September 24, 2017

Will a New Way to Diagnose CTE Change Football?

Patrick Hruby – The Atlantic:

Better answers may come from a recently announced seven-year, $16 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health and NINDS that’s aimed at diagnosing CTE—a project the NFL was also slated to fund before backing out amid controversy. Headed by Stern, the project is the largest and most thorough study of the disease ever conducted, and will put former football players through a series of tests including an MRI; two PET scans; blood, saliva, and spinal-fluid collection; genetic evaluations; neuropsychological testing; and clinical examinations and histories.

The goal, Stern says, is to create a reliable clinical tool kit—that is, multiple methods of diagnosing CTE …

This is great news for diagnosing CTE in patients before their symptoms become pronounced.

PET scans, I believe, will become the standard for diagnosing other acute illnesses, too, as their associated costs come down and they become more common. One possibility is breast cancer. How many women skip screening for this common disease after feeling the very uncomfortable squish associated with mammography? What if they could simply lie on a table for a scan?

Consider magnetic resonance imaging. Once an expensive, selectively used diagnostic tool, MRI has become a go-to alongside computerized tomography, x-ray imaging and sonograms.

***

A thought about CTE and football, one that puzzles me: what kind of parent encourages or allows a child, or a high schooler, to begin playing football in the first place, knowing as we do that repeated head blows, a side effect of the game, may well lead to irreversible brain damage?

The NFL is one of the most profitable sports in the world and a kind of rich man’s club of ownership. It will not cease operation simple because its other leading product is traumatic brain injury. This is an example of how capitalism, left unchecked, will consume every resource in its path. But football can be choked off at its source.

The number of new players, from peewee leagues to high school and into college, can dry up. This very notion has been speculated on by George Mason University economist Tyler Cowan. As the flow slows to a trickle, college and pro leagues would become smaller, and eventually cease to be.

As this article indicates, the number of young people entering the sport is decreasing. It should be crashing toward zero.

#football #relic #of #the #past #traumatic #brain #injury #cte #high #school #college

September 23, 2017

The Best Smartphone You've Never Heard Of

John Gruber – Daring Fireball:

In the near-term, the challenge for Google isn’t making great phones. They proved they could do that with last year’s Pixel models. The challenge for them is bringing them to the masses. I don’t know anyone who owns a Google Pixel who isn’t involved in the tech industry in some way, either as a developer or in the media. No one. The Pixels are Android’s best answer to the iPhone, and no one knows about them.

From all I’ve read the Pixel is a very good smartphone. Its hardware is top-notch, and if Android is your OS of choice, it runs unencumbered by wireless provider crapware only on these phones. Combine good hardware, your choice of operating system, the Google Play store full of apps, and Google’s cloud services, and you have a terrific personal computing and phone platform. It’s a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPhones. So why don’t more people carry them?

Only Google sells them, and they don’t subsidize phone sales the way wireless carriers do. You’ll pay full price one way or another. Prices begin at $649 and, while that can be financed over 24 months, no discount or partial payoff leading to a trade-in is available. Android users are, as attested to by many app developers, cheap. As a group they’re unwilling to look beyond free and subsidized, so the Pixel has become the best smartphone you’ve never heard of.

#Google #Pixel #Android #Apple #iPhone #iOS #smartphone

Silence Is Consent

Apple’s Tim Cook:

I think silence is the ultimate consent. If you see something going on that’s not right, the most powerful form of consent is to say nothing.

If reading that tweaks your sensibilities, good. As is attributed to Edmund Burke,

The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.

Is everything hunky-dory in your world? You’re probably self-entitled or not paying attention. I aim to wake you from your slumber.

#wake #up #stay #woke

September 22, 2017

The Madness of Donald Trump

Matt Taibbi – Rolling Stone:

Karma really is a bitch.

America gets the leaders it deserves; thus endeth a masterful encapsulation of the Trump presidency, the complicity of Americans in this abomination, and the possibilities and hindrances to his removal from office. A great read.

#Trump #fraud #malignant #narcissist #GOP

∴ When Will Black Lives Matter in St. Louis?

Nicole D. Nelson – The New York Times:

Not only are the local court system and law enforcement community committed to reinforcing that black lives do not matter here, but the police also continue to escalate tensions and foment distrust between them and protesters.

All of this is exhausting. The insensitivity. The mockery of real struggle and pain. The disregard. The arrogance.

When will Black Lives Matter in St. Louis? Which local leaders will finally step up and stop the government from continuing its long, complicated and devastating history of racism? From our view, military tanks, tear gas, rubber bullets and dishonest narratives won’t be bridging this gap anytime soon.

The mockery is coming from a narrow spectrum of commenters. They’re people we’ve heard, read, and in a few cases, directly responded to for years, decades, even centuries. For example, “[the] point is there is no more slavery no one owes anyone anything,” “Only issue is people think they have the right to do whatever they want when they want like the law don’t apply to them,” and “What I do believe is that … success is due to hard work. Period. Not hard work and that you’re white.”

It’s as though slavery were the only issue, that it ended in America last week, and that we could all live happily ever after now that we’re all equal if it weren’t for those BLM types. This is sophistry. It ignores one hundred forty-years of history following the Republican party’s abandonment of Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era, redlining, disenfranchisement, segregation in housing, schooling, and employment, and the lingering scourge – over-policing and over-incarceration of black men – don’t rate consideration by these folks. Wear black skin while violating the law, or even while committing no crime, and you’re far more likely to end up dead at the hands of police than if your skin is on the lighter side of taupe.

If ethnicity weren’t relevant anymore, black Americans emigrating from the South during the last century, and then remaining in northern cities despite the rampant prejudice they found should have led to broad black middle and wealthy classes. After all, these are the people who persevered despite bigotry at every turn; nature selected for the emotionally and constitutionally strongest among them. We do not see a broad black middle or wealthy class.

This is not to say that all black folks are born behind the eight-ball, or that all blacks who fail to achieve success do so at the hands of the white majority, or that all white children are born eating a silver spoon. It is to say there remains systemic ethnic bias and bigotry in America.

There’s good reason why groups like Black Lives Matter, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam exist. Nature abhors a vacuum, it’s said, and these groups fulfill the need to advocate for black Americans. Remove systemic racism and these groups evaporate.

Turning to the “hard work” argument, white-skinned folks living in the Dream of America, and believing it was nothing but their hard work that accounts for their success is nothing more than white privilege. Being pissed off when that Dream is shaken by dark-skinned people who decry generations come and gone, born with a one- or two-strike count against them is blind hypocrisy.

Strike one, being assigned the racial identity “black.” Strike two, having parents marginalized into dangerous neighborhoods with poor schools and a rampant drug trade. Try self-making yourself out of that.

As Coates wrote, extending Baldwin before him, race is an idea. It is not reality. This was the realization of Malcolm X, too. We assign race to children, and follow through by treating them as “white” or “black,” so they grow up internalizing and perpetuating whiteness and blackness. This adds to our cultural baggage of race as an actual thing, when it’s no more than a cultural construct that we could, if we chose to deal with it forthrightly, do away with. Coates:

there will surely always be people with straight hair and blue eyes, as there have been for all history. But some of these straight-haired people with blue eyes have been “black,” and this points to the great difference between their world and ours. We did not choose our fences. They were imposed on us by Virginia planters obsessed with enslaving as many Americans as possible. They are the ones that came up with a one-drop rule that separated the “white” from the “black,” even if it meant that their own blue-eyed sons would live under the lash. (Between the World and Me)

See black skin, assign “black” race, treat as “black” until he or she demonstrates “blackness,” which differs from “whiteness.” Marginalize. Repeat.

At this point the intellectually lazy chime in about identity politics. That’s shorthand for you wrote “black/gay/trans/hispanic/<insert your group here>,” you’re playing race/gender/whatever political games.

But politics, the art of persuading the masses without resorting to violence, descends from culture, not the other way around. Railing against identity politics is nothing more than arguing against identity in culture, identity which is often assigned by culture. Who determines what identities lead to which outcomes? The cultural majority, which assigns value to people as well as contribution. That’s where the blame lies for racial tension.

