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Anger nation

Jul. 25th, 2017 09:52 am
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While I was on my work trip to Seattle last week, a news article popped up in my social media feed that caught my attention. Actually, the first thing that I saw was a notice from the Alexandria Dash bus service that they were unable to provide service to Eisenhower Avenue because of a police investigation. Only a little later did I see the article about the apparent road rage shooting. This all caught my attention because my daily commute to work includes a ride on a DASH bus along Eisenhower Avenue, and the shooting occurred at the intersection that is basically where I catch my bus in the morning. I was actually quite relieved that I was in Seattle that day, even though the shooting took place almost two hours after I normally would have been at work.

According to another story about the incident, this shooting appears to be the culmination of an encounter that began on the Beltway. According to witnesses, the shooting victim swerved in front of the shooter's vehicle and jumped out of her SUV, screaming at the other driver. The articles I've read suggest that the shooter has a history of anger management issues, although I would venture to speculate that the shooting victim was acting in a less than fully rational manner as well (jumping out of a car in rush hour traffic to confront another driver not being the safest or most efficient tactic). I don't see any indication as to what or who initiated this encounter, but quite clearly it quickly escalated to the point of violence.

I'm finding myself reflecting on this shooting a lot over the last week, perhaps because of its proximity to my commuting route. And (to my surprise), I'm finding myself less focused on the shooting than on the amount of anger displayed by everyone involved. I can't help but think that we, as a nation, could benefit from some sort of massive anger management therapy session. Road rage is just one (highly visible) example of how angry we seem to be these days.  We also see it in so much of what masquerades as political discourse of late, and it certainly felt like anger was a significant factor that drove the election last autumn.

I am not an expert in anger management, and I certainly have had my share of moments when I've blown my top. But I'm coming to realize that such outbursts are unhelpful and frequently are counterproductive. I'm learning that it is often better to take a deep breath and step away before I respond, to give me time and distance to calm down. Often I come to see that I was on the verge of a massive overreaction, and I can sometimes even manage to put myself in the other person's shoes, in an attempt to understand their actions. All of this leaves me feeling less stressed and better able to cope.

I have no idea how we convince others to take these steps, or even if they would work for others. But it seems to me that unless we find someway to reduce the amount of anger coursing through our society, things won't get better anytime soon.

Some days it can be difficult to find things that motivate me to write.  Today is NOT one of those days.  I just finished reading my morning newspaper (and yes, I do actually read a real, printed newspaper every day!), and there are any number of articles that I feel an urge to respond to, any of which would be worthy of a full post on its own.  However, I do actually need to do some other things with my time today, so I'm just going to provide a bullet list of short thoughts instead.

-  Ferguson, MO - I am not going to express an opinion about the decision by the Grand Jury...The process is what it is, and second guessing it does not solve anything.  The response to the decision, on the other hand, merits comment.  I don't think anyone is surprised by the rioting, looting, and burning that has erupted in the wake of the decision, but it is entirely the wrong response.  Such violent responses reinforce negative stereotypes and undermine the efforts of those who are struggling to change the conditions that lead to this whole situation.

 -  University of Virginia - Does it surprise me that a girl was gang-raped at a fraternity party?  I wish I was.  Am I outraged that no one reported the crime or otherwise stood up to defend the young lady?  Absolutely!  We need to stop thinking about rape as being fundamentally about sex...rape is about power and violence.  The culture of silence and shame that protects the violent creeps who do this needs to end, and men have just as much responsibility for making that happen as women do.

 -  Immigration reform - Politics aside, I think it should be abundantly clear to almost everyone that our current immigration system is horribly broken.  I don't know how to fix it, but I can see that something needs to be changed.  It also seem clear to me that the President would have preferred for the action to have come from Congress in the form of legislation...he's said as much.  However, Congress has proven to be utterly unwilling or unable to make any progress towards producing such legislation.  The President is using his authority to do what he can in the vacuum created by the failure of the Legislature to legislate.  If Congress doesn't like his actions, they can overrule it by passing a law!
"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” - Rep. Todd Akin

If you haven’t read or heard that quote, I’m guessing that you haven’t been following the news this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a politician flush his career down the toilet in such a glaringly obvious fashion as this. This statement, explaining why Akin doesn’t believe that abortion is necessary in cases of rape, is so blatantly wrong-headed and misogynist that I cannot conceive of any way for him to resuscitate his career.

There has been plenty of analysis about this statement, which includes a disturbing parsing of rape into “legitimate” and (presumably) illegitimate categories (are we ever going to stop blaming the victim?), and a bizarre pseudo-medical “wish it were so” scenario about the risks of pregnancy during rape that can’t possibly be grounded in any true science. It also manages to address the existence of the rapist and the child while entirely dismissing the presence of the woman involved, as if her life and concerns were of no consequence.

