Thursday, May 31, 2012

When did killing stop being a sin?

“I've gone to a Christmas party for a houseful of sex offenders; learned how to shoot a gun, and liked it.”

If you happened to read my first post this week, you will recognize these as the words of Seattle Times feminist opinionator Nicole Brodeur. The tone of this statement suggests that Brodeur may occasionally fantasize about the opportunity to be an “avenger," or dare someone to perceive her as a "victim," even if they are not interested. It also helps explain the fascination with guns in this society. Many people, like Brodeur, would say that they purchase guns for self-defense; what they are really saying is that they are unduly paranoid; like the armed protagonist in the Bruce Springsteen song “Murder Incorporated,” they see danger all around them, and have this expectation of being a victim, no matter how statistically unlikely it is (particularly for white women). The subject of Springsteen’s song ends-up being a victim because instead of trying to avoid trouble, he invites it. That is the “power” many people think that a gun gives them.

Not all people who buy guns intend to use them if necessary on another human being, such as for hunting animals or for “sport.” There are others, however, like the Times’ “doom-preppers,” who envision a war (most likely a “race” war), or the gang-banger or punk who always keeps a gun tucked in his pants (like Daniel Adkins’ killer) for whom a gun is an extension of his personality or a “necessary” accessory for “survival” in the world he lives in. There is also the psychopathic or schizophrenic personality who feels he must exact “revenge” on society for some slight. And, of course, there is the police who provide us with the example of just how cheaply human life can be regarded under the color of “law.”

But there are some of us who do not believe that gun ownership is a necessary requirement in a civilized society. The key to “survival” is that you don’t go looking for trouble, and you are also more likely to treat people with respect (at least on their “turf”), or with care. You usually have sense enough to realize when you approach a certain line when dealing with troublesome people. If you happen to find yourself in a neighborhood where you feel uneasy, you walk as if you are going somewhere, not as if you are lost, because that makes you look “vulnerable.” Instead of living with paranoia and fear, you mind your own business and just live. But when you choose to buy a gun for something other than “sport,” you are acknowledging that you expect at least the possibility that you might “need” to use the gun, and you actually see or perceive rationales that are largely in your own mind. By making another person aware that you have gun and are willing to use it, you heighten the tension and make it more likely that something lethal will happen, maybe even to you. And sometimes you use that gun to take a life when there was no justification for it.

The manic gun culture in this country--satirized by John Lennon in songs like "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill," and by a cruel twist of fate took his own life--began with the arrival of the first European settlers, who arrived in a land without the constructs of civilization as the Western world understood it. It was every man for himself against the native inhabitants who did not want the white man simply taking what he or she felt like. There was no government or law and order; there were no great cities where civilized mores, culture or academia could flourish. That would all take time, but for two centuries, America outside the original colonies was ruled by the gun or rifle; no man dared be caught without one. Even today, many people feel “naked” if they don’t own a gun.

Nevertheless, this “philosophy” hardly explains the “stand your ground” laws in 21 states, in which the one in backwater Arizona is perhaps the most troubling. Even in that state people claim to be “civilized,” yet they are often the first to resort to uncivilized methods. There is a “presumption” that a person has acted “reasonably” when using deadly force, and if there is no witness or the evidence is not “clear,” the shooter can literally get away with murder. And even when there are witnesses and the shooter admits to falsifying his “reasons” for shooting dead a person—as in the case of Daniel Adkins—the law puts more weight on “psychological” factors rather than if the victim was actually a threat (although in the Trayvon Martin case there was nothing “psychological” about the physical beating George Zimmerman was experiencing). A study by the Urban Institute found that half of all homicides were ruled “justified” in “stand your ground” states.

And so it is that people are shocked by the shooting spree in Seattle by an anger-challenged man named Ian Stawicki, which isn’t the first such incident in this city, nor likely to be the last. After a spate of shootings in the city this year, the police tell us not to blame the usual suspects (gangs) but the fact of gun ownership and the likelihood that in the wrong hands, guns will be used. For once, I agree with the police.

The media needs to clean-up its act

Over a month has passed since CNN dipped a toe in the Daniel Adkins case with no follow-up, and the local Phoenix newspaper, the Arizona Republic, hasn't once in the past 50 days even mentioned the killing or the progress of any charges being contemplated—or why there has been no charges filed by the prosecutor’s office. Even the alternative weekly, the Phoenix New Times, has had nothing to say. There has been some local television news reports, but outside the CNN story, the only time the story has been acknowledged was a few days ago by USA Today, which noted that police recommended a second degree murder charge against Cordell Jude, which was justified to any objective view of the facts. However, the Arizona "stand your ground" law, sponsored by the neo-fascist Arizona Citizens Defense League, is so stringent that a person who claims it cannot be arrested and interrogated, so as to stop "avaricious prosecutors from overdoing their jobs," according to a League spokesperson.

