when the status quo frustrates.

Fear and Hatred of the Other

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I don’t understand it. Part of me doesn’t want to understand it, either; as with exploring the motives of pedophiles, it leaves me queasy and shaken in any kind of belief in the basic goodness of mankind. However, I should understand it in order to better combat it…I suppose…meh…it’s really hard to work up enthusiasm for plunging your hands into untreated sewage, you know?

Two news items today: One is Sarah Palin’s admittedly very funny Twitter debacle, where she confuses “not knowing what existing words mean” with “inventing new words.” Is she too stupid to be embarrassed? But aside from the vocabulary funzies, this was the sentiment:

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.

I feel unprovoked and unstabbed. Really. Now, the case could be made that I am not a New Yorker and therefore, perhaps, am missing some special degree of angst that would make this all explicable; however, Sarah Palin’s not one either. And in my case, I was actually within some geographical proximity of 9/11 events. Anybody remember this..?

(The US Pentagon, 9/11)
…or this?

(Near miss of the US Capitol–in rural Pennsylvania about 20 minutes from DC)

There are lots of terrorists out there. I remember learning in the 5th grade that while all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares. And in this case, it can’t even be claimed that well yes I’m sure not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists ARE Muslim, you know..! Neither Ted Kaczynski nor Timothy McVeigh were Muslims, for example. Since 1977, 41 abortion clinics have been bombed–forty-one!–and to the best of my knowledge, none of the bombers were even remotely Muslim. Among these were an abortion clinic and two physicians’ offices in Pensacola, Florida were bombed in the early morning of Christmas Day, 1984, by a quartet of young people (Matt Goldsby, Jimmy Simmons, Kathy Simmons, Kaye Wiggins) who later called the bombings “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”

I’ve also heard the argument that the Koran encourages Muslims to kill unbelievers. Gee, now there’s a point. I mean, just listen to these!

Suppose you hear in one of the towns that God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.

Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed.

They entered into a covenant to seek the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord their God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Oops, wait!…those are from the Bible.

This, and the ongoing furor over illegal immigrants, has really led me down a depressing path. “Several states” (reported variously as nine, ten or twelve depending on where I’m looking) are supposedly following Arizona’s lead in obsessing about their undocumented worker populations. Why the obsession..? I’ve heard it variously and defensively described as “Well they’re breaking the LAW don’t you CARE about the LAW?” (frequently put forth by people who regularly speed, jaywalk, cheat on their taxes and smoke weed–a rather selective reverence towards the LAW)


“Well they’re costing us MONEY WELFARE!” (Nevermind the fact that in 2008, the percentage of Arizona’s state budget going towards welfare was 12%…not exactly the lion’s share…and presumably even that isn’t somehow all being distributed to illegal aliens–how could it be?)


“Well they’re taking all our JOBS!” (FactCheck.org doesn’t agree.)

I’m pretty sure it all really boils down to one thing, and for that one thing, see the title of this post.

20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedom To Screw Other People Over

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

This list is great. I’ve copied and pasted my favorites, helpfully annotated.

You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501)

Freedoms being lost: The freedom to have me pay for your uninsured emergency room visits and your freedom to start up a business which can’t bring in enough revenue to cover a single annual expense of $750. Jesus wept!

You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701).

Freedoms being lost: The insurance companies’ freedom to deny coverage to anyone who isn’t young and healthy.

You would like to pay less in premiums by buying insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer such policies, even if that is what customers prefer. (Section 2711).

Freedoms being lost: Your insurance company’s freedom to refuse to pay for you to be cured of most serious illnesses, such as cancer. You are also losing the freedom to have me pay for your uninsured emergency room visits during your downhill spiral. More Jesus tears!

Think you’d like a policy that is cheaper because it doesn’t cover preventive care or requires cost-sharing for such care? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer policies that do not cover preventive services or offer them with cost-sharing, even if that’s what the customer wants. (Section 2712).

Freedoms being lost: Your freedom to drive up my insurance premiums by needing a lot more expensive medical treatment for conditions that, had you used preventive care, could have been circumvented or caught far earlier in their much less expensive phases.

