Statistics, Race-Baiting, And Lies

August 1, 2013

Immediately following the Not Guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, the hysterical editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress wrote a typically hysterical response. Also typical for TP, he got his facts all wrong.

The content of Six Million Trayvons: How The George Zimmerman Mindset Has Rigged The Justice System Against Young Black Men is nearly dwarfed by its title — just seven bullet point citing statistics that supposedly expose the ingrained racism of our police and courts. Yet this brief piece is brimming with inaccuracies, deceptions, and the vilest of race-bating innuendo.

This is more than just sloppy journalism. Writer and TP founder, Judd Legum, draws heavily on The New Jim Crow, a racist polemic by Michelle Alexander. Not only does the US justice system suffer from institutionalized racism, Alexander claims, there’s a vast conspiracy to replace Jim Crow laws with incarceration:

“Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to … engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination … are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Alexander’s argument runs something like this:
1. Jim Crow denied blacks the vote
2. A felon can’t vote
3. Blacks are much more likely to commit a felony than whites
4. Ergo: Convicting blacks for felonies = Jim Crow

This conversion from overt discriminatory laws to covert felonization was both stealthy and willful: “The new system had been developed and implemented swiftly, and it was largely invisible, even to people, like me, who spent most of their waking hours fighting for justice.” (Or just maybe, it’s “largely invisible” because it doesn’t exist!)

Legum attempts to substantiate Alexander’s conspiracy theory by deceptive presentation of crime statistics. Below, each point is addressed one-by-one.

1. A black male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of spending some portion of his life in prison. A white male born the same year has just a 6% chance. [Sentencing Project]

This 5.3:1 ratio correlates well with the 7:1 disparity in the commission of crimes, blacks vs. whites. It is not evidence per se of racism in the penal system.

Legum insinuates that police go out of their way to arrest more black perps than whites. But FBI reports on crime statistics show that, by race, arrest rates and the rates of commissions of crimes correlate extremely closely. (In 2011, whites were actually slightly more likely to be arrested for their violent crimes than were blacks.)

Similar findings first appeared in The Color of Crime (“TCOC”), a 1999 study that stirred great controversy because the authors were white supremacists. Though TCOC often overreached, especially when analyzing hate crimes and inter-racial crime, its presentation of crime-by-race data was accurate: blacks as a demographic do indeed commit crimes, especially violent crimes, at a far higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group.

Critics were reduced to the intentionally misleading — “[p]eople of color are disproportionately arrested, sentenced and incarcerated when compared to white people accused of similar offenses” — or the obtuse: one community leader rejected the FBI data on the grounds that it omitted “corporate crime” committed mostly by whites.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, while not objecting to the raw data, insisted that “socioeconomic factors including poverty, education, social status and urban residence account far better for criminal behavior than race.”

Nevertheless, the fact remains that blacks are more frequently incarcerated because blacks more frequently commit crimes.

2. In major American cities, as many as 80% of young African-American men have criminal records. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

That’s over 3x higher than the national average for adults. Where Alexander spots a racist conspiracy, The Southern Poverty Law Center finds socio-economic factors at play. Instead of pointing a finger at the legal system and its commensurate response to the high urban crime rate, shouldn’t we address the culture and environment that produce so many urban criminals?

3. African-Americans who use drugs are more than four times as likely to be incarcerated than whites who use drugs. African Americans constitute 14% of the population and 14% of monthly drug users. But African-Americans represent 34% of those arrested for a drug offense and 53% of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. [American Bar Association]

Legum deceitfully compares drug use rates with drug arrest arrest rates, as most arrests are for drug sales. (FTR, in 2011, illicit drug use was 8.7% among whites, 10.0% among blacks.) Nor is any distinction made for the type of drug involved.

Blacks are 2 1/2 times more likely to belong to gangs as whites. A large percentage of those arrested for drug violations are gang members. Around 30% of crimes committed by gangs are related to drug sales, and often involve the use of a gun. Nearly half of all youth gang members are involved in street drug sales, greatly increasing their odds of being arrested.

Considerable disparity does exist in the severity of punishment received by black drug offenders vs. whites. But as the very ABA paper cited in the article concludes, this is not due to overt racism, rather “unanticipated consequences” of “ostensibly race-neutral policies.” Foremost is the poor “quality of defense counsel” available most black perps: “too often the lawyers who provide defense services are inexperienced, fail to maintain adequate client contact, and furnish services that are simply not competent.” Another key factor is the profusion of “drug laws that penalize drug offenses that take place within a certain distance of a school more harshly than other drug crimes.” As blacks are more likely to live in urban areas, “blacks convicted of a drug offense are subject to harsher penalties than whites committing a similar offense in a less-populated area.”

The ABA also found that

“[a]t the sentencing stage, low-income substance abusers are also disadvantaged compared to defendants with resources. Given the general shortage of treatment programs, a defendant who has private insurance to cover the cost of treatment is in a much better position to make an argument for a nonincarcerative sentence than one who depends on publicly funded treatment programs.”

Now, is that racist, or economic?

4. In seven states, African Americans constitute 80% or more of all drug offenders sent to prison. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

If you want to exaggerate the severity of a problem, just cherry-pick the data and pass it off as a new stat. Apparently, the overall 53% rate cited in #3 wasn’t quite awful enough for TP’s creative class, white-guilt self-flagellation.

5. Black students are three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. One in five black boys receive an out-of-school suspension. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who commissioned the study, said “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” [New York Times]

Nowhere in the NYT article or the Dept. of Education’s report is there a single, concrete piece of data showing racial bias, only innuendo. Comparing generic data, lumped together from every school district in America and for every offense regardless of type or severity, is statistically worthless.

Statements like “Black students are punished more harshly when committing the same offenses as white students” are meaningless when “same offense” is defined as ‘anything leading to a suspension.’

Despite Duncan’s inflammatory conjectures, the Christian Science Monitor notes that:

“One thing experts do agree on is that the causes for the discrepancies are complex. Some urban schools with the highest suspension and expulsion rates also have high populations of poor black students, a higher-than-average percentage of whom come from single parent families. Other studies have shown that children from such homes are more prone to disciplinary problems.”

The Education Dept. study, the Monitor reports, “also suggests that the problems are inherent in how American schools are set up, with the lowest paid and least experienced teachers most often working at poorer, urban schools with more discipline problems.” Once again, we encounter socio-economic factors, not racism.

A 2009 study of North Carolina public schools by Josh Kinsler confirms this. Firstly, Kinsler looked only at 6th and 9th graders, to reduce the effect of any ‘reputation bias’ among teachers & principles. He then compared punishment rates across schools, by type of infraction, and between whites and blacks in the same school. His findings are striking:

“Across schools, black 9th grade students receive 22% longer suspensions than white students when committing simple rule violations. This gap disappears entirely when black and white student suspensions are compared within schools…. Within schools, black and white students are equally likely to be suspended and receive similar suspension durations conditional on behavior and a host of other observable characteristics.”

The only racial bias Kinsler uncovered was unexpected: black principals tend to mete out harsher punishments than their white colleagues, especially in schools with large black student bodies.

6. Black youth who are referred to juvenile court are much more likely to be detained, referred to adult court or end up in adult prison than their white counterparts. Blacks represented 28% of juvenile arrests, 30% of referrals to juvenile court, 37% of the detained population, 35% of youth judicially waived to criminal court and 58% of youth admitted to state adult prison. [National Council on Crime And Delinquency]

Again, Legum neglects to mention any mitigating factors, leaving the reader to assume racism is at work. Yet the very paper cited, Justice For Some, admits:

“It is not clear whether this overrepresentation is the result of differential police policies and practices (targeting patrols in certain low-income neighborhoods, policies requiring immediate release to biological parents, group arrest procedures); location of offenses (African American youth using or selling drugs on street corners, White youth using or selling drugs in homes); different behavior by youth of color (whether they commit more crimes than White youth); different reactions of victims to offenses committed by White and youth of color (whether White victims of crimes disproportionately perceive the offenders to be youth of color); or racial bias within the justice system.”

