Sunday, July 31, 2011

You Look Just Like (No!)


The tactlessness of our fellows is a massive force. I have experienced it in the you-look-just-like trope since childhood. If you do it, stop immediately.

The routine goes like this. You are in a social or work/social setting with anywhere from four to 50 people. You exclaim at high volume to someone, "You look just like..." and insert a name of someone either unknown to others or famous.

Cross-post note: This kind of rant seems to belong both here and on Harrumph!

Let me make it plain. Regardless of lack of sobriety or imagined perceptiveness, you are wrong, very wrong. The object of your exclamation and other will know you're an ill-mannered ass, whose mother had trailer trash pretensions of sociability. Whomever you are comparing to whomever looks at best only vaguely like each other. Moreover, it's almost certain that you are a different ethnic background that the alleged twins, with the added flavor of racism.

I've been hearing that from elementary school. It took me quite awhile to realize that the folk who said it invariably were of different ethnic or racial backgrounds...that all of the other looked alike to them. So, I have always been blond and kind of Nordic looking. Yet whether I was trim or chubby, had lots or little hair, or whatever gross anatomical status and age I was, I heard it.

If you do that, think and stop.

For the object of your attention, the proper answer is along the lines of, "Horse feathers!" or some other contradiction. Without the other person handy corporeally or photographically, you've put the just-like person in the flight-or-fight situation. You are also really revealing:

  • You're a poor visualizer
  • You have intrusive, poor and self-centered behavior
  • You are indifferent to whether you are insulting someone or putting someone on the spot
  • If you look little like the two people compared, you likely are revealing your stereotypes, racial and otherwise
  • You expect everyone to shift his or her attention to you
  • You are so arrogant that you don't consider the near certainty that you are very wrong

When this shtick gets amusing is when you can check on the spot. This is easier with smart-phones, iPads and such. Honest to God, if you get called on this even once, and proven to be way off base, take the lesson.

For me, it was finally realizing it was the swarthy Mediterranean types, Ashkenazim, Asians and others who had none of my physical characteristics that pronounced my twins. Boy or girl, man or woman, young or old, it was invariably someone who looked nothing like anyone in my family who'd say, "I know this guy you look exactly like," or "You know that actor (name); you could be his twin."

At last, I heard the real message. That was, "All you blond, WASP types look just alike to me."

How dumb is that?

The times there was a picture of the alleged twin or the rarer occasions when we could be together with the proclaimer, without a single exception, the consensus was either, "You look nothing alike," or "Gee, I guess you are not that much alike." Never once was the follow-up, "Oh, sorry. I'm a jerk."

With my many experiences like this, I've never done it. In fact, I felt for our middle son, who did, truly and unmistakably, look like Daniel Radcliffe in the Harry Potter movies, particularly the first several. People would stop him on the street, either to inform him of that or to ask if he was the actor. I am pretty sure if Radcliffe had met Eli or saw pictures of him then, he would have agreed there was a similarity. There too I see the humor in that among our three sons, he looks the least like my side of the family and the most like my wife's. He'd never be seen as twin of a Norseman or blond WASP.

I should have been more racially savvy about this by high school and figured out the cultural component. I got a flavor of it then with a Chinese friend. She was born in Canton, came to America at 8, and was the only Chinese student in our three-year high school of over 2,000 students. She grew up with white folk, black folk and no Asians outside her family.

One day she and I were in NYC, playing around in the West Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. As we walked around the latter, suddenly she turned to me and said with surprise, "All these Chinese people look alike to me."

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Y'all know what's funny today? GOP attack dogs are making Dan Savage look wholesome.

Sen. Scott Brown's political adviser Eric Fehrnstrom did the I'm-rubber-you're-glue routine in a pathetic attempt to wipe the excrement off (brown off Brown, as it were). He'd have it that the GOP, the party of adulterers, liars, and general anti-ethical behavior, is too good to associate with the sex-advice columnist.

In case you have been on vacation and not aware, of the 12-member MA Congressional delegation, only the only Republican, a certain Mr. Brown, could not spare five to 10 minutes to record a clip for an it-gets-better video speaking to LGBT youth. Of course that makes it plain he's an absolute, callous hypocrite, claiming to be for equal rights, until he has to prove it.

