Friday, August 29, 2014

Bad Cops in Saint Paul

In case you haven't heard, a clear case of police brutality and general stupidity took place in Saint Paul back in January. It just became known because the victim, Chris Lollie, only got his phone back from police a month ago, and finally posted the video he took to YouTube a few days ago. Given the story in the Atlantic, linked above, it may be going national.

Lollie was sitting in one of these chairs at 9:45 a.m. on a weekday, waiting to pick his kids up from a child care center down the hall. This is one of our famous skyways -- second floor passageways that connect buildings in the downtown areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Photo by Twitter user Alex Cecchini

Skyways are quasi-public spaces -- I'm not sure who owns them, but they are patrolled by city police, so that tells us something.

Apparently, a security guard from the adjacent bank told Lollie -- a black guy in his late-20s with short dreadlocks -- that he was in an employee-only space and asked him to leave. Lollie ignored him. Or maybe he said hell no... that part is not on tape, and it doesn't matter, since there are no signs saying it's a restricted area and everything about its design and comfy chairs indicates it is meant for the public.

So the guard calls police and Lollie begins to record the encounter on video. It's a disturbing video, but not in a "someone gets killed" way -- just in a "it's hard to watch someone being treated in such a dehumanizing manner" kind of way.

It took Saint Paul police almost six months to drop the absurd charges they filed against Lollie, and they're still insisting they behaved in an acceptable manner. Quoting the Atlantic article,

"At one point, the officers believed he might either run or fight with them. It was then that officers took steps to take him into custody," a spokesperson said. "He pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders. They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody." Said the designated public employee union representative: "These three cops in the skyway, you couldn't get nicer individuals. This guy was acting like a jerk." 
Yeah, I'd want to run away from you, too, and I would have the right to do that since there was no indication a crime had been committed. "He pulled away" and "he resisted...lawful orders" -- that's utter crap.

Apologize now and pay the man some money. You are wrong. I am ashamed that you police my city.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Minnesota State Fair 2014

It's late August in Minnesota, and that means it's time for the State Fair. Some food, some art, some crops, and a bit of random fairness.

First the food. The best thing I had was the blue cheese corn fritters with chimichurri sauce. Accompanied by a blue basil lemonade:

Just a little sweet and pretty spicy (from the sauce), with a crunchy outside. Mmmmm. They can be found at the new Blue Barn restaurant in the West End Marketplace, which has replaced Heritage Square.

The Blue Barn is the best-looking new building, too, though the new Fair history museum was also very nice.

When I get to the top of the slide, then I turn and I go for a ride:

This year we made our way to the south-end streets for the first time in a few years. We were rewarded by getting the chance to see one of the butter sculptures in process:

The two women (princess subject at left and butter sculptor at right) are inside a rotating glass case that's kept at refrigerator-temperatures.

We also stopped at the Miracle of Birth barn. I think it may be the first time I've been there since they rebuilt it into the huge palace it has become. The last time I visited its predecessor, it was basically a petting zoo for children.

Now it's a small arena for watching cows and pigs give birth. This calf, two days old, was born at the Fair. We saw another calf being born. They come out front-feet-first, then head, followed by the rest of the body and back legs.

It made me think about how novel it was for me, even though I grew up near farms, and how normal it is for all of the young 4Hers working in the building. Different worlds.

One of my favorite parts of the Fair is the Eco Experience building. The state's Pollution Control Agency does a tremendous job of visualizing data for the public. Two standouts from this year:

30 seconds-worth of paper that goes into landfills (instead of recycling) in the state every day.

The amount of clean water used in Minnesota by a family of four -- 320 gallons.

For the past few years, we've been perusing the student art in the Education building, critiquing which kindergarten art could possibly be the work of a child (with no help of a parent) and things like that. This year, I found myself enamored of the group projects, especially this colorful town made by a third-grade class at Hilltop Elementary School:

Close-ups of a couple show a rainbow roof:

And a multi-level house with stairs up the side and an open-air attic:

I also loved this set of mugs by North Saint Paul senior Julia Tanzer:

Then it was on to the crop art. The Doctor Who Tardis in dyed seeds was probably the best for detail:

It looked like cross-stitching. And check out the frame, which is also made from seeds.

