Thursday, August 14, 2014

East St. Louis Goddam

I haven't seen pictures like this since the era of Martin Luther King's assassination. And just think, only last year the Supreme Court said crucial provisions of the Voting Rights act were no longer needed. Apparently they were needed all over the country and not just in the South. If this tragedy doesn't end with a massacre of civilians we'll all be very lucky indeed.

Lawyers, Guns and Money has some excellent pieces up on Ferguson. It links to this, from which I obtained the photo:

It's not just in Ferguson either. Police shot and killed a young black man holding a b-b gun he was intending to buy in Walmart, in Ohio, just days before. Days before that a black man was choked to death in New York City by police because he didn't jump quick enough, the apparent offense of the teenager murdered by the unidentified policeman in Ferguson.

The Right Wing and the NRA have been selling fear for decades now. All those policemen, only one black man amongst them, with all that gear and firepower, scared to death of one kid with dreadlocks and no weapon, his hands raised. Obviously what we need is more guns.

Update: If you have time for a longer read, here's the piece:


Events unfold nightly and daily, and I'm way too far away, except in the sense that I can certainly discern like anyone else. The local D.A. McCullough has chosen to toss gasoline on the embers quenched to some extent by the Highway Patrol's Commander Johnson the night before, and last (Friday) night there was apparently more tear gas thrown. The underlying racism of the right-wing pundits and media will continue to toss accelerants where possible. The red-herring of the Brown video, sandwiched with the name of the officer who shot him and two or three different accounts of what the officer knew and didn't know, is yet another bizarre and inept twist. Chris Hayes' interviews and reports, on the scene, have been incredibly solid; it's a shame he's now off until Monday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blood Frenzy

Before Fox Sports decides to crucify Tony Stewart for driving a race car that hit and killed an angry driver who had walked out onto the track, in the midst of moving traffic, and was walking into Stewart's path and gesturing at him, let's read a paragraph from Wikipedia about the great and tragic fighter Emile Griffith:

In the sixth round Paret came close to stopping Griffith with a multi punch combination but Griffith was saved by the bell.[2] After the sixth round Griffith's trainer, Gil Clancy, later said he told him, "when you go inside I want you to keep punching until Paret holds you or the referee breaks you! But you keep punching until he does that!".[1] In round 12 Griffith trapped Paret in a corner. Stunned after taking hard blows to the head, Paret stopped punching back and slumped to the side against the ropes although his upper body was through them and partly out of the ring. Griffith held his opponent's shoulder keeping him in position while using his free hand to hit Paret, who was no longer trying to protect himself by head movement or an arm guard. Griffith repeatedly landed right uppercuts on Paret's head. Many watching were shocked, and there were calls from ringside for the referee to halt the bout; Norman Mailer said it was the hardest he had ever seen one man hit by another. Paret then lolled back and was hit with a combination. At this point Ruby Goldstein stepped in, thereby awarding Griffith a win by technical knockout. Immediately after the referee intervened, Paret, who had remained on his feet throughout, slowly slid to the floor. He was carried from the ring on a stretcher and died ten days later in hospital without regaining consciousness. Goldstein had a reputation as a tender-minded referee who stopped bouts at an early stage; admirers said he may have been suffering after-effects from a heart attack. He never refereed again.[citation needed] Paret's manager was also criticised for not retiring his boxer with a timely throwing in of the towel during the beating.

Emile Griffith was not charged with any crime, and indeed went on fighting for many years. There's a terrific documentary about his life, which was shadowed and altered by this sad event.

What racing ought to do is outlaw this macho displaying which has been occurring more and more frequently of late, of an angry driver walking out into traffic to point a finger or yell or punch or whatever the driver who spun him or blocked him or whatever. It looks great and the fans love it. Mr. Stewart himself is featured in frequent NASCAR ads during his walk into traffic a year or two ago, when he throws his helmet at (I think it was) Matt Kenseth's windshield, hitting it dead on. This sort of posturing is dumb and dangerous. It might even be, who knows, that Kevin Ward was emulating Mr. Stewart when he got all huffy about a very normal event in his racing Saturday and decided to walk into traffic and point and gesture at Stewart. Then, of course, he got snagged by Stewart's rear tire, run over, and killed.