America, as a majority-white culture, and by this I mean people who play the role of whiteness, has done this to itself, and is still doing it. If we want to change the politics of ethnicity, we must change the culture of racism, of assigning roles and expectations to ethnicity. Don’t be a blind, smug bigot. Don’t elect blind, smug bigots. Don’t keep your mouth shut and let it happen, either. And don’t fall into the cultural trap of seeing the color of someone’s skin as a measure of their character.

That’s when black lives will matter in America.

Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why brown- and black-skinned Americans have yet to enjoy assimilation with the rest of America, as have minorities from Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and South America? Is it the collective shame of the majority that carries the baggage of race? Or repeated retrenchment of the cultural majority’s ownership of America? That ownership is slipping. By 2020 the under-18 cohort will be minority white, and by 2040 the entire population will be so. Interesting times ahead.

#race #America #politics #racism #Coates #Baldwin #white #black #policing #BLM #ignorance

September 17, 2017

∴ Mr. Bodhi is Sprung

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever walking on a lead

Bodhi enjoyed his first days of relative freedom from our home this past week, traveling to work with Kelly for the day Friday and again with both of us for a Saturday adventure. Our veterinarian, Dr. Betty Myers, told us we’d be surprised by how quickly this Labrador Retriever learns. She was right.

I took Bodhi for his first walk on the Warrenton Branch Greenway in the morning. Not wanting to excessively tire him on his first outing, we walked only as far from our shop as the defunct locomotive turntable. Right off the bat he took to the grass shoulders, rather than walk the pavement warming in the morning sun.

Particularly interesting for him were the heavy equipment filling and grading the forthcoming Warrenton dog park next to the turntable. No doubt he was feeling the rumble of earth as the fence line was completed.

He’s going to have so much fun off the lead once that park is completed. A good run around the grass will complete his constitutional.

We had some water and took a little rest before heading back to Kelly Ann’s Quilting.

Wort Hog Brewing, just up the street, tapped their Hogtoberfest (Oktoberfest) Lager Saturday. After a long, quiet walk alone on the Greenway I spent an hour or so sampling it and a couple other of their beers. What so many American brewers get wrong about Märzenbier, brewmaster Jeremy Hunt got right. It was full of malty goodness, with a mild buzz of hops. There’s even a second wave of malt that hits the palate several seconds after a mouthful. Quite nice.

I returned to KAQ with a growler filled with Hogtoberfest for the coming week, and turned right around for another walk with Bodhi. We repeated the morning stroll down Fifth Street to the Greenway and out to the turntable. He knew the way, finding every spot that needed sniffing and settling in for a rest on the grass once we reached our turn-around point.

He was a happy little guy out for a walk. Gone were his earlier grabs at the lead. He led the way this time, which is something we’ll begin working on in a few months. Puppy dogs get to wander and explore, bigger dogs learn to heel. For now he’s a joy just to walk with.

As Dr. Betty said, I’m surprised at how quickly Bodhi learned. He’s a smart little guy.

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever sitting in the grass, resting

#Bodhi #pup #Warrenton #Greenway #walking #Wort #Hog #Brewing #Hogtoberfest #Oktoberfest #Märzenbier

September 15, 2017

Trump Resurrects His Claim That Both Sides Share Blame in Charlottesville Violence

Mark Sandler – The New York Times:

President Trump thrust himself back into the racial storms of Charlottesville on Thursday, repeating his charge that those who resisted the neo-Nazis and white supremacists were as much to blame as the alt-right crowds who marched on the Virginia college town.

Mr. Trump helpfully reminds us that he equates white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other ignorant, marginalized haters with not only the so-called “antifa” groups, but with Charlottesville locals who turned out to denounce hate groups demonstrating in their town. He doesn’t so much denigrate the Lefties as elevate the haters, whose agenda includes maintaining the ethnic status quo placing white-skinned people above those with skin in various shades of brown.

Trump is a fraud not only to his political party and the voters who foolishly elected him, but also to the many business partners and contractors he has a long record of shafting. He is also a despicable human being.

One silver lining to all of this is that his presidency may, eventually, lead to the demise of the political party that gave up on Reconstruction, but which still claims to be the party of Lincoln. That right there is a hundred fourty-years of hypocrisy.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

Conservatives Recoil at Trump’s Accommodation With Democrats Over DACA

Jeremy W. Peters – The New York Times:

President Trump came under withering attack on Thursday from some of his strongest supporters, who were outraged and unforgiving about his decision to set aside, for now, a fight over building the border wall he has long promised as part of a deal with Democrats on legislation to protect young, undocumented immigrants.

The tentative arrangement, which the president hashed out over dinner on Wednesday night at the White House with the top-ranking congressional Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, set off accusations of betrayal and renewed nagging doubts about whether Mr. Trump was in jeopardy of alienating some of his most ardent backers on the right.

There is no-one and nothing Donald J. Trump will not betray. In this case I’m gladdened by his betrayal of conservative cheerleading for a budget busting border wall with Mexico. I do wonder, though, if he’ll betray the Democratic leaders with whom he hashed out this deal.

Trump blows with the wind. Retaliation by conservatives over setting aside border wall construction and renewing DACA is blowing like a hurricane. Look for a reversal at Trump’s earliest convenience.

#Trump #fraud #GOP #betrayal #border #wall #Democrats #DACA

‘It’s Impossible to Imagine Trump Without the Force of Whiteness'

Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic:

“The foundation of Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his feature for The Atlantic’s October 2017 issue.

I’ve posted commentary on excerpts from Coates’ forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, as published in The Atlantic. Here he is discussing the critical point of the work in audio/video format.

Coates destroys the notion that Mr. Trump was elected solely, or even mainly as a cry of desperation by citizens economically “left behind.” And while he doesn’t rule it out altogether, Coates does wonder at why the “left behind” meme almost always comes packaged as working class whites, as if working class everyone else are still enjoying the fruits of their labor undiminished by automation, offshoring, and corporate downsizing.

Two minutes, 8 seconds. Short enough to listen and go, long enough for Coates to get his idea across. The one thing I like most about his writing is that the ideas are simple, yet folded together into compact, impactful prose. You’ll need to listen closely to this, despite its brevity.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #white #president #Trump #Eight #Years #In #Power #An #American #Tragedy

September 14, 2017

Solar Now Costs 6¢ Per Kilowatt-hour, Beating Government Goal by 3 Years

Megan Geuss – Ars Technica:

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit cost targets set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule. Those targets reflect around $1 per watt and 6¢ per kilowatt-hour in Kansas City, the department’s mid-range yardstick for solar panel cost per unit of energy produced (New York is considered the high-cost end, and Phoenix, Arizona, which has much more sunlight than most other major cities in the country, reflects the low-cost end).

Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on “the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware,” according to a department presentation (PDF).

This is great news. Solar has come a long way in the last decade, and there’s so much more efficiency to be wrung out of panels, transmission networks, and properties ripe for re-use.

#alternative #solar #energy #efficiency

September 11, 2017

Faviconographer: Tab Favicons in Safari for Mac

John Gruber – Daring Fireball:

It’s not as good as true per-tab favicon support in Safari would be, but it’s closer than you think. And, importantly, it really is a clean hack, insofar as it doesn’t inject code or anything like that. And it’s free. If you use Safari you should try it.

I’ll echo Gruber’s comments as far as they go, but add that Daniel Alm’s neat hack Faviconographer comes up short in one critical way, one it cannot remedy. Safari is coded to stack all open tabs nearly one atop another beyond the first ten. The only way to see each tab’s page name beyond the tenth, or indeed the favicon exposed by Faviconographer is to click or control-tab through the tabs one by one.

This UI choice makes Safari’s, well, chrome mildly annoying for those who keep a dozen or two tabs open all the time. It’s the reason I reluctantly moved from it last year.

Chrome, in contrast, exposes all open tabs uniformly wide enough to at least fit a favicon. It’s a small thing, but makes the UI simpler. I have a visible click target for each of my open tabs all the time.

