Net Neutrality: forcing companies to pay attention to their networks. Ian Bicking: a blog (2010-08-18). I absolutely reject any proposal that Net Neturality ought to be enforced through government regulations; but this is as good a short explanation as I’ve read of why it is a good ideal for us to insist on, non-coercively, as a basic requirement for acceptable service from a network operator. (Linked Wednesday 2010-08-18.)
"Guys in Jail Are Going To Rape You" Radley Balko, The Agitator (2010-08-18).
An undercover New York City cop threatens a man taking cell phone video with arrest for being disrespectful. He then explains that an arrest means a weekend in jail, where he'll probably be raped. The confrontation appears to have occurred during an undercover bust of a suspected "illegal social club,"…(Linked Wednesday 2010-08-18.)
The Contradiction of a Conservative, continued. Sheldon Richman, Free Association (2010-08-18).
News Corp. (Murdoch, WSJ, Fox) gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association because the company “has always believed in the power of free markets and in organizations like the RGA, which have a pro-business agenda….”Not only are those not the same things, they are in conflict with each other….(Linked Friday 2010-08-20.)
ROVE: But look. The Republicans have got three things they need to do strategically and three things they need to do tactically.
Strategically, they better get their act together with an aggressive agenda of reform here at home about the things people are talking around the kitchen table.
What are the Republicans going to do about health care? What are they going to do about providing reliable and affordable energy? What are they going to do about jobs and keeping our economy innovative and competitive, encouraging exports? What are we going to do about helping people grapple with the cost of college education?
We’ve got great answers, Republicans do, on this, but they better get their act together in laying this out in a comprehensive way.
Pappy O’Daniel and his son, Junior O’Daniel, in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000):
Pappy: Languishing! Languishing! Goddamn campaign is languishing! We need a shot in the arm! You hear me boys? In the goddamn arm! If the election held tomorrow, that goddamn Stokes would win it in a walk….
Junior: Well… he’s the re-form candidate, Daddy…
Junior: Well, people like that re-form….
Hey! Maybe we should get us some!
Pappy: I’ll reform you, you soft-headed sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform when we’re the damn incumbent?
There are a couple of different points to make about conservative reactions to the recent story of a government elementary school in Douglas County, Colorado making some accommodations for a transgender girl in the second grade. Both are well illustrated by the ridiculous discussion of the story by professional blowhard Neil Cavuto on Fox News.
The first point to make is about the first-order issue — how to run an elementary school and what to do if a kid who has been living and attending school as a boy decides that she wants to live as a girl instead. As far as this goes, Cavuto’s reaction is based on a tissue of nastiness, nonsense, and a few plain lies. As far as I can tell, for example, the claim that any student other than this little girl will be using unisex bathrooms is simply false — the school will have its normal girls’ and boys’ bathrooms; the girl in question just won’t be forced to use them. The claim that it will cost
millions of dollars also seems to be something that Cavuto just made up out of thin air; the school already has plenty of bathrooms, doesn’t need to build more, and is just reclassifying a couple of already-existing bathrooms — which from the sound of it are probably single-stall rooms in the teacher’s lounge, or something similar — for this girl’s use. More broadly, the entire discussion is premised on the positively bizarre notion that the school should be ragged on for
bending over backwards to suit this girl’s delicate sensibilities, just so long as they don’t follow the Genital Correctness Busybody Blowhard Brigade in deliberately trying to make the kid’s life more unpleasant, e.g. by refusing to call her by her chosen name, or by forcing her to use the boys’ bathroom when she doesn’t want to use it, or by refusing to intervene against bullies as they would with any other child being bullied for any other reason, or by harassing her, punishing her, or throwing her out of school for wearing the
wrong set of clothes. Apparently it’s the acme of liberal hypersensitivity and authoritarian political correctness run amok, and indeed it’s robbing children everywhere of their childhood (!), if you should ever fail to go out of your way to be as obnoxious as possible toward an eight-year-old kid, who never did anything to you, all in the name of heteropatriarchal gender-role social engineering.