Perennial winner Laura Melnick teamed up with Steve Sack (I assume the same Steve Sack who's the editorial cartoonist for the Star Tribune) to create this incredibly detailed Carmen Mooranda cow.

I'm always a sucker for a Scream homage, and I particularly liked the use of orange in this one, along with the use of the Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, and downtown Minneapolis in the background.

My favorite 3D entry by Maria Holmen.

Jill Moe made a nice parcheesi board from undyed seeds.

Among the youth entries, this tiger by Enrique Anthony had the most graphic punch and personality.

Education "reform" got some attention in the crop art and nearby scarecrow displays:

Maria Asp visualized the nature of testing compared to learning.

Leif Jurgensen created a nightmarish scarecrow holding a Scantron sheet and wearing a name tag that reads:

1. Standardized tests…

A. DAMAGE students
B. PUNISH teachers
C. DESTROY schools
D. PROFIT corporations
E. All of the above

CROWS aren't the only ones who should be SCARED.

Maria Asp (who also created the crop art above) made a student into a scarecrow.

Then it was on to the regular art show. I felt a bit overwhelmed by this point, and while I appreciated  many of the paintings, none of them spoke to me enough to be recorded for my personal posterity. Instead, I wanted to remember these:

"Prairie Skyscraper" photo by George Heinrich.

This hat, "She Was Restless for Adventure," was created by Jean Hawton, who is one of the show's jurors. Looking at it here in my bad photos doesn't come close to doing it justice because much of its beauty is in the details. Be sure to notice the snake encircling the brim...

...and the leaves embroidered on the other side.

"Formidable Toad" by Glenn McKillips is carved in Bedford limestone.

I love hooked rugs, and the one titled "The Man Who Sleeps Inside My Father" by Mary Logue was a beautiful example that inspires me to think about taking up the art.

I'm not sure why, but this glass skateboard deck really appeals to me. It's by Fredric Vilina.

And one final picture -- the best T-shirt I saw of the day:

My past Fair posts:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Endangered Stick Figures

The stick figure families don't seem to be getting the coverage they used to, but even so, I just saw this:

You have to wonder about a person who feels so strongly about it that they threaten to run ’em down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Over-Represented Jobs

When you survey people around the country to ask what type of job they have, you get pretty consistent answers. Retail is number one in 42 states, for instance. But Business Insider looked at the data a different way: What's the most over-represented job in each state? Therein lies a more varied picture.

The answers are sometimes obvious:

  • North Carolina and Georgia: textile workers
  • West Virginia and Kentucky: miners
  • California: farmworkers
  • Nevada: gaming supervisors
  • North Dakota and Oklahoma: oil and gas drillers
  • Oregon and Maine: loggers
  • Washington: airplane assemblers
Other times they say something about a state's economy that outsiders may only vaguely know:
  • Minnesota: food scientists
  • New Mexico: physicists
  • Colorado: atmospheric and space scientists
  • Louisiana: sailors
  • Michigan: model makers (car models, I assume)
A few are a bit confounding:
  • Nebraska and Alaska: butchers (okay, maybe Nebraska, but Alaska?)
  • Vermont: highway maintenance workers (are there that many highways in Vermont?)
  • Maryland: subway operators (what subway? The D.C. Metro?)
And then there are those that can only be answered with a resounding ?@#!?
  • Missouri: psychiatric technicians
  • South Carolina: tire builders
  • Illinois: groundskeepers
  • Pennsylvania: survey researchers
Oh, and by the way, political scientist is the most over-represented job in Washington, D.C. Pundit was probably a close second.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Wilmington Massacre

There was a funeral today for Michael Brown, 18, killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. By coincidence, I picked up a book called Crow a few days ago, and so was reading it today as the funeral took place.

Crow tells the story of the 1898 Wilmington (N.C.) Massacre through the eyes of 12-year-old Moses Thomas. Like the vast majority of white Americans, particularly northerners, I've never heard of the massacre. But because of it, 22 black residents were killed, many more were injured, and dozens of the city's most prominent black men were forced to leave town for good. It's also the only recognized coup d'├ętat in American history, where the local elected representatives (both black and white) were forced out of office at gunpoint.

The book deals with the role of the black press, which I appreciated, and reminds the reader that even as late as 1898, there were places in the South that were close to integrated, with a healthy black middle class. All of that was destroyed by angry whites who strong-armed the black residents until they were cowering in their homes.