The Maricopa County prosecutor's office--no friend of Latinos--claims that the case is being reviewed by "a committee of seasoned prosecutors that was set up two years ago to evaluate self-defense cases." The fact that is almost two months since the shooting and no decision has been made seems to indicate a reluctance to anger gun rights advocates. Interestingly, such "liberal" outposts like the Huffington Post, MSNBC and left-wing radio like the Stephanie Miller show continue to beat the drum of the Martin case but are absolutely dumb on the Adkins case. Why? Apparently for fear that it would dilute the “impact” of the Martin story line—after all, Adkins did not strike Jude in any way, let alone in a "mixed martial arts" fashion. I wouldn’t even give the media a “pass” for not wanting to start a “war” between blacks and Latinos, because it is already doing its best to start one with the Martin case.

The Martin and Adkins cases are just two examples of a nearly endless supply of media duplicity. Provoking a primitive emotional response is preferred over candid reporting of fact. We may recall four years ago that the media was trying to provoke hysteria over Rev. Jeremiah Wright; what was completely lost in the discussion was the context of his supposedly “radical” statements. Why is it “radical” and “extreme” to talk about discrimination, inequality and poverty in this country? Has the media learned anything since then? Apparently not; right-wing pacs are already airing new attack ads featuring Rev. Wright; does it matter that Barack Obama has had no apparent contacts with him during his presidency? Of course not; the media can’t help itself but to fan the flames of idiocy.

Sometimes you have to wonder whether reporters really have the ability to look beyond the façade of a story. Take a recent front-page story in the Seattle Times concerning so-called “doomsday preppers,” who don’t just stockpile subsistence items, but an arsenal of weapons. I don’t know if the reporter, Eric Lacitis, was trying “expose” the existence of such people, or he thought it was intriguing that such people exist, but he did seem remarkably naïve about their true ideology. It’s not that we don’t know that “doomsday preppers” exist; it’s that we have given them different names: The “Patriot” movement, anti-government militias, paramilitaries, conspiracy theorists, fascists, white supremacists, white separatists, cultists, or just plain lone nuts. There was a Twilight Zone episode where a man barricaded himself and his family in a bomb shelter and refused to acknowledge the pleas for help from his friends and neighbors. The man the Times story profiled isn’t worried about nuclear war, because his stash would not survive such an event; he is the kind of paranoid fanatic who is a menace to civilized society. He is part of the problem and not the solution in times of want. He thinks he can survive by denying that he is one in the human fold, but the reality is that to survive he must work with the collective whole. In the end, it will be people like him who are the odd person out, because no matter how many guns he has, he can’t eat them; when he runs out of his stash, what will he do? Will he be so hypocritical as to expect to draw from government assistance, which all of sudden he sees as a "right"? Or will he just go out and rob and kill?


What about people you think you should trust? What about the “expert” talking heads the media relies on? Danny Westneat of the Times is usually reliably progressive, but sometimes a personal weakness slips through. He recently composed an op-ed about how the election of Barack Obama has not seemed to lessened the level of racial bias in voting patterns, this according to a study by a UW professor named Tony Greenwald. This probably shouldn’t be all that surprising, given the level of inane “socialist,” “communist” and “ extreme radical liberal” labels that have been applied to Obama by the right, fanning fear and paranoia into the ignorant. A key element of Greenwald’s study was the use of photographs of people of differing races, and measuring subjects’ gut reactions to them. Of course, such a study omits certain variables, such as a candidate’s celebrity, speaking skills, charisma etc. which may overcome initial first reactions. Obama also has “open,” non-threatening features which sets him apart; he isn’t like “them,” no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity refer to him as a scary black man.

However, what I focused on was one statement that Westneat attributed to Greenwald–that Obama benefited from “race bias” among minority voters. On the surface this might seem logical, but in fact it was not an entirely accurate assessment of voting patterns. Ever since Ronald Reagan demonstrated that he was no friend of minorities, particularly blacks, voting patterns—most notably among blacks—has veered overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party. While everyone knows that the Republican Party is the “white party,” the race of the Democratic candidate has little impact on the way minorities’ vote, so long as the candidate says the right things. If Obama benefited from anything out of the ordinary, it was that minority—and young white—voters, increased their turnout. Otherwise, presidential elections beginning in 1984 invariably saw the vast majority of black voters pulling the lever for the white candidate. I wrote to both Westneat and Prof. Greenwald about my concerns; the latter responded to my email, stating that what Westneat wrote was the “opposite” of what he actually said—that Obama did not benefit in any substantial way from so-called “race bias” by minority voters:

“These were his words, not mine. I actually told him the reverse, but he must have misunderstood.”

That gives the story a slightly different “spin.”


