In 2006, Sunnyvale applied for funding to add bicycle lanes on Maude Ave from Mathilda to Fair Oaks.
Maude is a two-lane road with a center turn lane. It serves as a main thoroughfare for the immediate neighborhood: residential, commercial, and Bishop Elementary. It also serves through traffic. It is very congested at peak. In the past three years there have been a few dozen accidents: mainly between vehicles, 3 involving pedestrians, 1 involving a cyclist.
W Maude Ave: filling in a gap in Sunnyvale’s bicycle network
In March 2016, a community meeting was held at Bishop school. Three main alternatives were proposed:
Option 1: remove parking along Maude, replace it with 5′ bike lanes with 3′ buffers
Option 2: retain parking, remove left-turn lanes, add bicycle lanes between driving and parking lanes
Option 3: do nothing except add some signs and paint sharrows on the street
At the community meeting, many residents from the SNAIL neighborhood to the North took turns berating the city for any number of reasons. There was a lot of upset that Maude is already congested and that people might park in front of their homes. There was a “voting” board and the community poll came out something like:
Option 1: 35%
Option 2: 15%
Option 3: 50%
Sunnyvale Staff recommend Option 1: improve bicycle infrastructure but avoid increased congestion.
On April 21, 2016, the Sunnyvale Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) reviewed the proposal. Some observations from BPAC:
Further detail desired regarding the causes of vehicle collisions along the corridor — details were not included in the present study.
Project should extend the last half block between Fair Oaks and Wolfe Road — staff remarked that this was an oversight on the original grant request, but that this could be included for future improvement projects to the bicycle infrastructure on Fair Oaks or Wolfe.
Drivers might park in buffered lanes.
If left turn lanes are removed, drivers might use the bicycle lane to pass vehicles waiting for turn.
Maude has many driveways, and it is safer for bicyclists further from the curb, where they are more visible to drivers utilizing driveways.
Traffic impact analysis will be performed subsequent to the city selecting a preferred alternative, thus no traffic impact studies have been performed to distinguish the current proposals.
1 mile between Mathilda and Fair Oaks
1 grammar school
3 pedestrian crosswalks
I spoke first. I live adjacent to Bishop school:
I remarked on the lack of pedestrian crosswalks, asked the City to look at adding more as part of the project.
I noted the advantages of using the parking as a buffer lane for cyclists: route bike lanes at the curb.
I thanked BPAC for noting the desirability of an extension to Wolfe.
One gentleman who used to live in the neighborhood spoke in support of bike lanes.
One gentlemen from SNAIL explained his opposition to bike lanes, due to present low bicycle traffic.
One lady from Lowlanders spoke in support of a bike lane:
Leaning toward Option 2
Asked if there had been any Spanish-language outreach, as this is the population occupying the rental housing and attending Bishop who would be most impacted by the project, especially removal of parking.
BPAC made a motion to:
Support Option 1, per staff recommendation
Request 6′ bicycle lanes with 2′ buffer
Request project extension to Wolfe Road
Request inclusion of additional crosswalks
The motion passed with two dissenting votes. The chair, who lives on Murphy, stated his objections:
Removal of parking would adversely impact the neighborhood
Removal of left turn lanes would inconvenience drivers, and thereby discourage through traffic
City Council will review the plan May 17, 2016.
I finally caught a Democratic Debate last night, thanks to a gracious wife who helped our son to bed. I’m a Sanders guy, I send him $25/mo. I recently read that he’s the only candidate who pays his interns, which I like for several reasons: economic opportunity for young folks, which our country needs, and my hunch is that someone getting the opportunity to earn a paycheck is going to have a little more earnestness than a more privileged kid who is taking the job to build a resume. Even more, it puts a price on one’s commitment: time is at a premium for me, but my $25/mo should cover two hours of intern labor. I feel a connection …
At the debate, I was a little disappointed in Bernie. Ask him a question, ask for details, and he’d pivot to any one of several talking points about how we need to regulate the banks, shut down the prisons, hand out tuition … he is an idealist but he is still a politician.
Oh no wait that was an earlier debate. Here’s my summary:
Hillary, I like her fine enough. She had to go ahead and congratulate herself for being in the Situation Room to get Osama killed. Who wouldn’t brag about that one? Then near the end she tried to paint Bernie as a guy who is all busy hating on Obama. Bernie had a good retort that is was Hillary who ran against him in 2008.