The NCCD report presents data showing that blacks, 17% of the youth population, were responsible for 27.5% of all youth offenses but 45.6% of all violent crimes committed by youths. As a “growing number of states have adopted legislation to exclude certain serious crimes from the jurisdiction of juvenile court and send them directly to adult court”, one would expect black youths, given their greater prevalence for violent crimes, to be more often charged as adults. Youths committing violent crimes are also more likely to be referred to juvenile court instead of remanded to the custody of a relative.

7. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

This is the sort of moronic non-sequitur that passes for common sense among proglodytes. To imply that racism in the US is worse than it was under Apartheid is the height of insanity.

News flash: crime is always low in police states. Apartheid exerted blanket control over every aspect of the lives of South Africa’s blacks, with an unflinching, militarized police to enforce it. Note Legum won’t compare the US with today’s South Africa, where there’s 55 murders every day, and violent car-jackings are reaching epidemic proportions. Where the police — under a black president — have been re-militarized, and — under a black commissioner — face charges of widespread brutality.

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Blaming the Bogeyman

Unlike Legum’s deceptive bullet points, the real statistics show very little overt racial bias whatsoever in our justice system. What does exist is largely unintentional and linked to socio-economic status. These areas of unfairness must be addressed. But a crusade against the chimera of institutional racism is misinformed, misdirected, and counter-productive. While it may fuel the masochism of ThinkProgress fools, and help dung beetles like Alexander get published, it lets down the very people in whose name these social justice warriors ostensibly act.

In 1911 Booker T. Washington observed

“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

A century later, a new generation are playing the same con game. Instead of attacking the real culprits — poverty, dysfunctional schools & families, a sub-culture that actively promotes crime & violence, the rise of gangs, half a century of flawed, failed social engineering — the race-baiters and their prog facilitators target bogeymen.

So long as groups like ThinkProgress continue to spout lies, charlatans like Alexander promulgate conspiracy theories, and demagogues like Jackson & Sharpton spread hate, the real causes of the problem will never be addressed.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh. All rights reserved.


We Need to Talk About the Zimmerman Verdict

July 16, 2013

The Verdict

Not Guilty was the correct verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.  That is my firm belief, based on the definition of the charges and of self-defense under Florida law, on the sum of the evidence and testimony presented in the trial, which I followed closely, and on the prosecution’s utter failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt pretty much anything.

How a reasoning, informed person could see otherwise baffles me.  Yet many of you, my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, have expressed dismay, disbelief, and rage that Zimmerman was exonerated.  I suggest that your belief in Zimmerman’s guilt is founded on false information, ignorance of the law, &/or faulty logic.  I will attempt here to disabuse you of those.

With alarming frequency, people impute malevolent motives to those who disagree with them.  Since my facts and logic are impeccable, people assume, anyone who disagrees must be a vile [___]-ist.  Dividing us into camps of Good vs. Evil is wrong, it is highly corrosive, and it must end now.

I invite and encourage all of you to debate this important topic with me.  Our first impulse may be to sweep it all under rug, but I earnestly believe that unless we discuss it openly and civilly, things will only fester.  We need to talk.  Show me where my knowledge is deficient, expose my logic as fallacious.  I’d never hold it against you to question what’s inside my head.  I will if you question what’s in my heart.

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All We Know 

Despite rampant speculation, extrapolation, and conjecture, there’s very little of the events of the evening of February 26, 2012 that we know for certain.  We do know that George Zimmerman (“GZ”), a member of the local neighborhood watch, called 911 about an unknown person he believed to be acting suspiciously.  We know his neighborhood had recently suffered a spate of burglaries and home invasions, something that concerned GZ.  As he exited his car and attempted to locate the person in the heavy downpour that night, GZ stayed on line while awaiting the arrival of the police officer he’d requested. Though not required by law to comply with the advisements of a dispatch operator, GZ did indicate he was following the dispatcher’s suggestion to not actively follow the suspicious person. 

We know that Trayvon Martin (“TM”) was walking through the neighborhood that night, returning from a trip to the store.  His friend testified that while on the phone with her that night, TM mentioned an unknown person checking him out, expressed his concern, and his intent to run home.

Approximately four minutes later, GZ and TM encountered each other. It’s unsure if one or the other intentionally precipitated the contact, or whether it was by chance.  Per GZ’s testimony, TM approached him, then punched him without provocation. A police photo and a doctor’s exam showed that GZ received extensive injuries about the face and head, including a broken nose and gashes on the back of his scalp.  The coroner found no fight injuries on TM except some scrapes on the knuckles, consistent with using his fists.  The single eye-witness described GZ laying on his back, TM straddling GZ and furiously beating him.

In a 911 recording we can hear what witnesses confirmed: someone screaming desperately for help for almost a minute.  When questioned by police, TM’s father and brother were unable to identify the voice.  In court they and TM’s mother testified it was TM.  Numerous people in GZ’s circle testified that the voice was GZ’s.

We know GZ shot TM, killing him with a single bullet.

The entire incident, from GZ calling 911, to TM receiving a gunshot wound to the chest, lasted about seven minutes.

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The Law

After questioning GZ, the police found no grounds for arrest.  After reviewing the case, the DA found no reason to convene a grand jury.  Responding to public pressure and meddling by the DoJ, Florida assigned a special prosecutor, who filed a charge of Second Degree Murder against GZ, considered excessive by most legal experts.  Just before the jury was set to deliberate, a lesser charge of Manslaughter was presented for them to consider.

All of us are familiar with the phrase “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  In a civil case, only a preponderance of evidence is required to reach a judgment.  In a criminal case, guilt must  be proven “beyond, and to the exclusion of, a reasonable doubt.”.   If we stray from these principles, if we no longer recoil at the thought of punishing an innocent person, either out of emotion or the ‘desire to send a message’, we sell our liberty cheap.


Second Degree Murder 

Florida law is explicit in what must be proven for Murder 2:

  • The death was caused by the criminal act of (defendant).
  • There was an unlawful killing of (victim) by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

A “series of related actions” may constitute an act if “arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.”  An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” only if:

  1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and
  2. done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and
  3. of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.

GZ committed no crime that evening.  He was well within his legal rights to walk through his neighborhood.  He had the right to follow an unknown person, and challenge them, if that’s what he did.  GZ was licensed to carry a gun, and was operating it properly.

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that GZ either committed a crime, or was acting in a way no reasonable person would ever act.

GZ’s actions cannot be interpreted as pursuant to any “single design or purpose” other than identifying a stranger.  That GZ had resolved to shoot someone that night is completely unsupported by evidence.  If you haven’t listened to the entire 911 call, do so.

To presume guilt, you must rule out all possible alternative interpretations of GZ actions.

Neither do GZ’s actions, nor his personal character as revealed by witnesses, point to “a depraved mind without regard for human life.”

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that GZ possessed a depraved mind.


Manslaughter

The jury was also allowed to consider the lesser charge of Manslaughter:

  • (Defendant) intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of (victim).
  • (Defendant) intentionally procured an act that caused the death of (victim).
  • The death of (victim) was caused by the culpable negligence of (defendant).

Judge Nelson’s instructions to the jury were meticulous in laying out the considerable burden of proof, and deserve quoting in full:

Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence. But culpable negligence is more than a failure to use ordinary care toward others. In order for negligence to be culpable, it must be gross and flagrant. Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.

The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.

GZ was not obliged to curtail his movements simply because there was a chance the stranger might punch him.  (There is no “eggshell ego” principle).

