Monday, February 29, 2016
The officers had come out of a passing train and advanced directly toward her. I noticed them before I saw her.
After an exchange of words, they watched her move down the platform and kept her under watch until she boarded a train.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
I appreciated the book and Bowler's insights so much that I did want to say something about it, but I am left to start with some description of the work from Bowler's NYT article:
After outlining the intellectual history of this very American-exceptionalist form of Christianity, Bowler relates and elaborates on her experiences among property gospel adherents on the themes of wealth, health and victory. In her Times article, she sums up some conclusions from the experience of researching the book:
No one had written a sustained account of how the prosperity gospel grew from small tent revivals across the country in the 1950s into one of the most popular forms of American Christianity, and I was determined to do it. I learned that the prosperity gospel sprang, in part, from the American metaphysical tradition of New Thought, a late-19th-century ripening of ideas about the power of the mind: Positive thoughts yielded positive circumstances, and negative thoughts negative circumstances.
Variations of this belief became foundational to the development of self-help psychology. Today, it is the standard “Aha!” moment of Oprah’s Lifeclass, the reason your uncle has a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the takeaway for the more than 19 million who bought “The Secret.” (Save your money: the secret is to think positively.) ...
So why did I call Bowler's Times article "gut-wrenching"? Because, it begins with her announcement that she has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and is necessarily living the antithesis of the controlled certainty that her prosperity gospel research subjects spend their lives and substance grasping for. Again, just read it.
... The prosperity gospel tries to solve the riddle of human suffering. It is an explanation for the problem of evil. It provides an answer to the question: Why me? For years I sat with prosperity churchgoers and asked them about how they drew conclusions about the good and the bad in their lives. Does God want you to get that promotion? Tell me what it’s like to believe in healing from that hospital bed. What do you hear God saying when it all falls apart?
The prosperity gospel popularized a Christian explanation for why some people make it and some do not. They revolutionized prayer as an instrument for getting God always to say “yes.” It offers people a guarantee: Follow these rules, and God will reward you, heal you, restore you.
... The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder.
Yet throughout Blessed, Bowler insists that we not approach the good and frequently quite poor believers in this Christian perversion with supercilious scorn. And she's right. These folks are doing their best within the constraints of their country and the leadership they find in their surroundings. (Those leaders, on the other hand ...) My instinctive reaction to their beliefs is mostly just rationalized class and educational privilege.
Bowler sees better what matters in that same article:
... mostly I find the daily lives of [prosperity gospel] believers remarkable and, often, inspirational. They face the impossible and demand that God make a way. They refuse to accept crippling debt as insurmountable. They stubbornly get out of their hospital beds and declare themselves healed, and every now and then, it works. ...
If I thought a literal Hell existed -- which I don't -- I'd think there would be a special place in Hell for the peddlers of this rot.
For many evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatic Christians, magical thinking has found its expression through the prosperity gospel, much to the consternation of Christians who consider it a heresy and a fraud. A uniquely American contribution to the evolution of Christianity in the modern age, the prosperity gospel teaches that God wants believers to be rich.
It’s also called the health and wealth gospel: Its adherents believe that God blesses the faithful with great wealth, keeps their health robust and cures the faithful of every malady. Successful televangelists boast of revelations received directly from God and of their ability to produce miracles.
If you’re poor or if you’re sick, that’s a sign of a lack of faith. Or in Trump’s parlance, a loser.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Saturday scenes: San Francisco is a Bernie town
I have no doubt that, if Senator Saunders is still campaigning by the time of the June 7 primary, we'll give him our votes here. We know our role: push, push, push for better Democrats.
All encountered while Walking San Francisco.
Friday, February 26, 2016
They report this was really hard work -- and both useful to the community and wonderful for them!
In February of 2016, 12 members of St. John's Episcopal Church in San Francisco went to Nicaragua with El Porvenir to help a small rural community build latrines. Along the way, we enjoyed the beauty of that great country, and the gracious hospitality of so many people. An unforgettable experience for all of us!
Friday cat blogging
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Urban economic inversion
Most mornings I receive an email from 48 Hills that keeps me up to date on doings in our city. I recommend this coverage; it is worth the additional email box pollution.
Yesterday, I was absorbing the latest outrages: Mayor Lee and powers-that-be are beating up on our homeless people as politicians who feel their support slipping usually do. That's what they do always do and we can protest it, but it is likely to remain popular.
A short sentence in an article about increasing the minuscule sum developers of new residential and office buildings pay to offset the costs their profitable enterprises impose on the city stopped me cold. Here is that sentence:
In most of this country, that probably seems counterintuitive. I grew up in Buffalo. I don't think they'd say that in Buffalo; they'd bend over to attract builders. In parts of California -- think Riverside or Bakersfield -- likely the same.
It’s astonishing that the city is willing to say: You can build and make millions in our city without paying even a fraction of the cost of that growth.
