Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

24 September 2020

A Little Touch of Manslaughter


As you may or may not have heard, South Dakota has hit the national news a lot lately. 

  • Governor Kristi Noem has been talking regularly on Fox News, promoting South Dakota's freedoms, and is currently traveling around the upper Midwest to campaign for Trump.  (Fox News)
  • She has also been spending CARES money on ads around the country urging people to move to South Dakota, where "we respect your freedoms" and "We're open for business!"  (AP News)
  • We hosted the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, where 460,000+ bikers came to a town of 7,000 and held one hell of a week-long party. The national COVID-19 repercussions are debated (Politifact) but I can tell you it's a fact that Meade County (Sturgis) went from 71 cases before Sturgis to 487 and counting (that's 1 out of every 14), and most of the other West River counties show large spikes as well.  (Pennington County - Rapid City, etc. - went from 942 cases to 2,091.)
  • We hosted the Sanford International golf tournament in Sioux Falls September 7-13th, which was the first golf tournament to allow spectators, and we can hardly WAIT until the COVID-19 figures come out from that.  (Argus Leader)  
  • As a result of all this stuff, South Dakota is in the top ten, and may still be the #1 hotspot for COVID-19 in the country for a couple of weeks now, thanks to a 10%+ positivity rate.  A popular response to Gov. Noem's "We're open for business!" ad slogan is, "And we're wide open for COVID!"  (Argus Leader) (NYTimes)
  • And, most recently, our Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg drove home from a GOP political event in Redfield, SD, and hit and killed a man walking along the shoulder of Highway 14, just west of Highmore, SD around 10:30 PM on Saturday, September 12th.  (NYTimes)


From the beginning, AG Ravnsborg has said that he thought he hit a deer.  This has been met with considerable skepticism and some derision here in the Mount Rushmore State, because everybody in SD has either missed or hit a deer at some point in their driving lives.  When we first moved up here, we asked why collision insurance was so expensive and mandatory - since we do have a low population / population density - and were told it was because of the deer.  We have a lot of deer.  


And to be purely informative, I must tell you that humans do not look like deer.  For one thing, we have fewer legs.  We also wear clothing, walk upright, and have arms that flail a lot as we soar through the air.  


Despite an on-going investigation, shrouded in secrecy for almost two weeks now, AG Ravnsborg put out a two-page statement (via his campaign office, on his official Attorney General letterhead, two days after the accident) about what happened. Since my fellow blogger Cory Heidelberger has posted, analyzed and summarized this and other aspects of the case, please check out his blog HERE. The following quotes, etc., are from Cory: 


Ravnsborg apparently views “ongoing investigation” as a conditional excuse for silence: he refuses to answer questions from the media out of “respect” for the “process” and a his desire to let investigators do their work “without any interference or appearance of impropriety on my part.” Yet he feels arguing his case in public, without cross-examination, does not interfere with the investigation at all.

Ravnsborg says he had drunk no alcohol Saturday night.

Ravnsborg fudges his story a bit, saying now that he initially thought the man he hit was “a large animal (likely a deer)”.

Note also the grammatical distancing: Ravnsborg says, “My vehicle struck something….” Making the subject of that sentence “my vehicle” instead of “I” is like saying “My firearm shot something” or “My pen wrote something.”

Ravnsborg says he stopped, called 9-1-1 immediately, and investigated the scene with Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek. He and the sheriff saw no sign of the large animal they were looking for.

Ravnsborg reports his car was too damaged to drive safely. That level of damage suggests Ravnsborg was moving at a pretty good clip coming out of Highmore.

Ravnsborg says Sheriff Volek, who lives near the accident site, loaned him his personal vehicle to go back to Pierre. Ravnsborg brought the car back in the morning with his chief of staff and spokesman, Tim Bormann, to drive him back.

Ravnsborg says he and Bormann stopped at the accident site on the way to Sheriff Volek’s house. The debris from Ravnsborg’s car was still on the road. Ravnsborg and Bormann walked the shoulder and “discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway. My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”

“Just off the roadway”—that’s a key detail. The victim was not thrown far away from the road into the beanfield. The grass in the ditch was not high: Boever had hit a hay bale in that ditch with his truck earlier Saturday; a KSFY photo also shows a bale in the ditch, indicating the ditch had been recently mowed. The body does not seem to have been hidden by vegetation.

Ravnsborg drove to Sheriff Volek’s house immediately to tell him they’d found a dead man. The Sheriff came back to the site with Ravnsborg and asked him to go back to Pierre.

An investigation suddenly graduates from car-deer accident to human fatality, and the sheriff on the scene tells the suspect apparently responsible for the death to leave the county?

Interesting... Very interesting... But coming from the state that has given us two big juicy scandals (EB-5 and GearUp!), well, anything's possible.

Meanwhile, KELO-TV has a photo of the car Ravnsborg was driving (Kelo-TV). The windshield is almost gone on the passenger side.

Meanwhile, of course some people are already blaming the victim for taking a walk at night on a rural road.  (See Here)  (The writer of this is a GOP State Legislator.  Politics is EVERYWHERE.)  
My response:  Why Boever took a walk is totally irrelevant. The last I heard, this is South Dakota, in the United States of America, and each and every one of us have the right to take a walk whenever and wherever we want as long as we're not trespassing. Unlit, rural highways are a really excellent place to see the stars, for one thing. For another, he might well have wanted to get something he forgot out of his truck. And finally, his mental condition, history of alcoholism, or anything else is irrelevant. He was the victim, not the driver. It is the driver's responsibility to explain why he hit and killed a human being. QUIT BLAMING THE VICTIM. Someday it might be your cousin lying by the side of a road, dead, while someone else says, "well, what were they wearing?" 


Meanwhile, this is the victim's cousin (SD State Legislator Nick Nemec) on going to the accident scene (KELO):

At the time the brakes were applied (clearly visible due to tire skid marks) the right hand tires of the car were well onto the shoulder of the road. This stretch of US14 has wide paved shoulders with rumble strips at the white line.

I stepped off the tire skid marks and they went on for over 200 feet before there were two parallel blood skid marks on the paved shoulder. This first blood marks were about 6″ wide and 6′-8′ long.

There was then a skip for about 20 feet before a wider blood skid mark closer to the edge of the shoulder that was about 1′ wide and 20′ long. There was then another skip of about 20′ until a dried pool of blood in the grass on the edge of the road. 

The pool of blood was 2′ from the edge of the pavement (I measured with a tape measure) the grass here had been mowed late this summer and had regrown to 8″ tall (I measured it). This was the very edge of the grass and the ground was nearly level with the shoulder of the road at this point, the ditch slope had not really begun yet. Black flies were buzzing in the air just above the blood pool.

As I stood there a flatbed truck drove by carrying a red Ford Taurus with a huge hole in the passenger side of the windshield. The truck turned into the SD DOT yard near the speed limit sign and drove into the shop and the overhead door quickly closed. Highway patrolmen and other authority figures immediately surrounded my vehicle as I drove up to the building and parked. I requested permission to photograph the windshield of the vehicle and was denied...

I saw traffic cones marking stuff and new paint marks of a different color on the road. I don’t know how long the road was reduced to one lane but a friend told my brother Victor that FBI agents were seen on the scene later that afternoon.” 

I will, at this point, allow you all to consider all the clues that are given as to what happened and make your own pre-investigation report conclusions.  Personally, my view is that - with his consistent statement that he thought he hit a deer, and the body was not discovered until the next day - there is no way that AG Ravsnborg could have been looking at the road at the time of impact.  Texting?  Nodding off?  Distracted by something else?  