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that GZ must have known his actions would likely result in a death.


Self Defense

Contrary to popular belief, GZ did not invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.  GZ claimed he was unable to retreat, so his act of self-defense was Justifiable Homicide:

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon the defendant….

To presume guilt, you must prove that, after his nose had been broken and while his head was being slammed against the pavement, GZ’s “fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” was not reasonable.

_

The Wrong Guy

“Ah, well, technically…” you may mutter, while remaining unhappy with the verdict.  I suspect that’s because ‘you’ve got the wrong guy’, as the line in the old crime dramas used to go.  Two wrong guys, actually.

Within hours of the news breaking, the media and other agitators were spinning a tale about it.  Some crazed, racist vigilante had hunted down a little black boy clutching a bag of candy.  Yet again.  Blacks were outraged; whites both shamed and ashamed.

That tale was false, concocted from bits of biases, stereotypes, resentments, misinformation, and a whole slew of lies.  The very first lie (one still being repeated to this day) was the photo released of the departed, a cherubic thirteen year-old:

cherub13

‘What kind of sick bastard could gun down a little child like that?’  you must have thought.  I know; I thought it, too.  Only TM wasn’t thirteen.  He was seventeen, athletic, 6’0″, 170 lbs.:

T33ZY

To get a true perspective of the physical bulk of this “boy”, look , if you can, at the crime scene photo.

What you never learned if you only watched  Pravda  MSNBC, what the jury never got to hear, was that TM was serving a 10-day expulsion from school, his third.  That he’d recently been caught with stolen jewelry.  That he’d boasted on twitter about punching a school-bus driver, and how he’d learned to drop someone with a sucker-punch.  That he’d been caught at school carrying marijuana and that the coroner found THC in his system.  That the skittles and fruit-flavored soft drink he was carrying were actually two of the three ingredients (along with codeine cough syrup) for “Lean” or “Purple Drank”, a trendy & intoxicating rapper’s concoction TM used to talk about making.

The first blow to the Zimmerman-as-racist fable came when his photo was released.   The distinctly latino features failed to match their cartoon-image of a racist. The hate-mongers quickly ‘pivoted’, labeling GZ a “white-” or “self-described” hispanic.  In the same way we describe our president as “half-white” or a “self-described black.”  Pravda MSNBC lent a helping hand by editing GZ’s 911 call to make him sound racist.

Then, as more kept coming out that belied the racist slander — GZ has black relatives, mentored a young black teenager, spoke out against police brutality against a black suspect, has several black friends, is a registered Democrat!!! — the smears shifted to framing him as some frustrated, out-of-control “cop wannabe.”  That caricature, too, was resoundingly undermined.  If you haven’t yet listened to the testimony of the many character witnesses who spoke on GZ’s behalf, do so.

All that was despicable, but let’s not lose focus on the crux of the matter. GZ had nothing to prove.  Perhaps you find him creepy, inept, whatever.  Doesn’t matter. You don’t need to like George Zimmerman to conclude his innocence.  You only need a reasonable doubt about his guilt, and there is an ocean of doubt.  Finally, and most importantly:  you, me, all of us — need to adhere to our Law, or we all lose our freedom.

 

Update 7.23.13:  Some have questioned what caused the Sanford Police to treat the the incident as self-defense.  Here, a photo taken by police of GZ just after he was brought in for questioning:

george-zimmerman closeup


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


The America Transformed! Film Festival

July 4, 2013

When barack obama first ran for president, he promised to transform America.  Five years later, the transformation is nearly complete.  It’s not the kind of future you all envisioned when you voted for him, and it’s certainly nothing like the shiny, false promises he duped you into believing.

Were our Founding Fathers to see what’s become of America, they’d be horrified.  Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, they struggled and fought a war to bring forth a new nation, conceived in liberty. Then, in the Spring of 1787, they met in Philadelphia to craft a lasting document to forever preserve justice, welfare, and freedom for the American people.  When Benjamin Franklin exited the hall where the Constitution had just been drafted, so the story goes, a woman on the street asked, “What have we got: a monarchy or a republic?” “A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

And for two centuries we kept it, but now it’s all but slipped through our fingers.  Free speech, freedom of assembly — remember when we had those?  Protection from illegal search and seizure, the right to a speedy trial and to face your accusers?  Nice to have, yes, but what with the war on terror and all ….   Oh, and the pursuit of happiness?  When a CEO makes 478 times what his employees do, there ain’t much happiness left over to pursue.

All good things must come to an end, they say.  When the Constitution was written, it granted liberties and opportunity unparalleled in human history.  It was a great gift, purchased with blood and toil, to future generations.  We’re the generation that pawned that gift for base amusement, for comforts and distractions.

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved”, wrote Sam Adams.  “On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”

While we distract ourselves with social media, sports, gadgets, and reality shows, President  Emperor obama wipes his ass with the Constitution, laughing at you for being the suckers that let him get away with it.

Since no one in America today seems to have the motivation, much less the balls, to heed Sam Adam’s call that “the liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards”, we might as well do one of the only things we’re good at anymore, and watch some television.

Following are some films that will help you acclimate to Emperor obama’s transformed America and your new, unfree role in it:

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LIVES OF OTHERS  (2006)

Where America now has FISA and PRISM, East Germany bugged your apartment.  Like here, in the DDR everything you said was monitored.  Adherence to the party line forwarded a career, while one careless comment could ruin it; criticism of the government put you behind bars.  Fear begat silence.

Defiant Hero:  Gerd Wiesler

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SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (2005)

When the nazis prosecuted their political opponents, they used the old Weimar criminal code — they just changed the definitions of the crimes.  So, next time you say, ‘I don’t care if they listen to my phone conversations, because I’m not doing anything illegal,’ ask: how long before they change  what’s “illegal.”

Defiant Martyr: Sophie Scholl

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THE HUNGER GAMES
(2011)

Following the ravages of global warming, famine, and civil war, an elite minority live in decadent luxury while the general populace, overworked and underfed, struggle to survive.

Defiant Hero: Katniss Everdeen

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ROLLERBALL (1975)

Corporations rule the world.  The business elite and celebrities enjoy private villas, expensive wines, and jet-setting.  The proletariat are kept quiet with mindless entertainment and violent sports.

Defiant Hero: Jonathan E

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1984 (1984)

Where the term “Orwellian” comes from.  In a totalitarian state, the populace is under 24/7 surveillance, distracted from their hardships by the threat of a war that never ends.  The language has been intentionally dumbed down to stifle independent thought.  Love for dictator, Big Brother, is maintained by directing hate at a scapegoat, Emmanuel Goldstein.  The state practices total oppression simply because it can.

Defiant Hero: None.  It’s a real downer.

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V FOR VENDETTA  (2005)

A fascist party, promising to save the country from the threat of wars, anarchy and disease, is swept into power.  All political dissent is brutally crushed, the media is co-opted to spew propaganda.

Defiant Heroes: Guy Fawkes; V; Evie; everyone.

_

‘But,‘ you protest, ‘things are that bad here!’  Yet.  Liberty is a fragile thing.  It requires constant care & attention to maintain, and we have neglected our liberty to the point where it has withered and all but died.  Once lost, liberty can only be regained at great cost, if at all. Once imposed, tyranny rapidly entrenches itself, and grows steadily worse.  Watch the movies, and get used to your future.

Or, remember just one line of dialog, and act on it:

People should not fear their governments;  governments should fear their people.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


Parks And Wreck

April 29, 2013

The California state legislature is currently entertaining a bill that would make it legal for homeless people to live in city parks, sleep in parked cars, to cook, bathe and relieve themselves on public property, and to panhandle with impunity.