Piling on, Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, "If, as the old saying goes, you're known by the company you keep, than the voters of Massachusetts deserve to know who Democrat party operatives are teaming up with to spread outrageous attacks on Scott Brown's character."

So, the outrageous attacks would comprise actually noting what happened, what Brown did and would not do.

Last September, Savage started the project of getting various celebrities in numerous fields — think our Red Sox and the POTUS — to contribute to short videos for LGBT teens. In response to the high suicide rates in the group, the simple message is to stick out the periods of bullying and self-doubt, because life will get better.

So when called out because he alone refused to join the Congressional delegation, Brown's response was not to admit his error. Instead, he had minions say he was busy on national debt and job issues. Oddly enough, the other 11 members of the delegation were too, but each found a few minutes to speak to teens in need.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dead, Dishonorable and Daunted Recap

I've not been totally asleep on the huge issues, including:
  • NY State SSM
  • Norwegian domestic terrorism
  • U.S. debt crisis
  • Amy Winehouse
  • News Corp.
  • DOMA
It's been a great month for justice, gossip, fear, comedy. I am not sure I have meaningful insights to those topics so many have covered in such detail and often with such conviction and passion.

Yesterday, Ryan and I did rant for 20 minutes on Murdoch and his minions at News Corp. My conclusions include that both in the UK and here, a lot of damage has been done to the power of winger media. It remains to be seen whether this will sap Fox/WSJ and the like's influence in our 2012 election. I predict yes, but not as much as I'd like. Media moguls and other mean millionaires will still buy votes per our Supreme Court's decision.

For SSM, the delirious stampede of newly enable marriers is a delight all around. This is a great pro-marriage/pro-family victory from the slight expansion of civil marriage. We see the contrast in Rhode Island, where a tiny number of homosexual couples has applied for civil unions. No surprise there. Perhaps it will spur the cowards in Providence to duplicate CT's correction to full marriage equality.

For debt, I can't avoid criticizing the POTUS. Of course, the GOP leaders and winger members are absolute asses about this, as we knew going in. Even so, a leader and progressive as President would have been tough with the lying fools who don't care about America long ago, long enough to have prevented this panic. Yet, writing of going in, we knew Obama was a centrist and will remain so. Instead if being a crazy woman always depending on the kindness of strangers, he is an academic always relying on the reasoning ability of the TV audience, once he has lectured them. It's like he's playing Battleship when there's a real battle to be fought.

Likewise, the DOMA is finally staggering to its death. That was, as the cliché goes, low-hanging fruit, that Obama should have picked and pickled in his first year in office. Yet, he didn't have the vision and courage to pick an even lower fruit — don't ask/don't tell. Dumping those two would have set a tone of equality and civil rights. Instead, we continue to be the red lantern among Western nations in rights.

On Winehouse, I am astonished at how many commenting fairly scream, "How dare you!" when anyone else says it was bound to happen. All of us who have known addicts are surprised when they live, not when they die. In this case, I'm not in the camp who think she was one of our greatest singers. She was pretty good and had a couple of superior cuts, but I can name a lot better singers I listen to regularly. Such highly public and publicized deaths reasonably make us think of the mortality of those we know, including ourselves. Personally, I have very small gossip muscles, which I don't flex much. I'm more in the Morse Peckham mold, like his Beyond the Tragic Vision. Deaths are rarely real tragedies. We live and we all die.

That written, in contrast to the singer's death, the murders in Oslo and on Utoya Island by Anders Behring Breivik deserves tragedy. The relentless, calculated slaughter of the dozens, particularly those just beginning adulthood, has all the characteristics of a central flawed character bringing great suffering and destruction. I was not surprised at the winger claims this had to be a Muslim (Islamist in their bigoted lingo) and not apologizing or changing when they found how wrong they were. I'm not surprised that assault rifle and semi-automated handguns meant only to kill people fans selectively compared the high-gun owning hunting society with ours to forestall criticism. Alas, as we have seen here as well, a single crazy or small group of them, with or without political drives, are forever lurking in our neighborhoods. Targeting disfavored racial or ethnic groups won't prevent such violence. We can pause to consider the absurd overkill of TSA, wiretapping and torture lunacy, which has not and cannot keep us safe individually or as a nation. The better-safe-than-sorry crowd eager to give up all Americans' liberties to participate in such fantasies don't want to see the real risks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Destiny or Lifestyle?