Sometimes you just don’t get all the facts, and sometimes not at all. I recall years ago reading in the paper a brief blurb about a woman who called the police one night to report that someone knocked on her door, and she didn’t know where he went from there. The police came a few minutes later, but saw no one. They got back in their patrol car and drove around; a few blocks away was a park, where a man was seen driving out of the parking lot. Police claim to have attempted to block his progress, and for an unexplained reason, shot the driver to death. In subsequent weeks I tried to find a follow-up to this story, but none was forthcoming. Incidents like this occur more frequently than people think. There is just no “angle” for the media to exploit. In New York, several White Plains officers are facing a civil lawsuit for violating the civil rights of two brothers of Jordanian descent—singling them out on trumped-up charges during a patrol of the city’s night life district, using demeaning “ethnic” slurs and beating one of them in a patrol car.

One of these officers was also involved in the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old black man who apparently accidentally pushed the button on his LifeAid medical alert device while asleep. For a presumed medical emergency, one would also presume that police would employ means appropriate to the situation—meaning lifesaving, not life taking. But if police are not social workers, neither are they doctors, as one of the cops at scene stated. Their “business” is intimidation and violence, not empathy or commiseration. Chamberlain became aware that there was an “emergency” only after he awakened by police pounding on his door. According to news reports Chamberlain had “encounters” with the police before, and that the officers at the scene knew him; it would appear that the officers may have had another motive to appear at his door in force, rather than to “assist” him. Tenants of the building that Chamberlain lived in reported that the officers were “regulars” who didn’t seem interested in getting to know the citizens on their “beat,” but were not adverse to engaging in frequent harassment. This was the context of following transcript of the audio of Chamberlain’s encounter with White Plains police (courtesy Democracy Now!):

LIFEAID OPERATOR: This is your help center for LifeAid, Mr. Chamberlain. Do you need help?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Yes, this is an emergency! I have the White Plains Police Department banging on my door, and I did not call them, and I am not sick!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Everything’s all right, sir?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: No, it’s not all right! I need help! The White Plains Police Department are banging on my door!

As one can ascertain, Chamberlain distrust of the police is such that he does not trust that they have his health in mind. He believes that since he does not need their “help,” they should just go away and leave him alone. But as we all know, once police are called on the scene and they smell blood, there is no stopping them.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Good morning, sir. I’m attempting to cancel that dispatch for Kenneth Chamberlain at 135 South Lexington.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. You know, we have—we have units on scene right now.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Yeah, he’s—we’re on the line with him on a two-way communication, and he’s saying he’s not going to open the door and is scared he’s going to bust his door down.

OFFICER CIANCI: Right. They’re going to make entry anyway.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK, so, hold on. Give him a chance to come to the door to open it, because he’s OK to open it.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. I mean, they have a key they can open it with anyway, so...

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Oh, they have a key?

OFFICER CIANCI: Yeah, they’re not going to break it down.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Oh, because they’re banging on it. We can hear on the line.

OFFICER CIANCI: What’s that?

LIFEAID OPERATOR: They’re banging on it. We can hear on the line. They’re—

OFFICER CIANCI: Yeah, yeah. We have units going over there right now. They get in.

As we can see, the LifeAid operator, disturbed by the noise the police are making from the speaker in Chamberlain’s room, is trying to call off the dogs, but to no avail. Note that the officer on desk duty tells the operator that it doesn’t matter what Chamberlain wants, they are going to get into his room one way or the other—with or without a “key.”

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Officers, this is LifeAid. Are you inside Mr. Chamberlain’s home?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They’re breaking in my door! They’re breaking in my door!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain, I heard you say they’re breaking in your door. Are you OK?


LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain, are you OK?


LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. You pressed your medical button. That’s why the officers are there. Can you go to the door and speak to them?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I [inaudible] the door. They’ve got their guns out! They have their guns out!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. Do you have weapon, Mr. Chamberlain?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I [inaudible] weapons. I am just protecting myself.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. They’re not there to hurt you. I’m here on the line.

POLICE OFFICER: Mr. Chamberlain, we’re not here to help—hurt you. We’re here to give you a hand, help you out.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I’m OK! I told you I was OK! [inaudible] I’m OK! I’m fine! Leave me alone! I’m fine!

Note the “slip of the tongue” by the officer. Chamberlain has repeatedly told the police he does not need their “help.” Why are they insisting that they are there to “help” him. Their actions clearly suggest otherwise.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They have stun guns and shotguns! [inaudible]

POLICE OFFICER: Mr. Chamberlain! Mr. Chamberlain!

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They’ve come to kill me with that, because I have a bad heart.

POLICE OFFICER: It doesn’t have to happen that way. [inaudible] just have to open the door.

After putting them through all that trouble and exertion, cops have to “release” their pent-up frustrations some way. In the midst of this encounter, Chamberlain’s sister contacted the police in order to serve as an intermediary and calm him down. The police dismissively refused her request, insisting that they knew how to “handle” these situations.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Get out! I didn’t call you! I did not call you. Why are you here? Why are you here?

POLICE OFFICER: Life alert called us.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Why are you here?

POLICE OFFICER: Life alert called us.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They have their nine-millimeter Glocks at the ready. They’re getting ready to kill me or beat me up.

POLICE OFFICER: Open the door.