Updates will follow as they're released from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry and act like Goodfellas.  And sometimes we just BS all over the place.  




10 September 2020

The Self-Destruct Button



If Beale Street Could Talk film.png

I was talking to someone who shall be nameless about "certain people" who harp on how the Central Park Five should still be in jail.  Now the Central Park Five were falsely accused, and convicted, based on coerced confessions and a lot of cover-up of things like the fact that none of their DNA matched the DNA in the case.  But to "certain people" they should be still in jail because (1) if they were innocent, why did they confess in the first place? and (2) "These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels."

My response to #2 is, "Who does?" and give them a steady stare.*

My response to #1 is, there's a long list of reasons.  The obvious reasons that they were juveniles (four were 15, one was 16), interrogated for hours, without counsel, without food (Dylan Roof was given Burger King takeout), and violence.  (One of the defendants said, "I would hear them beating up Korey Wise in the next room", and "they would come and look at me and say: 'You realize you're next.' The fear made me feel really like I was not going to be able to make it out."  Wikipedia)


And there's also the reason that (in my experience) young adolescents have a self-destruct button built into them which is inexplicable, unpredictable, and always hits at the wrong damn time in the wrong damn way.  Adolescent males are of most notorious for a tendency to direct their violence outwardly, as in every freaking school shooter we've ever seen.  But the self-destruct button hits both sexes in self-harm (cutting etc.), running away, running off with the absolute wrong/worst person possible, and/or suicide attempts, all of which are different ways of giving up on life.  Because they don't see any way out and / or they no longer give a damn.  Confessing to a crime you didn't commit is another way of doing it.


One example of this was done by Agatha Christie in Towards Zero, in which two characters - Sergeant Battle's daughter (a minor character) gives up and confesses to a crime she didn't commit, which stumps Battle.  Why would she do that?  Why?  He cannot understand - but because of his daughter, he can see and believe someone else…


And of course, in James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk, Fonny is falsely accused of raping a woman, and arrested and jailed before trial.  It's a slam-dunk case for the prosecutor, because a cop places him at the scene of the crime, Fonny has priors, as does his primary witness to his innocence, and he is black. The result?  He ends up accepting a plea deal and serves time - years of time - for a crime he didn't do.

Sometimes the law works against you.  Sometimes life works against you.  Drugs, hard knocks, poverty, and other disasters - "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all" - can easily lead to a hopelessness that can be summed up in "What the hell."  Whether it's confessing, killing, suicide, or cutting yourself to the bone.

Or running away:  99% of runaways leave home because home is a lousy place to be.  Most of them leave broke, with the clothes on their backs, and all the self-worth of a sandflea.  It makes them very vulnerable, easy targets for drug dealers, pimps, cons, gangs, cults, and anyone who shows them a hint of attention.  "What the hell.  It just doesn't matter."  To anything anyone does to them or with them.
And it's not just inmates and runaways.  I've seen a few college students hit a crisis and literally sandbag their entire lives.  One I knew was making straight A's, and then something happened (I never did find out what), and he literally quit coming to class the last 2 weeks.  I chased him down and told him if he'd come take the final, he could probably pull out a "D" (as in "D" for "done") or maybe even a "C".  And he said, sure, he would - but he didn't.  And so he flunked.  My class, every class, and dropped out of school.  No idea what happened after that.

I think the self-destruct button is far more common than any of us like to think.

Isn't that what most mid-life crises are?  Figuring, "What the hell", and going out and doing some incredibly stupid crap - from drugs to crime to skeevy relationships - that you may well be too old to survive?

And then there's long-lasting trauma.  I can't tell you how many people I'm talking to who are worn out, exhausted, and struggling with depression and even despair because of 2020 - I mean pandemic, politics, wildfires, hurricanes, and the economy all wrap up to make it hard to stay always cheerful and bright.  Not to mention the constant gaslighting.  Check out this wonderful article by DS Leiter: 

Not to mention some of our politicians.  Our own Governor, Kristi Noem, said last week at a Rotary event (after we passed the 14,000 case mark), that "I won't be changing my recommendations that I can see in the near future. I think this is where we expected we would be. None of this is a surprise. Originally, based on modeling, (our) peak day in June, we would have up to 10,000 people in the hospital in South Dakota that had COVID-19."  (Argus Leader)  In other words, until we have 10,000 people in the hospital in South Dakota, life will continue to go on as normal.  Of course, with only 880,000 people in the entire state, 10,000 hospitalized would mean the whole state has it, but what the hey.

Meanwhile, our Governor is having a great time.  Here she is at September 4th's South Dakota State Fair Bull Bash (Huron Plainsman)  Photo from Twitter:


Sigh...

Anyway, I'm certain that a lot of people are hearing [one of] the voices in their head** saying, "What the hell.  Maybe we should just go ahead and catch the damn virus and get it over with."  Except that the prognosis for 100% recovery from COVID-19 is decreasing rapidly with every new batch of information we get.  Or "What the hell.  Maybe we just won't vote - it won't do any good anyway."  Well, you can figure out your own reasons why that's bull.


All I can say is that this year, this pandemic, and life under almost any circumstances is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don't let the voices in your head get to you, and don't hit the self-destruct button.

“Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum”***



* If you have lived an angelic past, God bless you and keep you, but we're going to run out of things to talk about.  And I probably won't believe you.

** Someday I should write a blog post about the voices, but don't expect it to be coherent.  As I tell my fellow Al-Anons, that I don't call mine "the committee" because committees are organized.

*** Yes, I know that isn't proper Latin.  😎 I like it anyway.  

27 August 2020

A Shot in the Dark


by Eve Fisher

We live in a quiet neighborhood in what's called central Sioux Falls.  We're close enough to two universities that, pre-COVID-19, we saw skateboarders with dreadlocks heading home from class, students playing hackey sack in someone's yard, students walking through snow wearing parkas and shorts.  Late afternoons were always interesting; early mornings were always quiet.

It's a real neighborhood:  ages range from families with small kids to a retiree who lives in Florida.  People walk their dogs.  One of our neighbors has two cats that roam around and take turns hanging out on various porches, including ours.  Lots of old trees, old houses, old porches.  Mostly quiet.  The occasional fender bender or outright crash (especially when students are in a big hurry to get somewhere).  The occasional argument that reaches a crescendo out on someone's porch, sidewalk, or on the street.  Many of the latter are currently sparked by a Lothario in a rental who's running [at least] two women at the same time.

So it came as a shock when, a few weeks ago, the cops woke everyone up at midnight.  We were sound asleep, and it took me a while to realize it wasn't a dream:  someone really was banging on the door.  And wouldn't stop.  I pulled on my bathrobe and stepped gingerly toward the front door.  I could see numerous cop cars, lights going like crazy in the street, and someone walking up and down our porch in between bangs.  He stopped and shone a flashlight in through our living room window:  and I will admit, even though it is Sioux Falls, SD, and I am a rapidly aging white woman in a quiet neighborhood - I held my breath as I turned on the living room light and waved.  And went to open the door.

He was very polite.  He apologized for waking us up, but there had been a drive-by, with a lot of shots fired, and he needed to know if everyone in the house was all right.  I said yes.  He asked if I was sure.  I said, yes.  Then he asked if I would please go through my house and check for bullet holes in the walls, and if I found any, to please let him know.  And if not, I could just turn off the lights and go back to bed.  I said I would, and began turning on all the lights, looking at all the walls, and thankfully, found nothing.  (I did not check the detached garage - I figured it could wait till morning.)

