Saturday, September 16, 2017

Emergency birdie update

This is an Emergency birdie report!

I admit it when something obsesses me. I always liked birds, but the last couple of years I'm just crazy about them. I'm not the only one either. Yes, many of my friends look at me when I'm talking about them as if I'm crazy (or crazier than they already though), but l also know a lot of people really interested, some much more than me.

Lately, my obsession has heightened my awareness of them and whereas, I think like most people, I used to just note a bird, now I'm looking at its features intently as soon as I see it and boring my evalovin' gf (and others) by identifying it verbally, if I can. Unfortunately, it is rare I have my camera on me when I see one flying by, or to be ready to snap a picture if I do, and the cell phone camera is rarely sufficient for smaller birds. Unlike cows, birds are often on the move and you only get a few seconds before they are gone.

A few weeks ago while at my pond (see previous "birdie" posts) I suddenly noticed a little gull shaped bird flying by. It was smaller than most gulls. I stared at it like a panther its prey and could see it had grey wings and a completely black hooded head. It flew off. Although I had my camera next to me there was no time to take a picture.  I hoped it would come back to the same spot as many birds do. A few weeks later I saw what I thought was a pair of them, but I was looking into the light and couldn't be sure. I've been trying to track it down in my bird books and I'm pretty sure this is it - it is a little gull - that's its name, little gull. It looks like this:

Related image

As my gull flew by I could not see its underside, but only the upper wings and head, so its body may or may not have been white.  It was not making any noise or doing anything notable, just flying by, so I can only say that New York is in its range, I couldn't find anything else that fit the bill (pun intended) and I am pretty sure it's what it was.

A few weeks back I stepped outside to greet some workmen. There was a small bird on the front lawn - not unusual - pecking into the ground. At first, I thought it was a small crow or maybe a starling. But, just as one of the workers was stepping out of the truck he heard me say, "What the f*** is that?" He looked and said, "A bird." He wasn't wrong, but that's not what I meant. "I know that," I said. "But look at it. It has a black body and a brown head. I don't know what kind it is."  He said, "Ask him (his partner). He's a scientist." I was a little surprised that the guy who was going to rip out the kitchen was a scientist (he explained later this work paid much better) but he immediately said it was a grackle. I didn't think that was it but just said, "Oh, thanks." A few seconds later its mate flew down, and then they looked at me looking at them and then flew off.

The scientist was a nice guy and I think intelligent, but he was a marine biologist, not an ornithologist, so I decided to look in my books (I love my bird books) and online. I couldn't find a grackle that matched what I saw. So I did what I always try to do - I just perused until I found it. The brown-headed catbird. It looks like this:


That was definitely the birds I saw on my front lawn.

As I've pointed out in prior Birdie posts, the birds' behavior is also of unending interest to me, even though they are usually creatures of habit. I love it when they do the same thing day after day. But sometimes they step out of character and it is more interesting. I don't know why, the other day, a mallard picked up and try to swallow what was obvious a feather. Birds know feathers. Sparrows and swallows often pick them up to carry away, I'm presuming to their nests. One mallard did it and then a second, watching, tried too. They both gave up after a few chews. I mean, ycchhh, even for a bird. But what made them try? Did they think maybe it was food?

And for a few days last week the three main families who inhabit the shore of my little pond, the swans, the geese and the mallards, were visited by a stranger - a sea gull. One plopped himself down in the midst of them. Not a few minutes flight away there are thousands of other gulls at the shore. But, he must have wanted to be here, because he stayed for about three days before leaving, I'm guessing to find other gulls.

In the meantime, I think I hear the mockingbird in my backyard imitating his neighbor the cardinal. Gonna go look.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you I have been photographing the swanlet the pair had at the pond all year since it was born. It is almost full grown and many of its feathers have turned white. I will put some photos together when he's all white and you can see the change over time. This is not a particularly attractive time for the young swans as the gray and white does not mix very well. He's like an ugly duckling.

I also met a man at the pond who also comes there frequently and belongs to the Audobon Society. He had a bird book in his car and we discussed what we have seen at the pond for a good while. That doesn't happen to me a lot. He mentioned that the male swan here now is not the same as the one last year. That swan died after getting tangled up in a fishing line. He himself cleans out the fishing lines left at the pond frequently. I don't go in the water, not having waders, but I do clean up the shore and curse out the bastards who leave their junk there. "Bastard!!!" (and much worse).

This has been an Emergency birdie report!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

THE SUN IS OUT - NFL SEASON IMMINENT!

Ahhhhhh - football is here. The long night is over. Starts Thurday.

As fans know, the Lions' QB, Stafford, just signed an insane contract, making him, by averaging, the highest paid QB.  When you look at the highest paid QBs long term or this year alone, makes no real sense. It is a consequence of the salary cap and the desire to lock QBs in on long term deals.

Here's the top ten for 2017:

Joe Flacco, $24.55 million
Carson Palmer, $24.125 million
Kirk Cousins, $23.943 million
Matt Ryan, $23.75 million
Matthew Stafford, $22 million
Aaron Rodgers, $20.3 million
Cam Newton, $20.166 million
Philip Rivers, $20 million
Eli Manning, $19.7 million
Andrew Luck, $19.4 million

Now the top 5 have all proved they are NFL starting QBs. But, imagine anyone other than Brady getting more than Rodgers. And where is Brady on this list? He's down a bit, getting only $14 million this year (only a million in salary and a $13 million deferred signing bonus from several years ago. In the end, I believe (though it is a little complicated), he cares more about winning than making extra millions, his wife makes insane amounts of money (still, by far, the highest paid supermodel in the world), he brings in another 12 mill or so in endorsements (though P. Manning still makes more, as do Newton and Wilson). Consequently, he doesn't care that much.  