Finally, an explanation appears at hand for the previously inexplicable traits and behaviors.

From Chirigamikokan’s YouTube Channel.

Friday, July 15, 2011

His Holiness Stomps

On Bastille Day, the local Cardinal chopped heads, at least figuratively. Sean Cardinal O'Malley likes folk to see him as avuncular, unlike his Pope, a.k.a. God's Rottweiler, Benedict XVI. Yet, O'Malley played sub-papa and announced he'd desanctify six Boston area R.C. churches, formally close them and sell them for profit.

As his press release puts it:
After several weeks of consultation, reflection and prayer, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley has made several decisions regarding eight Church buildings in the Archdiocese of Boston. Six Churches have been relegated to profane use and two Churches have been designated or transferred by the Archdiocese for other future ecclesial uses.
One could cut that 18 different ways, but to a Bostonian, the Cardinal's message is still STFU.

Legally, there seems little question that the R.C. structure and polity gives it physical and financial ownership of its parishes' property. Except for the many Catholics around here who have been holding vigils and refusing to abandon the churches where they were baptized, wed, confirmed and on and on, where their parents' funerals were held, where their grandparents literally built the structures by hand and from their meager saving, the faithful (and holiday faithful) are with the program.

For a typical response by an area R.C., click in to Emily Rooney's radio roundup. She starts around 12:15 on how the protesters have lost and should do what they're told or cough up enough money to buy off O'Malley's team.

We should bear in mind:
  • Massachusetts still has lots of R.C. members, but is not the most Catholic state, not even in New England. That goes to RI.
  • The most common form of church polity in this area is congregational, wherein churches are responsible for their own finances, in effect with the congregants owning the works and keeping it going.
  • Neither side groks the other.
Many congregational churches do not have a big C Congregational in their name. Yet, their member still own the church and make the major decisions. In UU cases, they don't owe allegiance to precise dogma and certainly not to an authority figure like a Bishop or Pope. Yet like other congregational churches, they make it or break it on their own.

It is a true oddment to not R.C. folk to hear the parent church seizing ownership and disposing of a physical and spiritual home. Likewise, reading and listening to Catholics on O'Malley's actions, it is queer indeed to hear the blind obeisance. I suppose having a hell to threaten with gets one's attention. Alas, poor UU ministers expect you to behave well because it is right and moral and well, golden rule-ish.

Yet in this half dozen most recent R.C. churches, the bifurcation is complete, or in R.C. terms, absolute. Of course, the church can tell you what happens to the property, as they have always told you which parish you can attend. Dictates that are absolutely absurd to non-Catholics are accepted without question and with only a single comment — do what your Bishop/Archbishop/Cardinal/Pope tells you.

The wild card here is that the vigil keepers are resolute. Many have claimed ownership of their churches. They say their parents and grandparents literally built and maintained the property and buildings, that they kept them open with donations, and they are due actual ownership. Somewhere along the line, the builders and tithers formally and informally handed their church to their Church.

This is not going to end with a splash of an aspergillum or utterance of benediction. R.C. pols are saying, "Ours and not yours. Go away." From what I see, they likely have the legal right to the the real estate.

Note that R.C. pols are not alone here. Episcopals have had much the same problem in a few cases and claim that even if the deed shows congregational interest, really the Church owns the works in trust. So there.

Yet, this seems like a huge looming PR issue. The many faithful had, well, faith that their Church would keep their church open, that their sacrifices and good deeds would mean their spiritual home would continue. When O'Malley's lawyers and clerics frame it as a real-estate transaction, it's not the vigil keepers who look evil.

Commenters on Rooney's show and elsewhere note, as Catholics, that if a congregation buys out the R.C. for a property, which has been reduced from sacred to profane in Church lingo, no priest comes with it. They would have to kind of be their own clerics. Of course, in the vigil churches, they have returned to this St. Paul-style small church ministry, the proto-Catholic Church, for some years. There's no shift or shock for them.