The use of guns and militias by white supremacists -- patrolling the city streets, setting up checkpoints -- is eerily familiar in this day of Second Amendment advocates over-arming themselves and patrolling around the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, for instance. It also reminded me of the articles I've read explaining that the Second Amendment was a compromise to placate Southern slave-owners, who needed arms to keep their slaves down. In Crow, and in the factual record of what happened in Wilmington, white citizens used arms to intimidate black men into not voting. But that was just a prelude to the killings that followed.

Crow brought tears to my eyes. If there was ever a time when black citizens needed support from the federal government, this was it. But the feds was nowhere to be seen, either at the time of the violence or later to restore the city's elected officials.

The only fault I found with the book is its title. I guess it's a reference to the birds that Moses discusses with his grandmother, Nanny Boo. But in the text, she more often talks about buzzards than crows, and so I don't know quite what to make of the use of the one-syllable word, other than to think it's a combination of the current youth-publishing fad for one-syllable titles combined with an unexplained reference to Jim Crow. Since the book is meant for middle-grade readers, that lack of explanation is kind of glaring.

As a reviewer named Amy Rae put it on Good Reads,
Today, we think of Jim Crow in the context of segregationist Jim Crow laws, but Jim Crow was originally an archetypal character from minstrelsy, and "crow" on its own was derogatory well before Jim Crow's debut in the 1820s--and keep in mind that this book is set in 1898, when Jim Crow would have been an established stock character. Minstrelsy was easily one of, if not the most popular form of live entertainments in the 19th-century, and while minstrelsy as a whole is mentioned off-handedly in the text, I don't recall acknowledgment of the more fraught aspects of the term "crow."

For these reasons, I didn't think it was appropriate to present a black people = crows metaphor as a neutral idea. Beyond that, the title just doesn't say much of anything about what actually happens in the story; it's inspecific in addition to having a history of controversy attached to it.
Most reviewers on Good Reads saw value in the book, some giving it five stars and a few mentioning Newbery Medal contention, but there were a couple who felt it was unclear on its audience or that it was overly didactic. I disagree with that. Unlike Walter Dean Myers's book Riot, Crow's narrator and his family felt real to me and were a good vehicle for relating what happened in Wilmington.

Given my age and knowledge of the general history of race relations in this country, I found the story filled in lots of gaps. I'm not sure if I would have known what to make of it, had I read it at age 10 or 11, but I think it would have made me want to find out more.

I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how white people have terrorized black people in this country for more than a century, often while blaming black people for it.

It seems like a fitting read for today.


Another excellent way to get a glimpse of how white supremacy was enforced after the Civil War is to watch the PBS documentary Slavery by Another Name. It covers 1865 to 1945, "revealing the interlocking forces in both the South and the North that enabled neoslavery to begin and persist." It uses archival photographs and re-enactments filmed in Alabama and Georgia to tell these important, overlooked stories.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Forty-Three Years Since the Powell Memo

I've long known the name Lewis Powell, but only in that trivia-addict, completest kind of way. He was a member of the Supreme Court from 1972 to 1987, appointed by Richard Nixon. He was kind of a low-profile guy, though he did represent the Tobacco Institute as part of his work at a Virginia law firm.

While on the court he was generally considered a swing vote. For instance, he voted with the 5–4 majority in the incredibly misthought Bowers vs. Hardwick decision, and later said his vote was a mistake. (Bowers was later overturned in Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional.)

But Powell probably had his biggest effect in a memo he wrote to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 43 years ago yesterday. I was reminded of this in a recent email from the Liberty Tree Foundation. Here goes:
On August 23rd, 1971, future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell sent a confidential memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calling for a complete corporate takeover of our political, legal, and educational systems. Later termed the “Powell Memo,” this extraordinarily influential document has served as a blueprint and call-to-arms for corporate America over the last forty years.

Powell warned that the incredible gains that We the People had won during the social and environmental movements of the 1960's threatened corporate interests, and he argued that “business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination”....

As a plan of action, Powell proposed that elite business leaders wage a coordinated, long-term campaign to dominate the political, judicial, electoral and even educational sectors, declaring that “there should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.”