I will say that there's nothing like checking the house for bullet holes to wake you up thoroughly, and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.  Not to mention that the cops didn't leave for another hour or so, and the lights...  And then it started to thunder...  And storm...

The next day the whole neighborhood was groggy.  But we all figured it was a one-off.  My personal suspicion was that the Lothario had gotten into another fight and he or one of the shes was venting.

And then, two days later, around 2 in the morning, we all heard more gunshots - but this time it sounded like they came from the street(s) behind us.  Turns out it did, a couple of blocks away.  So a lot of us called the police and asked for more patrols for a while. And they are apparently working - things calmed down, and we're back to pretty much quiet, so that's good. 

Along the line, we discovered that there's a house a few blocks away that recently became a rental and was rented (apparently) to people who've turned it into a drug house.  "The police are keeping their eye on it", I was told.  I drove by it a while back and it doesn't look nearly as trashy as you might expect.

Meanwhile, people are talking, worrying - and writing - about "what's happening to our wonderful community?"  But Sioux Falls isn't Mayberry any more.  Sure, back in the 1960s and 1970s it had only about 60,000-75,000 people.  Even in 2000 it was only about 125,000.  But today, metro Sioux Falls is around 260,000 people; it's the largest city in the state.  We're at the intersection of the two interstates that cross South Dakota - I-29 and I-90.  We're the medical center of the state - if you get in real trouble, this is where you'll be airlifted.  We're the financial hub as well.  And we have been promoted on national media a few times for being one of the best places to live.

Result?  People move here.  And with people comes trouble.  Drug cases are increasing; crime is increasing generally; and almost every week guns are stolen from unlocked cars.  Yes, you read that correctly - apparently people just aren't getting the memo that leaving guns in an unlocked car might not be a good idea.  In fact, last night the local news announced that it had happened again...  Sigh... 

Still, it's a lot safer than Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Atlanta, all of which Allan and/or I have lived.  I'll stay put.  Granted, I'll also keep an eye on the drug house and on the Lothario...

And I'll keep you all posted.



13 August 2020

Some Things Will Give You Nightmares


Last week was the 75th anniversary of the United States' atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, 8:15 AM. (Nagasaki was bombed August 9, 1945 at 11:01 AM.) I'm not going into the whole history of how those two cities were chosen to be the first and only cities ever to be nuked, nor why no demonstration bomb or warning was given, nor how, even after Nagasaki, Japan's war council still wanted to continue fighting the war. (It wasn't until the Emperor announced that, as long as kokutai - which approximately means Japanese sovereignty - was recognized, he was going to surrender to the Allies, that the war council was forced to acceptance. Sort of.)

But what I want to talk about is the power of the written word.

Back when I taught History of Japan classes (Ancient in the fall, Modern in the spring), when we got to WW2, I had them read John Hersey's Hiroshima and showed them Frank Capra's short film Know Your Enemy: Japan. You can watch it too, below.


The New Yorker has put the magazine version of Hiroshima (originally published August 24, 1946, and it was the entire magazine) available for free online HERE.

A photograph of a walking figure and dead trees


After watching the movie in class and reading the book, they had to write reports analyzing both as propaganda and/or journalism. And then we discussed it all in class.

Couple of things: they found Frank Capra's propaganda techniques pretty funny and pretty crude. Most of them almost always ignored the fact that John Hersey chose as his protagonists those who Americans would be able to relate to.

"A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died." - Hiroshima, p. 2

MY NOTE: If that sounds similar to the opening line of Thornton Wilder's 1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey: “On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” - it should. Hersey cited it as a direct inspiration for his Hiroshima.
Anyway, the six characters are:
  • Mrs. Nakamura - widow raising children.
  • Dr. Terufumi Sasaki - dedicated physician, very Westernized.
  • Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge - German Jesuit priest living in Hiroshima.
  • Toshiko Sasaki - Catholic - who is abandoned by her fiancé after being left crippled, and becomes a nun with the Society of the Helpers of Holy Souls.
  • Dr. Masakazu Fujii - self-absorbed, worldly.
  • Pastor Kiyoshi Tanimoto - Methodist pastor who loves America.
I mean, really, 3 Christians? Japan is at most 2.3% Christian, and the majority are Shinto and/or Buddhist. One foreigner? Two doctors? Mrs. Nakamura is about the only "typical Japanese" in the book. Think that might be on purpose?

Anyway. To move on to what struck me, year after year. The students, as I say, found Capra's movie crude and even funny. The visuals - piles of dead babies, flamethrowers used on living people, etc. - didn't bother them a bit. In fact, most of them didn't even remember those. But they found Hiroshima harrowing. I always had someone who said, "that scene in the [___] gave me nightmares." And a lot of heads nodding in agreement.

This shouldn't be surprising.

"An average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18. Violence is often considerable, even in programs not advertised as violent. Overall, weapons appear on prime time television an average of nine times each hour.19 An estimated 54 percent of American children can watch this programming from the privacy of their own bedrooms."

Volume I: summary report of the American Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth. 1993.

I'd say it's gone up since then.

Anyway, they'd been jaded. They've seen dead babies before; Grand Theft Auto and other video games provide explicit ways of tearing off people's heads, disembowling them, etc.

But words are still effective. If the writing is good. And Hersey's is very good. What scene affected the students most? Depended on the student. The wounded in the river; Father Kleinsorge wandering around with pieces of glass in his neck and back; the burns; the bodies; the vomiting; the polluted river; the skin… They had nightmares.

It novel cover

That's what writing is all about, isn't it? Making someone see it - whatever "it" is - in their minds.

If you can do that, they'll never be able to forget. We've all read scenes like that. We've all - I hope - written at least one scene like that.

Go, and write some more.


30 July 2020

Man's [Dubious] Search for Meaning


Right before the 2008 election, I was present when a Southern father told his sons to go out and buy guns, right now, because if Obama got elected, there would be black people (my terminology, not his) banging down their doors to "get them". It didn't happen. Then or in 2012. I'm sure it's been a great disappointment to him ever since. And I'm sure he continues to hope.

I thought of him the other day when I read a comment on a conservative web site - and I quote:
"Whites, Traditionalists, Conservatives and small o Orthodox Christian's are being treated by the mob the same way the Nazis treated the jews in Nazi Germany, it only a matter of time they throw us in gas chambers."
And I almost felt sorry for the guy. Really. Because I could tell that deep down the commentator wants - no, NEEDS this to happen. Well, probably not to him: but to somebody, to prove how evil the other side is, and how important and righteous he and his must be, to be so savagely persecuted.

As Fred Clark, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote "You probably don’t hope that millions of your neighbors are secretly cannibalistic pedophiles who worship Satan. Because that would be bad. But some people really want that to be true."

In case you're wondering, the existence of a large number of cannibalistic pedophiles who worship Satan is one of the central tenets of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and this came up because it's being professed by a number of GOP candidates for public office. (See NPR)

Lauren Boebert, owner of Shooters Grill, Rifle, Colorado
Lauren Boebert, owner of the Shooters Grill, in Rifle, CO, QAnon supporter, and
Republican nominee, Colorado's 3rd District. © Lauren Boebert campaign web site

Anyway, back to Fred as to why people believe this stuff:
"If it’s not real, after all, then where will the true believers find anything else so exciting to provide meaning for their lives? If there isn’t a massive secret global network of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles, then what’s even the point of anything? They hope that it is real. They want it to be real. They desperately need it to be real...

