defrog: (Default)
I considered writing something about the UK elections, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said here?


That article was written before the election, but it’s great explanation as to where it all went wrong for Theresa May. Or, if it’s tl;dr for you, there’s always this tweet:




Speaking of tweets, there’s the James Comey mini-series that everyone’s been talking about, which can also be summed up in a tweet:


I didn’t watch, of course. The highlights are good enough for me.

The big question for everyone is, of course, what will the outcome be? A lot of people are hoping the answer will be “IMPEACH THE F***ER!”

Ha ha. No. Not with Paul “Hey, go easy on the new guy” Ryan leading the House. And not with all those GOP senators apparently more interested in Loretta Lynch and the Hillary Clinton email case than what Trump may or may not have said about Russia and obstruction of justice blah blah blah.

As I’ve said, impeachment is about politics, not law and order, and the GOP is simply not going to impeach one of its own. Sure, it won’t cost them the White House – Mike Pence will get the job – but that’s not the point. No party wants it on record that one of their guys was a bad enough POTUS that impeachment was the only option. And Trump has been proving over and over the old political axiom that when YOUR guy does it, it’s at worst an honest mistake that’s being overblown in the press, and when the OTHER guy does it, it’s basically treason. “Obstruction of justice? C’mon, he didn’t order Comey to do anything, he made a simple request and he didn’t know it might be taken as inappropriate, I mean he’s only been President for a few months, you can’t expect him to know everything …”

Put bluntly, the GOP ain't impeaching Trump until he's hurting their reelection chances. And we're not there yet. 

So was Comey’s testimony a complete waste of time?

It depends. If your sole desired outcome was locking Trump and his entire family away in Gitmo forever (or deported to Siberia), then yes, probably.

For me, I think it’s good to have on the official Congressional record that Trump actively tried to convince Comey to back off on the Russia investigation – whether he has something to hide or he simply can’t stand people thinking that the only reason he won is because Russia gamed the election on his behalf (or quite likely both). It may also spell trouble for General Jeff Sessions, who has his own Russia problems, and who at this stage seems far more likely to leave the stage than Trump.

Result!

Of course, all this assumes that (1) Comey told the truth and (2) you believe what he says. And if yr a Trump apologist, you probably don’t. But that’s where we are now – completely separate politically defined alternate realities. Everyone I know – liberals and conservatives – is convinced that Comey’s testimony absolutely vindicated their side and decimated the opposition.

Which may not make Comey’s testimony pointless, but it probably makes this whole post pointless. But the same could be said for this entire blog, so I’ve learned not to worry too much about that.

Testify,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As a blogger I’m expected to express my opinion about #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, the Dallas shootings and the subsequent aftermath. And I’m way late on this, I know, but I’ve been busy.

And to be honest, there’s not much I can add to what I’ve posted before about #BlackLivesMatters. So much of the rhetoric on my Facebook feed and elsewhere is the same recycled talking points we’ve heard since Ferguson (which was, believe it or not, two years ago) – the #AllLivesMatter crowd are repeating themselves because they refuse to listen to what #BLM is trying to tell them, and #BLM are repeating themselves because #ALM isn’t listening.

You see the problem.

Anyway, here’s a few things to add to the “conversation”, such as it is, about the specific events last week.

1. One of the takeaways from Dallas is that when Micah Johnson started shooting, the cops did what they could to protect the protesters, and protesters did what they could to help the police. Also, considering that some of the protesters were openly armed, it says a lot that not a single cop shot anyone they saw carrying a gun. Both of these factoids do not slot in neatly with the stereotypical rhetoric that gets thrown around on TwitBook in related political memes.

2. All three incidents raise serious questions about Open Carry and the general belief of the NRA that everyone is entitled to carry guns openly because it makes us all safer.

For a start, Open Carry clearly didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the Dallas shooting, although it did make it more difficult for the police to determine who the actual shooter was (and that there was only one).

Also – and more to the point – both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were legally carrying firearms in Open Carry states. Yet the fact that they had guns alarmed police enough to use deadly force in the same way that white people with guns generally don’t alarm them. The NRA – which normally leaps at the chance to defend the right of everyone to carry a gun without being hassled by the police about it – hasn’t had a blessed thing to say about either case. And their own members are starting to call them on it (at least about Castile).

The NRA eventually released a statement about the Castile shooting (without mentioning his name), saying they don’t comment on ongoing investigations – which is possibly wise, but does come across as a blatant media-management trick to avoid saying something that people are going to use against you on Twitter for the rest of yr life.

3. There’s also the fact that the Dallas police took out Johnson with a suicide bomber robot. Which is a flashy way of describing what was the equivalent of a telepresence drone attack on a suspect, which raises all kinds of legal and ethical questions regarding due process, lethal force, militarization of the police, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dallas police were wrong to use a robot in this specific situation – and there is actually precedent for using weaponized robots, although not with the specific intention to kill. And if we agree that the police have a legal right to kill someone in a situation like this, it arguably doesn't matter if they use robot bombs, guns, 16-ton weights or their bare hands.

Still, we’re headed into unknown territory here, especially when you remember (1) the current advances being made in robot technology regarding automation and artificial intelligence, and (2) the continuing trend of police militarization, and what it means to give cops the ability to send in a robot or drone to deal with suspects.

4. Inevitably there are idiots who were hoping Dallas would spark some kind of race war – including this guy. Possibly. I’m not entirely sure what exactly Joe Walsh wants, and it’s possible he doesn’t, either, apart from something that will make BLM protesters and Obama – and thus (in his mind) America’s race problem – go away, or at least make them look as evil and terrible and violent as he imagines they are.

I’d like to think the Joe Walshes of America are in the minority, but he’s not without support. Even my Facebook feed, sadly, makes that clear – many white people I know see BLM (and Obama) as the cause of racial tension in America: “Hey, I’m not racist, THEY started it, everything was fine until they saying white lives don’t matter and started shooting white cops!”