But San Francisco is such a desirable location that the normal rules of supply and demand are flowing backward. There is NO reason to believe that developers can't pass through to their rich clients any increased costs the city imposes on them. Tech innovation winners and overseas buyers are snapping up luxury condos here as fast as the developers can throw them up. (Mere tech workers are beginning to the feel the pinch of high rents themselves.) Winners want to be here (or to have a pied a terre or investment property here.) And their companies want the prestige of locating some of their business here. They'll pay. We don't have to be beggars here; given land scarcity and high demand, we couldn't kill the goose laying the golden egg if we tried.
This is hard to get our minds around; it's not how urban economics have worked in most cities for a very long time. But it it is how supply and demand are working in San Francisco at present.
You'd think this would be a no-brainer. Here's the grown-up policy argument from the same article:
The Mayor is expected to veto this minimal increase. The rest of us will continue to get ripped off to support the moneyed invasion.
Every time someone puts up an office building in the city, that building fills with workers, and those workers (or many of them) take transit, which means the city has to buy more buses and hire more drivers and spend more money.
How much? A city study puts the figure – the actual, cash impact, the amount that the city (that’s us, the taxpayer) will have to spend to support new office buildings is about $87 a square foot.
The city wants to charge developers $18.
It’s a huge giveaway to developers, worth billions. It’s astonishing that the city is willing to say: You can build and make millions in our city without paying even a fraction of the cost of that growth.
So [Supervisor John] Avalos wanted to hike the fee just a little bit – not to the $87 level where it ought to be, but closer to $20. That would bring in another $2 million a year for Muni [public transit], and backdating it would bring in a one-time payment of about $30 million.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Confirm the Librarian!
But because I love libraries, I looked at this one:
Read it all to take in San Francisco's shame.
In 2015, a series of text messages involving at least 10 different SFPD members came to light during a corruption case against one of them, Ian Fruminger. Sent between 2010 and 2012, these messages revealed just how ugly the attitudes of that hard core are -- and how entitled they seem to feel to end the lives of people they believe deserve it.
Here’s a sample: Fruminger texted a friend who was an SFPD officer, "I hate to tell you this but my wife [sic] friend is over with their kids and her husband is black! If [sic] is an Attorney but should I be worried?"
He wrote back: "Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its [sic] not against the law to put an animal down."
Furminger responded, "Well said!"
When the city moved to fire the officers involved, a judge ruled that the police department had missed a legal deadline for disciplinary action.
State Senator Mark Leno has reintroduced a bill in the state legislature to open up police records.
When local officials can decide, we can sometimes browbeat them into doing their jobs ...
Under the Increasing Law Enforcement Transparency bill, the public would be allowed access to records of serious instances of use of force — those that cause death or serious bodily injury — and records of sustained charges of misconduct, including sexual assault, racial profiling, job dishonesty, violation of rights and illegal search or seizure. That means officials have completed an investigation and found the officer in violation.
Those who file complaints would be able to obtain more information on the investigation, the findings and any discipline imposed, rather than a current cursory response that informs the person if charges were “sustained” or “unsustained.”
In cities, including San Francisco, the bill would also allow local officials to decide whether to restore public hearings and public appeals on allegations of misconduct.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where's the justice?
Hoodline, a neighborhood news aggregator. Marchers were protesting the manslaughter conviction of New York City police officer Peter Liang for the shooting of Akai Gurley, a Black 28 year old walking down the stairs in a housing project. The rookie cop accidentally fired down a dark stairwell; a ricocheting bullet pierced Gurley's heart. Testimony that after the shooting Liang seemed more interested in saving his own career than in trying to save the dying man probably weighed against him with a Brooklyn jury.
As soon as I heard of this shooting, I thought to myself "Damn -- I bet they go after the Chinese cop." And "they" did. A "justice system" that couldn't indict the officer who was videotaped squeezing the life out of Eric Garner did manage to convict Liang. It's not surprising that many in the Chinese community can easily imagine that bigotry was involved; the discrepancy between what usually happens to cops who kill and Officer Liang's fate seems glaring.
Yet Asian American organizations which have decades of experience struggling for more justice from the police have advanced an opposing view. The Asian Pacific Labor Alliance responded to the verdict:
CAAAV (founded 30 years ago as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) wrote of the Gurley shooting:
APALA continues to demand Justice for Akai Gurley and stands with his family who still have to deal with the reality of losing a loved one too soon at the hands of police. No matter the identity of an officer, we believe we must hold all cops accountable for their actions, especially when innocent lives are lost. ...
Members of our community are not immune from police brutality. Examples include Cao Bich Tran, who was shot and killed by a San Jose police officer, Fong Lee, who was killed by a police officer in North Minneapolis, and Sureshbhai Patel, who was left nearly paralyzed after being brutally beaten by an Alabama police officer. In these cases, AAPIs demanded the officers involved be held accountable - no matter their race or other identities. ...
On November 20th, NYPD rookie Officer Peter Liang shot and killed Akai Gurley, an unarmed, Black, 28-year old father, while conducting a vertical patrol in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York.