The weirdest part was when Bernie started going off about Henry Kissinger. The gist of it is that the man is a war criminal and pals with Clinton. Maybe he could goad her into defending a war criminal? She handled that deftly: she’ll take advice from anyone. I’m no Kissinger fan but that was one of several times when Bernie’s focus seemed more on the mid-20th century than the present day. I appreciate historical perspective, but I worry about the guy coming off as stuck in the past.
I found a good explanation on the Kissinger thing here at “The Intercept”. The gist of it is that yes, Kissinger is an impressively heinous character and a friend of Hillary Clinton, and that there is a larger issue, that Left or Right, there’s a little cabal of hawkish Neocon-leaning foreign policy advisors that make up the Washington Foreign Policy Establishment. Bernie has been dinged for not articulating his vision for foreign policy, but when he lights up on Kissinger, he’s using Kissinger as the bellwether poster child for the Foreign Policy Establishment. He’s essentially saying what he says on a lot of stuff: we can do better.
Dr Henry Kissinger
For what it is worth, here’s what Google responds to the query sanders foreign policy:
The test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner. I will move away from a policy of unilateral military action and regime change, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
“Diplomacy. Less war.”
Huh. How about clinton foreign policy:
As secretary of state, I worked to restore America’s leadership in the world. As president, defending our values and keeping us safe will be my top priority. That includes maintaining a cutting-edge military, strengthening our alliances, cultivating new partners, standing up to aggressors, defeating ISIS, and enforcing the Iran nuclear agreement.
“Keep us safe! More military! Defeat ISIS and watch our for Iran!”
Can I get some establishment consensus? Maybe jeb foreign policy:
Obama’s disengagement has contributed to growing threats to our national security, including radical Islamic terrorism, Iranian aggression, an emboldened Putin, and an assertive China. Adversaries do not fear us and allies do not trust us. I will rebuild America’s military, restore our credibility and leadership, and repair our broken alliances.
“Muslims! Iran! Russia! China! More military!”
It would seem that this isn’t about Bernie being stuck in the 20th Century. Bernie’s beef is that Washington is stuck in the late 20th Century. The same advice that got us in bed with the Shah of Iran, that stoked the revolution there, is the same advice that got us mired in Vietnam and armed Al Qaeda, is the same advice that later got us mired in Iraq, and it is this same advice that is likely to bite us in the future.
I think one could debate the merits of interventionism versus the blowback and unintended consequences. Okay, Kissinger is a bad guy: I get it. Bernie, what should we do different and how do you honestly figure it will play out? Americans are not naturally fond of interventionism, but it seems to have worked well enough for us most days. Most days, it is foreigners who pay the price. Foreigners … and our soldiers. In Vietnam it was The Draft and it seems that everyone in my parents’ generation carries some subtle emotional scar from that. Foreigners, soldiers, conscripts … on 9/11 it was office workers, police and firefighters. But we don’t talk about 9/11 as blowback for interventionism.
I don’t know the specifics, but one has to figure there could be some better ideas about how a powerful nation can lead the world toward the better, while shedding less blood. I click back to Google, and scroll through statement after statement from Sanders that sounds sane, rational and level-headed to me. A pastiche:
Indeed, Sanders said, “I supported the use of force in Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists who attacked us.”
Sanders said the war with the terror organization, which released videos this week that threatened attacks in Washington and New York, “must be done primarily by Muslim nations with the strong support of their global partners.”
“The war against ISIS, a brutal and dangerous organization, cannot be won unless the Muslim nations which are most threatened — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Jordan — become fully engaged, including the use of ground troops,” Sanders said.
“It must be destroyed not just by the United States of America alone. In many respects, what ISIS wants is a clash of civilizations,” Sanders said.
“With the third largest military budget in the world and an army far larger than ISIS, the Saudi government must accept its full responsibility for stability in their own region of the world,” he added
But, Sanders added: “I oppose, at this point, a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria, which could get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”
“I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement,” he said.
In a later tweet, Sanders insisted, “We will not destroy ISIS by undermining the Constitution and our religious freedoms.”
From what I can see, Bernie articulates what sounds to me some reasonable ideas about foreign policy. Nations have to take care of their own regional problems. We should help out. But we can’t win what isn’t really our fight.
What does Clinton have on offer?