And while that’s not the same as openly advocating a race war, it seems pretty obvious that Walsh et al would welcome any excuse to crack down on the entire movement – like, say, a couple of violent psychopaths killing cops. It seems likely they’re going to milk Dallas (and now Baton Rouge) as “evidence” BLM is a terrorist group like ISIS and was all along and needs to be neutralized before they take over the country and enslave all the white people, or whatever it is they think BLM wants.

Good thing they’re only a fringe minority that won’t be emboldened by the success of a major Presidential candidate whose campaign has been built on white xenophobic … oh, wait.

It’s all sad and stupid, really. If a race war does happen, historians 100 years from now will shake their heads sadly at how easy it was to start one.

It never ends,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
The Twitbookverse is a-dither over the FBI’s decision to not press charges against Hillary Clinton for using her private email server when she was State Secretary.

And as you might imagine, I’m not impressed with the dithering, largely because just about all of it is coming from people who wanted to see her go to jail solely for political convenience.

Conservatives are upset because they’ve oh so badly wanted to put Hillary in jail since Whitewater, and liberals are upset because arresting Hillary is about the only way that Bernie Sanders is going to get the Democratic nomination at this point. I don’t know that either group really cares about what she did or why – they just care about a result that takes her out of the election.

I can’t prove that, of course. But as Josh Marshall at TPM has pointed out, it was always pretty obvious from all available public evidence that the only way the FBI would indict her was if they had some damning evidence that hadn’t been made public yet. They didn’t. So the result is only a surprise to people who had convinced themselves (with the help of select media echo chambers) that Hillary was guilty guilty guilty.

The consolation prize is Director Comey’s comments about her conduct. You can bet that’s going to be fed straight into the relevant political machines and milked for all it’s worth to “prove” that they were right all along and that HRC is a lying evil liar who lies about things that are untrue and Obama covered up her crimes and Wall Street owns and she endangered national security and dammit so much we don’t want her to be President WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO US WHAT ABOUT LORETTA LYNCH BENGHAZI AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Or they could just say that it proves she showed bad judgment, which is probably true. But that’s not against the law. And I doubt it will cost her that many votes anyway.

Then again, who can say when her opponent is a guy who can praise Saddam Hussein and still not blow the election?

Anyhow, when you add up every single Republican-led Congressional investigation that’s been thrown at her since the early 90s – millions of dollars wasted with absolutely nothing to show for it – I think it’s reasonable to conclude that whatever else you may think about Hillary, she hasn’t broken any laws or done anything bad enough that would disqualify her from being POTUS.

So clearly the GOP has only one option moving forward: start a NEW investigation.

This time I know it's for real,

This is dF


defrog: (life is offensive)
ITEM: You know that Mississippi law passed in April that basically said you can legally discriminate against LBGTs and even unmarried hetero couples as long as it contravenes yr religious beliefs (provided those religious beliefs are Christian?

A federal judge just ruled it unconstitutional. Twice.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled on a specific provision of the law that allowed clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He struck that one down.

Then, minutes before the law was to go into effect on July 1, Reeves struck down the rest of it for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

I’m not surprised by the ruling. You can’t really call it a “religious freedom” bill if it takes just three specific religious beliefs from one specific religion (well, two if you include Islam, which no one who wrote and supported the bill had in mind, I can pretty much guarantee) and encode them into law – especially in a way that violates another amendment (in this case, the 14th one). The 1A has never guaranteed religious freedom to the point that yr religious beliefs legally supersede everyone else’s rights or beliefs.

But then, as I’ve said before, part of the purpose of bills like this – and many of them have been proposed to varying degrees of severity – isn’t to succeed, but to be seen by yr constituents voting in favor of them. So the politicians who backed this law will get the political mileage they wanted with their base either way, and they get to trot out the old “liberal activist judge” meme for good measure.

Still, it’s nice the law was rejected, though of course it might be reinstated on appeal. No word yet on an appeal will actually happen, although Gov Phil Bryant has said he would very much desire it. And bear in mind that LGBTs are still not covered by the state's existing anti-discrimination law anyway. Still, in times like these you take what you can get.

Case dismissed,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
You know about Orlando. It is sad and tragic.

As usual, I’ve been waiting for enough info to filter in before posting any thoughts about it. And as usual, most of what I’ve seen is the same old talking points being recycled with the general objective of making sure the blame lies squarely with political enemies.

If you think I’m going to jump in the middle of that, you are insane.

But blogging duty calls, so here’s a few things you can exploit or ignore at yr leisure:

1. On a purely political level, it’s interesting that the shooting takes previously separate arguments about gun control, terrorism, Islam, LGBT rights and political correctness and mashes them all together into an even more incoherent mess than usual.

That said, it doesn’t seem to be changing the conversation much, with the exception that you now have people actually arguing over whether it counts as a terrorist attack or an anti-LGBT attack (as if it couldn’t conceivably be both). But again, most of that seems less about facts of the shooting and more about making sure The Right People get blamed for it.

2. While terrorist attacks in the US remain rare statistically, terrorist attacks in the US involving guns are happening more often, according to FiveThirtyEight.

This is worth emphasizing because in the early days of post-9/11 America, experts rejected the idea of terrorists using guns for terror attacks because it was too small-scale. Under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda wanted to make Epic Statements like 9/11.

With bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda having been effectively replaced by ISIS, that strategy has changed. The official ISIS line is: no attack is too small.

Gun attacks also come with the added value of exploiting a touchy and divisive subject: gun control. If one of the objectives of terrorism is to divide us as a nation, the gun control issue is a great way to do it. Combine that with other wedge issues (Islamaphobia, gay marriage and The Great Transgender Bathroom Panic of 2016) and you’ll have us at each other’s throats in no time. The very reactions we’re seeing to Orlando prove that.

So we’re likely to see more of this kind of thing, because it’s not like assault rifles are hard to get.