We put out this statement to be clear: that the murder of Akai Gurley is a part of the systemic targeting of Black people by the police, and that Officer Liang must be indicted. As a police officer, he is a part of the institutional injustice we see everyday with law enforcement. We demand an indictment of Officer Liang, just as we have with Darren Wilson and Dan Pantaleo.
To be clear, the problem is not just individual police officers; the problem is systemic. The NYPD’s vertical patrols of public housing have led to unwarranted harassment of the residents and guests of those buildings, as part of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. When the police abuse their power, kill, and aren’t held accountable for their actions, officers are affirmed that they can kill with impunity. When, as a society, we are taught to equate “Black” with “criminal” and there is no overhaul of the so-called criminal justice system, then police officers and other armed vigilantes will continue to kill unarmed Black people every 28 hours.
On DailyKos, a report on a study of police killings concluded that simply increasing the number of officers of color isn't going to be enough to stop police shootings. Law enforcement will still be most active and visible in poor, usually non-white, communities where cops are socialized to see themselves as keeping underlying "thuggish" violence under wraps. With this mindset, regardless of individual ethnicity and even good intentions, they will believe they are licensed to kill if threatened. The struggle to make police departments subject to the law they claim to represent will be long and must be won if "justice" is to have any meaning.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The next torture book is coming ...
I guess I'm biased, but, if you're fated to have to talk to the world about torture, E.P. manages it with grace and energy. The book will be out in April.
Here's the teaser for a terrific short film on the same program that brought down the house. Enjoy.
End Credits - Teaser from Loose Cannons on Vimeo.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Whatever happened to El Niño?
Some weather commentators continue to insist this season is "one of the most powerful El Niño events on record." In Northern California, precipitation, while not heavy, was at least close to "normal" -- that is, to pre-drought levels. But in SoCal, it simply hasn't rained. The first 15 days of February were completely dry. CBS Los Angeles asked NASA climatologist Bill Patzert, who had labeled what was coming the "Godzilla" El Niño last fall, for an explanation.
Weather watchers still hope El Niño will dump more rain in the North and finally get to the South -- but so far, he's a bit of a bust.
"El Niño remains immense," Patzert insisted to CBS News. "It's had a powerful impact over the last six months, and even this winter, all the volatile weather we've had across the United States -- the fingerprint of El Niño is on all these events."
Turns out the El Niño is so big, it shifted the jet stream further north, allowing storms to batter Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
But the northern storms are also dramatically boosting California's snow pack -- now the deepest it's been in more than a decade. Spring snow melt will help fill the state's depleted reservoirs and provide 30 percent of California's water supply.
And other federal scientists fear California has missed its chance.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Forecasters now say conditions are likely to flip to their opposite phase, known as La Niña by late summer or early fall, which could set the stage for another drier-than-normal winter and prolonged drought in California.
“We are reasonably confident that there will be a La Niña,” says Huug van den Dool, seasonal forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, “but we plead ignorance as to whether this is going to be a small, moderate, or strong La Niña.”
Just as the stronger El Niños tend to favor wetter winters in California, the mirror-image La Niña is sometimes a harbinger of drought. Strength is measured by how much ocean waters deviate from their normal temperatures. Warmer waters provide more moisture to brewing Pacific storms, while colder waters tend to dry things out.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Republicans vote today in South Carolina
The reporter helpfully points to a source explaining that the story is a recurring fantasy, passed around among Islamophobic Israelis police and settlers, movie super heroes, and U.S. spooks. Snopes explains:
The standout topic, however, was terrorism and national security. Trump repeated – favorably – an apparent myth about how General John Pershing summarily executed dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with tainted ammunition during a guerilla war against the occupying United States.
“He took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the fiftieth person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, okay?”
...The moral of the tale, according to Trump: “We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”
Not that people who lap up this stuff are going to be dissuaded either by reason or mockery.
... the desire for simplistic solutions to complex problems has spawned several widely-circulated notions that seek to transform a fight against terrorism to the easily-manageable level of a horror film or a comic strip. One popular notion is the concept that a pig is to a Muslim as a crucifix is to a vampire: simply arm yourself with a porker, and you can use it to render even the most fanatical terrorist helpless, sending him cowering in fear lest he come into contact with anything porcine.
... messages such as the ones quoted above could be considered as silly as Muslims' proclaiming that a good way to throw the U.S. into disarray would be to "bomb" America with juicy steaks on Fridays, because "Americans are Christians," and "everyone knows Christians who eat meat on Fridays go to Hell."
I wonder whether, as they have with Trump's "Mexican rapists", the Donald's GOP competitors will feel obliged to take on this crackpot notion as well.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Our worst demons come out when we're scared
On February 19, 1942, two months after the U.S. was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order that permitted military authorities to declare areas from which "any or all persons may be excluded." General John L. DeWitt used this authority to force almost all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast into internment camps. Two thirds of the approximately110,000 persons sent to the camps were born in the United States and therefore were citizens; 30,000 were children; the rest were legal residents.
The military internment unleashed unabashed nativism and racism. Japanese ethnicity was rapidly made into a race in the classic white pattern. One of those military authorities, Major Karl Bendetsen, explained his plans:
This racializing of an ethnic group had broad consequences in the internment orders:
"I am determined that if they have one drop of Japanese blood in them, they must go to camp."