But the thing about all this that truly terrifies me is that, as pointed out by Eugene Robinson in today’s Washington Post, Aiken is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Really? How scary is it that a man who believes that a woman’s body can “shut the whole thing down” if she is raped gets to decide Federal policy and spending priorities for Science? No wonder our policies in these areas seem so completely screwed up.

This statement, made in support of an anti-abortion policy position, is the most clear illustration of how the anti-abortion movement has sold it soul, willingly accepting the most misogynist, illogical arguments, as long as they support the ultimate goal of making abortions illegal. In the process, the movement has lost sight of the big picture: there are real people involved, people who have to face real life consequences to their choices, and whose circumstances very often don’t lend themselves to the overly simplistic arithmetic that supports the anti-abortion position. Reality is far too messy for such a simplistic approach.

To those who truly would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions, I would suggest a different approach. Instead of lobbying for a legal ban on abortions and preaching about the evils of abortion, why don’t we try to address the social circumstances that force women to consider abortion in the first place. If we were to approach this issue with an attitude of compassion, instead of one of anger, we might be able to put ourselves into the shoes of the women, to empathize with their situations, and thus find ways to help them. I find it infuriating that so many of those who oppose abortion also oppose almost every reasonable measure that might address the need for abortion, including meaningful sex education for children and social programs that would provide safety nets for at risk populations. And, as illustrated by Aiken, many of those opposed to abortion also seem to be operating from a misogynist world view where any meaningful understanding of the needs of women is simply impossible.

(no subject)

Jun. 18th, 2012 01:34 pm
resqgeek: (Catholic)
I read in today's newspaper that, in a recorded message, the Pope told a crowd of 75,000 in Ireland that the causes of the sex-abuse scandal are a "mystery". As if I needed more evidence that the leadership of the Church is completely out of touch with reality! I mean, really, if they can't figure out how this happened, then they simply have not been paying attention. I don't think that there is any secret about the basically comes down to an abuse of power. Generations of Catholics were taught to respect the authority of priests, and when the priests abused this authority, they found they could get away with it, because their superiors were (at least) afraid of embarrassing the Church. These crimes, like most sex crimes, are not so much about the sex, as they are about the power. This is NOT news...Fr. Andrew Greeley, who is not just an author, but also a highly qualified sociologist, wrote about this in his Chicago Sun Times column back in November 2007. Too bad he and everyone else who has studied this have been utterly ignored by the powers-that-be within the Church. The bishops (up to and including the Pope) are much more comfortable trying to find causes external to the Church...they point to cultural changes that have made sex less taboo, or to supposedly declining moral standards in society. Anything to keep from admitting that the Church itself is to blame for creating the environment that enabled these predators to abuse their victims and then these men afterwards. The Pope, in his address, bemoans the loss of credibility by the Church, but clearly doesn't understand that the very failure to appreciate how the Church created and propagated the abuse is what is causing the people to question the leadership of the Church. The only way for the Pope and the bishops to regain any credibility is by facing up to their own culpability and changing the institutional structures that fostered the predatory environment for so long. Until that happens (and I don't see any signs that it is likely to happen anytime soon), leadership of the Church will continue to find it difficult to command much respect from those of us who feel that they have abused their positions and emphasized protecting their power and careers at the expense of the victims of the predators dressed as priests.
It seems to me that it is long past time to find a solution to the problem of Congressional Representation for the people who live in the District of Columbia. The House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would impose limitations on abortions in the District of Columbia. Not only do the residents of DC not have any representatives that can vote on this issue, but during a subcommittee hearing for this bill, their non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, was not even allowed to speak. If that isn’t the antithesis of representative democracy, I don’t know what is. Regardless of your position on the issue of abortion, we should all be outraged that Congress is willing to impose legislation without so much as even considering the views of those upon whom the law will be enforced.

An analysis about why we can't seem to give DC true representation )
There's a quote from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that's all over the news today, but I'm having some difficulty swallowing it. In yesterday's press conference explaining his 5 day absence from the state and apologizing for an extra-marital affair, the Governor said "The bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife." Excuse me? As despicable as the infidelity is, I don't think its the bottom line on this incident. As Governor, Sanford is the chief executive of the South Carolina state government. To disappear for five days without telling anyone where he was going, or providing any means for anyone to contact him represents a gross dereliction of duty. His responsibility to the governance of the state dictates that he be available to address any emergencies or other issues that might arise. To be out of contact with his staff and other representatives of the state government for five days seriously impairs the ability of the state to respond, and is absolutely inexcusable. That is the bottom line, Governor.