3. On the other hand, not all mass shootings are terrorism-related. In fact, most aren’t. Mass shootings have become more common in the US even if you exclude the terrorism-related ones.

We don’t know why this is, and one reason we don’t, according to Vocativ, is because the CDC doesn’t collect data on mass shootings to study the details and see if there’s any causes or correlations we can learn.

The reason why the CDC doesn’t do this is because, basically, Congress won’t let them. You can make a good guess as to why. This seems counterproductive to me. I mean, look, if you’re going to argue that the problem isn’t guns but people, you should at least be trying to figure out why people do this sort of thing and if there’s anything to be done about it before they do it. It’s the same old dodge – like when we say the problem is not guns but mentally ill people, and then do nothing to address mental health.

4. In any case, I’ve seen no real evidence that the Orlando shooting is going to lead to any meaningful changes in the debate that will shift the status quo. It might. But I would be surprised.

Same as it ever was,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
The FaceTwitterverse is in full rage mode over the news that Brock Turner – the affluent Stanford student and champion swimmer who was facing a 14-year jail sentence for raping a woman – got six months because the judge figured hey, Brock feels really bad about it, and is it really fair to ruin his life over “20 minutes of action” and a little excess drinking?

Honestly, most of what I could say about this, I’ve said before regarding the Steubenville case three years ago.

If I could add anything else, it’s this:

Look, either rape is a serious and heinous crime or it’s not. There’s really no middle ground here. If society is going to designate rape as a terrible crime (which it should, because it is), then the punishment needs to reflect that, and it must do so consistently. You can’t say rape is a serious crime and then make excuses and exceptions for people with promising futures who don’t fit yr stereotypical (and highly inaccurate) profile of leering strangers in dark alleys. That undermines the seriousness of the offense and trivializes its effects on the victim.

Also, the argument that we should go easy on him because he feels really bad about it is just weird. Turner’s official statement of lament, sincere as it may or may not be, comes across as the equivalent of: “Look, I’m sure the girl feels victimized and all, but can we talk about how I feel for a minute?”

I do wonder what he thought when the victim read her statement to him directly in court. Was he moved? Ashamed? Bored? Was he even listening?

I have no idea. But assuming her letter was read aloud after he handed in his statement, maybe it helped him finally get it. Maybe he’ll decide to speak out against rape culture instead of party culture. Maybe he’ll tell other students the real life lesson here is this: “When yr alone with a woman who is incapacitated from drinking too much, the one thing you DO NOT do EVER EVER EVER is stick yr penis inside her – not because it’s illegal, but because it’s just so wrong that I can’t believe this has to be explained to you.”

I hope so. If he’s not going to spend more than a few months in jail, it's the very least he can do.

By the way, I don’t mind if he throws college party culture in as part of his lecture. I’m not a fan of either binge-drinking or peer pressure, and young people should be encouraged to avoid both. But it’s not the primary problem in this case. We know this because most guys who get drunk at parties DON’T sexually assault incapacitated women behind dumpsters. So I’m not having this whole “I didn’t rape that girl, party culture did” meme.

Sober up,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
And she is sick of yr “boys will be boys” crap.



[Via Superdames]

PRODUCTION NOTE: This is from Hit Comics #47, 1947.

FUN FACT: This is the kind of comic that makes Men’s Rights Activists very sad. And by “sad” I mean “insanely furious at this unfair feminazi oppression I mean is complimenting a babe on her looks a crime now” etc.

It’s a fair cop,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
DISCLAIMER: I’m not very familiar with the transgender issue in general (see Point 8, below). I mean, yes, I’m aware that transgenders exist and face discrimination issues, etc. But I don’t know a lot about gender identity or understand how it works. So if this disqualifies me from commenting on this, you can stop reading now.

1. Transgenders in the US comprise somewhere around 0.3% of the population. So the scale of the “problem” the NC HB2 bill claims to be addressing is pretty small. (Put another way, it’s not like there’s going to be some massive transgender invasion of America’s washrooms.)

2. As near as I can tell, the NC law applies only to publicly funded facilities (i.e. government buildings, public schools, etc). Private businesses (such as, oh, say, Target) can legally set their own policies on washroom usage if they want.

3. Even so, the Justice Department has decided the law violates Title IX (which bars discrimination in education based on sex) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination.

4. Apparently that’s partly thanks to Antonin Scalia (albeit unintentionally).

5. For the life of me I have no idea what HB2 supporters think they’re accomplishing with this law. I’m not sure which washrooms transgenders were using before, but I’m pretty sure hardly anyone noticed or cared until a group of conservative lawyers decided to make it an issue.

Many (if not all) transgenders tend to look and dress like the gender they identify with (or so I assume), which means the law basically requires trans guys who look/dress like ladies to use the men’s room and vice versa. If yr the kind of person who gets freaked out easily by transgenders, I don’t see how making them 100x more noticeable in a washroom setting is supposed to make you feel more at ease.

And of course, plenty of people who are not transgender don’t always conform with the physical appearance or dress codes associated with a specific gender. I predict a lot of false alarms and general embarrassment for everyone involved.

6. One justification I’ve heard for HB2 is that straight guys and/or child molesters will use the law as an excuse to go into the ladies room and rape them and their children or something.

A few points here: (1) that’s never happened in any other city or state with the same transgender washroom provisions, (2) if it ever does happen, it would still be illegal under such laws and (3) the only guys infiltrating ladies’ rooms at the moment seem to be from right-wing conservative groups trying to make some half-assed point that technically it can be done.

7. Police forces in NC have already stated for the record that they really have no game plan for enforcing HB2. And even if they bothered to try, HB2 contains no enforcement provisions or penalties.

Yes, there are a few reports in circulation of cops arresting people in NC, but one of them is an outright fake and the other one not only didn’t happen in NC, it apparently happened at least six months before the NC law was passed. I’m sure we will start seeing some real incidents like this sooner or later. But I think they’ll be the exception to the rule, though I’m sure the magic of social media will blow them way the hell out of proportion – just like it does with everything else.

