Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Patterns, Responsibility, and Gaslighting

For those times when you're asked if (or told that) Black Lives Matter is responsible for violence against police, including the two cops killed in New York City last year and the recent death of a sheriff's deputy in Texas, this is the response. It's from Brittney Cooper, writing for Salon:

How is it that two mentally ill Black men targeting police officers constitutes a pattern, but the killing of Walter Scott, the killing of Samuel Dubose, and the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, all by police while they were clearly unarmed and committing no crimes, add up to a collection of unrelated, isolated incidents?

How is it that the random acts of two mentally unstable Black men who had no formal or informal relationship with the Black Lives Matter movement constitute a trend, but the two dozen police killings of unarmed Black citizens again remain a collection of unfortunate but isolated incidents?
Cooper goes on to discuss the concept of "gaslighting," which I confess I was unfamiliar with. And shows how it fits the all-too common white response to Black Lives Matter.
Such accusations, whether stated or implied, are designed to put Black people on the defensive. We are then supposed to prove that we are both human and humane, non-violent, empathetic, and non-dangerous. We are supposed to prove to white people that we are good people, that we are not a threat, that we mean them no harm. Never mind the harm that many of them have caused us. More than all that, we are not “reverse racists.”
 Lots more to think about in the links.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Late Summer Round-Up

I regret to report that Twitter in the month of August 2015 brings us more tweets about The Donald. It is amazing, yet self-fulfilling, that this circus keeps running and the media continues to report on it.

'President Donald Trump' is an anagram of 'Mad Pundit Serpent Lord.'
By Saladin Ahmed

Did he even read what he was typing?

By sarah

So many articles about Trump's polls, so little journalism about his record - almost as if because the latter is harder, the media avoids it
By David Sirota

if I am elected President, I will build a tall fence around Donald Trump
By Mary Charlene

Donald Trump is like the Las Vegas Strip: artificial yet genuine. And people love the Strip even though it's tacky and takes their money.
By Josh Barro

Maybe when Trump says he'd be "great to women" he means he'd marry every woman, then divorce them & then they'll get big alimony checks.
By W. Kamau Bell

Anyone who uses the word "classy"'is not.
By Rob Kutner

Fox News vs Trump is like mad scientists trying to find the off button on the killer robot they built.
By James Poniewozik

More reporters are talking about Trump making a period joke than the fact that several candidates would force a woman to die in pregnancy.
By keptsimple

As far as Trump is concerned, the world's an African lion and he's a dentist.
By Frank Conniff

We need a Trump presidency because he's so disinterested in ideology he could usher in social democracy totally by accident.
By Matt Christman

Trump could show basic human decency and not insult women for their looks but he doesn't have time for stupid PC bullshit.
By Frank Conniff
On topics related to Black Lives Matter and white supremacy:
This is how sad white supremacy is: all of a sudden dipshits are pretending to care about the legacy of William McKinley.
By Saladin Ahmed

I bought a white noise machine but all it does is yell about "The 2nd Amendment,” "free trade,” and "post-racial America.”
By John Patrick Coan

The people who gave us the right to bear arms were also kinda cool with slavery. So keep that in mind.
By Kumail Nanjiani

Anytime you say "Slavery was wrong BUT..." it's always a downhill argument from there.
By Bree Newsome

As a matter of analyzing rhetoric, "criticizing police practices" ≠ "anti-police rhetoric."
By Jamelle Bouie

Addressed to Bree Newsome:

Doesn't the Confederate flag, among many other things, represent "the desire to secede from the Union" aka TREASON?
By Young,Gifted & Black

To which Bree Newsome replied:

Yes. But racists see no contradiction because they consider "American" = white so they often wave both flags without irony.