The sheriff of the county where the race happened got it right. It was an incident on the track, just like the death of Benny Paret. Racing, like boxing, is a blood sport. But racing has worked pretty hard to try to stop the blood. Yesterday there were two wrecks at Watkins Glen that in earlier years could well have resulted in fatalities. Neither did, probably in large part because of interior safety design in the cars.

NASCAR ought to outright ban the behavior of walking out into traffic. It would be fairly easy to do, with fines and suspensions. That would seep down to the "minor leagues," which could and should also ban the practice. As for Stewart--he'll carry this tragedy in his heart for ever. This is very sad.

[That's Kid Paret after the ref finally stopped the fight.]

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Larger Problem

Lance Mannion posted this a couple of days back. It's so good I copied and pasted the whole thing. As I've said before, you should go read him frequently, and send him dough when you can. As he told his recipient to pass it on, I'm hopeful that he's ok with me doing the same:

Dear Congressman, I’m going to tell Pope Francis on you!

When I heard about this I just assumed the yahoo Congressman passing out the bibles to his colleagues so they could consult the holy word for “guidance” on how to vote was a Right Wing Evangelical Christian. I wondered about his Italian last name but he’s a Tea Party type from Mississippi so I figured it was simply evidence of an ancestor who’d passed along his name but not his religion. Happens.

So I thought, what effrontery! What nerve! What arrogance! What ignorance! He gave a Christian bible to Keith Ellison? He handed one to Chuck Schumer and Steve Israel? He sent one to Nancy Pelosi and the many dozens of other Catholics in Congress? Doesn’t he know Catholics use a different Bible? Maybe he does, but he wouldn’t care. That’s the way they are. It’s part of their faith to push their beliefs on others. They think it’s their duty to offend you by telling you you’re going to hell if you don’t snap to it and get right with Jesus the way they’re right with Him. And of course, that’s the key part of the charade, letting you know you’re going to hell while they’re “saved.”

They being Right Wing Evangelicals and their holy-rolling ilk.

But, turns out, he’s Catholic.

I was floored.

So of course I wrote him a note that I’m sure some intern in his office has already deleted:

Dear Congressman Palazzo,

You’re a Catholic and you’re handing out bibles like some Gideon? Don’t you know we don’t work like that?

Although our beliefs are “informed” by scripture, officially literal readings of the Bible and individual interpretations are frowned upon. In fact, once upon a time they could get you burned at the stake. The Protestant Reformation was to a great degree an argument over that. The efficacy of Good Works also figured into it. Do you know which side took what position on either?

As a good Catholic, you’re better off consulting Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Bishops for guidance on how to vote. But as a good Right Wing Republican, you probably don’t like what they have to say.

For example, you just helped whip through the appallingly vindictive border bill which orders responses to the problem that the bishops have strongly condemned.

You think your colleagues need to vote their religion but you don’t think you need to take into account your own?

Or are you one of those cafeteria Catholics who think the Church is only about opposing abortion, contraception, and gay marriage?

The Church has a few things to teach about immigration, poverty, war, and the death penalty too. Where do you stand on those issues? How have you voted? How did your faith guide you through those votes?

Then there’s the whole Social Justice thing.

Maybe you need to think about changing the way you vote…

Or shut up about how people should mix up their religion with their politics.

Yours in Christ,

Lance Mannion

Former altar boy

PS. Feel free to share this with your fellow cafeteria Catholics, Paul Ryan and John Boehner

I came home from work to the outrage of the murder, by police, of a black kid at a Walmart "brandishing" a bb-gun he wanted to buy. If he was white they wouldn't have even pressed him for his i.d.--or at least that's how it went down in Colorado last week under similar circumstances. Early in the week I read with dismay the story of a kid who was shot to death by his girl friend when he asked her to shoot him, believing the weapon was unloaded. She was convicted and given seven years in jail. The cops found pipe bombs and many weapons in his house. His parents asked that in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the NRA.