Here's my list of, if salaries were for one year and rational, what the QBs should make this year. Admittedly, after my top ten, it gets fuzzy and after 20 really fuzzy. At the bottom, there is no real order - those guys are either just barely there or unproven.

Brady - Even if everyone says, he is the GOAT, he is still under-appreciated. 14-1 TD/interception ratio last year was unheard of, even over 12 games. And, if he played not one game until the SB, he still might be on top. 
Rodgers - The only QB who could make some argument he should get as much or more than Brady. 
Ryan - This is based on this one past year, though he did not produce in the second half of the SB. Brady was the real MVP for the season, in my mind, but you can justify, after the regular season, giving it to Ryan.
Brees - A future Hall of Famer for sure, who is every year among the best in the league, although reportedly, he may care too much about his stats. He is phenomenal, but the numbers from a team that passes, passes, passes, is padded a little.
Roethlisberger - Another future Hall of Famer who produces every year he plays and isn't hurt. But, seriously, find something to call him other than "Big Ben." Commentators say it so often it has become ludicrous.
Wilson - Sometimes I think he is underrated. Every year though, he has to become more of a pocket player. Getting hit doesn't work out well in the long term. Ask RGIII and Luck.
Carr - One of the best of the young men who got to start early on in his career. Lets see how he recovers from injury. Raiders are a real question mark this year.
Prescott - Some think he is the best young player in the league. I'd still put Carr ahead of him, but you could convince me otherwise. Phenomenal rookie year.
Cousins - He doesn't get the credit he deserves. Look at his accomplishments on a mediocre team.
Bradford -  Some might be shocked I'm rating him so highly, but he's a very good traditional pocket QB who was hurt his first two years and has since played on mediocre teams. But, he produces. He hasn't won, but he hasn't had a chance.
Newton - One of the most overrated players in the league, he still makes the top third. He had his one great year. Otherwise, he is a dangerous weapon that often misfires. No excuse for not winning the SB two years ago.
Smith - Does anyone know he's still playing. Very steady, but not great QB.
Rivers - Great talent. People argue whether he is a hall of famer. I'm on the fence too but leaning no. He may have seen best years.
Hoyer - Better than everyone thinks. The Browns made a huge mistake. But, he's now a journeyman who has yet one more chance to prove himself.
Wentz - He has potential. He could be another Foles though, never quite making it.
Taylor - Talented, like a little Cam, but has never really shown enough.
Flacco - I actually like Flacco a lot, think he could have been near the top, but, other than their unexpected SB year, I don't think he has ever showed much except in flashes.
Palmer - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Stafford - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Dalton - Too many years hearing what talent he has. These last three QBs are just never quite there and their time is running out.
Mariota - Could be a great someday. Still not there though.
Winston - Same as with Mariota.
Luck - most overrated QB in the game. He throws endlessly and I hope he has learned it is not fun to get sacked. I'd say he can be very good, but he's definitely not great. And, as we know, it has been a long time off. I include him expecting he will start game two or three.
Manning - I know he won 2 SBs, so maybe I'm wrong. But, most of the time, he doesn't seem all that good. He has an incredible opportunity this year. If he doesn't produce, he belongs here. If he does, I was wrong.
Siemian - He can go up or down from here. I'm not expecting that much.
McCown - A journeyman, who had one good year (a few games).

Unproven or not really good at all:
Bortles - So far shown very little.
Goff - So far shown nothing.
Kizer - Unknown
Savage - Unknown
Cutler - So tired of hearing what talent he has. Despite his once astronomical salary, he has always been bad to mediocre.

Who is going to win the 2018 SB? The Pats says I. Anything can happen in the NFL and injuries, sometimes to the best or key players, often do.

Who will they play? I think the Seahawks. For brief flashes last year, the Hawks were the best team in the league. They were the only team I feared the Pats facing. And when they did, they crushed them. Some are arguing that getting Sheldon Richardson is not a big deal. I think it is. Again, injuries can change everything.

Who would I like the Pats to face? The Giants, who are hard to predict. They beat Dallas twice last year and their defense is among the elite teams (Seahawks, Pats, Texans and Giants).  I see them again being a wild card, but not going far. But, if like in previous years, they surprise everyone, I will be happy. Because if there is one thing Brady and Belichick would like, it would be to avenge their two defeats.

Short post today. Let the games begin.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Killing the Dream - again

I was puzzled a few weeks ago when I received a comment from Bear, a rare steady reader (if only to occasionally torment me), blasting me on my Martin Luther King, Jr. (“MLK,Jr.”) post. I was puzzled because I hadn’t posted it yet. Or thought I hadn’t. I must have hit publish rather than save. It was only perhaps a quarter finished, perhaps less and it was unformed. So, realizing my error, I deleted it. Unfortunately, having done that, I remembered that among my digital skill set is the habit of deleting things I’ve written online before I’ve saved them somewhere else. So, I start again. Which can be a good thing. Sometimes. In any event, apologies in advance that this is going to be one of my longer posts. I had a lot to say. It was impossible to say everything without going on forever.

So, how did I start? Hmmm. Can’t remember. Maybe something like this:

The beginning

Recently, posting on the death of Muhammad Ali, I mentioned in passing that growing up, many of my heroes were black athletes. Ali, Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, Gayle Sayers, O.J. Simpson (yeah, well, who knew?) and many others. But, though I don’t know that I ever discussed it with anyone, I also thought a lot of MLK, Jr. In fact, I remember even in the ‘90s after I had shed my knee jerk liberalism and tried to appraise both sides fairly, I was disappointed in many Republicans, including my favorite, John McCain, for rejecting a national holiday for King. I doubt you would find that today, but it is the nature of conservatives to be dragged after the coach of cultural change, only to finally jump aboard, brush themselves off and say – ‘bout time you guys got here.

