23 January 2015

Friday jukebox: Robert Palmer

I'm such a sucker for blue-eyed soul:

22 January 2015

Recent reading, online and on paper: AMUSEMENT IS CONTROL

The Dissolve's most recent Movie of the Week was Back to the Future, which dropped like a bomb on me in 1985. I was at an age where I couldn't drive a car but I could be driven crazy by a teenage crush on a Hollywood sitcom star. I wasn't old enough to see an R-rated movie but I was old enough to be let loose in the mall without parental chaperoning. I had no personal experience of the 1950s but my parents sure spent a lot of time there. I identified with the oddball, loner-ish nature of both Marty and his dad; and I've always been a sucker for decently written science fiction, even if it's written as a comedy. The Dissolve's last essay over-thinks the films, in my opinion; but the Forum discussion was an enjoyable back-and-forth between a couple of critics who (I think) are just a little younger than I am.

A recent thrift shop find, Prof. Amos N. Guiora's Fundamentals of Counterterrorism would be better titled "Fundamentals of Justifying Your Pre-emptive Strike to the United Nations." After 130+ pages in that vein, though, the last section does present some strongly worded urgencies about protecting people's civil liberties in the face of known unknowns. While with a publishing date of 2008 it's a little behind the times, it offers an interesting view into the mindset of the people who are at the highest levels of responsibility for anti-terrorism decisionmaking.

Also picked up a copy of Frank Meeink's memoir Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead. Pretty harrowing stuff, and I continue to wonder about the links between childhood abandonment and trauma, and addiction -- whether to substances or hate or whatever.

Finally, a treat came into the house: Don Hertzfeldt's The End of the World. Now, I'm a huge fan of Hertzfeldt's animation; he's arguably America's best living animator, using a technique, refined yet unchanged since 1995, that looks deliberately unsophisticated to deliver sophisticatedly multi-layered messages. (Er, the messages have improved since 1995; see, e.g., It's Such a Beautiful Day, a must-view on Netflix streaming right now.) I remember seeing Billy's Balloon way back in my "film festivals are a full-contact sport for me" days, and I've always been excited to see his new work as it comes out. This book, however . . .  it's got the Hertzfeldt non-sequiturs. It's got his pervasive existential doom (it is literally about the end of the world). It's got the horrific, the sublime, the sudden cut-to-black -- except it hasn't, right? Because it's not a film, it's a book. Really it's a bound storyboard. And I guess it's a fine storyboard; but I think Hertzfeldt's profundity comes in the pacing and repeated juxtapositions of images in his films, not in the images themselves. The images, as I say, have a deliberately unsophisticated design to them. Taking them out of the context of a motion picture -- films being like an artistic mathematics of images over time -- seriously diminishes Hertzfeldt's ability to effectively and fully get across his challenging and scary themes.

There was a joke list in The End of the World of about a dozen of the author's "other works." While I'll never get tired of Hertzfeldt's not-really non-sequiturs, I do wonder if the "other works" are just a list of notes for another storyboard.

All this to say, however -- I'm damned disappointed that I'm not at Sundance right now, body-checking the crowd for a seat at the premiere of World of Tomorrow tonight. Bah!

20 January 2015

City of Paris v. Fox News?

In France it's actually illegal to insult someone's honor -- it's one of those "foreign" things understood in the term foreign country, such as not having a "First Amendment" -- and the mayor of the City of Paris is none too happy with the "no-go zones" lie that Fox News came up with last week. She's threatening to sue.

Ah . . . so that's why Fox News actually apologized, seriously and literally apologized, on Saturday for making the claims.

Here's a fun fact. The last time in France when someone felt his honor was insulted, and so he challenged the speaker to a duel, with swords? That would be in 1967. Newsreel:

During a debate in the National Assembly one day, Socialist politician Gaston Deferre tossed an insult at Gaullist René Ribière; the latter answered by saying, "Let's take that outside, jerk." And they fought with epées until Ribière lost.

French people take insults seriously, and there's no constitutional protection for running your mouth, making shit up, and otherwise acting like a verbal jackass. So, in a sword fight between national security pundit Steve "Muslim empire" Emerson and the mayor of the City of Paris, Anne "it's about time we were done with Scientology" Hidalgo. Who do we like?

Prayer in schools, prayer here in September

I swear, kids in actual religious schools can get less churchin' than what kids in public schools encounter any more:
Another student, Kyle, says that the influence of religion isn't restricted to football. Kyle, who is Jewish, played on the baseball team for two years. His teammates said Christian prayers before every game. "I just said the prayers to go along with everybody," Kyle adds with an uncertain shrug. "You don’t want to be, you know, that guy."
I think I have a vague memory of our class having to say grace before lunch, circa 1977. But by the time I was 9 or 10 it was all strictly a "moment of silence" after the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. Oh, and there was that history teacher in high school who was a young-earth creationist, but whatever -- the school year is a limited timeframe, so who cares if we start the class timeline only within some certain date of recorded history?