The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act (AB 5), the brainchild of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, is a monstrosity of run-on sentences, grandiose pronouncements, and baffling non sequiturs, all composed in a verbose, convoluted & euphemistic language that only superficially resembles English.  In and of itself, the composition of AB 5 shows why our nation is suffering slow strangulation by legislation.

The actual proposals and underlying intent of AB 5 are extremist, threaten to disrupt civic cohesiveness, erode the quality of life, and undermine the rule of law, while offering little of substance to the homeless.

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Homeless Haven

With their mild climates, profusion of charitable groups, and lax attitudes,  California’s cities prove hospitable to those who live permanently on the street.  Current PC conventions refer to such people as “the homeless”. In the past, they’ve been known as hobos, vagrants, or bums (derived from the German Bummler, or ‘drifter’, and akin to the Irish term ‘traveler’.)   “Homeless” was coined to elicit empathy by conjuring the image of otherwise respectable people & families temporarily displaced by bad fortune.   Homeless families, though, tend to avail themselves of shelters, and their average stay is three weeks — enough time for them to sort out their problem and arrange for a place to stay.

The vast majority of people living on the street do so on a permanent basis.  Most are addicts and/or mentally ill, some are runaways.  For various reasons, they decline offers of temporary shelter, and cannot or will not work toward finding a regular home.  Homelessness is their preferred state of existence. A surprising number of individuals and advocacy groups feel that weakening or abolishing vagrancy laws is an adequate solution to their problems.

Mental Diarrhea as Legislation

AB 5 begins — though it’s hard to say where or even whether Ammiano’s mental diarrhea has a beginning, middle or end — with the fallacious argument that, since California had unjust ordinances in the past (e.g. the so-called Ugly Laws prohibiting “people with ‘unsightly or disgusting’ disabilities to appear in public”), any ordinance that makes it hard to be a vagrant is also unjust. He notes that, while the California constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, disability, orientation etc., a person’s “housing status” is not covered.  If that was Ammiano’s real concern, a one-sentence bill adding the words “housing status” would have sufficed — and probably already been passed on a voice vote.

Next comes a litany of the mistreatments endured by the homeless, who’ve been denied:

  • “Housing and employment as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address“;
  • “The ability to make certain purchases or enter certain contests as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address….”  (No Publishers’ Clearing House for you!);
  • “Access to safe, clean restrooms, water, and hygienic supplies … especially with the proliferation of closures of public restrooms”;

And so on. Public shelters are chided for not properly respecting the “dignity” of lesbians, trans-people, pet owners, et al.  The lack of adequate mental health services is also mentioned in passing, but merits no specific provisions in the bill.

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The Privileged Underprivileged

Despite repetitious, long-winded assertions that new legislation is required to give the homeless equal protection under the law, AB 5 would actually afford vagrants special rights and immunities not enjoyed by the rest of us.  These would include the right to:

  • Remain in any public space “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” even after the “homed” must exit;
  • Stand, kneel, squat, sit, lie down or sleep indefinitely on benches, sidewalks, etc.;
  • Place or set down an unlimited quantity of personal possessions in public indefinitely;
  • Store scavenged goods on public property for reuse and recycling;
  • Representation by a public attorney for offenses & citations for which “homed” citizens do not receive free counsel;
  • Prepare and share food, bathe, and attend to personal hygiene in public.  The phrase “urinating in public” was struck in committee, but the broader provisions of the bill would still legalize it.  (It’s a bit amazing that in the midst of drafting AB 5, Ammiano forgot that humans also produce large quantities of feces.)

Civil servants, who on their own initiative allow the homeless to make use of public buildings or who distribute public supplies to them, would be immune from punishment.  Panhandling would also be decriminalized, on the grounds that the homeless have a “right to self-employment.”

_

Parks and Wreck

Panhandling and vagrancy have long been banned by cities, for good reason: they are anti-social behaviors that make a city unpleasant to live in or to visit.

Panhandling is begging, often done in an aggressive, threatening manner, something I’ve personally experienced.  Traveling by BART to San Francisco one Friday night years ago, I exited onto a deserted Market Street and was immediately accosted by a panhandler.  He ignored my “sorry, no change on me”, got into my personal space and started demanding dollar bills.  I spent several, tense minutes staring him down, bracing for the fight he alluded to, before my ride showed up.  Had I been a tourist, instead of visiting a new girlfriend, I likely would have written off San Francisco for good.

Vagrancy defeats the entire purpose of public parks and other areas: to provide aesthetically-pleasing spaces to be shared and enjoyed by all.  Vagrants abuse and monopolize a public space by converting it into their private space, and in doing so, spoil its appeal and accessibility to others.

Yet, under AB 5, A city would be permitted to implement its local ordinances only if:

  1. Its county provides 24-hour “health and hygiene centers” for the homeless, and;
  2. The municipality does not lie within a federally-designated “area of concentrated unemployment or underemployment or an area of labor surplus”, and;
  3. “The public housing waiting list maintained by the county contains fewer than 50 persons.”

As the League of California Cities points out, all of these requirements are beyond the control of a city.  Further, “AB 5 would create costly mandates, blur the line between local jurisdiction authority, and undermine the local decision making process.”

Now, this might be Tom Ammiano’s way of indirectly pressuring for social reforms, but it sure is a dumbass way to run a government.

_

The Beggars of Calcutta, California

Some on the Right would like to force vagrants to ‘take personal responsibility’ for themselves.  The thing is, they have taken personal responsibility, and living on the street was what they came up with!  These people are constitutionally incapable of doing better.  If a quadriplegic fell overboard, you wouldn’t shout, ‘it’s sink or swim, buddy!’

Science writer Malcolm Gladwell explored the case of one homeless man in Denver, a substance abuser with personality disorders, who after years of repeated run-ins with the police and visits to the ER, froze to death.  Gladwell ran the numbers on the cost of the public services expended on this one man, and discovered it would have been cheaper for the city to have given him an apartment and a full-time caretaker for life.

One might imagine such a ‘socialist’ approach appealing to Ammiano and his  ilk.  In truth, they are no different from the brahmins of Calcutta, perfectly fine with their lowest caste living in squalor.

A truly compassionate society would never consider permission to camp in parks a valid solution.  Instead, vagrants would be removed from public spaces and placed in shelters.  This would be compulsory, for the very act of choosing permanent homelessness indicates an incapacity to care or reason for oneself.  Rather than being tossed spare change to buy Night Train, these fellow human beings would receive — in addition to proper shelter and basic amenities — professional treatment, counseling, and support for their addictions, mental conditions, or familial issues.

AB 5 is not a real solution, and it’s certainly not compassionate. At best, it’s demagoguery; at worst, a plan to convert our precious parks and plazas into lawless refugee camps.  No sane society would contemplate such a step.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


A Tale of Two Amendments

April 23, 2013

In West Virginia yesterday, a 14 year old junior high student, Jared Marcum, was ordered by a teacher to remove his t-shirt, which the teacher considered offensive.  Marcum refused, and attempted to explain to the teacher his right to wear said shirt.  His fellow students in the cafeteria stood on benches and tables and began chanting in support of Marcum.  The police were dispatched and Marcum arrested for “disrupting the school process.”  Here’s what he wore:

nra_shirt_cr

The school’s dress code prohibits

  • Clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases;
  • Clothing that displays advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product.

Mesh tops and dog collars are also (praise be!) banned.  But nothing about political statements or images of guns per se.
_

That Offensive Bill of Rights

It’s impossible to know the full thought process behind the teacher’s action.  What we will be officially told is that he was merely using his discretion to prevent anyone from being offended, or from an argument or dispute arising.  The preposterous claim that Marcum “almost incited a riot” is a flimsy fig leaf, indeed.  It was the teacher’s response to the shirt, not the shirt itself, that sparked the raucous but harmless protest.