"But there’s the problem. Once you’ve given yourself over to a pack of lies like QAnon or any other variation of the ancient Satanic baby-killers libel, you belong to those lies. You become those lies. And having become a lie, sincerity and genuineness are no longer available to you. To be a true believer in such outrageous lies makes you incapable of truly believing. So do even the “true believers” really believe this stuff? Not quite, because they can no longer “really” anything.

"I think this also captures what it is that those Second Amendment cultists Boebert feeds at her restaurant “really believe” about all of their delirious fantasies about persecution and confiscation and imminent tyranny precariously kept at bay only by their sidearms pew-pew-pew! You can’t “really believe” such fantasies when you’re sitting there at Shooter’s Grill, eating your Swiss & Wesson burger imperturbed by the evil forces of gubmint tyranny. But you can hope that it is real, because that would be exciting and thrilling and it would mean that you mean something no matter how much you’ve begun to suspect that you don’t." (Slacktivist: "I hope that this is real") (my emphasis)
To put it more simply, as Toby Keith wrote, "Let's Get Drunk and Be Somebody."

This, my friends, is why people join cults and/or believe in conspiracy theories (although all cults are founded on conspiracy theories, imho), and why it's so damned hard to get them out of them. They let people, who believe deep down that they're nothing, be somebody important enough to be wanted. Even if it is only by the law.

One of the many reasons I love Spike Lee's BlacKKKlansman is the KKK guys. Felix, Walter, and Ivanhoe are true believers in the "Lost Cause", "whites are more persecuted than anyone else", "they're comin' after us!" fantasy that apparently started right after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. In between drinks, they blab, shoot pool, whine, shoot guns, and plan to blow up a dorm of black women for being mouthy and black. They think they're mysterious and powerful and deeply important, but in reality, like Sally Bowles, they're about "as fatale as an after dinner mint." (Or, in their case, a Tic Tac.) But they are, also like Sally, dangerous to themselves and to others.

There really was a time when people didn't seem to need to find meaning in cults and conspiracy theories or much of anything because they were engaged in an existential struggle to stay alive for another year. Or month. Or day. Some of it was that a 95% preindustrial agricultural society has too much work to do to stay up late at night wondering if the Illuminati are real. And they knew they were important - they had families to take care of, crops to raise, clothing to make, food to cook, etc. For that matter, Ma and Pa Ingalls weren't sitting around DeSmet, South Dakota, discussing how many people in President Grover Cleveland's cabinet were Reptilians.

So why did things change? Maybe it's because we have more time. Maybe it's because in industrial societies humans have to work according to machines instead of seasons. Maybe it's because we're a celebrity consumer culture nowadays, and there's too many of us for everyone to be a celebrity, and we're drowning in stuff, and we have no idea what's going on.

Anyway, cults / conspiracy theories provide temporary Meaning:

  • The Inner Knowledge: There is a secret cabal of entities who are manipulating everything around us because they're evil and want to. Which means, of course, that all the bad stuff happening around us and to us? None of it is our fault. (Otherwise known as "magical thinking", very addictive, and the center of most racist ideologies.) Anyway, the Inner Knowledge gives us
  • The Inner Certainty: By knowing this we are in the "inner circle", a specially chosen person to know the truth which everyone else has distorted or denied. (At last! At last!)
  • The Inner Excitement: By knowing it we've you have made an enemy of evil powers - mighty, earth shaking / earth gobbling powers. And the stranger, weirder, more perverted, more horrific, more completely impossibly evil the enemy/enemies is/are the better. You know: Satan-worshipping cannibal pedophiles. Or the Reptilians. Or… Cthulhu.
BTW - the puzzling thing about Jim Jones, Cthulhu, and other death cults is that in the long run all they offer their cult-members is a quicker death than the rest of the world, and that apparently is enough. (Head shaking emoji.)
But most cults offer a constant frisson of fear, anxiety, apprehension, but with
  • The Inner Assurance: We will survive and trumph! We will go into spiritual and physical warfare against these demonic alien powers and get to do an awful lot of slaughtering. And probably not suffer at all, because we've all seen the movies, and only the extras get killed. And we're no longer extras, we're among the chosen. One of us might even be the lead! Like me! No, me! No, me!
(And this is how the Pisgah Church becomes the Reformed Pisgah Church becomes the First Reformed Pisgah Church becomes the First United Reformed Pisgah Church becomes the Redeemed First United Reformed Pisgah Church...)

Another aspect of cults / conspiracy theories, etc., is, of course, that they aren't always religious. They can be political, dietary, economic - whatever takes you away from the present and wafts you to an often earthly paradise, like the Marxist "dictatorship of the proletariat." (Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao should have put the kibosh on that dream.)
Or the idea that if you just cut your calorie intake low enough, you will live hundreds of years. (But who wants to live hungry forever?)
Or high colonics (if you haven't seen it, go out and rent, right now, The Road to Wellville, and find out how much of a crackpot John Harvey Kellogg really was). (Oh, and bicycle smiles, everyone!)

Road to wellville ver1.jpg
Here in America the primary economic cult is a combination of
  • Unfettered Capitalism (as opposed to capitalism with checks and balances, i.e., regulations) and
  • Grover Norquist's "drown government in the bathtub" and
  • Trickle-down economics (which started way before Reagan**)
  • The American Work Ethic: 1 week sick leave, 1 week vacation, and a bonus for those who don't use either, and why do you need a weekend off anyway?
Which is why, in the middle of battling a pandemic with no cure, treatment, or vaccine, and statistics like these staring us in the face:

COVID-19 cases in America
It took 97 days to reach 1,000,000 cases
                 (January 21-April 27)
41 days to reach 2,000,000 cases
                 (April 28-June 7)
29 days to reach 3,000,000 cases
                 (June 8-July 6)
14 days to reach 4,000,000 cases
                (July 7-July 21)

the current message from many politicians and pundits is "We must save The Economy at all costs!"

Back to work, back to school, and rewrite the CDC guidelines to match the need to get everyone back to work. And if it costs some lives (the old, weak, disabled, and now children), well, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and they were probably gonna die anyway, but now they'll have died in a good cause. For the good of The Economy.
  • The Economy needs us.
  • The Economy will save us.
  • The Economy lives forever.
And the survivors are going to live in a booming economic paradise! It'll all be worth it! You'll see.

Or not.


**From WJB and Will Rogers:
"There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it." - William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold" speech, 1896
"This election was lost four and six years ago, not this year. They didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickles down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow's hands. They saved the big banks, but the little ones went up the flue." - Will Rogers, 1932
MY NOTE: Now this is an idea that really should be drowned in a bathtub. Hasn't worked almost 100 years, and it's still being proclaimed as if it's the magic cure to everything.

16 July 2020

"Authors and actors and artists and such"


by Eve Fisher

Because the search for really good entertainment is never ending - especially these days -  I'm here to help.  I noticed a while back that there a gajillion stories about rock stars (and, dare I say it, not all of them that good - in fact, mostly extremely formulaic), but there aren't nearly enough about authors and artists and such.  Not to say that I don't like a good movie about musicians:


These are some great documentaries:

Amazing Grace - Aretha Franklin, directed by Sidney Pollack in 1972, released 2018.  Some great, great, great music - and a few surprising cameo shots of the audience.  (Netflix, DVD only)
Miles Davis:  The Birth of the Cool - 2019 (Netflix)
Chasing Trane:  The John Coltrane Documentary - 2016 (Netflix)

Yes, I like jazz - sue me.  