The second point to make is about a second-order issue — whether or not the local government in Douglas should be taking a role in promoting one way of running a school or interacting with transgender students over others. Cavuto tries to invoke the issue implicitly by repeatedly referring to
tax dollars, and although his specific claims about
millions of tax dollars are obvious bullshit, there is a legitimate point buried under it. It should not be the local government’s business to promote either a tolerant or a punitive school environment for this kid — because while I think it’s stupid for any school to harass this kid or try to force her into the
right gender identity, I also think that it is tyrannical for any government to force local taxpayers to pay for projects that they personally find abhorrent (whether because they are being forced to pay for violations of their own religious beliefs, or for any other reason). Nor should local parents be forced to enroll their kids in a school that allows openly transgender students to participate in classes. Again, I think that’s a stupid policy to make, but is tyrannical for the government to force parents to put their children in environments that they deeply believe that their children shouldn’t be in.
If we had an argument to the effect that local taxpayers should be able to withhold funding from schools that establish policies they consider wrongheaded, or to the effect that anti-trans local parents should be free to withdraw their kids from this school and make other arrangements (homeschooling, parochial schooling, or whatever), without having to jump the government’s normal punitive bureaucratic hurdles, and without being forced to continue paying for a school that they no longer feel to be fit to educate children, then I would be perfectly willing to take their side on that one — I may disagree with everything that they want to teach kids, but I’ll defend to the death their right to teach it. But, of course, principled small-government conservatives that they are, Cavuto and the rest of the GCBBB are constitutionally incapable of making that kind of second-order argument. Instead, we find a lot of phony-concern hand-wringing from letter writers about local government and school authorities promoting
a lifetime of pain, etc. (As far as I can tell there’s no evidence that the girl is at all confused; she seems to be pretty clear on what she wants. And there’s no reason to believe that her decision to live as a girl
promises a lifetime of pain, unless and except to the extent that other people, i.e. these same busybody blowhards, go out of their way to make it painful. There’s no
promise here; only a threat.) But it is no more the job of government authorities to promote conformity to traditional gender roles and their assignment based on biological sex, than it is their job to promote the opposite; it would be just as immoral as them to force me to pay for harassing and penalizing transgender children who would otherwise be happy as clams until they fit back into their
proper gender, when I consider that abhorrent. Cavuto, meanwhile, shows his principled conservative bona fides by arguing that no matter how many transgender kids there may be in elementary schools,
they are far from the majority. We live in a country where majority rules, which apparently, to his mind, means that when 99% of kids follow traditional gender norms for the sex they were assigned at birth, it must be the government’s job to direct school authorities to treat the remaining 1% like shit, so as to spare the 99% from the terrible confusion of possibly learning something. The majority rules, the minority drools, and if you don’t like it they’ll force you to pay for their Right-wing social engineering anyway. And, oh yes, you will pay.
There’s been a lot of talk about the rioters in France, and a lot of
analysis of why they rioted.
Jocelyn Gecker (2005-11-02), for the Associated Press, reports on the seventh day of rioting.
Experts are said to say that
Islamic radicals seek to recruit disenchanted youths by telling them that France has abandoned them; sociologist Manuel Boucher suggests that
French society is in a bad state … increasingly unequal, increasingly segregated, and increasingly divided along ethnic and racial lines, and that some youths turn to Islam to claim an identity that is not French,
to seize on something which gives them back their individual and collective dignity. Gecker says that
some said that
the unrest — sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers last week — is an expression of frustration over grinding unemployment and police harassment in the communities, and cites direct quotes to that effect from the president of the Clichy-sous-Bois mosque, the Socialist mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, and a 22 year old Moroccan-French resident of Clichy-sous-Bois. On the other hand, there are no direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.
Franck Prevel, reporting for Reuters (2005-11-07), discussed the escalating violence against police. He quoted a statement from the French police union, President Chirac, a police officer, Interior Minister Sarkozy, Prime Minister de Villepin, and mentioned a fatwa against the riots issued by
one of France’s largest Muslim organizations in response
to official suggestions that Islamist militants might be stoking some of the protests. Prevel mentions that rioting
began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris and cites
frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. On the other hand, he doesn’t cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.
Meryl Yourish (2005-11-03) linked to Gecker’s AP report; she suggested that there is a global war being driven by radical Islamism in European slums, and remarks that first they came for the Jews, and many did not speak out, because they were not Jews. Her post has a lot of analysis, but no direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.