8. One key caveat: my above comments pertain mainly to washrooms. Locker rooms are a different matter, because some level of socially acceptable public nudity is involved, which lowers the privacy bar, and makes it more difficult for transgenders to blend in mainly unnoticed.

NOTE: This may not be the problem I imagine it might be. If any readers know otherwise, feel free to comment. And I'll stress here that I'm not personally afraid of encountering transgenders in the changing room. But I'll admit, I would be doing a double take and wondering if I'm in the wrong room, if you see what I'm saying. 

To my mind, that's not transphobia – that's the product of cultural mores about gender identities and roles that have been deeply embedded into our social and psychological DNA, which means that sharing locker room space with someone who is not the same biological gender is going to feel odd (at first), and it’s going to take at least several generations for cisgender people to get over that.

The same is true of transgenderism in general. Gender identity is a concept a lot of cisgender people don’t fully grasp (including me – I didn’t even know what “cisgender” meant until I did some research for this post).  That’s no reason not to pass anti-discrimination laws addressing it, of course. My point is that there’s a lot of cultural baggage for most people to overcome, and it will take a long time for them to achieve that.

I don’t think this can be understated, because some people think the way to help them overcome that baggage is to scream “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING BIGOT!” at them until they just shut up. That’s counterproductive, IMO – a lot of “tranphobes” are really just people who just need to be better educated about transgenderism and given time to process it. Screaming insults at them won’t make them wiser or sympathetic. It will arguably make things worse.

Who’s the woman who’s the man,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
ITEM: More than a hundred media outlets around the world, coordinated by the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released stories on the Panama Papers, a massive collection of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca exposing a widespread system of global tax evasion.

Or, if not tax evasion, then at least tax avoidance. Which I mention because legally there’s a big difference between the two, as Vox helpfully explains:

… there's a big difference between tax evasion — illegally refusing to pay taxes you owe, and then taking advantage of secret accounts to try to hide the money and get away with it — and tax avoidance, which is hiring clever people to help you find and exploit legal loopholes to minimize your tax bill.

Incorporating your hedge fund in a country with no corporate income tax even though all your fund's employees and investors live in the United States is perfectly legal. So is, in most cases, setting up a Panamanian shell company to own and manage most of your family's fortune.

So while a lot of the activity covered in the Panama Papers may not be technically illegal, the real takeaway (apart from the actual illegal stuff) is how widespread tax avoidance is, how much it is growing, and how willfully complicit many powerful politicians in powerful countries have been in allowing it to happen.

Which is probably an important thing to consider in places like the US where we regularly argue over deficits, the growing wealth gap, and how much we should be taxing the wealthy – especially if yr argument for lower taxes is so the wealthy can reinvest the profits back into the economy instead of, say, stashing the wealth offshore tax-free and in some cases hiding it.

The story is still developing – and not unexpectedly, the denials are flying – so we’ll see what else comes out as a result of the leak, but for now, I’d recommend:

1. This overview from Vox

2. This BBC report

3. This article from Wired that looks at the monumental effort that led to the story’s release:

… beyond those revelations—and there will likely be more as the reporting around the Panama Papers continues—the leak represents an unprecedented story in itself: How an anonymous whistleblower was able to spirit out and surreptitiously send journalists a gargantuan collection of files, which were then analyzed by more than 400 reporters in secret over more than a year before a coordinated effort to go public.

Model citizen, zero discipline

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
There’s a quote by John Erlichman making the rounds in which he explains the real reason President Nixon declared the first shot in the American War On Drugs:

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The quote is included in Dan Baum’s recent Harper’s article advocating full-on drug legalization. But for all the current social-media dithering about what sounds like a shocking revelation, it’s actually an old quote. Baum got that quote from Erlichman during an interview in 1994. And it’s been public since at least 2012, when Baum recounted the story in an anthology called The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure.

The big question, of course, isn’t whether Erlichman really said it, but is what he said true? And did he know (or at least believe) it was true when he said it?

Well, who can say? Given what we’ve learned about Nixon from the Watergate tapes, it’s certainly plausible.

Does it mean the War On Drugs as we know today it is inherently racist? Perhaps unwittingly. I doubt every presidential admin since Nixon who took over the WoD were handed a memo from the outgoing team saying: “Remember: the object of the WoD is to put black people in jail.”

But I don’t think that matters. Whatever the intentions and motivations of the WoD in the 21st Century, the results speak for themselves, says German Lopez at Vox:

Although black Americans aren't more likely to use or sell drugs, they're much more likely to be arrested for them. And when black people are convicted of drug charges, they generally face longer prison sentences for the same crimes, according to a 2012 report from the US Sentencing Commission.

So I do think the Erlichman quote deserves to be circulated more widely than it has been.

Is the quote in itself justification for legalization? Not really, if only because there is plenty of evidence that the WoD is one of the most disastrous and expensive boondoggles in US govt history, and has been for years, regardless of how racially motivated it may have been at the start, and regardless of the racial impact now.

So the argument for legalization is already sound, IMO. But then the question becomes: to what extent do you legalize?

As Lopez at Vox points out, Baum’s call for full-on legalization ignores the possibility that drug prohibition has been effective to a point, mainly by making harder drugs too expensive for most people. Case in point: in the last couple of decades, painkiller addiction has skyrocketed mainly because doctors have been making them more accessible.

Basically you have people arguing for full-on prohibition or full-on legalization, but there are middle-ground options as well. For my money, the biggest problem with the WoD has been the zero-tolerance policy that treats drug use as a criminal issue rather than a public health issue. I’d like to see a policy that reverses that and keeps the prohibition focused on the cartels and suppliers for the truly dangerous drugs.