Unfortunately for all concerned, there may be no return to the fold and flock here. The authoritarian pols have long made it plain that they own everything and are in charge of what happens with it and to the congregants. The vigil congregations feel betrayed, rejected, and cheated.

It a world headed by a doctrinally infallible leader, there's really no play in the rope. Rooney says it best on her radio and Greater Boston TV shows, the Church's view is that O'Malley has been a super guy in letting the vigil sort protest and follow the dead end to the Vatican for two years. There's no evidence that the vigil congregants feel obedient gratitude.

At an historical moment when so many American Catholics are dismayed by, disappointed by and even ashamed of their Church's clerics and pols, retrenching into military-style leadership assuages no one.

Oddly this may fit with the Pope's stated plan of a smaller, more obedient church. It would well happen that disaffected congregants who have read the Bible will go with the Apostle's model of small churches, spinning off wee but vibrant groups.

Regardless, as O'Malley made it all to clear yesterday, it's Benny's way or the highway.

Credible Collars

If wingers' Topsiders weren't so soft, they'd allow clicking the heels three times. It would take that...and much pretend that either Scott Brown or Mitt Romney were plain folk, middle class, like most Americans in any substantial way.

Yet Sen. Brown pulled off the magic in the special election and Romney still can't manage it, even with multiple runs for governor and POTUS. This has much more to do with the simple numbers that the former is just wealthy and the latter more like Scrooge McDuck.

As the latest to observe Romney's problem here, today's Boston Herald details just some of his incompetence in trying to seem like you and I. After listing rich-guy-fails moments, the writers' kindest comment is, "Romney’s quirky moments highlight the trouble that rich, well-heeled politicians sometimes have connecting with regular voters."

Yet, Brown made a campaign and won the election on untenable and incredible theater. Think specifically of his famous pickup truck and barn coat. He used these props to do more than bypass cities, going straight to rural without stopping in his tony suburbs.

Panicked Dems pointed out that the shiny, never-off-road pickup was a rich dad's toy to haul hay and tack for his privileged daughter's horse riding. Likewise, the clean and very expensive coat spoke more to his gentleman-farmer reality than any blue-collar or agricultural needs.

Again though, voters wanted to believe and did.

On a very different plane is Romney. He simply is too tone deaf to fake it. He does not live a plebeian's life, has no intention of doing so, and may even be incapable of it. That became far too obvious six years ago when he did not know what the subway cost in Boston, where he worked (he guessed it was still $1 when it was $1.25 by then and showed he was above commoners' transit).

Brown at least gets the lingo of plain people close enough. He doesn't make ignorant analogies or fail at his class-identity jokes because he doesn't know how things work.

Romney seems to have many handlers around him. You'd suppose they'd rehearse his pseudo-spontaneous quips and comments. Here's betting the problem is that he's too arrogant and self-confidence to ask for help he so clearly needs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cassandra on a Cycle, Boston Edition

Gloomy prediction time...I'll say Boston's new bike-rental program fails. There it is and I would sincerely like to think I'd be wrong. My neck is on the block, particularly as a velophile (word?)

I'll plug this on Harrumph! and here, as it has both personal and political angles. I'll admit if I'm wrong and folk can feel gleeful in calling me on it.

hublogoUnder the urging of Mayor Tom Menino and the excellent dealing and managing from Nicole Freedman, the city's director of bicycle programs, The Hubway rental system is not only zooming into reality, it's still on its original schedule, likely this month. With the outside deals, bureaucracy, and finances, that's close to a miracle (which we have come to expect from Freedman).

Even before the particulars, I was pessimistic on this program. It has worked in other European, Canadian and a few U.S. cities already though. Here though, I don't see it getting enough ridership, nor making the vendor happy with income levels, nor adding substantially to the cycles on the streets, nor getting citizen respect for the property.

To the latter point, we brag about our huge college-student population, while paying for it culturally too often. The tales of disturbances and destruction abound. Far more than other cities, we see that bottles seem meant for peeing in to leave on streets and stoops, or to smash on roads or sidewalks. I recall that lesson when I commuted daily from JP toSouthie by bike. I had to learn to avoid Columbus near Northeastern, particularly by the campus cop station, where broken, tire-ruining beer-bottle shards were the norm.