...Powell's Memo proved highly effective — the Chamber adopted his recommendations in 1973 and in short order additional corporate interest groups formed such as the Business Roundtable (1972), the Heritage Foundation (1973), the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC (1973), and many others. Over the intervening decades they put Powell's Memo into practice and today our federal and state governments are indeed controlled by a corporate and financial elite determined to push their self-serving agenda as far as possible.
According to Powell's Wikipedia page,
In the memorandum, Powell advocated "constant surveillance" of textbook and television content, as well as a purge of left-wing elements. He named consumer advocate Ralph Nader as the chief antagonist of American business.

This memo foreshadowed a number of Powell's court opinions, especially First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which shifted the direction of First Amendment law by declaring that corporate financial influence of elections through independent expenditures should be protected with the same vigor as individual political speech. Much of the future Court opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission relied on the same arguments raised in Bellotti.
 Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson give a clear critique of the Powell Memo in their book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, excerpted here.


Fun final fact: When Powell resigned from the Court in 1987, he was replaced by Anthony Kennedy, who still provides swing votes to this day, albeit at a center point that has shifted farther to the right. But before Kennedy was nominated, President Reagan proposed two other candidates who didn't make it through the Senate process: Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg. Their rejections have affected the process for all nominees since then.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Old News

At a recent family reunion, a relative brought along copies of the La Crosse Tribune from the early 1960s through the late 1970s that had been saved by a grandparent. Lots of interesting stuff about flooding in the area, particularly, plus the Kennedy assassination. But there were other sections that made me get out my camera.

First I saw this, from 1967:

Which reminded me of the white open-carry advocates who filled a Minnesota legislative hearing a few months ago without inflammatory front-page headlines. And the point often made these days that white people wandering the aisles of Target with rifles dangling from their shoulders somehow are treated different from black people who even seem to have guns.

Then there was this headline from the 1980 presidential election:

Do you remember Reagan winning in a landslide in 1980? I don't. Reading the article makes it clear that the term is inappropriate (he got 51 percent of the popular vote). But he did get a landslide of electoral votes. Is that what this headline makes you think?

Finally, this from the early 1960s:

The headline "Women Say They Cannot Stay Home 'Where They Belong'," is another bad fit for the wire service article. The women don't say they belong at home, as it says in the lead. Their critics say that's where they belong. The dainty single quotes around the phrase don't seem enough to get that across.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Not to Flush

My fascination with the details of public restrooms continues. First it was diaper changing tables. Now it's the handmade signs that ask toilet users to flush only toilet paper.

So far I only have two of them, but I'll be on the lookout for more. (Feel free to send in any you see that are particularly interesting.)

I liked the one above because of the phrase "female products." It was a unisex bathroom, so it seems like a more general term like "hygiene products" might have been clearer and more accurate.

This one gets points for creativity.

The subject of this photo isn't in the correct genre, but I spotted it around the same time, also in a public rest room. It's good that they made their message clear, don't you think?

Though it seems to me that if there are any people who think it's okay to eat out of a large plastic container holding a trash bag, those same people also won't be able to read.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

I wrote about Sweet Honey in the Rock once before. That was a celebratory moment, and I quoted the words to their "Ella's Song."

Now those words seem like they make a good rallying point for protesters and mourners in Ferguson.

The song is best appreciated in performance (with some of the verses rearranged, as Sweet Honey often does):

And the lyrics:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young who dare to run against the storm

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I've come to realize
That teaching others to stand and fight is the only way our struggle survives

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes


Ella Baker was (quoting the Wikipedia) "a critic of professionalized, charismatic leadership and a promoter of grassroots organizing and radical democracy." One of her biographers called her "One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement." See more about her life and work at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When Red Was Blue and Blue Was Red

I love a U.S.-by-county map, and recently came across this article about the grandma of them all.

It shows the results of the 1880 presidential election between James Garfield (R) and Winfield Hancock (D), a name I don't remember ever hearing of.

The article also treats the topic of the red vs. blue states... which in this map are reversed, with blue representing Republican while red represents Democratic.

For the most part, though, the state electoral vote outcomes are similar to the present day (if you flip the Republicans and Democrats, as their relative levels of progressivism have also been transposed).

That is, all those blue states in north voted Republican in 1880 (supportive of Reconstruction), while all the red states voted Democratic (against Reconstruction). Note, though, that many of the states are the lightest shade of either color, so they weren't as deeply committed as many are these days.

