Friday, July 23, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The worst fears of BP and the EPA are about to be real.
2) Elizabeth Warren MUST. Be. Confirmed.
3) Facebook (owned by an Ayn Randian libertarian) must be part of the "librul meedja".
4) I don't understand the whole kiddie porn syndrome, but it seems to be a fairly thriving perversion.
5) I suppose they'll lob kim chee at us. Of course, they could nuke Japan.
6) David Beckham may have been a washout in America, but Thierry Henry seems a bit more focused on putting American soccer on the map.
7) There's a new Stonehenge. It's at Stonehenge.
8) Apple's strategy of infiltrating the home computer market by stealth seems to be working. All those iPods and iPhones and iPads are persuading people that Apple makes quality products and are worth the few extra bucks to own.
9) Look...Death Stars cost money and ever since Emperor Palpatine had to bail out the Intergalactic Banking Clan...
10) Wanna know what's wrong with America? Our current cultural ambassador is John McCain's next wife, Snooki.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Driven To Tears

Anyone who has known me for any length of time and in any intimate capacity (even sharing a beer), knows that I am not afraid of my emotions. When I'm mad, I get mad. When I'm happy, I laugh. When I'm contemplative, I withdraw and look inward. And unlike a lot of men who fight to hold it inside, I cry.
I would estimate that I get teary once a week or so. Usually it's because I've been manipulated. Some movies will do that, like Field of Dreams. The scene where Ray calls to his dad to play catch nearly always gets a rise of rage and nostalgia and frustration out of me. I remember playing catch with my dad once, when I was three or four, and never again. He was always too busy or too tired. To have a place like that, where I can play catch with him while he's in his prime, unburdened by responsibility and work, and talk, really talk to him.
I know anything I said to him under those circumstances would be pointless, of course. It wouldn't change who I am, how I was raised, and it would only give me the temporary release of knowing I finally said to this ogre the words I longed to say, the words I graciously left out of his eulogy. But that's the point of that whole scene between Ray and his dad, to make men like me bawl like little babies, to feel a little bit less anger the bastards who raised us.
Sometimes it's joy. In 1994, when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in my life and for the first time in 54 years, I started crying the second Mark Messier grinned and bounced like a chimpanzee as the commissioner handed him the Cup. As one sign put it, "Now I can die in peace". A weight, however trivial, was lifted from my shoulders and my tears lubricated its journey.
Oftentimes, it's nostalgia. I know, for instance, that Sunday as the Tour De France winds down in Paris and Lance Armstrong crosses the finish line, tears will line my cheeks like soft spaghetti strands. I'll raise a glass of Veuve Cliquot (a tradition), salute him, and the tears will start. He is one of my heroes, despite the black cloud of performance enhancements, not because he won, but because of what he went through. It's almost cliche to say he came back from testicular cancer with its 30% fatality rate if caught early enough to win seven straight Tours, a feat likely to never be matched again, but look behind the cliche: at his lowest point, that testicular cancer had metastasized to his lungs, his brain and his stomach.
You or I, even with a remission from a brain cancer, might never get on a bike again. He rode nine more Tours, climbing 400,000 feet in each. He won seven.
I'll miss him. I'll miss watching him compete. I'll miss hearing his name when I watch the Tour next year. It's a part of my life that goes away, put into a book and shut.
Last night,  I was watching an episode of House where there was an outbreak of some mysterious disease in the neo-natal ward. There's a scene where these parents of a newborn are forced to "visit" their baby behind a glass wall because the baby is sick and might be contagious. One of the doctors notices this, and asks them to put on some scrubs because they need help while the sheets in the crib are being changed, so for the first time in days, the mother and father get to hold their child.
Of course, I flash back to the first time I cradled my daughter in my arms, how happy I was, how this ugly grey gooey gob of babyslime was my baby, my child, my daughter. It was a joyous moment.
It took on new meaning yesterday. I met with the surgeon who will excise my cancer and she has asked a reconstructive surgeon to stand by next Friday for my surgery.
You see, I may lose a tear duct. I may lose the very thing that makes us human.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even In New York

This is less about race and more about privilege and location, but race plays into it.
A couple of interesting facts before I pull a quote from the article:
1) New York City has the highest arrest rate for marijuana in the country. No. In the WORLD.
2) The Upper East Side (UES) of Manhattan (my hometown) has a median per capita income of over $90,000. Brownsville, in Brooklyn, has a median income of $25,000.
3) Brownsville is 75% black, 14% Hispanic, and 12% Caucasian. The UES? 88% Caucasian, 8% black and Hispanic combined.
OK, armed with that info, here we go:

Among the biggest but least discussed expansions of government power under Mr. Bloomberg has been the explosive increase in arrests for displaying or burning marijuana.

[...]Nearly nine out of ten people charged with violating the law are black or Latino, although national surveys have shown that whites are the heaviest users of pot. Mr. Bloomberg himself acknowledged in 2001 that he had used it, and enjoyed it.

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan where the mayor lives, an average of 20 people for every 100,000 residents were arrested on the lowest-level misdemeanor pot charge in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

During those same years, the marijuana arrest rate in Brownsville, Brooklyn, was 3,109 for every 100,000 residents.

That means the chances of getting arrested on pot charges in Brownsville — and nothing else — were 150 times greater than on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.