She added a later update which links to an article by Paul Belien (2005-11-02) in his Brussels Journal blog. The article cites Theodore Dalrymple’s
poignant analysis the crisis faced by British Muslims, and articles from FOX News, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, Knack, and a Danish blog called
Viking Observer on the dangers faced by police and other emergency workers in Muslim slums in Malmo and Brussells, and rioting by mostly Muslim youths in France and Denmark. Belian suggests that these are problems all across Europe, and that they’ve resulted from a naive belief in
universal cultural compatibility, the harsh reality of looming
permanent conflict, and weak-kneed
appeasement by the government officials in European countries. He suggests that the proximate cause of the French riots was unreasonable resentment over reasonable attempts by the French police to do their job; and that they were exacerbated by the unwillingness of the French government to take a more militant response. He quotes
Viking Observer’s translation of some direct quotes from Danish rioters, as reported in the Danish press; on the other hand, he has no direct quotes, and links to no stories with direct quotes, from French rioters on why they are rioting.
At Positive Liberty, Jason Kuznicki (2005-11-07) argues that evidence for radical Islamist involvement is
thin at best, and argues that it has much more to do with the material and the cultural conditions faced by young men in communities marked by poverty, dependency, desperation, and ghettoization, in turn caused by the French government’s restrictive economic and social policies. He cites some comments by Mark Brady at Liberty and Power, who in turn cites commentary by British sociologist Frank Furedi, attributing the riots to the
exhaustion of national politics in Western Europe, and commentary by British writer James Heartfield, who suggests that
It is not that assimilation has failed, but that France only pays lip service to assimilation, while practically refusing it to the descendants of North African migrants. Timothy Sandefur dissents, arguing that there is
good reason to believe that at least a large part of the Islamic world does see the situation in France as an Intifada. He offers some subtle comments aimed at demonstrating the ways in which
an extremely insular immigrant population and
a stagnant, stultified economy can, by producing an
an angry mass of economic and social outcasts, which comes to see itself as exploited by another large segment of the community, provide an opportunity for violent, hatred-fueled ideologies such as fascism or terrorist Islamism. He suggests that in such a situation the causal threads tying together the material conditions and the Islamist ideology can
intertwine so thoroughly that it may not make any sense to try to separate the one from the other when trying to give causal explanations of the violence that ensues. He cites commentary from the Affordable Housing Institute, which discusses the alienation and insularity created by France’s public housing policy and mentions statements by Interior Minister Sarkozy, President Chirac, Prime Minister de Villepin, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy,
authorities (who anonymously say that it’s Islamist militants and drug traffickers), and A Clockwork Orange. He also cites two news articles — one on the arrests, back in September, of some suspected members of an Algerian terrorist group living in France; and another from a reporter who seems to have actually found a website in which the rioters make bellicose statements and brag about their martial accomplishments. On the other hand, neither that article nor any of the others, nor Sandefur’s commentary, nor Kuznicki’s, nor Brady’s, nor Furedi’s, nor Heartfield’s, contains any direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.
Brad Spangler (2005-11-04) thinks that it’s racialized violence and the ghettoization created by the welfare state, with conditions that
have far more in common with the recent riots in Toledo (or in Watts a generation earlier) than they do with events in the Middle East.
French fascist demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen blames
mass immigration, the moral corruption of the country’s leaders, disintegration of the country and social injustice.
David Brooks (2005-11-10) thinks it’s French gangsta rap.
Victor Davis Hanson (2005-11-07) thinks that the riots are a clear example of
what happens to a society that doesn’t ask the immigrant to integrate, and the immigrant doesn’t feel that he has to integrate, or to learn the language, or learn the traditions of the West, and further blames the French govement’s
appeasement of Muslim immigrants.
Colby Cosh (2005-11-07) argues that
France has undeniably been more aggressive than the Anglo-Saxon countries in asserting a unitary national culture and blames the despair and anger created by a government housing policy that amounts to
warehousing members of a particular ethnic group in horrible, unsightly, cheaply-made housing projects.
Rox’s friend from Paris says that it’s not an
Islamic riot at all, but rather drug dealers defending their turf from the police.
Emma Kate Symons (2005-11-12) thinks it’s the expression of a violently male supremacist adolescent culture.
Mark Steyn (2005-11-10) thinks this
is the start of a long Eurabian civil war we’re witnessing here.
On the other hand, none of them cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they’re rioting.