I still think of King as heroic. Not just him, but many of those involved in the Civil Rights movement, which mostly we think of as the ‘50s and ‘60s, but really extends back before the founding, if you include the Mennonites and Quakers, who were not black, but were anti-slavery long prior to independence.

MLK, Jr.

I don’t intend a history of abolitionism or civil rights. This is a Philippic against the second assassination of MLK, Jr., by those who ironically see him as his heirs. Naturally, he is not literally killed again. It is his message, if you prefer the spirit of his movement, that has been perhaps served a fatal blow. The title of this post is derived from a book, Killing the Dream  (Gerald Posner). In reality, “The Dream” wasn’t killed. King was. But, metaphorically, his message is now being killed – it may have already died.

I’m not talking about everyone on the left or all Democrats. I know many are mortified by much of what they see, but they are very quiet about it. However, there is no doubt that there is a strong movement on that side of the aisle to make diversity and some form of affirmative action predominant, sometimes even a form of apartheid. And there is a too deep silence on the left, if not approval, among the media, politicians and many others of the left, for what are sometimes fascist acts of violence or calls for anti-white discrimination or an end to free speech.

But, let me step back a moment and give you what I believe are King’s main tenets from his own words. You’ll forgive me (well, some of you), in that I have to summarize a lot and when you do so, it is impossible to avoid the claim of cherry picking or over-generalizing. But, his message was actually quite consistent. The following from his speeches articles and books, and they are not cited. If you want citation, comment:

True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—tension, confusion or war; it is the presence of some positive force—justice, good will and brotherhood.

Privileged groups rarely give up their privileges without strong resistance. But when oppressed people rise up against oppression there is no stopping point short of full freedom. Realism compels us to admit that the struggle will continue until freedom is a reality for all the oppressed peoples of the world.

If the American Negro and other victims of oppression succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle for justice, unborn generations ill live in a desolate night of bitterness, and their chief legacy will be an endless reign of chaos.

The alternative to violence is nonviolent resistance. This method was made famous in our generation by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who used it to free India from the domination of the British Empire. Five points can be made concerning nonviolence as a method in bringing about better racial condition.

[T]his is not a method for cowards; it does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests as is the person who uses violence. His method is passive or nonaggressive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent. . . . [I]t is nonaggressive physically but dynamically aggressive spiritually.

A second point is that nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.

At the center of nonviolence stands the principal of love. . . To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut of the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.

[W]e speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or basically affectionate; it means understanding redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.

One is the development of a wholesome social organization to resist with effective, firm measures any efforts to impede progress. The other is a confused, anger-motivated drive to strike back violently, to inflict damage. Primarily, it seeks to cause injury to retaliate or wrongful suffering. Secondarily, it seeks real progress. It is punitive—not radical or constructive.

[T]here are three different views on the subject of violence. One is the approach of pure nonviolence, which cannot readily or easily attract large masses, for it requires extraordinary discipline and courage. The second is violence exercised in self-defense, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence. The third is the advocacy of violence as a tool of advancement, organized as in warfare, deliberately and consciously.

[T]here is more power in socially organized masses on the march than there is in guns in the hands of a few desperate men. . . All history teaches us that like a turbulent ocean beating great cliffs into fragments of rock, the determined movement of people incessantly demanding their rights always disintegrates the old order.

I am convinced that for practical as well as moral reasons, nonviolence offers the only road to freedom for my people. . . .

When Negroes marched, so did the nation. By the same token, a group of ten thousand marching in anger against a police station and cussing out the chief of police will do very little to bring respect, dignity and unbiased law enforcement. Such a demonstration would only produce fear and bring about an addition of forces to the station and more oppressive methods by the police.

Our most powerful nonviolent weapon is, as would be expected, also our most demanding, that is organization. . . .

There is no easy way to create a world where men and women can live together, where each has his own job and house and where all children receive as much education as their minds can absorb. But if such a world is created in our lifetime, it will be done in the United States by Negroes and white people of good will. It will be accomplished by persons who have the courage to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering upon others. It will be done by rejecting the racism, materialism and violence that has characterized Western civilization and especially by working toward a world of brotherhood, cooperation and peace.

Even if I didn’t deal with the moral dimensions and question of violence versus nonviolence, from a practical point of view, I don’t see riots working. But I am convinced that if rioting continues, it will strengthen the right wing of the country, and we’ll end up with a kind of right-wing takeover in the cities and a Fascist development, which will be terribly injurious to the whole nation. I don’t think America can stand another summer of Detroit-like riots without a development that could destroy the soul of the nation, and even the democratic possibilities of the nation.

I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character. I have a dream today!

What is truly amazing about the movement, is that blacks, and others, had good reason to be violent then. I do not see that as the case now.

I saved the most famous for last and of course I left out many things that could have been included if I was just going to quote him for the sake of it. Now, for my standard lecture on race in America. I say standard, because I have said the following in writing or orally in debate many times.

No reasonable educated person is unaware of five centuries of oppression by Europeans and then Americans against indigenous Americans, Africans, Asians, women, gays and other minorities.  It was not a new thing. There is an ancient and long history of oppression worldwide of one group of people enslaving, murdering, plundering or oppressing another, or many others. But in the last 500 or so years, with some exceptions, Europeans and their colonies had become generally better at it than almost anyone else, particularly in their own homelands and in what we now call third world colonies. And it is ludicrous to disagree that the current state of affairs did not arise as a result, at least in the largest part, from this oppression.