In any case, the US has been long overdue for a serious conversation about this. Sadly, we are not about serious conversations right now, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

War all the time,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Previously on Senseless Acts Of Bloggery:

ITEM: Hong Kong bookstore employees are disappearing.

Or at least five of them have. Four went missing in October last year. The fifth disappeared last week.

All five worked with the same bookstore – Causeway Bay Bookstore, which just happens to specialize in books that are banned in mainland China (but not HK) because they’re critical of the central govt, especially President Xi Jinping.

That was as of January 8, by which time one of them – Lee Bo – was said to be in China (but without his travel document) helping the police with “an investigation”.

Here’s what’s happened since then:

1. Lee Bo has met with his wife and written a couple of open letters telling HK to stop investigating his disappearance, he really is helping with an investigation and it’s not really a big deal anyway.

This week, Lee appeared on Chinese TV explaining how he got into China without his travel document:

"I was worried that upon reaching the mainland and taking part in the lawful investigation, and testifying against others, it would lead to them and their families getting angry with me and this would not be good for me and my family, so to guarantee our safety, I chose to be smuggled in," he said.

Lee also took the trouble to publicly renounce his UK citizenship – which may or may not have something to do with the fact that the UK government has expressed grave concerns over one its passport holders being abducted into China, which would be a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong that defines the current “One Party, Two Systems” arrangement. By sheer coincidence, Beijing does not appreciate this insinuation. So it’s nice of Lee to voluntarily settle the issue for them with no coaching whatsoever.

2. Gui Minhai – who was in Thailand when he disappeared – later popped up on CCTV (China’s state broadcaster) making a tearful confession that he turned himself in to Chinese police after he killed someone in China while drunk-driving – 12 years ago. While a friend of Gui’s confirmed the drunk-driving incident really happened, a lot of people are finding it hard to believe he just decided to go turn himself in – and just two days after two of his associates had also vanished.

3. The other three – Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee – turned up in jail in China. They’ve also appeared on TV confessing crimes of “illegal book-trading” – i.e. selling their books critical of Xi Jingpeng on the mainland. Also, Lam took the trouble to point out that, by the way, the allegations in the books were all completely untrue:

"They were downloaded from the Internet, and were pieced together from magazines. They have generated lots of rumours in society and brought a bad influence."

The three were set to be be released on bail sometime this week.

So.

As you might expect, few people outside of the Chinese govt are taking the TV confessions seriously, as China has a long history of making examples of critics via public confessions that seem strikingly tailored to back whatever specific points Beijing wants to make by arresting them.

In any case, unofficially (i.e. this is according to other sources, not the official police line), a narrative is starting to unfold: Gui Minhai allegedly set up a distribution outlet in Shenzhen to sell banned books in China. The other three in jail were allegedly involved somehow, and Lee Bo – who allegedly had no knowledge of any of this – was allegedly recruited to allegedly help investigate the case.

Allegedly.

There’s still plenty we don’t know yet, and what we do know seems dubious. And we may never know the whole story. There are three things we do know for sure:

1. Two of the four people who ended up in jail were not in mainland China when they disappeared. And we know Lee Bo somehow got into mainland China despite not having his travel document with him – possibly even volunteering to be abducted (which seems like an odd thing to agree to after working for a publishing company and bookstore highly critical of Beijing – to say nothing of giving up his British passport).

Which again raises the central question of the whole affair: how did the three of them who were outside of China suddenly end up there?

Because there’s only a few possible options there, and one of them is this: the Chinese police are kidnapping people who are not Chinese nationals that they want to put in jail.

Which is, needless to say, alarming.

2. The HK government is very unlikely to pursue the matter. The HK Police Commissioner has met with Lee Bo, and has said he doesn’t believe that Lee is telling the whole story, but with Lee unwilling to press charges or make any accusations and basically telling them that there is no case, the police don’t have any choice but to drop it.

So, as usual, it’s a case of two governments – both of which have gone out of their way to undermine HK public trust in them – saying, “Trust us, there’s nothing wrong here.”

3. Local delivery companies are a lot more nervous about shipping banned books to mainland China than they used to be. Which I'm sure is one of the desired results of all this, as far as Beijing is concerned.

Developing …

Would I lie to you,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
You don’t need me to tell you that Justice Antonin Scalia is gone.

You also don’t need me to tell you his death is already being tastelessly and heavily politicized by people who either loved or loathed him.

And you certainly don’t need me to tell you that the political ramifications of a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year are already shaping up to be epic.

Here are some comments from me to fulfill my bloggery/1st Amendment obligations:

1. I don’t have a lot to say about Scalia himself, except that (1) obviously I disagreed with many of his opinions (in terms of both his judicial rulings and his off-the-bench comments), and (2) love him or hate him, his judicial legacy has made the modern SCOTUS what it is today. History will decide whether his impact was for better or worse. 

2. For all that, Justice Scalia was living proof that when Republicans complain about “activist judges”, they mean “judges who don’t rule the way we wanted them to on politicized cases”. Because let’s not kid ourselves – Scalia’s SCOTUS decisions were often very rooted in conservative ideology, and he made it clear in his opinions – and especially his dissents – when his concerns were informed as much by the potential impact on the sociopolitical landscape and policies as the specific wording of the Constitution or a given law.

3. Whatever you may think about him personally, it’s worth mentioning that he and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – his ideological opposite – were BFFs. Let that be a lesson to us all.

4. I’m not surprised that Mitch McConnell and Charles Grassley don't want Presidente Obama to appoint a new justice before he leaves office. Yes, it’s a blatant stalling tactic in the hopes that the GOP will win the White House. But if it were (say) Mitt Romney wrapping up his final term right now, the Democrats would be saying pretty much the same thing.

However, Grassley’s claims that “it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year” isn’t actually true. So between that and the fact that we’ve got 11 months until the new POTUS is sworn in (and it will take at least a few more months to get a new Supreme nominated and approved), I’m thinking that’s probably too long to have a vacancy on the bench.