Is "white identity politics" what we're calling racism these days?
By David Roberts

The belief that black communities do not care for and grieve for their own is one of the worst lies of white supremacy. And easily disproven.
By Sarah Kendzior

"In this country we like to say we're color blind — what we're really blind to is racial injustice.” — @JennBorchetta
By Demos_Org

Don't tell me I need a break and I'm just tired and overreacting. Don't tell me anything but what you're going to do to help stop this shit! Don't tell me to be quiet in the face of injustice. Don't tell me to be patient as people continue to be killed.
By Charles Wade

By the way, y'all know that "don't pressure the one who's already your friend" is exactly what people told Martin Luther King about Lyndon Johnson, right?
By jay smooth [referring to Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders]

People of colour aren't even allowed to determine what we think is racist or not. White supremacy wants that right too.
By Writers of Colour

Dear Silicon Valley, please disrupt: - racism - systemic discrimination - the patriarchy. Please do not disrupt: - local businesses. thx.
By Tess Rinearson

If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Civil Rights Movement, and what role you would play, you are in it right now.
By Shaun King

White racists who worship guns enter my mentions to complain that non-violent protesters incite violence. LOL. Oh, racists.
By Bree Newsome

Everyone thinks die-hard racists were raptured or something in the 60s. They're still here.
By H.P. Davis

“Culture of grievance” = “people other than white men being allowed to articulate their grievances.”
By David Roberts

Dear white people: no one is saying your life can't be hard if you're white but it's not hard because you're white.
By Austin

If "All Lives Matter," then why don't we have Universal Healthcare? And why are prisons privatized? And why are there still homeless people?
By Hari Kondabolu
There was quite a run of education-related tweets, so I’ve grouped them this month…
It is not cheating for students to use resources they will have access to in their every day lives. Teach how to use rather than ban.
By Alice Keeler

Education is too much about control and not enough about messy learning.
By Simon Keily

Delivering equal, democratic education is a very difficult task in a society that isn't either of those things.
By jelani cobb

Grit is the excuse to justify deprivation and withholding proper care and resources and spending on children.
By Gary McIver

What if someone was constantly badgering Einstein to be organized? "Albert Pay attention to me and stop daydreaming, color code your folder"
By Sisyphus38
And then the usual run of subjects and jokes…
It's astonishing how many boneheaded imperialist assumptions are baked in to even the most liberal national security pundits' narratives.
By Saladin Ahmed  

So many of the bad things about academic science aren't about doing good science; they're about the hazing ritual of joining the club. Bad writing. Publish or perish. Staying to narrow disciplines. Not valuing engagement, real world impacts. We need to do so much better.
By Jonathan Foley

Nice to see someone spotlight the fun, flirty side of crucifixion:

By Bridger Winegar

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” ― Wendell Berry
By Then Ms Murphy Said

“Wussification” is not a real thing. It only exists in the minds of those who who buy into toxic and fragile masculinity.
By Toni

Change is guaranteed, progress is not.
By Free Public Transit

Millennials, next time another generation calls you entitled remind them you are in debt for the same things they got for free.
By charles ezell

People sometimes say I'm writing poverty porn. I used to dislike that. Now I say if you read it like that, it says something about *you.* Because I write about reality, one shared by millions. If you feel like you're exploiting people even reading about it, maybe rethink things. Not my fault if our system makes you feel bad, if you feel dirty even knowing what people go through. Not my fault you hadn't known.
By KillerMartinis

One of the privileges of being Indian is that a hurricane will never be named after me.
By Nikhil Goyal

It's kind of weird that the only time I've heard of a mass shooting being prevented, it was by three Americans without guns.
By Peter Schultz

Let’s call the “service economy” what it is: the reinstitution of a servant class and a rollback of worker’s rights.
By Mike Monteiro

"Dystopian fiction is what happens when you take what happens to marginalized people and apply it to everyone" - @leeflower
By mez

Autosprawl welfare: Half of corporate profits are directly stolen from biosphere.
By Free Public Transit

When was the last shuttered business that actually had shutters?
By Chris Steller

According to our media, racism, sexism, militarism and greed are not nearly as bad as using a private email server.
By Frank Conniff

This is still the greatest moment in food stamp twitter:

