Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Feature, not a Bug

The battle over NC HB-2 continues. This week some 40 pastors took public stands in favor of the bill, and one of the original Greensboro Sit-in participants said he didn't get arrested for "those people." If you look carefully into the far mists you can just make out the Kochs, driving the wedge deeper and deeper. One aspect of the bill hasn't been mentioned much (because so much is so evil about it): the rank paternalism of our elected representatives here in NC. This has been remedied:

Dear Creepy Heterosexual Men Guarding Our Bathrooms
Heather Lynn·Thursday, May 19, 2016, facebook

From Reddit, By Kasey Rose-Hodge

Dear creepy heterosexual men guarding our bathrooms,
My entire life, I've been told to fear you in one way or another. I've been told to cover my body as to not distract you in school, to cover my body to help avoid unwanted advances or comments, to cover my body as to not tempt you to sexually assault me, to reject your unwanted advances politely as to not anger you. I've been taught to never walk alone at night, to hold my keys in my fist while walking in parking lots, to check the backseat of my car, to not drink too much because you might take advantage of me. I've been told what I should and shouldn't do with my body as to not jeopardize my relationships with you.

I've been warned not to emasculate you, to let "boys be boys", to protect your fragile ego and to not tread on your even more fragile masculinity. I've been taught to keep my emotions in check, to let you be the unit of measure for how much emotion is appropriate and to adjust my emotions accordingly. I've been taught that you're allowed to categorize women into mothers/sisters/girlfriends/wives/daughters but any woman outside of your protected categories is fair game.

So to those of you who think you're being helpful by "protecting" me and my fellow women, you're like a shark sitting in the Lifeguard chair. I wasn't uncomfortable until you showed up at the pool and the only potential predator I see is you.

Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters don't need you to walk them to the bathroom for safety. Your fathers, brothers, friends and sons need to walk themselves away from their own double standards. Women are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on school campuses, on the street, at their jobs, on the Internet, in their own homes, in ANY public place. And it has been excused or ignored for so long because of what you and I are taught from the first years of our interactions with each other: You, as a male, are not accountable for your own actions. It's MY responsibility, as a female, to not "provoke" you. But then you get to Knight-In-Shining-Armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren't you outraged every single day?

If you're telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a "loop hole" to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms. The first problem would be your apparent lack of knowledge of how often it happens OUTSIDE of bathrooms, with no "loop holes" needed. This isn't about Transgender bathroom access. This is about you not trusting the boys and men in your communities and/or fearing that they're all secretly predators. Why do you have this fear? How many fathers have panicked when their daughters started dating because they "know how teenaged boys can be because they used to be one"? How many times have girls been warned "boys are only after one thing"? A mother can bring her young son into the women's restroom and that's fine but a father bringing his young daughter into the men's restroom is disturbing because men are assumed to be predators and "little girls" shouldn't be exposed to that.

So instead of picking up your sword and heading to Target or the girls' locker room to defend our "rights", why don't you start somewhere that could actually make a difference? Challenge your children's schools to end sexist dress codes and dress codes that sexualize girls as young as age 5. Advocate for proper (or any) sex education classes in all public schools by a certain grade level. Focus more on teaching your sons not to rape vs teaching your daughters how to avoid being raped. Stop asking "How would you feel if that was your mother or sister?" It shouldn't take the comparison to clue you in to what's right or wrong. Question why you're more worried about your daughter being around men than your son being around women in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Stop walking by Victoria's Secret with no problem but covering your son's eyes if a woman is breastfeeding in public. Stop treating your daughter's body as some fortress you're sworn to protect as if that's all she's got to offer the world.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One of Those 6 Degree Things

[Photo by Chris Felver/Getty Images]

One of the last gigs I played with the Red Clay Ramblers was down in Wilmington, NC, at the branch of UNC they got there. We opened for Emmylou Harris, which we all felt was a pretty big deal. We played well, her show was excellent. This was back when Rodney Crowell was in her band. A long time later on I studied up on Townes Van Zandt, and like anybody with brains I was blown away by how good a writer he was. In the process of reading about him I realized that I'd seen him once, at a little joint out at the edge of Chapel Hill called the Star Point. I think he might have been pretty wasted, and I might have actually walked out on the show. I've seen film of him at a place we played quite a bit, the Down Home Pickin' Parlor in Johnson City, TN. He was sure drunk that show. The big break he got was Hag and Nelson covering "Pancho and Lefty," which is one of a whole lot of great songs he wrote. He'd introduce "Pancho and Lefty" by saying, "now here's a medley of my hit."