5. At the same time, it's possible this particular Senate would reject every single Obama appointee even if Obama still had another three years to go. So the outcome might be the same anyway. On the other hand, it's also worth mentioning that the GOP's current "no replacement under Obama" strategy could backfire on them – badly, and in multiple ways. That may not be a deterrent. But frankly there are very few upsides to taking the hardline on this. 

6. While all the POTUS candidates and/or their super PACs will certainly make SCOTUS balance of power an election issue, I’m not overly concerned with it for a couple of reasons: (1) three sitting Supremes are over the age of 75, so the replacement issue will probably come up during the next term anyway, either via death (God forbid) or retirement, and (2) liberals who have complained about the current bench being 5-4 in favor of Republican appointees up to Scalia’s death tend to forget that this is the same conservative-controlled SCOTUS that legalized gay marriage and Obamacare. So the Democrat vs Republican appointee ratio doesn’t always guarantee a predictable party-sanctioned outcome, is what I’m saying.

7. For the record, the odds of a recess appointment, in which Obama could constitutionally fill a SCOTUS vacancy temporarily without Senate approval (and which is how William J. Brennan got his start in SCOTUS), are not high – thanks, ironically, to a 2014 SCOTUS ruling that makes it more difficult for a POTUS to do that, or at least gives the Senate more control over the situation.

8. Vox has a list of who is most likely to be on Obama’s SCOTUS appointee shortlist.

9. Inevitably, there are conspiracy theories. Alex Jones – and everyone who takes him seriously – suspects that Scalia was actually assassinated, probably by Obama, because obviously.

Another suspect is Leonard Nimoy.

Okay, that one’s satire. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S NOT TRUE, MAN!

Court is adjourned,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Remember when the Cleveland grand jury decided that a police officer did the right thing by gunning down 12-year-old unarmed Tamir Rice after giving him one whole second to surrender? Then when the Rice family filed a wrongful death suit, the city govt responded that the shooting was Tamir’s fault for behaving in a way that got him lawfully shot and killed?

The city followed up on that this week by sending Rice’s family a bill for $500 to cover "ambulance advance life support" and other medical expenses, including mileage, related to Rice's ride to the hospital the day he was shot.

So to summarize:

“Hi Mr and Mrs Rice, our cops shot yr boy dead. We’ve decided they did nothing wrong in doing so, and in fact the whole thing was yr boy’s fault. That’ll be $500, please. When can we expect payment?”

The good news – such as it is – is that the mayor has apologized and said payment won’t be necessary. He also said the city was just following procedure, and that sending it was a bureaucratic goof. The fact that the bill went seriously viral may or may not be a factor in his decision.

The Rice family aren't having it. I probably wouldn’t, either, in their position.

Insult to injury,

This is dF
defrog: (sars)
ITEM: Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez – a concealed-carry permit holder who was charged with misdemeanor reckless use of a handgun after she opened fire on a pair of shoplifters as they fled from a Home Depot store near Detroit – was sentenced to 18 months of probation and stripped of her concealed gun permit.

"I tried to help," she told WJBK television after her sentencing. "And I learned my lesson that I will never help anybody again."

Translation: "Hey I tried to help stop a crime and this is the thanks I get? Well, fine. You don’t want my help? Then I just won’t help anybody else ever. Next time you get shoplifted don't come crying to me. Fuck all y'all."

I like this part:

Her lawyer was even more defiant. "We need more people like Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez in our society," defense attorney Steven Lyle Schwartz told The Associated Press.

Yes. We need more people willing to use deadly force to stop shoplifters.

As you can imagine, I’m not impressed. The argument that Duva-Rodriguez may have had good intentions and was aiming for the tires and all that is really beside the point. Whatever her intentions were, the fact remains that she made the snap decision that shoplifting was a crime that warranted whipping out a deadly weapon and firing it. It doesn't matter to me that she was aiming for the tires. No one who sees their gun as an all-purpose tool for stopping criminals should be allowed to carry one around.

This is the big flaw in the Good Guys With Guns meme currently being pushed by the NRA and its supporters – the assumption that Good Guys With Guns will respond appropriately in situations like these or ones like San Bernadino et al. Some will. Many won’t. Which is why the NRA Bullshit Fantasy World where every American is walking around armed is a disaster waiting to happen.

The more people you enable to carry guns (concealed or openly) – and the more you inflate them with Good Guys With Guns rhetoric along with a healthy dose of general xenophobia – the more yr going to see incidents like this. And they’re not all going to end with no one getting hurt.

So if Duva-Rodriguez wants to "go Galt" on this specific issue, that's fine by me. 

No help coming,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Two independent investigations from a Colorado prosecutor and a former FBI supervisory agent have concluded that the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable and objectively justified, arguing that any reasonable officer placed in the same scenario could have concluded deadly force was necessary.

As you might expect, Rice’s family disagrees with those findings.

Note that these are just third-party investigations – the actual case hasn’t started yet. But it’s not hard to see where this is going – if the grand jury decides to press charges against officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, I would be surprised.

Vox has a good write-up here on the independent investigations, the details of the shooting, the officers/police force involved, and the legal background behind the circumstances under which deadly force is justified.

And the details make one thing clear: if the grand jury decides the shooting was justified, then we’re pretty much saying that it is legally and socially acceptable for cops to execute anyone they feel is threatening them, regardless of age.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. But there’s an obvious disconnect here. I can pretty much guarantee that all of the people backing the police officers involved in the Rice shooting would be less inclined to support them if it was their kid shot down in two seconds. But Tamir Rice isn't their kid. So I guess they feel they can afford to fall back on the same simplistic pro-police meme that I see on Facebook every single time something like this happens (paraphrased):

I support our brave law enforcement officers because we must have Law And Order at all costs, and once you start second-guessing the police yr only one step away from total anarchy etc and so on.

