Friday, May 25, 2018

Band Review: Browne Project

Chris Browne has some busking background, and a Busker Rhyme Album that acknowledges it.

While Browne Project is not limited to busking now, also playing clubs and radio stations and other venues, the acoustic music never sounds too far away from something that could be comfortably played on a street corner. There is an immediacy and a sincerity to the music that seems very approachable.

While I believe I prefer the Looking Forth album, which I think is newer, there is a strong sense of continuity between the two. This is Browne, stripped down and as he is; his project is himself, and it will contain hope and growth.

https://www.youtube.com/browneproject

https://soundcloud.com/browneproject

https://twitter.com/BrowneProject

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Band Review: Kitcha Saventhes

I'm not sure I did this review right.

Kitcha got on the review list by following me on Twitter. The Twitter profile points to the Youtube channel, which has music but also has vlogs and makeup tutorials and all kinds of things. Still, I review music, so that seemed like the right place to focus, except that it looks like Kitcha has also been in two bands, or maybe some other kind of musical projects. It might have made more sense to direct the attention that way.

But I didn't.

So, Kitcha is a Youtuber based in Sweden who - among other things - records songs, often accompanying with some animation.

Song selection includes covers of bands that might be considered pop punk and emo, or at least pop in the case of "Call Me Maybe", but there are also songs from video games and cartoon series, I think. Many of them are unfamiliar, so I don't know how they compare to the originals.

That may affect how fans of the originals will feel about Kitcha's covers, but overall I think he does a good job. That includes song selection, presentation choices, and also in the delivery. Okay, sometimes the dance moves and gestures run a little weird and over dramatic. That seems like something you might do for fun if nothing else when you are regularly producing content. Vocals are nonetheless strong and expressive. Vocals are edited, but don't end up sounding artificial.

That right there is a reason why I wonder if I should have reviewed one of the bands instead. It could always happen at some other time.

I still find it weird that people are Youtubers and follow Youtubers, so I am not the target demographic (I know, get off of my lawn), but if you are into following Youtubers, Kitcha could be a good choice.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYCZplVe5QTwhhGIJEepAKQ

https://twitter.com/KitchaSaventhes

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Political ads

The ad I referenced yesterday was an attack ad against Max Wall, candidate for Washington County District Attorney, who did end up losing the election. I am unhappy with the outcome and the ad, so let's spend a little bit of time on that.

I was first won over to Max Wall by one of his ads, where he was focused on using compassion and common sense on crime charges, especially drug ones. That probably made him look like too much of a hippie, but he ran another one about how identity should not affect personality, your position should not protect you from paying for your crimes.

That sounds much more tough on crime, but the two views aren't automatically contradictory. Jailing drug offenders is expensive and ineffective, and has tended to be very racist in how it has been carried out. We certainly don't need that.

There was also a message in the other ad that was reinforced with one final ad, about a police officer charged with domestic violence who was allowed to plead down and keep his weapon. Domestic violence is a great predictor of further violence, and a gun increases that danger, but how can he be a cop without a gun?

Obviously, the sheriff and former DA supported Wall's opponent, who had been the outgoing DA's assistant. I was never going to vote for him, largely because of two detention cases:

http://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/index.ssf/2016/09/accuser_in_prison_sex_case_jai.html

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/03/oregon_man_commits_no_crime_bu.html

The articles focus on the judges who allowed detaining the witnesses, but the DA decides whom to prosecute, and how, and keeping men in prison when you don't even have custody of the person you want to charge is pretty horrible, and imprisoning a woman who was raped in prison shows such a lack of regard for the victim that I can't even understand why you would bother prosecuting. There were other articles; it was terrible for her in there.

It shows a lack of regard for the average person, a willingness to abuse, and given that these involved people who could be marginalized for multiple reasons, it is not really a sign of holding everyone equal before the law. Therefore, Barton's previous service is a vote against him for me.

People know that executive positions - like president and governor - are important, but there are two office that may not get a lot of attention, but have a huge affect. Those are the secretaries of state and district attorneys.

Republicans made a concerted effort to make sure that more states had Republican secretaries of state.They did that because a state's secretary controls the election, Katherine Harris being just one example. Remember, one of the first things that happened with Richardson was a desire to redistrict before the census. We're stuck with him for now, but we should be aware of what is going on. The Voting Rights Act has been weakened and Russia has paid no penalties for tampering, so it matters.

District Attorneys are the key decision makers on who gets prosecuted and for what crimes and for what kind of penalties. Yes, they have to work with the existing laws, but there is room to exercise a lot of discretion, and it is their discretion. How they see people matters.

I mention this because of a key point of the ad. Yes, the manipulation of mustache was irritating, but the real issue was the sinister way in which they painted him receiving a donation from the Law & Justice political action committee, which has received donations from George Soros, meaning that MAX WALL WAS FUNDED BY A GEORGE SOROS SUPERPAC!

And people did hold that against him. He was getting outside superpac funding! And did you see that mustache? He looks like a cartoon supervillain!

Okay, yes, George Soros contributes a fair amount of money to politics. Superpacs aggregate donations from many small people to maximize the funds. Superpacs often donate in states where they are not based, though that may very well be in states from which some of their donors come. None of that is illegal, and it doesn't have to be nefarious, based on the values.

If the Koch brothers are supporting a candidate, I probably am not in favor of that candidate. This is not because they are not Oregonians, but because they are reprehensible human beings and their values are almost completely opposite to mine.

Do you know what George Soros' big cause has been? Fighting nationalism. Also ending poverty. Now that everyone is getting really poor and it's used to justify Nazis being Nazis because of economic anxiety, I can imagine he would contribute to many causes. Yes, if he were busing in voters over state lines, that would be illegal; it is also ridiculously impractical, so much so as to not be possible. I could almost wish that Soros were writing checks to protesters, because I could use the funding, but that's not how it works.

I guess my point is that I do not like deceptive practices, I do not like stupidity, and I do not like when it works.