By Matt Bruenig

Successful cities are where people stop, not where they keep moving. City streets are public spaces, for civic life.
By jennifer keesmaat

Worry is a misuse of the imagination.
By Navee~

Scopes creep: the tendency to believe, late in the software development process, that the original code came from a monkey.
By Neven Mrgan

I feel like we need a Big Brother/ Big Sister program, but for internet trolls. They seem so lonely.
By Ijeoma Oluo

High-profile NGOs use unpaid internships and pay low salaries, locking out the communities they claim to serve from participation.
By Sarah Kendzior

Yale spent more endowment income last year paying hedge fund managers than on scholarships. [Citing the New York Times]
By Nick Confessore

What's eye opening is that I got about 15 emails [in response to an article about sexist treatment while buying a car] from women, thanking me. Further proof that Star Tribune comments are where bullies go to party.
By Molly Priesmeyer

To whatever man who felt the need to make these… are u okay? who hurt u? why r u so afraid of female capability?

By kinderwhore

What good is religion if it doesn’t make you better, or at least make you try harder? If it only fuels your tribal resentments? Yet most people in the US who advertise their Christianity are in the business of condemning people & behaviors other than themselves. Seems to me the primary effect of becoming a Christian should be that it makes your *own* life more difficult. Higher standards to reach.

To be clear: I’m for anything that inspires people to try to be better, even if it’s total hoo-ha, empirically speaking. But humans really don’t need anything that fuels their propensity to judge & condemn those they view as Other. We’ve got that covered.
By David Roberts

Americans’ lawns now cover an area three times larger than any irrigated crop in the U.S.
By Momentum

Great typesetting makes everything better.
By Ryan Essmaker

You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.
By Science Porn

People recognize dynasties in political families but neglect the dynasties of professions, grown by unpaid labor and purchased credentials
By Sarah Kendzior

"The historical character of the neighborhood" always equals "How things were when *I* moved here."
By Brooklyn Spoke

In hindsight, it would have been sweet if public school gym focused on lifelong exercise habits instead of shame and light violence.
By Jamie Keiles

It's that time of year when white people are returning from "life-changing" experiences in Africa and posting pics with black and brown kids.
By Nikhil Goyal

Actually, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords as a basis for a system of government is beginning to sound like a better process
By Swedish Canary

It’s good to read all media reporting with anonymous quotes the way the CIA used to read Pravda: not as a reflection of what's actually happening but more like what some powerful faction/set of interests *want to see happen* or want people to believe is happening.
By Christopher Hayes

Capitalism had 100 years of cheap oil and never eliminated poverty.
By Free Public Transit

Worrying about sentient AI as the ice caps melt is like standing on the tracks as the train rushes in, worrying about being hit by lightning
By Bret Victor

If any "founders" out there want to "disrupt" our 401 ppm atmospheric CO2, or "moonshot" ocean acidification, that would be cool.
By Bret Victor

This is an odd sign:

By Chris Steller

Any social system that produces an avoidable amount of child poverty is dystopic.
By Skeleanor Robertson

Hard to fathom that two 13-year-old girls who stabbed a classmate so they could join Slender Man at a mansion in the woods may be tried as adults.
By Josh Harkinson

"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." @UtopianParalax
By Cassandra

If any other country had the levels of gun and police violence that the US has, we'd be talking about instability and travel bans.
By Saladin Ahmed

Climate change in a nutshell: climate is changing too slowly for people to give a shit but too quickly for ecosystems/organisms to survive.
By Jason Kottke

“No GMO foods for MY family,” she said as she walked her pet wolf who’d been bred to have four-inch-long legs and respiratory problems.
By Nilo Ramos

How can we integrate a John Rawls type thought experiment into the planning approval process?
By Rube Heretic

The moment you think of others, your mind widens.
By Dalai Lama

In a world that wastes almost half of the food we grow, shouldn't we tackle waste first, before inventing weird tricks to boost yields?
By Jonathan Foley