Sometime around midnight Saturday night, a Maryland State Police helicopter flying a medivac mission crashed near Andrews Air Force Base. The helicopter had been enroute from an auto accident in Waldorf, Maryland to Prince George's Hospital Center. Because they were transporting two seriously injured patients from the accident, a 39 year-old volunteer EMT from the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department volunteered to ride along and assist the State Police Paramedic with patient care. The investigation into the crash continues, but it appears that weather played a role.

The volunteer EMT, Tonya Mallard was near the end of her volunteer shift at the time of the auto accident and was among the first rescue workers on the scene. Mallard had been a volunteer EMT since 2004, and was the mother of two sons, ages 11 and 15.

Also killed in the helicopter crash was civilian pilot Stephen Bunker, State Police paramedic Mickey Libby and one of the two teenage patients.

More details from the Washington Post:
The Metro section of the Washington Post includes a feature called "Page Three", which include short essays from Post readers about their experiences in and around the city. I really enjoyed the first essay from today's selections:

The Literary Choices That Can Touch the Soul.
Washington Post 11 March 2008

I opened today's paper to find a picture on the front page of the Metro section that instantly caught my attention. Even before reading the caption, I recognized the B-17 flying over the new Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon. A B-17 did a fly over only a couple of miles from here, and I missed it! Somehow, I need to figure out how to learn about these things before they happen!

Here's the accompanying article from the paper.
Here is the actual text of a classified ad that was placed in the Des Moines Register:

OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.

Mom might not have won any points with her son, but she's got my vote for responsible parent of the year! Read more in the Washington Post.
I just popped down to the convenience store for a mid-afternoon snack, and this headline, from today's Washington Times jumped off the newsstand and beat me over the head:

GOP wary of Bush's rate freeze: Foes see 'bailout' for unworthy borrowers.


Now I haven't read the corresponding article, but if I understand the rate freeze proposal correctly (from what I've read in other sources), the rate freeze would only apply to mortgages for people who actually live in the homes covered by the mortgage, and who don't have sufficient income to be able to afford a rate increase. How the heck are these people "unworthy borrowers"? We're talking about middle-class homeowners, trying to pursue the American dream. Talk about kicking people when they're down! How stupid are these politicians? Or, how stupid do they think the voters are?

They blinked!

Dec. 1st, 2007 09:12 pm
resqgeek: (Default)
I never would have predicted it, but the Virginia Republican party has abandoned its plans to require voters to sign a loyalty pledge in order to vote in the Republican primary in February. Apparently, the response to the planned pledge was overwhelming, including from within the party. Many party members are concerned that the planned pledge might (??) alienate the independent voters. In any case, the pledge will not be required to vote in the Virginia Republican primary. Both parties have their primaries scheduled for the same day, so it will only be possible to vote in one or the other. I suppose I'll have to see how the races are shaping up as we approach the date, and vote in the primary where I feel like I might have a chance to influence the outcome.

[Read more from today's Washington Post]
I have voted in very few primary elections in my life. As a voter in New York, I wasn't eligible to vote in any primaries, because I refused to register as a member of a political party, and the primaries are only open to party members. Since I moved to Virginia, there have been precious few primaries, so my opportunities to vote in them have been limited.

The last time I voted in a Republican primary was in 2000, during presidential race (and for the record, I did NOT vote for "W"). Virginia does not record party affiliation in the voter registration information and therefore cannot restrict access to primaries using party membership. Back in 2000, the Republican primary was open to anyone who was willing to sign a (wholly unenforceable) pledge not to participate in any other party's nominating process. Since Al Gore was pretty much a lock for the Democratic nomination, this really was a no brainer for me...I signed the pledge and voted (which gained me about four years worth of Republican Party mailings).

Apparently, the Virginia Republican Party feels that it isn't sufficient for voters to promise not to participate in any other party's primaries. In the upcoming presidential primary, they will require voters to sign a pledge that will read:

Instruction to voter:

You can vote in this presidential primary only if you sign and print your name to the voter pledge below. You will not be permitted to vote if you refuse to do so.

Pledge: I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President.

Okay, so the pledge cannot be enforced, since our votes are completely secret, but still, I can't promise to support the Republican nominee, regardless of who ends up winning the nomination. I might like to vote in the Republican primary, and if the right candidate were to win the nomination, I might even support him in the general election, but the chance that the Republican nominee will be someone I can support seems extremely remote (and will probably be even more remote by the time the Virginia primary arrives).

So, it looks like I'll be voting in the Democratic Party primary on 12 February, unless the Democrats also decide to require me to sign a pledge that I can't commit to. Sometimes I think I'm just too honest for my own good.