A lot of the loudest voices out there sound pretty clownish, and they should be easy to see through. There are some pretty sophisticated machinations going on out there as well, and we need to be aware of that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Deception (Things that worry me, part 4)

Here is that last story, out of those three things that I couldn't ignore, or put off writing about until later.

Just to recap, the first two were attacks on health care that focused on marginalized groups and violence committed by bigots, essentially. I don't doubt those will come up again, but one of the common threads was how we perceive these things.

Republicans have paused on trying to straight up overturn the Affordable Care Act, and each smaller attack will have an easier to ignore impact. Your health care might feel safe, but it isn't.

Attacks by some people lead to talks of terrorism and measures to fight it, but attacks by angry white guys are reported as mentally ill lone wolves, so even if a discussion does happen it is largely the wrong discussion.

There are many factors that contribute to that, and many of them are so deeply woven into the fabric of our world that it takes real effort to untangle those threads. Our biases and conditioning do a lot of the work. While that has been true for a long time, it has also been true for a long time that there are those who knowingly capitalize on that, and who manipulate that. Technology is allowing them to become much better at it.

My concern here started with Joy Reid. There is a fairly good summary of the issue here:

http://money.cnn.com/2018/04/28/media/joy-reid-am-joy-apology/index.html

The shorter version is that attention was drawn to early homophobic posts by Reid that she denies making. 

There are a few levels of complexity that make this harder. On a human level, she has previously said other things that she regrets now, and that is on record as well as her apology. Apparently at least one of them was something about Ann Coulter's mannishness, and this is a good example of ways in which you need to think deeper.

It is easy to dislike Ann Coulter. It is also easy to see her as not very feminine in some ways, which makes jokes about that low-hanging fruit (pun not intended there). However, questioning someone's sexuality or gender because you don't like them is supporting a humor that diminishes people who actually are queer or transgender, and who often might have to hide it because of persecution. This is why actors periodically have to apologize for reverting to using "f- - - - t" as a slur when they get mad at someone.

People have much better awareness of that now then they used to, because of discussions that have been had. That doesn't make doing it ten years ago right, but if someone has learned and is no longer doing that behavior, that's worth something.

On a technological level, these posts have been located in the Wayback machine. I read a fairly convincing explanation from one person about pages that he altered that did not have the alteration correctly time-stamped, but honestly, that is something that I never work with. Hold that thought.

More convincing for me are the following things:
  • I believe Reid is honest, and that while you might not remember everything you wrote, if it feels totally alien to her, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Beyond that...
  • People who were reading her back then don't remember the posts, and even more so...
  • There were no comments on the offensive material. Based on things she wrote at the time, feedback was common and material like that would have drawn a lot of feedback, making it even more memorable for Reid and her readers.
Reid's story struck me more because there was another story going around about how motion-capture technology could be used to fake videos. The example had Jordan Peele effectively impersonating Barack Obama. Yes, you still need a convincing sounding voice, but it is getting harder to detect digital manipulation.

Okay, on one level I am comfortable with not knowing how web archiving and motion-capture works, but how safe is it not to know? My conclusions on the Reid story were drawn based more on logic than on an understanding of technology. Is that safe? I don't know that I have the time to invest in understanding all technology and ways of deceit.

Because if there was a hack attacking Reid, and you consider it unsuccessful (or maybe successful, the way Fox writes about it), it would be easy to learn from it and next time fake comments as well as posts. There would still be the memory of her prior readers, but people are getting really good at deciding that everyone who disagrees with them is stupid and evil, so that may not be enough.

I had to wonder, then, when some recent political attack ads showed a guy who usually has a normal mustache, but here they showed him with teeny little handlebar ends, making him look more sinister.

There were a lot of things that made me mad about that ad, so that's another post.

Getting back to the original concern, though, it's not like there aren't a lot of lies out there, and a liar in chief, and a "fake news" catchphrase used to undermine people from believing anything other than their preferred news source, where they know they are smarter and better than everyone else who believes all of this made up stuff.

It's been a thing for a while that Black women have been subject to attack. Previously any time my feed was abuzz with people talking about Joy Reid, it was because of how she brilliantly took down some conservative talking head (not that a moment of televised embarrassment ever seems to make them change for the better). I can see people wanting to take her down. I don't like where the technology is going on this.

That only fundamentally dishonest people would use technology in that way doesn't provide any comfort.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Voluntary

Many years ago a friend was pet-sitting, and she told me she was taking care of a "socially awkward dog". I said that sounded like me, so she explained that this dog's issues manifested through inappropriate peeing.

That wasn't so much me, but as someone who felt unattractive and often awkward, the phrase wrung a bell. The same thing happened the first time I heard "involuntary celibate", but still, the way it gets used isn't really me, and it isn't the way the originator of the phrase meant it either.

Writing about them the issue last week, I mentioned that there probably should be some supplementary information on availability of sex. I want to try and get that out of the way now, which I will do feeling somewhat unqualified but still believing I have a point.

I know I could have sex if I wanted to, and I do want to have sex, but at this time it is not really an option to have it the way I want it, in a committed marriage relationship where there is mutual respect and affection. I could wish for different circumstances, but I am nonetheless making a choice. That is a choice I base on my religious values, but I know that not everyone shares those values, and I know that there is a world of choices out there.

Content note: I am going to be speaking pretty directly about sex, but not necessarily graphically.

Self-gratification is an option. I don't believe that I should masturbate. That is primarily because I believe that an important purpose of sex is to help bond a couple, with the release of oxytocin helping that. On a deeper level, I have concerns that it could prove addictive for me, and then it would harm my balance between physical and spiritual, but really I don't do it because I believe it's wrong and that is religious in nature. That could be perceived as being on a more shallow level, I know, but I do think about it and take it seriously, so that's where I stand there.

For people who do not have those concerns, yes, masturbation is available and there are many items that can make it more effective.  Otherwise, possibly ways of reducing the physical urges can include exercise, meditation, yoga, and low-calorie diets. (Not joking.)

