Dumb Quote of the Day: Standing on a Collapsing Roof edition

>> Friday, August 28, 2015

Flanagan was consumed with race hatred, and was disciplined by the television station for which he worked at the time for, among other things, wearing a Barack Obama button while he stood in line to vote. So why do we not retroactively conclude that images of Barack Obama are hateful, like the Confederate flag, and must be banned? Glenn Reynolds asks, "Will Obama apologize for the behavior of one of his followers?" Of course not. But imagine if a racist white killer who worked for a television station had been similarly disciplined for wearing, say, a Ted Cruz button. Do you not think that fact would be deemed highly relevant, and highly embarrassing to Senator Cruz?
Powerline, August 27th, 2015

Where do we begin?  Do we perhaps begin with the basic factual error in the above paragraph, which is that Vester Lee Flanagan wasn't reprimanded for wearing an Obama button while voting, but for wearing an Obama sticker while covering the 2012 election at a polling place for WDBJ?  (That link, by the way, being the very same one Hinderaker provided, so he certainly seems to have failed the comprehension portion of the reading test.)  Do we begin with the fact that the only people who have ever associated President Obama with racism have been a vocal subset of white reactionaries who have been looking for "reverse-racism" from the President going all the way back to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright nonsense, while the various Confederate flags have been a symbol of white supremacy movements all the way back to 1861?  Do we simply skip to the rhetorical question at the end and answer that the fact a murderer once wore a Ted Cruz button at some moment in his career would probably be pretty irrelevant and not particularly embarrassing to Senator Cruz unless, perhaps, the killer tried to credit Cruz for his actions in much the same way two Bostonians apparently credited Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric for their alleged assault on a Hispanic man, in which case, maybe?

What's really swirling around the bottom of the drain in Hinderaker's post is a profound ignorance.  Dylann Roof's spree-killing wasn't the reason the Confederate battle flags started coming down or almost coming down across the South.  Or it wasn't exactly the reason; all Roof did was create a situation horrible enough that even politicians who previously supported the flying of the Confederate flag had to agree with people who had been calling for its removal for decades.  To be even more specific, one of Roof's victims was an extremely popular fellow-legislator whose death rattled colleagues whose only stake in the issue had previously been its appeal as a hot-button issue for some of their supporters or a historical interest in their own family's role in the war.  Perhaps if Hinderaker knew what he was going on about, he'd realize that what happened wasn't so much a "leftist" exploitation of a new tragedy, but rather a tragedy that personally touched people forging a consensus around one side that had been critiquing, lobbying, and occasionally picketing since the 1950s.

Indeed, it's worth mentioning that Hinderaker's framing does a grave disservice to his own side.  The fact is that the politicians who brought down the Confederate flag in South Carolina were Republicans; the Democrats never had the votes or influence to make it happen, and the change had to be brought about by conservative stalwarts like Governor Nikki Haley and Representative Doug Brannon, with the support of national-level Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.  (Regular readers may well note the date and time of this post as being one of the few and rare times this blog has ever unironically and unsnarkily praised members of the GOP.)  One might uncharitably wish that it hadn't taken a mass-murder for some of these folks, members of the Party of Lincoln, to recognize both the root-history of the Confederate flags and the taint of the flags' embrace by contemporary white supremacist groups, but the thought is unkind, unfortunate and irrelevant: what matters is that these folks decided to plant their feet on the right side of history and take a hard stand that brought them death threats and hostility from many of their own supporters.  Doing the right thing even when it's a hard thing is a sign of nobility, and I may disagree with Governor Haley et al. on nearly every other thing you could think of, but I'm pleased to thank them and praise them for this one thing, at least; Hinderaker, on the other hand, would take away the pride, nobility and bravery of their accomplishment and pin it on my side as if framing us for some supposed crime.

No thanks: all we did was stay the course and we're happy some of our former opponents came around and saddened by the loss--including the personal loss of a friend--that helped them come around to our way of thinking about this one issue.