Prove me wrong, Boston, but I can easily see drunken, drugged or just nasty college students and other youth trashing the bikes in rental stations. What fun, eh?

Today, looking at the announced pricing structure, I think it is too similar to parking garages. In between only a few initial stations and the pricing reality, the system is not all that attractive. Fundamentally, it works only if you will start and finish in those limited locales and can get where you want to go in under 30 minutes.

hubbikeThe stations will be in what most of us think of as the larger downtown area, out to one here and there also in Back Bay, South End, Seaport, Fenway, Longwood, and Brighton/Allston. I don't see the actual spots on the site yet, but it's pretty sure they'll be kind of like Zipcars and only sort of convenient. Yet, this is not Athena emerging from Zeus' head fully grown. It'll take many months to figure out the right station locations.

The nut starts out reasonably enough, with an annual $85 fee (introductory $60). Then the nickels and dimes add up very quickly.

Again, 30 minutes is the magic period (set your carriage-to-pumpkin clock). If you have an annual membership or are an ad hoc renter (Casual member in Hubway lingo), you can theoretically have thousands of 30-minute maximum rides a year for no charge. In fact, if the station locations and timing worked for you, it would make the most sense to go up to a kiosk and use a credit card to reserve a bike every time, so long as you kept to the half hour. Annual memberships come with the convenience of a key that lets you grab a bike, as it maps to your data.

In the real world, if you don't end up in the midway of your trip at a station, you pay by the hour. Here the fees leap up to and then far beyond parking garages. They really, really don't want you having a bike out for more than 30 or 60 minutes. The whole pricing card is here. A taste of the acceleration is:

90-<2 hours$10.50$14
2-<3 hours$16.50$22

And so it climbs by about $8 an hour for casual and $6 per for annual renters. It tops at 6 and one-half to 7 hours at $94 and $70.50 and then from 7 to 24 hours at $100 and $75. Lord help you if you keep the bike over a day. Hubway will consider it stolen and truly put a parking garage's rates to shame — $1,000 on your credit card.

If you think Nexflix' 60% just announced gouging rates are absurd, this gives some perspective.

On the other hand, for a limited number of potential users, $85 for a year of bike use, zero maintenance, and practically unlimited 30-minute trips is such a deal. Truly.

I remain to be convinced that we're collectively mature enough for the Hubway. I simply don't have the faith in Bostonians that Menino and Freedman have exhibited here. In fact, announcing this program at City Hall plaza in April,the Mayor committed to the three Italians, adding U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, to taking the first trio of Hubway bikes out of the racks.

Here's hoping they prove me wrong.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boston Bureaucracy Bops Birds

I am sure there must be a heavily labored pun involved in a young Turk becoming a champion of chickens. I won’t try, but I do predict that Boston City Councilor Rob Consalvo will handle this in a moderately anal retentive, bureaucratically acceptable way. Given that live chickens are for some unfathomable reason a zoning issue controlled by the Board of Appeals, that’s the best possible outcome.


Sorry for the 2 to 3 hour delay from this morning/afternoon’s hearing. Fortunately Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin was there, along with at least one newspaper reporter. The former’s filing is here.

While the news would appear to be that Roslindale’s chicken ladies lost. They didn’t really, but they did have to continue to play the Boston Political Game. They are likely to prevail…with assistance from Consalvo.

The tale is worthy of a The Daily Show skit, including:

  • Boston regs read you can raise chickens if you get a health department permit
  • Pay your $50 for the permit application, wait, wait, get denied
  • Find that your neighborhood zoning (arbitrary with the effect of law) forbids Accessory keeping of animals other than laboratory animals (page 39)
  • Loud, smelly, feces heaping dogs and other pets are OK, but all farm animals are secretly excluded from the alleged permit system
  • Endorsements by all abutters are meaningless
  • You need to play the game of a Board of Appeals hearing to get a denial to advance

Consalvo is Councilor for the district that includes Hyde Park and a bit of Roslindale, the bit including Audra Karp and her wife, and formerly three hens. The chicken trio are in the Ashland yard of her father, who she says gets to keep the eggs although her family drops by for omelets.