Often it is not just about the urge, but the accompanying desire for a physical connection with another person. Great. I believe in that. Here is something else that I know is available, even though I do not partake of it. It is relatively easy to find a hookup. There are people willing for that. There are applications that help you locate them, there are places you can show up to find people, and those options are out there. Even though I know that I am not the most attractive and desirable woman out there, I know that I could find partners. They are out there. Even when I did not think it was possible for anyone to want me for a long-term relationship, I knew that I could find a hook-up, and that hasn't changed, even as I age.

What if that still isn't enough, and you want an emotional connection as well? That is available too. I held myself back from it for a long time because I believed it wasn't possible. That got me into a life phase where the dating pool is much shallower, and I know that. But you know, I could still do it. At this point, I don't have the same level of patience for a lot of  men, or the willingness to overlook some flaws in him because it could mean children.

You know what? That is still a choice. The choices I was making were not always conscious, and they should have been. I could have worked on healing some of my wounds much earlier, and that would have been good for multiple reasons, but ultimately, conscious of my choices now, I am satisfied with my life.

Out in the "manosphere", there is a group called "sluthate" that started as "puahate"; because initially their resentment focused on the pick up artists who told them that they could have women but whose seduction methods failed. They still hate the men who are getting sex, but they decided to focus on the women, which I suppose is easier, and to wallow in the unfairness of being rejected by women whom they have never regarded as full human beings with their own unique tastes and desires.

Maybe the pick up artists have more physical charms, maybe your ideal woman's partner is better-looking than you, but it is so not about that. Fat people have sex. Old people have sex. Disabled people have sex. People with acne have sex. People who are introverted have sex. People often have sex with people who are better than them, when you are rating people via shallow and superficial criteria rather than appreciating them as people. And if you do a find/replace and change every use of "sex" to "relationships", it remains true.

I'm not saying that it is easy. Honestly, just deciding that you want a committed relationship rather than just sex ups the level of work required significantly. It remains possible.

Having had my own issues with self-worth, I can feel a certain amount of sympathy for someone who things that their appearance eliminates them from any chance of attractiveness. I can even feel sympathy for being attracted to people who are more attractive to you, and feeling a pang at that.

Where my sympathy quickly evaporates is where the resentment starts. The hypocrisy of ruling out other people based on their looks, but thinking your looks shouldn't be held against you? I have no sympathy for that. The stereotyping of women as shallow, and only liking jerks so nice guys don't have a chance? Yeah, none of the guys I have heard say that have ever been that nice.

I sympathize with unrequited desire. The desire to control someone else, though, that is something else. You don't get that.

And it won't make you happy, for what it's worth. It will twist your soul and damage your humanity as find it harder and harder to acknowledge the humanity of anyone else. The richer things that come from reaching out, learning, connecting -- those will get lost to you, but I will be more worried about the people to whom you are a danger.


That's the key: your desire doesn't trump anyone else's. It should be a really easy concept, even for NYT commentators, but apparently not.

That worries me.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Band Review: RiL

RiL was recommended by Kryz Reid of Third Eye Blind.

A two-piece rock band from Yokohama, it is hard not to try some comparisons to Melt Banana, the sound of each band is very different, despite a similar assertiveness.

RiL has a very full sound, so with only two people in the band it is very possible that they use some pre-recorded tracks for performance, but it still feels very live, very raw, and and very real. They are very rock.

There is a harder edge to the music that grunge fans may enjoy.

https://ril-band.jimdo.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ril.jp 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm_6PT7sTjBytD_Mtu8OfaA

https://ril-band.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/ril_band_

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Band Review: Grace Kelly

Last year I saw an ad for the the PDX Jazz Festival, featuring Grace Kelly, and added her to the review list. I knew it was somewhat of a risk, especially after reviewing Esperanza Spalding in February, but I still believe that someday I will appreciate jazz. 

I'm not there yet.

It doesn't completely matter because Kelly does other things. She plays standards and religious music (I really enjoyed 2011's Grace), and does a good job with them.

I was especially impressed to learn her timeline, because Grace Kelly is a prodigy. Born in 1992, her first release - Dreaming - was in 2005, recorded at the age of 12. Knowing that, I can hear that her voice is not fully mature. She had an interesting take on "Can't Buy Me Love", and I would like to hear how she sounds as an adult. Regardless, I did not hear her youth in her saxophone. I would not have known.

Therefore, having achieved such a high level of skill at such a young age, and with her continuing to work with different people and styles, I imagine the sky is the limit for what she can achieve.

But I would be have a better idea of it if I had already crossed my jazz barrier.

https://www.gracekellymusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GraceKellymusic/ 

https://www.youtube.com/user/Jazzpro50

https://twitter.com/gracekellyPAZZ

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Distribution of sex (Things that worry me, part 3)

Yesterday I put off writing about the first line, about an incel killing 10 people. That referred to the Toronto van attack:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/toronto-incel-van-attack/558977/

I put it off because of something else that happened with the news coverage - which I will get to - but it could also have been reasonable to separate it because with the other groups, their hatred has tended to focus more on racism, and for incels it is more about misogyny.

I hadn't thought about that too much when I started writing. On one level it doesn't seem like the most important distinction. It is not unusual for white supremacists to be sexist, even as they have women among their members. I don't know that a lot of the more sexist affiliations spend a lot of time on racism, but I think you will find that their beauty standards are influenced by white supremacy. That could simply be a result of structural racism, where it can have an unrealized impact, but hey, if hate and inequality are your thing, that stuff will spread.

Actually, incels are a good example of that, because while their biggest hate is for "Stacys", they have a ton of hate for "Chads". Time for another tutorial.

Incel is short for involuntary celibate, meaning that they want sex but can't get it. "Stacys" are the women they want to have sex with (meaning attractive women who meet their standards). "Chads" are the men the "Stacys" want, so good-looking guys are enemies too. Also, "Chads" are clearly jerks, because women only like jerks, they say. I have definitely heard that one before, and while I would like to think that none of those people (mainly ones I met at church) would drive a van into a crowd, repeating harmful stereotypes to yourself can come out in ugly, ugly ways.

