Kristen Bell as Mary Poppins on Minimum Wage

Posted by Jim Newman on August 16th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Economy

kristen-bell-mary-poppinsSoraya Chemaly passed this on in Twitter and I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair. I was watching it again later that night when my spouse came to bed and exhausted from a new school year laughed along. High praise indeed. If I had a decent memory I’d memorize it and sing it at parties. I think we have a new word, supercalifragilisticalibullshit.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Ferguson, a Different Day

Posted by Jim Newman on August 15th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in politics

ferguson highway patrolIt took a crazy week of photo’s, tweets, and ground-up response to get people to realize the situation, and create response to it. The result was the county police were replaced by the highway patrol (typically better trained); the military and police weapons were left in their lockers; and an ad hoc person-of-color police chief walked with the protestors.

Witnesses described how the entire attitude changed from rage, fear, and loathing to a block-party atmosphere where people were taking selflies with cops and the police looked relaxed and even participatory in their fulfillment to allow people to protest peacefully.

With at least three most-likely unjustified killings of people in a week this was a welcome change. Those of us who followed along on social media could finally sleep. Was my rest justified? I am not sure. Will this create change or be lost?

Racism is so systemic it’s hard to acknowledge baby steps as useful. I have to be grateful for what does happen to the positive? I have to replace my cynicism that it was peaceful because citizens were near ecstatic to be free from teargas and tanks coming their way they’d just about do anything? I have to think that community organization, peacemaking skills, and activities of respect and care were genuine, not tactical and temporary?

While libertarians were pathetically silent for a week, when they did finally raise their pundit heads they too spoke against militarization and excessive government interference in protests. Finally, except for those too racist or authoritarian  to care, there was a collective demand for change. The president spoke in whispers but nevertheless expressed his position towards legal, constitutional, and humane ways of dealing with protesting people. People who were justifiably angry at the police recalcitrance to be transparent about their activities, much less show concern to the reaction.

I have written how modern Euro-American slavery and racism were different from the past. In short. Until the advent of colonialism slavery was of conquered people, most often women and children, and not based on color of the skin. The commonality of a Greek or Persian enslaving another person of the same color was more easy to remediate; it still took a coupled thousand of years. No doubt this racism of skin color was very much encouraged (caused?) by the patriarchal, authoritarian, and xenophobic positions of Abrahamic religions. This makes it very difficult to eliminate racism.

But I am getting distracted. What can we learn from this.

Racism is alive and well in America. If you don’t get this… hmm … I am not posting statistics and recounts of extreme and everyday examples. Let Ferguson be the example for now.

Protesting is a positive tradition in America. From the individualist Thoreau’s Conscientious Civil Disobedience, to the union Homestead Steel Strike, to activist Rosa Parks our history is filled with protesting on all levels. Indeed, the very fabric of this began with stealing and tossing tea into the ocean, (an act the Tea party has stolen and misused.)

For those who allow oppressive responses because of looting, remember our country was founded on acts of looting. From John Smith capturing Native Americans to make them provide them food to modern corporations stealing labor value.

Taxation without representation is wrong. The incredible disparity between those who pay taxes and appropriate representation is astounding. What I mean is every political office should have equal representation of taxpayers.

Civil protests are not war. The ease with which humans can turn on each other is astounding. It has been tempting to say this has been for economics but invasions have often occurred for ego, greed, and blind aggression. A civil protest is not an invasion. Protestors are your family, your friends, and your citizens, who seek change, not destruction. We are all equal brothers and sisters in our democracy.

Tear gas, illegal in war, and militarization of the police is not only counterproductive and inhumane, it is illegal–war can only be declared by the president or the congress.

A republic representative represents its constituents. Representatives must be mindful of helping their members understand constitutionality, law, and due process (a triple redundancy.) Local governments follow suit with administration reflecting the demographics of their jurisdiction.