If you are a physician and you don’t want the government looking over your shoulder? Tough. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to use your claims data to issue you reports that measure the resources you use, provide information on the quality of care you provide, and compare the resources you use to those used by other physicians. Of course, this will all be just for informational purposes. It’s not like the government will ever use it to intervene in your practice and patients’ care. Of course not. (Section 3003 (i))

Freedoms being lost: Your physician’s freedom to hide from you the quality of the care he provides and how much it tends to cost. I personally am going to miss the current system of finding a physician, which if I’m lucky can be based on a friend’s recommendation but is more often a total crapshoot based on geographic proximity to my home or workplace, where I get to test-drive him on my precious, one-and-only body.

You are a health insurer and you want to raise premiums to meet costs? Well, if that increase is deemed “unreasonable” by the Secretary of Health and Human Services it will be subject to review and can be denied. (Section 1003)

Freedoms being lost: Your insurance company’s freedom to jack up your rates without any explanation or justification. Jesus Tears Mark III!

The government will extract a fee of $6.7 billion annually from insurance companies. If you are an insurer, what you will pay depends on your share of net premiums plus 200% of your administrative costs. So, if your net premiums and administrative costs are equal to 10% of the total, you will pay 10% of $6.7 billion, or $670,000,000. In the reconciliation bill, the fee will start at $8 billion in 2014, $11.3 billion in 2015, $1.9 billion in 2017, and $14.3 billion in 2018 (Section 1406).Think you, as an insurance executive, know how to better spend that money? Tough.(Section 9010 (b) (1) (A and B).)

Freedoms being lost: Your insurance company’s freedom to funnel as much of their profits as possible into “administrative costs” rather than into your medical care.

You will have to pay an additional 0.5% payroll tax on any dollar you make over $250,000 if you file a joint return and $200,000 if you file an individual return. What? You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9015).
That amount will rise to a 3.8% tax if reconciliation passes. It will also apply to investment income, estates, and trusts. You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Like you need to ask. (Section 1402).

Freedoms being lost: For 98.5% of Americans, absolutely none.

Your elitism is showing–! Here, let me tuck that back down into your collar for you. I’m shocked your valet let you out the door like that!

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This article is so transparent it’s hard to believe we’re expected to take it seriously, but I suspect we are–much like when John Kerry, during his failed presidential bid some years ago, movingly asked, “And who among us doesn’t like NASCAR?”*

It’s pretty much a fail from the get-go; what amazes me is that anyone bothered to write this article at all.

A Recipe for Riches
by Duncan Greenberg
Friday, October 9, 2009

Want to become a tech titan or hedge fund tycoon?

Well yes, of course, who wouldn’t? And it’s really an option for all you Joe and Jane Sixpacks too—

Up your chances by dropping out of college

!!!! See?!? Most of you already got that part covered, don’tcha?

(and in a mumble)

or going to Harvard and working at Goldman Sachs.

(Oh yeah, those too! But let’s speed rapidly on past those parts—)


How I Grew Up Without Health Insurance, or Emergency Rooms Don’t Do Chemotherapy

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“Wow,” said the doctor.

That’s not what I expect a doctor to say while peering into my ear, of all places. “What?” I asked.

“You have really heavy scarring in there,” she said cheerily. “You must have had a ton of untreated ear infections as a child!”

Had I? I remembered being sick a lot, and there had been times of excruciating ear pain—“Oh?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I’m surprised you don’t have any hearing loss, or balance or vertigo issues. The scarring’s so bad, the cilia in your inner ear, you know—probably not too many of those left.”

Goodness, that explained a lot…I left the doctor’s office feeling kind of dazed. All my life I’ve suffered awful, debilitating motion sickness—even as an adult, after most other people I knew outgrew getting carsick in the back seat on the way to Grandma’s house, I never did. Over the years I’d become the master of what little I could do to mitigate it and also of hiding it from others (to a point—my face turning greenish-white wasn’t something I could ever manage to hide, but luckily that degree of nausea takes hours of continuous motion to achieve and I avoid hours of it whenever possible). My first husband was remarkably unkind about it, insisting it was all in my head and cutting me no slack whatsoever over it in the apparent belief that if it wasn’t coddled, I’d snap out of it.