So why did all those rioters set towns across France afire? Don’t ask me. How would I know? If you want to find out, ask a rioter
Pourquoi? You might even wait for the answer before you start offering an
This Sunday I watched a very long and depressing line of speakers from the United States Bureau of Making Shit Up. James Woolsey (former head of the CIA and freelance war-hawk) speculated wildly and baselessly about possible connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. An anonymous
terrorism expert moved beyond baseless allegation into nothing more than vague insinuations–he was particularly a fan of the claim that the Beltway sniper is actually an al-Qaeda operative, in spite of the complete lack of any basis whatsoever for asserting this to be probable, let alone true. Bill Kristol then got on and talked for a while about the need to bomb the world and starve North Korea, and practically accusing Tom Daschle of treason for daring to question the President’s authoritarian and secretive attitude towards Congress and the American people on foreign policy issues.
Well, OK. I expect this shit from Fox News. But while they drone on, an astounding grassfire movement against the war is welling up. The latest development is something that should get the attention of every Right-wing
Bomb the World Republican, every spineless amoral Democrat, and the few progressives and genuine Lefties that remain in DC. Over the past week, MoveOn PAC‘s
Reward the Heroes drive has raised over 1 million dollars for the campaigns of Congresspeople and Senators who opposed the President’s resolution for war against Iraq. Over $1,000,000 in a week! And we’re not talking about Republican or DLC-style contributions from millionaires here. We’re talking about over 37,000 individual contributions. An average of about $27 per contribution (I gave two contributions of $25, personally). If the DC cognoscenti start taking notice, this could be a very big deal. Money talks in DC, and right now, the people are screaming at the top of their lungs.
Of course, this campaign–like all campaigns–has its limitations. Among them:
It’s depressing that this action will talk much louder than the hundreds of thousands of calls, letters, and e-mails against war on Iraq that were sent out over the past several weeks. The pre-eminence of PAC money-laundering in politics is not a trend that I really want to see strengthened, although I’m willing to work to get through to Congress by pretty much any just means necessary right now.
The campaign is primarily focusing on funnelling money to support incumbent Democrats who voted against the war. With the exception of that lying goat Paul Wellstone, I don’t have any objection to supporting those who have taken a stand against war. But I’d also like to see a lot more invested in getting new blood into Congress, not just giving established Lefty Democrats a political sinecure.
Maintaining a Congress which is independent of the grip of the far Right is important, but we have to do a lot more than that to keep the country from going to hell in a handbasket. Slowing the bleeding will only do so much.
MoveOn, for all of its virtues in moving Internet activism out into the offline world, makes no particular efforts to reach out to people other than those who can receive their e-mail alerts or access their website.
Again, the power of the Internet as an organizing medium is simply astounding, and we have to take very seriously how we are going to make the best use of it. The MoveOn PAC campaign is one very important way to put a lot of energy into grassroots campaigns, but we have to see this as only the start, and improve from here.
So what do we need to do?
We need to follow up this campaign with more campaigns that move beyond online voting and make concrete actions. Contributing to campaigns where necessary, I guess, but also building up funding reserves for other purposes–organizing spaces, grassroots organizing (including workplace unionizing), and all the other infrastructure of a successful, anti-vanguardist resistance to the Right-wing Powers that Be. MoveOn PAC’s campaign is a brilliant example of a dynamic, exciting, creative way of standing up against the flow in DC and making them listen. Let’s come up with more ideas.
We also need to talk about ways to allow online campaigns to reach out to people who don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet–people who tend to be older, poorer, racial minorities, etc. The Right doesn’t care: every CEO and arm-chair warhawk columnist has e-mail, Web access, and all the money the Right-wing foundations have to offer. But we have to work with people, not just dollars, and we have to think about building a mass movement. Otherwise, as Martin Striz pointed out in this space:
Unfortunately, this nascent form of democratic political transformation is only relevant to those who have an Internet connection, and the unfortunate divide between the haves and have-nots will continue to plague us.
So what can we do to pull that off? Well, simply focusing on campaigns that move offline and into the world of street protests, organizing spaces, letters to the editor, and other things in the meatspace will help. But let’s start thinking about other ways to convert Internet organizing into a galvanizing force for everyone. I don’t have many more ideas than anyone else on this–I’ve lobbied for printable posters and flyers to be available from all websites that advertise an offline political event, and I think that working on developing phone trees that spread from online to offline contacts would also be a really cool idea. But I’m a neophyte like everyone else and I’m really interested in hearing some creative ideas about where we can go from here.
In the meantime, toss a few bucks to the [MoveOn PAC]
Reward the Heroes campaign, and help make our voice heard in support of pro-peace candidates.