Saturday, August 23, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Race Relations In A Nutshell

It’s hard to hold out hope for improving understanding between communities when you have people like Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa speaking their mind.

I’ve watched them pit us against each other for a long time. And by the way, it also should be said that someone like Lacy Clay, who’s a member of the Congressional Black Caucus — there is no ‘Congressional White Caucus.’ It is a self-segregated caucus and it is a caucus that they drive an agenda that’s based on race. And they’re always looking to place the race card. They’re always looking to divide people down that line. And I have friends in that caucus. I get along with them personally, but their agenda is to play the race card. And we have a President who had a perfect opportunity to eliminate a lot of this friction in this country, and instead, he and his attorney general have been in a place where they’ve created friction rather than eliminated it.

Mr. King checks off nearly every square in White Privileged Patriarch Bingo.  You’ve got I’m The Victim Here, Some Of My Best Friends Are Black, The Race Card, The Politicization Trope, The Outside Agitators, and of course the all-time favorite, They Don’t Know What They’ve Got.

Mr. King would be genuinely shocked if you called him a racist.  He didn’t use the N-word, he never said anything about black people “knowing their place,” and he would remind you that his views are no different than a lot of the people he represents and a lot of people he works with in the United States House of Representatives.

That’s the problem.  He and his friends see it all as something someone else caused and can be fixed only if someone else does something.  Look how nicely we treated them: they can go to our schools, they can use our bathrooms, they can even have big celebrities who are a credit to their race.  But instead they loot and riot, and even when we white folks benevolently grant them the boon of electing one of them to be president, they do nothing but play golf and stir up trouble.  And now they expect us to stop being suspicious of them?  Good golly.

Being lectured on race relations by a man and a mindset that says every person who is some Other is a threat to our America of white picket fences, Wonder Bread, and good old American heterosexual family values tells me that while we may have progressed from where we were fifty years ago, we’ve barely begun.

Quote of the Day

Judge Robert Hinkle ruling that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional:

When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination.  To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.

Short Takes

National Guard leaving Ferguson.

Three Hamas military leaders were killed by Israeli attacks.

Mudslides and debris close roads in Washington state.

Two American ebola victims have recovered and been released from the hospital.

American auto industry has hit its highest level of production in 12 years.

Tropical Update: Invest 96L is out there and heading west.

The Tigers lost 1-0 to the Rays.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finally Florida

The long-awaited federal court ruling on Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage has been handed down.  We won.

A federal judge in Florida has ruled the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle is the latest of several-dozen rulings for same-sex marriage by federal courts across the country since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling advancing gay rights in 2013. On the federal level, gay marriage has since enjoyed an undefeated streak.

Hinkle put a hold on his ruling, meaning gay couples in Florida will not be able to receive marriage licenses just yet.

The ruling puts Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a predicament as he runs for reelection. As gay marriage becomes more popular in the state he has obscured his position on the issue and dodged questions by reporters. His administration has a say in whether to appeal the decision and defend the state’s ban.

Read the whole ruling here.

Judge Hinkle wrote:

Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage.

It’s now up to the Supreme Court.  It’s hard to imagine that they will turn away from the twenty-plus rulings that have come down on the side of marriage equality.  Stay tuned, and stay hopeful.

Rainbow Flag Miami Skyline

Grifters of the Lost Ark

A creationist theme park in Kentucky won’t hire anyone who doesn’t believe in their interpretation of the bible.  Not only that, they are applying to the state for $18 million worth of tax incentives.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval to the incentives with support from Gov. Steve Beshear.

Ark Encounter is run by Answers in Genesis and is clear about its religious basis. According to that organization, the Earth is only approximately 6,000 years old, Noah’s flood was in 2350 B.C., and there were dinosaurs on the ark (some of which were fire-breathing dragons).

These are the religious views of some, but they are in profound conflict with scientific knowledge, which is well respected by many Americans of faith. On the day the tax incentives were recommended, the Answers in Genesis website had a help-wanted advertisement.

The job description included this statement: “Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost.”

[...]

When Ark Encounter was originally approved for much larger tax incentives they were required not to discriminate in hiring.

However, it is apparent that Ark Encounter is likely to discriminate against non-Christians. Moreover, Catholics, mainstream Protestant Christians and some conservative Christians who have different doctrinal beliefs are also unlikely to be hired.

The ad has specific religious requirements for employment. These include a salvation testimony, a “creation belief statement” and a requirement that applicants agree with the organization’s “statement of faith.” This required statement includes articles that imply that fundamentalist Christianity is the only acceptable religion and that denigrate non-Christians non-fundamentalist Christians, and homosexuals (regardless of their theological views).

Can you imagine the howls of outrage if the folks at Universal Orlando decided that they would only hire wizards and witches at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; muggles need not apply?  Of course it’s ridiculous; Harry Potter is a fictional character and the books are works of imagination, whereas the bible and Genesis are… oh, wait.

I don’t have a problem with people building theme parks based on religion or fantasy (by the way, there are rumors about a Lord of the Rings theme park), and I can understand about wanting to hire people who only believe in whatever snake-oil it is you’re selling — not that any self-respecting LGBTQ person would want to work there — but when they’re asking the taxpayers to support it, that’s the damn limit.