(Needless to say, that never did work…all it did was make me feel unloved and violently nauseated, as opposed to just violently nauseated. Oh, well.)

When I started junior high, we had a gymnastics section in PE class. How it worked out for the boys I don’t know, but it was a real class divider for the girls. See, girls from nice families got gymnastics classes and gymnastics camps as a matter of course, usually for several years in earlier childhood—us poor girls? Not so much. And there it was, laid out for all to see. And for me, it’d always been even worse—your average poor girl had usually figured out on her own how to do a simple cartwheel as part of the normal childhood process. Sadly, not I—I could never manage one; not because I lacked athleticism, I was always a fast runner and a good catcher, for instance—but because I lacked balance. The very worst, most humiliating part of the gymnastics section, of course, was the balance beam. I couldn’t even get up on the goddamn thing. I mean it—as part of even the simplest routine, we had to do a running mount of some description. I could jump up to it, but I couldn’t catch my balance once up there. I fell off. Immediately and inevitably, every single time. I wasn’t normally a laughingstock—at that time I was generally considered a nice, quiet, smart girl in the semi-official peer rankings—but even the kindest of the other girls couldn’t help letting a few giggles escape whenever it was my turn to give it a try.

Years later, during my first Army physical, the medic informed me that I had significant high-frequency hearing loss. I remember staring at him in surprise and saying, Huh? I hadn’t noticed—“Well, you’re probably used to it,” he said. “You’ve probably had it for years. But it does prevent you from being qualified for some military jobs, so I gotta make a note of it in your records—sorry!”

Well, at least I finally knew why…

…and, about four years ago, one of my best friend’s sisters died from a brain tumor. She died because, among other things, she couldn’t afford chemotherapy to the tune of $5000 a month, and neither could the rest of her extended family, though everyone chipped in for as long as they could. She died because the tumor made it impossible for her to work (it first made itself known by giving her a seizure in her boss’s office), so she lost her job and the health insurance that came with it, and was unable to get any other health insurance because her tumor was a “pre-existing condition.” She wasn’t able to get Medicaid because her husband was employed. But if he quit his job so she could get it, then he and she and their three children wouldn’t have been able to live at all—no money, no home, no food, no clothing—

So she died, literally in my friend’s arms, weighing about 70 pounds, suffering from senile dementia at the age of 39, incontinent and in agony. She left two daughters and a son, ages 18, 16 and 13, behind, and a husband who became a widower at 45.

So these reasons, among others, are why I think it’s really hysterical when people start shrieking about how the government is trying to take away your health care choices! and shouldn’t it be between your doctor and you..!? This is not to pooh-pooh all their concerns; some of them are legitimate—it’s impossible not to be continually horrified at the ever-increasing monster that is the federal budget deficit, for instance. But there seems to be an amazing ignorance of the fact that many of their fellow Americans currently have only the choice of permanent physical disability or death, and the only decision their doctor is willing to make is to refuse them treatment of any description. Or perhaps it’s only indifference—which doesn’t incline me towards extending any sympathy in return, eh? I do wonder which one it is, at times. I hope it’s not the latter.

Sonia Sotomayor’s judgement and the Duke Lacrosse case

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor at Princeton in the early 1970′s.

Not that these two things ever directly interacted, to the best of my knowledge–but I found myself musing on the latter while reading this article about the former this morning.

Way back in 2006, when the Duke Lacrosse case hit the fan and subsequently spread outwards into the media, I was coming to the end of a period of a year or two where I’d been fairly active posting on an MRA (men’s rights activists) message board. What the heck was I doing there, you might ask..? No, I wasn’t trolling, thank you!–I had simply encountered a few of them on another message board, a feminist message board, that I had been posting on since 2002 or so, and having never heard of any such animal, I was quite interested in the meaning of their existence and what on earth they thought they stood for. I mean, men’s rights activists? Did I miss the period in history where the gender male was actively and specifically legislated against..? The best notion I could come up with on my own was that they objected to Selective Service registration. (As it turns out, that’s not something most of them care very much about, though it does come up periodically.) One of the MRAs on the feminist message board, upon discovering my interest, invited me to an MRA message board that he participated on–I followed him over, and spent the next two years being enlightened on the subject.