One of Townes great friends was Guy Clark. There's some good film of Guy talking about Townes, in a very good documentary about Townes' too short life. Another musician we ran into off and on back in the road days was Jay Unger. He's a terrific fiddler, and I'd lobbied for him to replace me in the Ramblers when I left, in '81. Nothing against the guy who ended up with the job, Clay Buckner. He's done a real good job riding the rails with the "Blurs, Inc." I never met Guy. Wish I had.

I read just a little while ago that Guy Clark has died. Lawyers Guns and Money blog was on the story immediately, and posted a video of Clark playing "The Randall Knife." I went over to youtube and found this one--a duet with Emmylou, plus Jay Unger playing fiddle. The song is "about" Rodney Crowell's father. These guys are dropping like flies this year.

For more:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tonya Harding For Veep

Ms Jones has come out for Mr. Trump. Ms Harding can take both Ms Jones and Mr. Trump. Easily. What a debate it would be.

The bout is worth watching a few times. It shows something about Ms Jones character. The poor lady can't help but be a victim. Consider that she and Harding are wearing all sorts of protective gear. This isn't like a Rousey fight. It's true that Harding is surely more fit, and as a trained Olympic athlete has a much more powerful will to win. You can see at the start of the third round that Harding is almost apologizing, for a second. There's a little shrug when she looks at Jones. "It's my job," she's suggesting, "not personal." Jones, on the other hand, is incapable of standing up to Harding's attack. Over and over, one punch and she turns away and runs, or hides behind the referee. It reminds me of the time I took lessons in uprighting a sea kayak from inside the boat. You had to turn over, then spin yourself upright again. In the process you had to be upside down, underwater, with a boat attached to your ass. I could never do it, and I knew full well that it was a terrific life-saving skill I needed if I was going to venture out in big water around Ocracoke Island. When I went under I immediately exited the boat. It was not exactly a conscious decision. It was immediate fear driving me.

This is what we're watching in Paula Jones' responses to Harding's attacks. Every time, she can't help herself. Fear wins. She can't help herself.

Now what's the implication of that? Well for one thing, it makes President Bill Clinton's advances much more in the vein of an imbalance of power situation. And here's the facts, from the Washington Post:

President Clinton reached an out-of-court settlement with Paula Jones yesterday, agreeing to pay her $850,000 to drop the sexual harassment lawsuit that led to the worst political crisis of his career and only the third presidential impeachment inquiry in American history. [Peter Baker, 11/14/98, WaPo]

It's not an argument for Trump, by the way, just for clarity. A whole lot of lies were generated and published about the Clintons, while they were in office. Like the bank speaking fees, the settlement isn't a lie.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

One of the best blogs I've found is called Gin and Tacos, written by a political scientist professor. Here's what he said recently about Trump:

The most incredible thing about the Trump campaign from an academic / political science perspective is that we have the rare opportunity to observe a major party campaign with no ideological content whatsoever. There is no coherence to anything about Trump, policy-wise, and this reflects his supporters' similar lack of meaningful ideology. On what rare occasions that he does put forth an actual idea it 1) makes no sense and 2) bears no identifiable relationship to any other idea he mentioned before or since. It is the definition of random. His appeal, in the eyes of his supporters, is that he is Tough or Bold or some personal characteristic that one could only get from watching and listening to Trump if one does not understand what anything in the realm of ideas in American politics actually means. Moreover, one must explicitly not care what any of it means.

For example, Trump recently stated that his bold plan for dealing with the national debt was that, as a brilliant negotiator, he would convince holders of Treasury obligations to take a haircut – in other words, to accept fifty cents on the dollar or something like that, as a bankruptcy court might force creditors to do during a liquidation or reorganization. This is almost too stupid to bother explaining why it is stupid, as though the Treasury of the largest economy on the planet is no different than a failing casino trying to talk down its debts to a bunch of Mustache Petes who put up the initial investment. It is such a stupid idea that it falls short of qualifying as an idea; it's the kind of thing someone who has absolutely no idea how anything related to the economy works would think is a really brilliant solution.

The problem, from Trump's perspective, is that there simply aren't enough such people in the electorate. Converse estimated (again, his estimates have been subject to much debate) that no more than 1 in 5 voters fall into this category, and since then most analyses have treated that as incautiously high. If there's one thing academics like more than calling people stupid, it's rationalizing ways that apparently stupid people are actually smart. Regardless, on the rare occasions that Trump says anything policy-related my mind automatically goes to Converse, because nothing he says bears any resemblance to a definable political ideology. And that's what Trump supporters like about it. To them it sounds brilliant, because they don't even understand the issues well enough to understand why his proposals are ridiculous.

