti recently announced they will no longer use Uber. This is because an Uber exec talked about using dirty tricks against journalists at a dinner party.

While that is a bad thing, it's weird up until then they were fine with a company with aggressively shady business practices. I might have applauded if they'd deleted the app after when it came out Uber steers drivers into predatory car loans. Or when it slashed driver pay. Or when they noticed Uber's profit rests on a massive workforce without the legal rights of employees.*

The people who drive the cars, however, are invisible. Reporters are peers.

*Please, do not be so stupid to argue for Uber by citing the traditional cab business. A pickpocket doesn't become ethical because muggers also exist.
Link4 said it all|what you say?

The open bloodlust of the white state is terrifying. [Nov. 18th, 2014|02:58 pm]
It's bad enough that Michael Brown's killer will likely face no penalties. It's worse that Missouri Governor Nixon declared a preemptive state of emergency and gave power to the same cops who brutalized citizens and protesters before. And all of them are using rhetoric which implies anything is justified by the mere potential for unrest.

It's terrifying that the FBI issued an official statement which invokes terrorism to give carte blanche to police violence across the nation. [Side Note: I can find multiple reports on the statement, but not the full text of the statement itself.]:
Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities....the bulletin’s conclusions were blunt: “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”...the FBI says “exploitation” of mass demonstrations “could occur both in the Ferguson area and nationwide.”
This bullshit doesn't mention KKK, the only established and documented group that has openly threatened to commit violence.

Assuming the hyperbolic worst (attacks on water treatment plants?) in a policy statement about a tense situation is very close to openly advocating violence. It seems like consciously setting up citizens to get injured or killed.

The protesters themselves are openly determined to avoid anything bad and I hope that is enough. If something does go wrong, however, remember it was the cops who were officially embracing it.

UPDATE: In a somewhat amusing side note, Governor Nixon justified declaring a state of emergency by saying he's done it twice before with natural disasters, snow storms. Yes, because imagining the worst about upset humans is just like the inevitable danger presented by snow.
Link16 said it all|what you say?

This is how it is. [Nov. 17th, 2014|05:56 pm]
Margo gave me permission to share this:

Deadend Margo works in an admissions department and occasionally heads up the presentation to the students and parents. The tour center where these take place has big windows which face a city street.

Recently she was giving a presentation to a crowd of prospectives when she heard a tap on the window. She looked over expecting a late arrival, delivery, some worker with an emergency.

It was some random guy who mouthed the words "YOU ARE HOT" and then walked away.

Margo wasn't upset or traumatized, but it was a WTF Sexism moment. It was some average white guy in his 50s who decided it was fine to interrupt someone mid-speech through a window for a bit of unsolicited attention. The glass was entitlement enough, as if he was looking at a cute kitten in a pet store instead of a human running a meeting at work.

Again, not upsetting but such common bullshit: being visible as a woman is conflated with being on display, and some dude will eventually take it upon himself to remind you of this.
Link9 said it all|what you say?

The world does not give a fuck. [Nov. 17th, 2014|03:24 pm]
I think everyone, men mostly but everyone really, needs to remember at all times that no one has to fuck you or love you. Ever.

Getting laid or a date is chance and optional decisions by all participants. Desire is something people feel towards someone, not what they do to them. Not being fucked or loved is an absence not an action. No matter how many people don't want to fuck you, none of them are withholding something from you. The lack of sex or romance is not oppression on its own.

Issues adjacent to fucking and love - marriage, divorce, child rearing, gender equality, expressing sexual identity, admitting one has desire, consent, etc. - can involve politics, power dynamics and social norms. Fulfilling ones desires with another person, however, is a potential which may never happen and no ones fault except, in some situations, one's own.

The world does not owe us fulfillment of desire. This is why we have hands and self-reflection, so we can gratify ourselves rather than relying on others to do so. If self-love and self-sex is not enough, it's not anyone's problem but one's own.

Involuntary celibacy is not a thing, unless someone has cut off your hands or neutered you.
Link1 said it|what you say?

LJ Technical Question [Nov. 13th, 2014|02:10 pm]
My current journal settings apparently use a version of LJ which does not allow participation in magazine. I am fine with this as it is possible the latest version may not provde my preferred journal and friends page settings.

I am considering enabling ratings, but not if it's going to change other settings, features or layouts. Does anyone know if there are any other things which change if you add ratings?

If the only side effect is seeing how unpopular you are, I'm fine with that. Also: once you turn it on, does the option to turn it off again actually work?
Link1 said it|what you say?

11 years on in the voluntary panopticon. [Nov. 12th, 2014|04:26 pm]
I joined LiveJournal in 2003. Three months in, I wrote this post on my reservations about using social media:
Second reservation: Immediacy unleashes my tendency to rant. I get too angry, maudlin, pompous, etc. If I am going to indulge in a rant, I think it would be better to do it in a less public place, like a discussion forum. Some of the ways I popped off in the LJ comments now seem inappropriate.

Third reservation: The public private dichotomy weirds me out. Livejournal functions like a diary, encouraging one to write rough drafts on things which may have no significance to anyone but oneself. Yet it's available to the whole world, making one self-conscious about the audience. Sometimes it seems to incorporate the creepiest aspects of both public and private writing in one exhibitionist muck.
In January 2004, about six months into my membership, I wrote a post about the retirement of the original camgirl and made this observation:
Remember pre-jennicam days? 1996? When the idea of putting yourself out 24/7 was fucking odd? When Exhibitionist Nation was muttering "look at me" rather than screaming it? At the time, the Real World kids seemed insanely shameless. Hyper-surveillance may have already been fact, but it was sure before our awareness of it. In 1996, did you know such a state of global TMI would exist, let alone that you'd be eagerly participating in it? That the trend of people submitting their asses to be judged online - without getting paid - would not only be normal but passé?

I thought of Ana and Jenni and Tanya and Josh when I witnessed something the other day. This group of youths were all dressed up and getting in cars for a night out, but were held up by this one couple. A guy was holding up his cell phone and telling a girl to pose for the camera but she wouldn't. I don't know if they were dating, or just met, but they way he was hassling her would have been hella creepy either way. He might have been holding her purse to get her to co-operate. This tableaux - him holding out the phone in a casual assumption of entitlement like it was nothing to play along with the tech, she turning her head and raising a hand in a display of modesty which seemed quite dramatic and so last century compared to the tiny device - summed up the low-key grotesquery of our times. Not that every time is not grotesque, but this is ours.

So where does this leave us? Well, sitting with a computer, of course, most likely alone, unless you are in one of those rare "hey look at this" modes. The solitary nature of looking at a monitor is how we slip into TMI, I think. It's easy to forget one is world wide - you only you see yourself typing on a keyboard. The electronic swiftness allows for more lack of thought. With speed and solitude it's easy write and send a regrettable things without considering how others may react until after the click. Public self-embarrassment is still possible with waiting periods and visible audiences, but it's a far smaller crowd which can doff trou - emotionally or otherwise - if there's a chance for self-awareness to creep back in.
Link2 said it all|what you say?

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