But, as this century progressed the world suffered through two globally fought wars, killing millions and millions, but also, slowly seeing a rise in the British Commonwealth, Europe and America, from abject prejudice and oppressive laws to societies which started to live out their dreams of equality and fairness to all. It was far from perfect. There still is prejudice, of course. And there are still unfair laws. But, there are also unfair laws in the other direction giving benefits to minorities in order to make up for the unfairness of centuries. Most people in Western Europe and America are for those laws, though some against.

I don't agree much with President Obama, but I did when he said, “What is true for me is true for a lot of African-American men — is there's a greater presumption of dangerousness that arises from the social and cultural perceptions that have been fed to folks for a long time," he said. "And I think it is not as bad as it used to be, but it's still there, and there's a history to that."

My own personal experience is that it is not even close to as bad as it used to be. I’m only slightly older than BHO, but my memories are probably not much different. When we were growing up, there was still Jim Crow in the south and prejudice was everywhere, racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, etc. In my 58 years, it seems we live in two different worlds. We’ve now had a black president (bi-racial, but he identifies and is considered black by virtually everyone) twice and he was elected largely by white votes as well as black. We have affirmative action, we have civil rights laws with teeth, we have even disparate impact laws which prohibits actions that are not even intended to be discriminatory but which are deemed to affect one group more than another.

That does not mean everything is equal everywhere, of course. We have private property in our country – thankfully – and it is can be bought or inherited or stolen. After centuries of oppression, it is not equally distributed as in the game of Monopoly. Some people are born rich, some poor, some in the middle. And while there is some strong evidence that passing down property through (mostly family) inheritance is actually the best way to ensure good use of property overall and growth of the economy, not surprisingly, some people will be haves and others have nots. Attempts to “level,” or various levels of socialist systems seem always to fail – in fact, one only need look at the former USSR, which though powerful, failed miserably, and communist China, which though becoming collectively powerful, decades ago had to adopt more capitalist policies, and still has an average per capita income which we consider poverty level. It also seems a beacon for corruption, even greater than exists everywhere else.

And I do not mean there is not prejudice on every side. There is plenty of prejudice in our country, which might be a natural human state. The question is – what is done with that prejudice? Prejudice is, after all, opinion. And opinion is supposedly protected by the first amendment and is considered, among the first of our rights. Likely everyone has some prejudice, for or against this or that group.

A reversal in power

Power is a scary thing. People, once powerless, who gain it, are often not happy to simply co-exist – they want revenge and to be in power themselves. They want to destroy those they see as the enemy and often use the same methods and tactics they once decried. None of this, of course, has anything to do with King’s dream. It is quite the opposite, arguably The Nightmare.

As anti-discrimination laws and a general improvement in the ways people treated one another have changed over time in the past few decades, and particularly a change in attitudes, people who were very oppressed seem not oppressed anymore at all – at least under the law. The last group that was quite openly oppressed by law in this country were gays or LGBT, whatever you want to call it. It is less than 15 years ago that it was criminalized. It is only a few years since they can openly serve in the military and since they can marry. That has, through changes in law and policy, been legally eradicated, and it is about time. The question now, though not a main topic today, is not whether they are oppressed, but whether the government have the right to force those who do not approve of same sex marriage or other aspects of the “gay community” to accept it in their private lives or businesses.

But, something else has happened by the increase in protection for formerly oppressed people who by numbers and blocs, form powerful groups. And they have, many of them, great energy and are exercising it. And perhaps many of them want retribution.

How power is exercised

Another change in our culture is in how power is wielded. The media has always been critical since our founding and quite powerful, particularly in shaping opinion. It has exalted status in our country, also protected by the first amendment. And, generally, we consider it, in large, a good thing. There has always been an ideological split in the use of the media. Back in the founding period, Jefferson and Hamilton could each have their own press to try and shape opinion. Nowadays, the media, at least in our country, is, except for small pockets like talk radio and Fox News, largely liberal. You read the New York Times or Washington Post headlines any given day and there are no two sides – at least not two equal sides. The same goes for network television, which is still incredibly powerful in its reach.

In the past decade or so, the power of social media has arisen in some areas to sufficient size to dwarf the “old” media. In a world where many, if not most, people get their “news” from social media, where lives can be destroyed by being “shamed,” where people can be virtually driven out of the digital society, lose their jobs and so forth, and where modern technology enables far greater organization of forces, those who are not adept at it will be left behind in many aspects of their lives.

Not surprisingly, the young adapt to the use of social media first and foremost in order to communicate and organize. It has also always been the case that youth is more “liberal,” they used to say “red” or “pink,” than older people, who are more interested in keeping what they’ve gained in their lives and having peace and quiet.

We have seen, and I don’t think I need to give examples, of how the use of social media and modern communications has been used to organize for things like protests, riots even terrorism. I’m not suggest therefore that modern technology is a bad thing. If you use it, you know its incredible power to give you to access to a world that did not exist a few decades ago.

The Obama effect

Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 and then again in 2012. At the beginning of 2008, few people thought he had a chance. Whether he was bi-racial or “black,” many people thought that, whatever the polls showed, many people would not vote for a black and therefore he would never be able to get enough votes. But, he won the primaries, demonstrating greater political ability and poise than his older, more experienced opponents like Clinton and Biden, and most people “white” people didn’t really care about his heritage. He had it right when he said that yes, some people who declared for him would not vote for him, but there would be others who said they wouldn’t, who would vote for him. The polls were fairly accurate.

Many people celebrated the election in America of a “black” man, some thought we were entering a “post-racial” era and that America had finally grown up. Many Black voters, who overwhelming went for him, were over the moon, some declaring him “my” president and quickly determining that he was the “greatest” president ever. He received, virtually immediately, a Nobel Prize, which even he admitted was undeserved.