At any rate, as one of the very few (I believe only, at that time) resident feminists on the board, I was immediately harassed for my opinion on the case. My opinion was that I didn’t have one–I had no details other than the bare minimum, that a woman of color working as as stripper had accused one or more members of the Duke university lacrosse team of raping her. I had no knowledge of the truth or lack thereof of the accusations, the denials, the claims of evidence, or anything at all, really. My opinion was that that’s what we have a police force and a judicial system for.

But, you know, I was a feminist! And the definition of feminist is woman who instantly believes every word that ever comes out of any woman’s mouth on any subject whatsoever if the persons disputing that word are men, right? …well, no. I am a feminist, and happy to acknowledge that, but I will point you to the dictionary for the definition of that word and subsequently, the definition of what I, a feminist, am.

I was reminded of all this when I read this excerpt from today’s LA Times article, called The Two Sides of Sonia Sotomayor:

After Princeton, at Yale Law School, as a prosecutor and a corporate lawyer in New York, and while serving as a federal judge for 17 years, Sotomayor continued to display a passion for minority rights. She was active on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund when it sued New York City over alleged discrimination in police hiring and the drawing of voting districts, as well as when it challenged New York state’s death penalty law.

Eight years ago, while sitting on the federal appeals court in New York on which she still serves, Sotomayor said it was “shocking” that there were not more minority women on the federal bench.

But little of that activist sentiment is revealed in the hundreds of cases Sotomayor has decided in her 11 years on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, raising the question of which jurist will present herself if she is given the lifetime tenure and complete independence of a Supreme Court seat.

Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer with a Supreme Court specialty, said last week that he had reviewed 50 appeals involving race in which Sotomayor participated. In 45 of those cases, a three-judge panel rejected the discrimination claim — and Sotomayor never once dissented, he said.

“This is a judge who does not see it as her job to fix all the social ills in the world,” said Kevin Russell, a Washington appellate lawyer who also has analyzed Sotomayor’s opinions.

But in her 1974 letter to the student newspaper–

Whoa, horsies! In the letter she wrote…35 years ago, when she was nineteen years old..? This has, excuse me, what relevance to her today? What were you doing when you were nineteen years old, and for your sake I hope it isn’t really a good and accurate snapshot of your activities now in your mid-fifties..?

But beyond the patent absurdity of such a side-by-side comparison, the deeper issue that I find unpleasant to see as such a widespread issue is that it is not possible to have philosophical beliefs in general and yet be unable to reason logically in any given specific situation. I’m not sure if this is a sexist or racist issue–is it impossible for people to believe that a woman, or a person of color, can be rational about any issue that even remotely touches on gender or race? However, I’m inclined to think it isn’t even that–I’m inclined to think that it is a human issue, because most people find themselves quite unable to formulate a rational, logical opinion on a specific incident that touches closely upon any general philosophical belief that they hold. And because they themselves can’t do it, they both assume that nobody else can, either, and they are subsequently terrified of anyone whose philosophical beliefs don’t agree with their own having any position of power or arbitration whatsoever in their society.

There’s certainly a great deal of evidence for this. Witness the unending struggle in multiple school districts to essentially ban the accurate teaching of the academic subject biology by people who are passionately committed to a religion with a creation story, for instance. And, to present another and more pertinent to this post example, witness the large number of self-professed feminists who quite eagerly first convicted the Duke lacrosse players without knowing a single fact of the case and then, as more facts did come to light, went even further off the deep end by simply flatly denying they could be true, at all. So, clearly many people, indeed, cannot function rationally if the situation in question touches upon their personal philosophical beliefs.

But really, I think it’s amazing to make a general assumption that just because you can’t do it, nobody can. History also abounds with examples of people who can do so and have done so. Harking back to the the evolution vs. creation debacle, most scientists do have spiritual beliefs of some description, and still function quite successfully in their work in unlocking the secrets of life on earth. Interestingly enough, though, these same scientist are far less likely than the general population to hold fundamentalist spiritual beliefs–ie, their belief system is specifically flexible. It seems reasonable to suppose that people in the judicial profession are similarly less likely to hold fundamentalist-style beliefs–or they wouldn’t be in such a profession in the first place, where the search for the genuine and accurate truth of any given situation regardless of preconceived notions is a core part of the profession.

