Back when I lived in Mountain View I was deeply saddened to read of the death of Gwen Araujo in 2002. She was a transgendered teen in the South Bay who was brutally murdered by classmates. Why? She had given a few blowjobs to the boys. The boys realized in horror that they had committed a “homosexual” act. They felt betrayed by Gwen, beat her to death, and buried her in the woods.
The tragedy bothered me because Gwen was apparently accepted by these friends enough to become somewhat intimate, but the homophobia that had been instilled in these kids was so strong that they went from lust to the worst sort of violence.
For me, “Gwen Araujo” is as a reminder that homophobia is a deadly poison that can turn even a lover into a brutal murderer. Gays aren’t murdering people: it is homophobia that is the dangerous sickness. The younger generations have proven increasingly tolerant, but Gwen’s friends were still held under its deadly influence . . .
I dream of a world in which people can be who they are as they are without fear of violence.
In an age where innovation and creative thinking move ever faster, it is sick and demented that we have extended copyright periods to over a century. It is shame for the current generation and those of the twentieth century that the intellectual commons ended in 1923.
The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons. CC: Wikipedia
The United States hereby withdraws from International Copyright Treaties, especially the Berne Convention. The substance and spirit of the Copyright Law of 1790 shall be restored. All intellectual property rights must be recorded by the government. Software copyright protection requires a copy of source code for software to be stored in escrow with the government. Exclusive rights are conferred to the author for 14 years, plus an option to extend rights for 14 years if the author is alive at that time.
A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates! CC: Wikipedia
All other works are Public Domain. Upon expiration of software copyright protections, the government will publish the source code.
We are not the young, strong, boisterous nation that we once were. We are older and slower, hopefully a bit wiser. We are beginning to suspect that if we sold the old gunboat we have parked in the driveway that we could afford to repave the driveway, upgrade to energy-saving appliances, help the grandkids through school, and still have a few bucks left over to take the wife out for tango lessons.
But how can you be safe without a gunboat in the driveway? Well, I have been thinking about that. It turns out that almost any burglar can be scared off by a guy wielding a 2×4, or a baseball bat, or a crowbar. In fact, Grandpa used to sleep with a crowbar by his bed, just in case. He was tough and never scared. And these days if you don’t find an old man with a crowbar scary you can bet his wife is standing behind him, on the phone with the cops.
Some weeks back I saw a poster for “Shen Yun: Reviving 5,000 Years of Civilization” at work and thought “Excellent! The wife digs artistic performance and bonus points for digging some traditional Chinese culture.” I grabbed some tickets and mentioned to a coworker. “Shen Yun? That’s Falun Gong.” I know very little about Falun Gong, except that the Chinese government views them as a threatening cult. Of course, the mainland government is easily wigged out over any perceived threat to stability, so I figured that doesn’t tell us much. We’re seeing a performance sponsored by an oppressed religious minority. That could mean anything, really.
The performance was pretty cool. Lots of dancers in colorful costumes evoking stories from Chinese history. I’d say it is like watching a Chinese version of the Nutcracker Suite. Lots of color, lots of movement, and good music. Although they’re telling mostly ancient stories they make effective use of a modern prop of a projected backstage. This saves not only on set design, but the characters at various points jump off the back stage and fly up into the screen as digital avatars. The first time I saw this I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but by the second instance I thought “hey, that is pretty neat, and I bet really magical for the kids.”
And then there’s the Falun Dafa bits. They have some solo singers come out and sing in Chinese, which is cool. They even put the lyrics on the back screen in Chinese and English. I am sure some of the poetic nuance is lost in translation, but the songs lament that we are … most of us, anyway … Gods from the Heavens who have come down to Earth for some reason, something about breaking the cycle of reincarnation and restoring the cycle of creation and destruction. To the disinterested observer it comes across as Buddhist Scientology, and the cycle of creation and destruction sounds like the sort of thing that would raise the ear of a mainland censor.
Two of the dance performances are set in modern China. In one, a tourist gets sent to jail when he unintentionally takes a picture of an innocuous Falun Dafa protest. The guy is tossed in a cell with the Falun Dafa kids, whom he wants nothing to do with, but after the guards treat him contemptibly, everyone in the cell identifies their common predicament. I thought “alright, the Chinese government overdoes it, and many social reform movements have found strength in the jails. Right on, brothers! Fight the power!” In the final dance, the Falun Dafa are having a great time protesting in Tienanmen Square. Right on, sisters! Let us see your “tank man” performance! As soon as the Chinese police come out to bust some heads, a massive earthquake starts to destroy Beijing. Huh? That kind of sucks! But, no worry, the Gods come down and restore Beijing … everything except the Great Hall of the People … ah!
Yeah, I can see how even a reasonable government might not be super enthusiastic about that sort of performance.
The show was overall entertaining. I would still hope that people can practice their religion freely. But whatever innate sympathy I might have had for the Falun folks is diminished, especially by their last performance. When it comes to resistance movements, I am most sympathetic to the non-violent, and to those who aren’t fantasizing that apocalypse is an element to their eventual success.