I’ve written extensively of what I thought of his terms (not that I ever finished the ten reasons he was the worst president in my lifetime – I think I got up to 8). I expected him to be a bad president for policy reasons and he was even worse than I thought. I have never had a problem liking people I disagreed with (or not liking those I did agree with) and I liked him personally. He has a lot of qualities which are pleasing including a sonorous voice, a great sense of humor and incredible poise and presence. And though some said it was racist to say so – he was articulate – at least compared to almost every other president in my lifetime (excepting Clinton, but not Reagan – who, whatever he was, it was not eloquent). I don't think there have been any presidents I’ve seen equal to him in these characteristics.

But, along with his foreign policies, which I believe weakened our country, I thought his greatest weakness as a president was his handling of racial tensions. He did worse than a bad job. Racial tensions, which had been so greatly reduced in my life time went in the other direction. This may be a natural consequence of a “community” gaining rights and power over time. But, again, without reiterating in detail, whenever a crisis or racial incident came to the front, he reflexively took sides. When the Gates debacle in Cambridge, Mass. occurred he leaped in, and had to step back (the famous “beer summit”). When George Zimmerman shot the teenage Trayvon Martin in Florida – he publicly said that Martin could be his son – not Zimmerman. I watched the show trial. The evidence was so in favor of Zimmerman – even the prosecution witnesses – that his innocence was obvious. Obama never retracted a word after the trial. When Ferguson, Missouri erupted, he also waded in, as did his attorney general. There a police officer shot another teenager, but this one a huge man who was attacking him. The federal investigation which found great fault with the local government there, also found the officer justified.

I’m not suggesting that there did not need to be deep changes in policing there and elsewhere. I believe police reform should be ever ongoing everywhere. But, what arose from Ferguson was a general lynching of police everywhere. I’m sure that police officers, black and white, have wrongfully shot blacks, just as I am sure that it happens with white victims. From it sprang the “black lives matter” movement and the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme, though investigation found that it was a complete lie that Brown had his hands raised asking not to be shot and it is still said by many that Brown and Martin were “murdered.”

These two incidents in Florida and Missouri were earthshaking in our country, and unfortunately characteristic of BLM. They seize upon the worst cases and make it the center of their movement. It didn’t matter if the white shooter was innocent and was being attacked. All that mattered was skin color.  

The death of non-violence and non-discrimination

What we’ve seen in the past year or so has gotten worse. It is now at a cultural crisis stage where even the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has essentially okayed violence against white supremacists by those who don’t want to allow them to speak or march.

The vast number of instances in the past year or so requires me to summarize. We’ve seen -

Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) taking over political rallies by intimidation and politicians cowed into giving up microphones.

BLM marching while chanting "death to cops."

Numerous cop shootings inspired by BLM’s call for death to cops (at least 3 of the cop killers last year admitted being inspired, at least in part).

Trump’s rallies literally attacked - so that he even had to cancel one and on another occasion, he had to be sneaked in by the secret service.

College campuses taken over by racial protesters demanding campus deans step down – and it works.

The repeated use of mob violence to stop conservative speakers from voicing their opinions essentially because they were conservatives.

Students demanding apartheid against whites and demanding the firing of a teacher, who actually is very liberal, because he said it was wrong. Trump supporters tortured and beaten.

These were not one off events. They are organized and a movement. They have been happening repeatedly.

Now, perhaps I missed it. Were Hillary Clinton’s supporters tortured and beaten, her rallies stopped by violence and threats against her? Have white racist groups  marched, chanting death to cops? Have white supremacists shot cops after being inspired by these marches? Have they taken over political rallies? If you say yes, your examples are likely decades ago (one social justice warrior I know after 9/11 said that the KKK should be investigated for murder because the government was concerned about Islamic terrorism). Have liberal speakers been literally chased off campus or stopped from speaking? Have conservatives demanded safety zones for their opinions on campus where free speech is shut down, or that the school requirements be changed to suit whites? Possibly some of these happen in reaction to the call by our new revolutionaries. I’m sure it will not get very far.

I heard when discussing this on occasion, that it is anecdotal and cherry picking and that in fact violence by the right is much more prevalent. It certainly is much more publicized if it happens, and, as opposed to left wing violence, attributed to everyone of that ideology. Almost everything people believe that is political is anecdotal in nature (as it is with virtually everything in our lives). If you hate Donald Trump, think he is a tyrant – do you have studies that mathematically prove it so? Of course not – you’ve heard him speak and you formed an opinion. These events I’ve described above have happened so frequently that even the media can’t drown it out with anti-Trump messages. If you want to see them, they are there. In fact, all politically educated people know about them – many just justify it by excusing acts because of past oppression.

But, the events of August 12th has raised it to a new level.

August 12th      

Let me go back a bit. Last year I read of a violent Klan march in Bakersfield, California described as a “violent Klan rally.” I believe it was a NY Times’ piece, but I could be wrong. I was surprised because the FBI had essentially crushed the Klan many years ago, forcing the remnant to forswear violence. And, the fact that they are idiots or reprehensible doesn’t take from the fact that they had generally kept that promise. So, I tried to find a video of what went on in Bakersfield. And what I saw was, not the Klan being violent, but protesters (the ones they showed were black or mostly black) beating the tar out of the Klan and the police not even stopping them – just asking them to stop beating them up. Imagine, you are in management of a company where labor is on strike. Walking into the building you are attacked by strikers. The police are there, but just running from person to person saying – please, leave him alone. Is that okay? Is it okay because at some time in the past, companies would hire thugs (“strike breakers”) to beat up strikers? You can reverse it if you like. Suppose you are in labor . . . blah, blah, blah. . . and the police just say – please, leave him alone? Is that okay because at some time in the past the mob was heavily involved in unions?