US constitutional democracy protects the rights and participation of the people. Martin Luther King reflected that every refrigerator should display the Bill of Rights. This is the glorious balance against tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the minority. These rights and philosophies insist on equality of representation regardless. The constitution is boring in its detail of voting process to ensure equality. Adjustment has been needed as racism and other inequities have slipped through its cracks. An example of this is gerrymandering where voting districts do not represent the people within.

In Ferguson, there were 53 police, three of whom were people of color. The mayor and police chief were white. Ferguson is 70% people of color, 50% women.

Both Senators are white. One of them is a woman. Missouri is 83% white and 51% female. However, since minority rights are protected and to be represented, even on the state level, concern and even deference must be made to nonwhites. It would seem obvious the goal of  50% of politicians over all levels should be women and one of five nonwhite.

Political education, including gender and minority, is essential. An uninformed public cannot vote effectively. The government cannot demand that all senators and congressmen be 50% women or 12% POC, to reflect demographics, education must inculcate, yes I mean inculcate, the foundational thinking of our governance. It would seem obvious but since it is not there must be education and if necessary adjustments to balance. Equal Opportunity tried to do this, and the Equal Rights Amendment failed for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, equal divisions may not wish to run for office. This is not a wall but an indication of the ongoing need to structure politics and education to ensure representation.

These are political basics. Drilling down to political and human ethics there are several social and psychological processes we can learn from Ferguson.

Use no more police force than necessary. The overwhelming display of power and force by the Ferguson police created a pushback that could not possibly be equal except by theft and violence. Thank goodness more protesters were not armed, or chose to leave them at home. Raising hands was a brilliant display of cool headedness to demonstrate the desire for peaceful protest. If the police had responded likewise Ferguson might have been diffused.

Part of force is psychological. Had the police immediately suspended the offending officer, revealed his name, or admitted they might have done something wrong, or displayed efforts to remediation, the people might have trusted what justice could be done in a still racist society.

Understanding and countering the biases and prejudices in people helps clarify positions and create agreement.

Peacemaking skills are essential to police training and conflict resolution.

At the end of the week what prevented more deaths in Ferguson was the protestors stuck with peacefulness and the police began to use peacemaking skills. That along with a lot of outside pissed people demanding change.

As anger and retaliation escalates the appropriate response is to yield, find common ground, and demonstrate respect and care. The goal always is to lower levels of anger to create paths of communication and empathy both ways, towards change.

While weaponry may be essential it is the absolute last response. A person seeing a weapon aimed at them may see they have nothing left to lose to gain freedom and respond the only way they can, creating harm for themselves and others. Far better to not trap people and provide an exit.

This respect includes the trust that one person is not superior to another. By showing this, people will return respect. Was saving the face of a police officer worth the response? The officer involved expressed regret early on but this was hidden. In restorative justice, versus the too typical punitive justice, immediate communication and action to concern, care, and compassion gains valuable time and immediate response to concerns.

Understanding that long felt prejudices, whether you understand them or not, create hostility and what may seem inappropriate responses, shows willingness to listen and negotiate. Enfranchising people and empowering discourse creates a sense of safety that calms everyone down and allows all to participate.

Understanding that citizens are not trying to destroy their country lends tolerance of protesting and conscientious civil disobedience. The need for change and its expression is not always pleasant. Escalating that to a fear for public safety shutdowns all communication but the expressions of anger and violent demands for change.

Peacemaking skills acknowledge there will be disagreements, strong disagreements, and even, potentially, civil war. Peacemaking skills do not deny the importance of the disagreement and its passion but seek to create an environment of trust and care where both parties can communicate effectively towards a mutual goal or process.

This does not mean whitewashing or shoving issues under the table which can result in even greater pushback. It means providing some immediate satisfaction while working to long term solutions. It means allowing people to express themselves, taking the time to listen.