POLICE OFFICER: Let them check you out. And then we will leave.


POLICE OFFICER: Yeah, but I’m not a doctor.


One must confess that the officer’s request seems “reasonable.” But if the “patient” doesn’t want help, isn’t that his right? And the actions of the police up to this point seem more intent on forcing their will on a situation where no crime was committed, but they seem determined that one is committed (mainly by themselves). The police eventually broke through door, and a video camera attached to a Taser shows Chamberlain dressed only in underpants in a non-threatening posture. No sooner did the police gain entry that an electrical charge can seen discharged from the Taser toward Chamberlain. The video camera is then inexplicably turned off, or destroyed after the encounter. In any case, within minutes, Chamberlain was dead on the floor.

The White Plains prosecutor, a bleach blonde woman who resembles Arizona governor Jan Brewer, announced that a grand jury had looked at the evidence (or the evidence the prosecutor chose to make available) against the police officers, and decided that charges were not warranted. One can, of course, reason that the shooting was avoidable if Chamberlain had simply opened the door and allowed medics to examine him. But this ignores the distrust that minorities have of the police, that their interactions with them always tend to have a negative or harmful implications. This incident should serve as evidence of the poisoned relationship between police and the minority community. But what we are more likely to get from the mainstream news media is simplistic surface detail that serves to rationalize the actions of the officers. There was something to learn from this episode, but the people charged to do our “observing and reporting” only did the bare minimum they were required to do. Thus most people who are even aware of the case likely only had their own stereotypes confirmed.


Sometimes the media can’t seem to distinguish from front and fraud, unable to see what lies behind “even-temperedness” is something quite sinister. Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, continues to be in the news. Despite the fact that his henchpersons in the county prosecutors’ office have been disbarred for aiding and abetting Arpaio’s Mafioso reign of terror, that has plain elements of criminality, fraud, extortion, abuse of power and the like, he continues to be reelected sheriff every four years by a voter base that condones his civil rights abuses and frequent bizarre behavior as long as they are not personally discomfited by it (that’s where racial profiling comes in). Arpaio may come off as “reasonable” when he appears on news programs, but the reality is that this is the kind bigoted fanatic who is most dangerous, because he is a pied piper leading his followers to their moral doom. What one must do is ignore his words and judge his actions. In a state whose first American settlers were intent on founding a new slave state (like Texas), it shouldn’t be surprising that Arizona often behaves like a Deep South Dixie state. The state ignored the citizenship and property rights granted to “Mexicans” who chose to stay in the U.S. by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and some may remember for years how Arizona was a pariah for its refusal to acknowledge the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Arpaio has become a bit of a joke in some circles, a fool too foolish to know when to quit. His recent attempt to re-ignite the “birther” controversy has gone to absurd lengths. To aid a bizarre “Cold Case Posse” of volunteers in Hawaii to uncover the “truth” about Barack Obama’s birth records, one of his trusted Mafioso deputies, Mike Zollo, was sent to Hawaii on the taxpayer dime to provide “security” as the “investigation” entered a “perilous” stage. Although the birth certificate issue has now been “resolved,” one must ask if Arpaio was off his medication. Zollo, meanwhile, continues to be posted in Hawaii, for reasons not fully explained. The sheriff claims that 250 Tea Party members in some far-right enclave called Surprise, Arizona “requested” that the Hawaii “posse” be established; donations of up to $40,000 has actually been raised to support the archeological expedition in search of “skeletons” in Obama’s closet. This is what I mean by that Arpaio should be judged by his actions, not his words. Will the media ever learn?

An LA Times story recently revealed how Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB-1070 law will be enforced if the Supreme Court upholds its most controversial section and turns Arpaio’s thugs loose: “In one case, a Latina who is a U.S. citizen and was five months pregnant was stopped after she pulled into her driveway. She alleges that when she refused an order to sit on the hood of the car, she was slammed stomach-first three times onto the vehicle. Deputies next dragged her to a patrol car and locked her inside for 30 minutes without air conditioning, she said. She was cited for not providing identification.” Apparently her driver’s license—which is usually sufficient in most circumstances—will be only the first layer that Latinos will be expected to carry with them in a fascist state. And the media won’t be there to tell you about it.


Sometimes a simple report leaves one asking “Isn’t there something else you should be telling us?” Take for example a story about a West Seattle elementary-school principal named Jo Lute-Ervin who was investigated for alleged sexual harassment of a third-grade student after a complaint from the student’s parent, but found not to have violated district policy and was merely cautioned to observe vague “best practices” when dealing with children in a sexual context. After a boy reportedly touched himself “inappropriately” during a lunch break, Lute-Ervin (don’t you just love the conceit of those hyphenated names?), called in five “witnesses” and asked them to “demonstrate” what the boy did—which apparently involved touching, rather than describing, “sensitive” parts of the body. No other adult was present. The investigators did not speak to any of the children about this “meeting” to discover their own feelings, which likely would have made for rather disturbing reading and put Lute-Ervin in a much worse light. Why did district investigators go light on her, when if she was a male principal he probably would have been fired in disgrace, perhaps even charged as a sexual predator? It seems that Lute-Ervin has a job waiting for her as a district administrator, and it won’t do for her career trajectory to have such a record on her resume. Sort of like how Catholic priest pedophiles were protected from their sins.