Jon Stewart has already addressed this, but it’s worth repeating: it’s entirely possible to be pro-police and anti-corruption, anti-racist and anti-shooting-unarmed-kids at the same time. And the more that bad cops are allowed to hide behind grand juries who find that their actions are technically legal under loose SCOTUS guidelines, the more it undermines the authority of legitimate law enforcement. Ask Frank Serpico if you don’t believe me.

I guess the question really boils down to this: do you want to live in a society where the police can justify shooting unarmed petty criminals and innocent people, even if they’re kids, and regardless of the severity of the crime they were allegedly and initially stopped for – shoplifting, selling illegal cigarettes, broken taillight, etc?

ADDENDUM: Yes, yes, I know some people will claim that Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Walter Scott are different because they allegedly challenged or resisted the police. Like that’s an excuse to kill them. Or justifies what happened to Tamir Rice.

Don’t shoot,

This is dF


defrog: (onoes)
This one can be broken down into ten (10) simple bullet points.

1. Yes it was stupid and wrong and arguably prejudiced.

2. This is not an isolated incident, and hasn’t been for years.

3. That’s what happens when you respond to terrorism the way the Bush II Admin, its supporters and a lot of influential media pundits did after 9/11 (and continue to do today).

4. You can see the results of America’s post-9/11 response not only in Ahmed’s arrest, but also in this letter from the school principal which essentially says (paraphrased) that (1) that the arrest was Ahmed’s fault for violating the student code of conduct, (2) that code is keeping yr children safe from ISIS and (3) we’ll do this every single time something like this happens.

No apology, no “we could have handled that better”, not even a “we’ll review our policy to see if it can be implemented more effectively”. Just “we have a policy, we enforced it, yr welcome”.

5. See also: the mayor of Irving, TX, who thinks apologizing to Ahmed and his family is equivalent to second-guessing the police, which would undermine their authority. And we wouldn’t want that. (<tangent>This is the same logic many people have used to post those “I stand with America’s law enforcement officers” in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter. What they’re actually saying – perhaps without realizing it – is: “I stand with America’s law enforcement officers, no matter how corrupt some of them are and no matter many unarmed people they kill.</tangent>)

6. This is especially galling when you read the details about the actions that the teachers and the police when faced with what they claim they thought was a potential bomb situation. Short version: no one acted like they seriously thought it was a bomb. Ahmed ended up in handcuffs anyway.

7. Possibly the only thing more depressing than the way the school handled it is the way GOP candidates responded to it during last night’s Air Force One debate on CNN. Asked if it was a sign that anti-Muslim discrimination has gone too far, no one wanted to touch that question, and the few who did either changed the subject to ISIS, blamed innocent Muslims for not speaking out enough against ISIS, or said, “You want to talk about real religious discrimination? Let's talk about poor Kim Davis.”

8. One of my first thoughts on hearing the news was the psychological impact this would have on a 14-year-old minority, and what it would mean for his future development. So one good thing about all this is that Ahmed has handled it pretty well. The fact that he got so much support from the Twitterverse is probably a good sign.

He’s also changing schools, BTW. Cos, you know, it’d be awkward for everyone after this.

9. Bruce Schneier has the best headline describing the whole incident:


Choice quote: “We simply have to stop terrorizing ourselves. We just look stupid when we do it.”

10. All of the hoopla over this won’t really change much in terms of the ongoing Fear of Islams – not least because it’s an election year, and most GOP candidates are milking the OMG ISISTERRORSLAM card (and/or the OMG MEXICANZ card) for everything they’re worth. And they’re doing it because they know there’s an audience to pander to with it. The intention may not be to demonize Muslim kids making homemade clocks, but that’s going to be an ongoing consequence.

Tick tick boom,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Haight-Ashbury, circa 1967 [via Stupefaction]:




That’s probably good advice.

And in this day and age, applicable to any phone.

Free speech zone,

This is dF


defrog: (sars)


Dozens of bra-wearing men and women have protested in Hong Kong after a woman was jailed for assaulting a senior policeman with her breast.

Ng Lai-ying, 30, had accused Chief Inspector Chan Ka-po of touching her breast during a protest in March. But the court had ruled against her, saying she deliberately pushed her breast against him so she could accuse him of assault.

She was sentenced on Thursday to three months and 15 days in prison.

Beats me how the police managed to “prove” that the defendant deliberately put her breast into the policeman’s hand. (Sounds like an obscure Victorian metaphor, doesn’t it?)

Either way, it’s a dumb ruling, and one that’s just going to further erode what little trust there is left between the public and the govt.

Also, there’s an “open carry” joke here, but it wouldn’t be funny probably.

I do have this GIF, though. 



Weapons of love,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
[Sorry. Terrible joke.]

You all know about Bill Cosby. You may or may not know about Kim Fowley – i.e. what he did to Jackie Fuchs (a.k.a. Jackie Fox), Kari Krome and at least a few other women – but if you do, it’s probably because of Joan Jett’s statement on the matter.

I don’t have much to say about Cosby or Fowley that isn’t painfully obvious, expect I’m more surprised and disappointed by the former. I never cared for Cosby’s 80s sitcom (which I thought was a rehash of his onstage comedy material at the time), but I grew up on his comedy albums and the Fat Albert cartoons, which were great, so it’s a drag he’s a drug-raper. And while I’m not really a fan of Fowley, I am a fan of The Runaways, so of course I feel bad for Fuchs.

As for Jett, Fuchs claims that Jett and Cherie Currie were there and saw what was happening. Jett has said she was unaware that it happened and would have stopped it if she had been. (For the record, Cherie Currie has said the same thing, but most of the focus has been on Joan, probably because she’s far more well-known.)