A common example of this, consider you have a car accident and kill someone. The one side feels you have killed a family member. You may have done it by accident or negligence. The common way is to not communicate and let the police and courts decide. A better way would be to immediately show remorse, empathy, support, and help participate in remediation long before the court dates where rage and defensiveness have festered, often for months, creating an entrenched view that will last a lifetime. Maybe help to pay for the funeral or other expenses. Stay away if that’s requested.

Since this process is difficult without intervention, the police, firemen, and rescue staff must be trained in interpersonal communication and effective negotiation. Community leaders can act as liaisons and facilitators.

That this failed in Ferguson is evidenced by the overwhelming response by many military and policemen that what went down was the worst possible response.

For myself, I am glad more people didn’t die. I encourage all of you to continue to fight racism on all levels, including, at least, everyday actions like eye contact, courtesy, and criticism of racist talk and actions.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

The Varieties of Racism

Posted by Jim Newman on August 14th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Racism

greek-artThe explosive situation in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson cannot but foment discussions of racism, here and in the past. On the one hand they don’t lynch people of color anymore. On the other hand pernicious discrimination is entrenched in our society, balkanizing people of color in ghettos of poverty and isolation.

Thomas Sowell has written the solution to elevating these growing minorities, and sense of entitlement, is to insist that jobs be filled by the most intelligent job candidate. Eventually the demand for educated and trained applicants will raise the entire population. While this would make job hiring more easy, who tested and achieved best and most, it would actually entrench the rest in yet more hopeless despair for quite some time. There is good reason to give those in need a helping hand. A society progresses not by the fastest but by including the most. A mantra of expeditions on all levels is the group moves as fast as its slowest members, regardless of why.

Living in Corpus Christi, Texas when John F Kennedy died raised serious discussions in my world on how to resolve issues of color. There were many who thought interracial marriages would solve the problem as everyone would become mixed, eliminating awkward issues, as well portrayed a few years later, 1967, by Sydney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Discussions of a universal language, for example Esperanto, globalized this feeling to make everyone equal by making everyone too similar to castigate each other, and to eliminate endemic paucities of functional communication.

The difficulty, of course, is people cherish their identity on both local and global levels. The pushback became black pride, origin of birth pride, and origin of ancestry pride; best displayed much later by the TV mini-series “Roots,” where people of African descent could reconnect with their past, and be proud and angry.

The Peculiar Institution of American slavery was quite different than slavery of the past; particularly in the Axes of westernism, Ancient Geek society. The practice of slavery was ubiquitous throughout the known world then. In this sense we can be proud of our own progress as while slavery still exists it is not universal, and all modern societies generally oppose its remnants.

This trajectory to universal emancipation began with the Ancient Greeks. It just took a damned long time to catch on. The biggest difference, often forgotten, is ancient slavery was not based on race. Slavery was not justified based on skin color. In ancient times slavery was an ill that could be conferred to anyone, rich or poor, high or low, local or distant. (see NB below)

War was the biggest cause of slavery. Whatever battles were won allowed the victors to seize those who remained, and force them into unwilling labor, whether leader or commoner.  Women and children were particularly prized after a city was conquered, sacked, and burnt to the ground in many cases.

Heraclitus said “War has made some slaves, others free.” Thucydides describes the Peloponnesian war where Athenians punished the conquered by enslaving women and children. Not pleasant but not based on race. Slavery was a tragedy of the human condition.

The only more modern examples of this were the vast, diverse number of Native Americans where intertribal warfare resulted in the conquered being absconded and forced into tribal affiliation and culture. Daniel Boone describes being captured by the Shawnee for five months and being “adopted” as the son of Chief Black Fish before he could find opportunity to escape. Many narratives of capture-adoption-escape occur in frontier journals. Many note the presence of members of other tribes also begin adopted.

The ubiquitousness of this sentiment, in modern times even, was when Ronald Reagen said the biggest mistake America made was not assimilating Native Americans. He showed too well how displaced Europeans, now Americans, had preferred to isolate people of color. Not that assimilation would have been better, but how people now used skin color to determine who should be separated out.