Last month I wrote about a young male that I encountered on the Interurban Trail early one Sunday Morning on my way to work, who claimed to have been kidnapped and raped. I was fairly certain that something of physical nature had occurred, given his clearly traumatic state. As I noted in an update, I contacted police several times afterwards, but in the end received nothing more than an acknowledgement that the incident “had been” investigated. Comments made by a police sergeant suggested to me that there were no suspects, and that the police had closed the book on the case. I thought perhaps a member of the media might be interested in the case. I tried to contact the writer of the Kent Reporter’ police blotter; surely he must have “contacts” in the police department. This was certainly an “out-of-the-ordinary” case, so it was bit unusual that there was no mention of it on the blotter report. I emailed a description of the incident and suggested he might look into it. I didn’t receive a response, so a week later I again wrote to reporter, this time making it plain that if he didn’t respond, I would impute some corrupt motive. But again I did not receive a response.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lauren Jackson, basketball mercenary

Seattle’s WNBA team, the Storm, are off to slow start, partly because the team’s principle star, Aussie Lauren Jackson, has decided to take time off to recover from her various injuries and prepare for the 2012 Olympics as a member of the Australian national team. The Olympic basketball schedule doesn’t start until July 28, which means she will miss most of the scheduled Storm games; this is unlike her schedule in 2008, when she didn’t go back to Australia until July. I’m sure to most sports fans in town, this information represents little more than points on a graph, but I have to confess that I am not opinionless about the Storm, that annoying person in the back jumping up and down trying to get your attention.

Given the Storm’s schedule, which is no more strenuous than a college player’s season, locals might wonder upon Jackson’s frequent injuries. Unlike NBA players who don’t need to augment their income, player like Jackson who have notoriety and are of the right color don’t just sit home and rehab; In a couple of seasons, Jackson seemed to prefer to rehab on the Storm’s time instead of missing out on the real payday. After the 2008 Olympics, Jackson missed the remainder of the Storm season with an ankle injury. The next three years saw various injuries to her Achilles and hip. Without Jackson in the line-up, Bird appears rather ordinary, even lost. Together, they are “complimentary” because they play like they are the only two players on the team. When one or the other is missing, they play as if they’ve never seen the people they are playing with before.

So what has Jackson been doing in the “off-season," if not preparing for WNBA play? After the 2005 WNBA season she played in Russia for five seasons, for a considerably larger sum than her WNBA pay. Some people in town might not be aware of it, but Sue Bird and other Caucasian American players were also signed-up to play for the Moscow team for considerable sums. As an added incentive, Jackson bunked in the team owner’s mansion, or at least until the owner--a former KGB operative and businessman who likely had links to organized crime--was assassinated. In 2011, she signed with a Spanish club for a wheel-barrel load of cash. Of course, some Storm fans might wonder if this means that Jackson and Bird are really “their” stars and not someone else’s, but since most Storm fans have no idea of their mercenary existence, we’ll just let the fans remain reveling in their private fantasy.

Despite the fact that Jackson and Bird have been marketed as the top tandem in the game, the Storm haven’t exactly been the “dominant” team in the league, winning two titles in the dozen years that Jackson has been a member of the team. And not that there has been a lot of competition—the league is down to 12 teams this season. How bad has the league’s viability situation been? Bad enough that the two franchises that have won half the league’s championship titles—Houston and Detroit—have folded. One wonders if the league will still be around when Brittney Griner enters the WNBA next year; she is clearly a woman amongst girls in the college game now; when one recalls that roundhouse right into the face of some snooty white girl named Jordan Barncastle—after she grabbed the 6’8” Griner by the arm and tried to swing her into the ground—it could be a most interesting match-up between Jackson and Griner. Jackson has been known to make offensive, derogatory remarks about opponents on court, which may explain why she was kneed in the groin by Lisa Leslie in a game in 2002. A story in USA Today that year remarked that “These two teams (the Storm and the LA Sparks) have plenty of history. A fight punctuated their last meeting…And back in the 2000 Olympics, Jackson, playing for Australia, pulled out Leslie's hair extension in the gold medal game.” I would like to see the arrogant Jackson pull any kind of stunt like that on Griner.