How many misogynists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, but you know he'll somehow use it as proof that he doesn't hate women.
By Aparna Nancherla

GOP platform: If a man’s life is threatened, he may Stand His Ground and shoot; if a woman’s life is threatened, she must carry to term.
By Top Conservative Cat

I will never be ashamed to be the child of two people addicted to drugs. I have seen the transformative power of recovery. We are not our demons.
By DeRay Mckesson

When I get a time machine I'm using it to go back and kill the first person who used the word 'muscular' to describe prose.
By Saladin Ahmed

More than 46% of those leaving prison reoffend within a year, but if they find employment that drops to 13%.
By Theodora Dickinson

Some day we need a full linguistic & psychological investigation into the right-wing obsession with forcing things down throats.
By David Roberts

Why do Republicans only use the words "science" and "due process" when it comes to attacking women?
By jamiekilstein

"resting bitch face" = literally the same face every guy makes 90% of his life except men get to be people & women don't
By lane moore

Writing something about parenting. 500 words in & so far 100% caveats and hedging.
By David Roberts

"nearly all law-breaking is committed by drivers & they are collectively responsible for practically all fatalities." [citing the Chicago Tribune]
By William Lindeke

But just so we're clear, Haiti is poor because France forced the liberated blacks to PAY THEM for their own freedom.
By Bree Newsome

Epistemic closure makes people
1) terrible at arguing for their own positions,
2) unaware how terrible they are at it.
By David Roberts

“Millennials are spoiled because they have iPhones!“ —douchebag whose generation was able to afford fucking brand-new houses at our age
By Loud Gay Atheist

The Cult of Bernie. When will folks learn that one single candidate is not the answer? All politics are local. Build political capacity.
By Diane Witt

Birth control? BAN IT! Abortion? BAN IT! Gay marriage? BAN IT! Guns? Look, banning things never works. People will find ways to get them.
By Nick Martucci

Dear Republicans, Planned Parenthood isn't profiting off of the deaths of children. You are thinking of the NRA.
By Jesse LaGreca

"Planned Parenthood was founded by some racists, let's get rid of it.” Guys Guys I have some bad news for you About America.
By Eleanor Amarath

I like this @KathaPollitt meme about God’s missed opportunity:

By David Roberts

I subscribe to developing a way of being that is compatible with human rights, democracy, and sustaining the earth.
By Bree Newsome

Monday, August 31, 2015

False Equivalence

A Facebook friend recently shared this quote from G.K. Chesterton:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
This makes me think of several things -- first, the recent insistence that people (including children) be allowed to make mistakes, since mistakes are the way we learn how to do better. Fearing and preventing mistakes is a symptom of stagnation.

Second, it made me think of a commentary from today's Star Tribune, called The Dangers of Groupthink. Though the writer makes some good points about group think, he misses the false equivalence that Chesterton described so pithily. To make his case, the commentary writer summarize the points made by an economist named Albert Hirschman, who described three recurrent rhetorical strategies used by reactionaries:
  • The Perversity Thesis — radical social change will result in outcomes that only worsen the condition that progressives seek to alleviate.
  • The Futility Thesis — pursuing social transformation is futile because the laws of social order are immutable.
  • The Jeopardy Thesis — as desirable as a reform is “in principle,” the practical cost or consequence will endanger previous accomplishments.
Hirschman then counterposed those three to the strategies that "afflict" progressives:
  • The Desperate Predicament Thesis — the old order is irreparable and a new order must replace it, regardless of possible unintended consequences.
  • The History Is on Our Side Thesis — inevitable historical forces, which are futile to oppose, justify progressive action.
  • The Imminent Danger Thesis — inaction will result in disastrous consequences.
Those first three points all sound familiar from the Right's argument against addressing climate change (once they acknowledge that it exists). And the last three do sound like aspects of the argument in favor of taking action to limit climate change -- but I think the fact that the last point is clearly true has a bit of weight beyond rhetoric.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Daughter Number Three Heads Home

While on the road recently, I came across quite a find: a small cabinet with the queen of spades (the symbol of Daughter Number Three) on the door.