Hinderaker does go on to say some less-stupid things about the lack of mental health care in the country, though I'm not sure he and I would agree on what could be done about it.  Of course, he also does that as a bit of misdirection away from the gun control issues that Vester Flanagan raises: Flanagan may have been violently mentally ill, but perhaps if he'd been a violently mentally ill man with a chainsaw or a pair of rusty garden shears, he'd have been easier to get away from or capable of less damage (especially if he tried wielding such things one-handed while filming his crime with his cell phone).  

Gun control is basically a dead issue in this country.  If the deaths of a bunch of little kids in school didn't change that, one doesn't imagine the deaths of a couple of adults doing so, either.  But since Mr. Hinderaker brings it up (if only to wave his hands at mental illness and shout, "Look over here!  Over here!"), I'll just say, yet again, that all the gun-advocates seem bizarrely smitten with the idea that decreasing the number of firearms in circulation would accomplish nothing because crazy people are crazy.  Hinderaker tries to make some hay out of saying, "insane people like Dylann Roof and Vester Flanagan keep passing background checks" without getting anywhere near the point that background checks are a poor compromise between making guns slightly harder to sell without making them noticeably more difficult to own, and that an extended program of grandfathering-out classes of firearms (for instance) would eventually result in people like Roof and Flanagan having less opportunity to get hold of firearms, would limit the kinds of firearms they might manage to get anyway, and would perhaps prove to be such a pain in the ass to people who want to kill right now that they might have to resort to things like knives that are capable but not nearly so efficient.

(On a tangent: earlier this week I read a New York Magazine story about a pair of mentally-ill children who stabbed another child 19 times and managed to not-kill her.  The story is depressing and troubling, and is a must-read if you're strong of heart and a must-avoid if you don't want to spend a long quiet interval staring into space contemplating despair, and I really only include the link in case you don't believe me: 19 times.  And one wonders how many people--surely some, surely not many--and how many children, especially, might survive being shot 19 times, as opposed to being stabbed 19 times; a knife being a lethal weapon, yes, but one that requires exertion, a lethal weapon that can be fended off, a lethal weapon that requires a physical intimacy with the victim, a lethal weapon that can only penetrate flesh so-far before it has to be withdrawn--sometimes with nearly as much physical effort as burying the blade was in the first place.  There's a reason people don't hunt for deer with knives (I mean as a weapon, not as a tool for cleaning a carcass, and you knew that), a reason people don't fight wars by charging each other across a field with kitchenware drawn and ready.  Nineteen times.  The body, even a child's body, is a resilient thing--it has to be, that's how Nature forged us over millions of years of evolution--but it's not immortal or indestructible.  Nineteen knife wounds.  And the poor child will suffer grievously, but lives.)

There's a bit more stupidity about "Flanagan’s hateful ideology."  Hinderaker, echoing some idiocy on the part of the I-thought-he-was-smarter-than-that Glenn Reynolds wonders why Black Lives Matter won't "disband, and stop stirring up race hate," which is something I hadn't noticed them doing; I thought they were simply trying to point out that the black lives matter as much as white people's lives in a country with a depressing history of completely devaluing black lives in the century-and-a-half since it became illegal to price them in dollars at auction houses.  Regardless, it's awfully convenient and facile for Hinderaker (and Reynolds) to suggest an equivalency between organizations that Flanagan might have supported and organizations Dylann Roof is known to have supported when the latter includes groups like The Council of Conservative Citizens, "an American white supremacist organization that supports a large variety of conservative and paleoconservative causes in addition to white nationalism."  Reynolds, calling Flanagan "a black Dylann Roof," asks, "Will we see culture war unleashed against any organizations he [Flanagan] might have supported?" and answers himself, "Of course not. That sort of thing only goes in one direction," which saddens me a bit because I really did think Reynolds was better than that even if I disagreed with him: I really, sincerely assumed that if there was one thing the left and right could declare "culture war" on as a united front it would be things like the CCC, but Reynolds' tone suggests I may be wrong about that and that I'm supposed to feel bad about declaring a "culture war" on neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists, and proud race-mongering fascists.

It's typically considered bad form to answer a question with a question, but at this point the only response I can come up with to the rhetorical questions about culture wars and disavowing Flanagan and embarrassments and whatever is, What the fuck, man?.  "WTF?" as the kids these days like to say.  And at first I thought I'd ask this rhetorically, as a rhetorical flourish, What the fuck, man? and then mic-drop and roll offstage (stage left, natch), but as I think about it, I really must ask this question with some sincerity and wondering about fucks.  I can get a certain white lack-of-comprehension or thin-skinnedness about Black Lives Matter--it's stupid, please understand, but I can get how the phrase can be almost-willfully misconstrued into some kind of relative statement about non-black lives--but to then go the extra step and compare a movement that has engaged in mostly-peaceful pickets and assemblies for the cause of holding police officers accountable for the people they shoot to groups that basically think the wrong side won the American Civil War? 

What the fuck?

An update/addendum: as originally posted, I wrote about Dylann Roof as a supporter of Stormfront, a neo-Nazi group.  Upon further self-checking, I find that Roof's connections to Stormfront, if any, are apparently still unclear.

It appears that a more-certain influence on Roof was The Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization whose status as a hate group is a little murkier.  That is, there are several prominent conservatives who have been or are associated with the organization, deny that its a "racist" organization despite the group's apparent sympathies with white separatists and white supremacists, and the group has the continued endorsement of Ann Coulter (who I swore to myself I'd never mention by name again, having decided she's a troll who very possibly doesn't believe a word she espouses) and Pat Buchanan  (who is a prince among men, a real prize specimen).

This does lead me to reappraise what I wrote, a little; there are people on the right who think the CCC is being misjudged and maligned by the left, and that they're just another conservative club being slandered and libeled and the questions and criticisms politicians like Trent Lott received about their association with the CCC were/are nothing more than witch-hunting.  And if you believe that, I suppose you might find what I consider to be an obvious (and offensive) false equivalency to be palatable.

So, y'know, I'll float that just in the interest of fairness: maybe you think the Council of Conservative Citizens has gotten a bum rap and focusing on Dylann Roof's admiration for the organization is even bummier.  I have to admit, I think less of you if that's where you're coming from, but I guess it's less-obviously stupid even if I think it makes you something of an asshole for equating Black Lives Matter to an organization that "...oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called' affirmative action' and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."  I'm not aware of anyone from Black Lives Matter getting on about "race-mixing," but hey, you say "potato," I say, "bunch of unreconstructed redneck racist fuckwits who subscribe to vile prejudices," but hey, y'know, maybe that's just the funny regional way words get pronounced differently in different places, or depending on how you grew up.


Dreams of my father's shirt

>> Wednesday, August 05, 2015

On the one hand, I don't really want to get into it: one of the problems we've created for ourselves is that our politicians aren't allowed to have personal lives, aren't allowed to make mistakes (however trivial), aren't allowed histories (hagiographies and the occasional redemption narrative aside, I mean).

And yet, I can't read this:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is not shying away from his family legacy in his campaign.

The Republican presidential candidate unveiled a new online store on his campaign website that is offering a $25 T-shirt with the quote: "My dad is the greatest man I’ve ever known, and if you don’t think so, we can step outside."
Time, August 5th, 2015.

Without thinking about this:

One night, George W. brought his fifteen year-old brother Marvin with him to a party, where both of them were drinking.  On the way back, George W.'s car hit a neighbor's trash can and carried it down the block.  Once they were home, his father sent word that he wanted George W. to come see him in the den.  George W. was in no mood for a polite lecture.  "I hear you're looking for me," he told his father.  "You wanna go mano a mano right here?"  The confrontation ended without a fight when George W.'s brother Jeb interceded to calm him down.
- James Mann, George W. Bush: The American Presidents Series: The 43rd President, 2001-2009, pp. 14-15.

I mean, this seems pretty funny and tone-deaf to me: the story about a young, inebriated George W. Bush challenging his distinguished, war-vet dad to fisticuffs is a story that's sufficiently well-worn and well-retold that you have to wonder why his campaign would put out a t-shirt that practically invites retorts like, "You mean 'mano-a-mano'?" and "With him or with you?  Do I hafta stand in line behind your brother?"