Reactions from fans on the FaceTwitter Outrage Monkey Machine have been mixed. Some are supportive of Jett, some otherwise. Having spent the last couple of days pondering this, I’ve come up with a few points I think are worth considering:

1. I wasn’t there, so all I have to go on is second-hand info from different sources, some of which conflicts.

2. We’re talking about an incident that happened 40 years ago in which substance abuse in one form or another was taking place. That does not mean Fuchs is lying or mistaken. It means that in situations like that, yr going to get conflicting memories over what happened, and none may be 100% accurate.

3. It’s possible the other band members were there during the rape but didn’t realize at the time that it was non-consensual. (The article mentions in a footnote that someone high on ludes might look like they're enjoying themselves even if they’re really not.)

4. Given the likely use of drugs and alcohol at the time, it’s also possible that Jett genuinely has no memory of the incident. She also may not have been in good enough condition to assess the situation accurately. She may also have been traumatized in her own way (possibly thinking: “That could be me,” or “Am I next?”) and has blocked it out of her memory.

5. The last part of the article makes clear that Jackie doesn’t blame any of the other bystanders – partly because of the “bystander effect”, and partly because at the end of the day, the real villain is Fowley.

7. It’s easy to say as a grown-up in a relatively normal lower-middle-class environment in 2015 that “Jett should have recognized immediately what was going on and done something”. When yr 16 years old and caught up in the weird drug-fuelled decadent madness of the LA rock scene circa the mid-1970s (when “date rape” as a term wasn’t really embedded in the public consciousness like it does now), the situation probably wasn’t that easy to assess.

So.

With all that in mind – and again, based on the public information on hand – I don't really have anything bad to say about Joan in terms of what happened 40 years ago. Given my own teenage years, I’m the last person who can criticize a teenager for making bad decisions –especially as Fuchs evidently doesn’t bear her any ill will over what happened, either.

That said, some people are more critical over Jett’s response to the article, to include her alleged lack of response when the journalist contacted her for comment.

A lot of that is second-hand info, so all I can comment on is Jett’s official statement.

Well, look: either you believe her or you don’t. And based on the above points, it’s entirely possible that either Joan’s statement is truthful, or she sincerely believes it is.

And in any case, it’s important to remember that Jett is a flawed human like the rest of us. Imagine being Joan and getting a phone call out of nowhere from a HuffPo journalist saying [paraphrased], “Hey, Kim Fowley raped yr bass player 40 years ago and she says you watched the whole thing – gotta quote?” Even if Cherkis put it more delicately, maybe you really didn’t feel like rehashing Fowley’s dirty life and times, especially something you honestly didn’t remember anyway. (As McDonnell points out in her post, the story of Fowley raping a woman at a party in front of people has been circulating for awhile – the name of the victim was never revealed in those accounts, and Jett had already said she didn't remember it.)

Imagine further that shortly afterwards, every blog on the interwub starts reblogging the HuffPo piece with the clickbait headline: “Runaways Bassist: I Was Raped as Joan Jett Watched”.

How would YOU react in that situation? Especially when every minute you DON’T respond increases the likelihood that people will assume yr guilty or hiding something? And remembering too that – the FaceTwitter Outrage Monkey Machine being what it is – some people are going to hate on you no matter what you say?

So no, I’m not really going to lay into Joan over this – not based on current public information. I expect we’ll be hearing more about this in the coming days, and information may emerge that warrants outrage against Jett. But until then, I don't think she deserves to be singled out over this. I don’t expect her to be a saint, and it’s unfair to hold it against her for not being one, especially when Fuchs doesn’t.

It’s also unfair to make her the focus of the story instead of what Fowley did to Fuchs and others. I suspect at least some bloggers are trying to make this about Jett solely because she’s the most well-known and successful of the Runaways – certainly more so than Fuchs or even Fowley.

At the end of the day, I think it’s a case of readers trying to process a complex and horrific event in simplistic either/or terms. When stories conflict, we pick a side and assume the other person is lying, because that’s easy and fits into our simplistic moral code of right and wrong. “Must be one thing or the other, it’s all perfectly simple!” Except when it’s not.

I’ll close by linking to the statements that other key players have made regarding the article:

Cherie Currie

Vicki Blue

Kari Krome (who wrote some lyrics for the band and was also assaulted by Fowley)

Note that in all of them, everyone is supportive of Fuchs, and none of them cast Jett or Currie as villains.

I also recommend this post from Evelyn McDonnell – who wrote the Runaways bio Queens Of Noise – who points out that it is indeed possible for Fuchs and Jett to say different things about the event without lying about it, and that it’s unfair to blame Jett then and now.

And finally, here’s Jackie Fuchs’ response to everyone else’s responses. She’s still not angry with them:

If we have any hope at all of putting an end to incidents like these, we need to stop doubting the accusers and start holding rapists, abusers and bullies accountable. What we don’t need to do is point fingers at those who weren’t to blame for their actions.

Bad reputation,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
With everyone focused on the SCOTUS ObamaGayCare Marriage Apocalypse ruling, I thought I’d point to a few other SCOTUS rulings you might have missed in all the hubbub:

1. Voters have the right to draw their own districts, not just politicians with obvious conflicts of interest.

2. You no longer need proof of citizenship to register to vote in Kansas and Arizona.

3. Texas abortion clinics get to stay open for the time being.

4. If yr housing policies result in racial discrimination, you can’t defend the policies by claiming you didn’t mean for them to be discriminatory.

5. Congressmen convicted for bribery don’t get to argue that the evidence collected to convict them constitutes political harassment by the govt.

6. The EPA can’t enforce emissions limits in the Clean Air Act because it didn’t consider how much it would cost companies to comply.

7. Lethal injection by midazolam is not cruel and unusual punishment even though it can take agonizing hours for the inmate to die.

As you might notice, some decisions favor liberal opinions, while others favor conservative opinions. Which clearly means SCOTUS is biased and lawless and a danger to the country … except when it isn’t, then okay.

Conclusion: Americans don’t really want an independent judiciary. They want a judiciary that embraces their own partisan political ideology and always rules in their favor.

Don't judge,

This is dF

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