Like many women who have a lot of money and fame searching for “meaning” in their lives to explain some void in their personal life, Jackson has chosen domestic violence and rape crisis centers as the best outlet for whatever it is that moves her (such single-minded victomology allowed former high school football star Brian Banks to be falsely accused of rape and sit in jail for five years, while his accuser essentially stole a $750,000 settlement from a California school district—all of which she has already spent and is now living on subsistence income). Although a person her size is more likely to inflict pain than receive it, Jackson is “passionate” about preventing domestic abuse—except, of course, if women are guilty of it. Jackson also supposedly likes to talk to her Storm teammates about women’s rights and Lady Gaga. The problem with the politics of people like Jackson is that their money and fame buys them plenty of “rights” and opens lots of doors that many of us (including, I dare say, men) find closed. When one considers countries like Australia which for many years barred immigration by non-whites (and still has an unspoken ban against African immigrants), Jackson’s “rights” demagoguery tends to have a rather hollow meaning. As far as Lady Gaga is concerned, she is all about self-promotion and her garish costumes. In regard to her music, at least Madonna has some notion of tunefulness; it is perhaps without irony that Gaga uses a name that refers to “senile,” “silly” and “crazy.”

Jackson has also complained that people principally define her by her birthday suit spread in some magazine featuring Australian Olympic athletes some years ago. She claimed that when she googles her name, all that comes up are those pictures. I found this hard to believe, so I decided to investigate her claim. I typed in "Lauren Jackson" and after 20 Google pages and finding nothing that referred to the photos, I decided that it was all in her head. Even when I did a search for images, there was only a couple unexplicit shots that appeared. You actually have to do considerable search refinements to find the photos that Jackson says she doesn't regret doing.

I don’t know what else to say, except that I can’t wait for the NFL season to start so that I won’t have an excuse to wander off into the sports world’s Outer Limits.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Now, it's my turn to talk

I’ve just completed my most laborious week to date, apparently due to the arrival of the first haul of Copper River Salmon. Fresh seafood caught off Alaska waters accounts for nearly a quarter of the dollar amount of the cargo that the airline I work for flies out. Nevertheless, I still felt dissatisfied, because the 332 carts I handled were less than the 341 I could have done. It may sound mundane, but you have to find some way to motivate yourself—particularly when I haven’t had a raise, on top of a very modest base pay, in three years. I don’t know if I believed it then, but I remember when President Jimmy Carter told us that by now we’d all be “millionaires”—before Ronald Reagan scolded us for being “envious” of the super-rich and made “greed is good” a moral imperative. Still, a job is a job and paying the bills is the first consideration in life. Since this blog isn’t a paying gig, what I regard as “compensation” has to be of a more personal nature. It’s not easy; sometimes I spend twenty hours a week doing research on some topic even before I start writing, sometimes juggling a half-dozen at a time before discarding them all and starting over on something else that catches my attention.

In two years I must have written at least 600,000 words, or about 1,200 pages worth. In some ways I have to thank self-proclaimed “#1 progressive” Thom Hartmann for this toil, after he or his producer banned me from his website—apparently because I wandered off the script on his Daily Topics blog and annoyed his loyal followers with comments on what I perceived as anti-Semitic and anti-Latino predispositions; Thom also liked to say that we lived in a “post-racial” world while at the same time perpetuating gender victimology myths, which I couldn't stay quiet on for long. Naturally, I see the world much differently; if people I encounter do not always suspect that I am an “illegal immigrant,” they certainly do not feel they need to concern themselves about the way they interpret my humanity—and when I say “they” I don't distinguish by gender. More to the point, if white men are 1A in this country, the status of white women is 1B, and everyone else follows down the ladder.

What persons like myself think hardly matters; someone recently asked me why I named my blog “To dare the gods.” He thought it had some anti-religion connotation; I suppose his education did not include a discussion of the Western world’s classical origins. My real purpose in choosing the name (besides not being able to think of anything else at the moment) was because I saw myself, like millions of other people, as just another invisible person whose viewpoint goes unheard and ignored while a self-serving, self-appointed cadre of elitists ("gods") lord over the information highways and byways, feeding us a daily dose of obfuscation and diversion.

And so it is that for me, this blog represents an outlet to express opinions that are not sufficiently heeded; of course, I can tell by the amount of “hits” this site receives that I might as well be pissing in the wind, but in my own little universe, there is a catharsis to be had when I can at least have a chance to say my piece. Hypocrisy is perhaps my favorite target, and the Seattle Times this past Friday as usual presented a perfect target or two. First there was a story about the participation in the “race for the cure” sponsored by the breast cancer advocacy organization, Komen, which saw a 30 percent or so decrease from last year. This constituted a “protest vote” against the Komen’s temporary injunction against donating some of its proceeds to Planned Parenthood, after a congressional committee charged the organization of illegally funding their abortion hobby with federal tax dollars through “creative” accounting, which no doubt it is doing; the fact that abortion advocates probably think the funding ban is illegal anyways would suggest that Planned Parenthood’s probable law-breaking is encouraged with a wink and a nod. Komen was assaulted for playing “politics,” but in my view it is the fanatical activists and advocates who are using women’s health issues for partisan political reasons. Frankly, Komen was asking for trouble when it used some of its funding for projects outside of breast cancer research. For one thing, people who are coerced into giving-up their change at Safeway every February are probably not expecting to see their hard-earned money going into the coffers of abortion mills like Planned Parenthood—and would be disturbed to discover that it is.

