Pokemon, Privilege, and Other People’s Problems

if you’re on social media (of course you’re on social media) you have no doubt seen the convergence of the two streams of news the past 72 hours. One, of course, is the week’s long plunge back into the national debate on police violence, Black Lives Matter, and America’s love/hate relationship with violence. The other is Pokemon Go, the mobile game being heralded as a game changer and as the best game ever (one hopes by people who have limited experience with games).

The coming together of these two is not of the peanut butter and chocolate variety, but rather more like toothpaste and pickle juice in that I’ve noticed it leaves a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouths. Specifically there are numerous posts floating around to the effect of  (paraphrasing here since I don’t want to call anyone in particular out) “Pokemon Go is awesome and it’s awesome to see posts from people just having fun and not worrying about the bad stuff that’s happening in the world.”

Continue reading “Pokemon, Privilege, and Other People’s Problems”


Black Lives, Blue Lives and Vigilante Acts

(Apologies for typos or other mistakes, I kinda rushed this up to get it out there)

Like many I’ve been shaken by the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling as continuing displays of a system that seem incapable of regulating bad actors, and which has been shown time and again to be biased towards people of color, the mentally ill, and the poor.

This raises fundamental questions about the fairness and legitimacy of a system that purports to deliver justice, but which seems to deliver wildly different outcomes based on who, both in terms of victims and perpetrators, and where deadly violence is likely to occur in the course of what should be routine interactions with law enforcement. Ultimately what critics of the police and advocates of the affected communities are asking for is accountability and transparency when these incidents happen. Instead what they are often met with is hostility and stonewalling, and sometimes outright deception. Defenders of the police often argue that it is only a few bad apples, but what do you do when those apples are not thrown out, when they are not even held liable and find themselves still employed or even promoted.

In studying radicalism and the formation of terrorist or violent groups there are similar dynamics. A group often feels like it has lost its voice, and begins to see the structures meant to keep its members safe as doing the opposite. Over time faith in these institutions erodes and they begin to lose legitimacy. This has been the process that has been occurring in communities of color for decades now. The police and the justice system are seen as rigged, as corrupt and uncaring or unwilling to help some of the most vulnerable people in our country. When this happens with political movements occasionally some segment of them splits off and radicalizes, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Which leads us to a potential explanation for what happened in Dallas last night.

From all accounts out so far (and as always with these things I’d caution you to be skeptical, it’s still chaotic and confused and most of the facts have not come out yet) these were men that were armed and ready to carry out targeted killings. Multiple conservative sites (not gonna give them the traffic, you can use Google) are already running with this being connected to Black Lives Matter or that they were activists with BLM, though accounts from the ground indicate that the shooting started after the main protest had already broken up. The one suspect that police talked to indicated he wanted to kill white officers but also that he was not part of BLM, though he seemed to indicate he shared some of their grievances.

The Dallas shooting has already shifted the dialogue, we’re no longer, or at least not with as much force and vigor, talking about Castile and Sterling. And this is a problem because this is exactly the kind of attack that plays into the narrative espoused by those who are most eager to deny that there is a problem. Now these two shootings have been balanced, at least in the eyes of skeptics about the need for reform and for many media organizations, to a two sided debate; black v. white, or if you prefer black v. blue. Whose lives matter more? In this false dichotomy expect to hear that we can’t talk about Black lives mattering because to do so would be to invite more attacks like Dallas, or will dishonor the lives of the officers who were killed. It’s the same rhetoric that’s been used to denigrate and tear down Muslims since 9/11, this simplistic view that there is no nuance in the debate. ‘All Muslims are terrorists’ will now become ‘all police reform activists are supporters of cop killers.’

And that’s bad, because it’s not the threat of reform that caused Dallas, it’s the frustration and sense that no reform is possible. If the lesson that some people take from Dallas is that the police should not be questioned, and that calls for reform are dangerous then they will be playing right into the narrative that drives people to engage in these sorts of acts of violence.

So, if you’ve made it to the end here I implore you, over the next few days, weeks or months, when you talk about these shootings do not fall into the trap of black v blue. Reframe it as if black then blue. Because it is essential that all communities feel safe, and feel like the system at least treats them no worse than anyone else, and it is this lack of safety that drives people to desperate and extreme actions, not the desire for that safety. And there will be calls for BLM to denounce these attacks, which they probably will, but hopefully in a way that makes it clear these attacks are an extreme example of what is causing them to protest, not a result of their protesting. And the police should recognize that not calling out, and not holding accountable bad actors in their midst makes their job that much harder. As an officer you may feel that your colleague acted in good faith, but your belief isn’t what is driving the anger and heartbreak it’s a community’s experience in what they see and what they suffer. Further repression or dismissal of a community’s sense of injustice will not make the situation go away, crackdowns on protests will not make the situation go away, if anything it threatens to drive more people towards more extreme ends and will result in more tragedy.

Why Sanders will lose

The first in what is (now) a three part series looking at how each remaining candidate could lose the election and trends to keep an eye on going forward.

This is the easy one. Sanders will lose, in fact he’s already lost, but like the chicken with its head cut off he continues to run around. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, which I’ll get to in a second, but first the losing.
Sanders outperformed just about anyone’s expectations of how he would do in this race (including I’d suspect his own) by not just being competitive for a long period of time, but also by winning a number of states he was not thought to be able to win.

Sander’s problems can be boiled down to a handful  of issues however:

  • he didn’t win enough or by large enough margins
  • he’s not really a Democrat
  • Oligarchy baby!
  • the ‘grassroots’ problem
  • no media game

Continue reading “Why Sanders will lose”

The Nader fallacy (or thoughts on being a ‘good’ Democrat)

I have no idea how many of these posts I’ll end up making but I want to put a standard disclaimer out there for at least the first few to clear up any misconceptions. I am not, and have not been since the 1998 midterms, an active member of either of the two major political parties. Since the 2000 election I have not voted for either one of the major party candidates, and do not see myself doing so this year regardless of who it is (this includes Sanders though that is terribly unlikely at this juncture). I say this to preface that I don’t have a dog in the (two party) fight.

So right off the bat there are lots of places on the web that show why this is bullshit (though you do have to have a basic understanding of how electoral math works, which seems to be a problem for a lot of people these days) but I favor this DailyKos one because it brings together a lot of the data scattered around elsewhere. But long story short is that Nader didn’t cost Gore the election, Gore being a shitty candidate that wasn’t able to keep a large number of Clinton voters from 1996 from voting Bush did.

This matters now because a lot of big D Democrats are trying to tell other Democrats and independents who support Sanders that if they don’t vote for Hillary, or if they vote for Sanders as write-in or third party or whatever then they’re going to cost Hillary the election. So that’s blatantly poppycock.

Continue reading “The Nader fallacy (or thoughts on being a ‘good’ Democrat)”

Back from the dead (again)

We’ll see if it sticks this time. My intent is to use this space to discuss things that are of interest to me that are too long to put on other social media platforms. I also want to use it as a resources for the different facets in my life. Which means, if I decide to make it more public, it might have a little something for nearly everyone I know, but not everything will resonate with every body.

And away we go.