Faviconographer cannot undo what Apple has hard-coded in. It does, however, get you halfway there.

#Chrome #Safari #Faviconographer #Daniel #Alm #John #Gruber #Daring #Fireball

The Resegregation of Jefferson County

Nikole Hannah-Jones – The New York Times:

By 2005, Jefferson County was divided into 12 distinct and vastly disparate school systems, many of them either heavily black or heavily white, making the school-district boundaries there among the most segregated in the nation. “State law required separate schools before Brown,” says Erica Frankenberg, an Alabama native and education policy professor at Penn State University who has studied Jefferson County secessions extensively. “Now it is district lines that maintain segregation.”

Modern-day segregation by a loophole in state law has set Alabama back to pre-1954 Jim Crow days, all under the watchful eye of the courts. Read how this happened.

#Jim #Crow #legislated #inequality #segregation

September 10, 2017

India’s Biometric Database is a Massive Achievement and a Dystopian Nightmare

David Gilbert reports for VICE News how invasive a government-crated central identity database can become:

Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is a unique 12-digit number issued to each Indian citizen. Its creator, Nandan Nilekani, an Indian billionaire and former CEO of IT services giant Infosys, describes it as a “turbocharged version of the Social Security number.” The number is linked to a citizen’s most personal information: name, address, date of birth, gender, as well as biometric information like fingerprints and iris scans. When signing up for a new bank account, for example, citizens typically now scan their fingerprint in order to verify their identity rather than showing an ID card or passport. The government continues to claim that enrolling in the system is not mandatory, but increasingly, if you want do anything in India, you need to be registered with Aadhaar.

The latest new development has been the government’s willingness to grant private companies greater access to the system. Microsoft, for example, already taps into the database to confirm the identity of people using a version of Skype designed specifically for the Indian market. And Airbnb confirmed to VICE News that it is looking into Aadhaar as a potential option for verifying hosts. For now the company said it is testing the system with “a limited universe of hosts.” Uber also has been linked to the system, though when reached for comment, the company declined to provide any insights one way or the other.

Imagine this central identity database connected to countless “security” cameras, and enabled with predictive facial recognition software. It could document every aspect of your life. Verified by your identity, it could possess a high probability of successfully predicting your mood, intentions, and capabilities.

#AI #privacy #technology

Nowhere to Hide: What Machines Can Tell From Your Face

The Economist:

Eventually, continuous facial recording and gadgets that paint computerised data onto the real world might change the texture of social interactions. Dissembling helps grease the wheels of daily life. If your partner can spot every suppressed yawn, and your boss every grimace of irritation, marriages and working relationships will be more truthful, but less harmonious. The basis of social interactions might change, too, from a set of commitments founded on trust to calculations of risk and reward derived from the information a computer attaches to someone’s face. Relationships might become more rational, but also more transactional.

Facial recognition has already gone far beyond recognizing identity. It’s a fascinating technology, but I’m not sure a future replete with technology-provided cues as to what those around us are truly thinking or feeling in the moment will be a comfortable one. Do you really want to know what emotions others are experiencing when they look at you?

#technology #privacy #facial #recognition #culture

How Science Found a Way to Help Coma Patients Communicate

British neuroscientist Adrian Owen – The Guardian:

“Scott, please imagine playing tennis when you hear the instruction,” I said.

I still get goose bumps when I remember what happened next. Scott’s brain exploded in an array of colour-activation, indicating that he was indeed responding to our request and imagining he was playing tennis.

“Now imagine walking around your house, please, Scott.”

Again Scott’s brain responded, demonstrating that he was there, inside, doing exactly what he was asked. Scott’s family was right. He was aware of what was going on around him. He could respond – perhaps not with his body, in quite the way they had insisted he could, but certainly with his brain.

This story is a fascinating account of medical researchers directly communicating with a coma patient using a functional MRI, even as he lay motionless after twelve years of incapacity.

#neuro #science #coma #communicate #Adrian #Owen

September 8, 2017

CCRB Substantiates Charges Against Policeman in Eric Garner Case

Matt Taibbi – Rolling Stone:

New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board has substantiated two complaints against Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City policeman caught on tape in the infamous Eric Garner case. Rolling Stone has learned the board ruled that Pantaleo did in fact use a chokehold, and also ruled that Pantaleo restricted Garner’s breathing.

The Department of Justice is still considering federal civil rights charges in the Garner case, and a grand jury has been convened to consider the matter. The final resolution of Pantaleo’s internal police discipline will likely not come until after the federal case has been resolved one way or the other.

The NYPD finally admits to an illegal chokehold used by one of its officers, which led to the death of Eric Garner. Garner, a black man, had been detained for selling individual cigarettes.

Killed by a cop for selling individual cigarettes. Killed by a cop. Extrajudicial killing. A medical examiner later ruled his death a homicide. Homicide is a crime. THINK.

Do you feel safer?

#keep #dreaming #until #it #smacks #you #in #the #mouth #stay #woke #eric #garner #justice

Donald Trump Is the First White President

Excerpts from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ forthcoming We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy. The first unpacks the misleading notion that un- and under-employment were the primary issues lifting Mr. Trump to the presidency – The Atlantic:

Asserting that Trump’s rise was primarily powered by cultural resentment and economic reversal has become de rigueur among white pundits and thought leaders. But evidence for this is, at best, mixed.

(Gallup researchers Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell):

Those who approved of Trump were “less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed part-time” than those who did not. They also tended to be from areas that were very white: “The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”

Why would this be so?

The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.

Emphasis mine.

Coates’ references to “whiteness” and the “heirloom” allude not to the color of one’s skin, but the state of one’s mind. Quoting historian Nell Irvin Painter, “race is an idea, not a fact.” In other words, we (of all ethnicities) create the world we phantasize, we put those around us in the boxes we inherit as cultural baggage, and as the majority, white Americans have created a culture tilted strongly in their own favor. Heirs to this baggage have enjoyed benefits since the founding of our country. There has never been any other way. Ethnic struggle is a product of the majority living in a sort of dream of the way things ought to be, by their reckoning.

Conveniently, then, much of white America prefers to see the rise of Trump not in terms of race, but as the product of disheartened, unemployed, and left-behind workers, and voters seeking change. The change these voters sought, though, is from the reforms brought by Trump’s recently departed black predecessor. Trump’s strong white turnout was the mechanism of “whiteness” attempting to return the reality of America to the phantasy they live in.

These voters were a minority within a majority, though, a more palatable explanation for how this preposterous, bigoted, misogynist of a man without a shred of political or elected experience could gain the White House. A truer picture shows Trump dog-whistling his way to victory on the backs of majority white voters as a sort of angry shriek from a declining demographic seeing itself subside to just another minority group.

***

In another excerpt, Coates notes the unequal response to crises within varying ethnic communities:

Black workers suffer because it was and is our lot. But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry. And so an opioid epidemic among mostly white people is greeted with calls for compassion and treatment, as all epidemics should be, while a crack epidemic among mostly black people is greeted with scorn and mandatory minimums.

Coates’ example of the current opioid epidemic is borne out by recent reporting on the rise in suicides among whites, attributed to oxy- and hydrocodone, and later, fentanyl addictions (Brookings):

Dividing the country into 1,000-plus regions, the authors find that the rate of “deaths of despair” (deaths by drugs, alcohol, and suicide) in midlife for white non-Hispanics rose in nearly every part of the country and at every level of urbanization—from deep rural areas to large central cities—hitting men and women similarly.

I’ve been around five-plus decades. I don’t recall social alarm about the crack epidemic, which struck the black community disproportionately to their population. I do remember that mandatory sentencing guidelines for those convicted of possession or distribution were significantly higher than for those found with the powdered form of the same drug.

Reaction to the crack epidemic was largely of the “lock ‘em up” variety. The powdered stuff was greeted with less urgency among the population, if not among law enforcement. It sold at a higher price, and was accordingly found mainly among the white population.