Notable states that have flipped sides since 1880 are California and New Jersey (voting with the anti-Reconstructionist side) and Nebraska and Kansas (voting with the Reconstructionists). Maryland and Indiana have also switched, but those didn't surprise me as much. Several other states have been modern-day-blue in recent presidential elections (Florida, Virginia, even North Carolina in 2008), but no one will be surprised to see them in solidarity with the rest of the South on the 1880 map.

Minnesota, for its part, is among the bluest states, bested only by Vermont and Nebraska.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tabs About Ferguson and Beyond

Related to Ferguson

Police are operating with total impunity in Ferguson by Matt Yglesias, writing for Vox. Why don't the cops in Fergus have their badges on? "Policing without a nametag can help you avoid accountability from the press or from citizens, but it can't possibly help you avoid accountability from the bosses. For that you have to count on an atmosphere of utter impunity. It's a bet many cops operating in Ferguson are making, and it seems to be a winning bet."

White political domination of Ferguson is doomed. Also by Matt Yglesias at Vox. How has a 65-percent-black town settled for an almost-all-white set of elected officials? It may have something to do with holding local elections in April of odd-numbered years. Yeah, that sounds like the way to guarantee high voter turnout.

After Ferguson, how should police respond to protests? By Radley Balko, author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop. With really helpful information on the Madison Method, how they used to do it in Washington, D.C., and this from Norm Stamper, Seattle's top cop during the 1999 WTO debacle:

Stamper calls his decisions in Seattle “the worst mistake” of his career because he’s seen how the police response to protest has changed since 1999. “We gassed fellow Americans engaging in civil disobedience,” Stamper says. “We set a number of precedents, most of them bad. And police departments across the country learned all the wrong lessons from us. That’s disheartening. So disheartening. I mean, you look at what happened to those Occupy protesters at U.C. Davis, where the cop just sprays them down like he’s watering a bed of flowers, and I think that we played a part in making that sort of thing so common—so easy to do now. It’s beyond cringe-worthy. I wish to hell my career had ended on a happier note.”
On a completely different tack, brace yourself and read this: I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. An op-ed by a former LAPD cop and "professor of homeland security" from the Washington Post.

And beyond Ferguson

I've had this tab open for a long time. It's one of the most damning pieces I've ever read about the so-called "welfare reform" of the 1990s: How Bill Clinton’s welfare “reform” created a system rife with racial biases from Most importantly (emphasis added):
What’s remarkable about the general association of black people with welfare and handouts in the popular culture — that stereotype — is that it’s almost a perfect inversion of American history. For much of the 20th century, and certainly in the earlier history of this country, we had all sorts of race-specific programs that channeled benefits to whites and excluded everyone else.

So until very recently, in many ways we have this long history of a white-centered welfare state. But after that time, when victories were achieved that actually allowed for some equality of access to those programs, that very equality became the basis for saying, “Oh, this is all about African-Americans and it’s just a handout to this racially targeted group.”
In our study, we found that...conservative counties...tended to sanction welfare clients much more often...than the most liberal counties. But ...almost the entire difference was made up by the different treatment of black and Hispanic clients. For white clients, it actually made no difference whether you were in the most liberal or most conservative county. You’d be treated the same regardless. It was only clients of color who received different treatment in conservative and liberal counties.
Because, perhaps, of implicit bias. The researchers tested this possibility:
We used identical, made-up case files. The only differences between them were that some had what are considered “black names,” and others had “white names.” So one would be like, Emily O’Brien and on another we put Lakisha Williams. We pretested them to show that most people who saw these names, right or wrongly, associated them with white or black people — or Latinos.

And we then presented actual welfare case managers with cases where it wasn’t quite clear whether the person should be sanctioned or not. Again, it was the exact same case, except we varied the name, and therefore, the race they associated with the person.

And then we also varied one other thing, which you can call a discrediting marker. So in one of the experiments, we looked at what happens if you add information that the imaginary beneficiary had been sanctioned before — maybe that would lead the case worker to think they’re a troublemaker. That should have no bearing on the current sanction decision, but it might just change their view. Or we changed the number of children they had — for half of the case managers, the person had one child; for the other half, they had four children and were pregnant.

And we found that, across all of our experiments, for the white client, adding that marker — which invoked a negative image of welfare recipients — had no effect at all. They were still judged the same way on the current matter.

