Saturday, August 29, 2015

All Lives Matter

24 Law Enforcement officers killed so far this year and it doesn't look better at all for the rest of 2015 or for the rest of us. Innocent people who were not racist were shot down in cold blood because white people are irredeemably racists, or so the rhetoric has been flapping in the breeze like a rebel flag.

Maybe the ugly dream people like Dylann Roof have of starting a race war isn't as hopeless as you might think. Maybe it just takes enough wild-eyed activists and sensationalists in the media to to boil the kettle over. Maybe the people like Julius Jones insisting that only racists say "all lives matter" should think twice, because racism isn't a black or white problem, it's a human problem and has existed everywhere humans have existed. If white people are murdered because some nut job thinks "he's in the field" is a racist comment, shot by a  black man who thinks "swinging by" is a reference to lynching and if people of all kinds are murdered for wearing a uniform, then the narrow and narrow minded rhetoric about race and racism needs to be rethought.
"And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" 

Asks Shylock and perhaps that's just what the intention is.  No one who hopes to benefit by a race war, hot or cold or guerilla style is the friend of justice, liberty, equality or the brotherhood of man. To take the phrase from people who don't want to talk but to preach: we need to have a conversation and it's not about guns, "military style" or otherwise.  I don't care about the agenda of any activist group or about the terminology they'd like to force on all of us. I care about stopping the hate, the vendettas, the violence the hate speech and calls for violence.  There will be no conversation without shutting them up, drowning them out or ignoring them -- without dignifying vicious angry people, praising them, elevating them with damnation so faint I can't hear it at all.  There's no conversation if one side dictates what you can say and with which words. There's no conversation when one party can demand revenge.

No man is an island, nor any race or religion or characteristic. People who make up stories about ir being open season on black children don't get to hunt policemen or anyone else because of some equally insane premise about universal white racism.

We can make this about guns, but doing so isn't going to counter the urge to go out and get one this race war engenders -- and it's not about guns, it's about hate.  We need to have a conversation. We need to make it a real one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jawbone of an Ass

Sampson was supposed to have killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass.  I'm not sure that's enough to qualify one as a Republican candidate.  Candidate Jeb may have been trying to outdo Candidate Donald with reference to "Anchor Babies"  a pejorative slur intended to make you believe illegal immigrants could anchor themselves in the White Man's Land by taking advantage of the 14th amendment.  Sneak across the border, have a baby in an American hospital and not only will the overtaxed millions have to foot the bill, but you get to stay here because your baby anchors you.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way, not for those scary, disease infested, drug carrying rapists Trump talks about and not for the Chinese women who booked hotel rooms in California so their babies would be born here as Jeb insists he's talking about.  It's true that any children would automatically be eligible for citizenship, but hey can't petition for residency on their parent's behalf until they are 21 years old.  So while you may be giving him a nice coming of age present, you'll have to go home, all of you.

And when you do decide in 2036 or so to claim your citizenship, you may run afoul of the FATCA act which could make you liable for back taxes on anything you earned back in Guadalajara or Shanghai plus penalties for not filing and filing late and of course if  it says "born in the USA" on your passport, you can't open a bank account at home, even if you're a dual citizen. Personally I would keep it quiet and stay home.

But you didn't actually think you'd get the facts from a Republican, did you -- jawbone of an ass and all that?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amaya Guardado died for your sins

There have been times of late that I've gone as far as to write a farewell letter, but so far I'm still here, and so long as I'm being called a racist for insisting that all lives matter, I may remain.

All lives do matter and although Julius Jones sort of agreed on Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show the other day that in fact they might, it gets in the way of their campaign and he tells us never hears from anyone that all lives matter unless the source is a racist.

Kiss my racist ass and I guess you can add me to the racist list along with  Jesus, the Buddha, Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King.  The secular credos of the Enlightenment and of our founding American documents must be racist as well.

"What president has ever done anything for Black People?" 

asks Jones.  Jesus weeps and sure as hell, so do I.

Call me racist and  I'm proud to be one because I think the life of a young Guatemalan boy matters -- or mattered that is -- because some other teenagers, whose lives mattered more because of their color, murdered him and then went off to have sex. Being shy and foreign, and guilty of being the wrong race, it seemed appropriate to cut him to ribbons with a machete, bash his face in and bury him alive in a shallow grave they made him dig in some remote place near Miami.

I just can't tell you how much the lives of these innocent, unarmed "children" matter to me. "Hands up - don't shoot!"  Will we see pictures of these honor students in mortarboards and gowns?  Will we hear "leaders" insist that now it's open season on Guatemalan children too?  Hell no, Al Sharpton is nowhere to be seen and Black Lives Matter.