And it is inadequate to think of the internment only as the mass imprisonment of families in hastily converted stables and remote tent camps; this was also about envious white neighbors seizing the property of the more prosperous Japanese-Americans. Many white residents of California and parts north had always resented their Japanese-American competitors. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, spelled out his views to the Saturday Evening Post:
These edicts included persons of part-Japanese ancestry as well. Anyone with at least one-sixteenth (equivalent to having one great-great grandparent) Japanese ancestry was eligible. Korean-Americans and Taiwanese, classified as ethnically Japanese because both Korea and Taiwan were Japanese colonies, were also included.
Internees lost their businesses, their savings, and their even their personal property.
We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over... If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either.
In Hawaii, which had suffered an actual attack and sat in the midst of the Pacific battlefield, only 2000 of 157,000 residents of Japanese ancestry were placed in camps. The military there needed Japanese American labor in the fields and ship repair yards!
On the mainland, although by end of the war many Japanese Americans had been released and even recruited into the military,
Most Japanese Americans never got their property back, but they campaigned long and hard for legal vindication and even reparations. In the late 1980s, Congress ordered payments of $20,000 to surviving detainees.
... the exclusion order was not rescinded until January 2, 1945 (postponed until after the November 1944 election, so as not to impede Roosevelt's reelection campaign).
Hardship and mistreatment aren't good for anyone, but many Japanese Americans of the generation consigned to the camps became tenacious fighters for human freedom including Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Yuri Kochiyama. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) advocates for the civil and human rights of all people. They can be bold: JACL came out for legalizing same sex marriage in 1994 when most LGBT people had barely thought about this remote possibility. Today JACL is in the forefront of activities in support of the civil rights of Muslims and of calls for resettling Syrian escapees in the United States.
We should all be so generous.
The photo is a detail from a commemorative monument Japantown, San Francisco. I have used Wikipedia liberally here to check numbers and dates. The article on the internment is exceptionally good.
Friday cat blogging
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Let the women decide
Most surveys show Donald Trump crushing the pack of GOP clowns chasing him.
The Democratic pollster PPP took a look at the opinions of some of his Palmetto State supporters. The results make it all too obvious where his candidacy is getting its energy here.
We really do live in a country with these people.
Trump's support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades. Among the beliefs of his supporters:
- 70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital, to only 20% who agree with it being taken down. In fact 38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War to only 24% glad the North won and 38% who aren't sure. Overall just 36% of Republican primary voters in the state are glad the North emerged victorious to 30% for the South, but Trump's the only one whose supporters actually wish the South had won.
- By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. In fact 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else's voters think is a good idea. There's also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else's voters back. Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States, to 33% who think it should be illegal.
- To put all the views toward Muslims in context though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.
Whether the eventual Democratic nominee is Clinton or Sanders, these women count and they are seizing their own future.
In the last South Carolina Democratic primary, black women made up for 61 percent of the black vote. In the 2012 presidential election, black women voted at the highest rate of any group across race, gender and ethnicity, and 96 percent of them voted for President Obama, according to exit polls. It is not an exaggeration to say that black women, in formation and flexing their political power, could have the final say over whether Mrs. Clinton becomes the first female presidential nominee of either party.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
On looking backward before we plunge forward
Damn -- I didn't think I'd need that image again. But last Saturday, the Donald said this about the US invasion of Iraq at the Republican debate:
Today Max Fisher at Vox put on record a really valuable deconstruction of this assertion, demolishing the GOP mantra that GWB was a victim of faulty intelligence, while explaining that the U.S. public, the unfortunate peoples of Iraq (and Syria and beyond), and the world were actually victims of neoconservative (imperial) ideology's hold on the Washington's power elite.
I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none.
Fisher's article is long, carefully argued and documented, and utterly sound.
A movement of high-minded ideologues had, throughout the 1990s, become obsessed with deposing Saddam Hussein. When they assumed positions of power under Bush in 2001, they did not seek to trick America into that war, but rather tricked themselves. In 9/11, and in fragments of intelligence that more objective minds would have rejected, they could see only validation for their abstract and untested theories about the world — theories whose inevitable and obvious conclusion was an American invasion of Iraq. ...
Neoconservatism, which had been around for decades, mixed humanitarian impulses with an almost messianic faith in the transformative virtue of American military force, as well as a deep fear of an outside world seen as threatening and morally compromised. This ideology stated that authoritarian states were inherently destabilizing and dangerous; that it was both a moral good and a strategic necessity for America to replace those dictatorships with democracy — and to dominate the world as the unquestioned moral and military leader.
Neoconservatism's proponents, for strategic as well as political reasons, would develop an obsession with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. That obsession would, by the end of the decade, congeal into a policy, explicitly stated: regime change. ...