I suspect that every young man on Earth has foolishly wanted to punch his dad at some point in his life, even if he had the best dad in the world.  I don't think the story about Young George challenging Old George to a brawl says much of anything about G.W. as a man except that he was once a foolish and belligerent child like any other man was a foolish or belligerent child (though G.W. may have been a bit more inebriated than most), and even less about his Presidency, the foibles and missteps of which continue to speak for themselves.

But I do find myself wondering about this shirt and Jeb, you know.  Did nobody on Jeb's campaign team think to ask if they wanted to risk reminding everybody about G.W.'s boorish, potted adolescence?  What is it about the Bush men challenging people to fights?

And, for that matter, what does the statement on the shirt even mean?  I have no idea who Jeb Bush knows or has known, and if his dad is the greatest man he's ever known, I'm not sure how I could dispute that even if I wanted to.  I think I'd probably need him to make some kind of list, maybe, so I could see what other men he claims to have ever known, and then perhaps compare George H.W. Bush to the other men on the list; even then, it's pretty subjective.

Also, while I realize that Jeb Bush is a Catholic and they don't have the whole "personal relationship" dealie that evangelicals go on about, I was sort of under the impression that if you're a Republican politician, the correct answer to, "Who is the greatest man you've ever known?" is "Jesus."  I'm pretty sure that that's the answer Rick Santorum will give if the question comes up during the Seven Dwarfs portion of first Republican presidential debate on Fox News on August 6th.

Also also, I would have assumed that Jeb Bush would have met Ronald Reagan while his dad was Vice-President during Reagan's administration, and I was also sort of under the impression that if you're a Republican politician, the other correct answer to "Who is the greatest man you've ever known?" is, "You mean other than Jesus?  Ronald Reagan."  Assuming you've met Reagan, of course.  Which, like I just wrote, I would have assumed Jeb did, though maybe I'm wrong or maybe Jeb just sort of grappled with the magnificence of Reagan through an intermediary and can't claim a personal connection to Reagan, which is sort of apt for a Catholic if you think about it, right?

Or am I misunderstanding the shirt altogether, and it's like a son's equivalent of a "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug?  Maybe I buy the shirt wanting to advertise that my dad's the greatest man I've ever known, and to hell with Jeb Bush's dad who I've never met, and if you don't believe that my dad is the greatest man I've ever known we can go outside... and I'm not really a fighter, so I guess we could talk about it?  Or take a walk?  If there are ducks around, we could sit on a bench and watch ducks.  Ducks are cool.  They might even turn out to be the greatest ducks we've ever known.  Probably not, but how many ducks do we know?

My dad is a pretty good guy, but I have to admit I'm reluctant to say he's the greatest man I've ever known.  Nothing against my dad, mind you.  I think it's more that I'm afraid of what that statement would say about me, which is that most of the men I've known have turned out, upon closer acquaintance, to be unimpressive.  I think what I'm trying to say is that my dad has a pretty low bar to clear even after my forty-three years on Earth, and Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi and Albert Einstein are all dead and turn out to have been flawed weirdos anyway if you go by any relatively-recent biographies.  My dad's a good enough guy that if I told him he was the greatest man I've ever known, he'd probably be disappointed and wonder why I didn't get out more.  (Maybe that's a sign of greatness.  How the hell would I know?)

But so: here's a t-shirt that could not only draw snarkery from bleeding hearts like me, but also seems like it could invite a certain amount of ridicule from the right-wingers who probably don't like or trust Jeb already.  Which leads one to wonder who this shirt is for: since it would only be purchased by people who are going to give to your campaign anyway, why not just save the cost of making the shirts?  Though I guess that's not how politics works, for reasons I can't pretend to understand.  Sort of like the way PBS gives away tote bags to people who would donate to PBS anyway, and sure, donors like to advertise they donated and a tote bag lets them do that, but doesn't the cost of printing tote bags partly negate the contribution?  There's probably some arcana here I'm too thick or lazy to grok.