Interestingly, the term "involuntary celibate" started with a woman from Toronto, who in exploring her own sexuality and writing about it was looking for ways to describe things.

https://www.elle.com/culture/news/a34512/woman-who-started-incel-movement/

Here's the way today's post relates to the previous two posts: a queer woman (hence subject to marginalization in at least two ways) was sincerely exploring and looking for inclusion, and it was adopted by resentful men as a label of victimhood. Real attacks happen on marginalized people all the time, but the dominant groups center themselves in hateful self-pity.

Beyond that, no matter how badly their claims fall apart upon closer inspection, they keep getting attention and validation in the interest of presenting both sides.

Now we get to the thing that made this item stand out for me. One of the reactions to the van attack was a piece about unequal distribution of sex, likening it to income inequality.

I am not going to link to this one (it can be found easily enough), because it's trash. Incels are not merely complaining about a lack of sex; they are complaining about being discriminated against for their physical appearance while discriminating based on physical appearance themselves. What they regret is that the women have a right to choose. The appropriate response to that is not thinking that maybe they have a point.

And it's not surprising at all, because a lot of men were coming forward after the Isla Vista killings and lamenting that girls hadn't been nicer to the shooter.

That one bad take got further publicity because of Ross Douthat of the New York Times.  I'm not linking to that either, because again, the reasoning was very poor. Once more, it is largely that instead of seeing the flaw in not considering the consent of women important, they replicate it. Thanks guys!

Douthat tried to dress it up by bringing in other groups that might be undersexed, but the problem is none of those groups are frequenting Reddit to talk about hating and killing the objects of their desire. Is it because they are not members of privileged groups who don't know how to handle the world not catering to them? Could it be a factor that it is not in fact the looks of these men that is keeping them from getting sex, but their toxic viewpoints?

Mainly, I'd like to point out that this is an excellent example of male privilege. No matter how horrific the things you say are, you will still find people wanting to hear you out. Think of how many people defended Kevin Williamson when The Atlantic did not go through with his hiring, because liberals are so prejudiced. The key content in question, about Williamson's sincere belief that women who have abortions should be hung - so not just the death penalty, but one associated with public executions to be a warning to others, and for something that is legal and without any interest in punishing the partners of the pregnant women - but no, The Atlantic is just being too biased. THIS IS MALE PRIVILEGE.

And yes, it is possible that good supplementary material for this would be a post on how easy it can be to get sex, but I still have another issue that worried me, and this is already part 3.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Terrorist threats (Things that worry me, part 2)

The day after I saw the Andy Slavitt's health care thread, I saw this one:

https://twitter.com/EmilyGorcenski/status/988817474689929216

It doesn't have the same wealth of links, and there are a lot of abbreviations, so I am going to elucidate. The incel was the first item, but I am saving that for last.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/us/sovereign-citizen.html

A sovereign citizen killed four people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee on April 22nd.  He was the same person who tried to get onto the grounds of the White House, because as a sovereign citizen he had the right to inspect it. Although mental illness was acknowledged, his guns were returned to him, which is odd given how the NRA likes to scapegoat mental illness as the source of all gun problems. Still, he is white and male (that's not just being snarky; it totally relates).

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/va-man-charged-first-degree-murder-heather-heyer-death-article-1.3698829

A neo-Nazi killed Heather Heyer with his car in Charlottesville. Neo-Nazis espouse Nazi ideology now, which mainly emphasizes white supremacy.

https://www.adl.org/blog/florida-white-supremacist-group-admits-ties-to-alleged-parkland-school-shooter-nikolas-cruz

The Parkland shooter had ties to a white supremacist group.

https://www.npr.org/2018/03/06/590292705/5-killings-3-states-and-1-common-neo-nazi-link

Atomwaffen are white supremacists as well, but their name refers to atomic weapons and they are more apocalyptic in their desire for violence. At that rate, it might seem odd that the run of the mill white supremacist had a higher body count, but there are some things that strike me about these deaths. First, one victim was gay and Jewish, two categories that face a lot of prejudice. Another couple were the parents of a girlfriend and they did not approve of the relationship. A lot of mass shootings have to do with the desire to control women and have access to women.

(The third killed his roommates, he says because they were bugging him for converting to Islam, and to prevent attacks. I believe the press coverage focused more on his converting to Islam, which would go along with some other things.)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43818059

Lots of militias are anti-government and white supremacist, which is not at all mutually exclusive. This particular group wanted to kill Black Muslims.

https://www.theroot.com/ferguson-activists-are-dying-and-it-s-time-to-ask-quest-1794955900

There should be some questions there, but then the overall point stands, BLM and Antifa get vilified by conservatives and the media, but they are fighting the violence, not committing it. Yes, there has been property damage associated with Antifa, and some people linked the Dallas police shootings to BLM, but that shooter was interested in at least three actual hate groups. Also, if you don't understand the difference between criticizing police and calling for their deaths, you are sadly in step with the zeitgeist of today but still wrong.

It reminds me of reading something a while back (and there is no way I am going to find it) but they had pictures of eight cop killers. I had heard of all of the cases, I had seen the picture of only one, coincidentally the only Black man in the bunch.

Okay, that is crafting a narrative. It's a racist one, and that it feels right to a lot of people who are probably not actively trying to be racist gives you an idea of the depth of the structural racism in this country's foundation. However, it is not only wrong in what it promotes, but in what it misses. An astonishing number of the white cop killers had iron cross tattoos.

https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/iron-cross

Yes, a lot of people aren't being deliberately racist, but many people are, and the deliberately racist also tend to be misogynist. They tend to be violent. They tend to be horrible people, and they tend to feel aggrieved when marginalized people approach anything like equality. They tend to be white men, but then you say that and white men who haven't killed anyone get mad, regardless of whether their attitudes otherwise support the system. And we have a government that is supporting that by attacking marginalized people.

That is why seeing those two Twitter threads so close together was so disturbing; we are rapidly approaching our worst-case scenario.