Now let's commingle the musicians as we move on to authors and artists and such:

Impromptu - (Netflix, DVD only)  with Judy Davis as George Sand, Hugh Grant as Chopin, Mandy Pantinkin as Alfred de Musset, and Julian Sands as Listz.  (And also Emma Thompson, and Bernadette Peters as a wickedly wonderful villain.)  I love this movie - a rom-com with great music, costumes, settings, set in the 1830s, all of it true, and Judy Davis knocks me out as George.   

I'm really becoming a fan of Argentinian Director Gaston Duprat.  I mentioned his Mi Obra Maestra (My Masterpiece) on Netflix back last July.  (https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2019/07/miscellany.html)  As I said then, You gotta love a movie that opens up with a guy saying, "I'm a murderer".  

So we finally watched another Duprat movie, and I wished I'd seen it earlier:

The Distinguished Citizen.png

The Distinguished Citizen (Netflix), is a film that should become one of every writer's darkest nightmares.  What happens when you go back to the small town you came from for a "special event"?  For a "special honor"?  It captures small towns perfectly.  I knew every freaking character all too well, and I have been to - in fact, I have JUDGED - that art competition, by God.  Small towns are the same in Argentina or South Dakota.  And while cities may have a real edge on small towns with sudden random violence, only in a small town can you get the slow, slow, slow burning build to the disaster you know is coming, but cannot stop.  Wonderful.  

Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (2015)

We watched Trumbo last night on Netflix:  Helen Mirren was brilliant as Hedda Hopper, who really was even more of a bitch in real life.  (Favorite story about HH:  she wrote a nasty about Joseph Cotton having an extramarital affair with Deanna Durbin.  When Cotton saw HH, in a restaurant, he pulled her chair out from under her.  The next day he got endless flowers and telegrams from people who wished they'd had the courage to do the same.)  Brian Cranston, excellent as Trumbo.  Louis C.K. was interesting casting.  Of course the script made Trumbo a little more of a hero of the Constitution than he actually was, and much more fun than he probably was - but one of the things I liked was watching him, writing, rewriting, cutting-and-pasting, and obviously wrestling his way through his great screenplays.  


Never Look Away (film).jpg

A truly great movie about artists is Donnersmarck's Never Look Away.  It's a fictionalized version of the life and art of Gerhard Richter, who said himself said that it goes too far (in this The New Yorker article HERE).  But I can understand why and how Donnersmarck couldn't resist:  

The heart of the plot is wrapped around the true story of Richter's schizophrenic aunt, who was forcibly sterilized and later "euthanized" by the Nazis.  The doctor who ordered both these "procedures" was - unbeknownst for a long time to Richter - the father of Richter's wife.  (As always, truth is stranger than fiction...)  But the heart of the movie is the drive to be an artist, no matter the circumstances, the lies, the world, the flesh, and the devil.  My husband, Allan, who is a great artist in his own right (see his webpage HERE) said it was the best presentation he ever saw of how an artist goes from nothing (a blank canvas, a lump of clay) to a work of art.  (Netflix on DVD or Amazon Prime for $6.99)

The Painter and the Thief.jpg

The Painter and the Thief is an amazing documentary currently available on Amazon, which takes mystery, art, addiction, crime, prison, domestic abuse, and tattoes and mingles them all together in a story that is unbelievable but true.  Barbora Kysilkova, an artist from the former Czechoslovakia, forms a relationship with Karl Bertil-Nordland, a man who stole her artwork.  She goes to his hearing to find out why he did it - and ends up painting him. Repeatedly. This means, as Bertil admits, “She sees me very well."  Then he adds, "but she forgets that I can see her, too.” The New Yorker called it a "quaveringly dark fairy tale" - and they were right. It's worth the $3.99 rental price, that's for damn sure.  

BTW - for some really great, entertaining, stylish documentaries on art, I can recommend all of Waldemar Januszczak's on Amazon Prime:  This is an English art critic who knows his stuff and has a wicked sense of humor.  Renaissance Unchained, The Impressionists, Rococo Before Bedtime, Brushstrokes, and more.  We've enjoyed every single one of them.  We just finished his documentary on Paul Gauguin, in which I learned that Gauguin spent his childhood in Peru.  (I swear no one ever told me this before.)  I consider this as important a discovery - it explains so much about his later artwork! - as when I found out that Aaron Burr was Jonathan Edwards' grandson (which I think explains so much about Burr's rebellion against, well, everything).  Some things really need to be told clearly, and from the beginning.  

Well, that will give you all a few nights' entertainment.  

And a few quotes that may also spark a story idea or two:
  • The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent - John Maynard Keynes
  • Put not your trust in princes - since they don't produce, they always steal - Robert Heinlein
  • Seek approval from the one person you desperately want it from, and you're guaranteed not to get it - David Sedaris
Oh, and Knives Out! is on Netflix, too.

Until next time!




02 July 2020

How the System Gets Systemic and Other Tales


I see the grand opening of America is going well. Especially in Florida and Texas. But more on that later. Or maybe not. It's too easy a shot.

What struck me about the Tulsa Rally, the Arizona "Students for Trump" Rally, and (I'm sure) tomorrow's 3rd of July Fireworks at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota* were the "Front Row Joes". The ones who show up early, camp out, bring the kids and grandkids, travel from rally to rally, wear special outfits, have slogans, legends, beliefs, and a whole culture that goes with following the object of desire from one venue to another. You know: the conservative version of Deadheads.


God bless them all, and may they not get the virus. BTW, I can't help but wonder how many of the older crowd were Jerry Garcia fans back in the day. I'll bet if someone started humming "Friend of the Devil" a lot of people would take up the song...

BUT BACK TO THE MAIN THEME

Meanwhile, though, I've been thinking about systemic racism. Now I have not experienced this as such - all of the people who have ever harrassed me about my ethnicity have so far gotten it wrong: I am neither Jewish, Native American, Italian, or mixed-race, although I would not mind in the slightest if I were. What this dark-haired, dark-eyed, large-nosed cantankerous crone is, is Greek, and my Ancestry gene test proves it. (God, I wish racists would bother to do a little research and get their hateful ethnic stereotypes correct.)

But I certainly have experienced systemic sexism. As has every woman I know. So, let's go over some of the issues.

Dress Codes - "Show us your legs, ladies, and don't be shy about it!"

My first official job was in 1971 (I lied about my age, and other things), as a switchboard operator in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids gets cold and very snowy in winter, but we were required to wear dresses to work. And the manager could require us to wear dresses, even though no one in the public ever saw us. (Most of us wore pants on the way over and changed.) Women couldn't wear pants on the job anywhere at that time. It wasn't until the mid-70s that the pantsuit became popular and women could wear them at work.

But not everywhere: women weren't allowed to wear anything but skirts on the floor of the US Senate until 1993, when Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore pantsuits in defiance of the rules. That took a while, didn't it?

But sometimes it takes even longer: As late as 2019, a federal judge struck down a rule at a North Carolina charter school that prohibited girls at the school from wearing pants. It required them instead to wear skirts, skorts, or jumpers. The school had argued that the dress code promoted “traditional values.” (HERE)

And I note that the rule is still - on the Weather Channel and Fox News among other places - that female broadcasters wear (often sleeveless) dresses and spike heels all four seasons, while their male counterparts can actually cover their legs and arms with multiple layers. Still.


Jobs - It's hard to get one if you are barred from even applying.