As a white guy I can often get away without worrying about racism. But then I’ll get on the phone with my step mother. As a proud black woman, she takes the Obama hatred personally. “They wouldn’t be so vicious except he’s black.”
I know enough about my country to agree. This is a racist country. We have elected a black man, but we’re in that awkward transitional phase where we feel like we’re over the worst of it but we still have racism that gets diluted year after year. Not sure if that is true or not . . . but like I said, the white majority manages not to think too often about racism.
She contrasts this to McCain in 2008 gently prying himself away from more blatant racism from some of his supporters:
The earlier video makes me squirm all the more … I wish McCain had said that Arabs are decent people too … but you can tell that his top priority is to back away from the crazy. McCain isn’t going to revel in the easy hatred of his opponent. “Obama is a decent man. You do not have to live in fear of Obama being president!”
And, I’m totally cool with a sense of humor, but us white guys, especially anyone running for public office, know there are things you just don’t joke about, especially not in front of the TV cameras. Of course nobody asks about our birth certificate. Nobody asks where we are from. That never happens. Its preposterous! Because white == American == white! Everyone knows this! The only reason an intelligent person like Mitt would crack a joke about his birth certificate to a crowd of supporters is as a nod to his “birther” supporters.
And you know why there’s a birther movement who absolutely can not believe that the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is a native-born citizen of the United States? I’ll give you a hint. Some coded, off-color humor:
Nobody asks for Romney’s birth certificate because he’s not a n*gger.
That’s the plain and simple truth, and when Romney deliberately brings it up he is race-baiting his audience.
Angela takes is more personally than I do … she is quicker to speak up. But even if the casual coded racism doesn’t bother you, what is all the more disappointing about Mitt Romney is that he is so desperate to pander to an audience that he will even pander to racism. John McCain had some character and integrity. The same has not been demonstrated by Mitt Romney.
So, we have yet-another-shooting, which usually provokes a mention on the potential wisdom of gun control and some NRA vitriol about how what we need isn’t less guns but more guns. But then, the latest incident involved kevlar body armor and a gas mask. Guns wouldn’t have been quite as useful in stopping this guy.
I have a more practical solution for the NRA to advocate. Instead of arguing that more people should carry unregulated firearms, instead create a world in which the populace is universally armed. In every pubic place we install explosive devices capable of maiming an armored human being. Then, you put a sign on each device explaining what number to text to trigger an explosion.
Improvised Explosive Devices have proved invaluable to the Iraqi population in their struggle against a well-armored occupying army. And, frankly, learning to handle firearms and having to drag them around everywhere in case a crazy person starts shooting and keeping up your aim so you can get a clean headshot . . . that’s so 19th Century Old West. We can solve our modern problems with modern technology, and put the ability to defend oneself with lethal force in the hands of anyone who can obtain a simple mobile phone.
Many well-meaning people counter that the BSA is a private organization, and as such should be able to keep whomever they want out. This is of course the same justification used to prevent minorities from eating in restaurants during the Jim Crow years. And where an organization as revered and national in scope as the Scouts maintains and defends such a policy, it sends the wrong message to our youth, many of whom already are struggling with their own sexual identity–an identity which has nothing whatsoever to do with their “morality,” but everything to do with their self-esteem and happiness. Thus, while the BSA may have the “legal” right to continue to discriminate–a question I believe should be revisited–I and others have the same “legal” right to protest the policy, till our last breaths if necessary, as blatantly discriminatory and against everything that equality in America stands for.
The dinosaurs running the national organization at the Boy Scouts of America need to stop practicing discrimination. Acceptance of people without regard to sexual orientation is the Morally Straight approach.
I have been aware of the prison problem for a decade or so. What strikes me here is that every year we have the same number of people released from prison as receive Bachelor’s degrees. We funnel this money to corporations who are always happy to lobby for more money, when we should be putting the cash into schools, who are always protesting about their budget cuts.
Once upon an unemployed time I was soul-searching, and I figured that our biggest, most solvable problem was the rate of incarceration. How could I help to solve that? Well, if we started letting folks out, they would need jobs . . . jobs with a prison record and poor educational background. People need to help improve literacy in the prisons.
But I wasn’t bold enough to follow up. And when I am working I don’t worry so much about finding mission to make the world better.
A paragraph I had highlighted as I finished my reading of Du Bois’ “Dusk of Dawn”:
The Dyer Anti-lynching Bill went through the House of Representatives and on to the floor of the Senate. There in 1924 it died with a filibuster and the abject surrender of its friends. It was not until years after that I knew what killed that anti-lynching bill. It was a bargain between the South and the West. By this bargain, lynching was let to go on uncurbed by Federal law, on condition that the Japanese be excluded from the United States.
Sometimes Divide and Conquer needs some unity of purpose to succeed. All too often, we have made compromises to accommodate critically-needed constituencies, and it takes us far too long to realize the evil in the deals we have made, and far too long to correct it. These days I feel that efforts to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of a stable climate are for our generation what race and gender equality, voting rights, workers rights, national infrastructure and slavery were for previous generations.
Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.
At the level of first principles, gay marriage effaces that gift.
[ . . . ]
But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.