On August 12, we had an incident, not only disgusting in itself, but to which the reaction by the media and government was so pro-fascist that I’m literally saddened and have lost a lot of optimism about our country. Yet few people realize it because of the acts of a deranged young Klan or Nazi supporter drove his car into the crowd, killing one young woman. He is arrested and charged with murder. Good call. But, where is the outrage at what happened to him and his crazy friends before that?

What happened? The Klan and other white supremacists were marching – with a permit – to protest the taking down of a statute of a confederate general. Perhaps some were not white supremacist as we’ve heard. I do know many people who do not want that done who are not racists. It doesn’t matter to me. I would not march with a significant number of people I believed were racist unless I could make a significant effort to distinguish myself from them.

"Counter protesters" showed up, not just to jeer, but wearing armor and carrying weapons. One man was videotaped using a homemade flamethrower – a flamethrower!!! The counter-protesters interrupted the march – for which there was a permit, beating the white supremacists and I expect others, who fought back. It was a full blown riot – but the police, under orders, refused to help. They mostly stood by, protecting themselves, while people – yes, loathsome people, were beaten by other loathsome people. The odds were overwhelmingly in the counter-protesters favor.

One of the organizers of the counter-protest was a group called Antifa, which I understand means anti-fascist. They are barely mentioned in the media, and when they are, they are not excoriated for violence, but often praised, as if they are heroes. Yet these same marchers were literally claiming the streets, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Are those not fascists themselves? Of course they are.

This is my definition of a fascist as it is what I think people meant until last week when they used the word - Someone who uses force or intimidation to impose their political will on others, and often are inspired by their race or religion.

The outrage was, not surprisingly, directed foremost at the driver of the car, James Fields, a young, no-doubt, idiot. But also at the protesters in general.

President Trump, doing the president thing of making a speech did something horrible – he condemned violence by both sides. Or many sides, as he put it. As usual, he was inarticulate. As usual, the reaction to him was hysterical. He was attacked not only by Democrats, but by many in his own party and many others, including business men. They claimed he was supporting the white supremacists and had to take it back. Clearly, what they are demanding is that he admit that right wing violence is wrong, but left wing violence is fine – not to be mentioned.

And, he crumpled. He made a statement condemning white supremacists. Did he think it would help him? He should have stood his ground and condemned white racists, black racists and supporters of either side. What is the difference in racism between those chanting “white lives matter” and those chanting “black lives matter?”

Republicans have reason to hate Trump. He’s severely harmed their party. He’s done some good things in office despite the criticism – or things that some people think are good - but others things that aren’t so good. In my view, more bad than good, but, it is hard to be objective with the constant rain of criticism. Clearly, he is incapable of leading, only attacking like a child when he doesn’t get his way. It got him in the White House but left him incapable of governing. There are still enough Democrats in congress and a few Republicans who so despise him, he cannot act legislatively, only by presidential power.

You think I’m exaggerating? You think that weapons fell out of the sky into the hands of the counter-protesters. You think the guy who showed up with the flame-thrower just happened by with it in his pocket. Watch the videos.

The police stood by on orders from the Mayor of Charlottesville (so it is reported – they were just standing there behind shields) not protecting anyone that I could see. However loathsome Nazis and the Klan are, they had a right to march, a right to protest under the first amendment. The Supreme Court long ago held in the famous Skokie Illinois case that even those who offend others, like Nazis marching in a Jewish neighborhood, have the same free speech rights as everyone else.

More, it is not the job of the police to stand by idly or to protect people from being offended, but to protect the speaker who is offending them. To do otherwise is the death of a minorities’ right to speak. This is not my say so. This has been the law for quite a while. It wasn’t always the law, but for the last 50 or so years it has been established clearly.

What shocked me more than even a manipulative media which has spun this whole story as if only the white supremacists were violent, more than the cowardly politicians like Mitt Romney and Sen. Rubio, both of whom made peace with Trump but clearly despise him, was the action by the Commission on Civil Rights.

I watched a Commission meeting in horror as a proposed amendment to a statement condemning the white racists was made, asking that violence be rejected on all sides. It was not only rejected, but the proposer of the anti-violence amendment was lambasted for raising it by the commissioner himself, who essentially claimed that all of the fault was on the Nazi/Klan side and that “they” drove a car into innocent people. When people make such an outrageous lie in a controversial issue it is often because they have no real argument. Other members who voted against the amendment claimed they were only for non-violent protest, and that their statement which condemned only the right, was clear it was against violence – they just wouldn’t really make it as clear as this amendment requested.

The woman who made the request for the amendment was literally shamed by the commissioner (who appeared by phone) as if she had requested an amendment that said – white supremacy rocks! She was deferential and obviously aware she had to be brave herself.

If you had read my blog for any period of time, you would see that I am usually fairly optimistic about whatever we are going through. But this is a bad time and it is not because of Trump, who I believe would love to work with Democrats. I can’t and won’t support him. He is what I said he was years ago, the worst thing ever to happen to the Republican Party and completely unsuitable for the presidency. However, I’m sorry, even with the wall, even with stupid comments about Muslims and Mexicans (stupid, but frequently exaggerated by others), he is not a fascist or authoritarian. In fact, so far he has been less authoritarian than the much more polished and personable Obama, who disobeyed court orders (those who call him authoritarian ignore that Trump, for all his egotism and bluff, actually obeyed the probably unconstitutional judicial rulings which stayed his executive orders), made his own law (or through his cabinet – like Kathleen Sebalius), unconstitutionally went to war with Libya for no reason (crazy as Qaddafi was, Libya helped us in the war on terror), ignored the WPA, etc. I’ve said it many times – I wouldn’t vote for Trump for dog catcher, but he’s president and can be overruled and made unimportant by future presidents. The “resistance” is hurting the country, because many cultural changes (like crushing free speech – have far longer consequences) Obama was just more likable. I personally like Obama, but his policies and the tenor he set for society were ruinous and the media gave him a pass on almost everything he or his administration did wrong.