Help wanted ads in newspapers were listed by gender until 1973. Jobs for Men; Jobs for Women. Betcha can't figure out what kinds of jobs were listed under JFW - secretarial, receptionist, clerks, low-level accountancy, waitresses, hostesses. CPAs were listed under Jobs for Men, along with everything else that paid a living wage.

But in 1973, in Pittsburgh Press Co. v Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973), SCOTUS upheld an ordinance enacted in Pittsburgh that forbade sex-designated classified advertising for job opportunities, against a claim by the parent company of the Pittsburgh Press that the ordinance violated its First Amendment rights. (Wikipedia) And finally, the barriers broke down!

Long history of discriminatory newspaper ads | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It still took a while for things to actually change throughout the land, and in many places, a token woman got hired, and that was enough, despite the fact that (ahem) women do make up 50% of the population. So far we're settling for 23% of Congress, and 5% of CEOs, and 0% Vice Presidents or Presidents. To quote the great RBG when asked "'When do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court?' And my answer is when there are nine." (RBG)

Meanwhile, we're still earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Higher Education

While there's a long history of women's colleges in America, beginning in the 1800s with seminaries, almost all of them were aimed at teaching teachers. Full education and co-educational college education was a long hard slog. It wasn't until the 1950s that - again - SCOTUS weighed in with a number of decisions that said public single-sex universities violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

"The Ivy League schools held out the longest: Yale and Princeton didn’t accept female students until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977 (when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College). Brown (which merged with women’s college Pembroke), Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981, respectively. Other case-specific instances allowed some women to take certain classes at Ivy League institutions (such as Barnard women taking classes at Columbia), but, by and large, women in the ’60s who harbored Ivy League dreams had to put them on hold." (Wikipedia)

Health - When you're not included because you're just an inferior man.

BTW, even today, most clinical trials for medicine and medical procedures are done exclusively on men. This is because - as we're always told - women have menstrual cycles that would screw up the research and men don't, and besides, "the average human is a '60 kilogram man'"**. One size fits all, right? Well, this has had some grimly hilarious results - did you know that the first major study ever done on breast cancer was done on men? True. But even today, studies on heart disease, lung cancer, Alzheimer's, and cholesterol are done primarily on men, and even when women are included in the studies, "they often fail to stratify data by sex or include information about hormone status or any other gender-specific factors." Which means we still don't know how well various drugs or treatments actually work for women. (HERE)

BTW - it's even worse for minorities. "Nearly 40 percent of Americans belong to a racial or ethnic minority, but the patients who participate in clinical trials for new drugs skew heavily white—in some cases, 80 to 90 percent. " (Scientific American)

The Pill

In 1957, the FDA approved of the birth control pill but only for “severe menstrual distress.” In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. In both cases, it was only for married women. And even then it was only legal in some states. It wasn't until the late 60s through early 70s that it was made legal and available for both single and married women.

Credit - Or, how do you start a business without any money?

Until 1974, a woman was not able to apply for credit without her father's or husband's signature. If you were a single woman, you were SOL. The Equal Opportunity Credit Act changed that. BTW, it was Congresswoman Lindy Boggs who added the provision banning discrimination due to sex or marital status, because the committee hadn't put it in the original bill. She photocopied the new version of the bill and told the other committee members, "Knowing the members composing this committee as well as I do, I'm sure it was just an oversight that we didn't have 'sex' or 'marital status' included. I've taken care of that, and I trust it meets with the committee's approval." The committee unanimously approved the bill.

Credit - Small Business Loans

Took a long time to get. And I know a number of women who were rejected by a bank - because we generally don't have the assets of a man - and started their small businesses using credit cards. Lots of them.

More Problems with Being Female While Working - Pregnancy

Besides trying to even get a job, or trying to even get credit to start your own business, or to get credit to buy or rent the furnishings or clothing you needed, women could also get fired, legally, for getting pregnant until the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Speaking of Pregnancy, how about the Age of Consent?

In 1880, the ages of consent were set at 10 or 12 in most states, with the exception of Delaware where it was 7. Yes, you read that correctly. By 1920, however, I'm happy to say that 26 states had an age of consent at 16, 21 states had an age of consent at 18, and one state (Georgia) had an age of consent at 14. Georgia which raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 in 1995, and Hawaii did the same in 2001.

And how about consent, period?

Well, if you were married - you couldn't say no. Spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.

And, for most of us who have not been living under a rock, we all know that rape is damned hard to prove in the courts of public opinion, public gossip, and the law. Especially since as many as 200,000 rape kits are still sitting around police stations in the US that have never been and never will be tested. Kind of makes you feel like it just doesn't matter. But it does... (HERE)

And sexual harrassment at the workplace was not made illegal until 1986, when the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment can be sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII in the case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. However, as some of us know, it still continues...

(See a host of stories on that topic, including my own "Pentecost", in Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology, SleuthSayer Elizabeth Zelvin, editor.)

More Problems with Being Female While Working - Health Insurance

Charging women more for health insurance than men wasn’t outlawed in health insurance until 2010 with the Affordable Care Act. Let me repeat that:

WOMEN COULD AND WERE CHARGED MORE THAN MEN FOR HEALTH INSURANCE UNTIL 2010's ACA!!!!

If the ACA is tossed out - as the current administration is trying to get SCOTUS to do - that will end and women can be charged more again. And undoubtedly will. (NPR)

Jury Duty

Many states excluded women from jury duty until SCOTUS declared that to be illegal in Taylor v Louisiana in 1973. Gives a whole new insight into the all male juries of Twelve Angry Men, and Anatomy of a Murder, doesn't it?

BTW - Barring women from practicing law was only prohibited in the U.S. in 1971.

"I thought you were a man"

Previously shared in a comment on Melanie Campbell's blog (HERE):

Back in the late 70s, I made the finals for new play contest, and I went down for the public reading of all 5 finalists. Now, I'd submitted the play under the pen name M. V. Fisher. When I arrived, the person in charge looked at me, and said, "We thought you were a man." And sure enough, all the other finalists were men. I didn't win.
Systemic sexism is real.
Systemic racism is real.
Fight them both TOOTH AND NAIL!!!!

Love always,
The Crone.


** For an absolute classic on how women have been measured by the male over the millenia, real Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure of Woman. https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Woman-Carol-Tavris/dp/0671797492

A quick quote: On hysterectomy for a 'precancerous' diagnosis: "Although prostate cancer is far more common than uterine cancer, no one recommends preventative surgery on the prostate. The very idea would make most men premurderous."

18 June 2020

Adventures in Logic


At the entrance of the Temple to Apollo at Delphi were three maxims:
  1. Know thyself.
  2. Nothing to excess.
  3. Surety brings ruin.
All very logical, and God knows every philosopher from Cleobolus (c. 6 BC) to Aristotle (384-322 BC) hammered home the maxim "Moderation in all things." Along with the primacy of Man's Reason, and how that made Man superior to the beasts of the field, not to mention foreigners (all of them barbarians to the Greeks), slaves and, of course, women.  (Except the hetairai.)

But the Greeks also worshiped Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theater.  Their symposia were all male affairs (except for the high-class hetairai and the low-class musicians) at which they recited poetry, discussed philosophy, sing songs, give speeches, and get thoroughly drunk.  (Please, read Plato's Symposium HERE for one of the great discussions of love anywhere - interrupted by a very drunk Alcibiades and his buddies.)  