... As Donald Trump's stunt showed, America's public debate over Iraq, now 13 years later, still turns largely on Bush's claims and their truth. But even if Saddam had turned out to possess weapons of mass destruction, if Bush had been right, what would it really change? The war would still have cost some 4,500 American lives and well over 100,000 Iraqi lives. It would still have destabilized Iraq, opened up the country for violent extremism, and contributed directly to the rise of ISIS.
All this still matters because the so-called moderates on the Republican presidential clown car have learned nothing from the Bush II disaster. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are still peddling the virtue of unilateral, military US hegemony in the Middle East.
And, according to Fisher, Hillary Clinton may not have learned much either, likely clinging to "a belief in humanitarian interventions." He concludes:
The Prez's foreign policy leaves a lot to be desired (Obama sure likes his drones and spooks) but his maxim might do the world some good: "Don't do stupid shit."
The lesson, which extends to both parties, is that a potential president's ideological views are just as important to examine and vet as are his or her policy proposals; that the line between obscure policy journals and American military action can be much shorter than we'd like to think.
That is true of any ideology, but it is especially true of neoconservatism, which we have still not chosen to vet, remarkably, even after we invested billions of dollars and thousands of lives in testing it directly in Iraq, to results apparently so damning we have still not fully absorbed them.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Marco Rubio, direct mail, and other swindles
direct mail business this way:
In the 1960s and '70s, Viguerie's lists were a top of the line resource for conservative politicians. He got his start hand-copying the names of donors from public records; with 12,500 to start with, he'd built his list to 25 million entries by 1980.
Known as the “Funding Father of the conservative movement,” [he] helped build the modern conservative movement, mailing more than 3 billion letters and helping raise over $7 billion since 1965 for pro-freedom groups and causes. As the acknowledged pioneer of political direct mail, Richard led the way in bypassing the mainstream media monopoly to directly reach millions of Americans, empowering them to shift the political landscape of the country.
In an important exposé, historian Rick Perlstein explains that Viguerie and his conservative imitators in the mail business, no matter how genuine their rightwing sentiments, were always operating a con game, fleecing gullible marks through a business model where most of the take went to the data vendors -- themselves.
The business has become more technologically savvy and still goes on today, as you know if you've ever gotten on one of these lists; my father made that mistake and he still gets heartfelt pleas for conservative causes -- despite having died in 1991.
The Viguerie Company’s marketing genius was that as it continued metastasizing, it remained, in financial terms, a hermetic positive feedback loop. It brought the message of the New Right to the masses, but it kept nearly all the revenue streams locked down in Viguerie’s proprietary control. Here was a key to the hustle: typically, only 10 to 15 percent of the haul went to the intended beneficiaries. The rest went back to Viguerie’s company. In one too-perfect example, Viguerie raised $802,028 for a client seeking to distribute Bibles in Asia—who paid $889,255 for the service.
All this is introduction to a terrific explanation from Daily Kos Elections which tells the story of how the right wing mail con machine enabled one of their presidential clowns to game his way to a Senate seat.
The DK Elections piece goes on to point out that Montana's Ryan Zinke and Utah's Mia Love -- both Republican Congressmembers in relatively safe seats -- seem to be copying Rubio's scam.
Want to fake being a good fundraiser? Let Marco Rubio be your guide!
You see, before Rubio was frustrating everyone from his debate coach to his dentist, he was the clear underdog against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the GOP Senate primary. As the Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith explains in a great 2010 article, in the summer of 2009, Rubio resisted calls to just get out of Crist's way and run for attorney general, but his stubbornness could only take him so far. Rubio had only raised $340,000 from April to June, and he knew if he turned in another weak quarter, he'd lose any hope of looking like a viable candidate.
So Rubio took a big risk on direct mail to temporarily augment his fundraising. Direct mail brings in tons of money from small donors, but it costs so much to implement that candidates end up netting very little moola. Rubio and his team knew full well that they wouldn't be keeping most of his cash, but that wasn't the point: By turning in an eye-popping quarter, Rubio could draw lots of attention and endorsements from Crist-hating Republicans, who would send money to him that he could actually use later.
And it worked like a charm. In October, Rubio reported that he'd raised $1 million for the quarter. The well-funded Club for Growth quickly endorsed him and suddenly, Rubio's once-hopeless campaign had momentum. People eventually found out that Rubio had burned through most of the cash that he'd brought in, but by then, it didn't matter. As one of Rubio's advisors later put it, his direct mail stunt "was one-third confidence in our long-term prospects, one-third rolling of the dice, and one-third smoke and mirrors."
In a similar vein, it seems appropriate to ask why Dr. Ben Carson is still pretending to be running for President? His support has cratered. I can only conclude that for Carson and his staff, the campaign really is a "for profit venture." What a sad end to an accomplished career.
Monday, February 15, 2016
It was ever thus ...
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Yet I was struck that -- just perhaps -- we may be moving toward a world in which no one has to pass through this:
Not every gay person has lived this sort of rejection, but every gay person until very recently had to fear this, and far worse. Many (most?) are none the worse for this stressful passage. Some stresses make us stronger. When, (if?) this recoil from our beings ever comes to be viewed as an historical curiosity, we can't know yet what gay and straight lives will be like. But they'll be different.