And I didn't even get to the incel yet. Maybe I can fit it in with tomorrow's post; maybe I will need another day.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Health care (Things that worry me, part 1)

It was never my plan to write so many multi-part things, and even when I knew I was going to be doing War is Hell, I thought it would be three posts, not six. Then I was going to move on because I have lots of things that I want to write about before I get into general civics and politics.

However, about three weeks ago there were a few things going around Twitter that concerned me, and they would certainly fit into political and civic discourse later, but that doesn't feel quite right either. I am going to try and cover them this week, and hey, maybe the parenthetical numbering will be helpful.

The first one was a thread from Andy Slavitt on health care that was primarily a series of links to other articles, but together they made an alarming trend:

https://twitter.com/ASlavitt/status/988430938467110913 

Those links are all available, but here is a quick list of things happening under this administration:
  • elimination protections for transgender people
  • not recognizing the sovereign rights of Native communities
  • gutting the rights of people with disabilities
  • allowing insurance plans that allow unlimited profits (by not requiring coverage for all conditions, preexisting conditions, and setting caps)
  • putting work requirements on Medicaid (many of those using Medicaid are already working, but an interruption in their job can then leave them uncovered)
  • attacking nutrition programs for low-income groups
  • ending guarantees on birth control coverage
This is how Slavitt ended his thread:
"2017 was a ground war, covered every day in the news as Congress sought to repeal the ACA. 2018 is a cold war— millions will lose coverage, millions more will lose protections, millions more vital elements of their care by the end of the year and it is not a major news item./end"
I think it is more accurate to call this a guerrilla war, but the point stands: after multiple failures to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act, the new goal is death by a thousand cuts.

There are a few things that stand out to me. Perhaps the most annoying is my added note to the Medicaid line, because I know how popular work requirements are with conservatives, and because I don't think it is fair to ignore how many people are working and still need help (which could lead to a good discussion about wages and benefits and things like that) I leave open the issue that some people can't work, or it is feasible for them to work now, or all of the many good reasons why someone can still deserve health care just for being a human being. These are frustrating discussions when there is so much heartlessness and cruelty underlining the need for the discussions.

One part of the Medicaid discussion is the sovereign rights discussion, as it is over the work-for-Medicaid requirements. Indian health care policies have been set up on the basis of treaty and land theft and a host of other things. That means not only that there is added unfairness to something that is already unfair, but I can see additional attempts to erode their sovereignty becoming a big part of the war on the environment.

Going right along with that, it should be no surprise to see protections for corporate profits going as a key plank in the attacks, but it is also disingenuous. Compliance with disability requirements would stimulate the economy. It involves consultation and construction and it helps more people be fully engaged and contributing to society. If it seemed like an undue burden on companies (especially smaller ones), there could be government funding as a stimulus package. This administration will always choose doing harm over doing good.

However, what stood out most was that the way of administering the thousand deadly cuts is by going after marginalized groups, for whom health care is an important part of an often precarious situation. There will be people who applaud transgender individuals not getting their "special" right to health care. Lots of people will be thrilled to see cuts to anything that helps poor people. That's the direction we've been heading.

Looking at it like this, though, the first thing that it makes me think of Martin Niemöller's quote:
"...Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."
There was something else that made it more ominous though. I told you there were a few things going around Twitter. I'll try and get to the second one tomorrow.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Band Review: Chillitees

Chillitees came up last year when I was reviewing Lampano Alley, because they did a song with Binky Lampano.

Based in Manila, the Chillitees started out working to create soulful and groovy songs in Tagalog. With the Lampano connection you might expect more blues influence, but I hear more jazz. The music is relaxing to listen to, but could easily be funked up for dancing, or quieted down for being chill. I know the term "easy listening" can be used as an insult, but this music truly is easy to listen to, and that works.

To get an idea of the possibilities, there are a few different remixes of "Sama na" available, but I think some good songs for starting out are "You Make Me Juana" and "Lalala".


https://www.facebook.com/chillitees/

https://www.youtube.com/user/chillitees

https://twitter.com/Chillitees

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Band Review: Vovkulaka

Vovkulaka is a metal band from Odessa, Ukraine.

The words you will most commonly see on their social media are "Dark Angry Evil Metal" and "Pain never sounded so good".

I don't know that they sound that evil, per se, though I can't deny that they sound angry. Some interesting background information on the band is that drummer Volk also does some paranormal research, and that the band took part in a campaign to pressure the Kremlin into releasing a political pressure. That could indicate that without being evil themselves, the band may nonetheless have some familiarity with evil.

Or they could be evil themselves, but that wasn't the impression that I got.

I hear some industrial overtones in their metal, and although these are not really metal bands, I can imagine fans of Nine Inch Nails and Wolfmother enjoying Vovkulaka. If that sounds like you, check Vovkulaka out.

https://vovkulaka.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VovkulakaFanPage

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0i42lhpf_u2A99NbCyzLXw

https://twitter.com/VovkulakaMusic

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Healing (War is Hell, part 6)

I rarely write to authors, but I communicated with David J. Morris twice via e-mail.

I had gone to Powell's to hear him speak about his book The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was very interesting, and I read his book shortly after, but also it ended up correlating with two other books that I read that same year (2015).

First it was Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human, a collection of works edited by Deborah Christie. There were surprising correlations between how we talk about zombies and how we talk about PTSD, perhaps less surprising upon learning about the traumatized survivors of Hiroshima - the hibakusha - dazedly walking away from the blast area, holding their arms out to not agitate burn wounds. Morris had not read that collection, but he was familiar with some of the work.

Then, shortly after finishing his book, I read Code Talkers: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code-Talkers of WWII, by Chester Nez. 

One of the interesting things about PTSD from The Evil Hours was that how it presents changed through different influences. Before film and television, visual flashbacks did not seem to happen. So when reading about the experiences Nez had with PTSD, he had seen movies before, but it was rare, and his symptoms were much more like the ones that you find with people who served in the Civil War (even though PTSD did not exist as a diagnosis then). I was interested in that, and in what worked for Nez. Twice he started having bad spells of being haunted by his war experiences, and twice his community joined in rituals to help him.