HT to Melissa.

Facebook Doesn’t Get It

Why should I have to tell you that the following is not from The Onion?

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a plan to start testing a “satire” tag, which you may soon find affixed to headlines like “Tips for Being an Unarmed Black Teen” from sites like the Onion and ClickHole. And although on its surface, the move sounds a lot like a headline from the very satirical sites Facebook intends to warn its users of, the social-networking site may be on to something.

Because, as the Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey points out, this isn’t just about satire; it’s also about the problem of purposely false “news” stories. Lesser-known and less obviously joke-y sites like the Daily Currant, Empire News, National Report, and the News Nerd will get the “satire” tag, too. So this could actually be a step toward addressing the problem of hoaxes spreading wildly online, by cutting them off at what has become many people’s main source for news: Facebook.

What Dewey fails to mention, however, is that the Post itself fell for one of these satirical headlines just last year, citing a Daily Currant report that Sarah Palin was joining the news network Al-Jazeera America as a contributor. (She wasn’t.) Palin, for perhaps obvious reasons, is a recurrent figure in fake headlines that tend to trick real news outlets: In 2011, Rachel Maddow fell for a (fake) Christwire column calling for Palin to lead an American invasion in Egypt. About a week later, both Time and US Weekly reported on a fictitious fight Palin was supposedly trying to pick with Christina Aguilera over her botched lyrics to the National Anthem at the Super Bowl that year.

Sorry, folks, but anyone who falls for a satirical news story deserves whatever shame or scorn that is heaped on them.  Let me be the first to note that I’ve read my share of satires and even gone so far as to blink and think “Really?”  But as far as I know, none of them have ever been posted here without me knowing that they were very well crafted pieces of humor.  And if one ever did, I’d say “Well played.”

Satire is a fine art and when done well is often written better than most news out there.  Facebook is doing a disservice to both their readers and the crafters of satire by feeling that they have to tell us that it is satire.

Peace and Quiet

Last night was a calm night in Ferguson compared to the night before.

Only six people were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight as fewer “agitators and criminals” attended protests in the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, police said.

It wasn’t because a militarized police force rolled through town in their armed personnel carriers.  It was because the police (with one notable exception) dealt with the demonstrators with a proportional response and attention being paid to the concerns of the people on both sides by people who can make a difference in both tone and law enforcement.

People listening to other people has made the difference.  Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “talk, talk, talk is better than war, war, war.”

The Secret Is Out

Via TPM:

A Republican city councilman in Missouri apologized this week for posting racist messages about President Obama on Facebook, citing his own strong engagement with the Republican Party as the reason behind his actions.

According to television station KFVS, Poplar Bluff, Mo., councilman Peter Tinsley’s offensive posts were brought up during a city council meeting on Monday night. Tinsley apologized for his behavior, saying he didn’t intend to offend anyone when he made those posts last year, reported KFVS.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Tinsley said. “At one time, I was a very active republican, very opposed to Obama.”

Of course not all Republicans are racists.  But they certainly do attract them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Copy That

Fareed Zakaria stands accused of plagiarism again.

The pair of anonymous Twitter users who last month exposed a BuzzFeed editor’s plagiarism came out with new accusations Tuesday against journalist Fareed Zakaria.

On their blog Our Bad Media, the Twitter duo who use the handles @blippoblappo and @crushingbort assembled twelve passages of what they said appeared to be plagiarism by the Peabody-award winning journalist.

The accusations reopen an incident from 2012 in which Zakaria apologized for plagiarizing New Yorker’s Jill Lepore. The incident got him suspended from his job as editor-at-large at Time magazine as well as suspended from his hosting gig at CNN. He also volunteered to temporarily halt his column for the Washington Post for one month.

Plagiarists are like people who cheat on their spouses; they never think they’ll get caught, and when they are, it’s “Honey, I’m sorry and it’ll never happen again.  Besides, it didn’t mean anything.  Gimme one more chance.”  Feh.

Not Getting It

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered up his view on what is causing the problems in Ferguson.  He tried to sound reasonable and pragmatic, but just couldn’t help stepping on the rake.

“What I don’t want to do, as a political leader, is try to graft my policy initiatives or my preferences onto this tragedy,” he added. “I think that would just be disrespectful.”

Okay, that’s fine.  He gets it that he should not inject himself into the situation.  His next line should be “Thank you very much, have a nice day.”  But no.

Ryan cautioned that people should allow the investigation into 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer to run its course before drawing conclusions. The Justice Department is conducting its own inquiry in addition to a state investigation, but the Wisconsin Republican cautioned against allowing the federal government to take on a large oversight role in Ferguson.

“There is no problem with the federal government having a role,” he said. “But in all of these things, local control, local government, local authorities who have the jurisdiction, who have the expertise, who are actually there are the people who should be in the lead.”

Sigh.  The problem is that “local control, local government” is what caused the problem in the first place.  Not the shooting of Michael Brown, but the response of the local authorities with tanks and heavy artillery.  Local control is what led us to nights of rioting and having to have the state government step in, and it was only after they did that some semblance of calm leadership prevail.

To be fair, at least he didn’t suggest using water cannons to calm the crowd.