The black client or the Hispanic client, when they did not have this discrediting marker, were also judged neutrally on the borderline problem we gave these managers. So there wasn’t an automatic bias. But when you added that discrediting marker, the likelihood that the person would get sanctioned went through the roof if they were a person of color. soon as you added something that seemed to confirm the negative stereotypes about welfare recipients, it had no effect on the white client, but it made the black client seem like a person who should be sanctioned, and the rates went up.

And the thing that’s really fascinating is that this was equally true for all case managers, regardless of how they self-identified in terms of race and ethnicity. It was equally true of white case managers and case managers of color.
Implicit bias also rears its head in Paul Ryan's vision of long-term-out-of-work "urban men," dragging down their communities with their lazy ways. As Matt Bruenig demonstrates, only 3.7 percent of poor people meet that description. So once again, trying to make policy based on edge cases causes more damage than it correct.

A good way to wreck a local economy: build casinos. David Frum (of all people) writing in The Atlantic.

Forcing kids to stick to gender roles can actually be harmful to their health. The "constant effort to manage one’s everyday life in line with gender norms produces significant anxiety, insecurity, stress and low self-esteem for both boys and girls, and both for ‘popular’ young people and those who have lower status in school."

The case for free tampons by Jessica Valenti, writing in The Guardian. "The cost of a product that half the world’s population needs multiple times a day, every month for approximately 30 years, is simply too much." It's a public health issue and a major part of getting girls to school, too. And get this: "Women in the U.K. are fighting to axe the 5% tax on tampons (it used to be taxed at 17.5%!), which are considered “luxuries” while men’s razors, for some baffling reason, are not. And in the U.S., though breast pumps, vasectomies, and artificial teeth are sales tax-exempt and tax-deductible medical care, tampons are not even exempted from sales tax in some states."

A wonderful WGBH audio documentary on the right to vote, past and present.

Thoughts from education professor Paul Thomas: Rejecting the post-apocalyptic mindset in a civilized world.  "...the ruling elite have been born into abundance and haven’t experienced the anxiety of scarcity, but they demand that those born into and living in scarcity rise through a manufactured culture of competition—even though we have an abundance of resources to make such social Darwinism unnecessary."

One way to decrease gerrymandering: stop counting prisoners where they're being held and count them instead at their last known address. As I've written before, this practice is way to similar to the Constitution's holding that non-voting, enslaved men were counted as three-fifths of a human for census purposes. Source: A Demos report called Implementing reform: how Maryland & New York ended prison gerrymandering.

From New York magazine: What all this bad news is doing to us. According to the researcher interviewed, "When I’ve done studies and people watch coverage of, say, 9/11, they don’t then meet criteria for depression in the DSM. But if you ask them how they feel about the world, what they end up with is this malaise: ‘Everything’s kinda bad’ and ‘Why should I vote? It’s not gonna help’ and ‘I could donate money, but there’s just gonna be another kid who’s starving next week.’” And: "We already know from political-psychological research that the more threatened people feel, the more likely they will be to support right-wing policies. And people who believe in the concept of unmitigated evil appear more likely to support torture and other violent policies."

Great... that means it's time for a Better Angels of Our Nature antidote once I turn off the live feed from Ferguson.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Words from My Mouth

Looking back through some old blog posts, I came across one that was a premonition of the recent police overreaction in Ferguson, Missouri: Covering the Rainbow Gathering "Riot". An excerpt:

I have friends who have been present at what they describe as "cop riots," where police attack protesters using overwhelming force despite little or no provocation. It's easy for those of us who haven't felt a need to exercise our right to free association or speech in a public forum to think that those who do so have done something to provoke the police, that they somehow deserve what happens to them. And that we would be immune in the same situation because our behavior would not provoke them.

But I have a nagging sense that our freedoms are more limited than we imagine, that they exist, in some ways, only on paper, and that those who actually put them into practice often find themselves at the wrong end of a nightstick or even pepper bullets, as happened with the Rainbows and their children.

The main point of Niman's article, though, is that AP (and the papers that carried the AP story) failed because they didn't check the police story for corroboration, in effect rubber-stamping the police point of view. There were independent observers there, including other independent journalists, who contradict the police story.

His point is, what's the purpose of a free press, if it's just going to regurgitate the government's news releases?