I think that there is more to marriage than children, and that those children who can not be adequately cared for by their birth parents are still entitled to be cared for by whatever competent and loving parents society can find for them. At any rate, I am glad to see a Prop 8 supporter come out of the closet and realize that the way to strengthen marriage is to focus on strengthening marriages, rather than denigrating homosexuals.
The other day they were talking about Aung San Suu Kyi on the radio, that the path she chose to follow was the path laid forth by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. The idea is not to seek victory over the enemy, but to identify the universal capacity for virtue, to love the enemy and change the enemy’s heart, to be open to a more enlightened and equitable path. I feel that David Blankenhorn’s evolution here, along with the evolution of many Americans, is evidence that this sort of spiritual warfare is carrying the day in my country.
Someone for whom I have a decent respect is winding down his reading of Atlas Shrugged. While I haven’t read Ayn Rand, I basically get that her shtick is that “self-centered material greed is good because it maximizes economic efficiency. If you waver from this conclusion you are a Communist.”
A comment I left on Facebook:
“Rewarding people who work hard to build wealth” is a key argument for those who desire to rationalize ever-greater disparity in the material welfare of the wealthy over the poor.
“Rewarding people who work hard” is a core objective of Communism.
“A regulatory system that provides fair governance and an incentive for economic efficiency through competition in order to realize the greatest material benefit for society as a whole” is pretty much the desired end of free market capitalism. That’s got three parts: fair regulation, competition, and social good.
Objectivism, like Communism, is like saying “I hate it when a stool has three legs. Things would be better off if the stool had only one leg.”
I likes me some free market economics but it seems like many in our nation have this religious devotion to the idea that everything would be better if there were minimal governance and if we stopped fretting over social welfare. Fortunately there seems to be a counter-argument being put forth, at last, which explains that “wealthy people don’t create jobs unless they have so much consumer demand that they have no choice but to hire more folks” and that “wealthy people are wealthy in large part because the government has built an economy in which there is sufficient infrastructure and a sufficiently educated work force for economic activity to be conducted profitably, and a legal and enforcement structure which removes uncertainty over what rules there are how whether they will be followed.”
If you want to be a Libertarian, I would argue that Somalia is a Libertarian Paradise. There is no government! Strictly speaking, its Anarchy, and whenever I’ve tried to get a Libertarian to explain what parts of government are absolutely necessary the answer has always come out to “only those parts I need to get what I think I want.”
Anyway, I think that if the government can reasonably afford to do so, it ought to, among other things, provide a floor of basic material welfare for its people. And in the interests of promoting a vigorous market system, the government should make an effort to educate its citizens, provide clear and rational regulations and enforcement of economic activity, and if we can ever figure it out, get to a state of Keynesian regulation where we put more capital into the economy when it is weak, and replenish government coffers in times of abundance. All of that effort is rarely efficient and there are lots of opportunities for unfairness and injustice. The government isn’t perfect but it is what we’ve got. The nice thing about Democracy is that we put a value on transparency and fixing of government problems . . .
. . . I’ll take a modern welfare state over Somalia any day of the week!
I haven’t done any research, but I figured I would put in a vote for the cigarette tax, as well as local school bonds for asbestos removal. At current interest rates, government borrowing just sounds like an obvious thing to do.
I also got to vote for Obama for the Democratic Presidential Primary. His was the only name on my registered-Democrat ballot.
I am also hoping that the Cheeseheads give Governor Walker the boot.
Anyway, since Patrick White saw fit to publish his name, face, and contact information alongside a racist cartoon in a newspaper, I dropped him a line suggesting that something might be amiss, and he wrote back saying that no, he was proud to stand by his cartoon, so I shared my own feelings with him:
It is good to cheer on your sports team, but I suspect that if the sports team mascot when you were growing up had been a buck-toothed, squint-eyed Chinaman in a big peasant hat, that you might think twice about printing a Chinaman cartoon in the newspaper. If you were to have such respect for Chinese people and culture, perhaps Indians merit the same sort of respect.
When I was younger my school had an Indian Chief for a mascot. The dozens of our Native American students found it upsetting and it took a few decades of protesting before it was finally removed. While one side found it upsetting that their culture was caricatured to cheer on a sports team, fans of The Chief took offense that Liberal Elites wanted to destroy their culture by imposing Political Correctness on their Hallowed Tradition. So, you had folks insisting that they had to insult another culture in order to properly honor their own culture.
Anyway, some years after I graduated, The Chief got to retire. Alumni kept contributing money and people kept cheering on their team as they had before. Nothing positive was lost, and our school has since regained some respect it had lost during its years of overt racism.
You can make fun of me and rationalize printing racially offensive cartoons in the newspaper all you like, but somewhere deep down, you know it is not right, and you know that you are offending people and scaring away potential clients. Most people are too polite to raise a fuss. But this topic means something to me, so I thought I’d drop you a line and encourage you to think things through.
I don’t need to change Pat White’s mind, and I surely don’t need him to manage my wealth. On the whole, the world seems to be taking a step or two forward for each step back. But it sure is weird to see a racist cartoon published in a newspaper is 2012, 40 years after Stanford managed to figure out that American Indians deserve a little more respect.