Decent women - wives and daughters - were kept at home, uneducated and working, in the women's quarters, where they were to never be seen or heard by any other man.  Except at weddings.  And their coming of age.  And the Dionysian Mysteries when all those well-hidden wives and daughters turned into Maenads, Bacchantes, and raced out into the hills, where they drank and danced and sang all night long, in the religious frenzy of Dionysus, tearing animals apart with their bare hands.  (And the occasional man who dared to look into their rituals.  See Euripedes' The Bacchae.)


That's the Greeks for you.  Logic, logic, logic, and the next thing you know they're screaming wild in the mountains.  Well, at least they had the gods to blame.  

So much for logic.  

"If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any."  President Trump, 6/15/2020.  

In the world of Logical Fallacies, this is known as a False Equivalence - if THIS, then THAT - which always sound logical, and can work, but only if both parts are completely true.  

BTW:  Twitter has been full of other examples of such thinking:
"Yes, and if I stop weighing myself, I'll never gain any weight."
"If we stopped being poor, we'd all be rich."
"If I quit recognizing birthdays, I won't get any older."
Make your own:  ______________________ 

But God knows, that's not the first time that Presidents have said dicey things:

"When a great number of people are out of work, unemployment results."  Calvin Coolidge  
"While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover." - Herbert Hoover, May 1, 1930
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" —George W. Bush, Jan. 11, 2000
"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself." - Ronald Reagan
"I was under medication when I made the decision to burn the tapes."—Richard Nixon

Meanwhile, there is no system of logic in any universe that will allow you to be both the Party of Lincoln and carry a Confederate flag.  The history is plain:  Lincoln and the Confederacy were on opposite sides of the Civil War.  

BUT the Appeal to Ignorance (argumentum ad ignoratiam)  can work a treat if people are determined enough to remain ignorant.



And let's not forget the classic misshapen logic of criminals, all of which - and more! - I've heard on the job at the pen:  

"Look, if they didn't want to be robbed, they shouldn't have had such nice stuff."  
"I don't have to follow the rules.  Rules only apply to losers." 
"No one has ever been mistreated the way I've been mistreated.  I'm amazed that I'm even alive."
"No one has ever done anything for me.  Everything I've got I've had to take."
"No matter where I am, I always know I'm the smartest person in the room."
"It's not my fault I got arrested:  my baby mama turned me in to the cops for dealing because I was cheating on her."  
"I've never done a thing wrong in my entire life.  It's just that people always have it in for me."
"I'm the messenger of God.  If you hadn't been such sinners, God wouldn't have sent me to punish you."
     (All right, all right, the last one's Genghis Khan.)

Also, see the wonderful Top Ten Criminal Thinking Errors HERE.

If the numbers don't fit, change things!

Back on May 13, two weeks after reopening, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the State of Georgia made it look like its COVID-19 cases were going down by putting the dates out of order - April 26th after May 2nd, and two Sundays in one week - on its published chart of COVID-19 cases, in order to prove that "new confirmed cases in the counties with the most infections had dropped every single day for the past two weeks."  (Link)  And to prove that the reopening was going great!  Huzzah!  Except it wasn't.  

What's that about All Lives Matter?

"A resurgent economy is seen as critical to boosting President Donald Trump’s reelection hopes and has become a growing focus of the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence."  (AP)  

Which begs the question, why isn't preventing a second, third, or fourth deadly wave of COVID-19 seen as critical to boosting President Trump's reelection hopes?  Especially since the stock market that increased at the reopening dropped like a hot rock through ice cream - almost 2,000 points - on June 12, as COVID-19 spiked around the country.  Oh, and currently COVID-19 cases are increasing around 10,000 a day in the United States.  Doesn't look like we flattened the curve.

I know he says terrible things, but look at all the conservative judges...  Especially Neil Gorsuch...

Image


One of the accomplishments ascribed to President Trump is the appointment of conservative judges and Supreme Court Justices.  Meanwhile, two days ago, SCOTUS refused to hear review a ruling on California sanctuary laws, as well as a several Second Amendment Cases.  And then Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the above ruling.  “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.  As one might expect, many conservatives who now praised him as the country's moral salvation are now calling him "Deep State".  (And far more unprintable things.)

BTW, two things to remember:
(1) Judges don't always vote their party.  I grew up seeing "Impeach Earl Warren Signs" on trees because as Supreme Court Chief Justice, ultra-conservative Earl Warren decided that segregation, suppression of free speech (whether for Communists or protesters), and mandatory official school prayer were all unconstitutional.  
(2) Those who assume that Justices will vote their party (i.e., "dance with them what brung 'em"), are always going to be SOL somewhere along the line.  In fact, this is a damn good thing to remember as a general rule in life.  Otherwise, you're gonna end up crying over The Tennessee Waltz way too many times.


I'm not a doctor, but I play one in my mind

Among many other current arguments in what I like to think is the fringe (but is rapidly becoming the back and sides as well):

"It's no worse than the flu."  
Tell that to the people who, after 60 days, are still sick with COVID-19, the ones who have had major organs compromised (apparently for life), and what about the guy who got a 1.1 million dollar hospital bill?  Oh, and since we have neither treatment nor vaccine, the current mortality rate is averaging about 6%.  It's 0.1% for the flu.  (I know, percentages are hard... look it up.  There are websites that will explain it to you.)

"I don't wear a mask because masks make you sick!  You breathe all that CO2 and you're gonna die!  You've got to have as much fresh air as possible!"  
My dears, if masks make you sick, then every surgeon, physician, nurse, and lab technician must die extremely young.  And they should all, obviously, be in ICU right now, as patients.  BTW, you don't have to wear masks in your own home, or in your car, or when you're taking a (socially distanced) walk outside.  

"If masks were so good for you, why didn't they tell us to wear them from the beginning?  Huh?  How can you trust the doctors if they keep changing their minds?"
So, if the antibiotic isn't working on your gangrene, you shouldn't listen to your doctor when she changes your medication in search of something that might work?  

If you think I'm exaggerating, check out this video of Orange County residents protesting against a requirement to wear masks.  Notice the reference to "I am a sovereign citizen" (and read my 2012 blogpost - https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2012/08/sovereign-citizens.html - about this unmerry loose rubberband of hoaxers and victims).   


The gist of the anti-mask crowd is: "It's so inconvenient etc. for me to wear a mask, so rather than protect the elderly, or those with pre-existing conditions, or even my own family & friends, EVERYONE ELSE STAY HOME FOR MY CONVENIENCE!"  (At least they're easy to avoid - they're the ones not wearing a mask.)
And when they say, "I'd rather die of COVID-19 than live in fear and wear a mask all the time", all I can say is (1) death is far more inconvenient, and (2) if you're scared of dying of CO2 poisoning from wearing a mask, I think you're going to be terrified when your lungs and kidneys collapse from COVID-19.  

Also, scientists change their minds after experiments and research have proved that their hypothesis was faulty.  They don't keep doing the same damn thing over and over again, even when it's proved ineffective, expecting different results.  That's why the call it science, instead of magic.  

A Great Number of Logical Fallacies Revolve Around Bulls&8t.

Ad Hominem - or the Personal Attack.  From Crooked Hillary to Racist Clementine, Sleepy Joe to Moscow Mitch, we've heard a ton of them.  Most of us will have been on the receiving end of them, especially in junior high.  The key is to ignore them all.  

A subgroup of this is Guilt by Association - where a person is vilified for "associating" with someone else.  Thus the 75 year-old protester Martin Gugino (peace activist with Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker Organization) was called "Antifa" by our President.