It's bizarro to me, the evangelical Protestant need to be constantly witnessing, this all-Jesus, all the time thing. Praying before a school assembly, praying before a basketball game, praying at the school's flagpole. Wishing someone a blessed day instead of a merely good one. Saying an endless, extemporized prayer at a meal instead of reciting a short but meaningful, if formulaic, blessing.

In the end I guess I'm always brought around again to Matthew 6:5-8. It fascinates me that many constant-prayer evangelicals are biblical literalists, but it doesn't even take a literal interpretation of that passage to see that this kind of thing isn't allowed.

In other news, the pope is coming! The pope is coming! Last time this happened, the city built a platform for Mass, left it up for a week for people to gawk at, and lost a pretty embarrassing case in the Third Circuit (PDF). The best, because so quietly understated, line from the appellate opinion: "The City thus created a temporary shrine. Such activity is not compatible with the Constitution." Gilfillan v. City of Philadelphia, 637 F. 2d 924, 931. But late September can mean some wonderful weather here in the city, great weather for another outdoor Mass. It'll be interesting to see if the city tries shenanigans again to pay for it.

19 January 2015

Christian governor Bobby Jindal continues to bear false witness about "no-go" zones

This is so utterly stupid. But why in christ's name do news outlets give people who call themselves Christians such a huge pass when they're caught in an obvious and plain lie?
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday stood by his criticism of so-called "no-go" zones in Europe, where sovereign nations allegedly cede authority to Muslim immigrants, a controversial idea that many critics say is overblown.
No-go zones are a lie. Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. Governor Jindal is a liar and he even doubled down in that interview by saying he's "speaking truth."

In fact, he's a Catholic breaking the 8th Commandment. Won't somebody please, please call this out?

16 January 2015

Friday jukebox: YDI

Philadelphia hardcore.

There's a re-release party for "A Place in the Sun" at Boot & Saddle on Saturday 14 February.

15 January 2015

Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz has officially announced his candidacy

The fuck? Is he a candidate for mayor or for bishop? The city needs a public administrator, not a cleric, in City Hall.

14 January 2015

ICYMI: Stuff I wrote about France a while ago

A little over 4 years ago, I wrote up an analysis of the French burka [1] ban. Please see Part 1 and Part 2 for some background on how racism and religiosity are different in France than they are in the U.S. -- as I said to a friend of mine recently, it's as if the word foreign in the term foreign country is there for a reason.

[1] I say "burka" because the law is generally known as the "burka ban," even though the term is not accurate, yes, I know, Noz. The French law bans all attire that aims to cover the face, which certainly includes burkas, but also includes niqabs (veils).

American renounces being American, can't believe he's being treated like non-American

Someone just learned that if you move out of the U.S. and formally, legally renounce your U.S. citizenship, that means you become a non-citizen. And when you're a non-citizen, no matter what your previous citizenship or how much money you made from Bitcoin, you have to go through the visa process when you want to enter the U.S. D'oh!

Roger Ver is a citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis since he said the magic words, paid the fee, and turned in his passport a little under a year ago. Which made him a non-citizen, period. Did he think that being born in the U.S. would put him in some kind of special category of non-citizenship? Sorry, dude. Every non-citizen who wants to enter the U.S. for a short trip like the one Ver contemplated must apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa, and the government can pretty much turn you down whenever it wants to, for whatever reason it wants to.

This is one of the prices you pay when you choose to renounce your U.S. citizenship. Bizarrely, it means you choose to be treated the way the U.S. treats everyone else in the world who isn't a U.S. citizen. What a maroon.

13 January 2015

Will the invisible hand slap some sense into anti-vaxxers?

It was only a matter of time:
California has confirmed more cases of measles in people who visited Disneyland or its adjacent California Adventure park last month, health officials said on Monday, raising the number of infected people to 26.
Public schools have had a devil of a time with the anti-vax crowd, since they have to allow religious or "religious" exemptions to some degree or another. But private landowners? Not so much.

It would be perfectly legal for Disney to deny entry to customers whose vaccinations aren't up to date. Maybe what will bring down anti-vaxxing won't be public health information initiatives (though that seems to be working very well in Australia), but will be commercial entities like Disney. Imagine having to show proof of vaccination before your kids are allowed into Disneyland. Score one for the invisible hand!