Unlike most slave farms of recent times, slaves of antiquity might serve, as craftsman, tutors, officers, and administration. Even in Rome the infamous “German” Armenius who as a hostage in Rome was trained in the military, became a Roman citizen, and then became part of the elite Equestrians. He changed his mind and planned the history-changing, Roman massacre at Teutoberg forest, proving that assimilation by force doesn’t always work.

The stoic Epictetus demonstrated how slaves could be educated. In his case to the level of philosopher. Military service might earn freedom, much as Lincoln promised emancipation to slaves who fought for the North. Southern slave owners would no more arm their slaves than allow women to vote.

Aristophanes in the “Frogs” praises the value of emancipation and enfranchisement (rather than assimilation). Slaves could buy their freedom. Free slaves did not bear the stigma of being an exslave. It wasn’t all roses but it was only found elsewhere in rare Islamic cultures where captured citizens had a kind of freedom to exist within, though taxed differently. Indeed, in Ancient Greece former masters were responsible for freedmen and it was their responsibility to prevent them from being reenslaved. Eventually, their descendants became unrecognizable from other citizens.

An ancestor of mine, Sarah Watkins, was arrested for possible sexual relations (partying) with a black “servant.” Southerners could never tolerate interracial sex, or fraternization, though some masters raped in secret when they felt the want (notably Jefferson). Euripides in “Women at Thesmophoria” has Mnesilochus remind women of their possible recourse to sex with slaves. Herodus describes a women’s anger when her slave-lover decides to sleep with another slave. It was not the slavery that was in question but the loyalty. Her ruthless anger at this transgression is unnerving to modern sensibilities though.

Many slaves were treated horribly as labor in agriculture and mining. The industrial revolution really did help with eliminating this (Schopenhauer notes the benefits of railroads eliminating the abuse of horses as well.) Yet, for example of the mundane difficulty of life, Roman soldiers bore 70 lbs of armor and 40 lbs of personal effects when they marched. Stoic sorts of philosophies are indeed reactions to suffering through the difficulties of life for many. Even Epicureanism is distant from its modern notion, emphasizing restraint and moderation.

It’s really when the Greeks began to fight other Greeks, in the Peloponnesian war, that slavery began to lose its gloss, and you begin to see more empathy.

Yet. Plato and Aristotle both endorsed slavery and considered them lessor beings in reasoning. Their point was not based on race but that people deficient of reasoning made them suitable to be slaves, supervision required. Not so different than the modern conservative idea that people of lower intelligence are not worthy of many sorts of jobs; a built in channel to the service industry, and being grateful for any job. Aristotle in the “Politics” admits the schizophrenia of this issue of “natural” slaves when he says captives should not necessarily be slaves. In all cases these exclusions are based on the ability to reason and not skin color. An odd sort of intellectual elitism that will create backlash against reason. The presence of schools and exceptions does show they thought reasoning could be taught, but not bought as in the sophists. You can’t change skin color.

Indeed, it is hard to blame Plato because his insistence on reason as the most valuable human asset led him to demand a philosopher king and also to castigate music and the arts as a vicious distraction or contaminate of reason. Frankly, this attitude still exists today in the idiotic polarization of emotions versus reason. It really was not until modern behavioral economics defined heuristic biases that reasoning was proven to be “naturally” fallible.

Seneca states best this changing and maturing attitude.

“Remember, if you please, that the man you call a slave sprang from the same seed, enjoys the same daylight, breathes like you, lives like you, dies like you. You can easily conceive him a free man as he can conceive you a slave.”

If subsequent generations had followed this plea to empathy and equality things might have been quite different in Ferguson this week.

NB, Much of this was cherry-picked, and then verified,  from Bruce Thornton’s “Greek Ways.”