To support troops from Iraq and around the region, the U.S. should “immediately deploy the special operations force President Obama has already authorized and be prepared to deploy more as more Syrians get into the fight,” Clinton said.
On ABC, Clinton said: “We have to fight in the air, fight on the ground and fight them on the Internet. We have to do everything we can with our friends and partners around the world. That’s what we’ll hear from the president, to intensify the current strategy.”
Yet Clinton cynically told corporate executives at a 2011 State Department roundtable on investment opportunities in Iraq, “It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.”
Oh Google, your algorithms seem to have a Socialist bias. At any rate, I feel better about where my sympathies lie.
I was watching Larry Wilmore and the panel asked itself why are young liberals not excited about Hillary Clinton, and they jumped straight to the thesis that the cause is sexism. I know that there is no shortage of hatred against Hillary rooted in sexism, but for young liberals, I don’t think that this is what is turning them on to Sanders. I think that if there is a prejudice at play, it is against going back to the past.
Many of us who can remember the 90s remember it as a pretty good time, (as long as you weren’t big on equal rights for gays) especially in contrast to the George W years. Sure, the Republicans hated everything about the Democratic president but at least that could be rationalized by his obvious moral shortcoming. Younger liberals don’t remember those years. They came of age under a president whose political credentials were rooted entirely in his relationship to a 90s president. That was a train wreck. Eight years ago, we considered Hillary Clinton but decided that whatever nostalgia we felt for the 90s was trumped by an inexperienced Black Guy with a funny name. Say what? Its like progressives were less than eager to embrace the past.
And you see how that works out. Like Clinton, the Right hates Obama. Alas, Obama’s greatest moral failing is that he enjoys an occasional cigarette, so the Right is left to invent moral failings: he’s Muslim! he’s foreign! he’s Socialist! He’s … whatever … meanwhile the Left is trying to figure out the degree to which the Right hates Obama because they’re just plain old racist or do they simply hate any Democratic President?
Anyway, you look at your options: Hillary would be a perfectly competent President, like Bill was. Sure, the Right will hate her but she’s been dealing with that bullshit longer than most of us have been alive. That she hasn’t been crushed by hate and still seems somewhat human is a testament to her strength of character, and sheer, pragmatic, calculating ambition and political savvy. She’ll know how to work a hostile Congress to eek out incremental progress, much as Obama has.
Or, if they’re going to hate your president anyway, why settle for a pragmatic, shrewd centrist who will eek out incremental progress when you could just vote your Socialist ideals and send the Right wing our own tough New Yorker who says out loud what we’re all thinking anyway: that the banks are too big, that the rich get away with murder, and that Socialism is not an evil bogey man that will hand victory to the USSR.
And … I for one remember the 1990s … I don’t remember Clinton actually achieving anything. Healthcare reform went down in flames. Gays could be allowed in the military as long as they kept it in the closet. We deregulated the banks while sticking the evil Welfare Moms with red tape. We really didn’t move the ball forward much … if at all. When we later swooned for Barack “Hope and Dreams” Obama, we got some health care reform, women now serve in combat, and gay people can get married in all fifty states. Sure, we haven’t closed Guantanamo Bay, and there are still some troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Osama bin Laden is dead and we aren’t fighting any new wars. Not bad for voting for the unlikely young guy who had more rhetoric and possibility to offer than the Clinton option.
So, yeah, when it comes down to another Clinton administration versus taking a chance on Idealism, a lot of us figure voting for an Angry Old Brooklyn Jewish Socialist could be the better option.
Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Junior Day, a national holiday, Black Lives Matter protesters briefly shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge in one direction. I smiled at that. A traffic snarl on a holiday commemorating a great activist caused by today’s ambitious activists: what is not to love?
But today on the drive in they were discussing it on Forum and people kept calling in to complain about how yeah sure they support black people and they think it is okay to protest but not, heck forbid, if it is disruptive. “Who do these people think they are? They’re not going to win me over with tactics like that!”
“Hooray for Our Side”
Dan Brekke, also of KQED, posted a piece with some historical perspective, and recounted how his Uncle Bill Hogan, once a Catholic Priest, had participated in a very similar protest in Chicago, blocking a highway into the city, on a Tuesday, May 9, 1972. He remarked that the Vietnam War ultimately ended, but that the protest in question was only one of very very many.