12 January 2015

Philly mayoral candidate list round-up

Darrell Clarke is out. So the ballot for the Democratic primary is starting to look like this:
  • MOVE warrant-signing judge, drug warrior, and Governor Corbett fan Lynne Abraham
  • Nelson Diaz, former judge of the Court of Common Pleas
  • Doug Oliver (probably), former spokesperson for PGW
  • Ken Trujillo, former City Solicitor
  • State Sen. Anthony H. Williams
A bit of a rogue's gallery. I got nothin', except that I'm not sure how a public utility flak could be considered qualified. I mean, what qualifies a person for mayor, right? But I'd tend to think that "Mayor of a City of 1.5 Million" shouldn't be someone's very first experience in politics.

EDITED TO ADD: I hear there's a shoe running.

09 January 2015

Friday jukebox: BLOOD OF THE LAMB

For some reason, I'm a real sucker for Protestant hymns. Raised Catholic, I don't ever hear them, really, unless I'm at a funeral. And I tend to get just two types of funerals. Either it's a full Catholic Mass with an organ and Communion and "On Eagle's Wings"; or it's funeral home-y and secular-ish with piped-in music. The last time I heard a pastor urging us to pray for the Lord to abide with us in our sorrow was quite a few funerals ago. But what's a serious funeral without a pastor asking you where you'll spend eternity? Here, let's meet beyond the river and get us some churchin' this fine day:

The poetry is naive, the lyrics are grisly, and the tunes are catchy. I'm torn between "What else could you want?" and "How much more American can you get?"

08 January 2015

Lynne Abraham hates the First Amendment

I'm so old, I remember when Lynne Abraham, who was definitely not yet running for mayor at the time, came out to support Governor Corbett's signing of the Revictimization Relief Act back in October. Here's a screengrab from a video embedded in the article:
Video is via ScrappleTV.

This is a terrible law that violates the First Amendment on its face. It won't survive the court challenges, whether the first one filed by baby lawyers in November or the one filed by ACLU today (PDF). Governor Corbett's last-ditch attempt at winning re-election got him nothing but a few points from the people who are still insane about Mumia Abu-Jamal -- a broken man who will die in prison, probably within just a few more years -- and maybe some glee at sticking the incoming Wolf administration with paying to defend the lawsuits.

England vs. U.S. in homelessness stats

Followed some bouncing links today and landed on this one. I was wondering how the numbers of homeless differ between the U.K. and the U.S. Some definitions to sort through, first. The U.K. counts a number of conditions as "homelessness," which includes couch-surfing and a status called "statutorily homeless," which is a category for people who have applied for government-provided housing. The term in the U.K. for the dire condition of sleeping on the street is "sleeping rough." On our part, in the U.S. we don't count applications for subsidized housing as a category of the homeless. And our term for sleeping rough is "living in unsheltered locations."

So on to the numbers. In Autumn, 2013, the U.K. government counted/estimated 2,414 individuals "sleeping rough" throughout England (PDF). (The URL says ".uk" but the document says "England.") This is out of a population (England-only) of 53.9 million.

In January, 2013, the U.S. government estimated 215,344 "living in unsheltered locations" throughout the country (PDF). And our population is 316.1 million.

So the population of the U.S. is about 5.8 times that of England -- but the number of sleeping rough doesn't scale up at the same rate. Food for thought: why doesn't England have 14,157 people sleeping on streets, in parks, under bridges?

Anyway, Code Blue in Philadelphia tonight. I think everyone knows to call 911 if you see someone needing assistance, particularly since Hub of Hope has been kicked out of Suburban Station.

07 January 2015

McCain's decision: D-Day 2015, or turn the Champs Elysees into a glass parking lot?

. . . and John McCain's response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre is, essentially, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb-bomb Par-ee":
"We knew for a long time about the areas outside Paris that police don't go into at night," said Arizona Senator John McCain. "We know there's a strong Islamic influence there, radical Islam. We know there are many French who are fighting in Syria."
H/T Zaid Jilani on Twitter (@ZaidJilani).

Religion vs. science, again

Religion kills journalists (BBC).

Science kills disease-causing bacteria (BBC).

H/T Victor Stenger ("Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings").

06 January 2015

Lynne Abraham still buys into marijuana hysteria

Chris Goldstein at philly.com's Philly420 blog does some math on Lynne "Drug Warrior" Abraham:
"I absolutely, totally disagree that our jails are filled with people who are low-level marijuana possessors," she said.