Believe it or not, the conclusion per se is optimistic for the survival of the republic. It suggests that there are not enough idiots in the electorate to actually elect Mr. Trump. But in this post Mr. Tacos has not addressed the other factor in this coming election: the credibility of anything at all Mrs. Clinton actually says. We're in the very odd situation of ending up with two candidates who are, neither, credible, although for different reasons. Apparently the big money is going to favor Mrs. Clinton, as it has already in the sense that the big money is willing to pay her half a mil to give a speech of an afternoon. People who already support Mrs. Clinton, and desperately want Mr. Sanders to just STFU and go away, seem to daily find new brightness in her "positions." Today I notice that she's opening the door to an early age medicare opt in, which is a kind of single payer position. Great. Very much fine with me. I can assure you that once you are out of the work force (however that is defined), you are on your fucking own, buddy.

But campaign positions are notoriously ineffable. And Mrs. Clinton (and her husband, the co-President to be) are notoriously ineffable. Nothing in Mrs. Clinton's campaign speech, or in the Democratic Party Platform to be negotiated in July, is law or policy. The Clintons, throughout their long career in politics, have always been willing to sacrifice principle when it was politically expedient. There was a retarded man executed in Arkansas during the campaign of '92 solely to inoculate Bill and Hil from the charge that they might be somehow "soft" on the death penalty. This poor victim of the Clinton ambition told his executioners that he'd like them to save his piece of pecan pie for later, after the execution, because he was full.

Mrs. Clinton will not reduce the value of United States treasuries. That we can be sure of. And that's a plus I think. As far as your social security check? I don't think I'd trust either of them with it if it was already endorsed. What we're watching is the self-destruction of the basic system for finding a President. It's an important job, but one of the parties entrusted to running the machinery now has the official position, held and acted on since Reagan, that government is "the problem." If you start out with a contradiction, it's you who have the serious problem. The other party distrusts democracy more implicitly. My former Governor, Jim Hunt, invented the so-called "super delegate" category in 1982 to protect the Democratic Party from democracy. Back in the middle of 2014 or so, the most powerful faction in the Democratic Party--the Clintons--made sure that the super-delegates were on their side, and that no one of note would run against them. The best Sanders can do is make things look sort of sticky for Mrs. Clinton by managing to win a majority of state primaries. This seems to be happening. If Sanders wins California, he could look a lot like "the popular" choice. But the super-delegates will counteract that illusion, and the Clinton faction will be correct when they say that they are just playing by the rules.

After the election, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton will continue to have the ear of the "job makers," and vice versa. The job makers will continue to live a life of stability. A continuation of the Obama administration, but with a bit more steel where the Middle East is concerned, is likely. Interest rates will remain at or near record lows. There will be ups and downs in the markets. And over where my bronze star holding World War II 92-year-old veteran father-in-law spends his days watching a blur of TV, because his eyes and his mind are both fading away, the minimal attending staff gladly takes up our offer to bring them a Big Mac and a soft-serve hot fudge sundae for their supper. No doubt the corporation that owns his facility and hundreds of other facilities scattered across many states is holding its own on Wall Street. Hey, the attendants have Jobs! And here in NC, the issue of the moment isn't the chronic and on-going erosion of middle class life, it's the idiotic bathroom law which forces people to actually visit the wrong bathroom, while claiming to do the exact opposite. A corollary of Orwell's Law might well be the rise in apoplexy amongst the more cogent and observant class. This, in turn, will slowly raise the percentages of likely Trump voters through attrition. Ultimately, more money will be made. As Bob Dylan said, "I can't help it if I'm lucky." We are indeed in an idiot wind.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Army Hero Dies at 79

Here's the link. I don't think I'm supposed to quote the New Yawk Times without paying them.

Let's note that this "early critic" was absolutely right. He came back from Vietnam, disillusioned, before the Voting Rights Act was passed. The great amnesia and insufferable ignorance under which the United States labors continues. Yet it is possible to find clarity, even when one is actually, as Mr. Duncan was, in the "belly of the beast." The NYT, you'll note, finds that Mr. Duncan was "radicalized." Even now, so long after the war, the paper of record can't manage to admit that he was, very simply, right, when so many were wrong. I guess the Wall Monument sort of does that bit of reporting for them.

General Loan later immigrated to the United States, and, I believe I read in his obit, ran a Chinese restaurant in northern Virginia somewhere or other. His fame via this photo perhaps greased the money skids for him. And he, too, was but a cog in the machinery.

[photo by Eddie Adams]

For more reading, see