Who will march in Miami for Amaya Guardado?  Who will carry signs in St Louis, New York, Baltimore?  Who will insist his life matters?  Who will confront politicians and candidates and demand they recite the formula or be called racists? Who will demand we suspend the rules of evidence, that we try people in the street?  Who will start fires and stop traffic?

Is it time to point out once again, that being against wrong doesn't make you right?  Shall I suggest the tendency of movements toward arrogance, self-importance and absolutism is independent of  the validity of the cause?

 Of course as cowardly Liberals we rush to confirm any claim to being against racism. We rarely stop to verify facts, to think about what we're doing when we undermine the justice system to get at people we just know are guilty.  We Liberals -- of course we're not racists and we'll prove it every time by following the noise in the street. "Black lives matter," is the chant and who the hell said anything about Hispanics, Native Americans, Chinese, Pakistani and of course we're not racists when we march.

Monday, August 17, 2015

God's House

"It's God's House, says the newspaper serving Florida's Treasure Coast with its varied population of retired billionaires and the working poor, with 15,000 square foot mansions, private water parks and private golf courses in spitting distance of trailer parks and people living in the woods in tents and boxes. As with everything here, location, location, location. God must have his reasons, but then God always does what he's told and the Folks at Christ Fellowship told him to build in Port Saint Lucie and they told him to build it big and to make sure it didn't play second fiddle to Orlando even if the land here is a whole lot cheaper.

It's God's house and like Wal Mart, the place where God shops, it has a greeter. He's dressed like Captain America and as it is in Disney World, so shall it be at Christ Fellowship with anatomically inaccurate featherless dinosaurs growling from cages as though to take a slap at the real world -- that place where God could hardly be expected to dwell and people can't be enthusiastic about, in our entertainment culture, to show up. Who the hell wants to hear about hell, much less have to put on shoes and a shirt and shed the camouflage hat?
“Most people in our culture today have very little church experience and, if they do, they’ve seen church to be something that doesn’t really connect to their everyday life,”
Says Pastor Todd Mullins and so starting soon, after the 8 million dollar renovations on God's house, the Former Digital Domain building in a recent development on reclaimed swamp land ironically called "Tradition" are complete -- starting soon it will be God's house. Watch out Disney! Watch out McDonalds, watch out Wal Mart. Here comes Captain America and here comes McJesus and it's a fake world after all!

Of course so much of what they've turned this natural wonder called Florida into is just plain phony. The Digital Domain building was built with taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks and on false projections. The company soon went broke and Port St. Lucie was left holding the bag, so they had to be happy to sell it at a loss even though it still won't pay any taxes. The taxpayers will have to be satisfied with plastic dinosaurs, Captain America and an amusement park having nothing whatever to do with Christianity, its history or anything else that's occurred on this planet in the last 4 1/2 billion years. Amen.

Watch out, because if God's job description no longer suits what people see as the real world, science and technology can supply the robots, the cartoon characters, the booming musical entertainment to create a new heaven and Earth on the former wetlands of the old ones, a world where the vision no longer clashes so ludicrously with reality, where those pet Velociraptors and dancing blond Sonsagods and jivin' Jehovas get their batteries recharged every night after Pastor Mullins goes home and that 4 billion year old moon shines bright on the ravaged landscape as it did before anything walked or crawled or grew on it and tired children sleep the peaceful sleep of the ignorant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond (January 14, 1940 – August 15, 2015)

I've been a fan of Julian Bond for a great many years. I remember applauding when it was suggested at the 1968 Democratic Convention that he run for President.  Neither of us was old enough.

There are and have been many practitioners of Civil Rights leadership but he was different in so many ways from the rest. I admired his unassailable dignity, his rhetorical ability and it never hurt that he could have been the twin brother of  my best friend.

I joined and started contributing to the NAACP when George W. went to war with him even though I have no African heritage other than what comes through American culture to all of us in music, art, letters and popular culture.

I will miss him and that leadership has passed to many lesser men is doubly sad.  Listening to what passes for moral direction these days: hearing that my life doesn't matter, the equal justice for all isn't the goal, that justice comes from the mob and evidence doesn't count -- that no one can be trusted as an ally, and worst of all that nothing has been accomplished and everyone is a racist at heart, I despair.

Julian Bond and I are of an age, of a generation that is passing, our advice ignored or ridiculed or even called ugly names.  I fear it's giving way to a generation of jihadists, opportunists and professional zealots and as it is with so many such, it's all about power. the dream we shared is gone.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Why did Willie Waste his Time?

I've probably said it too many times: in our brave new world of  instant information, no sooner does something happen but that it didn't. It's almost as though there were some Newtonian law about information producing equal and opposite information and another linking lack of information producing baseless certainty in inverse proportion,  I'm not 100% sure about how the pyramids were built, so it must be Martians.