Two observations:

1) You can’t offend-proof the entire world.  There’ll always be somebody that’ll be butthurt by something  — a crucifix around someone’s neck might annoy a jew, while a “Jesus Never Existed” t-shirt is bound to steam a christian.  Does this teacher comes down equally hard on students who might offend Bengals fans by wearing a Steelers jersey?;

2) Marcum’s t-shirt was a simple affirmation of:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

(Please tell me this was not a Civics teacher!)

Marcum’s interpretation of the Second Amendment likely differs from that of the teacher, other students, and almost definitely me.  His support for the Bill of Rights, however, ought be shared by all of us, and his free exercise of speech not be abridged.
_

Education or Indoctrination?

The Right complains that the majority of school teachers are liberals, and that they are indoctrinating their students.   The first is an irrefutable fact; the second, I always considered false conjecture.  I’m not so sure anymore. Last year, we heard the (yes, Civics) teacher wrongly tell her students that it was a federal crime to speak out against the president.  Now we have this.

When I was a schoolchild during the era of Nixon Ascendant, it was a comfort when a few of my teachers, always scrupulously neutral in front of the class, clandestinely whispered to me that they were against the war, too.  But, now that I think about it, there was subtle indoctrination as well.  I remember lectures on how wonderful the American Melting Pot was, and being led in song, us little suburban white kids swaying and holding hands with the little bused-in black kids as we belted out “We Shall Overcome”.

That message of accepting diversity and rejecting racism was the same I got at home (sans the singing and hand-holding.)   Isn’t that where those sorts of messages belong?  Did my elementary school teachers have the obligation or the right to countermand the message other classmates were receiving from their parents, that the coons and the spics were lazy, worthless, and to blame for everything?  Those are not rhetorical questions.
_

The Care and Feeding of Your Free Speech Rights

The right to free speech is not absolute in all circumstances or at all times.  The courts have uniformly ruled that, so long as a citizen has access to the exercise of free speech in some areas, it can be limited in others, like a school.   Nor are things like slander, libel, or inciting a riot (for real) — or that most hackneyed of Civics teacher examples, shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre — covered under free speech.  Schools in particular also have a compelling reason to limit the extent of confrontational speech to deter bullying and disruption.

It’s a fine line between proscribing slurs or confrontational behavior, and imposing a cultural or political status quo.  For the greater part, the teachers of my youth did an exemplary job navigating that line.  There are alarming indicators that many of today’s teachers, along with progressives at large, have strayed far over the line.
_

“It Is Known”

In George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones saga, the primitive Dothraki people confirm each statement, whether fact, lore, superstition, wives’ tale or wild rumor, with “it is known.”   Such unquestioning absolutism is rife among the more strident segment of the Progressive Left  (for whom I have coined the term “proglodyte”.)

In the minds of  proglodytes, “it is known” that their view on an host of issues, from gun control to abortion, from the meaning of gender to immigration, is established fact.  Proglodytes also view the world in black and white, with everything “We” believe as Good, and everything “They” believe as Evil.  This leads them to fallaciously attribute, for example, a solidity to their opinion that more gun control is a good thing (and should be taught?) on par with the solidity of the fact that Evolution is true, and that it, but not Intelligent Design or Creationism, should taught.

We cannot, nor should we, prevent teachers from ever influencing their students.  A good Civics teacher would be teaching Heller, and stimulate, not stifle, debate by asking his or her students to compare the opinion and dissent to their own interpretation of the Second Amendment.  In other words, to encourage them to think for themselves.
.

Anyone who espouses an idea must be willing to let that idea stand the test of debate and refutation.  They must be willing to entertain opposing arguments and to permit the expression of antithetical ideas.   The banning of a T-shirt may seem innocuous, but it is the first step down the slippery slope to fascism.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


Letting Go of ‘tamerlane’

April 19, 2013

You all know me as ‘tamerlane’, but my real name is Matt Cavanaugh.

_

My ‘Nym
When I first began commenting and blogging online in the Spring of 2008, I followed the common practice of adopting a screen name.   I like to engage in serious discussions on politics and religion, two subjects with a power to enrage people like no others.  I do so in a venue — the internet  — that, like road rage, provides an anonymity that too often encourages people to act like boors or even monsters.  With practices like “doxxing” and online stalking, not to mention whatever real-life acts that might result from chance interactions with political or religious fanatics, discretion dictated adopting a pseudonym.

I’m a small businessman dependent on the continued good will of a close-knit community.  I doubt that many of my clients, vendors, colleagues or neighbors share my political or religious views.  I’m an atheist in a predominantly religious culture that seems to rate our morals as just slightly less depraved than those of child molesters.  I wanted to avoid any possibility of my views causing friction in this sphere.

Finally, noms de plume are a long & respected tradition.  Having one of my own allowed me to segregate my iconoclastic views & often acerbic style from my overall everyday personality, which is far more mainstream and mellow.  Interestingly, my friends and I often discuss my online persona in the third person, as in ‘what did tamerlane write this time?’ or, ‘was that as you or as tamerlane?’

When I first selected a name, I was tempted to use something like “S. Adams” or “Publius”, the pseudonym of the Federalist Papers’ authors.  I rejected these as overly pretentious.  Instead, I settled on the slightly self-deprecating choice of a 14th century Mongol conqueror.  My decision-making process was, I must admit, a fairly hasty one.  The primary reason I chose ‘tamerlane’ was simply that, like me, “Timur the Lame” was an horseman with a bum leg.

At first, I was occasionally chided for taking the name of “a brutal conqueror and despot.”  (Would you like me better if I’d chosen a gentle conqueror and despot?)  Over time, ‘tamerlane’ the commenter and writer became a recognized entity in his own right.  When friends who first met me online now call or write, they as often as not address me as ‘Tamer’ or ‘T’.  Maybe I should’ve put more thought into the name, but it did the job, and it stuck.

_

My Town
During the past few hours, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the name I write under.  Many of you know that I’m originally from Boston.  I’m proud of my hometown and protective of its witty, warm people and its reputation as a great place to visit and to live.  I’ve been closely following the news of this week’s bombings.  I now live in a rural setting on the other side of the country, and no one I know was injured or killed.  Yet I find the attack has upset me on a very personal level.  That was my town; those were my people.  Don’t you ever fuck with my people.

The news of the hunt for the two bombing suspects has unfolded at a rapid pace over the past night and into this morning.  The suspects murdered one policeman and put another in the hospital.  While fleeing, they threw bombs out the car window.  I didn’t need a map to trace their route; I’ve driven or strolled there many times myself.  One bomber is dead, the other is still on the lam.  They’re brothers, named Dzhokhar and Tamerlan.

_

A Legacy of … Nothing
Tamerlane is a popular name in the former Soviet republics of central Asia, where these brother bombers were born (Chechnya) & raised (Kyrgyzstan) before showing up in my hometown.  The people there, stifled for centuries by — and now willingly falling back in thrall to — the mind-deadening bullshit of islam, have little to be proud of.  No great authors to speak of, no inventors, no magnificent works of art or edifices of grandeur.  Even the ugly, little capitals of their ugly, little dictatorships were built by the Soviets.  About all they have to instill pride is the faded, misunderstood memory of a 14th century Mongol conqueror named Tamerlane.  So they erect equestrian statues in Tamerlane Squares and steer their sputtering Ladas around the potholes of Tamerlane Boulevards.  They name their kids ‘Tamerlan’ and dream hazily of the day when they, too, will march under the crescent banner to sack the cities of the infidels.

At least the original Tamerlane had an appreciation for the knowledge and culture he was appropriating.  A brilliant strategist, he was

… steadfast in mind … he did not care for jesting or lying; wit and trifling pleased him not; truth, even were it painful, delighted him….

