Avarice

I got called in for jury duty, yet again. As it happened I used a hardship—being reduced yet again to Uber and Lyft, I’m just barely getting by, and a two-week trial would be ruinous—to get out of it, but as long-time readers know, our system of injustice is one of many features of our system of social organization that I dissent from.

In general, I object to the reduction of justice to law, especially law passed predominantly by wealthy white men. Jeffrey Reiman has noted the consequent discrepancy: The system of injustice is lenient towards the wealthy, but the poor and people of color face discrimination at every stage of the process, from suspicion all the way to sentencing.[1] Those sentences don’t merely harm the accused but their families and communities, while incarceration takes on the character of an epidemic.[2] And when the accused receive trials at all—there’s a lot of pressure to accept plea bargains, which count as guilty pleas—the outcomes will be the result of a profoundly flawed process.[3] Continue reading “Avarice”

  1. [1]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  2. [2]Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America(New York: New Press, 2011).
  3. [3]Dan Simon, In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2012).

Barack Obama asks, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?”

It seems like a clever line:

“Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?” [Barack] Obama asked a crowd of 4,000 as the fifth interrupting protester was escorted out of a Miami rally on Friday [November 2]. Any further shouts were drowned out by the crowd’s roar.[1]

And it would seem to have earned the audience’s approval. But what this line actually illustrates is how utterly clueless the former president is—and a lot of other folks are—about authoritarian populism. Continue reading “Barack Obama asks, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?””

  1. [1]Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Obama rips hecklers: Why are the people who won the last election ‘so mad all the time?’” Washington Post, November 3, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/11/03/obama-rips-hecklers-why-are-people-who-won-last-election-so-mad-all-time/

This is not just extremist right-wing violence. It is our violence. And we must own it.

In the wake of three incidents of xenophobic and extreme right-wing violence,[1] some are pointing a blaming finger at Donald Trump, who feeds and feeds upon what’s properly called hierarchically invidious monism, a prominent feature of—some might call it a “mother’s milk” for—authoritarian populism: Continue reading “This is not just extremist right-wing violence. It is our violence. And we must own it.”

  1. [1]Ray Sanchez and Melissa Gray, “72 hours in America: Three hate-filled crimes. Three hate-filled suspects,” CNN, October 28, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/28/us/72-hours-of-hate-in-america/index.html

Musings of a San Francisco kid

Even after all these years, it feels weird to be in the Los Angeles area.

I was raised in San Francisco. We learned that Southern California steals all our water (actually it mostly goes to wasteful corporate agriculture) and that you can cut the air with a butter knife (this is certainly not true now).

Oh yes and, of course, the traffic. The traffic is Southern California is the stuff of legends. When I first encountered what we in the San Francisco Bay Area call the “South Bay,” I referred to it as a northern outpost of Los Angeles because it boasts something of a maze of freeways, smog, and urban sprawl. Continue reading “Musings of a San Francisco kid”

On understanding the ‘other’

One of the curious issues that cropped up, that unfortunately I did not have a chance to address at the time, at the recent Human Science Institute retreat, following a presentation by Milton Reynolds, was that a couple of white women apologized to Reynolds, a Black man, for imposing upon him to explain his worldview. Both of them are entirely worthy scholars so I mean absolutely no disrespect here.

Rather, I think I know where they were coming from. I was there once, too. Continue reading “On understanding the ‘other’”

Criticism of Elizabeth Warren for revealing her DNA test confuses the potential for the actual

Update, February 7, 2019: Now that she wants to be president, Elizabeth Warren has apologized for calling herself Native American.[1] To be honest, I don’t see how this apology helps her: If the claim is really that serious, it will stick, regardless of any apology, especially an apology given in service to a presidential candidacy.