I chanted my bar mitzpah portion in 1946 to a relatively full synagogue, including several dozen of my relatives, but this for me was the end of formal Jewish practice. I did not embrace the ritual duties of a Jewish adult -- praying every day, putting on tefillin before prayer each weekday morning -- and I gradually became indifferent to the beliefs and habits of my parents, though there was no particular point of rupture until I was eighteen. It was then that my father, enquiring into my sexual feelings, compelled me to admit that I liked boys.
"I haven't done anything," I said, "it's just a feeling -- but don't tell Ma, she won't be able to take it."
He did tell her, and the next morning, she came down with a look of horror on her face, and shrieked at me: "You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born."
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Saturday scenes and scenery: San Francisco's wall lions
City Hall. Have to have lions there after all.
Friday, February 12, 2016
World changers to thank and inspect closely
Sanger remains the most famous and the most notorious of the Pill's progenitors. Her schtick was flamboyant flaunting of a transgressive program. A white Progressive-era U.S. visiting nurse, she was moved by the sufferings of poor women, many of them Roman Catholic immigrants, who she saw burdened by frequent pregnancies and enormous families. And she found her own middle class marriage and child raising boring. Any discussion of birth control was illegal in the early 20th century, but Sanger propagandized, imported diaphragms by the thousands and even fled the country briefly rather than answer a criminal charge. On her return in the 1920s, she founded the advocacy group that evolved into Planned Parenthood and remained an unflagging evangelist for birth control. Gradually, her movement forced women's hope and ability to limit pregnancies into public discourse.
But none of this agitation produced what she really hoped for: a simple pill that would allow women to decide when or if they wanted to get pregnant. In 1950, she found a scientist to help with her quest:
Pincus was a maverick scientist who felt he'd been denied the fame and respect he deserved. He'd been booted from Harvard in the mid-1930s because newspaper accounts of his experiments with rabbit fertility implied he might want to do similar work with human subjects. Subsequently he set up a poorly funded independent research lab in Worcester, MA. His work on hormone biology did make development of the birth control pill possible. But he carried the same disregard for the effects of his experiments on his women subjects as he had had on his unfortunate rabbits. Somewhat reluctantly, he partnered with Dr. Rock who really was interested in helping infertile women get pregnant, but also hoped a Pill that mimicked nature might pass muster with his own Catholic authorities. And Sanger found Katharine McCormick to pay for it all.
Margaret Sanger met Gregory Pincus to talk about nothing less than a revolution. No guns or bombs would be involved -- only sex, the more the better. Sex without marriage. Sex without children. Sex redesigned, re-engineered, made safe, made limitless, for the pleasure of women. ...Sanger gazed across a coffee table at Pincus and made her pitch. She was seventy-one years old. She needed this. So did he.
"Do you think it would be possible...?" she asked. ...
"I think so," Pincus said. It would require a good deal of research, he added , but yes, it was possible. ...
"Well," she said, "then start right away."
McCormick received a science degree from M.I.T. in 1904, an extraordinary accomplishment at that time. She married soon after, forgoing a medical career -- and not long after that, her husband sank in to schizophrenia. Though Katharine never gave up her feminist convictions, agitating for votes for women and birth control, she devoted the next 43 years to ensuring the care of her husband. He died in 1947, leaving her 35 million dollars. And thereafter, she devoted herself to supporting Pincus' research on the Pill and building a dorm for women at M.I.T.
These four were colorful characters, but I could have wished that Jonathan Eig could have given us a little more about some of the other figures and matters he mentions in passing.
- I would have liked to read more about Pincus' co-worker M.C. Chang, a Chinese scientist who turned up via studies in Scotland and England, lived in a corner of the laboratory, and seems to have spent years dissecting rabbits for Pincus. Eig says he put up with these conditions because of his Confucianism. Huh?
- It seems clear that early trials of the Pill in Puerto Rico would never meet current ethical standards for informed consent from human subjects. And the researchers knew they somehow had a good thing going in this exotic locale where they found compliant subjects, women who would stick to the trial and take their pills, despite side effects which caused medical students and mainland women to drop out. Yet Eig never really explores why the Puerto Ricans were so much more cooperative. There seems to have been an intersection of poverty, social and familial conditions, as well as women's self-realization going on there that this book never explores -- just as the scientists seem to have been oblivious to the lives of these women.
- For feminists who've heard of Sanger nowadays, we've probably heard of her as a racial eugenicist, a privileged advocate for the purity of a white race. Eig takes the view that her eugenics enthusiasm was only in part a true expression of her beliefs:
How to come to terms with a figure with such repulsive views who nonetheless helped liberate sex for women? Now there's a worthy topic.