More details in today's Washington Post.

Its official

Oct. 31st, 2007 08:04 am
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Roy L. Pearson, the DC Administrative Judge who lost his multi-million dollar lawsuit against a dry cleaning business earlier this year has officially lost his job as a judge. The committee that decided against reappointing him reviewed his decisions and tapes of his proceedings and concluded that he did not demonstrate "appropriate judgement and judicial temperament." Given the nature of his lawsuit, which was based upon a lost pair of pants, it is hardly surprising that his judicial record might support such a conclusion.

The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, but sometimes they manage to reach the right destination.

[from the Washington Post]
Management at FedEx field has apologized to a fan whose camera was taken from him during a Redskins game earlier this year. At the time the fan was told that "professional" cameras were not permitted, though no such rule apparently exists. Stadium management has since contacted the fan and offered special access the next time he attends the game, including a chance to take pictures from the field.

[from Marc Fisher's column in today's Washington Post]
Last month, I wrote about a photographer who was hassled by security guards in Silver Spring, MD. While Ellsworth Drive might appear to be a public street, it is apparently leased to a developer, who wished to restrict photography for "security and business reasons". Yesterday, the Montgomery county attorney issued an opinion that states that Ellsworth Drive "constitutes a public forum" and that the First Amendment protections apply. The letter from County Attorney Leon Rodriguez to the County Executive noted that the "publication, dissemination and display of photographs" are included in such protections and that while the courts have not clearly resolved the issue of taking photographs as a protected expressive act, "it is likely that a court would consider the taking of the photograph to be part of the continuum of action that leads to the display of the photograph." Basically, the county had identified this location as a public space where photography is a protected expressive activity. A small victory for the First Amendment and common sense.

[From an article in the Washington Post]
Apparently the soaring prices for scrap metals has led to an increase in thefts of certain, ummm, unusual items from homes, construction sites and businesses. It seems that there are some ethically challenged recyclers out there, willing to steal copper, aluminum, steel/iron or platinum to sell as scrap. The Washington Post reports that thieves stole the copper downspouts off of about 15 homes in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, DC. Last summer, the aluminum bleacher seats were stolen from Fort Greble Field, home to a DC school baseball team. There have even been reports of thieves trying to steal live electrical wiring out of homes for the copper and cutting catalytic converters out from under cars for the platinum in them. It appears that these scrap metal thieves find these materials easier to sell than the more traditional valuables, which are more easily traceable and less easily converted to cash.

So, what will they be stealing next?

From a Washington Post article (site registration might be required to read the article)
It is a general principle of the law that the freedom of expression is protected in public spaces. In other words, a photographer has the legal right to take pictures on in a public place. This legal principle seems to be coming under increasing attack these days, often in the name of security. My workplace recently held a community day celebration outdoors in the park-like area in the middle of the office complex. A day or two before hand, we received an e-mail informing us that any employees who planned to take pictures should make sure they were wearing their work IDs. The area where the festivities were held is open to the public, and there are no signs or notices indicating any restrictions on public activities (other than the ubiquitous parking restrictions). To me, this would appear to be a public space, where photography is not only permitted but protected.

Now it seems that the rights of expression are under attack for commercial reasons as well. The downtown commercial center in Silver Spring, MD, certainly would appear to be a public space--streets run through it and anyone can walk there pretty much at any time. However, the Montgomery County has apparently leased certain streets to a developer, who is treating them like an enclosed mall. Among the activities being prevented by their security Unless the space is clearly identified as private, and the prohibited activities clearly posted, I think this is wrong. From a common sense perspective (which is a foolish notion when it comes to the law, I know), if it looks and feels like a public space, it should be treated like one.

See today's column by Marc Fisher for more details about photography restrictions in Silver Spring, MD.
Have you heard about the lawsuit going on here in DC? The one where the DC Administrative Judge is suing a dry cleaner for $54 million over a pair of pants? I'm sorry, I just don't understand how a dry cleaner misplacing your pants is worth anything even remotely close to that kind of damages. According to an article in the NY Times, the cleaners offered a $12,000 (!!) settlement, which the plaintiff declined. You could buy a lot of very nice pants with $12,000, so it seems to me that this isn't really about the pants, is it?

Of course, the owners of the dry cleaners are apparently not particularly likable people, but if they lose this case, I'm sure it puts them out of business. Which seems like a harsh penalty to pay for losing a single pair of pants. Honestly, I have trouble understanding how this case even made it to trial. Shouldn't the judge be able to throw a case like this out as being a extravagant waste of time and court resources?

And what's up with the crying on the stand? Over a pair of pants? I'm sorry, I'm just not that attached to my clothing...