Sonia Sotomayor, from her judicial record, would appear to be a person whose philosophical beliefs do not unduly influence her rational judgement. Will she be credited for that, or is that simply too impossible for those who are hopelessly enslaved to their own dogma to swallow? It’ll be interesting to watch the progress of her confirmation.

The Passion of Ayn Rand

Monday, April 27th, 2009

That is the title of her biography, written by one of her ex-adherents who also happened to be the wife of a man Ayn had a long-term affair with–given all that, one would expect the tone of the book to be rather more unsympathetic than otherwise. However, that’s not really the case. I read it over a decade ago for a college class–the one and only women studies course I ever took required us to choose and write an in-depth paper about an influential woman of the first half of the twentieth century. I chose Ayn Rand, for three reasons: first, because she fit the criteria as presented; second, because I have a rebellious streak and knew full well that we were expected to choose a feminist, regardless of what the criteria explicitly stated; and third, because I was genuinely interested in the woman behind Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.


Added to my list of people that I can’t believe get paid to write.

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Shorter Glenn Beck: Correlation IS causation dammit!! It IS it IS it IS and Benjamin Franklin was a STAUNCH opponent of raising the “minimum wage!” and maybe if I separate the quote I’m wildly misconstruing from him to back up this assertion by the entire length of the article from his actual name, nobody will realize that the “minimum wage” didn’t even exist til a hundred years after his death…and if I close my eyes and I can’t see YOU then you can’t see MEEEE neener neener!

Why we need a class war

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

scrooge mcduck

I get called a lot on my intolerance and stereotyping, believe it or not, for holding certain opinions. Namely that the working class and the employing class are polar opposites in terms of economic interest, or that very few people get genuinely rich through honourable means. I have maybe even suggested on occasion that the rich aren’t just regular folks like you and me. And that they may, in the privacy of their own mansions, cackle and jump up and down in piles of their own gold and/or hundred-dollar bills.

Anyway, read this article and you’ll get a sense where I’m coming from.

It’s not that the rich are evil, you see, any more than a shark is evil for being a predator. But their insulated lives lead to them living in an alternate reality of sorts. The article is illuminating—despite being apparently great with calculating figures on spreadsheets, rich people have no idea how those numbers apply to the real world:

We hoped to gain an insight into their notions of fairness – what might persuade them to share more of their wealth with others. What we encountered was a startling demonstration of ignorance. Here were professionals who deal daily with money, yet know next to nothing about other people’s incomes. When asked to relate themselves to the rest of the population, these high-earners utterly misjudged the magnitude of their privilege.

How much, we asked our group, would it take to put someone in the top 10% of earners? They put the figure at £162,000 [$314,911 USD). In fact, in 2007 it was around £39,825 [$77,416 USD), the point at which the top tax band began. Our group found it hard to believe that nine-tenths of the UK’s 32m taxpayers earned less than that. As for the poverty threshold, our lawyers and bankers fixed it at £22,000 [$42,766 USD). But that sum was just under median earnings, which meant they regarded ordinary wages as poverty pay.

When pressed, of course, the vicious ideology that underlines our economic system emerges. It becomes a matter of ethics to them. They are astronomically richer than us, not because they’re better exploiters or because they’ve been born into it, but because they’re just better people. And that, well, that’s just how life is.

“We work harder and aspire the most,” one said. The longer we talked, the more they turned to moral reasons for success and failure, moving away from the structural globalisation reasons given above. One banker said: “It’s a fact of modern life that there is disparity and ‘Is it fair or unfair?’ is not a valid question. It’s just the way it is, and you have to get on with it. People say it’s unfair when they don’t do anything to change their circumstances.” In other words, they see themselves as makers of their own fortune. Or, as another banker said, “Quite a lot of people have done well who want to achieve, and quite a lot of people haven’t done well because they don’t want to achieve.”

