Category Archives: Authoritah

A few thoughts about the press craziness w/ Spicer and Conway:

I guess we know what it takes to get me blogging again.

Before we continue, watch this press conference if you haven’t already (warning, auto-play video – also, make note of the headline that we never thought we’d see from CNN):

Right now the Trump Administration (and the GOP in general) are appealing to the crowd that thinks Megyn Kelly is a liberal.

Read that again. Let that sink in.

One, the media market that represents is not large enough to make currying favor in exchange for access a worthwhile survival strategy in the ever-present competition for eyeballs. Sure, there will always be some who write puff pieces, but I suspect the press we’re about to see is more reminiscent of the coverage of Bill Clinton’s White House (who was seen as an outsider by the BW press) than The Shrub.

Why would I say that?

Conway said “I think we’ll have to re-think our relationship with the press” in response to Chuck Todd (OMG, this was too much bullshit for CHUCK TODD), and he completely ignored that very open threat, because he’s already in adversarial mode, and this was not the most hostile bit of commentary that day. It didn’t start with the Inauguration then, either. Trump laid the groundwork for a hostile press with two actions:

1. At the press-conference/infomercial about his hotel, he played the press by telling them it was going to be a comment about his birtherism, and only throwing them one line at the end.
2. He then denied the press pool cameras’ designated producer access to the post-conference camera walk-a-long afterward.

The media’s response? Pull the pool entirely. At the time I was stunned, because I had never even heard of that being done with coverage of that level of politics.

Seriously, Trump has worked hard to get the usually power-friendly and complacent media to this point, and I suspect this is just the beginning, IF WE HELP. Let them know we don’t want this treatment to be reserved for the Trump Administration. There is an entire Republican Congressional Caucus that needs this treatment, too. Hell, cover all of Congress that way, we won’t mind.

Unwanted Advice from a Straight White Guy, Part I

Dear Jack Burkham:
It has come to the attention of this Straight White Guy that you have taken up a new cause:

Jack Burkman, head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm J.M. Burkman & Assoc. who is seeking to ban gays from the NFL, says he intends to build a national coalition to boycott any football franchise that picks openly gay football player Michael Sam in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

In a release issued Thursday, Burkman said he would “leverage his political clout” to ensure that the franchise that selects the 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end from Missouri would get “roughed up financially.”

Oh really?

What makes you think that if Rush Limbaugh and his Flying Monkeys couldn’t intimidate the NFL, that you have a hope in hell of doing so? It didn’t stop the draft pick, even though everyone believed the shit-storm was coming. See, the NFL is full of the cut-throat business types the Republican Party claims to love, and they have decided it’s time for you to go under the bus.

You have decided that you can have the capitalist ruthlessness and the religious dogma all at the same time.* You can’t. I will say that in the modern America you have been largely responsible for creating, the dogma will lose, because the dogma doesn’t make sure you can pay rent (okay, for a few of you it does, but not many).

* Let’s not even get into the mythified cowboy exceptionalism, because that’s a load of bullshit too.

Honesty and Justice

So an inmate was sentenced to death for raping and killing a young woman, and the parents are thankful for justice.

Was justice really served? What is justice, anyway? Can a black defendant accused and convicted of killing a white girl receive justice? More to the point, does this manner of death serve Justice in any way?* What objective “balance of suffering” is maintained, and if there isn’t one, why should we even try to maintain it? Are the people who are just fine with this also fine with the very shady way in which the choice of method has been made? Probably, the lives of the convicted (especially if they’re convicted and brown) are cheap, and their suffering is invisible. The only way that Clayton Lockett’s death, strapped down to a gurney in the antithesis of an operating theater, convulsing in agony, does not make the universe a better place. There is an argument to be made that the death of someone who rapes and kills might make it a less crappy place, I’m not going to tackle that one right now, except perhaps tangentially. What I will say is that suffering, whether intentional or merely a by-product, does not contribute to producing that elusive and ill-defined thing we call “justice.” Lockett’s agony did not ease any of Stephanie Neiman’s suffering that we can tell. What it does do is feed the desire for vengeance and spectacle. Neiman’s parents got to see the Lockett’s horrible death, and it apparently eased their minds a little. I don’t think that’s a good thing, to consider that old exchange of agony for agony in any way just or healing. It feeds the desire to make an example of some “other,” while establishing the value of “your people” over that “other.” Never mind that the other group will not learn the lessons the authorities hope they will,** the demonstration of who has the power to do horrible things to others has played out, and the system built on that violence stands relatively unscathed. The vengeance machine has paused, but is not broken. There will be another family that calls for blood, and another (or the same) set of authorities to oblige them.

Whatever Justice is, I’m pretty sure that integrity and honesty are integral to it, especially to ourselves. So do ask yourself the question, and answer it honestly: how do you feel about this death, would you feel differently if he had been a she, had been white, or both? Would you feel disappointment if you’d known this gruesome death was a possibility, but instead he died (relatively) peacefully? What does this death serve (or harm) inside you that isn’t Justice, and how do you feel about it? Are we even looking at the question of “how do we help the surviving family and community heal from the horror that was done to Stephanie Neiman, and stopping the (hopefully correctly) convicted suspect from raping and killing again,”*** or are we taking the easy way out and feeding our basest desires?

Be honest before you attempt to speak about whether justice was done.

* I like that they published the chosen “last meals.” Nice cherry on top of this Kafkaesque story.
** I’m pretty sure the only message received is that the suffering of people who can identify in any way with Lockett is not a major concern to anyone in the state of Oklahoma.
*** The question of the correctness of the conviction is moot to both Neiman and Lockett now, and they won’t be doing anything at all except decomposing. In that sense a sort of balance has been achieved, but to what end?