Tamerlane taught himself to speak several languages, had histories and the ancient classics read to him while he dined, and even invented a version of chess.  Contemporaries described him as

highly intelligent and very perspicacious, addicted to debate and argument about what he knows and also about what he does not know.

Although nominally a moslem, Tamerlane blended sufism with Mongol shamanism.    Religion to him seemed more an useful tool for justifying his actions than guiding them.  He established his capital at Samarkand, embellished it with the riches and art he’d plundered, and assembled scholars and craftsman there to transform his barbarian empire into a civilized race.  That dream died with him.
_

Envy and Resentment

Tamerlan the bomber didn’t want to embrace Western civilization, he wanted to smash it.  Unlike Boston, international students don’t flock to the great learning institutions of the Caucasus.  Unlike Boston, modern Samarkand could never host a sporting event attracting participants from a hundred nations, because no one in their right mind would ever willingly travel to that shithole.

The bomber brothers were welcomed by Boston and its people.  They were given a good education there, even a college scholarship.  They could have become real Bostonians had they wanted — sang ‘Dirty Water’ with us at Fenway, transposed the ‘r’s at the end of words, watched the fireworks from the Esplanade, even worn green with us on Saint Paddy’s or grabbed a sausage on Saint Anthony’s.  They could have partaken of everything our town, built by successive waves of immigrants, had to offer them: the museums, the culture, the music, the history, the learning, the cuisine, and yes, the public traditions and sporting events.  They rejected and despised everything Boston had to offer, because they had nothing to offer back.

I’ve got Paul Revere, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Leonard Nimoy and Arthur Fiedler to be proud of. I’ve got Samuel Morse, Donna Summer, Robert Gould Shaw and Yaz.  Louisa May Alcott, Winslow Homer, Charles Bulfinch and Helen Keller.  The bomber brothers had nothing of value to inspire them, no one worthy to emulate.  Not even Timur the Lame.  All they had was envy and resentment.
_

Just Me

Like “Adolf”, the name “Tamerlan(e)” can never again be seen without negative connotations.  Miscreant bombers don’t deserve its historic legacy, but I want in no way for my words and thoughts to be misconstrued with their ignorance and their hate.  So it’s time to let ‘tamerlane’ go.  I might consider adopting a new pseudonym later, but for now, at least, I’m just me.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


When -Isms Collide: The Attempted Hijacking of Atheism by Radical Feminism

March 21, 2013

 — by tamerlane

On his atheist/science blog, Pharyngula, PZ Myers chronicles his ongoing junior high drama intellectual debate with feminist blogger Melissa McEwan of Shakesville.  McEwan initially took Myers to task for his snarky slam at Michele Bachmann.  Myers apologized profusely, took down the post, and asked for suggestions on how atheist men could to be more sensitive to women.  McEwan responded with a list of eighteen points, twitted over the course of eighteen minutes.  When Myers expressed “reservations” about the points, noting they applied neither exclusively to atheists nor men, McEwan accused Myers of only feigning willingness to “do better.”  Myers continues to grovel while McEwan chastises.  Which is kinda of funny, considering McEwan is greatly indebted to Myers for sponsoring her and her fellow radical feminists’ attempted hijacking of the new atheist movement.

I, too have considerable reservations with Melissa McEwan’s My Advice to Atheist Men. Disjointed and repetitive, it makes several, serious allegations of “systematic misogyny” among the atheist online community.  Her accusations are vague and overbroad, completely unsubstantiated by example.  Her language & approach are hectoring and not conducive to an open exchange of views.  Just another day in Shakesville, folks.

_

Feminism For Dummies (a.k.a., You Men)

McEwan begins by chiding atheist men for “engaging in misogyny yourselves” and informs them “you [don’t] get to be nasty in explicitly misogynist ways to women who aren’t ‘on your team.'” As evidence, McEwan provides a screenshot of a Pharyngula post wondering whether Michele Bachmann, mouth agape to ingest a giant corn dog, can disengage her jaws like other reptiles.  However puerile, Myers’ comment was a non-gender specific reference to Bachmann’s antediluvian beliefs.  By mislabeling it “sexual objectification”, McEwan cries ‘wolf’.  Indeed, Myers was perhaps the only blogger on the planet to avoid a sexual reference to that photo.  McEwan neglects to provide actual examples of “explicitly misogynist” conduct by atheist bloggers.

She then calls for “zero-tolerance policy for misogyny in your comments. No slurs, no misogynist narratives, no questioning women’s agency.”  A reasonable suggestion, except … does McEwan consider herself the final arbiter of what is misogyny?  Her answer will be: if one woman declares something misogyny, then it’s misogyny — end of discussion.  She also ignores the possibility that the nasty comments may be the work of  anti-atheists.  Further, McEwan’s tendency to use feminist neologisms like “women’s agency” in milieus where most people don’t know their meanings, much less have ‘bought into’ them, is adversarial.

In her list, McEwan intersperses sweeping condemnations of male atheist behavior: her humanity has been questioned; widespread misogynist attacks occur; atheist women “have been treated like a monolith”; women have been denied “opportunities … as contributors, as moderators, as guest posters”.  Typically, McEwan fails to provide evidence — apart from one tweet suggesting she go fuck herself.  Trolls happen, Melissa.  Besides, radfem atheists have a home of their own, Freethoughtblogs.com, run by Myers, where at least 13 of the 36 bloggers are female, including several feminists, LGBTPDQ activists, as well as male fellow-travelers.  Myers has systematically culled any dissenting voices from the blogroll.

_

I Win the Debate

McEwan links two Shakesville lectures posts as a primer “on how to effectively and safely communicate with women about women’s issues.”  In them, McEwan admits to an underlying mistrust of men for their “eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets”.  She repeatedly ridicules men who disagree with her for “trying to prove the point.”  Here we have the tautological “mansplaining” polemic.  The man says ‘but I’m not misogynist,’ and the radfem says ‘yes, you are.  You just proved your misogyny by denying it.’  No further evidence need be produced. Debate, disagreement, are stifled.

Atheist men are instructed to never “play devil’s advocate.  That is not compatible with a safe space for many women.”  McEwan uses “safe space” often, another neologism with a secondary meaning.  In practice, “safe space” equals: ‘You’re not allowed to disagree with me. I win the debate.’  When McEwan writes “[d]on’t appropriate or ignore women’s lived experiences. Let women be the experts on our own lives”, it sets up the polemic: ‘You’re not a woman, so you can’t understand.  I win the debate.’

Also forbidden is any attempt to discuss misogyny “objectively.”  In her “Feminism 101 for Dudes”, McEwan explains that asking a “woman with intersectional marginalizations” (yet another neologism) to discuss “in the abstract” an issue “is to fail to understand that one’s womanhood is inextricably linked to the other aspects of one’s identity.”  Ergo, all women’s assertions are subjective, hence irrefutable. I win the debate.

McEwan warns us “that there are privileged women in the atheist movement who may collude to marginalize non-privileged women ….”  Because any women who don’t share McEwan’s views suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, Patty Hearsts brain-washed by the Patriarchy/Kyriarchy.

“Don’t accuse women of overreacting when we are merely reacting,” McEwan admonishes. “Don’t accuse us of being oversensitive; maybe you are not sensitive enough.”  McEwan must first provide a benchmark for identifying an overreaction; otherwise, her claims are unfalsifiable.  (“Not even good enough to be wrong,” as Feynman would have put it.)  Further, her phrasing is confrontational, as it fails to acknowledge the possibility of a woman ever over-reacting or being overly sensitive to an issue.  The net effect is to shield McEwan’s assertions from scrutiny.