Despite the fact that they have more money than they’ll even know what to do with in their lifetimes, this curious species begrudges the working class a penny:

Whatever, the poor didn’t deserve it. Masters of the universe our groups might be, but their outlook was pure Daily Mail: “Single people . . . get pregnant and get a flat and more money. You just see everybody pushing prams, then they’ll get more income and a little flat that they can stay in for life.” There was much talk of the perverse incentives for single parenthood, with one banker complaining that the 18-year-old mother on benefits “doesn’t get that much less money than another 18-year-old working in a shop”. It didn’t seem to occur to this speaker that the shop worker’s pay might also be too low. They were contemptuous of anything that gave extra money directly to poorer people: “This thing of giving pregnant women £200 for dietary supplements. Like, as if they’ll really spend it on fruit.” Most were adamant, along with this banker: “We don’t think just chucking money at the welfare state is the answer.”

I don’t think we ever really moved that far from feudalism, you know? I’m not too surprised at this look into the lives of the ultra-rich, but I wish that the lower- and middle-class dupes who buy into the idea that capitalism is in any way fair, efficient, or the only viable economic system, would take a good hard look at who their votes and compliance support.

Hat tip: Flintultrasparc.

Mass graves

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

50 comments and still going strong! I don’t normally get that many comments on anything I post here, so I’m happy to see a lively debate. (That’s not sarcasm. It’s pretty cool that the discussion remained relatively civil, too.)

Anyway, new PunkAssReaders, I hope you’re still reading, because now that I have your attention, I’d like to draw it to something that I care far, far more about than who gets to carry guns in the U.S. That something is the grotesque case of denial that my country has about the violence on which it was founded, the history that makes one poverty-stricken Third World nation for the people who were here first, and another, relatively safe and secure and prosperous country for mostly everyone else. Sure, our government recently said its sorries to the indigenous people, but they stopped short of naming the crime: genocide.

I don’t think they’ve ever done a survey of how many people in Canada know that there are mass graves of children here, but I’m guessing if you randomly suggested it to strangers, all but a few would splutter and deny it. According to Hidden From History, there are possibly thousands of dead indigenous children buried at 28 different sites. While most, if not all, of the murderers and kidnappers of these children are dead, the institutions—church and state alike—responsible for this crime against humanity are still at large.

I guess I mention this now because we all have issues that drive us into a frothing frenzy and issues that we might recognize as important and might even have an opinion on but we don’t really care all that much. I can’t stand it when people ask why I don’t put the energy into pro-Tibet activism that I put into pro-Palestinian activism (there is a reason, but it probably belongs in a different post). But I really do wish more people would get into a frothing frenzy about residential schools. It’s a crime that’s gone unpunished because the only ones speaking about it are its victims.

That page I linked to has the locations of the graves, as well as the sources of information. Much of it seems quite credible. I’m not sure what to do with this information, other than keep talking about it until I’m blue in the face, because as long as we continue to deny the fact that genocide took place here, we are still perpetrating it.

Another taser horror story

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Mounties use tasers to sexually assault an aboriginal child. And get away with it.

Predictably, the article doesn’t call it sexual assault. But what does this sound like to you?

The girl, who was 16 at the time of the incident, said she was held down by four officers, one for each limb, while a taser was used on her legs and groin area. She said the third shock lasted between five and eight seconds and left her screaming in pain.

This is after they stripped her naked and threw her in a cell. It gets worse:

The girl, who is a high-school student, said her wounds were painful for days. The taser broke the skin, leaving red and bloody circular marks on her thighs. The police didn’t tell the girl’s mother about the incident when she picked her up the next morning, and the girl was too ashamed to tell. As a result, the wounds became infected.

Anyway, as is usually the case with these sorts of gross human rights violations—particularly in cases that involve racialized youth—the cops investigated themselves and found themselves innocent of any wrongdoing.

The Globe and Mail‘s pathetic excuse? She was “behaving badly.” Sickening.


Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Folks, the internet has been won.

Background: Something Awful commentators react to recently-released footage of then 16-year-old Omar Khadr being cruelly interrogated by Canadian officials at Guantanamo. Their reactions range from sympathetic to death threats—these soft children of privilege who never leave the comfort of their parents’ basement, let alone face unending hell in an illegal American gulag.

Anyway. GvB responds by baking cookies for the torture apologists.