[Eugenics in the '20s meant] a biological program that would reduce the size of immigrant and racial groups they deemed less desirable. It was no great surprise that Sanger, who learned about eugenics from Havelock Ellis, would find it attractive. 'More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue of birth control,' read a 1919 editorial in Sanger's Birth Control Review. She believed that women should be empowered to control and limit their own reproduction. She also argued that the government would not have to resort to welfare for the poor if society used the same efficient reproductive techniques as 'modern stockbreeders' to improve the health of the populace. ... Even after World War II, when the Nazis attempted to eradicate whole races and religions using sterilization and mass murder to accomplish their goals, Sanger held firm.'Parenthood,' she said repeatedly, 'should be considered a privilege, not a right.' ...
... Sanger had begun her crusade as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, but in cozying up to the eugenicists she had effectively converted it, as historian David M. Kennedy wrote, 'from a radical program of social disruption to a conservative program of social control.' ... If she wasn't quite married [to the racial eugenicists] she'd been in bed with them for so long that there was no way to call it off. ...
Friday cat blogging
Thursday, February 11, 2016
World torture approval
We're both outliers, and not that unusual.
According to Pew, the “US public is among the most likely to consider torture justifiable: 58 percent say this, while only 37 percent disagree. There are only five nations in the survey where larger shares of the public believe torture against suspected terrorists can be justified: Uganda (78 percent), Lebanon (72 percent), Israel (62 percent), Kenya (62 percent) and Nigeria (61 percent).”
... support for torture within the United State is hardly uniform. The research centre found that “nearly three-in-four Republicans (73 percent) think torture can be justified against people suspected of terrorism, compared with just 58% of independents and 46 percent of Democrats. Similarly, 69 percent of conservatives say it can be justified, while 59 percent of moderates and 43 percent of liberals agree.”
Nonetheless the ideological divide is not unique to the United States. Pew wrote that “ideological divisions on this issue are not unique to the US. In all five Western European nations surveyed, people on the political right are more likely than those on the left to believe their government could be justified in using torture.”
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Good man down
I was stunned to learn yesterday of the passing of Ibrahim Farajajé. I did not know this brilliant, mischievous teacher well, but I always appreciated his smile and his energy when we crossed paths. Back in the day, before he converted to Islam and when he was an Orthodox Christian priest (as Elias Farjaje Jones), he led the most inspiring Easter vigil celebration in which I've ever taken part.
You can read more about Ibrahim at this link.
This video catches some dimensions of why he was important to so many; he will be missed.
A new season
Meeting God in Paul. Less than 100 pages, this little volume assembled from lectures delivered at Cambridge in 2015 looks at the Apostle Paul's "social world," his "disturbing idea," and his "Christian universe."
For liturgical Christians, there are particular obstacles to the project of making Paul come alive. We hear his letters (epistles) read every week in snippets, become familiar with these bits, but seldom think of his "theology" as a whole -- if, indeed, it is accurate to call "theology" the often practical reflections of someone who was propagandizing a novel, blinding, direct experience of God to noisy, fractious communities.
Williams tries to put across how startling was Paul's central message in this rendering of the letter to the church in Ephesus (which Williams concedes may have been written by a follower of Paul):
This puts me in mind of a line from the opening prayer of the Ash Wednesday service that marks the beginning of Lent:
'Now at last,' he says, 'we have got the point. The penny has dropped. The secret that has been hidden from before the world was created has been made clear.' And what is the secret? That God is already determinedly and lastingly in love with ... Creation. That's the secret, and now it is out there in the plain light of day.
For an academic theologian, Williams is wonderfully readable. For example, this:
God hates nothing that God has made ...
You can find this gobbledegook, or you can, as I do find it rich material for cogitation, the right stuff for "the observance of a holy Lent" as today's service enjoins.
Why is there a world? Because God is that kind of God. Why are we able to give thanks to God? Because God is that kind of God. Why can we be confident that we have reconciliation and absolution for our failures and sins? Because God is that kind of God, the God whose form and face we see in Jesus.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
John McCain denounces GOP torture ardor on Fox
Nice to see that the crochety Arizona Senator is repulsed.
"Do we want to be on the same plane as people who are chopping off heads?"
New Hampshire primary day
|Time to bring this cup out. I assume every contestant seeking New Hampshire votes today has shaken hands at this place.|
She's not doing herself any favors by embracing the albatross of Madeleine Albright -- the Bill Clinton-era Secretary of State who famously allowed as how killing half a million Iraqi children was "worth it."... there [were] two huge intervening events: One was the debacle of the Iraq War, and the other was the economic vandalism that came to light in 2008. Neither of those ever was properly litigated by the proper institutions. So, they get litigated in our politics.
In 2008, fairly or unfairly, [Democrats] litigated the Iraq War by hanging it around HRC's candidacy. There's more than a little evidence that, this time around, fairly or unfairly, they're litigating the near-destruction of the economy the same way. That's a tough albatross to shake.
Nonetheless, this remains true:
Clinton, Sanders and Obama are going to come in second when compared to perfection. But they do ok against people they actually run against.— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) January 18, 2016
Monday, February 08, 2016
A serious envisioning of reparations for African Americans?
Facing a chorus of condescending criticism from liberal pundits who ought to think harder, Ta-Nehisi Coates recently linked to a paper on the practicalities reparations, how these might actually work for African Americans whose lives are impoverished and constrained by the US history of slavery, oppression, violence and Jim Crow. I decided to read it and share.