Not true. Going back to the UCRS data from 2005-2009, when Abraham was D.A., there were 19,766 adults arrested for less than 30 grams of cannabis. That is an average of 13 people per day. Every single one was put into handcuffs and put into a Philadelphia holding cell. Before the SAM program was instituted in 2010 by Seth Williams, every one of these adults also had to make bail and many couldn't. That meant they could spend up to 48 to 72 (or more) hours in jail before arraignment. Then all of these offenders were brought into criminal court. Most were convicted and ended up with life-damaging permanent records.

So, in a nutshell, when Lynne was D.A., city jails had plenty of marijuana smokers taking up space, time and city resources. If she is so proud of taking a hard line against weed, why dissemble about throwing cannabis consumers in jail?
Abraham is out of touch and would roll back evidence-based policies that have started to ease overcrowding in city jails and criminal court dockets.

Title card from Lynne Abraham's favorite drug-enforcement policy educational film.

05 January 2015

Meet our next mayor: MOVE arrest warrant Judge Lynne Abraham

. . . and here's Lynne Abraham ducking softball questions, and apparently still believing that marijuana is a gateway drug, on her road to the Mayor's office.

I mean, we're all aware she'll be our next mayor, right? Nobody else's name on the ballot is recognizable, and nobody actually votes in the primary, where Philadelphia actually elects its mayor since the Democratic candidate tipped in May will trounce the Republican in November.

In related news, Jason Osder's 2013 documentary film about the MOVE bombing, Let the Fire Burn, is on Netflix. You should see it; it's all archive footage, no re-enactments, no narration, just layin' it out there for the audience to draw its own conclusions from the materials presented.

Why is this related news?

I should verify with the archive over at Temple University, but word on the street is that it was Judge Lynne Abraham who signed D.A. Ed Rendell's arrest warrants, which the police took to the MOVE house on 13 May 1985 in order to serve -- leading to the 14 May bombing and subsequent fire that killed 11 people (half of them kids) and burned five dozen homes to the ground.

Some years ago, the local anarchist bookstore briefly had a few t-shirts for sale with a poster-ized treatment of this image on it. The title of the image was "Welcome to Philadelphia." I think I prefer "This was Plan B."

The mayoral primary will take place on 19 May 2015, which is 30 years plus five days after the MOVE bombing. Philadelphia memories aren't short, so I do wonder if anyone will be brave enough to ask Lynne Abraham her thoughts on having signed those warrants. She states in the Philadelphia Magazine interview up there, "I don't know why the police were not indicted in the [Staten] Island matter." Maybe she could be asked if she understands why the police were not indicted in the MOVE matter, either.

Or maybe all journalists are Chuck Todd.

04 January 2015

Someone is wrong on the Internet about Philadelphia taxicabs

I keep hearing people complain about Philadelphia taxis and how Uber and Lyft would solve all our problems. One of the more frequent complaints is about how those greedy taxi drivers resist taking credit cards, and why won't they enter the 21st century?

Well, they resist taking cards because there's only one credit card merchant vendor that the Parking Authority contracts with; and then the Parking Authority requires drivers themselves, not the cab companies, to pay the non-negotiable 5% fee on all credit card transactions. This after they have to pay their daily car rental and gas means that they can work a 12-hour shift and bring home under $100/day before income and city wage taxes. Philadelphia taxi operators are in a terrible situation that's mostly out of their control because the Parking Authority needs a little deregulation, or better regulation (but not abolition in favor of tech operators, who don't like to pick up people with disabilities and have proven to have a little bit of a problem with sexually assaulting their female ridership).

It's comparable to that thing that restaurant servers like to say: if you can afford to eat out, you an afford to tip decently. Likewise, if you can afford a $15 car ride home, you can afford a $22 car ride home -- without Uber. I guess on my part I don't see any hardship in adding "keep cab fare + 50% in cash in my pocket at the end of the night" to an evening activity's budget, so that a cab driver can take a little more dough back home to his kids.

25 November 2014

Voter suppression as a strategy can't last forever, says a GOP commentator

I missed this post-Election Day thought piece a couple of weeks ago. Among other details in its explanation of why the massive GOP victory earlier this month wasn't as massive, or a victory, as it seems, the author notes:
Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile [the GOP] kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.
(Emphasis added.) I noticed that in July, 2013, myself; but, you know, voice-wilderness-etc.:
You can roll back the business end of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and implement anti-voting measures right away, but it can't end well. The little old ladies with no driver licenses will die off. Those of us born before all the birth records were digitized or originated on the computer will get our acts together and get the right ID. And people my daughter's age, who were in the computer from the get-go, won't have a problem getting their voter ID. Requiring state-issued ID and then making it hard to obtain is not a sustainable strategy.
Amused to see there's a voice in the GOP wilderness on this nonsense as well.

Via Noz.