Let that sink in for a minute: You are one and one half times more likely to be arrested in Brownsville, Brooklyn-- just six miles from the UES-- for pot than you are in the UES, despite the fact that pot is generally considered a drug of the privileged according to national surveys.
This alarming statistic stems from the fact that the Bloomberg administration instituted a "Stop And Frisk" policy in the wake of September 11, whereby police are authorized to stop anyone on the street and search them, no probably cause required.
In one eight square block part Brownsville, according to the New York Times, 14,000 people are stopped and frisked each year.
Not coincidentally, there are...14,000 residents. That means on average, you stand a 100% chance of being frisked in that portion of Brownsville each year. Citywide, there are 600,000 stop-and-frisks a year for 9 million people. I'd bet that the UES rate of stop-and-frisks is about 1/150th of Brownsville.
None of this is to suggest that stop-and-frisk is a bad tool. Or a good one. It has demonstrably lowered crime citywide, but like all tools...well, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There has to be a better way than to focus on one neighborhood and produce such an eye-popping statistic for a crime that likely shouldn't be as prevalent there, and totally ignore a neighborhood where the crime exists but hardly anyone notices or cares much.
The UES is where Mayor Mike Bloomberg lives, not just the official Gracie Mansion residence, but his private quarters as well. 
I said this wasn't about race, even though Dwyer's article suggests it is a heavy influence, as the Bloomberg administration seems to lean on white UES kids. I have some personal knowledge about how the precincts in my stomping grounds work.
The cops know. The cops know who the mob bosses are (or were). They know who is untouchable, and how to get to them by picking on the wiseasses (*raises hand*), the troublemakers (*raises hand*), and the accomplices of those who would have privilege to protect them (*puts hand down*). They know, block by block who lives where, how much money dad makes in what business he works in, and how much they can roust the kids. They can tell you where drugs are being sold, where they are being used, and who is using and selling. And they can get them to roll if the crime is serious enough. 
So even in this overwhelmingly white enclave, there is still some stop-and-frisking going on, and it targets the people who don't have political cover. Among that population, I'd bet the ratio to Brownsville is more reasonable, but still skewed heavily ethnically.
Yes. Even in New York City, the melting pot of America, you can still be illegally brown.     

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How Come They Can Be Douches, And We Can't?

An interesting little meme is developing over white poutrage in connection with a video that has surfaced.

Days after the NAACP clashed with Tea Party members over allegations of racism, a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy -- video that now has forced the official to resign.

Shirley Sherrod, the department's Georgia director of Rural Development, is shown in the clip describing "the first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm." Sherrod, who is black, claimed the farmer took a long time trying to show he was "superior" to her. The audience laughed as she described how she determined his fate. 

"He had to come to me for help. What he didn't know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him," she said. "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land -- so I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."

The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after published its initial report on the video, that Sherrod had resigned.


Give Sherrod credit. She fell on her sword, knowing that what she had done was wrong.

Not the decision she made with regards to the farmer, but in speaking publicly about it.

The farmer was a douchebag, pure and simple, if what Sherrod is relating is true. If you're a douche to the trooper who pulls you over for a speeding ticket, you're not likely to get off with a warning, and the bigger a douche you are, the closer to seeing the inside of a prison toilet you get.

Likewise, if your family farm is on the line, you don't assume the official helping you is being "uppity". You smile, and even if she irritates you (and believe me, civil servants can irritate the best of us), and politely ask for help.

The clip that posted (I refuse to link to the assholes) is a small clip of the whole talk, so who knows what they edited out. Remember, this is the jerkwad who was behind the James O'Keefe smear of ACORN. O'Keefe, you may recall, posted a cleverly edited video allegedly showing ACORN workers giving assistance to a "pimp and his ho," O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the disreputable and shamed daughter of Pastor Douglas Giles, who probably ought to be investigated for the sexual abuse of his daughter.

Here's the thing: likely, had the farmer been black and been as snotty as the farmer Sherrod talks about, she would have handled him in precisely the same way. Only you wouldn't have heard about it, even if she spoke at an NAACP rally or for that matter, at a Klan rally.

It's the overreaction by the privileged white people who suddenly realize with alarm that their little fiefdoms of tyrannical uses and abuses of position, power, and author-i-tay have been wrested away from them in large numbers by "other people."

Worse, these "other people" have proven that you don't have to be white to be an asshole. That's what scares them the most, because once you're the one on the receiving end of bureaucracy oveerseen by people you've demonstrated a determined grudge against when you held power, they are not predisposed to be particularly polite to you.

You can almost smell the panic from BigWhiteywood. 


Monday, July 19, 2010

Yea...This Isn't A Problem! No Sirree!

The United States has more intelligence gathering operations than you or I know about. Worse, they don't even really know about each other!
To sum up the report in a short paragraph, right now American intelligence agencies grew about twenty percent in number since September 11, or about 250 brand spanking new agencies, each with its own little fiefdom and domain. In a "publish or perish" mentality not unlike that in academia--who said eggheads were only soft and left-leaning?-- in order to justify their budget line item, these agencies issue a flurry of reports and paper that often contradicts other reports, and worse, gets ignored.
The scariest item in the investigation is that nearly a million people, 854,000 and one and one half the number that actually live in DC, have the highest security clearance (e.g. actually know what happened at Roswell). That's a rather large number to have access to the most sensitive information on the planet.
By contrast, President Obama is about six levels down in security clearances, although by law he must be provided any information he requests, whether his security clearance covers it or not.
What does all this mean? If America before 9/11 was unable to connect the dots (and to be fair, Bush should have considering those kinds of games are at his grade level), now there are more splatters than on a Jackson Pollock. Some will connect. Some that should will not. Some that should not, will. And when the next attack happens, I'm betting that there will be more of the middle than of either of the other two.