Baltimore

The Aftermath (These Days Later)

#epichatred | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

A year and a half after a city panel recommended that four Confederate-linked monuments be removed or altered, Mayor Catherine Pugh decided Tuesday to take them all down — and then watched as crews worked into early Wednesday to tear them from their pedestals.

“We moved quickly and quietly,” Pugh said. “There was enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made. Get it done.”

Pugh said crews removed the monuments unannounced and under cover of darkness between 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday in the hope of avoiding the potential for a violent conflict similar to the one Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

It seems to be going around. On Sunday, Vox spread the word:

White nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday and Saturday to protest the city’s decision to take down Confederate monuments. But not only have the protests done nothing to change Charlottesville’s mind on this issue, it’s apparently prompted at least one other city to speed up action to remove its Confederate statues as well.

Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday ....

Meanwhile, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, is seeing fit to challenge his state’s law to protect Confederate monuments. Furthermore, an abysmal white supremacist website that last year named suspected Jews and urged people to “take action” has fled to hidden quarters of the web after major hosting services rejected them, and the notorious neo-Nazi celebrity whose Nazi salutes and praise for Hitler raised controversy that led the newspaper to so openly target Jews is among many alt-right heroes cut off by PayPal after their problematic relationship with the company’s Acceptable Use Policy became unavoidably apparent. And just to make the point, a lede tells us, “At least four people have lost their jobs and several more are under scrutiny following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville”.

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The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

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The Donald Trump Show (The Brim Horizon)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Steve Benen raises an interesting question:

… if Trump can rocket to the front of the Republican pack without the backing of a real national campaign, what happens when the GOP candidate starts trying?

We’re about to find out. Iowa’s Sam Clovis, a prominent Republican activist and media figure in Iowa, had served for months as the state chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, until this week, when Clovis gave up on the former Texas governor and joined Team Trump.

The problem with the Donald Trump Show is that it really does know how to get attention.

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My Own Incoherent Distress

Michelle Obama addresses the graduating class at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Tuesday, 10 June 2015. (Photo: Christian K Lee/Associated Press)

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House, because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

Michelle Obama

This is not, technically speaking, fair.

Then again, such is life. Michelle Obama stood before the graduating class of King College Prep High school in Chicago, yesterday, and delivered remarks that some have taken as a suggestion that the First Lady has officially entered the fight:

At a time of roiling debate over the issues of race and opportunity, punctuated by the events of Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island; and Baltimore, the nation’s first African-American first lady has added her voice. It is not a new message for her, but one that has taken on special resonance and one delivered with bracing candor in recent speeches. Along the way, Mrs. Obama has opened a window into her own life, not just in Chicago but also in the White House.

By her telling, even living at the world’s most prominent address has not erased the sting of racial misunderstanding. In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has talked of “insults and slights” directed at her husband and caricatures that have pained her. It all “used to really get to me,” she said, adding that she “had a lot of sleepless nights” until learning to ignore it. But she said she realized that she and her husband had a responsibility to rewrite the narrative for African-Americans.

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House,” she told the graduating seniors of King College Prep High School on Tuesday, “because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

(Baker)

Some of us might be pessimistic. After all, what signs have we that President Obama and the First Lady have changed any perceptions about dark skin? Indeed, if we measure by the headlines, we might suggest they have somehow managed to exacerbate race relations.

Then again, that would be a misperception, and this is the important part.

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An American Disgrace

Justice is blind ... just kidding. No, really, did you read the Sixth Circuit ruling? Jaded eyes, jaded eyes ....

“Almost seven years ago, a troubled 11-year-old girl reported that she had been raped―twice―in her Northwest Washington neighborhood. Despite medical evidence of sexual assault, records show that no suspects were arrested and the cases were given only sporadic attention by the police. Instead, in the second case, the police had the girl ... charged with filing a false report.”

Joanna Walters

Let us be blunt: Why do we try so hard to aid and abet rapists?

Try it this way: Every rape survivor is a victim; not every victim survives. There are enough in our society who resent the survivors so deeply that they will labor to continue victimization.

Perhaps law enforcement in D.C. envies the rapists, since the best police seem able to do is taking part after the fact.

Consider that this one case has been going on for seven years

Last fall, after inquiries from The Washington Post, the department launched new investigations into the cases and the way they were handled, according to the Bests and a law enforcement officer familiar with the matter.

―but it’s only when the press is sniffing out the trail that―

The Bests say that after The Post approached the police, [DC Police Chief Cathy L.] Lanier telephoned the family to apologize.

Still, the department refusess to confirm any of this is going on.

It is a hard story to read. It is a discouraging story, too. The thought occurs, “And yet we are expected to give law enforcement our unequivocal support”, but then dances away in shame because, really, are we really going to dredge up the bit about how the police expect “unequivocal support” for their actions?

And, yes, this is a discussion Americans need to be having.

What support do we owe law enforcement when it aids and abets rape?

And, yes, this becomes political, too. What happens in D.C. falls under Congressional purview. Let us see if the Republican bicameral majority has what it takes to govern, or if they will just let this one go as their silent―(“We gave at the office”)―contribution to rape culture.

This is unacceptable. Yet this is what we do, and this is how we do it.

A child is raped, throw her in jail. How do we begin accounting for everything wrong about this outcome?

This is America. And this is a disgrace.

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Walters, Joanna. “An 11-year-old reported being raped twice, wound up with a conviction”. The Washington Post. 12 March 2015.

Baltimore police union releases statement on NYPD shootings”. 21 December 2014.

Not Politics (Orb Weaver Mix)

The scientists described their estimate of 35,176 spiders/m³ as “markedly conservative” and “representing a minimum volume” of spiders, by the way.

Question: do you measure spiders in Metric ShitTons? Or in Imperial ShitLoads?

Either way, it’s an awful lot of spiders.

Gwen Pearson

It is, actually, difficult to admit just how it is that spiders affect so many of us so irrationally. And it offers no useful comfort to point to the next person and note that they’re even worse about it. Then again, four acres of orb spinners just waiting for some unfortunate organism to blunder into their trap, amounting to a population estimated somewhere above one hundred seven million spiders, and a “markedly conservative” estimate of maximum population density at 35,176 spiders/m³.

Detail of Greene, et al. (2010). Table 1 shows Architectural Elements Used to Estimate Total Amount of Volumetric Webbing in Back River Sand Filtration Facility.Come on. Admit it. You’d be just as bad about it as the next person.

The 2010 technical paper is available, for those so inclined, either through Pearson’s blog for Wired.com, or in our own archives.

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Pearson, Gwen. “4-Acre Spider Web Engulfs Building”. Charismatic Minifauna. 31 October 2014.

Greene, Albert et al. “An Immense Concentration of Orb-Weaving Spiders With Communal Webbing in a Man-Made Structural Habitat (Arachnida: Araneae: Tetragnathidae, Araneidae)”. American Entomologist, 56 (3). 2010.