Some local “advocacy journalists,” like the Times’ Nicole Brodeur, would respond to such critisms with sarcasm and belittlement. But not on this particular Friday, because she was too busy announcing her “reassignment” to another part of the newspaper. Brodeur says that she will be covering stories on musicians, artists and “parties, fundraisers, kickoffs and whatever other weirdness Seattle tends to stir up.” Her explanation for her new assignment is that the paper doesn’t do a good enough of job of “rubbing elbows” with the local populace, so she’s “decided” that this will be a great gig for her. But who is she kidding? The Times’ publishers must be well aware of the fact that it didn’t help sales when she regularly offended readers (particularly male readers) with broad generalities dividing the world into one of two camps: Male as victimizer, female as victim. Of course there was plenty of “anecdotal” evidence to “suggest” such simplistic notions, but like many egotistical paladins, Brodeur felt that people did not take her seriously enough because, as she liked to say, she was “merely” a “woman.” Despite the fact that the Times gave her a soapbox from which expectorate the darkest recesses of her mind, she never could understand that most people in this world—males as well as females—are just barely getting by with little time to think about how they are going to “oppress” someone. On the other hand, it is a very easy thing to sit back and wallow in self-serving self-pity.

Brodeur made numerous fascinating pronouncements in her final "news" column. “My name and mug might be up at the top, but this was never my column. It belonged to all of you, thanks to your stories, struggles and victories, and your willingness — or unwillingness — to share them.” Really. Perhaps to those who share her self-servitude, but to those looking for enlightenment, it has the hollow ring of mendacity, because she never tried to look at both sides of a story—when she smelled female “victim” and male “victimizer,” she didn’t stop to ask questions. Brodeur reminds me in many ways of that publicity/money hound lawyer Gloria Allred, who never shrinks from the most bizarre cases and most disreputable clients if there is millions to be theft from some foolish man. Her latest client is a woman who was fired from a lingerie distributor because she was wearing clothing that was accentuating her gigantic, grotesque fake breasts. But her previous client (a Latina who claimed that Citibank fired her because her “curves” were too “distracting”) attacked Allred for merely using her as a vehicle for to fuel an insatiable lust for media attention, and settling for the quick out-of-court buck before moving on to the next easy mark.

It wasn't that the anecdotal evidence Brodeur uncovered wasn't true in of itself; it was the broad generalizations that she interpreted from that wasn't necessarily true. For Brodeur, the people in her discourses were caricatures and stand-ins who fit into the shoes that in her simplistic notions of the world she expected them to wear. It didn’t matter that shoe didn't always fit, or if the “victim” was a deceiver, or the “victimizer” was unfairly condemned; Brodeur never got past her preconceived notions that dispensed with objective analysis; thus she was the very essence of that old chestnut “Opinions are like assholes—everyone has one.” As a purveyor of opinion, she was interchangeable with thousands of other people you could pick off the street, who also wallowed in self-servitude. One comment on her announcement spoke for many: “I can't think or another columnist that is less deserving of a column.” Although her purpose on the paper, it would seem, is to be the “voice” of women, in reality she spoke for the self-obsessed feminist and the “feeling good about feeling bad” crowd.

In her assessment of herself, Brodeur felt the need to remind us once more how disingenuous she could be. Here are some of her “parting shots” and my comments about them:

“I've gone to a Christmas party for a houseful of sex offenders; learned how to shoot a gun, and liked it. I've walked around the halo of the Space Needle and sat in more courtrooms than I can count.”

Talk about a glutton for self-induced “punishment.” Brodeur wasn’t looking to learn anything about their actual level of guilt or see if these men were trying to correct their lives—she’s trying to “imply” that she’s had the “courage” to wander into a party of the most dangerous men on earth. She gets a gun (and “likes it”) not because this increasingly rotund female (don’t let the mug shot fool you) actually should fear being a “victim”—according to FBI crime statistics, white women like herself are the least likely demographic to be the victim of a violent crime, by a large margin—but because she is consumed with her stereotypes and paranoia.

“I defended women and children, who always seems (sic) to get short shrift when programs and funding are being doled out.”

It doesn’t take much effort to discover that this is an obviously deceitful, self-serving statement. Check out the community services section of the telephone book; it is filled with pages and pages of services for women and children, and almost nothing for men. Even the YMCA caters to women “with children” and girls, rather than its original mission—to provide assistance for the “young man” down and out with the blues, or so the song went. And if you are an “able-bodied, single male” don’t expect any help from DSHS no matter how down on your luck you are. The aforementioned breast cancer accounts for the greatest share of cancer research funding (ten times per death than lung cancer), and there seems to be a disproportionate amount of studies on women’s health concerns generally, or so it appears from news reports.