For that e-mail, Morris wrote back that if he had finished the book a little later there would have been a chapter on that, because he learned of it later. For those exchanges, I have to find David Morris very smart and with interests I support, though we might not be quite in synch. I should probably try and read more of his work. Beyond that, reading about Nez sent me back to Grossman:

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman

No, the reason that there were more deaths in retreat than during regular combat was not because the war conditions are so poor (not that it helps), but because there is an inherent human reluctance to shooting someone facing you, that apparently gets easier when their backs are turned.

(The movie that led me to the book, The Act of Killing, was also helpful, because you see that these men needed to find ways to deal with killing too. Lots of drugs was part of the answer.)

This was a very disappointing piece of human psychology. At the time I ended up being more disappointed that after laying out the case for why non-fatal interactions are preferred, and how violating this is hard on people so successfully reintegrating them into society after combat requires help from society, Grossman then went on to focus on finding drills that helped soldiers get over their resistance to killing (I can see the necessity, but concerning). He also created a weird allegory about how soldiers and police are sheepdogs, not wolves or sheep, and they need to be this way and that's cool but if civilians are violent that's video games. He has since raised additional concerns where he seems to glorify police killings of civilians.

So, perhaps we need to be careful how much we trust his information, but before he went off the rails, he had written something about welcoming troops home with a retreat that their families attended, giving them an in between state on their way back to society. There was relaxation, and support available, and it helped.

I could not ignore the aspects of community in that retreat, nor the community aspects to the ceremonies that helped Chester Nez.

PTSD is fairly specific, and not every soldier gets it. Having to learn to kill, however, is very common for them. Doing so requires them to circumvent a part of their humanity, and generally involves a dehumanization of the enemy. Again, it's understandable, it may even be necessary, but then making the switch back is hard, and there should be more help for that. That we traditionally send young people, who have not fully established their adult identities yet, is something that may make it worse.

I'm not saying that I have any answers here. Mainly, I have empathy, and a realization that it's important, but also a belief that we can do better.

We talk about supporting our troops, but that often seems to be used more as a way to rebuke reasonable dissent. I hope that we can think about what support should mean, and that it should be helpful, acknowledging specific needs with clarity and compassion.

Okay, I want that for people who aren't troops too, but I will accept a multitude of good starting places.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Roman à clef (War is Hell, part 5)

One of my less successful reading list additions for "War is Hell" was a collection of poetry by those who fought in World War I - primarily British - named for for one of the more famous poems, Anthem for Doomed Youth.

I say it was less successful because many of the poems weren't very good, and reading a lot of indifferent poetry together is pretty annoying. That was mainly a presentation issue, because arranged differently and focusing more on the authors, it could have been a completely different experience. I wholeheartedly agree that the soldiers expressing themselves was important, and that it's worth appreciating that.

For my prose reading, with accounts of these young men, who are no longer young, and some are no longer living, there was something that bothered me, and that is going to be hard to explain correctly.

First of all, even as Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back is considered a memoir, there is some fictionalization, including names and details changed. Ken Babbs' Who Shot the Water Buffalo and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front are specifically novels, but they are novels inspired by experiences.

In All Quiet, everyone dies. Okay, that's an exaggeration. One man merely gets such a strong reminder of home in some blossoming cherry trees that he starts to walk home, is court-martialed for desertion, and never heard from again. The school teacher who pushed his students to enlist is still alive. The drill instructor who berated and abused the new recruits is still alive. I guess Tjaden lives, because he is in the sequel. Still, the impression that you get is that they all successively die. His classmates who signed up with him die. The young recruit he is so helpful to dies within hours of being aided and comforted. The men he meets and grows to rely on while in the field die.  When Kat dies especially - because he was so good at surviving and making things better - how can you expect anyone to make it out alive? Finally the narrator dies.


In To Hell and Back it felt like only one character besides the narrator lived, Kerrigan. He was only out of danger because he got an injury severe enough to send him home. Kerrigan was credited with a poem in the book that Murphy wrote himself. Was there something that could never be healed?

Those are just impressions. I did not diagram all of the characters and double-check who makes it to the end. I know that even with a high casualty rate, some people live. I also know that when your write, things come out that may not be deliberate but represent real feelings and thoughts. I worry about soldiers coming back with a feeling that everyone was lost. I worry about them having survivor's guilt, or just an overabundance of grief.

The death rate is much lower in Who Shot the Water Buffalo, Ken Babbs' Vietnam-era novel. They were helicopter pilots, which had its own dangers, but it was probably realistic for them to have fewer fatalities than the infantry. There was still something that bothered me at the end.

There are two main characters, fast friends who go through everything together. It is natural to associate the narrator with the author, but personality-wise, his wilder, taller friend seems a lot more like Merry Prankster Babbs, and that character disappears. There are rumors about the wild adventures he is having, but those feel like an inability to accept a death. Did he lose himself? Was he trying to keep someone alive?

In many ways, those are better questions for the authors to figure out. On the other hand, the issue of young people being sent to fight and die, but the ones who live coming back bearing scars both visible and invisible, that is a question for society. That is something we need to be looking at all the time. Not just for the ones who are out there now, or could be sent out there, but for the ones who are back.

There was one more book I haven't mentioned yet, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. O'Brien has written multiple books and given many talks - he was one of those interviewed for The Vietnam War. Maybe he didn't need to kill everyone off in one novel. Sometimes he writes about his interactions with other living members of his unit.

There was one story that required profanity to tell right, which sometimes got him some complaints.  O'Brien writes...

If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.
Yeah.

That's a part of the price, but not the worst part. More on that later.


Monday, May 07, 2018

Immersion (War is Hell, part 4)

Regular readers have probably already noticed that one way I tend to dive into things is bookishly, reading many books on a similar topic close together. Then they can reinforce each other. (This was also helpful when taking four classes about Roman art, architecture, archeology together, though at times it felt like overcommitting.)

It is not really surprising that the experiences of US forces in World War II - read about in Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back and Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers recently, and in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken a little farther back - contain certain similarities.