It's not new.  In the century since the Titanic went down, lives have been spent proving that it wasn't a collision with an iceberg, if indeed the great ship ever sank. It was a different ship, it was a coal bunker fire covered up by the White Star company, etc.

Of course anything to do with the demise of Osama bin Laden inspires beliefs related more to one's personal politics and propensities toward recreational paranoia than to evidence. Who shot him? At the order of whom?  Is he actually dead or still hiding?  Had he been dead for years and any other permutation you can dream up:  assumption based on hypothesis derived from irrelevant observations litter the landscape. Finding the wreck and its obvious iceberg damage may have quieted some of the speculative certainty about the Titanic, but the principle survives.  Lack of evidence or surfeit of evidence - if it happened, the fun of denying it, the thrill of denial is too strong to resist.

So when I read about the plane crash in England which killed three members of Osama bin Laden's family  on Friday I started my stopwatch.  It didn't take long for it not to have happened and for old William of Ockham to take another somersault in his grave.  The conclusion demanding the fewest inventions or which leans on the least speculation has the best chance of being true.  OJ Simpson with the blood on his socks or Colombian drug lords for whom there is no evidence taking vengeance for a drug deal for which there is no evidence?  Why did Willie waste his time?  The crash in which the plane overshot the runway and went into a car auction happened in full view of hundreds and in front of  cameras - or did it?

Although the crash in Hampshire was witnessed, recorded, bodies recovered and all facts beyond dispute, " It just doesn't add up" says someone who wasn't there and why?  because it was a safe airplane that shouldn't have crashed.  Too many safety functions and because the airport had too long a runway for the pilot to have overshot it.

 ‘Why, if [the pilot] thought his angle was completely wrong – which is what happened in this case – didn’t he power up the engines to simply go round and try again?’

Said a pilot who had landed there before. Certainly no pilot ever did such a thing, no pilot ever made a gross error.  It's much more fun to see it as a conspiracy.   No driver ever stepped on the wrong pedal, no driver ever failed to see what was in front of him -- no astronaut ever pulled the wrong lever.  No mountain of evidence is so massive that it can't be ignored by an appeal to ignorance.

So you ask, your Honor, why I deny running that light despite the eye witness and the photograph? Well why would I do that as a safe driver and in a car with good brakes?  "I've never done that before so why now and how do you know it wasn't the twin brother I can't produce. . . . ?  Besides I would have been justified because of the Colombian drug lord was chasing me!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

No Lion is an Island

Says David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, in an interview in Nature whose team has been tracking Cecil and hundreds of other lions since 2008. No lion is an island.

Trophy hunting of Lions in Zimbabwe didn't begin nor will it end with Doctor Palmer.  Hunting of lions is legal in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa and lions are not considered endangered at this time although their numbers have declined along with that of their prey.  Yes, like all creatures great and small they are part of  an ever-changing ecosystem and Africa is steadily moving in the same direction as the rest of the world and allowing less and less room for wildlife.

Carefully avoiding any political statements, Macdonald opines that hunting of lions is sustainable if strictly regulated and actually might be the best way of attributing value to lions that could accrue to the benefit of those who live alongside them amd perhaps to promote toleration of  these creatures among the local population who see them as dangerous to life and property.  Wildlife parks bring in tourist dollars after all.

Macdonald goes so far as to suggest that the death of  this lion may have a beneficial effect if it promotes "enthusiasm for the value of nature."

"That’s the sort of enthusiasm that I hope will influence the way that policy is formulated as human enterprise strives to live alongside biodiversity. That would be a suitable memorial for the apparently illegal death of this particular, charismatic and unusually fascinating individual lion."

Unfortunately some of this "enthusiasm" results from misinformation, oversimplification and hyperbole in the sensationalist press and such enthusiasm tends to be short lived, producing less than helpful action if any at all.

The overall goal of conservation is the maintenance of sustainable populations rather than sentimental attachments to Bambi or even Cecil and that sometimes involves direct intervention.  Hunting is sometimes necessary if sometimes sad and upsetting to squeamish people like me.  Poaching is of course the enemy of regulation and population control and  it's a far, far larger problem than the occasional  rogue trying to relive the 18th century White Hunter experience can be.  It would be good if he can be made and example of, but will the public then forget while hordes of poachers continue to hunt with machine guns, flaunting a death penalty because of huge rewards for selling animal parts in Asia?

Madonald shares my hope that the current furor will bring some further attention to what's really going on; to the bigger and long term problems of conservation and to helping African nations to see the value of wildlife and its preservation despite the cost.  Much has been done with the help of wealthier European nations. Much more needs to be done.