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

The Grand, New, American Police State

Posted by Jim Newman on August 13th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in politics

riot_policeIn case you wondered how the police got militarized, they didn’t ask the people if they wanted it. They took Homeland Security and other terrorist-war funds, and bipartisan fear, as permission to arm themselves for war at home. Vets have commented the police are now better armed than they were in Iraq or Afghanistan. Now, instead of selling our weapons to other allies or hopeful allies, they just send them home. Wonder what will happen when an open-carry advocate becomes president and decides to wear a weapon to press club?

Do you feel safe? Safe from whom? This is a protestor not a terrorist!

War-Zone-Ferguson

 

This should help.

police militarization

They used to show up at your door like the left. Now they check for liquor licenses like the right.

PoliceMilitarization

I feel really safe now.

law-enforcement-gone-wild

 

You think we would have figured it out from the Occupy protest. The police did not prosecute most protestors but put them on probation with automatic jail time if they protested again. It made the police look better but ensured protestors would not chance protesting again.

lapd-occupy

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

The Three Myths: PostSexism, PostRacism & PostPoverty

Posted by Jim Newman on August 12th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in politics

fergusonThe desire to consider humanity has progressed feeds a blindness to issues remaining. Worse, this blindness makes people halt what progress there has been to a stasis of status quo complacency. If we are going to continue progress to allow freedom, equality, and food for all, we’re going to have to admit improvement can still be made; not spend our time talking about how worse it used to be to justify current ills.

Postsexism is the idea that things are pretty much better for both genders; we have eliminated the big issues with gender. Now that women can vote, get a credit card without a husband’s signature, and maybe even run for president things seem so much better. Now that men can be Mr Mommy, work fewer hours away from home, and share combat duty with women, things seem less male oriented.

The problem is this is like baking a cake halfway, maybe a quarter, and saying it’s done. In blind obliviousness we see the liquid mix and switch to a spoon as if it were the natural way to eat cake. Women having children really does break up a career flow and selfjustifies companies seeking unattached men, women, whether married or not. Men really do want to work excessively and competitively in order to make more money and gain fame. Women competing for this are still held accountable for their body and gender issues that could be overcome to the benefit of all.

Women need to toughen their skin and be ready for anything just as men used to in those rough and tumble times of the Old West when even a farmer was supposed to carry a rifle in the fields, and women shouldn’t open the door to a stranger. We lock our cars so they won’t get stolen, why not make women dress less provocatively to prevent assault, or keep them out of view like the jewel in the safe? Men are naturally aggressive to deal with the horrors of war, and this must be allowed during peace or they lose the easy ability to bloodlust; why make pacifists when there will be war?

This genderism runs so deep that some feminists, young and old, spend horrendous amounts of time discussing whether a trangender person is appropriating the female body, and most stupidly which bathroom should they use. We are so progressive we can’t even get over the viewing of another’s body.

It all sounds ridiculous when phrased this way but when you look at the current statistics of gender inequality, inherent male-centeredness, and the constant lack of equal numbers, this parody of current equality and destruction of male rule is hollow. We really have a long way to go.  That we don’t beat women in public or empower men to beat women in public, to show they have authority, is no excuse to say we’ve made it, and dismiss those who insist there must be more.

With a POC president we must have entered postracism? There are so many more POC in the country their mere presence makes it seem like they have power. Yet, a POC president doesn’t mean a huge group of people don’t wish him dead or call him mongrel with sincerity; a president who has received more death threats than any other; who has had to supress press attendance to avoid constant atopical attack.

The recent murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson shows how well the police have learned from race riots of the past. Trained by the military, weaponized by the military, and loaded with the fear of terrorism, police now are para commandos, dropping in from nowhere and treating everyone like an embedded terrorist. Terrorists have no rights and are not entitled to due process. The fear of terrorists causes us to suspect everyone as a mole or possible insurgent. We cannot even let our kids play in the streets anymore. Mothers who leave kids in a park are arrested for negligence. If this isn’t a hidden and tolerated police state what is?