Coates has made his case for reparations in 2014 in this article. It's worth reading.
Critics of reparations like to say or imply something like -- well, yes, reparations might be a good idea, but there are so many unanswered questions. Economists William A. Darity and Dania Frank identify four conundrums which could be clarified if we'd try.
- How to determine who would be eligible? After all, if being African-American might get you something material, wouldn't there be a rush to affirm an ancestry that some people had been denying? They answer:
we provide two criteria for eligibility: first an individual would have to provide reasonable documentation that they had at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States; and, second, an individual would have to demonstrate that, at least ten years before the onset of the reparations program, they self-identified as black, African-American, colored or Negro on a legal document.
- What sort of reparations programs could there be? How should benefits be distributed? Darity and Frank list many possibilities: "lump sum payments," a "trust fund" making grants for asset building programs like home ownership, "vouchers" that could be used for asset building such as additional education, or "in kind promises" guaranteeing schooling beyond high school or medical insurance, or payments to build "entirely new" black community institutions to promote "collective well-being." There is a wide menu of possiblities.
- Where's the money going to come from? Financing could come from taxes or government borrowing. Daritty and Frank note:
In general African Americans should not bear the tax burden of financing their own reparations payments. Blacks paid local, state and federal taxes for more than eighty years while being disenfranchised in the U.S. South ....
- How large should reparations payments be? Darrity and Frank present various estimates of the wealth to white Americans extracted from slavery and subsequent exploitation of black individuals. They come up with numbers in the trillions of dollars and conclude
the damages to the collective well-being of black people have been enormous and, correspondingly, so is the appropriate bill.
Sunday, February 07, 2016
A Super Bowl recalled
I remember that game. Super Bowl XXII in 1988 between the Washington [Racial Slurs] and the Denver Broncos was the year of the hype about the first time a contending team was led by a Black quarterback. There was no question who I was rooting for: the presence of Doug Williams decided that.
Sportswriter Peter King interviewed Williams for his pre-SuperBowl essay this year, asserting that Williams' leadership of Washington to 35 points in the second quarter might be the greatest quarter in the history of the often snooze worthy final game. Williams offers a play-by-play of that 15 minutes, 18 plays in five drives -- and much more.
Full story here.
“Let me tell you this: In my whole life playing football, that was absolutely the best practice week I’ve had. Coaches had to call us off each other. We were so physical, and so ready. They didn’t want anyone to get hurt during the week. We knew we were ready.
“Late in the first quarter we were down 10-0, and I hyperextended my knee. They had just put new turf in at the stadium, and I guess there was a section that was damp, because the sun hadn’t really hit it, and my right foot slid out from under me. I was laying on the turf and the trainers came out. But I said, ‘Don't touch me. If I can walk, I am gonna finish the football game.’...
“I don’t consider there was any pressure on me that day. I always figured I wasn’t going to ever put pressure on myself to perform, so I certainly wasn’t going to get anyone else put pressure on me from the outside world. But I did understand what was at stake. I wasn't gonna play this game because I was a black quarterback. I was playing this game because I was the quarterback of the Washington Redskins who happened to have earned the job quarterbacking in the Super Bowl.
“I was very much aware of the atmosphere around the game. I grew up in Louisiana during segregation. The street where I grew up runs from Baton Rouge to Mississippi. There were two intersections, a crossroads. And every Friday night, there was a cross burning at that intersection. That’s just the way it was. The Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan lived a few miles from where I lived. Integration didn’t happen until my ninth grade year, and even when I got to high school, it was still mostly black because the white kids who should have gone to the school got pulled out and went to private school. I only played with two white guys in high school. But basically I never worried about it. Then when I went to Grambling, coach Rob [Eddie Robinson] never preached black and white. He was only about the American flag. I don’t know anyone, ever, who could out-American Eddie Robinson. Anyway, with coach Rob, it was all about performance. ...
“At halftime, we’re up 35-10, and Buges [offensive line coach Joe Bugel] comes to me and says, ‘Hey, Stud’—that’s what he always called me—‘Hey Stud, I think we got this. You don’t need to come back with that knee.’ I told him, ‘I started this game, and I’m gonna finish it.’ My knee had really stiffened up. But the doctors got out their needle, and we did what we had to do, and we got the job done.
“We traveled the road less traveled and won the Super Bowl. After the game there was nothing to say. The game itself was the best statement.”
Now I had two questions for Williams.
Does this quarter get enough attention as the best quarter in Super Bowl history?
“No, but there’s not anything I can do about that. It’s not my job to blow my own horn. You control what you can control.”
Have you ever wondered whether it would be more celebrated if John Elway scored 35 points in one quarter?
Williams chuckled. He paused. Long pause.
“That’s the only answer you’ll get from me on that.”
Washington defeated Denver by 42-10; Williams was voted the Most Valuable Player. After his professional career ended, Williams went on to coach football at Grambling and much later to work in the Washington team's front office.