It (she?) was too big for the storage portion of the car, and so she got her own seat during the return trip:

Safely belted in, as you can see.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dave Roberts Puts It into a Few Words

Here's some reading for today, if you haven't already seen it: David Roberts's analysis of why tech nerds -- successful at so many things -- fail at politics.

I haven't actually finished reading it yet, but when I got to this bit of synthesis I had to share it somewhere:

the Republican Party has increasingly become the voice of white people who live around other white people in rural and suburban areas, where they have been radicalized by burgeoning right-wing media and a network of ideologically conservative think tanks and lobbying groups.
This, of course, is in contrast with Democrats, who are most likely to be people of color, "single women, young people, LGBTQ folks, academics, and artists — clustered in the 'urban archipelago' of America's cities."

Time is not on the side of the Republican Party, given the demographic shifts happening in our country, but for now, as Roberts points out:
aggrieved older white men still punch above their weight, politically speaking. Democratic constituencies cluster in urban areas, where many of their votes end up wasted. GOP demographics are more spread out, covering a larger geographical area, thus giving them a reliably large bloc of low-population states in the Senate and a built-in advantage in the House of Representatives.
None of this is the main point Roberts makes in the article. I just want to be able to find these quotes at some time in the future when I need to explain our political situation.


Roberts writes for, though until recently he was a long-time writer for His tweets are a regular feature in my monthly Twitter roundups.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rich Retail, Poor Retail

Driving across our country provides lots of evidence that our country divides the rich and poor.

For instance, I recently saw a strip mall plaza with this stack o' signs for poor-people stores:

  • A value-oriented supermarket (though inside it was very well-maintained, with good product selection)
  • A liquidator (or pseudo-liquidator, depending on your point of view)
  • A donation shop with its assortment of secondhand household goods and clothes
  • A dollar store (where not enough items cost a dollar or less, in my experience, and they rip off their workers)
  • And a rent to own shop, which is one step up from a pay-day lender.
Retail-location consultants exacerbate this trend, I'm sure. And in some ways, their recommendations make sense -- why not group businesses together when they have shoppers with similar demographics? It makes for less travel time, and creates "sales synergy" for all.

But sheesh, it makes for bleak landscape.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Four from the Road

A few photos from the Hudson Valley. First, a name that's bad for business:

I would be afraid to eat any of the food in this diner.

Then there's this sign at an intersection in Rhinebeck, a tony little town:

They don't need to be so obvious about it, though.

Then, a pair of wooden pants seen on the grounds of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt library:

File that one under looking down.

Finally, a person with a pair of bumper stickers that makes me think s/he either has a sense of humor or is kind of clueless:

My political bias makes me think it's a sense of humor, but I hold out the other possibility.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Frog Pond Farm (North)

I think I may have found a roadside attraction that's not on the Roadside America site: Frog Pond Farm, which includes this giant ant attacking the barn:

It's a gallery of the work of the Ferro family, based in Little York, New York, about 45 minutes from Syracuse.

The main attraction is the life-size and over-size animals and insects, sculpted in metal by Tino Ferarro.

Many are visible from outside the barn, but it's pretty easy to get in to see the rest by contacting them via the website.

Tino and other members of the family also do a bit of painting:

I met Carole Ferro when I visited. She had just been painting a peacock before we arrived.

I love the piece Carole called the Olive Tree:

The twisted trunk is made of a complete jumble of metal objects:

The piece that got my attention the most, though, was probably this cluster of steel fiddlehead ferns:

They seemed like aliens until I realized they were just friendly ostrich ferns, made gigantic and rendered in stainless.

The funniest piece was probably this, which was tucked away almost out of sight under the barn:

From the cone-shaped corsette and garters, I deduced its intended subject is Madonna, but darn if her face doesn't look more like the HBO version of Daenarys Targaryen.