You can read the detailed experience at Legalize Chickens in Boston.

At this point, I see that Consalvo (disclaimer: my district Councilor, whom I know) is going to fix it. He said he was working on doing that after the hearing today denying the couple’s zoning variance to bring the exiled hens back to Firth Road. Glum as I can be, I asked whether we were two or three years out for a solution. He figures one or less.

Of course, with machinations that would outrage a libertarian or small-government type, the underlying issues may not go away even then. First, consider what Consalvo IDs as the underlying problem — a health/animal control issue has been put under the control of the rules-are-rules types at zoning. While the board told the Globe that of course they were reasonable and that the decision on this case would occur at the hearing, the fix was in and that was so much Karp crap.

Even sympathetic Consalvo opposed the women’s appeal, as did the Mayor’s office. Both used the bureaucratic, impotent excuse that the city zoning policy put chickens in a forbidden class for that neighborhood. That’s the big duh in government.

The real solution is what Consalvo hinted at in his opposition comments. He followed Karp, who noted that she had contacted all of her neighbors within 300 feet, had letters of support from 42 of them, hundreds of petition signatures, and zero objections of anyone. Consalvo said that he had a folder with over 200 letters of support as well.

This is not some form of simple democracy.

To help understand the issue more clearly from the peculiar Boston perspective a member of Consalvo’s staff presented a sliver of Roslindale history. I searched the Globe archives (a half dozen for-fee articles; search rats, Roslindale and Samuel Wood) when I returned today to get the time frame as well. It was the early to mid-1980s. Back then, Roslindale was one of many Boston areas overrun with rats, rats and more rats.

Even though it turned out according to rat czar of the time, Sam Wood, that the pests came, played and stayed because a huge percentage of the public as well as restaurants left trash out, not in bags and in uncovered containers, the public was understandably freaked. In what might be a good ad for Scientology, many older residents are still engrammed, figuring it must have been farm animals, not themselves causing the problem. Hence, let’s oppose chickens, even if, as Karp says, she keeps the food in pest-proof containers and only sows small amounts of seed at a time.

robbwakHonestly, the folk objections to chickens — noise, food poisoning, smell and such are hooey. Reason is not the dominating factor here however. There’s the possibility of doing what Karp and her wife suggest, considering small numbers of chickens (no roosters, thank you very much) as pets.

For his part, Consalvo has applied his usual intense energy to this. He’s met with the chicken women, and with GreenRozzie and other advocates for them, as well as fielding anti-chicken types’ calls.

Had I been the chicken ladies, I would have been angry. Instead, they said they’d work the system to do what was necessary to get their hens back in town. Even after several of their neighbors praised the pair, said everyone loved seeing hens, applauded the self-sufficiency, and noting there was neither noise nor stink, Board member Michael Monahan expressed the preset tone of the body with a comment about theirs being “not the right house…not the right area.” That sounds like chicken shit to me.

Then again, Consalvo is a very reasonable guy, still energetic enough to pull on the levers of power as many times as it takes to get a prize. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to get chickens taken away from zoning, where they have absolutely no business, but I bet he’ll broker a good deal.

Already, they have been examining the rules at places like New York City that allow and regulate fowl. Apparently, Vancouver’s system is a good model for us. You’d suppose it would be simpler, but let’s recall that somehow we let regulation of agrarian remnants of New England culture come under the BRA satraps. Rules are rules. They don’t really have to think. This is only one more piece of civic silliness.

In the end, the City Council is likely to chat up other, more rational cities’ chicken procedures, pick one or parts of several we can call our own, and pass an ordinance. I’ll bet on Consalvo to get it done.

Cross-post: This appears at Harrumph! as well.

Postprandial Update: The Globe has similar coverage to UH.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Waiting for Godot Obama

Another wearying and maybe accurate assessment of why our POTUS chickens out on same-sex marriage appears by Earl Ofari Hutchinson in the Bay State Banner. The noted author/blogger is no pinko, but he is a strong civil-rights advocate, as was his father.