Killing the dream – those who judge on the color of skin rather than the content of their character.

I need to do something to point out that this is the most important section:

**********PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE**********

Although King was not really original (much of his movement was admittedly based on Gandhi’s Satyagraha principles),* but he was incredibly effective and an amazing leader. There were, of course, many other civil rights leaders, but he is the most famous and beloved. I do not doubt that it was not just his deep resonant voice and eloquence, but his insistence on non-violence and his clarion call for judging others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. You could generalize it and say . . . and not by their DNA or not by qualities peculiar to their birth.  

*I wrote a post (10/30/08) showing that a even good part of King’s I have a Dream speech was “borrowed” from other civil rights leaders. As I said there: “But, don’t think I’m here to trash King. That’s not the point. King is a genuine American hero. He was a great man of remarkable courage, character and principle and we are a much better country because of him. But, I am also a believer in not letting anyone become too much of a cult figure. And, I do not believe that we should necessarily lessen the accomplishments of great men and women in our minds because of relatively minor faults. Notice, though, that last sentence is certainly qualified.

Plagiarism was certainly a King flaw, and we can’t just excuse it, but, overall, it does not significantly reduce a speech that can still make us shed tears. Nor does it make much of a dent in his heroic and inspirational life story. What it does for me, I hope, is help me consider a “great man” in a more realistic way.”

Much of my discomfort in the past few years is based on the reversal – by those who should be his legitimate heirs - of King’s dream. They do not want to be judged by their character. And they certainly don’t want to judge you by your character.

Obviously, judging people by their skin color or other genetic markers, is generally frowned upon in modern society, although there is still a great deal of it. For example, many people who aren’t overtly racist still believe that people should stick to their own kind. They are receding as mixed marriages grow. Those who have been most vehement about judging people by race, religion, etc., like the KKK or Nazis are considered loathsome by most of society, including myself. If you want to argue with it, don’t say, what about the Nazis or KKK? – I agree. But, does that legitimize violence for those who oppose those groups?

Rather than be theoretical, let me give concrete examples of how the present movement has made skin color the important concern.

“Black Lives Matter.” Yes, black lives matter, but no more or less than white ones or any other ethnic or racial group. I understand what some are saying, sub rosa – everyone knows white lives matter, but they don’t know or think black ones do. Leave aside that I don’t know any grown up – even from when I lived in the Bible Belt, who thought black lives didn’t matter. In fact, one of the most vocally racist people I knew down there also helped care for a black man and felt quite affectionate towards him. But, you can’t support an argument that this is the actual meaning, when people who say “all lives matter” have to immediately leave the party, a la Jim Webb, or are booed down. Try saying “All Lives Matter” at a BLM rally and see how it goes. If your argument is not racial superiority, than you can’t mind people saying “all lives matter” or “white lives matter,” if they are trying just to be fair or if they feel like victims too.

All whites are automatically racist. The only member of BLM that I know (if member is the right word), who I happen to be very fond of, told me with great emotion that he went to a seminar entitled “How to be the least racist white professor you can be.” In other words, if you are a white professor, you are a racist. If I am off a word or so - sorry. He’s also told me that it felt bad when he was told he was racist at meetings but that he doesn’t object. But, he explained how he had used me as an example at the seminar because I don’t realize how “hurtful” my racist jokes are. He actually couldn’t name a racist joke I’ve told or when (it has been many years because everyone has gotten so freaking sensitive they’ve ruined ethnic humor – to me, the joke was always how outrageous the joke was), although I can tell you that I often make fun of the hyphenated American labels, the most frequent one being African-American, because it is almost the only one you regularly hear. If that makes me a racist, then I guess I am. I still love ethnic humor, and that includes jokes about any groups people put me in.

No, it’s not just him or a handful of people who feel that being white is synonymous with racism. The ACLU – the supposed protectors of civil rights, recently took down an ad that featured a little white girl as representative of their group – because using a little white girl was racist. Amazing. There are articles I’ve read with titles like “Why I’m done explaining myself to white people.” The theory is that if you are white, you are privileged and if you don’t accept it, you are either racist or obtuse. I am never going to argue with you that blacks have suffered unimaginable oppression in this country, and right up into my lifetime, and there is still a great deal of color prejudice.

Reparations based on color.  Many people believe that blacks should get a stipend or be paid for what some of their ancestors suffered. I have had any number of white friends suggest this to me too. They can never explain how it could be done in a fair way – why other people whose ancestors were oppressed should not get paid too, how you decide who is black (if you are bi-racial? A quarter? Will we back to calling people mestizos) or how that doing so wouldn’t be the most racist pigeonholing possible, akin to the Nazi racial laws. What about blacks who are wealthy, or what about whites whose ancestors were not in America during slavery, or were but were abolitionists, or who never participated in Jim Crow? Do they all get or have to pay reparations? What about American Indians? Jews? The Chinese? Do they get paid for their suffering? At least the American Indians can say their treatment was comparable. They were simply eradicated in large part of forced to live on reservations.

America is really the one country in the world where for the most part of two centuries people from all over came and still came. There is already a great diversity among us. And, it has also led to many problems because of it, whatever the benefits. People say it is our strength. But, when I look at a list recently published as to the most successful societies (many of them Scandinavian, they were largely non-diverse.

There’s an answer, of course to why whites who have no actual blame should pay blacks who are not slaves themselves, nor were their ancestors slaves – if your skin is white, you are responsible for the behavior of some people of the same skin color who lived long ago for the economic success of people of black skin color, whether or not their ancestors were ever slaves (obviously, they were not). In other words – it is all about skin color. If that is the case – if that is the argument - how is it different than the Nazis? How is it different from the concept of blood libel?