Another subgroup of this is Guilt by the Past.  Example: After Tamir Rice, the 12 year old black boy was shot by a Cleveland cop for playing in a park with a toy gun, "The Northeast Ohio Media Group investigated the backgrounds of the parents and found the mother and father both have violent pasts." Which has nothing to do, of course, with a little boy playing in a park.

Strawman Argument - where one attacks a position the other doesn't really hold.  

“You're against the death penalty. You want to set murderers loose to kill again.” (Instead of arguing what punishment murder should get, this accuses you of wanting murderers to be allowed to run amok in society.)  

Pars Pro Toto, or "The Part Taken for the Whole" - Used - often extremely successfully, to divert attention away from, and even to ridicule, a particular case.

"We must save the children in Yemen."  "No, first we must stop all abortion."
“We must save the whales.” “No, we must save all the creatures in the sea.”
“Black lives matter.” “No, all lives matter.”

(My favorite response to the last one was when a conservative acquaintance announced his birthday on Facebook only to have someone - not me, sadly - respond #AllBirthdaysMatter.  Really pissed the guy off.)  
Slippery Slope - This is used over and over and over again.  Among the most popular in the US are:

"Same-sex marriage leads to bestiality."  (Louie Gohmert, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson, among others, have all used this argument.  - HERE)
"If marijuana is legal, everyone will become heroin addicts."  (Classic, going all the way back to Richard Nixon.)
"If you give the poor money, they won't work because they are feckless and lazy, and that's why they're poor in the first place, so you should never just give the poor money because it won't help them, it will just make them lazy." (This one is a double decker of Logical Fallacies, because it combines the Slippery Slope with Circular Reasoning.  Used frequently to gut SNAP, etc.)
"Give teenagers birth control and all they'll do is have sex and get pregnant." (Actually, the opposite is true - see HERE)

False Dilemma - You're given two options, black or white, which do you choose?  Except that there is probably at least a third option, if not a lot more.  

“Either we go to war, or we appear weak.”  (Ever hear of diplomacy?)
"The only economic options are unfettered capitalism or communism." (There used to be a wide range of economic theories and practices - remember mercantilism? - but that was back in the 18th & 19th centuries when, apparently, people had time to think about such things.)  
"Either we open the country to restart our economy or we keep everything shut down."  (How about if we increase our testing and contact tracing abilities first?  How about if we mandate certain rules for how we open and what we have people do?)  

Meanwhile, all of these, and many more can be found at the following websites:


Good reads. After all, it's always good to know what kind of bulls&&t's being handed to you, and how to refute it.

† "We have courtesans [hetairai] for pleasure, concubines for the daily tending of the body, and wives in order to beget legitimate children and have a trustworthy guardian of what is at home." Appolodorus, Speech Against Neaera (Link HERE)

04 June 2020

Roadkill


I had another blog all written out for this week, about the death of George Floyd, the ongoing protests, peaceful and those that morphed into riots, the government's reaction, etc. And it was pretty good. But other people have said it better.

In fact, I summed up pretty much all I had to say about protests and powerlessness in an earlier blog, which you can read here: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2014/12/absolute-powerlessness.html

So instead, I want to talk about roadkill.

We've all seen it, every day. Some of it's so old it's easy to ignore - just a stain on the road. Deer carcasses last longer. It used to be that either the person who hit the deer would take it home and eat it, or the knacker man would come by and pick up dead carcasses, but now they lie there and rot for a long time. Deer and possums, skunks and raccoons, cats and dogs, squirrels, snakes and turtles.

Of course, some animals are very hard to avoid. Squirrels, as most of us know, are adrenaline junkies if not downright suicidal. They race back and forth across the road, and sometimes, just as you think you've managed to avoid the damn thing, it races back right under your wheels. I've killed a few squirrels in my day.

And we've all seen deer leaping across a road at night, in some frenzied attempt to get somewhere. When we moved up to South Dakota, back in 1990, we naively asked why we needed auto collision insurance, forgetting that young guns get drunk and drive fast everywhere. And old farmers: well, there you are, doing the legal limit of 55, and instead of waiting for you to zoom by, they pull out in front of you doing 20. I've stood on my brakes many a time. Anyway, we were told that up to 50% of all collisions in SD were with deer. Sort of like with moose up in Alaska, Maine, etc.



So far, I've been lucky and haven't hit a deer. But I do have a friend who hit a cow, at night, at a speed that caused the cow to ride up the car hood, through the windshield, and partly on him. He ended up with long lines of stitches on his face that would gain him street-cred in prison if he ever had to go there. Whenever anyone asked him about it, he'd always growl, "Yeah, but you should see the cow."

Meanwhile, I always wonder about the cats and dogs and other smaller mammals. Accidents or on purpose? You'd have to have been there, I guess.

But I know about turtles. That's on purpose. You can always miss a turtle. They do not - I repeat - do not move quickly. I've been behind too many trucks and seen them deliberately swerve in order to hit the turtle.

A 1996 study done in Ontario, Canada, noted that a lot of reptiles were killed where vehicles usually don't drive, i.e., the side of the road, the median strip - in other words, it was done on purpose. So in 2007, they set up a research study using reptile decoys of snakes and turtles. The found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit they decoys, "speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit them". And (sadly) male drivers did this more often than female drivers. "On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys." (Wikipedia)

BTW, I'm one of the drivers who stop to pick up turtles and move them out of the way. They have a tendency to express their gratitude all over my feet, but hey, that's the way it goes. If an alien ever picks me up and carries me across a road, I'll probably be expressing fluid gratitude myself.

In most Native American cultures, turtles represent "healing, wisdom, spirituality, health, safety, longevity, protection, and fertility. Some Native Americans believe that the turtle contributed to creation because the turtle dove into the primeval waters to retrieve mud to create Mother Earth. Additionally, the shell of the turtle represents protection and perseverance... Lakóta mothers make a leather amulet shaped like a kéya (Lakóta for turtle) for their newborn babies. Within, they place their child’s umbilical cord and sew them closed for protection. The amulet keeps the child grounded and connected to its mother and Uncí Maká [Mother Earth]." (Native Hope)


Why would someone deliberately swerve to hit a turtle? Smash its back, leave it splayed out and broken and bloody and drive on? I don't understand it, but I know why they do it: 

Because they wanted to kill it. Because they wanted to kill something.

And I know something else: I don't want a person who would kill a turtle anywhere near me. I don't want them in my family. I don't want them in my place of employment. I would not hire or recommend them for any job. Especially for a job in law enforcement of any kind, whether as a police officer, corrections officer, border patrol officer, etc., etc., etc.

Because they like to kill things.

Maybe we need a new question on job applications:

"When I see a turtle by the side of the road, I ____"

There are a lot of scavengers in the world - coyotes, jackals, vultures, maggots, blowflies - that come out of nowhere and grab and loot whatever they can. And in times of protests and riots, they get all the attention, because - and this is just the brutal truth - in this country (and many others) property gets a whole lot more respect than people, especially the poor or minorities. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" was said in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, in 1968 by presidential candidate George Corley Wallace at a campaign rally, and a few days ago by President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, not a lot is said about the systematic looting of our money and property by corporations and the wealthy through tax breaks, tax shelters, special rules, deregulation, and the highly under-reported and frequently used eminent domain (for dams, condos, fracking, pipelines, border walls, shopping malls, golf courses, etc.) See: Wikipedia and also see 7 Maddening Examples.

Scavengers - of all kinds - aren't good.

But you know something? Scavengers only show up after the killers have done their work. "Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." (Matthew 24:28)