***

And the coup de grâce (Coates, referring to an LA Times story from 1990):

“There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn,” a researcher told the Los Angeles Times. “These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.” By this logic, postwar America—with its booming economy and low unemployment—should have been an egalitarian utopia and not the violently segregated country it actually was.

Emphasis mine.

Feeling left out doesn’t explain away enough of the 2016 election. Dig deeper. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it.

Coates’ book arrives in October.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #Trump #racism #politics #elections #2016

September 7, 2017

∴ Reminders Galore

The more Charlottesville reverberates around the country and on the internet, the more reminders I receive about cultural identity in my inbox. Not my cultural identity. Each sender’s self-identification screams out through their words, often in boldface or all-caps.

Not much of it is original thought. It’s the detritus of the internet, passed from inbox to inbox as though each mind thought it made a point, as if each mind woke up pissed off some time during the Clinton administration and finally found a keyboard.

Maybe the people passing this propaganda don’t realize what it says about them, or perhaps they do, but either way I’m being reminded that “nobody owes you anything,” and “we get nothing except through effort and hard work.”

If you squint just right these messages reveal a disorganized mess of

  • ‘I’ve got mine (on the backs of others), you get yours (if you still can, without any help),’
  • flag waving, though I wonder whose,
  • a trove of right-wing pet issues that aren’t properly issues of government, or of humane culture,
  • unhinged hatred of left-of-center politicians and personalities Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, and others who give a damn about someone beyond themselves and have a memory reaching back further than the Reagan era.

Except, as are always left out, the people who worked and struggled and came up short because their communities were redlined out of particular jobs, neighborhoods, and schools long ago. Recall black Americans who moved north throughout the twentieth century, escaping, so they thought, the oppression of institutionalized racism only to find segregation and oppression in the north.

Missing, too, are the police who take it upon themselves to keep ‘those people,’ the wrong sort of people, in their place with excessive violence and death.

And of course there’s no mention of the long, disgraceful, American legacy of Jim Crow, segregation, and minority and immigrant oppression and bigotry, the residue of which casts its shadow over communities in the form of statues and memorials in public spaces, reminding people who emerged from under the yoke of slavery and Jim Crow, ‘we still control you.’ Remarkable that we don’t find memorials to the slave trade, or at slave markets and auction blocks, or discussion of the resulting broken minds.

Nor does this online flotsam include testimony to how our economy benefits from eleven-million undocumented workers, or to the payroll taxes these workers will never see a benefit from because their Social Security cards were forged to gain employment, or to the plight of their 800,000-some children who, as of yesterday, face the spectre of deportation to countries in which they have no home, little family, and no facility with the language.

These issues are never discussed. No-one passes around reminders about these facts. Willful ignorance is the right phrase to describe this crap.

Just as ignorance afflicts the folks who ask why Confederate monuments have become offensive “all of a sudden,” (that one crossed my Facebook wall and almost caused me spontaneous nausea) it’s ignorance that continues pushing the notion that effort and hard work are all that’s necessary to succeed in America. Apparently all those less-fortunate workers and out-of-work citizens (read: black) must not be working hard enough.

Tell that to blue collar workers like the Carrier employees Mr. Trump used as stage props last year, who’ve lost their employment to automation and offshoring. Those men and women were of multiple ethnicities. They’re all screwed. Mr. Trump has moved on.

As succeeding generations die and ethnic demographics shift, America’s privileged class will learn that effort and hard work don’t necessarily translate to success and middle class comfort. Census data doesn’t lie. Bigoted frauds like Mr. Trump will fail to slow the rate of change; white America is going to wake one day to realize we’re just another minority.

I predict a lower degree of success from white American efforts and hard work once they have to compete on a more level playing field.

The future of America is decidedly browner. You either live comfortably with that knowledge, or it unsettles you. There’s not much middle ground there. Open your mind and your heart, and you, too, can see right now that effort and hard work, or as many a politician has said, “playing by the rules,” doesn’t always lead to success. Not when you’re born with a two-strike count.

Or, you can close your eyes, close your mind, close your heart to the plight of other people. But they won’t be silenced and they won’t go away.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “while you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts.” This passed-along trash is devoid of fact. It is the dying cry of false oppression, an angry, frightened minority-within-a-majority population in slow, inexorable decline.

#American #racism #white #privilege #Jim #Crow #bigotry #willful #ignorance

September 6, 2017

∴ Our Sweet Prince

White Labrador Retriever puppy asleep

Bodhi has settled into our home and routines – this week he’s made it through the night without a spot on the training pads, and (usually) lets us know when he needs to go out.

He’s learned “kennel,” “sit,” “inside,” and the crucial “kisses.” We’re making the move from mouthing to licks, and with a Lab puppy, that’s a good thing. Once his adult teeth are in, though, we’ll let him address us as he pleases. A soft mouth on the hand is as good as a lick to me, and without the shark teeth feels much more friendly.

He’s very fond of his pal, Stella, but at twelve-years old Stella isn’t so much a fan of his barking in her face. The kennel comes in handy here.

Our old girl has gotten permanent dispensation to sleep with us upstairs in compensation, as long as she can make it up and down the stairs.

I spent a four-night stay with friends in Montana this past weekend and swear Bodhi’s behavior matured while I was away. He’s less scattered of mind, has a wag of tail for all of us all the time, and today he spent my work-from-home day mostly out of the kennel. He’s sleeping (somewhat) on the big dog bed next to Kelly’s chair in the photo because he was behaving himself and, after a chew on a toy, wandered there and laid down for a nap.

I love this little dog.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

∴ Woke Right Here in Warrenton

We Have A Right To Exist poster

Another example of America’s struggle with itself, at right (courtesy Fauquier Times), appeared just prior to anti-hate marchers, traveling on foot from Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington, DC, arriving for a night’s rest in Warrenton this past week.

It is an evident American cultural failing that quoting Dr. King and Malcolm X decades after their respective demises still yields timely, relevant learning. Their truths should have become cultural identities by now, as surely as did the Golden Rule.

But we do not learn from our past. We glorify the parts that comfort us in the Dream, and vilify those who would wake us from it. After the realization that white middle class complacency choked the civil rights movement, or that we are ultimately all of a single kind, these men went to their graves hoping for and expecting an awakening among the majority population.

But non-violence and shaming didn’t push us across the finish line, nor did universal faith.

The best we can hope for today is an awakening to the illusion of any finish line at all; that the cancer of racial identity struggle among us rarely fades for long (and then only by willful ignorance), and that it never dies. Hypocrisy is evergreen.

Some of the “aggrieved” white majority, sensing the sun setting on their Dream as masters of the universe, have adopted the language of the Israelis and the American civil rights movement. It’s a language that has kept a people with their backs to the sea and surrounded by enemies alive, and it’s won us the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, ushered in desegregation and made it socially unacceptable to talk down people of another color. For a while.

Witness the pathetic rabble-rousing found recently on posters around Warrenton, Virginia: a Rockwellian print depicting white children in a classroom, saluting the American flag over the words, “We have the right to exist.” Pity the poor, oppressed white people behind those words.

Yes, indeed they do have a right, and have enjoyed it and been the royalty and owners of this country since before its founding.

Ask a Native American Indian how his people fared sharing this land. Ask a black man, and his father, and his. You get the picture?

Who, exactly, are these posters beseeching for “the right?”

Coates was correct: those who think they are white will do anything to remain in the Dream. Here, clearly, they’ve turned the table by playing the false victim. What a pathetic display of humane and social ignorance.

From this I learned what Coates meant when he wrote that not all those with naturally teased hair and dark skin are “black,” and not all with straight hair and blue eyes are “white.”

Apparently as a possessor of pale skin I’m to identify with these posters and others reading “Honor your history.” I reject that notion. I reject the false victimhood of those self-trapped in the Dream. Their heritage of violence, hate, and domination is not mine.

***

Settling in Virginia was no accident of birth for us. We chose to move here, and we chose to remain and invest our brief time on this Earth and no small portion of our treasure in a home and a business here. For the first time since arriving, though, I feel the urge to leave this place, to flee its mindless hypocrisy.

There is nowhere to go. Our recent election result maps informs me so. Acquiescence to and ignorance of our dog-whistling president, rousing misguided anger among us informs me so. Serial examples of over-policing in non-white communities informs me so.

The long, bleak struggle will continue through towns and cities rich with comfortable living for some, but not for others. The law is a straightforward process, but hearts and minds have always been difficult things to change. As the man in the movie said, “welcome to the desert of the real.”

As a close friend said, as well, “this is unsustainable.” He knew not how broadly his words would find relevance in my life. The Dream is unsustainable.

There will be no peace without justice. A lot of people have said that. These posters do not represent justice. They represent ignorance and hypocrisy.

Get more woke.

#racism #class #white #privilege #ignorance #hate #hypocrisy #King #Malcolm #Coates #Trump

August 31, 2017

This Republican Pollster Is Losing Faith in the GOP

Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, as quoted by Ronald Brownstein – The Atlantic:

What has really shaken me in recent weeks is the consistency in polling where I see Republican voters excusing really bad things because their leader has excused them,” she told me. “[Massachusetts Governor] Charlie Baker, [UN Ambassador] Nikki Haley, [Illinois Representative] Adam Kinzinger—I want to be in the party with them. But in the last few weeks it has become increasingly clear to me that most Republican voters are not in that camp. They are in the Trump camp.

The portion of the party coalition willing to tolerate, if not actively embrace, white nationalism “is larger than most mainstream Republicans have ever been willing to grapple with,” she added.

Now, though, Anderson sees Trump systematically advancing the most divisive elements of his agenda while slighting any reforms. “I cannot think of a worse possible direction we could be going,” she said glumly.

My personal experience has been identical. I’ve long said, these people would defend a criminal if he had an “R” after his name. (I used a different phrase than “criminal,” but there’s no need to be that harsh here.) In the long spiral down that is the Trump presidency, that day may actually come. Until then, many right-leaning apologists give every indication they’re on board with whatever the shyster-in-chief says and does.

This revelation sparked a discussion in our home. Are these people secretly regretting their vote, yet doubling down out of some misbegotten sense of shame/regret/loyalty? Or do millions of Americans truly support the shifty, racist, Muslim-hating, frightened-of-the-world behavior Mr. Trump espouses and embraces?

The linked article is about one GOP pollster’s shock at her party’s failure at basic decency. It’s worth a read if you, like me, expect Mr. Trump to be the tipping point where the party slides into permanent decline and failure. It is a signal we should bear witness to as it passes. For the rest, you’re either lost to delusion or not paying attention.

Our Constitution is biased toward a two-party system. As history shows, there’s nothing that says “Republican” need be one of them.

#Trump #GOP #fraud

August 30, 2017

To The People I've Lost Over This Election

John Pavlovitz, in an open letter. A short, well-written account of why some truths are worth losing relationships over.

To The People I’ve Lost Over This Election:

I know you may believe this disconnection is about politics, but I want you to know that this simply isn’t true. It’s nothing that small or inconsequential, or this space between us wouldn’t be necessary. This is about fundamental differences in the ways in which we view the world and believe other people should be treated. It’s not political stuff, it’s human being stuff—which is why finding compromise and seeing a way forward is so difficult. 

What’s learned of each other is, occasionally, fully incompatible with what’s non-negotiable about ourselves. As John writes:

I can’t fully regret the present distance between us either, because in many ways—it is simply what has to be. There are truths that we have learned about each other this year that are too elemental to dismiss or overcome right now; things at the very core of each of us that feel incompatible, and as much as I regret that I’d regret my silence even more.

As my own experiences indicate, there are political differences that are fertile sources of discussion and recurring thought, yet rarely get heated, and there are exchanges that go off the rails immediately. The latter conversations aren’t about politics. They’re about people injured by politics and culture, sometimes over decades or even centuries. They’re about realities that, once seen and understood, can no longer be disregarded. It’s the willful continuance of and excuse-making over these differences that make us incompatible.

#elections #have #consequences #Trump

August 23, 2017

James Clapper Questions Trump’s Fitness

Rachel Chason – The Washington Post:

“I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon early Wednesday morning. “I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.”

I’ve wondered about Trump’s mindset since he won election. It must feel terrific to win the highest office, but the day after brings with it the realization that there’s nothing but four years of hard work ahead. That’s a huge comedown for someone who, clearly, has never held policy ideas for American governance. Donald Trump has never been the politically capable, governing type.

So my speculation runs, as does Clapper’s, to how Trump would look to extricate himself from the office he won, or if he’d be removed by others. It looks like a combination of both: if he acts reckless enough he might end up being removed under amendment 25, article 4 of the Constitution of the United States.

He’d still have to answer for anything Bob Mueller uncovers in Trump’s pre-inauguration activities. There’s a rich, deep trove there.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

August 22, 2017

Trump Sets U.S. Strategy for Afghan War

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Mark Landler – The New York Times:

The president heaped contempt on his predecessor’s strategy, promising that he would avoid President Barack Obama’s mistakes.

But in substance, Mr. Trump’s strategy was not all that different from Mr. Obama’s, relying on a mix of conventional military force and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. One administration official conceded that there was to be no major change in the mix of American forces operating in Afghanistan, and that the priorities would remain training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.

Donald Trump is going to succeed where every invading commander since Alexander the Great has failed. Uh huh.

The turnip truck overturned down the road a piece. Might be a few suckers lying around, ripe for bridge-buying.

#Trump #fraud #Afghanistan

August 21, 2017

Why Lee Should Go, and Washington Should Stay

Jon Meacham – The New York Times:

To me, the answer to Mr. Trump’s question begins with a straightforward test: Was the person to whom a monument is erected on public property devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government? Washington and Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were. Each owned slaves; each was largely a creature of his time and place on matters of race. Yet each also believed in the transcendent significance of the nation, and each was committed to the journey toward “a more perfect Union.”

By definition, the Confederate hierarchy fails that test.

I share an opinion with the man who wrote biographies of Jefferson and Jackson. Confederate “heroes” go. American heroes stay.

#Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy

Michael Eric Dyson – The New York Times:

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents. If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.

Emphasis mine.

Americans have been content to let their sons and daughters fight the good fights on foreign waters and soil for hundreds of years. Race is indeed our nation’s original sin; it is our home-grown fight. Its battles happen here, in the 1860s, in the Jim Crow era, in the 1960s dawn of the civil rights era. They happen in 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, where armed clowns with Walmart tiki torches, enabled by the triangulated politics of our current president, brought a violence to the white community reminiscent of that in American black communities everywhere, since forever.

But for a brief decade in the 1960s, the white majority has managed to avoid the question of race in America. There’s always been an excuse. This time it’s “paid protesters” and the “alt-left.” There is no alt-left. There’s a fantasy of conservative citizens, hopeful of throwing a “but-what-about” on liberal politics to cover the shame of their own failed disaster of a movement.

There is no avoiding it, not among a decent, humane people. No avoiding it among the non-white citizenry, ever. Blood has been spilled and there will be more, because we have by omission and commission avoided racial truth in America for too long. If you consider yourself a decent and humane citizen of any political stripe, it is time to raise your voice.

#Charlottesville

August 13, 2017

∴ Charlottesville

A lot has been written and said about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. I was struck by a thought about it all while I took a long walk to visit an old friend today.

The narrative often begins by describing a planned “peaceful demonstration” by a group of neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists and Klansmen. Klansmen. In 2017.

It usually continues, with self-righteous agreement all around, that they have a right to express themselves as protected by the Constitution of the United States.

That’s right, up to a point. Peaceful demonstration is a form of political speech, and it’s protected by amendment one of our Constitution. There’s just one problem with yesterday’s exercise of that right.

There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration by white supremacists, by neo-Nazis, by neo-Confederates, or by the “Klan” who are bent on making our culture and our country look like their fever dreams, asserting the supremacy of white, privileged, usually Southern men. There is violence in their speech. It is on their flags, it is in their pointy Klan hats.

If you’re in any doubt about that ask a black man or woman, an older one if you can. Ask about their life – pre-1970s, when these pointy-hatted fools ran amok in the majority in the South and black families were segregated in their housing and their schooling in the North, too – and ask if they saw any inherent violence among the “peaceful demonstrators” before the crap hit the fan and a lunatic mowed down counter-demonstrators, killing a woman.

Then ask yourself if this is the bargain we thought we made when we elected the white supremacists’ validator and enabler last November. Did you get what you were looking for in that guy?

*

Someone I’ve recently met and am humbled to know wrote a comment about these events today. It’s written from a place of deep, first-hand knowledge that comes from putting oneself in immediate danger for the sake of others:

We just have to keep fighting the same battles over and over again. Some of us fight them as they erupt and many others of us fight them every hour of every day.

Did you notice who’s fighting the fight? Us, and us. There is only us. Us who are outraged occasionally, and us who live it every day, living in their skin, living in their faith, living in their gender, living their life.

*

Awakening comes in many forms. Sometimes it hits a white boy in the head during a long walk, after a thought got stuck in his head for a day, a day that began angry, ashamed, outraged. At other times it arrives when you learn the hard way that the universe isn’t wired the way you thought it was. When the backlash hits after a black man dared to be president of the United States for eight years.

Awakening is always good, always healthy. Sometimes it’s difficult. Imagine getting ‘woke’ the moment you pop into this world, and never being let to forget it.

What happened down the road from us Saturday was no different than many events in the 1950s and 60s, except the majority has changed. The guys in red and black and pointy hats, “sieg heiling” their way through Emancipation Park were in the minority this time.

Don’t let your awakening come when the majority swings the other way.

#Charlottesville

August 11, 2017

∴ A Week: Now, I Remember

Bodhi came to live with us a week ago today. All the memories of puppies past came back in a rush, as well. Funny how a puppy sitting up, watching you come down the stairs answering his barks, makes a 3am potty break not so bad. Especially when he makes it out the door and into the grass!

Bodhi (left) reminded me of that little girl on the right so much …

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever BodhiCream yellow Labrador Retriever Zele

… I had to find a photo of Zele’s first day with us to see why.

Their behaviors subtly differ, but the experiences of their joining our pack are very similar. Falling in love with both snuck up on us fast.

Stella, our senior Golden Retriever, has come into her own as a playmate for Bodhi. It took her a few days to warm up to him, but now they’re rolling around, tugging chew toys and sampling each others’ meals.

All-in-all it’s been a welcome week  of renewal around our home. Bodhi is going to become a very sweet boy, and a beautiful male Lab. Life with this guy is good.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

August 10, 2017

How America Lost Its Mind

Kurt Andersen – The Atlantic:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

We need to adopt new protocols for information-media hygiene. Would you feed your kids a half-eaten casserole a stranger handed you on the bus, or give them medicine you got from some lady at the gym?

And fight the good fight in the public sphere. One main task, of course, is to contain the worst tendencies of Trumpism, and cut off its political-economic fuel supply, so that fantasy and lies don’t turn it into something much worse than just nasty, oafish, reality-show pseudo-conservatism. Progress is not inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.

Thoughtful, long essay expounding on, as the article’s title indicates, how America lost its mind. It rings true, and may be the most cohesive long-term explication of our current American malaise. I highly recommend taking the time to read this and give it thought. It offers no solutions besides the final two paragraphs, cited above, but it does knit together a compelling view of how we got where we are culturally, politically, and economically. Perhaps its only glaring lapse is exclusion of the very long-simmering undercurrent of race in America, but then racism has always been built upon irrational thought, while those other aspects of American life were not.

The article also dovetails nicely with Asimov’s claim that “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.”

So where do we go from here? Has the American experiment succumbed to its own success, devolving into hundreds of millions of individual belief-worlds? Where is the end of the fake reality saddling us with anti-science, anti-intellectualism, and Donald Trump?

#american #culture #individualism #fake #reality

August 9, 2017

∴ NFL Blackballing of Kaepernick is a Disgrace

Not that this is the stupidest or least humane response to an issue by the NFL. The way it handled Ray Rice’s beat-down of his girlfriend in an elevator in plain view of a security camera arguably ranks up there. But why rank sins?

William C. Rhodes – The Undefeated:

Kaepernick vs. the NFL is not a football issue and never has been. Anyone who believes that Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is about ability is being dangerously naïve.

Kaepernick’s protests last season are precisely why he remains unsigned today. Lesser players are already under contract. His unemployment is another tell that the NFL, as part of larger American culture, is unwilling to face America’s original sin. Doing so might tarnish the brand.

Dr. King was shot dead for doing this. John Lewis was bludgeoned nearly to death. Black and white men and women were beaten, terrorized, killed, buried, and forgotten. For decades. The list of those suffering the backlash of cultural denial is long.

Memory, for much of the American culture who repudiate Kaepernick and his supporters, is short.

Kaepernick made a conscious choice to draw attention to himself, which begged the question why he was taking a knee. We all know why. The fallout he’s seeing this season is part of that conscious choice, too. He knew he’d be not only excoriated, but sidelined, and then unemployed and unemployable in the NFL. We should continue to ask, why?

There’s an upside to this predictability. News of Kaepernick’s treatment this season will be reported, as here. A few more minds will ask why?, wake up, and decry the ongoing second-classness of being non-white in America.

Slavery. Jim Crow.  Segregationist housing and schooling. Mass incarceration. Racist policing. Economic oppression. Openly white supremacist activism after the election of Mr. Trump.

Tell me again how we’re all treated equal in America, because I don’t believe it.


There is a truth out there that will eventually make this problem, the sorest American problem since our founding, moot. Census data doesn’t lie. The tide of color in America is decidedly a multitude of shades darker than European white. And as multi-racial families grow in number, the coloring of America grows. That’s fact. You can look it up (page 9, table 2).

We shouldn’t have to wait for generations to die before the promise of America is brought to everyone.

#colin #kaepernick #nfl #blackballed

August 6, 2017

∴ How Quickly They Learn

Bodhi among the greenery

I’d forgotten how rapidly puppies learn. Problems quickly find solutions with a little coaching. It’s not so much training, yet, as it is herding and directing attention.

Coaching Bodhi through the basics of our home and routines has been a joy so far.

Two days in, Bodhi knows us well enough to scamper after, or search us out when we’re not in sight. We’ve become his people. Or: he’s adopted us. He’s learned his name, and, like Zele before him, the word “no.”

He’s also learned the two most important words for a puppy: poop and potty.

He can unknowingly be a mischievous little guy. We’ve managed to head off chewed furniture and plants with an abundance of hard and soft chew toys, and long memories of past disasters. My next task is to find and evenly distribute all of the toys between his kennel, the back deck, and the rest of the house. And keep them that way.

Zele’s bucket of tennis balls, both those intact and her beloved mower-slashed variety have also come in handy. Bodhi loves running after them and chewing the deflated ones. While they’re still a bit large for his mouth, he’s inherited a nickname from the old girl: bigmouth. He can wrap his jaws around that ball, just barely.

Bodhi’s not fond of his kennel, yet. I learned the best way to get him quieted and asleep within it is to lay outside and speak to him soothingly, while giving his ears and chest a scratch. He shortly follows my lay-down lead, and then nods off. That was today’s lesson, after a solid half-hour of barking and yelping while I worked on our cabinets. Bodhi’s not the only one in for training.

One thing has surprised me about this Labrador. He’s nowhere near as food-crazy as Zele was at his age. I think the reason might lie in how Jane fed Bodhi’s litter vs. how Zele’s litter ate. Jane put down four large bowls for the ten pups, providing plenty of food for all in measured quantity. Each pup ate, ranged to another bowl, and ate some more until its meal was finished. In that way they all got their allotment and no pup had to compete.

Similarly, the pups had no trouble getting access to their mama’s milk the first three weeks of their lives.

As a result, Bodhi knows his meal times and eats calmly. He even takes a break, walks around the kitchen, and comes back for the rest.

Zele probably had to compete for space – her breeder was an amateur, and likely didn’t spend the effort on the pups to make meals a calm event. Nor did she pay attention to nutrition on the level Jane did.

Zele was a maniac at her food bowl for the first year in our home, despite having a bowl all to herself. I’m not sure any more than 25% of her intake was actually chewed during that period. She eventually calmed when she realized that Maggie, our first Golden Retriever, wasn’t going to take her food. We actually had to make sure Zele didn’t glom Maggie’s meal.

I loved my Zele-girl, and despite our pre-occupation with our new family member I still miss her. None of this is to say she’s any less in my eyes or in my heart. I’m simply humbled by Jane’s wealth of knowledge and her love for these dogs. I can already see the difference it made having her work with our pup before he came home with us.

#Blackbirds #Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

August 4, 2017

∴ Blackbird's Bodhi

Bodhi first hour home

We brought home a new friend today.

There’s so much to say about this little guy. There are so many adventures ahead. As I’m fond of telling our dogs, I’ll always have him, for the rest of his life. So there will be many more posts of his story.

His mama’s name is Blackbird Fly, a beautiful, four-year old black Labrador Retriever bred by Jane Kelso. Our time spent with Jane, Chris, Fly and Jane’s other three Labs, our chats, and the general shape of my universe right now led me to name our new friend, a seven-week old yellow Lab the shade of parchment, Blackbird’s Bodhi after his mama. We’ll call him Bodhi for short.

Bodhi (bo-dee) is an old word, sometimes translated as “enlightenment,” but more accurately as “awakening,” from the Pali. It refers, for me, to the unconditional, in-the-moment love and affection I’ve awakened to with our dogs. And, in a couple of more personal ways, a cessation of suffering.

Bodhi’s middle name is, of course, Tiberius (the starship captain or the emperor? Yes.). He’s already earned one long nickname from Kelly: Bodhi T. Bodenheimer. Or Bodhi T. Odenheimer. Thor and the Allfather enter into this, too.

Bodhi laying inside

Tonight and for the next week we’ll just let him explore his new home without much interference, talking to him when he’s near, repeating his name, and generally making sure he stays out of trouble. We have a couple of kennels set up for him for when we’re not watching and he’s not snoozing. For the next three nights we’ll transition him from his pack of siblings to ours with a towel rubbed over his mama’s coat and laid upon our bed.

There will be photos, probably more than you want to see, posted here and elsewhere.

There are two dogs in our home again. There is a “white” Lab in our home again. There is a puppy in our home, an innocent little mind growing every day. There is happiness in my mind, and an abundance in my life. There is good fortune shining upon us today.

 


My world

Kelly, Stella, and Bodhi

#Labrador #Retreiver #Bodhi #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

August 2, 2017

Finding Some Peace After War

Dave Philipps – The New York Times:

“This walk is for recentering,” he said. “I view it as my last deployment. I’m walking my way home.”

All over the country, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are on similar quests. By foot, boat, bicycle, even wheelchair, they are crisscrossing the land this summer, trying to cobble serenity from lives upended by combat.

So worth your time to read these multiple accounts of veterans walking off the effects of war. Do yourself a favor, and read. And maybe take a long walk now and again. It’ll do you good.

#walkItOff #veterans #mental #health

Battlestar Galactica was Originally Pitched as a Very Different Show

Dan Neilan – The A.V. Club:

By having its roots in episodic storytelling while purposefully evolving into a serialized format, Battlestar was able to give its audience engaging, action-packed weekly episodes while laying the groundwork for a complex, long-term narrative. As Moore notes, part of the danger of the recent move to exclusively serialized shows tailor-made for streaming services “is that you almost get into a monotone, where they all have the same beat and pace and it’s all one long thing— and when you can kind of do this interesting mixture of episodic and serialization, you can kind of take the audience on a more interesting journey.”

Part of the enjoyment of Battlestar was that you never knew what the next episode would bring. It wasn’t a binge-worthy movie-divided-thirteen-ways. Battlestar might move sets, even jump story lines, appearing on a planet or splitting an episode between Galactica, a squadron of fighters, and a Cylon basestar. You never knew what was coming next.

Throughout the series each season arc, and the even larger series arc moved along at slower and even glacial paces. It was like watching a clock within a clock within another clock, and each clockwork moved independently.

Battlestar was written so compellingly that Kelly got hooked early on, and we watched every episode together. Sometimes we’d watch three back-to-back, others we’d watch just one. Every installment had a different flavor. Our DVR died, taking with it the final episode, and it was months before we got to see it. We made sure we did.

Contrast with two of my current favorites, each exemplifying the monotone look and beat mentioned by Moore: Stranger Things and Fargo. Each is well-written, well-produced, and leads the viewer deeper into the story with each episode. Each episode does, however, have a very similar feel to all the others. You’d feel right at home knocking off an entire season in one day-long, perhaps holiday-spanning, marathon.

I could never do that with Battlestar. Too intense, and too diverse. My mind whipsawed after two or three episodes.

Contrast those with another current fav, The Expanse. The Expanse is written with a more episodic bent, not unlike Battlestar. Each installment might take you somewhere else in the story’s universe, but arcing over all is a season-long story, and above that, a series-long story line.

The Expanse is Battlestar Galactica for this decade.

If binge-worthy shows have a monotone patina in order to make them go down easier for a day-long, Cheetos-laden binge, so much more’s the loss of craft.

#battlestarGlalactica #episodicTV #binge #watching

July 29, 2017

Trump Ban on Transgender Service Members Alarms Some Military Officers

Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart – Reuters:

“I hope our commander in chief understands that we don’t transmit orders via Twitter, and that he can’t, either,” one said by telephone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Even if this were an order, implementing it legally would take considerable time, if it’s even possible.”

Huh. So there’s that.

GOP Congress: not playing ball. Pentagon: fuck you, Mr. President. White House staff: hack ratio increasing, surrounded by chaos, Titanically foundering. Suckers who voted for this chump: “You want to take away my what?” The rest of us: that you didn’t see this coming before he declared his candidacy should forfeit your voting rights.

America, today. Any questions?

#Trump #still #a #fraud #impeach #deny #destroy

July 28, 2017

How Much Transgender Troops' Medical Care Costs the Military

The president cites “medical costs” as the primary driver for his ban on transgender service members in the US military. Wrong.

Christopher Ingraham – The Washington Post:

Considering the prevalence of transgender servicemembers among the active duty military and the typical health-care costs for gender-transition-related medical treatment, the Rand study estimated that these treatments would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.

By contrast, total military spending on erectile dysfunction medicines amounts to $84 million annually, according to an analysis by the Military Times — 10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active duty transgender servicemembers.

The military spends $41.6 million annually on Viagra alone, according to the Military Times analysis — roughly five times the estimated spending on transition-related medical care for transgender troops.

Penis pills cost the US taxpayer ten times more than the medical needs of transgender service members, yet there’s no mention of cutting those costs. I guess Mr. Trump has military plans for four-hour boners.

A good question is, why do health insurance policies, in general, cover transgender procedures and related care? The answer comes from the DSM-5: gender dysphoria is a coded diagnosis in the most recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for psychiatric disorders. If it’s in there, it’s recognized as a treatable condition and more often covered by insurance.

A little more digging might reveal that the Affordable Care Act includes it in its list of minimum covered ailments. Unlike, for instance, an elective nose job. You get the point.

#Trump #incompetent #fraud #military #transgender #medical #costs

July 26, 2017

∴ Almost There

Yellow Lab puppy tugging a towel

We paid another visit to Jane today. This was my fourth trip to her tucked-away home and the litter of puppies her Lab, Fly, whelped five-and-a-half weeks ago. One of those pups will come home with us a little over a week from now.

The puppies were spending their second full day in a picket-fenced play area outside. They’d grown in size and personality since my last visit.

The females were particularly interested in nibbling on my shoelaces, pockets, toes, fingers, wrists, elbows, wristwatch, and mala beads, while the boys were more reserved, loafing along the fence in the shade.

It didn’t matter. All ten were picked up, rolled over, scratched, talked-to, and generally handled by Kelly and me. We enjoyed lavishing attention, too on Jane’s older Labs Jack, Rudy, Lola, and Fly, the mama of these pups, and her very cool cat, Lester.

Afterward we enjoyed a couple of hours of Jane’s hospitality, talking the particulars of caring for a Lab pup. We’ve been down this road before with Zele, but Jane’s expert knowledge has become a welcome addition to what we know and think we know about raising a pup.

Yellow Lab puppy gnawing on my shoe

There’s been more to our talks than dog adoption. Enjoying conversation, learning her experiences training and showing field trial Labs, and particularly hearing about her younger years in the 1960s American South have made an indelible impression on me. I feel richer for having met Jane, and for the referral by our friend and veterinarian, Betty Myers.

Anyway, to the pups. Of the ten, four are females previously spoken-for, and one is a male previously spoken-for. The remaining five, all near-white yellow-coated males, are available. They were arrayed together when we arrived. While I haven’t chosen one, there were a couple that I had my eye on. One in particular. He’s among these photos.

Yellow Lab puppy looking at me

We’re preparing for our new friend. In the next week we’ll purchase a collar and have a name tag made. His kennel is already in place in our living room, and a penned bed set up on our back deck where we spend our summer evenings. The goal is to have him with us whenever we’re home, either playing, eating, out in the yard, or kenneled.

Up in the air are the first few nights of his life with us. Jane advises keeping him physically close, as he’s never known being alone. Having been raised in a house where pets weren’t permitted above the first floor, the idea of a pup on my bed is both intriguing and questionable. I suspect my heart will win out. This dog will grow into our home comforted by us day and night.

Yellow Lab puppy in Kelly's arms

My next post about these pups will be about just one of them, the one we’ve brought home, the one we’ll spend the rest of his life with. He’ll spend days in our quilt shop, “vacations” with Auntie Pam and Uncle Charlie (your dog should be so lucky), care by Dr. Betty (ditto), and many years with us, our Golden Retriever, Stella, our next dog or two or three, and whoever visits our home.

Some events in life carry more meaning than others. The experience of meeting and talking with Jane, seeing this pup and his siblings at just a week old, and watching them grow carries great meaning for me. I learned how much from the life and loss of Zele. You could call the experience of that life, the loss of it and the transition to where I am now an awakening.

There’s a clue in that.

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies

A Trump Tower of Absolute Folly

Ross Douthat – The New York Times:

But he is nonetheless clearly impaired, gravely deficient somewhere at the intersection of reason and judgment and conscience and self-control. Pointing this out is wearying and repetitive, but still it must be pointed out.

You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.

No wild-eyed liberal, Douthat.

At what point did we pass the tipping point for the American Right, or have we? And if we have, where are their goddamned voices? If Ross Douthat, a conservative, can write these words in The New York Times, why cannot men and women of greater standing speak them from the United States Congress, governor’s mansions, and statehouses? What greater allegiance do they have than to our Constitutions, federal and state? A set of party policies? They’re not even winning on them!

Rome is burning, people.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #impairment

July 14, 2017

∴ Anticipation

Yellow Labrador Retriever puppies

We spent last weekend visiting family and friends, returning in time for me to pay another visit to the litter of Labrador pups from which ours will emerge.

This time around they were more active, their eyes open and their minds curious. They’ve been moved from the kiddie pool upstairs to a penned area in the basement, adjacent to the four adult dogs’ kennels.

As I sat down in the pen I was swarmed by ten energetic young dogs. I was in heaven. Along with laying on the floor with my own dogs, this is one of my favorite places in life.

The litter was fed while I sat among them. They’ve moved mainly to solid food and milk by now, their mom fairly pooped after three weeks of nursing. Afterward I had ten messy puppies back on me, nibbling at my fingers, crawling on my lap and sniffing all around.

They’re growing quickly, noticeably bigger than during our last visit.


Yellow Lab puppy sleeping

Black Lab puppy

Though we don’t know which it’ll be I know for sure I’ve had our pup in my hands, scratching its belly and whispering in its ear more than once. I think of all the experiences we’ll have after that one joins our home. The years of companionship and enjoyment, the challenges of training and the reward of a well behaved, loyal dog. All that potential is bottled up inside one of these pups and within my mind, about to unfold.

The anticipation of that next stretch of life is all-consuming at times. I need to remind myself to breathe and get back to my daily life for just a while longer.

Three weeks from today, these pups will be ready for adoption. One will come home with Kelly and me. Can’t wait.

Labrador Retriever litter

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies

Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump

David Brooks – The New York Times:

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life.

Emphasis mine. This is the core failing of not only Trump Jr., but of Trump Sr., as well. What’s struck me about the man now holding our highest office is his lack of an apparent moral or ethical center. His motivation blows with the winds of profit.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

This is not the core failing of Trump detractors. I’ve not heard or read anyone condemn the Trump family for their loyalty to one another. It is, in a word, expected. They are a tight-knit family. It may be their only endearing quality.

Brooks’ conclusion is sound: Trump’s central motivation is self-aggrandizement, whether through monetary profit, celebrity, or elected office. Donald Trump is a party of one, the party of “me,” and his oath of office was a lie.

#Trump #fraud

July 11, 2017

Poll: Most Republicans Say Colleges Have Negative Impact on US

TheHill:

A majority of Republicans in a new survey think colleges and universities have a negative effect on the U.S.

The Pew Research Center poll finds 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think colleges and universities hurt the country.

Just 36 percent of Republicans think they have a positive effect.

In contrast, a large majority of Democrats, 72 percent, say colleges and universities have a positive effect on the country.

Overall, slightly more than half of the public, 55 percent, thinks colleges and universities help the U.S., according to the survey.

Explains much.

We have become the Land of the Dumb.

#usa #usa #usa #dumb #dumb #dumb

July 3, 2017

∴ Today in Beer

Solace Brewing Company logo in etched glass

So we went here today. Solace Brewing of Dulles (Sterling), Virginia is a young buck of a craft brewer located under the departure end of Dulles International’s runway 30, with a large service space, a long bar, and a gorgeous brewhouse. They’re open but three weeks, yet sport six beers, with three more on short order.

Neal and I spent a few hours here sampling their beers, shootin’ the shit, and generally enjoying each other’s company. Our pal Alex and his family happened in mid-flight, proving great minds think alike. After sitting amid a pile of Labrador puppies, it’s one of my life’s true pleasures.

These folks present a simple, straightforward proposition: beer, t-shirts, glasses, and communal space. The beer spans styles from witbier to blonde ale to a pair of IPAs, with a tasty brown ale thrown in for good measure. They’ll drain three brite tanks in the coming two weeks to put up a third IPA, a stout, and a double IPA. Their brewers are working it.

Solace Brewing's beer engine

Here’s a couple shots of their brewhouse.

The blue thing is a heat exchanger. It cools the boiled wort from around 200 degrees to something that won’t kill the yeast. Brewers make sugar water. Yeast makes beer.

Notice not only a three-vessel brewing system, but duplication amid their tanking. They can effectively malt two-at-a-time, boil a kettle and keep hot liquor at the ready for sparging all at once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of their finished beer is packaged off to kegs, and the taps are served from a cold room just off the side of the retail space.

Big Ass Fan

Of note, their cold room keeps the beer at a lovely cellar temperature. If you’re ordering an IPA, drink it now. The ambient air temperature is wind-chilled by two of these Big Ass Fans, and will warm your beer to stinky-feet aroma right quick if you wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 There’s room for another four brite tanks behind these guys.

Solace Brewing Company's brite tanks

If you’re in the Sterling, Virginia area and looking for a beer, this young brewery is worth a stop. Say “hey” to Holly behind the bar, and enjoy a Beach Bod blonde ale while you’re there.

Solace Brewing Company's beers

#beer #solace #brewing #sterling #dulles #virginia