The truth is, we already have reparations of a sense in our country, although it is not direct payment. We have, not only anti-discrimination laws but federal disparate impact laws which now hold that even where there is no intent of discrimination – the fact that different groups are effected differently means that the law is automatically discriminatory. We also have many programs which give contract advantages to those deemed minorities (women too) and give them better opportunities to get jobs.

Colleges: If you follow what has been going on at college campuses, there have been demands all over the country for administrators to resign, if they were determined by the students who attend the schools to not have done enough about diversity or racism. Many of these deans and presidents are as cowardly as the CEOs and politicians, plus many of them receive golden parachutes and actually are glad to leave. We can add the demands for “safe zones,” the most anti-education, un-academic, not to mention unconstitutional idea you can come to. Well, that’s an exaggeration. At least at one school, minority students demanded a day where no whites were allowed on campus. The one professor, also a progressive, who had the common sense to say, that’s not a good idea, was lambasted – still, I believe. What’s it all based on? Skin color. Nothing to do with character there. I don’t think most schools have been affected. 

But, it is a growing problem.

The usual comeback

I often comment online. I enjoy it, although I don’t make a lot of people happy. Some people appreciate it, but most political websites are either conservative or liberal, and I am not what you would call well thought of on any of these – it seems I am forever taking the unpopular position, because the articles and comments are so one sided, and therefore I’m usual deemed a member of the opposition by other commenters. Mostly these days I write on the NYTimes, where I am either ignored. People who write the approved thing – Trump, Bush or Republicans suck – get lots of “recommends,” some thousands. On my best days, if not ignored, I get a handful. It doesn’t matter if I get any, but I notice when I get any attention, it is often in the form of a slew of angry comments in reply – sometimes scores of them. I try to comment back to the polite people, but sometimes it is too late to post. In any event, because the topics of this post comes up a lot, I write on them a lot. Plus, I have debated it with people I know, if they aren’t the type to get volcanic over disagreement.  So, I’m aware of the usual comebacks. Here’s a list of the four main ones: 


       One, that I’m a racist, Trump, KKK or Nazi supporter;

     Two, that I make a false equivalence between Nazis and those who use force and intimidation, to force their opinions or defeat the free speech rights of Nazis on racial grounds (that’s not quite what they say – they call the latter group “protesters” – I just couldn’t help myself).

     Three, that I am cherry picking facts or using anecdotal evidence.

Four, only some act badly. You can't blame the whole group.

I’ll address them briefly (hah):

     One, if you want to think I’m a racist, Trump, KKK or Nazi supporter, go ahead. I can’t stop you. It isn’t even a little true, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone these days. It’s enough they say it or want to believe it.

     Two, I don't see a moral equivalence yet. Maybe soon, as the Nazis/Klan have gotten a lot of press thanks to the protestors, and are fighting back. Shields’ car attack may be the least of it. But, right now, the moral scale is tilted against the fascist opposition and oddly, in favor of the hate groups that are pitiful replicas of monstrous groups of the past. Yes, the fascists who go to Klan/Nazi marches (Charlottesville was legal) with weapons and armor (including, at least, one flame thrower), who you can see on previous marches beating up the white supremacists on video, who are not interfered with by the police (sometimes like in pre-Nazi Germany), who shut down speakers or destroy their venue, who chant death to cops or whose streets/our streets, who deface public property, break windows, bloody noses, burn cars, attack political rallies, and yes, kill cops - those are the less moral group. Do they get a violent reaction? Yes. And that is their goal. B/C they are bigger, more powerful, have the media, both parties and probably most Americans behind them. It's still fascist behavior. But, we used to have a country where anyone could have an opinion and protest, even if the rest of us thought they were reprehensible. We now have a country of people who support the new brown shirts and don't realize that if YOU, who think they are on their side, disagree - they will destroy you too.

Three, I kind of covered this before. Political opinions are almost always based on anecdotal or incomplete evidence. I base mine, like everyone else, on what I feel I have seen enough of to believe. If someone can correct my facts – e.g., show me H. Clinton rallies that were shut down, videos of Nazis or the KKK beating up people who didn’t come to fight them, etc., I’ll consider it.

People only say that you are cherry picking or being anecdotal when they disagree with your conclusion. I’ve never had anyone say it to me who agreed.  And I notice, when I do rely on anecdotes or what I’ve experienced, those who say . . . well, that’s anecdotal (often I say it first), don’t have any more scientific evidence than I do.

Four, well, someone or other on Fox actually caused a ruckus by saying, in effect, don't say that you are innocent if you are standing with people who chant "The Jews won't replace us." I agree. But, you also can't say you are innocent if you stand with those chanting "black lives matter," or "death to cops," or are rioting. And, Gandhi was a great example. When people who supported him were violent, he would end the protests and even go on a hunger fast until it stopped. I don't expect anyone to do that - but I do expect them not to lend their time, name or resources to a movement that has become virulent. At the very least, be vocal in distinguishing yourself and condemning those who are violent or threatening.

The End

I feel like I’ve said more than enough on this subject, although I could write a lot more about the culture of victimization by people who have it so much better than most people in the world. I wrote as much as I did because it is worrisome. Regular people talk about it all the time, but only when they know it is not someone who is going to call them a racist. I had a talk at the beach the other day with a middle aged American born in India. She didn’t need to read this post to give me similar thoughts. She told me how worried she is about the younger generation, with everyone being taught that they are a victim and the way to get “justice” is to prevent the other side from talking or try to destroy their business or life. Good to see even the immigrants think it’s crazy. 

Good luck, everyone. Watch out for flame throwers.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .