Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Hopefully you will be able to spend lots of time today with your family and loved ones. And if you can't do that then perhaps you can call them or email/text them. Or if they've passed on then maybe you can take a few moments to remember the good times that you had with them while they were here. Although this holiday has become an excellent excuse to eat your way into a semi-diabetic coma it should really just be about being happy for what you have in life and enjoying the people you know and/or love. Because even though some of those people can get on your last nerve from time to time and make you lose your religion your life wouldn't be the same without them, would it. So yes at many family get togethers there will be the exact same people telling the exact same unfunny jokes or boring stories that they told last year (and for every year before that).  It's what they do. There will be the same dodgy cousins with brand new get rick quick schemes or the peripatetic in-laws that just want to drop off their kid(s) at your house for Thanksgiving dinner while they go off to do evidently more interesting things. There might even be the muleheaded uncle who for purely contrarian and spiteful reasons decides that Thanksgiving is the perfect time to insult some other relative's deeply held religious or political beliefs. But that's all part of the charm. I remember back in the day we used to have Thanksgiving dinner at my paternal grandparents' home. They had a lot of children so as a result I have a boatload of cousins. For a while we kids had to eat in the basement at the children's table. Looking back I don't really understand how that many people ever fit in one house. But in any event we did. And I miss those days. So hopefully you will be somewhere today having experiences that become memories which you and yours will enjoy in later years. And if by chance you are a tumbling leaf far away from kith and kin remember that there are all sorts of nearby homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other institutions devoted to helping the less fortunate among us that could use your assistance on this day especially. Not everyone is blessed to be able to spend the entire day cooking, eating, attending parades, talking or watching football. Some folks are trying to decide where they can sleep, how to stay warm or if they will be able to eat. So if you have some time or resources and no family to spend them on today keep in mind there are numerous people who would be delighted to have your help. In any event everyone here at The Urban Politico hopes you have a great day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke Kills Laquan McDonald

Another day, another black person killed by a cop. Based on past experiences there will almost surely be brain dead trolls popping up like mushrooms across social media who will start bleating "what about black-on-black violence" or claim that unless we are law enforcement officials ourselves that we can never really walk in an officer's shoes and thus have no right to judge. Both of those things are stupid deflections. But just for the record, the black criminals who mostly kill other black people and occasionally kill white people, are usually promptly arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. They don't have (nor should they have) aggressive unions defending them, bosses who will lose evidence, prosecutors who will delay charging them and a friendly media and supportive public (jury pool) who will often frame the worst actions in the most benign light possible. And to the second common deflection, of course police have the right to self-defense and to use deadly force to protect others. No one questions that. If someone is stupid enough to attack a police officer who is acting within the law and gets themselves shot for their trouble you won't find me shedding many tears. No. And whether they like it or not, police officers are indeed not above the law. When they do wrong they should be held to account just like everyone else. Our society can't or rather shouldn't function with a caste of people who can kill at will with no repercussions or consequences. The problem here is that American police officers are overly aggressive towards black people, regardless of whether said black people are committing crimes or not. And when force is used against a black person, it's often considered to be justified, regardless of the actual facts of the case. Cops are very quick to use force against black people, no matter if there is an objective threat or not. Tennis players minding their own business get tackled. Recalcitrant children are slammed to the ground or dragged across classrooms. Men allegedly selling tax free cigarettes are choked to death. Someone driving without a license who might owe child support is shot in the back. Blackness in and of itself seems to justify the force. We've seen this over and over and over again. The most recent example, or rather the example that we just found out about occurred in Chicago in 2014, where CPD officer Jason Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald. He shot him sixteen times. He shot him when McDonald was on the ground. According to details of the charges released in bond court Tuesday, Van Dyke was less than an hour into his overnight shift on the night of the shooting when a call came over the police radio at 9:47 p.m. of a citizen holding McDonald after he had been caught breaking into trucks and stealing radios in a parking lot near 41st Street and Kildare Avenue. Another unit responded first and said over the radio that McDonald was walking away with a knife in his hand, Assistant State’s Attorney William Delaney said. At 9:56 p.m., a beat car reported that McDonald had “popped the tire on their squad car,” Delaney said.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Reviews: The Grey King

The Grey King
by Susan Cooper
This book was a gift from my maternal aunt all those years ago. It's something I like to pull out and re-read or just skim from time to time. It always brings back good memories of Washington D.C and North Carolina and other southern places. It's funny how gifts can become associated with particular times and places. Anyway, nostalgia aside this book holds up and then some to the fantasy series of today. Like the best books which are aimed at children, this book can be understood at different levels by children and adults. Cooper didn't write down to children nor did she dumb stuff down. 

To be fair this book is probably aimed at older children. Although obviously children wouldn't always understand or relate to many of the sexual or violent urges that lay behind a culture's unifying myths, children certainly understand jealousy, fair play, betrayal and meanness. And all of those things are on display in The Grey King

The Grey King is the fourth of Cooper's five book series, The Dark Is Rising. I believe I read one of the earlier entries in the series. One day I will need to go back and read the series from start to end. But The Grey King stands alone. It helps to have read one of the previous stories but it's not necessary. As you can no doubt guess from the title of this series this is about, what else, the epic battle between Good and Evil (Light and Dark) for all the marbles, life, the universe and everything. 

What makes this book interesting among other characteristics is that, much like F. Paul Wilson does in his Repairman Jack series, Cooper posits a good that at its core is something which is beyond human capacity to understand or accept. 

After all if you are concerned with the entire universe, whether one human finds love, lives or dies is perhaps not of much import. As one character says: "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law or the white burning of the sun. Other things, like humanity and mercy and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh sometimes they are there; often indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good , ahead of all else. You are like fanatics. Your masters, at any rate. Like the old Crusaders--oh, like certain groups in every belief, though this is not a matter of religion, of course. At the centre of the Light there is a cold white flame, just as at the centre of the Dark there is a great black pit bottomless as the Universe."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Twerking, Sexual Assault, and Double Standards

We've previously discussed the differences between men and women insofar as who's more likely to initiate declarations of sexual interest (men) and who's more likely to reject them or become offended that someone said something offcolor (women). I believe that these tendencies are virtually hard coded between the genders though obviously there are coy men who play hard to get and aggressive women who demand immediate no strings attached sex. But generally men initiate (often after a woman sends a signal) and then women respond. I think that's just the way humans are made. Obviously each culture regulates this dance of life differently.  Some men get in trouble by misreading signals that were meant for someone else or seeing signals that weren't even there.  Serious protocol violations can lead to verbal/physical conflict, police involvement or worse. On the flip side some cultures attempt control over all expressions of a woman's sexuality to the point that her travel is restricted. And in some areas an accusation that a woman was speaking to a man who is not her husband or relative can have very negative results. We generally give negative attention to men in public spaces who shout out double entendre salutations or ruder statements to women. In some quarters this is called "street harassment". Men who do this rarely seem to achieve their desired result though as with lottery winners there's no doubt someone out there who has hit the jackpot. Most women seem to dislike this verbal attention though paradoxically some women who complain about it the most also complain when they no longer receive it. Whatever. Everyone's different. Although reasonable people can disagree about the timing and propriety of approaching a woman on the street, no one could disagree that putting hands (or other body parts) on someone without her permission is grounds for assault charges. It's just not something you do. Well the door swings both ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris, Terrorism and Politics

On Friday the 13th the group ISIS attacked a concert hall and stadium in Paris because well that's what they do. Over one hundred people died. Many more were wounded. The proximate cause was retaliation for France's support of the bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Syria. The deeper cause could be revenge for a long history of Western intervention in the region. And the deepest cause of all could be, well that the sorts of people who attack civilian targets are cowards and a$$holes. Today France struck back on the ground.The button men are all over the street looking for anyone and everyone who had something to do with the attacks. With few exceptions, these attacks will just make most people even stronger in their previously held convictions. People across the political spectrum immediately used 11-13 to demonize their political opponents or argue that events proved their pet political theory correct. If you are on the right these attacks may have strengthened your conviction that immigration or refugee movement (particularly of racially, culturally or religiously disparate people) needs to be slowed, halted or reversed. Unlike the United States, which theoretically has no formal or informal link between race, religion, ethnicity and citizenship, many other nations in the Old World, especially in Europe, are more or less ethnic homelands of very long standing. When you say that someone is French or German or Japanese that usually brings up a different image in your mind than to say someone is American. This has changed in Europe, particularly Western Europe after WW2, but there are plenty of shall we say self-proclaimed "indigenous Europeans" who strongly dislike these changes. That at least some of the people who carried out the attacks were apparently European nationals of non-European origin will give fuel to various political parties across Europe who want to stop any further demographic transformation. Many people who will vote for a LePen or a Orban are stone cold racists. Nevertheless just as the US didn't accept massive immigration from Germany during WW2, there just might be something to be said for not accepting immigration from countries you're currently bombing. Because some of those folks will surely hold grudges. The fact that some of these grudges are beyond ridiculous (the people who carried out the Madrid bombings were still po'd about the Reconquista) doesn't matter.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Reviews: Devil Dog, The Wheelman

Devil Dog
by David Talbot
The United States was created in a revolution against monarchy. So there is a long standing anti-authoritarian and anti-colonialist streak that runs weakly or strongly through huge portions of the American body politic. On the other hand many of the people who led the revolt against monarchy were slaveowning traditionalists who had no problem with colonialism and hierarchies based on race, class and other immutable characteristics. They were, even while piously making universalist claims about human rights and morality in their revolt against the British throne, eagerly engaged in exterminating or expelling the indigenous peoples in what would become the United States. And of course they wanted the ability to put down slave revolts or revolts of poor whites who got too uppity. (Shay's Rebellion/Whiskey Rebellion) To do this Americans also needed an appeal to authority, a glorification of militarism, aggressive policing, and a strong central government. So these two different streaks are both old and equal portions of the general American character. They aren't going away anytime soon. They are us. One man who may have embodied them both in equal measure at different times was Marine Major General Smedley Butler. Although a Quaker by upbringing, Butler was certainly no pacifist in his youth. He received multiple medals throughout his long military career, leading from the front long after his growing rank should have foreclosed such possibilities. He was in his early days by our current standards a racist man of the Right. Butler was best known for revealing a plot by business interests to overthrow President FDR. Devil Dog is not quite a graphic novel though it makes use of some lurid illustrations more typically associated with that genre. The book also utilizes historical photographs and primary source documentation to tell the story of Butler's life.  Butler had a front row seat to much of the imperialist wars and interventions that the United States fought. Butler gradually moved from someone who followed orders without question to someone who was disgusted with doing the bidding of the not so hidden big business interests. He became a man of the Left. Butler made this abundantly clear in the most famous quote from his book War is a Racket writing:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

#BlackOnCampus: Mizzou, PWIs, HBCUs & The Black Experience

This week we've learned several lessons from the students on the campus of the University of Missouri, Columbia. These key lessons are that 1. Racism is still alive. 2. Black people are still threatened by white people when seeking a better education and future for themselves. 3. Money talks and bull$#!& walks.

The events at Mizzou last week and this week that culminated with the University President and Chancellor resigning their posts have raised many debates about race in America. One in particular has pitted Black scholars against one another. Why do Black students go to PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions) when they can go to an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) instead. Scrolling through my Facebook timeline this afternoon I came across this post:

"Lemme get this straight, black students go to PWI. They're discriminated against and deal with racism. They boycott and protest to enrich and be accepted in white space, meanwhile it's an HBCU down the road struggling to stay open because the lack of black students enrolling... go where you are celebrated. Not tolerated."

I understand this logic but I also find it problematic, not only because I attended a PWI further south than Mizzou, but also because the world is not a place where self-segregation works to the advantage of Black people.

Monday, November 9, 2015

University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe Resigns

Today, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe announced that he would resign.  For those of you not familiar with Tim Wolfe, recently he has been in hot water because students felt he had been complacent in responding to incidents of racism on the campus.
             Students of color at Mizzou, the nick name for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) power house, had determined that enough was enough and they drew the line in the sand in response to Wolfe’s inaction regarding racial incidents at the school.  Some of the recent incidents were: a drunken student shouted the “N” word at members of a black student organization, someone used human feces and drew a swastika on a dorm wall, and people in a pickup shouted racial slurs at the black student government president.   According to the students, Wolfe only gave lip service and did not offer new policies or steps to fix the problem.  This did not quell the students and they wanted him out.

Personally, I am proud to see these young people take civil action and oust the university president.  These kids took serious action to voice their concerns.  Some of them surrounded the president’s vehicle during the homecoming parade and students of color on Missouri’s football team stated that they would not participate in football related activities until Wolfe resigned.  Additionally, one student went on a hunger strike and said he would not eat until Wolfe resigned.   The students’ actions sent a message that black issues matter.  The University of Missouri was forced to listen.  Well done.   See the CNN video report below.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Movie Reviews: Ex Machina, Welcome to Collinwood

Ex Machina
directed by Alex Garland
This futuristic science fiction film was very well grounded in both the science and the moral questions that scientific advances raise. Unlike many speculative fiction stories Ex Machina was relatively quiet and didn't spend a lot of time invoking violence or showing off special effects. When it did get to those filmic aspects the movie was that much more impressive for doing so at its own leisurely pace. So if you're looking for something with a tremendous amount of nudity or stylized violence this is simply not that film. That stuff is there but only briefly. Long portions of this film are just two people talking. And talking some more. In many aspects this film reminded me of Splice. It also had some very obvious ancestors in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep/Bladerunner and Pgymalion. There might even be a few feminist or depending on how you look at it anti-feminist themes which are explored. Where does our morality come from? Well everyone has different ideas about that based on their religion or lack thereof, internal ethics and philosophy and culture. But most people would agree that the arc of history in what is called the West at least, has generally seen moral considerations extended to more and more out-groups. Or to put it another way, our sense of who deserves moral treatment, who is us, in other words becomes more sensitive over time. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion and sexuality are all important identifiers but with few exceptions most people today agree that those should not impact our moral relation to each other. That doesn't necessarily mean we pretend they don't exist, although there's obvious disagreement on that front. No, all that means is that you can no longer openly treat someone as less than or commit crimes against them and be blissfully untroubled by your actions because of their difference. Obviously not everyone has gotten the memo on this but many people at least give lip service to this idea. And that is quite different from the moral standards of say a century ago or even fifty years ago.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Republican Debate Demands

It is surreal that the Republican party, the political party that likes to posit itself as the implacable foe of political correctness and trigger warnings, the party that likes to claim the mantle of tell it like it is muscular masculinity and heterosexual he-man heroics, is wilting like the proverbial pansy in the face of a few tough or mildly irreverent questions from some debate moderators. The same people who were seemingly on the verge of physical release before grilling Hilary Clinton about Benghazi, her email server and anything else for eleven hours can't handle two plus hours of debate questions. They feel that the questions are biased or unfair. They want greater control over the questions, the tone, the time, the format, and oh yes, the thermostat. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Someone asked me tough questions! Mommy make them stop!! Make them stop! It hurts so bad!! It's not fair!
Watching this is like watching Tombstone and instead of seeing Kurt Russell's Sheriff Wyatt Earp tell his enemies that he's coming and hell's coming with him, we see Sheriff Earp curl up in a fetal position with some soy latte and mumble that he's written a very curt letter to the proper authorities about all the mean things those bad men did.They'll be sorry. Pajama Boy Earp complained about them. This is just pathetic. I thought the Republicans were supposed to be the tough guys? They were supposed to be the ones who stood up and showed the rest of us how to live up to the American ideal of heroic individualism. I know that Trump doesn't like to spend a lot of time doing anything where he's not the center of attention. Bush is desperate to have any positive coverage. Carson probably would rather be sleeping than at a debate. But that doesn't mean that they or other candidates should be telling the media how to do its job by sending out the list of below demands and requirements.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Spike Lee Ready to Release Chi-Raq

Overnight the newest Spike Lee Joint trailer hit the interwebs. Chi-raq. The movie stirred up controversy over the summer while it was shooting in the windy city, because of course CPD and Rahm-bo weren't down with the negative portrayal of their city. However, the negativity in the movie only mirrors the violent headlines coming out of Chicago on what seems like a daily basis.

The latest headline out of Chicago causing all types of gasps, and pearl clutching, and "pray for this baby/pray for our babies" statuses on Facebook, Twitter and the 'Gram are over a 9-year-old boy who was shot several times at close range. Tyshawn Lee was executed on the South Side city streets near his grandmother's home in retaliation for gang violence allegedly involving his father.

There is not a week that goes by that this South Side of Chicago native does not see the headlines from her home town and shake her head at the computer screen. But there will be no protests for Tyshawn. Just as there were no protests for the countless other children killed in Chicago over gang violence that didn't involve them. But maybe this movie will be the protest for Derrion Albert, or Hadiya Pendleton, and the other children from infants to 18 of whom I can't remember their names because there are so many. Maybe this movie will finally tell their story through the tale of Lysistrata.