For McEwan, simply “not being a dirtbag” is not “sufficient action to consider … a straight (cis) privileged” man as her ally.  Total, unquestioned & blind acceptance of her positions is required.  In a final dig at Myers, McEwan complains “if you’re not willing to make the effort to make movement atheism more inclusive, don’t pretend that you are. Be a real ally, or don’t.” That’s bullying, and McEwan might consider rewarding the try, because wet rags like Myers are few and far between.  Instead, she punishes, alienating many potential allies.  No wonder McEwan’s infrequent forays beyond the echo chamber end so badly.

_

There Goes the Neighborhood

I first ran across McEwan in 2008, during the self-immolation of the PUMA movement.  A persistent theme in her blogging, shared by the denizens of FTB, is a desire to constrain the rules of engagement, to stifle opinions contrary to her own, and to portray any considered rebuttal of her assertions as a refusal to listen — and proof of misogyny.  In fact, McEwan, et al. deny the very right to question certain radfem constructs.  Even polite attempts at rational disagreement are routinely deleted from comment streams at Shakesville and FtB blogs.

Melissa McEwan is but one of a cohort of “Atheism Plus” activists bent on commandeering the atheism movement for their other socio-political objectives.  This is a bad idea.  Take politics for example:  Sam Harris and Penn Jillete are libertarians; Dawkins and Dennett are liberals; Hitchens was sometimes leftist, sometimes neo-con, always inflammatory.  Yet they found common cause in promoting vocal atheism.  And look how much they’ve achieved by staying on topic.

Radfems are especially prone to injecting their dialectics & intolerance where ever they go.  Skeptics and atheists, however, are especially immune to circular logic, unsubstantiated claims, and the stifling of debate.  Evidence-based reasoning and Post-Modernist woo do not mix well, and the A+ zealots have largely retreated to brood within the friendly confines of their online echo chamber.

Their hubris, however, is unabated.  Recently, A-plussers have spanked Richard Dawkins for supporting abortion rights but in the wrong way, and for his “racist” (sic) debunking of homeopathy and acupuncture.  Dawkins (a former patron of Myers, btw) has been on the A+ shit list since 2011, after he weighed in on a minor brouhaha known as “Elevatorgate.”  Dawkins was the keynote at an atheist conference in Dublin where a young atheist, Rebecca Watson (a.k.a. SkepChick) also spoke.  Watson lingered in the hotel bar, chatting with a few people until the wee hours, when she left and got in an elevator. A man who she’d been talking with followed, and asked her up to his room for coffee and further discussion.  Was he hitting on her?  Mos def.  Did he “sexualize” her?  Was it “misogyny?” No, and Dawkins was not alone in calling out Watson for hyperbole.  In response, the A-plussers declared a boycott of Dawkins, his international research foundation, and his numerous best-selling books. Good luck with that windmill!


(c) 2013 by True Liberal Nexus.  All rights reserved.


You Have the Right to Be Assassinated

March 6, 2013

This is a public service announcement:

You have the right to be assassinated.

In response to an inquiry by Senator Rand Paul, mafia lawyer Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that American citizens have a Constitutional right to be assassinated on U.S. soil by the President whenever he wishes. This right had formerly been extended only to U.S. citizens on foreign soil, like Anwar al-Awlaki, who was guilty of being suspected of aiding terrorists, or al-Awlaki’s 16 year-old son, Abdul, who was guilty of being al-Awlaki’s 16 year-old son.

Paul had asked drone-murder aficionado John Brennan whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.” Brennan, noting that the CIA only assassinates abroad, passed the question to the Justice Department. In a letter, Holder reassured Paul that the right to death by presidential decree does exist:

“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

As examples of such “extraordinary circumstances” Holder mentioned 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Silly FDR shipped Japanese-Americans to internment camps, when under the Constitution, he could have just killed them! But there’s no need to worry that this power would ever be misused. Holder promises that “were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority.” We’re in good hands.

In a recent white paper, Holder detailed the constitutional process under which you will be assassinated: when “[an] informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” This is entirely in keeping with Amendment VI, which states:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury …; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Because Amendment V stipulates that “[n]o person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”, some foolishly “have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen.” Holder cleared up this common misunderstanding in a speech last year. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same” — a definition Holder made up himself, cutting through red tape to expedite the airmail delivery of your Constitutional Rights package.

Despite whining from ignorant people that “a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury” is required before a person can “be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,” it’s perfectly OK for the president to play judge, jury and executioner. That’s because: 1) Congress is “regularly informed” whenever “lethal force is used against United States citizens”; 2) We’re at war, pal, and the president can off anybody he likes in a war. But rest assured, for only The Godfather President obama can make the final decision whether you will be assassinated. It’s obama who keeps the Secret Kill List, obama’s finger that points to the face of the one to die next. We’re in good hands.

So, if you ever hear a strange buzzing overhead, or get a rude knock on the door in the middle of the night, it means your Constitutional Rights are about to be exercised.

(c) 2013 by True Liberal Nexus. All Rights Reserved.


Elizabeth Warren’s Damages

November 2, 2012


No Patty Hewes

In the long-running series DAMAGES, high-powered attorney Patty Hewes (played by Glenn Close) takes on corporate criminals on behalf of victims of pension fraud and industrial poisoning.  The fictional Hewes & Associates always represents the little guys, never the fat cats.

Elizabeth Warren claims to be on the side of the little guy, too:  “I have been out there fighting to help protect people who have been run over by big corporations”, Warren insists. Except her lengthy list of clients is devoid of plaintiffs, instead comprised entirely of billion-dollar defendants, most who sought to avoid paying asbestos- and other toxic material-related liabilities.  Everyone knows Warren is a bankruptcy expert. Few realize her specialty is helping big corporations hide behind Chapter 11 to evade compensating the people they robbed, poisoned or got killed.
_

Expert Advice

The latest Warren case to be uncovered is the Dow-Corning breast implant suit, in which Warren states she “served in an advisory capacity to Dow Chemical in the early days of the Dow Coming bankruptcy.”  Dow and Owens-Corning partnered in Dow-Corning (“D-C”) to manufacture and market breast implants beginning in 1962.  In 1994, 240,000 women filed suits claiming a variety of medical problems resulting from silicone leaks.

A tentative $3.75 billion settlement was proposed that year, but a judge, finding that amount grossly insufficient to cover all the claims, ordered the parties to return to negotiations.  Then, in May of 1995, D-C filed for bankruptcy, blocking any new lawsuits and “indefinitely delay[ing] settlement of existing litigation against the company.”

Warren’s “advisory capacity”, it seems, was to counsel Dow to protect its assets behind Chapter 11.  Dow, with around $20 billion in annual revenues and $70 billion in assets, could easily weather that one settlement.  But with more than a million women having received D-C implants over the years, Dow — facing accusations of negligence stemming from its original silicone research — had motivation to put a lid on the matter. A November, 1995 ruling on a D-C implant case, awarding a single plaintiff  $14 million, gave further reason to follow Warren’s advice — sacrifice the child company to protect the parent.  D-C now offered a reduced, final settlement of $2.4 billion, with a cap of $200,000 per claimant and as little as $650 each.

Richard Broude, one of Dow’s attorneys (and frequent Warren collaborator on bankruptcy cases) said at the time, “Dow Corning, like any independent company, is doing what’s best for itself. It doesn’t matter whether it has two shareholders or thousands.”

This bankruptcy-as-firewall ploy was was pioneered by Johns-Manville Corporation in the ‘Eighties to evade asbestos poisoning liabilities.  Warren later worked for the resulting Johns-Mansville Trust.  In addition to the token D-C trust fund, Dow shielded itself with a bit of legal chicanery — D-C would have to win a suit against its parents before it could pay out to the victims.  This same trick was later used by another Warren client, Travelers.