Our story begins, yet again, with Donald Trump, who bundles misogyny with racism in calling Elizabeth Warren, a possible Democratic Party presidential contender in 2020, “Pocohontas.” He did this much like when he was a “birther,” questioning Barack Obama’s U.S. birth. And we might remember that Obama eventually released his long form birth certificate—also in response, partly, to Trump’s protracted goading.[2] Warren now has released a DNA test demonstrating that she probably does indeed have some American Indian heritage.[3] Continue reading “Criticism of Elizabeth Warren for revealing her DNA test confuses the potential for the actual”

  1. [1]Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner, “Elizabeth Warren apologizes for calling herself Native American,” Washington Post, February 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/elizabeth-warren-apologizes-for-calling-herself-native-american/2019/02/05/1627df76-2962-11e9-984d-9b8fba003e81_story.html
  2. [2]Mike Vilensky, “Trump Roasted and Skewered at White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” New York, May 1, 2011, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2011/05/whcd.html; Jacob Weisberg, “Are Republicans losing their grip on reality?” Slate, May 20, 2011, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_big_idea/2011/05/fantasy_island.html
  3. [3]Masha Gessen, “Elizabeth Warren Falls for Trump’s Trap—and Promotes Insidious Ideas About Race and DNA,” New Yorker, October 16, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/elizabeth-warren-falls-for-trumps-trap-and-promotes-insidious-ideas-about-race-and-dna

Why we won’t respond to climate change

I let a passenger down yesterday.

I’m going through a particularly rocky transition at the moment, with woefully inadequate financial resources, so I’m back doing the Uber and Lyft thing, which pays abysmally, but in a weird way manages to keep me barely afloat. I was in the East Bay yesterday, initially to get my car inspected so I could resume doing this so-called ‘ridesharing’ driving, but then to make what money I could—fast. Continue reading “Why we won’t respond to climate change”

Emily Yoffe asks if “anyone still take[s] both sexual assault and due process seriously.” She certainly doesn’t.

I am not going to delve very deeply into debates over the statistics about how many women are raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed. Let’s just stipulate that there are many such cases, that incidents of this nature can be considered ubiquitous, and that many more offenses occur than are reported to police or otherwise come to light. Continue reading “Emily Yoffe asks if “anyone still take[s] both sexual assault and due process seriously.” She certainly doesn’t.”

Damn it, Rondi! I’m a doctor, not a medical doctor!

Note: I am, of course, borrowing my title from the original Star Trek’s Doctor “Bones” McCoy, who in various adventures reprimanded his captain with the line, “Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a [fill in the blank]!” I particularly recall a case, in the episode “The Devil in the Dark” involving a silicon-based life form called a horta, injured before the Enterprise crew figured out that she was an intelligent life form and how to communicate with her, that had been trying to protect her eggs from Federation miners. In it, that blank was filled with “bricklayer.”[1]

So this morning, I saw that the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed lampooning the use of the honorific “Doctor” with the author claiming, “I am fortunate to spend a lot of time in Italy, where very nearly everyone is a doctor—a lowly bachelor’s degree will do.” Context here is important: As Ms. Rondi Adamson notes, “during the [Brett] Kavanaugh confirmation madness[,] Christine Blasey Ford was scrupulously referred to by media and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as ‘Dr. Ford.’ Failure to comply was frowned upon.”[2] And we should note that the opinion pages of the Journal were as friendly toward Kavanaugh as those of the National Review and the Daily Standard. Which is to say, very friendly indeed, and utterly dismissive of any questions of Kavanaugh’s alleged sex offenses. Continue reading “Damn it, Rondi! I’m a doctor, not a medical doctor!”

  1. [1]Star Trek, episode 26, “The Devil in the Dark,” directed by Joseph Pevney, written by Gene L. Coon, featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley, aired March 9, 1967, on NBC.
  2. [2]Rondi Adamson, “Is There a Doctorate in the House?” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-there-a-doctorate-in-the-house-1539298906

A single set of values

One of the things that stood out to me when I was reading Benedict Anderson’s  Imagined Communities was a point he made about how minority languages and customs must be suppressed in the name of national unity.[1] An interesting point, I thought, explaining some of the tensions we see around the world: China with Tibet, India with non-Hindus, the Rwanda genocide, and well, the list goes on.

I didn’t see the point as applying so well within the United States. But it does. Continue reading “A single set of values”

  1. [1]Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 2006).