Here’s the cookies being scooped out onto the sheet just before they head into the oven. I really like Anolon jelly-roll baking sheets because they seem to heat evenly and the high sides make them useful for a lot of baking tasks, but none of you would know that because you feed like animals from a trough of violent sensationalist news and glory in the abuse of fundamental human rights. You discuss the semantics of what it means to truly torture a person as if you had the faintest inkling of what it means to suffer. Mercy is foreign to you. You are ignorant savages so far removed from principles of human decency that if you were suddenly thrust into the resurrected presence of the framers of the Constitution, they would immediately begin spewing blood from every orifice and their souls would yearn for the grave. :)

You need to read the whole thing, because there are pictures. And also, delicious, delicious cookies.

The Minority People Care a Lot Less About

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

“Geronimo,” or “Something people say when they jump out of airplanes.”

It’s funny because I think if I wasn’t actually of Native American ancestry, I’d write more about them–as it stands, though, I suppose I feel like there is much less excuse for my lack of real in-depth knowledge about the history and culture–I’ve always had an odd reluctance to study more, as well. One reason for that sounds very strange to me (and it’s my reason! so it shouldn’t, but it does anyway): I’m afraid to get even more upset about it than I am from my basis of general historical knowledge only. After all, a full quarter of my relatives from my paternal grandfather on backwards, that is who they were–an exponential climb every generation–yet I have never met personally anyone who is a full-blooded Apache. Not once. The only person I have ever known who was even half was my father.

And mostly, people don’t care. They are either entirely ignorant or they think all Native Americans live on reservations and operate casinos. And they don’t even know what “reservations” really are, other than that’s where Native Americans can be found. Why not?

Probably in part because there are so few of them left. Of the approximately 300 million US citizen currently floating around, only about 3 million of those self-identify as Native Americans, or about 1%. According to Wikipedia, eight out of ten people of Native American ancestry today (including Yours Truly) are of mixed blood, and that number is expected to rise to nine out of ten by 2100.

The other part, of course, is that the government as a whole has been quite dedicated to wiping them out, either literally or culturally, for a very long time now, and that hasn’t really changed, either. As recently as 2000, the Washington State Republican Party adopted a resolution of termination for tribal governments–it’s even hard to believe they’d want to bother, given the statistics in the previous paragraph, but clearly for some, the desire for complete destruction is still quite strong. The Jim Crow laws with their “one-drop” policy of racial classification are thankfully gone–however, the “blood quantum” laws for Native Americans, which to my knowledge very few people are even aware of, still exist and are even in use both intertribally and on the Federal level today. (A cute anecdote–when I was about a year and a half old, a woman from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came out to visit my mother to get the paperwork started on my “blood quantum” legal status–apparently she knocked on our apartment door and my mother, me slung over her hip, answered. The woman took one look at the tall, white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with the little white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed baby girl in her arms, muttered something about “sorry, wrong address” and just turned around and left.)

Something pretty cool happened back in May, though–

The Crow Nation welcomed Sen. Barack Obama Monday afternoon before thousands of people, marking the presidential candidate’s first campaign visit to a U.S. reservation.

Obama was invited to visit the tribe’s homeland after leaders of the Crow, or Apsaalooke, decided to endorse the Illinois senator last week.

Obama’s visit to the Crow Reservation marks an unusual presidential campaign foray into tribal lands. Bobby Kennedy is arguably the last known presidential candidate to do so, campaigning on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1968.

That’s pretty different. And not only is it different, the vast majority of American voters couldn’t really care less–so clearly it wasn’t done to impress anybody important, was it?

And apparently on his website, Obama promises to “appoint a National American Indian Policy Advisor to serve as a member of his White House staff and create the National American Indian Advisory Council.” Far as I know, that’s a complete first in terms of presidential candidates period.

Gives lie to the title of this post. I’m humbled, and heartened.

Note: I haven’t posted any stats here about Native Americans and their truly hideous, as far as I know the very worst among any group classified as a “minority” in America, numbers on, say, violence and alcoholism and failure to graduate even high school and living below the poverty line, etc. etc.–if there’s an interest, let me know and I’ll throw up some links.