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A Snake

Elizabeth Warren claims to defend women’s rights, especially on health issues.  Then why did she help a $70 billion company get away with paying as little as $650 to each woman it poisoned?

In all of her extensive legal work, Warren has only represented big corporations.  Her standard tactic: set up a token trust fund that pays a pittance while shielding corporate assets.  Not once has she fought for the victims.  Nor is there any record of Warren ever doing any pro bono work.

Warren is the worst of hypocrites, a two-faced liar who pretends to be on the side of the common people, but who really works for corporate criminals.  Warren promises that if you send her to Washington, she’ll fight for you.  But we already know she’s a mercenary for the plutocrats.

Do not vote for Elizabeth Warren.  She’s a snake.

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h/t Legal Insurrection for its diligent research.


(c) 2012 by True Liberal Nexus.  All rights reserved.


How obama Turned Liberals into Zombies

October 26, 2012

The Neo-Con Democrat
The spectacle of the presidential foreign policy debate, with the republican and democratic candidates stumbling over each other to agree on the use of drones, staying for another decade in Afghanistan, Gitmo and such, was proof once again that barack obama is no liberal.

In fact, obama’s policies of endless war, nation-building, and disregard for international law mark him as a neo-con. With his predilection for assassinations and indiscriminate bombings with mounting ‘collateral damage,’ obama has turned the United States into one of those ‘rogue nations’ our rhetoric execrates.

On the home front, obama has also proven himself no liberal. He readily signed extensions of the Patriot Act and FISA, thus denying us our Fourth Amendment rights and strengthening the surveillance state established by his mentor predecessor, Bush.  obama next took away our right to free assembly by signing the Trespass Law, then negated the Constitutional right of habeas corpus by signing into law the indefinite detention provision of the NDAA.  obama routinely ignores the Constitutional separation of powers, issuing executive orders that contravene the will of Congress, while brazenly ignoring the War Powers Act by starting wars at his fancy.  The obama administration has been the worst in history for punishing whistle-blowers.
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The Corporatist Lapdog
Many on the Right label obama a ‘socialist’, which is slanderous, considering obama’s domestic policy reveals him to be a corporatist lapdog. His greatest achievement, healthcare reform (sic), was in actuality a restructuring of the health insurance market, written by the insurance lobby to benefit the insurance lobby. Forty million Americans are still left without healthcare.

When the big banks were caught in a trillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme, obama railed loudly against the bankers, then slapped them across the wrist with a $12 million token fine. The much-heralded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established by obama crony Elizabeth Warren, has yet to indict a single malfeasor.

Candidate obama promised to ban lobbyists from working in his administration.  President obama has more lobbyists in his White House than any previous administration.

Large campaign bundlers found obama amenable to pulling strings to aid their businesses — for example: an FCC waiver allowing LightSquared to encroach on vital military GPS bandwidths; a billion dollar HHS contract to Siga for a useless vaccine.
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The Sham Green Economy
Vaingloriously, obama predicted his inauguration would be remembered as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”  Yet under obama, the environment has suffered greatly.

Following the disastrous BP oil spill, obama promised to place his “boot on the throat” of that reckless conglomerate, then allowed BP to get away nearly scot free.  Later, obama gave BP the go-ahead to drill in Alaska.

Since 2008, obama has breathlessly told us how he wants to expand “solar, and wind, and bio-diesel”,  and now brags about having doubled the electricity produced by renewables.  That sounds impressive, until you learn that solar and wind still provide a mere 3% our total energy. Four years on, and the US is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

obama’s grand(iose) “Green Energy Economy” turned out to be a boondoggle, a false front to hide kickbacks to obama’s biggest campaign donors. Real renewable solutions do exist to meet a majority of our energy needs, yet obama wasted billions of taxpayer money on Solyndra, Beacon, A123, and a dozen other sham companies that went bankrupt.

At the international climate conferences in Copenhagen and Rio, obama personally intervened to side with China and other major greenhouse gas producers to thwart efforts to curtail global warming, thus ensuring that the oceans will indeed keep rising.

At home, obama refused to implement EPA regulations on air quality.  To his credit, obama was against the XL pipeline before he was for it. To keep up with fellow republican, Mitt Romney, obama is now calling for rapid expansion of offshore drilling, mining of coal, and frakking.
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Letting Down the Common People
On the bread & butter economic positions that for a century defined liberalism in America, obama has let down working families time and time again.

His buyout of GM may have provided temporary relief, but it did nothing to address the endemic flaws in our auto industry. His continuation of TARP was nothing more than a cash bonus to bankers for losing risky bets.

As a candidate, obama promised to end the Bush tax cuts on the rich in his first hundred days. He stalled for two years, then promised to end them in 2011. He now promises to end them sometime in his second term. obama promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Instead, he added another $5 trillion.

Other than endlessly repeating the words “roads and bridges and schools”, obama has offered no real plan to jump-start a stagnant economy. He amused himself by joking that all those “shovel-ready” projects he was going to fund “weren’t all that shovel-ready, after all.”

Only by heavy manipulation of workforce statistics has obama been able to claim he is finally a “net job creator.”  Two-third of those new jobs are low-wage. Household wealth has sunk 39%. Sixty percent of mortgages are under water.  One in five Americans still can’t find a job they can live on.  While unemployment soared, obama fiddled and diddled. His insipid “jobs bill” was a pastiche of hiring incentives and retraining programs already long proven ineffective. At best, it would have created a million jobs; independent analysts calculated it would have created practically none.

While ordinary Americans suffer, obama has been content to blame his inability to do more on the intransigence of Congress. Yet obama had no trouble working with both Dems and Gops to sign a slew of so-called “free trade” treaties that in truth expedite the off-shoring of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. obama has spent 50% more time on the golf links than in economic briefings.

obama promises to protect Social Security and Medicare.  Yet his “payroll tax cut” robbed S.S. of 16% of its funding. Had his putrid “jobs bill” passed, it would have cut S.S. funding by half, and gut Medicare with half a billion dollars in reckless cuts. To underwrite obamacare, $700 million will be taken from Medicare.
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The Zombie Left
Among the Left, all but the most severe kool-aid addicts admit that obama has been a major disappointment. Still, they plan on voting for him as the ‘lesser of two evils.’  ‘We must protect women’s rights’, they implore.  Are not the right to a speedy trial, to protection from illegal search and seizure, to due process, the rights of women as well?  So long as obama remains president, the Left condone unliberal affronts they would never tolerate from a republican president.

To assume that in a second term obama will suddenly ‘get it’, or miraculously change his nature, is folly. Things would get even worse. True, Romney’s plan to fix the economy will also fail. But obama’s bolloxes have ensured that the country will give the GOP a shot, if not now, then in 2016. Massachusetts survived one term of Romney; America can, too.

The Left, however, cannot survive four more years of obama. In service to obama, the Left now advocate jingoism in foreign policy, and a surveillance state at home. The Left now accept zero progress on jobs or economic fairness, and mutely watch as corporate criminals go unpunished. Thanks to obama, liberals and progressives have abandoned protecting the environment and the fight for universal healthcare. The Left are nothing but mindless zombies, so long as they remain under the sway of obama’s false promises and lies.
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Vote Like a True Liberal
Now is the time for all true liberals to do their duty. To stand up for liberal values by voting for a candidate that also stands up for liberal values. barack obama is not that candidate.

Jill Stein is a true liberal. Her New Green Deal is a comprehensive plan to revitalize the American economy and restore American liberties. Patterned on FDR’s successful programs, Stein’s New Green Deal is a bold yet eminently feasible solution to our pressing problems, a solution that relies on the best liberal principles.

On November 6th, vote as a true liberal. Say ‘enough!’ with the lesser-of-two-evils crap. Vote for Jill Stein.
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(c) 2012 by True Liberal Nexus. All rights reserved.