It should possibly be more surprising to find those same similarities in the account of a German soldier in WWI, as told in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. 

Maybe it is not all that surprising. The Germany that went to war a few years later was furious with the book, the movie, and the author. Remarque himself was able to escape the country, but the Nazis beheaded one of his sisters and sent a bill to the other, ostensibly for the executed sister's own acts in undermining Germany's war effort, but more obviously as a way of lashing out at her brother.

Realistically, the similarities aren't that much of a political nature. It ends up being more about the moments of recklessness, and the growing deadness inside. It's about the suffering, and how starving changes you physically, but also how wonderful it can be then to have a full stomach and to get rested for a change. Reduced to basics, good food, good rest, and good company end up being the most important things.

None of the books spend that much time on politics. All Quiet spends a little more, but that is merely a discussion on how the physical features of a country - like mountains in France or rivers in Germany - can't offend each other, and shoemakers and farmers in the different countries are really very similar, so what can they be there for? And that is surely that without fighting wars a leader doesn't get a reputation, and it must be useful for some, even if it is not useful for them there in the trenches.

There are many ways in which Remarque's book is more philosophical. I don't know if that came from being part of an older generation, or waiting longer after his combat experience to write, but there is a part where he points out that he and his counterparts are too young to be attached to anything. They have not married or found trades yet, but they are no longer children, and it will make going back hard.
Kantorek would say that we stood on the threshold of life. And so it would seem. We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. For the others, the older men, it is but an interruption. They are able to think beyond it. We, however, have been gripped by it and do not know what the end may be. We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a waste land.

To Hell concludes with Murphy vowing that he will learn to live again, because he realizes he has lost his ability to live normally.
In the streets, crowded with merrymakers, I feel only a vague irritation. I want company, and I want to be alone. I want to talk, and I want to be silent. I want to sit, and I want to walk. There is VE-Day without, but no peace within.
An earlier story he was told of a man who completed his tour and re-enlisted after being unable to adjust to civilian life, and then died during his second tour, must have made his fears seem worse, but he is not giving up.

Gradually it becomes clear. I will go back. I will find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war. And finally--finally, like countless others, I will learn to live again.
I don't know if the words ring hollow more because there is no plan or more because I know that he struggled with PTSD and anger for the rest of his life. It's not that the desire rings hollow - I absolutely believe in his desire and determination - but I worry about the possibility.

Reading Remarque's words, I had a better understanding of why it might be hard, but not necessarily an understanding of how to make it easier. He may not have known either. His main character had dabbled in writing before the war, as Remarque had, and Remarque was able to successfully return to it. He also ended up living kind of an unsettled life, full of excesses. Was that because of his wartime experience, or for having to flee his country as it was overtaken by Nazis (not realizing at the time that it left his sisters in danger), or was it something else?

Because of reading the books so close together, I associate these authors in my mind, but it's not necessarily a new thought either. A few years ago I ran into a friend from school whom I had written to for a while after he joined the Marines. We had not seen each other for ages, and we were glad to see each other, but he had some hesitation.

"I know you don't like the military." he said.
"It's not that," I told him. "I worry about it."

Then he admitted to seeing and doing some things that he might have been better off without. I had heard about some anger issues through the grapevine before that. I mean, it's not that I didn't know at all, but it felt so much more tragic when he was there in front of me.

And it's not that there is never a need to fight, but the prices are high and I worry about it.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Band Review: Shing02

I added Shing02 to the review list because of his collaboration with IAMOMNI. Initially thinking he was a DJ (hip hop artist would be more accurate), I had concerns about endless remixes. Shing02 has been a nice surprise.

Yes, I did find several remixes, but they differed enough from each other to give each mix its own significance. I especially like the Michita remix of "Jikaku". That is one of several instrumental mixes, and they all feel complete. Sometimes an instrumental version can feel like something is missing, but that does not happen here.

Interestingly, part of what drew me to Shing02 was two pictures of him against a wall of lyrics. The images give a feeling of so much that needs to be said that the words are overflowing. That can be true as well, and he is noted for addressing important issues in his lyrics, but he can also choose to let the music stand alone, and do that effectively.

His ability to do that may be at least partly an effect of his history. Born in Japan, Shing02 has also lived in London, Tanzania, and California, and is known for blending elements of many different types of music, including reggae. Having opened himself up to many places, people, and sounds has given Shing02 musical resources that are broad and deep, and you can hear that when he plays.

http://e22.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Shing02/

https://www.youtube.com/user/e22video

https://twitter.com/shing02?lang=en

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Band Review: Sideways

Generally listening to house music gets me increasingly aggravated until all I want is for it to stop, but I enjoyed listening to Sideways.

It doesn't mean I am going to listen to them over and over again, but I have to consider them better than the average house band, and so for fans of house music, they are definitely worth checking out.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but that is really a pretty big compliment.

https://www.facebook.com/SidewaysOfficial

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJX4hJQl-UFOIYC3feAJ5dg

https://twitter.com/OfficialSideway

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

In over their heads (War is Hell, part 3)


Watching The Vietnam War sent me forward and back. It sent me forward in causing me to read various accounts of soldiers - some first-person works and some not. Then as I read them, I started remembering things from before, and working them into a greater context. Something I had read last July contributed too.


It actually started with another documentary, The Act of Killing. That came out in 2013, but I did not see it in theaters. I read the review, found it interesting, and eventually got the DVD and watched it at home. Then I was so enthralled with it that I kept doing searches for supplemental material.

Along with interviews with that film's director, Joshua Oppenheimer, an interview came up with the author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Dave Grossman. I finished his book in September 2015, so all of this happened fairly close together.

The Act of Killing is about participants in the Indonesian mass killings that occurred throughout 1965 and 1966 after a failed coup. (Don't assume that the killings were about punishing the participants in the coup, because nothing ever goes that simply.) As we get a look into the past through re-enactment, we start to understand more about what it takes to kill. The featured killer himself understands more about what it took to kill, at least on one level, and it is not a happy realization for him.