We have a full blown Cult of Gun in this country now. It's priests are the NRA. Just like certain sects of Christianity, the Cult of Gun is driven by fear. Jonathan Edwards concocted descriptions of hell of such operatic quality that he is handed down in the texts of American Literature as one of our early Great Writers. In his day he won converts. The Cult of Gun suggests that you are not safe without a gun at easy reach at all times. Corollary tenants point to every speck of crime, and particularly crimes involving black or other non-white people, as being primarily what the "news" is. Right now we have a further enhancing feature in our national news, with brown-toned people dressed all in black and brandishing weapons riding all over northwest Iraq and summarily executing people right and left. Military pundits on even MSNBC say that there's almost nothing to do about this. I didn't even watch what the professional fulminators on Fox were saying. Krauthammer no doubt wheezed out his outrage at the Kenyan Pretender. What's new.

It might be that we could actually drop a significant portion of the 101st Screaming Eagles close enough to the 40 thousand people trapped on the mountain that they might run off the ISIS forces. There's no doubt that after a decade and a half of combat, the 101st are a seasoned, veteran force capable of dealing with zelots in pickup trucks who are at the moment experiencing a sense of invulnerability as they terrorize and decimate unarmed civilians. So it was with the Nazis as they rushed across the Soviet Union towards Moscow. But the pundits on MSNBC say it's much more difficult than the scenario I just sketched out, and I'd expect they are actually right. It may be that the militaristic foreign policy that the previous eight year Bush Administration instituted broke so much that there is nothing to do about this stranded band of shepherd people. Bush-Cheney broke the whole region of the north-west middle east, and they broke the Republican Party as well, and possibly the US Army. Obviously they broke the VA system. Of course it's convenient that the Republicans are now on vacation, with Rand Paul, Presidential Candidate, exhibiting his jogging skills. Driftglass, by the way, has posted a series of exceptional photographic comments on the Rite Honorable Rand:

You can see many more of these at his blog, which I link permanently.

I came home from work with the feeling that we are, like it or not, going to get a complete Republican take over of Congress in November. I certainly hope that won't happen. I will vote for Democrats, assuming that when I get to the NC polling station they will accept my NC Drivers License as legitimate proof of my NC citizenship. In our state, already taken over by the hard right know-nothings, we have a new voter ID law which will certainly disenfranchise many typically Democratic voters. You'd be surprised at how many folks aren't even aware that their license has expired until we ask for it where I work. If you're too old to drive, you might not even think to pay the price for a new ID card. But you might be expecting to vote, like you always have.

What worries me is the fundamental intelligence of the electorate. How can it be this close, basically 51/49 one way or the other, all the time. And why do so many not vote at all? I saw this week that a guy who used to have some stature in the land back in the '70s has come out for some phantasmic "Third Way" yet again. Mr. Nader doesn't even admit that his absurd campaign saddled us with the catastrophe of the Bush years. A lot of my friends--pretty smart people I'd say, who can have a good conversation on most any subject--voted for Nader in 2000 because they were just too too to vote for a continuation of the Clinton administration. Mr. Obama is obviously and apparently not perfect, and neither is the Affordable Health Care law he got passed through a tangled maze of Congressional ineptitude. The choice will nontheless be a few more Democrats, or more of these lunatics, such as described by Mr. Mannion above.

Meanwhile, in my little county we now have two new boutique gun shoppes aimed at selling weapons to the hitherto unarmed white housewives. One of the joints is also going to "manufacture" AR-15s, which I'd imagine means assembling out of parts made in Turkey or Indonesia exciting semi-automatic assault weapons for them whats can afford to keep a collection, just in case the Black Helechopters start fluxing around they rooftops. New jobs, new jobs!

We used to laugh at something that happened in New Guinea right after World War II. It was called the Cargo Cult. Those silly primitives, we thought. Worshiping the mystery of planes that arrived with amazing new stuff they'd never seen before. But the Cargo Cult was better than the Gun Cult we now observe on every hand. Real stuff did arrive, and eventually the primitives did realize that the world was way much bigger than they thought, and that planes could take them to other places. My favorite coffee comes from Papua New Guinea. I can now touch those "primitives," and they, in turn, can touch me. I'm enjoying their coffee this damp, cool August morning, in fact.

All the Gun Cult delivers is an enhanced chance of death. That and more Republican votes.