With only 3 of 53 police being black in Ferguson you would hope Americans would remember the American mantra of “no taxation without representation” as it applies to societal involvement. Yeah, Ferguson with 70% POC and a white mayor and police chief.

POC get it the worst. Postcivil war sentimentality and angst justifies a blind anger at both the North and POC. The so called flooding of border crossings lends the aura of being attacked by another welfare-ready group of dependents. Never mind that immigrants tend to be more productive than natives; never mind that we have often opened and closed the borders in a whimsical tumult of desire and discard for decades.

How easy to blame women and POC for not leaning in, not having grit, and guilty of behavioral entitlement. Just look, the performance isn’t there. If this poor black person can make it so can everyone. The “can do” motivation of optimist bias helps and hinders. It encourages those who want a push but it blames those who can’t benefit from mind warp. A white man or woman with grit who leans in is going to have a far better chance of success because of the situation and not because he or she has better motivation. Emphasizing the opposite anchors the debate in politics of gumption where the individual is at fault for lack of success.

My daughter is watching “Ella Enchanted” now. Supposedly a good movie with social commentary on the idea of women and obedience that can be extrapolated to all of us, if we are imaginative. Yet, the evil one who places a curse on her is a POC woman, the only POC in the movie. These subtle (not so subtle) messages reinforce racism in deep ways that few can express as source when confronted.

Postpoverty advocates state we are so wealthy now no one dies from starvation. Poor kids wear $300 sneakers and bright bling. Almost every home has a TV–with its constant messaging of buy more. Welfare means they won’t starve. That no one sees this as the opposite shows how we have hidden the ugly realities from view. Vagrancy laws, loitering laws, and constant harassment for minor public infringements ensure that we don’t see how people really live. People look at children in India remarking how clever they are to mine junk heaps and repurpose crap as if it were something to emulate here, not realizing it is totally illegal and is enforced here.

We don’t want to see the poor on the street. It leads to more crime and makes us look bad. If we allowed open begging, sleeping, and residence on the streets we too would look more honest. Getting the ugly out of sight makes it so much nicer for those who have it. Using the rubric of safety makes it common sense, sufficient and necessary.

The largest disparity of income in history seems to create a sense of awe and desire rather than a deep distaste for unfairness. The poor blames themselves for not making it. They want the dream of wishing to win the capitalist lottery rather than dealing with their near permanent entrenchment and disability to change it. Tearing down the wealthy feels like eliminating the road to wealth. The poor fight back on the trivial front of saying they should have the freedom to work for $5 an hour if they chose, as if it were some basic freedom that would allow them to rise out of poverty.

That the rich think they are entitled to all funds capitalized off the backs of the many shows a far deeper entitlement than the so called lackadaisical attitude of those who really can’t get more without assistance, and soon get used to it because there are no opportunities on the horizon. There must be more.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Posting Blues, All-Consuming, Farm-Construction Life

Posted by Jim Newman on July 16th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Uncategorized

It’s been 8 days since my last post. Work this time of year on a farm and in construction, and when  the bills surpass the income, means I work every day, dark to dark, without weekends. In the midst of this we got a mixed-lucky-break. A two-week, made-four-years-ago-contract, as part of short-sale-deal-vacation on a barrier island off the coast of Florida that if we don’t take we pretty much lose forever–and it’s during hurricane season. Which means I have to make up for that lost income while paying for trip expenses if I am also to cover August expenses. Yikes. We need vacation in winter when work is slow but then everyone is in school. There was a reason school was out during summer for the many farm families when every hand of all ages was valued and useful.

Another worst for us is walking away from garden for such long time just as it comes into prime; we need every bit of it to preserve for winter and save on food bills now.

Hell, I’m glad for a break to just write this. When you’re working full blast there’s no time for 140-character tweets even much less read a time-line. This life style was typical until unions.

So I hope to be back in a couple of days so please stay tuned.

Jim n