I got to thinking of the first time I ever engaged in a protest. Just a few days over twenty five years ago, on January 16, 1991. To quote an article by Charles Leroux in The Chicago Tribune:
“Cara Brigandi, 16, a junior at Lincoln Park High School, said she led a movement of Lincoln Park students to walk out of school and protest. Organizers gave students their marching orders when they came to school Tuesday morning. Fliers were passed out urging students to leave classes about 10 a.m. That effort mushroomed into a march down North Avenue to Lake Shore Drive and then to the Loop. Along the way, Lincoln Park students say they picked up students from the Latin School of Chicago, and William Jones Metropolitan High School. By about 12:30, approximately 200 students were in front of City Hall.”
I remember getting the flyer at the school door. I remember that moment when the time came and every student had to ask themselves whether they were going to stick with class or step outside. I remember looking out the window to see a growing crowd inviting us to join them and then the moment I decided to join other teenage kids running down the stairs to break a first taboo. After some cheering and whatnot, the crowd headed down the street. The cops managed to break the crowd in two, with the folks in the back returning to school. Those of us toward the front were soon walking through a Chicago winter day down a highway on-ramp and on to Lake Shore Drive: two lanes of students, one more lane of police cars, buffering us, and another lane of mid-morning traffic squeezing by, many cheering us on.
“Hell no, we won’t go,” the protesters chanted. And: “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your (bleeping) war. Five, six, seven, eight, we will not cooperate.” Among the crowd were many non-students who had protested the Vietnam War. With that war, “it took years before there was this kind of protest,” said Lester McNeely, 37, of Oak Park, a member of the West Side Peace Coalition.
The next day, we started to bomb Iraq.
Back to the present day … Dan Brekke suggests that one objective of protest is to get people arguing, and a comment on the Forum discussion cites Dr King himself:
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
I’ve come a long way from being a chanting high school kid walking down LSD … I own a house in the suburbs!? I guess I’m in a place where I can suggest to others of my social class that there is a time for order, but there is also a time for action, however messy, disorganized, inchoate, and perhaps even self-defeating.
If it is Martin Luther King Day, and your trip across the Bay Bridge from the Chocolate City of Oakland into the Liberal Mecca of San Francisco gets delayed by people who are angry about cops murdering black kids, well, I would suggest that whether you agree with the protest or not, this is a perfect time to roll down the window, raise your fist in the air, and express your opinion.
Sometimes an image is worth far more than a mere thousand words.
Even the milquetoast is calling him out:
How do you triumph against an oppressor who has an overwhelming advantage in terms of firepower? If you are Mahatma Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, or Ukrainian Colonel Yuri Mamchur, you practice non-violent direct action. I hope that Ukraine may yet share in the triumph of this strategy.
Colonel Yuri Mamchur, Hero of Belbek, UA
I will tell the story from Simon Shuster’s Twitter stream:
UPDATE: Very Good Summary on Buzzfeed
Commander of Ukraine’s Belbek base just got a call from Russian counterpart. Another ultimatum: surrender by 16:00. This is the 3rd one
Incredible. Half the Ukraine troops from Belbek base now marching to airstrip occupied by Russians. Unarmed. To take it back.
The column of troops, carrying the Ukraine and Soviet (!) flags, about to march on the Russian occupied airstrip. pic.twitter.com/prR9rfP7Fp
Ukraine column has reached Russian checkpoint. Russians begin firing in the air. Ukrainians keep marching
Russians call commander to negotiate. Troops have RPGs and machine guns trained on the column of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers. Belbek, Crimea
Russians back down, allow 10 Ukraine soldiers to take up positions at occupied base, but still awaiting orders from Moscow
Face off between Ukraine base commander Col. Yuli Manchur and Russian officer at occupied Belbek airbase pic.twitter.com/6N10wuezef
The Ukraine commanders just received word that Putin ordered the Russian troops to withdraw. Is that true?
Officer who shot in air as Ukraine column marched up to him said he was on the Maidan fighting ‘fascists’ with a stick. Presumably Berkut
The red flag the Ukrainians marched with is the banner of the fighter pilots who fought Nazis in 1941 and guarded the Yalta Conference
Ukraine Colonel still negotiating, Russian snipers & RPGs still aiming at column of soldiers. But deescalation is clear, at least in Belbek
Personnel carrier just arrived, disgorging armed Russian troops at checkpoint. Ukraine commander just finished negotiating.