Hutchinson's view does not satisfy the impatient among us, nor the strongest current civil-rights activists. Yet, this week's piece has both warning and promise. He concludes that Barack Obama truly is evolving, but that he isn't likely to voice SSM support anytime soon. Instead, he offers classical apologies for tossing homosexuals off the end of the pier while throwing ladders and life rings to virtually everyone else.

To me, there are two huge issues here:
  • Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of the 21st century so far.
  • As an allegedly progressive and liberal sort, the Prez needs to show some guts, compassion, and ability to keep public policy separate from petty personal background.
He's even a lawyer. He can't pretend not to know the distinctions. Nor can he credibly say he does not understand the separation of church and state.

However, Hutchinson falls back on the clichés that may drive Obama. The most cynical on the left say he actually supports SSM, but has lied about it, first to win the Presidency and now to keep it. Perhaps, but the column has it differently.

As he wrote:

But he, like many others, still can draw the line on gay marriage and that’s fueled by deeply ingrained notions of family, church and community, and the need to defend the terribly frayed and fragmented black family structure.

This mix of fear, belief and traditional family protectionism has long been a staple among many blacks and virtually every time the issue of legalizing gay marriage has been put to the ballot, or initiative, or a legal challenge, or just simply the topic of public debate, there has been no shortage of black ministers and public figures willing to rush to the defense of traditional marriage.

If that is true, that is surely a clear personal failure. His biographers will have already noted it as such. When the time comes for national leadership and policy advancement, he instead would segment himself and align with the least defensible aspects of his background.

Frankly, I cannot believe he does not know SSM is a civil-issue, that he is AWOL, and that he still needs to stock up on courage and morality.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Newest Un-Freedom Laws

Just in time for our annual celebration of freedom, independence from tyrants, and liberties, a contiguous clot of Southern states have begun implementing anti-freedom, tyrannical and anti-liberty laws. The new immigration-related laws out-Arizona Arizona.

I have a central issue that critics of these laws don't seem to stress. Understandably, many have gone right to the racist nature of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina versions. For example, the NY Times leads with an editorial including, "...following — and in some ways outdoing — Arizona’s attempt to engineer the mass expulsion of the undocumented, no matter the damage to the Constitution, public safety, local economies and immigrant families." Newsmax anticipates bases for legal challenges. The Southern Poverty Law Center's position is in the Huffington Post, emphasizing the costs, inefficiencies and the peril to school children. A newsier item at the Huff touches on the who'll-pick-crops angle; while an Alabama sponsor says more local citizens will take those jobs, that's never been the case and farmers who employ migrants are economically fearful.

A recap of the Alabama version in the best possible light — by the GOP sponsors — is here. The whole text is here.

Yet what keeps bubbling up to me is the willingness of self-identified undocumented-alien fighters to go all totalitarian on all of us. The new laws allow and encourage any kind of law-enforcement official to demand proof of citizenship for any or no particular reason.

When he was Prez, George the Lesser Bush iterated his response to Americans who decried the broad post-9/11 stripping of long-standing, prison and blood-won liberties with glibness. Wiretapping? Airport frisking and worse? Home invasions? His chant was, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Likewise, the proponents of Homeland Security excesses and these dreadful new laws do the variation, "Better safe than sorry."

Such mentality belies our fight against our colonial masters, particularly unreasonable search and seizure and due process guarantees. Those were rallying cries in our war for independence and became touchstones for all of us in our Bill of Rights.

Now the literal sorts in states and Congress would nibble and chomp away at our liberties. It's as though they forgot the history of our struggle, the shame of our own concentration camps for Japanese-Americans, and even the contrast of us with the Axis powers who could demand of all, "Let me see your papers!"

Here's a solid overlap I find with libertarians. Most of them seem to rail against irrational and despotic laws and regulations favoring police-state actions. The idea that we are to cede the freedoms that have differentiated us is abhorrent.

Under Bush's policies, many continued by the current POTUS, we are already down that road. It's not too far to reverse though. Here and now, on Independence Day, is a good time to do so.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

RI Gov. Hates It, But Does It

Lincoln Chafee and Gordon Fox go beyond epitomizing strange bedfellows. The RI Gov. and House Speaker tell everyone in the wee state and beyond what champions they are of LBGT rights and supporters of marriage equality. Yet, because of them, a piss-warm and bigot-friendly civil rights bill is now the law of the Ocean State.