This Is Some Bullshit.

From Russia Today:

The federal agency for mass media control has started to test software to automatically monitor online media for the use of obscene language, both in articles and in user comments.

A spokesman for the Roskomnadzor agency, Vadim Ampelonskiy, told the mass circulation daily Izvestia that the system was expected to be launched before the end of the year. The cost of the project is estimated at 25 million rubles or about $694,000. Technicians are making lists of keywords for the searches as they manually monitor the Russian language sector of the internet.

The current version of the software only scans text, but in the future it will be also work with audio and video files, Ampelonskiy said.

The monitoring of the internet for obscene language has become necessary as in April 2013 President Vladimir Putin signed into force a federal law banning the use of obscene language in mass media under threat of fines up to 200,000 rubles ($5,500). Breaking the law will result in an official warning to the media outlet and two such warning within 12 months could mean the outlet’s government license is revoked.The law applies both to text prepared by editorial teams and to user comments if they are publicly accessible.

I’d love to be proven wrong (only because I like learning and becoming less incorrect), but by the time a society gets around to petty bullshit like this, free political speech is a distant memory (if it was ever present at all).

This Isn’t an Action Movie

So Byron Smith’s home had been broken into before.

So Nick Brady and Haile Kifer were probably involved in at least one other break-in, and were suspected of stealing drugs.

Listen to this man disable, then kill first Nick, then Haile and tell me whether each person in their own home should be an unaccountable judge, jury, and executioner. Warning, this audio is of two human beings being killed, plus a self-justifying rant afterward.

He was convicted of first-degree murder.

Now I don’t think it’s appropriate to answer deadly, ill-defined paranoia with not-deadly amateur psychology, but there is no doubt that there is a violent and dangerous underlying problem. This is a more sane reaction. Remove the laws that support a crazed fantasy: that actions you take with a weapon are unaccountable to anyone. Sure, let’s have a saner gun control policy. There also needs to be a re-thinking of the Cowboys & Indians legal regime that’s been built around them. Complete with racial injustice.

Yes, I’m a handgun owner. But I live in a world with people who have a reasonable expectation that I won’t shoot them. Don’t their wishes have some weight in this matter too?

May Day

It’s very interesting to compare different past perspectives. Start with “International May Day and American Labor Day a holiday expressing working class emancipation versus a holiday exalting labor’s chains,” by Boris Reinstein:

    During the present period in history that the present generation is going through[,] the struggle for supremacy between Capital and Labor is occupying a more prominent position at the front of the stage. Here in America[,] the material conditions necessary for the triumph of Labor in this struggle,—for the realization of Socialism—are by far more ripe than in any other country.

The author goes on to describe an almost Marxist view of the arc of history. Increasing concentrations of wealth and power inevitably lead to the overthrow of one or more autocrats by the dispossessed. It’s fierce, yet optimistic, and for good reason. The Haymarket Affair (which May Day is a remembrance of) are twenty years in the past, and Labor has actually made a few small gains since then (though they were huge for the day). It’s to the point that the American Federation of Labor (the AFL in the AFL-CIO) is seen in this pamphlet as what we would call a “sellout” today (to be fair, in many ways they were, especially when race was involved).

Fast forward to the very end of 1958, and President Eisenhower does his very best to justify this critique from almost 50 years prior, by proclaiming May first to be “Law Day” (emphasis mine):

Whereas a free people can assure the blessings of liberty for themselves only if they recognize the necessity that the rule of law shall be supreme, and that all men shall be equal before the law; and

Whereas this Nation was conceived by our forefathers as a nation of free men enjoying ordered liberty under law, and the supremacy of the law is essential to the existence of the Nation; and

Whereas appreciation of the importance of law in the daily lives of our citizesn(sic) is a source of national strength which contributes to public understanding of the necessity for the rule of law and the protection of the rights of the individual citizen; and

Whereas by directing the attention of the world to the liberty under law which we enjoy and the accomplishments of our system of free enterprise, we emphasize the contrast between our freedom and the tyranny which enslaves the people of one-third of the world today; and

Whereas in paying tribute to the rule of law between men, we contribute to the elevation of the rule of law and its application to the solution of controversies between nations:

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Friday, May 1, 1959, as Law Day in the United States of America.

Think about the political meanings behind attempting to co-opt the day that many peoples think of as having truly set in motion the struggle for worker’s rights. Set on top of that the attempt to make it a day for respecting the status quo. Many things have changed in the United States’ political landscape, but not all. For as long as the Republicans have existed, the rule of law has been a synonym for preserving wealth for the wealthy.

This proclamation was made during the second Red Scare, and I suspect for a reason that the modern GOP has largely forgotten: Labor unrest is not something foreign to the United States. It is part of our history, and at this rate will be again.

Revisiting a sick feeling in my stomach.

I was reading Debi Smith’s article A Christmas Story” over at Alternet, and when I followed a link within it and went back to her commentary on the suppression of dissent that was taking place before the election, and probably still is. My hope is that the artificial things created to divide us and shroud the truth fail sooner, rather than later. My Christmas wish is that we get our country back… I think it’s been a lot longer than we realize since it’s been gone.

Note from SB 07/14: “/b/ was never good.” is a sentiment that can be applied to almost any human enterprise. We look into the past with rose-colored glasses quite often, but that’s no reason to not try and make things better.