Ukraine commander demands to guard the base jointly with Russians, who pledge to give their commanders’ response by 12:00, in 2 hours
Russian military truck just brought a handful of (probably Russian) news crews to the Belbek standoff. They’re now filming from Russian side
Ukraine’s 204th tactical aviation brigade when they just arrived to face down the Russians in Belbek: pic.twitter.com/Zz91TuJHXf
Marching along with the Ukraine brigade were the wives of four of the officers, all standing surrounded by Russian snipers at Belbek
Phone battery dying. Read @Time a bit later for the hair-raising conclusion of the ballsiest move of the Crimean conflict so far. #Belbek
I first read of the story via ABC News. I think this is an excellent strategy to employ against the Russian occupation. Putin claims the Russians are there to defend against violent acts. It would appear that the Ukrainian Military are Not the Problem here. I hope this tactic is employed further by Ukraine’s soldiers and its people, and I wish to see them succeed. Mamchur and his soldiers are heros of humanity.
One big deal is that when Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran, we knew it was happening, and instead of raising a stink, we gave him logistical support. Our credibility with regards to international law is heavily tarnished, and that undermines our claims in present day Syria.
What I would love to see is if Congress, in authorizing military action, also passed some kind of Whistle Blower Compulsion bill: if you see something, you must say something!! If you are aware that a war crime or a crime against humanity is being perpetrated, you have to tell everyone you can think of: your boss, your mom, your blog, the New York Times, hell, even tell that douchenozzle Julian Assange! Failure to disclose knowledge of such crimes should consequently open you to charges of criminal conspiracy once they are finally disclosed.
(. . . not like we would ever prosecute Americans for War Crimes, but a boy can dream . . .)
As far as the current situation in Syria goes, I am reminded of Serbia. After a few too many abuses Clinton sent in air power to disrupt their military command and control and mess up the power grid. We basically put our thumb on the scale to expedite our preferred outcome. From what I can tell, our short-term preferred outcome in Syria is a stalemate (brutal dictator vs Al Qaeda) so I don’t reckon we’ll spend much time with our thumb on the scale.
The long-term desired outcome, which is the real reason we need to take the idea of intervention seriously, is to discourage the future use of chemical weapons. “Remember when Assad looked like he might win the civil war in Syria but then he gassed civilians and the US started bombing him? Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to reach for the chemical weapons.” This is what I hope will be an outcome of our bombing Syria.
As new parents, it is not as if we are getting out to the movies at all these days. All the same, when the Ender’s Game Movie page popped up in my Facebook I had to pay a visit, and share my opinion:
FWIW, Card has continued to advocate and advance his beliefs that homosexual people should have lesser rights than heterosexual people. If you see this movie then some of your ticket price goes to Card and will help in your own small way to advocate for discrimination. This reason alone turns me so far of the prospect of seeing this movie.
When I was younger, I loved the entire trilogy, and I would still encourage folks to borrow the books from the library, but the thought of giving another dime to Card fills me with revulsion.
Discrimination is not cool, and every dollar of revenue this movie fails to book is a dollar that has been better spent elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, people who are planning not see go watch Ender’s Game aren’t spending much time on the movie’s Facebook page. So, comments like mine get a lot of pushback. Some guy in Netherlands reads what I said above and responds, “So you liked the books and then you learned about OSC’s beliefs and you didn’t like the books anymore?”
Which, no, that’s not quite what I said. So, I’ll try again:
Peter, I love the books. What I dislike is the idea of giving any money to a guy who uses it as a soapbox to preach that gay people should be discriminated against. I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone who preaches against the rights of homosexuals just as much as I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone preaching Racism or Sexism or Ultranationalism or Religious Extremism or any of the rest.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great books to be read, plenty of great movies to be watched, that aren’t asking me to support the cause of hateful people. There are plenty of great books I have not yet read, plenty of great movies I have yet to watch. Plenty of enjoyment to be had without giving money to those preaching a tired old hatred.
Ask yourself this: would the idealistic young kids portrayed in “Enders Game” be lining up to see a movie produced by someone preaching hate? There are surely any number of more valuable things that you could be spending your time and money on, neh?
At any rate, as I said, there’s only so much time I have to spend that I’m not going to blow too much of it debating kids on Facebook. I have done my little part, and Orson Scott Card is pretty small-fry compared to the kind of awful stuff that is happening in Russia.
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.
I get reminded again, today, catching up on blogs and Angela Tung has to speak up about this video:
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.
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