Frog Pond Farm has a winter location in St. Pauls, North Carolina, also called Frog Pond Farm South. Who knows what they've got outside there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yankee Rebels

While traveling across rural central New York, well off the beaten path of interstates and college towns, I noticed an odd thing.

It was on a state highway that connects three small cities with populations between 7,000 and 20,000, each one the seat of its respective county. The population density along the two-lane road was low; it wasn't uncommon to drive for a mile or two without seeing a house among the fields that alternated corn with unmown goldenrod.

But during a two-hour stretch of this type of country, I saw three Confederate flags (or, more accurately, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) flying from the fronts of houses. The first was the worst: a straight-up stars and bars hanging from a pole right next to an official U.S. flag.

The other two were flying by themselves and had some kind of other image atop the stars and bars. I finally stopped and took a picture when I came across the third one:

Here it is a bit closer up so you can be sure it really does have those blue bars and white stars, plus get an idea about the other art that's superimposed. (I think it's probably a bald eagle.)

Then at the end of the trip, when I had arrived in the last small city (population 14,000), I saw this on one of the streets:

The owner of this work of art was too lazy or uninformed to add the stars to the bars, but the concept is clear.

As I said, these sightings were all in central New York, a place that Colin Woodward says is about as much Yankee country as you can get, so what does it mean that this many people are flying the rebel flag, symbol of the Confederacy?

Are they all members of the Klan? Do they burn crosses in the yards of black people, if they even know where to find any black people? I doubt it, though they probably are down on immigrants.

My best guess is that they fly the flag as a pointed rejection of people they perceive as urban elites. It's a big "fuck you" to anyone perceived as not part of rural (and therefore the real) America. Maybe it's seen as synonymous with Second Amendment rights. After all, the South's secession and war with the Union army is the ultimate in using your weapons to fight something that was perceived as endangering a way of life.

To go along with all of this, here's a storefront window from one of the towns along that route:

The posters in the window read:

  • Stop Obama's HHS Mandate
  • Hands Off My Health Care
  • American Jobs for American Workers
  • Stand for Something Revolutionary - Protect Our Constitution
  • NO! Amnesty
  • Repeal NY's S.A.F.E. Act - Honor the 2nd Amendment
  • Tea Party Patriots
And on the door there are two copies of a bumper sticker that says "Second Amendment: The One Right that Secures Them All."

Monday, August 24, 2015

More from the Road

Traveling a lot in a day makes it hard to write much or even read much of all that thinking out there on the interweb... so, instead, here are a few photos for Tuesday, August 24, 2015.

First, a product that shouldn't exist, from the sale floor at a convenience store:

These over-packaged plastic bottles full of sugar-laden fruit juice are sold as "Good 2 Grow" with no sugar added. This is literally true, I guess, but fruit juice -- in this case mostly white grape juice -- is mostly sugar and water. There's no nutrition about it, cool or otherwise.

The store in this photo caught my attention because of the green generic "tattoo" sign. But then I noticed the name of the store in the top left window:

Final Solutions Ink. Huh. Sounds like the place to go for a tattoo.

And, finally, a few humorous signs on a garage door:

In case you can't read them, the left one says "Zombies" and the right one shows a farmer on a tractor being pursued by a zombie with the words "Eat Locals."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dead Possum in the Middle of the Road

On the road. Literally.

Not figuratively.


Shot in the middle of a rural road in New York state.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Retail These Days

Here are a couple of recent retail photos from living in the age of the interweb.

I feel silly being shocked by this product, which allows you to fill a hundred water balloons at once, but I can't help it:

It seems like half the point of water balloons is finding out how hard it is to make them and hurting your fingers while trying them. And then getting the reward of being hit with one.

Then there's this section sign from a grocery store:

New Age Beverages. What is that, and does it really need its own section of shelves. I was having a hard time imagining what that would include -- Kombucha? Tapioca drinks?

But no, it was Snapple and things from Starbucks.