Saturday, December 20, 2014

I blame Ismaayil Brinsley.

The deaths of two NY police officers by one assailant who started his spree with the shooting of a former girlfriend and ended it by shooting himself is tragic and grotesque. These officers in no way deserved what befell them, and my condolences are offered to the families and associates of the fallen. There is no good that comes of unreasoning and deadly actions such as this, and the pain of what has happened will doubtless last.

But blame has to be laid where it is due. I think it's revolting that Ismaayil Brinsley tied his actions to the protests against police brutality, as if his personal drama assumed meaning by it. No. He didn't shoot his girlfriend because he thought "black lives matter", and he didn't shoot those officers because he believed an unarmed man shouldn't be killed by police. It looks like this person had a criminal record of some size and a reason to have feelings about law enforcement well before the events in Fergusen, New York or Cleveland went down. He doesn't seem to have given a shit about it before the day he shot his ex-girlfriend. (Now, someone may dig up that he protested somewhere--but I doubt it. He wasn't a New Yorker--he drove up from Baltimore. I don't care what he posted on Instagram at the last moment--and if he's dropping 50 Cent lyrics with his ex-girlfriend's blood on his leg he was a huge posing useless waste of space.)

So when former NY Governor Pataki (and others) wants to lay this tragedy at NYC mayor DiBlasio or the protesters as if somehow, the existence of a protest against police brutality is necessarily a protest against all police officers, I have to shake my head. It isn't. It's a protest about some activity by some officers sometimes. Just like this was an activity of one guy against two people who didn't deserve it, which should by no means be generalized to be about all protesters.

It's one thing to pick a side. It's quite another to let that choice blind one to the details. This guy wasn't representative of a nonviolent protest against violence. He was all about violence. His actions were heinous, but that can't reflect on whether it is right for Eric Garner to have been choked to death, for Mike Brown to have been shot numerous times, and so on.  Letting this grotesque act change the subject is expecting too much of tragedy, and expecting too little of our ability to reason things out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

This One was For the Ladies

So, what happens when the President calls on journalists that just happen to be the people in the dedicated presidential press-pool who haven't really been called on the most--and they all happen to be female?

Weird, right?

So, like, if only men got called, this wouldn't even be a thing. It would be a regular day. Only men got called--mostly representative of the press pool. No cause for alarm.

But only women get to ask questions--BFD!

Since I think most of us wimmen-folk have similar concerns to men-folk, I will say this is just a cool way of reminding that reporting is a job we can thankyouverymuch do just as well. But it was also a nice backhand at the institutions that tend to consider female reporters as "distaff": rather than serious journos, and don't give sweet presidential coverage spots to women. Because really--asking questions? Not really a gendered activity, is it?  I know I have questions.

Anyway--yay, brief moment of singled-out equality-ishness! And that actually is, however backhanded, my positive spin on it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vladimir Putin, Your Once and Future Man of the Year

It may interest people of a foreign policy bent to know that Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has been found to be the Man of the Year for the 15th year running.  This happens against the backdrop of a tumbling ruble and increasingly stringent sanctions, which bode to really fuck the hell out of Russia's economy in a way they haven't seen since the Iron Curtain rusted through in 1989.

So what gives? Why would Vlad still be so popular?

Well, I would say a hefty portion is a damn fine well-managed propaganda set-up and notorious cult of personality combined with actually being a little bit of an IRL badass.  But there is value in milking people's sense of ressentiment, and hardly any better time than economic difficulty to leverage it against a pocketful of dreams about "what might have been if not for the bastards."

Regarding Cuba: It isn't 1961 Anymore

I'm in agreement with Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative-- normalizing relations with Cuba is well overdue. The Castro brothers are very old, the Soviet Union is very done, and there is a benefit in making things easier for Cuban-American to contact their families still there and for trading with Cuba.

I understand that the regime of Fidel Castro was far from ideal--but we have relationships with Saudi Arabia and China, and were cozy enough with Egypt's Mubarek, who was not a saint. Also, someone explain to me how you protest Communism with an economic embargo? It seems like the capitalistic way would be to want trade. They export cigars--we export capitalism. Works for me.

I feel like opposition to normalizing relations with our near neighbor is a case of living in the past. It isn't 1961 anymore. We can kiss the Cold War goodbye--or even just shake hands and let it go.

The Pakistani Taliban Are Full of It.

I'm not the only person to realize this, but making a statement that killing over 100 schoolchildren is because of revenge over the Pakistan military's assistance to the west is, not to put to fine a point on this--bullshit. The apparent statement by a Taliban spokesperson:

Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani said that the Taliban had targeted the army's school "because the government is targeting our families and females," and that "we want them to feel the pain."
is particularly galling when the Taliban are being targeted, to the extent they are, because among their hobbies is attacking schools and targeting women and children. It is especially hard for us not to take note that these are the bastards that killed Benazir Bhutto (having killed 140 people in the Karachi bombing attempt to kill her before the attack that succeeded) and tried to kill Malala Yousafsai--an assault by anti-intellectual cowards who shot a young girl in the head. That's what they've got. And it would be ever so much easier to spare a moment of sympathy for their poor families--were it not that they've indicated these are, in their considered opinion and actual practice,  quite legitimate targets. And considering that they have intended to make people hurt--no surprise, they do. If there was little sympathy for the Taliban among western-looking Pakistanis before, though--what should there be for them now?

What they have done was revolting. The families of those slain in this assault have my sympathy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bradley Stone is a Dead Man Walking

This is a family-killer that I don't think the cops are going to take alive because he's killed his ex-wife, the grandmother and great-grandmother of his kids, and a sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and niece. He's prowling my neck of the woods, and schools and stuff have been locked down here and there. I don't think he's looking to shoot those up, Lanza-style, though.

He seems to have killed his ex based on a dispute over custody. Because, really, what in the world is going to prove you deserve custody of some kids like killing their mom?

I don't understand why pulling a gun on numerous former relatives seemed like the way to fix this guy's problems to him-- but for some crazy reason I feel like he probably visited an MRA site or two. I could be wrong. I almost hope I am.

Malevolent "Lone Wolf" Takes Hostages, Kills Decent People in Sydney


The blurred line between terrorism and random, senseless violence displayed itself when Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born asylum-seeker in Australia, took a number of hostages at the Lindt CafĂ© in Sydney. I call it a "blurred line" because although this miscreant seems to have meant to portray his actions as being aligned in some way with militant Islamicism, he genuinely seems to have been a pretty run-of the mill basic human horror-show of abusive behavior, predation, and self-aggrandizement.

Any culture could generate one of these--he sent hate letters to families of dead Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan conflict; pretty Westboro Baptist, I think. He apparently claimed to have "black magic" powers and sexually assaulted numerous women, as a kind of predatory guru-type. He played up his own sense of victimization.

It's hard--no, impossible, to reconcile this personality-type with doing anything for a "cause", because I see someone like this as feeling his biggest cause is himself. So all that Islamic-flag in the window business is stage-dressing for his personal drama.

And if his despicable hostage-taking and murders leave us despairing of whether humans just suck out loud--here is something genuinely touching. #illridewithyou is a reminder that there's something other than bigotry and a mindset of retribution. Most people don't suck--being a good human being means caring about others. And we mostly do. It's those that don't who make things so shitty for the rest of us.