The book is about the natural human resistance to killing each other, and how that gets broken down for war and other circumstances. Obviously the subject matters are related, but I think it was a title similarity that brought me the Grossman clip, which was fascinating.

The claim he made was that most war casualties happen during retreat. After reading the book I realized I had misinterpreted what he meant, but at the time it took me back to a graphic they had shows us for a French class when we were reading Balzac's Adieu.

A lot of his stories were related to Napoleon's assault on Russia with his Grande Armée. I imagine to understand the France of that time you had to understand that, but it is hard to visualize the loss. Yes, hearing that Napoleon started out with 442,000 men, was down to 100,000 as he took Moscow (a victory?), and returned to France with only 10,000 (the inverse of decimation for the way back?) - that means something, but it is still kind of baffling. That is why they showed us the Minard Map.

http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/229-vital-statistics-of-a-deadly-campaign-the-minard-map

For probably a few months it made sense to me that more men died in retreat from cold and disease and not getting enough food, because there is more to war that is bad for your health than the combat. It seemed like a cruelty that the war might spare you but then getting back home would not, and another reminder of how carefully any decisions about war should be made. Then I read the book and that was not what he meant.

I took in the new information (I'll get to that in a different post), but then last July I read Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, and I read that because of the poor conditions of the planes, more men went down on search and rescue missions than in combat. I think it was a 6:1 ratio. But every time a plane went down you had to send out a search party, in case they survived the crash and were out in a life raft. Then you might lose yet another plane and air crew. That was what happened to the book's protagonist, Louis Zamperini, but he was found by enemies, not allies, leading to his ordeal in a prison camp. 

This year, as I got to Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides, I learned more about the Bataan Death March, and the rescue of the remaining survivors. There was a lot of deliberate cruelty to those prisoners, but much of the death came from not having adequate transport and rations for the captured men. The Japanese expected a much smaller group, but then the men only had to surrender because their leaders had miscalculated their ability to hold the peninsula and did not have an evacuation plan in place. That might remind you of Dunkirk, except there was no rescue force of civilian boats.


Maybe my first understanding wasn't completely wrong either.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The political price of war (War is Hell, part 2)

I believe most of what I write will focus on soldiers and what we do to them, but I saw a different side of it, too.

The most shocking revelation for me in The Vietnam War was that Nixon prolonged the war when he wasn't even in office, and was in fact running on an anti-war platform.

A successful resolution to the 1968 Peace Talks would have given Johnson - and thus Hubert Humphrey's candidacy - a boost, so Nixon had an aide convince the South Vietnamese to walk away, and then Nixon would win and give them a better deal.

(There is a brief write-up here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/nixon-prolonged-vietnam-war-for-political-gainand-johnson-knew-about-it-newly-unclassified-tapes-suggest-3595441/)

It worked out for Nixon; he won the election. It didn't work out great for the South Vietnamese. It must have also been a disappointment for the voters who supported Nixon in order to end the war; he instead spread it to Laos and Cambodia. That meant an additional loss of 22000 US lives.

I don't even know that it would be possible to tally the suffering that it caused for the people of South East Asia. That's not just the deaths, though there were a lot of those. It's also displaced people, and refugees, and maimed children because the land mines stay long after, and economic oppression and re-education - because there would be some people who survive the re-education camps and stay in their country, but it takes a horrible toll on them.

Probably in a few weeks I will write about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and how pain ripples out from one bad act more than you can ever fully know. That will be a different topic, but the extending consequences applies here, and I want to spend a little more time on that. First, I need to take a tangent.

Shortly before the documentary series aired, I finished reading K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Kruschev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist,  by Peter Carlson. I read it because Kruschev had come up so often in Hannah Arendt's The Origin of Totalitarianism, and there had been reminders of that in The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman, and I thought - this book has been on my reading list for a while, let's just get to it.

My purpose is not to defend Kruschev, who participated in and led many terrible things. He also really did try to improve the Soviet Union, especially focusing on agriculture, but also on disarmament, which he had successfully started. Then there was a coup.

Reaching back very far into my knowledge, I actually saw Thirteen Days in the theater, back in 2000. I remember that the US and the USSR both gave some concessions, but part of the deal was that only the Soviet concessions would be made public. That's the kind of thing that can make a leader look weak, so that he could be both unpopular enough and apparently vulnerable enough for a coup.

What would the world have looked like if the Cold War had started rolling back twenty years sooner? What if nuclear proliferation had been arrested that far back? Sure, there's room for a lot of things to go wrong, but that seems like a valuable opportunity thrown away largely for the sake of appearances.

I also do not wish to paint LBJ as a saint. He had his own bad deeds, including bugging his own allies so that he knew about Nixon's backroom dealing but was in a position where he could not reveal it. 

I do believe he wanted to build a better country, and that included strengthening civil rights and working against poverty. I also believe that part of his continuing to escalate in the quagmire of Vietnam was because looking weak is the kind of thing that loses elections, and would keep him from continuing the work he wanted to do.

Pulling out was never going to be easy, and was always going to result in a loss of human life. Trying to avoid that led to a lot of loss of life too. I'm never going to call it an easy decision. 

What I do know is that once in office, Nixon fired the housing administrator (George Romney) who was trying to eliminate redlining and improve fairness in housing. His Supreme Court nominees worked to maintain school segregation. He was a strong supporter of Southern Strategy politics, racially coded language, and took steps toward the War on Drugs that Reagan would later run with. He tried to consolidate presidential power at a level that some of the same advisers would have more success with under George W. Bush. And yes, he may not have known about the Watergate break-in before it happened, but that was his team, and they had been assembled to get revenge on his enemies. A country that was already becoming cynical about their government would end up much worse.

And I kind of started out writing this as if the toll these war decisions take on society is a separate issue from the toll on military personnel, but I am pretty sure that it is all the same. The society that sees backing down from doing harm as weakness is a society that is going to damage its young in a multitude of ways, and that often includes sending them to kill and be killed.

What I would like to know is what a country would look like if it was composed of citizens who valued human life and happiness above macho posturing, blood lust and greed.