I should wrap this up, and so will say in conclusion that I don't really get Jeb's shirt and think it's kind of stupid, and hey, remember that time George W. Bush wanted to beat up his dad?  And also that the best t-shirt I've seen recently is CrazyDog T-shirts "Ask Me About My Facehugger," tee, which I think is pretty funny.  I realize that Jeb Bush doesn't want opinions from crazy liberal socialist atheist humanist weirdies like me, but I think Jeb should totally sell "Ask Me About My Facehugger" tees, and if he did, while I still wouldn't vote for him, I'd find him slightly less objectionable.  Also, I probably wouldn't buy one from him because I'm a fat guy and nobody wants to see my belly button, and the whole point of the gag is you have few enough body-image issues that when somebody says, "Okay, what about your facehugger?" you can flip your shirt over your head.  Hopefully not while smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer, but, you know, flip! and now they know about your facehugger, har-har-har.  But yes, Jeb should sell these.  Because they're awesome.


Spoiler: the Dungeons & Dragons movie will be a trilogy, at the end of which Wolverine finally becomes a first-level Bard

>> Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Dungeons & Dragons Movie of Your Dreams Is Rolling Your Way

But will it be the Dungeons & Dragons movie of my 7th grade dreams?

I'm happy to say, based on a plot summary leaked to Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets, that the answer is yes!

In the fantastic medieval kingdom of Centere Wyrlde, a party of adventures embark on the adventure of a lifetime in a world of adventure.  Join Hugh Mann the Magic-User, Tommy the Thief, Myzzrylazzar the Blackhearted, Janna Apollo, and Wolverine as they face off against Ents, Darkone the Necromancer, Fake Tiamat, Actual Tiamat, the Knights Who Say "Ni!", Meggadeathe the Shadow Ninja, and Lord Noruas in a cosmic battle to recover Excalibur on behalf of King Dio (who, unbeknownst to the party, is really the Polymorph Self-ed god Thor, who needs to return the sword to Odin's Treasury before Pluto, God of the Underworld, can claim it and bring about the resurrection of a million evil skeleton warriors who really have the stats for vampires).

Thrill as the party encounters the Girdle of Gender-Swapping, the Deck of Many Things, a Cursed Ring -3, a Bag of Holding that totally turns out to be a Bag of Devouring, and stumbles across a large dragon hoard that turns out to mostly be copper pieces and small rocks that were just enchanted to look like gold and platinum.  Hang onto the edge of your seat as Hugh Mann casts Identify on every single stupid magic item after the Bag of Devouring eats Myzzrylazzar's +2 Flaming Dagger, and then has to totally re-learn the spell afterwards because he totally forgets it after use and if he learns it twice he won't be able to slot Magic Missile and that's totally his best spell, man.

Will Hugh Mann the Magic-User trip over a stump and instantly die from his injuries?  Will Wolverine discover Tommy the Thief's pilfering of the party's potion stores?  And if he does, will he accept Tommy's explanation that, "I'm a thief, dude, so it's okay if I steal stuff because it's what I do"?  Will Janna Apollo lose all of his Cleric powers and become a fallen Paladin when he's accidentally "That's so Chaotic Neutral, man; Lawful Good means leaving at least a fifteen percent tip for your serving wench"?  Will Myzzrylazzar touch a lady's boob that isn't his own?  Can the party obtain a 10' pole out in the middle of nowhere to probe the ground in front of them after Tommy the Thief totally fails to disable the trap that caused him to freeze to death and catch on fire at the same time even though that spell totally isn't in the Player's Handbook and that's just cheating now?  Is there a cure for touching a Sphere of Annihilation?  Shouldn't the claws Wolverine got from that Ring of Three Wishes do at least shortsword damage instead of dagger damage?  Wait, why did the DM agree to that last bit so readily and start laughing so hard he knocked over the Doritos bowl?  Will Doug realize he should have also wished for immunity to damage from his own claws before he unsheathes them or after he has to roll for damage?  Why do gnomes suck?

I cannot begin to express my excitement for this movie.  Come on, WB, get this thing in theatres already!


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