This morning, Chafee signed the bill, cursing it in detail. I hold that the proper action would have been to veto it and tell the legislature they need to show some guts and compassion and love of civil rights — pass same-sex marriage.

Instead, the executive-like person called civil unions with the nation's most sweeping exemptions for even the tangentially vaguest religious affiliations "a step forward." Full speed into the swamp, I suppose, can be a charge as well.

First, it is not what he asked for (allegedly a demand a short time ago) — "...full marriage equality to all Rhode Islanders, a civil right that I strongly support and urged the General Assembly to enact." Second, the religious and quasi-religious exemptions are "too broad" and "a religious exemption of unparalleled and alarming scope." It gives virtual carte blanche to goof with gays. As Chafee put it, "Religious organizations operate hospitals, cemeteries, schools and community centers. As drafted, the bill gives these institutions and their employees the choice of refusing to recognize civil unions."

Fox had been a hero, pushing for full SSM, before wimping out recently. His likewise piss-warm you-just-wait message at the signing was, "I remain committed to the passage of marriage equality, but democracy is about compromise. I am convinced that Rhode Island will someday have full marriage equality and I intend to play a role in that effort."

During the Civil Right Movement's hardest days, there were many terms for such grin and eat the crumbs liberals. None of them was hero.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Once a Lifeguard...

Because it's true for me, I tend to believe that once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. At a beach or pool, I scan the water for troubled swimmers, and decades have passed since I did the job for pay.

The dreadful tale of a woman missing in a public pool for most of three days in Massachusetts eats on me. There seems to be a long line of folk wonder how that could happened, specifically how both staff and health inspectors who coincidentally OK'ed the pool during that period did not see a corpse in the deep end.

She arrived with a group of relatives and friends. We can likely set aside how there was no missing person report. She was not living with a spouse or equivalent or young kids. Those who knew her figured she had gone home on her own and did try to get her by phone repeatedly. I doubt anyone thought she might have drowned and her corpse might be under 15 feet of murky water, without any lifeguards or other staff seeing or finding her.

I will be found in that winding queue ready to blame the staff. The management apparently allowed an opaque deep end. The procedures did not apparently require daily cleaning. The lifeguards may have blown off the story of a 9-year-old with the late Marie Joseph, who says he told the guards the woman had gone under the water and not resurfaced.

Like most humanoids, I get personally historical and think of my experience and frame of reference. In every pool I worked, we constantly checked, particularly the deep end. We never left without being positive everyone was safe and out.

Moreover, in a comparable club, Candlewood Swim and Racquet, in Lakewood, NJ, where I worked two summers, the first lifeguard on duty arrived early to skim and clean the whole pool floor. The main pool was L-shaped with a separate diving tank, with 1, 3, and 5-meter boards. The tank end was very deep.

Our manager was Les Hashey, who was a champion diver, as well as one of the Band of Brothers. He had great fun with kerosene and diving (see link). He also insisted that we keep the filters working perfectly and maintain all the water from the separate, shallow wading pool, to the long lap one to the diving tank perfect clear.

In Fall River, the guards may well have followed pool procedure. If so, it stank...fatally. There's no excuse for an opaque, or "murky" as the inspectors had it, deep end. If someone reports a missing swimmer, you locate that person, even if it means clearing the pool and searching.

I was a tough lifeguard and did not allow dunking, diving toward swimmers and such. Even so, I had to pull out people over their abilities, those paralyzed with cramps, and the occasional pass-out. I can't imagine how many more there would have been without strict water-safety hygiene.

I'll watch for the follow-up reports on this. If I were involved in the investigation, I'd come in with a long list of questions. Poor Ms. Joseph may well have been dead by the time anyone could have gotten to her — drowning doesn't take long and asphyxiation often kills the brain and heart quickly — but likewise, quick action in a clear pool might have made it possible to save her.

We still have many thousands of drownings a year in the United States. That bothers this old lifeguard mightily.