“One of the last columns I did for news was about the shooting death of Courtney Taylor in the parking lot of the Rainier Beach Jack in the Box. It was an awful scene; a pool of blood drying in the sun while people stood around, saying little.”

Sometimes people expound without doing their research first; the incident occurred after an altercation, and the fact that a “hostile” crowd—rather than standing around and saying little—prevented paramedics from reaching the victim for five minutes. The devil on my shoulder tells me that Brodeur initially thought that “Courtney” was a female, but became so entangled in the story that by the time she discovered that he was a male rapper, she couldn’t do a backtrack. Of course, if she wanted to make a “statement,” she could have noted that nearly 80 percent of all murder victims are male, and that black males have 23 times the murder victim rate of white females.

“I'm leaving news with a caveat: That I can come back and weigh in on issues that strike close to my heart, and that don't ever seem to retreat from the public conversation: Women's rights, family-planning funding, birth control, abortion.”

So she really isn’t “going away.” The reason why these issues don’t “retreat” is, as I mentioned before, people like Brodeur don’t want them to go away because they “feel good about feeling bad.” None of these issues are under “threat”—it is just people like Brodeur demand more, more, and still more while millions of people (including men) suffer real privations in day-to-day life. Forget the fact that in the courts today, women seem to have more “rights” than can be honestly justified, or that racism knows no gender, or according to FBI statistics “mothers” account for most of the killings of children under five—the most innocent and vulnerable victims of all—or the fact that abortion is a fact of life and going nowhere. People like Brodeur simply want you to feel “guilty” about women’s “needs” at the cost of your own.

“How can I leave completely, considering the Catholic Church's recent laser-point focus on their own nuns, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops going after the nation's Girl Scouts over their relationships with groups that conflict with the church's teachings?”

The Catholic Church has always been a useful punching bag for anti-religion types. The real problem the church has is that it has too many in the “flock” who tend to ignore doctrine they don’t wish to follow. If people don’t want to follow the dictates of morality, ethics and long-standing doctrine, then they should go to one of those one-size-fits-all churches that demands nothing of the conscience save what you feel comfortable putting in the till. “Laser focus?” The only person here with the “laser focus” is Brodeur, who only sees what she wants to see, to the exclusion of all else. If it doesn’t fit her worldview, it is either “bad” or doesn’t exist.

Of course, I realize that Brodeur partisans would call me a “misogynist,” but such exclamations look increasing like pathetic, lame excuses for refusing to look at the bigger picture and facts one doesn’t like. It’s like a story I read in the Times that claimed that only 18 percent of Pakistani girls had a “high school level” education. Sure it’s low, but it’s not that much lower than the 23 percent of Pakistani boys who have only that level of education; the real story was about class distinctions, not necessarily gender. And nobody wants to examine why this country is producing fewer and fewer people out of college who have the skills that employers are looking for, who are instead looking to foreign-born skilled professionals; I’m not saying, of course, that the reason for this is that whatever kind of education is being taught in high schools these days, it seems to benefit females more than males in college enrollment.

Anyways, I couldn’t help myself. I composed an email which I sent off to Brodeur, in which I opined that a paper that has been consistently losing circulation doesn’t need a columnist who on a regular basis offends readers’ sensibilities, and that she used people to justify her own paranoid, insular worldview, and that rather than speaking the truth, it was only her version of it. As an example, I pointed to the CDC report on intimate partner violence, from which the media and gender advocates cited only the parts that benefited the prevailing victimology, while ignoring the parts about domestic violence—where the study revealed that 80 percent of men as women reported being the victim of domestic violence in their lifetimes—but especially the more revealing fact that 25 percent more men than women reported being the victim of domestic violence by their partners in the previous 12 months. The recent dust-up in Congress concerning some of the provisions of the “Violence Against Women” act again ignored the real shortcoming with the law—that it completely glosses over the reality of female-on-male violence; “size” should matter less than opportunity and predisposition to commit violence.

Of course, it was too much for me to expect Brodeur to accept any faults in her own gender. I did, in fact, receive a response from Brodeur, which was more informative than I’m sure she intended it to be: “What an awful, angry note.” End of quote. It is telling that when you confront certain people with such a tunnel-vision perspective with their own hypocrisy, all they can do is offer a sarcastic remark. Sarcasm is an attitude, not an argument, and adds nothing to our understanding of the world—only of one’s own inner darkness.

I didn’t think my “note” was so much “angry” as an expression of the facts of the matter as I saw it, but to most people who reads her columns, Brodeur’s anger frequently undercuts her credibility. Her “Politics playing tough with women’s bodies” column from last March was the kind of hysterically self-righteous and thoroughly discreditable puff piece that angered hundreds of commenters on the Times’ website; she insulted readers who could see through her bogus accusations, exclaiming “Is that logic too much for some people? Am I talking too fast? Or is it that I'm a woman? Don't answer that.” Such behavior likely hastened the paper’s “nudging” her off her “news” soapbox; however, like all blind fanatics, she warns readers that she will be back occasionally to offend our sensibilities.