Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation

1 Comment


I’ve been remiss in the taking of photos, even moreso in the editing/publishing of same.  A couple of days ago I started working through the photos I took in Paris, more than year ago.

Here are a few:

For the Wedding
For the wedding

It’s got great big teeth
It's got great big teeth

For about 2 kilometers

He has a crown, I have a MUSTACHE!
He has a crown, I have a MUSTACHE

Leave a comment

Not getting the idea

I started (much too long after I ought have done) going through my photos from our trip to Paris last year (Holy Week).  Among other things I see I wrote bupkis about it; too packed, I suppose (there was some other shit going on too).

Among the pictures I took was this one:

Bigotry, Cast in stone


It’s a great piece of statuary.  It’s also a piece of (very) problematic religious story-telling.  It’s Synagogua; a personifiaction of Judaism.  The iconography is of how the lack of Christ makes the Jews a broken (and somewhat defective) people.  The message is, at best, ill-thought out.  At worst, it’s a big dose of visual anti-semitism; facing everyone who is going to Mass.

But it’s not surprising, by itself the existence of a massive piece of historical, liturgical, anti-semitism isn’t a shock.  It’s not as if I didn’t know the Church, esp. in the High Middle Ages wasn’t 12 kinds of fucked up on the subject.  That’s not what made me sick inside as I was trying to chase the statue down (I didn’t recognise it, the way I might Adam and Eve, or St. Sebastian, or, etc.).  No, what made me want to resign from the human race was this.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to think about the Holocaust in terms of, ‘That was a long time ago. That kind of prejudice doesn’t still exist,’” said Richard Hall*, a social scientist familiar with Jewish history. But actually we are still in a generation when people can tell their children that the reason they aren’t allowed to wear striped pajamas is because their grandma or grandpa had to wear them in prison camps. The memory isn’t far removed at all.”And if that wasn’t enough, for Jews in Paris, there’s a message just for them carved into the front of the city’s imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, right in the heart of the city’s fourth arrondissement, or district.

It’s been there 1,000 years. Ships on the Seine River could see it from 20 miles away. Tourists from all over the world have their photo made in front of it.

The message is a statue called Synagogua, and it portrays a Jewish community that’s “damaged goods,” Hall said. Synagogua is a woman with a broken staff, broken tablets and a snake wrapped around her eyes to indicate she’s been blinded by evil.

So far so good.  Except that in the middle of a piece which is about how to better tailor the Evangelical Message to the Jews, so you can “bring them to Christ”.

In short, it’s a piece which is repeating, at it’s core, the message it’s saying is offensive.  Not that the parent site has any other message, the stories they talk about are, largely, about how to exploit turmoil to convince people to convert (“Syrians who flee ‘desperate to hear about Jesus” is one of the front page articles).

I don’t want the world to be perfect, I just want fewer fuckheads.  I’d really like it of people weren’t patting themselves on the back for being fuckheads.


What’s wrong with the Zimmerman Verdict

The Zimmerman Verdict is bullshit.

Why?  Because there is no way I can see, given the law of self-defense in Fla., that he was able to invoke the privilege conferred with the Stand Your Ground law. Why?  Because he initiated the confrontation.  He provoked it. That defeats the privilege.  It really is that simple.

From the model Jury Instructions in Florida, on the use of deadly force:

                The use of deadly force is justifiable only if the defendant reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] while resisting:

1.            another’s attempt to murder [him] [her], or

2.            any attempt to commit (applicable felony) upon [him] [her], or

3.            any attempt to commit (applicable felony) upon or in any dwelling, residence, or vehicle occupied by [him] [her].

Zimmerman can’t claim those.  Martin wasn’t committing any crime.  He was walking.  Zimmerman called the police, to get advice.  He refused to follow it.  He said, “”Fucking punks. These assholes. They always get away.”  That shows a predisposition to see Martin as some sort of malefactor.

But Zimmerman had gotten training.  He knows what the legal justifications are for initiating deadly force.  He willingly entered a situation which could have led to violence, i.e. he initiated the chain of events.

Play it out.  You are walking to the place you are staying.  It’s your father’s place.  It’s dark, it’s raining.  Some dude you don’t know shows up, and confronts you.  He’s hostile (remember, “These punks, they always get away”).    What do you do?  You probably don’t say, “Oh dude… I’m sorry, what can I do to help?”.  Why?  Because some dude just came out of a car, followed you and got angry.

That, is a case where one is justified in defending oneself.  We don’t know what happened.  All we know is the result.  Zimmerman shot Martin.  Zimmerman was playing cop.  He was worried about Trayvon Martin, “getting away”.

Zimmerman is the only witness.  He’s the only one who could tell the tale; and he has a reason to lie. He’s committed homicide.  He has every reason to paint it as justified.*

The rest of us (those who don’t want to be able to just go out and shoot people) have every reason to think it isn’t.  He was playing Lone Ranger.  He was lying in wait and going after people he didn’t like the look of.  He was engaged in racist profiling.  Florida just made that a lot more legal.

If you aren’t black, of course. 

Trayvon Martin had every legal right to be there.  Zimmerman had no actual right to challenge his presence.  That voids the base claim of self-defense.  So Zimmerman’s claim has to be that Martin’s reaction was so intense that he had no choice but to use deadly force to prevent himself being killed.

A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.

When is deadly force not justified?

Aggressor.  § 776.041, Fla. Stat.

                However, the use of deadly force is not justifiable if you find:

                2.            (Defendant) initially provoked the use of force against [himself] [herself], unless:

a.            The force asserted toward the defendant was so great that [he] [she] reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and had exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger, other than using deadly force on (assailant).

b.            In good faith, the defendant withdrew from physical contact with (assailant) and clearly indicated to (assailant) that [he] [she] wanted to withdraw and stop the use of deadly force, but (assailant) continued or resumed the use of force.

So… Zimmerman’s only out is that Trayvon Martin was so powerful that he was being beaten to within an inch of his life.

Right.  Zimmerman trained in Mixed Martial Arts.  MMA is the core of the US Army’s hand to hand combat.  I’ve done a moderate amount of it.  The first thing you learn to do is “break hold” when someone is on top of you.  The next thing you learn to do is reverse hold.

So, if Martin was able to prevent that, maybe Zimmerman was in so grave a fear; and being beaten so badly that he was unable to respond with the drills he trained in.  At which point he was able to get his hand under his body, behind his waist, extract a pistol, get it to Martin’s center of mass, and shoot him.


The only way he can do all of that is if either he’s not being beaten so badly as all that, or is not in physical contact with Martin.  There is, actually, one other way he can do that… if he has the gun in hand when he approaches Trayvon Martin.  In which case… he can’t claim he was acting in self defense.

So this was bullshit.  Zimmerman got away with murder.



*He didn’t assert the right to “Stand Your Ground”, so the perversions of self-defense it creates didn’t come into legal play.

1 Comment

On “the good fight”

I spent a lot of last night (way too late into the night) in a thread on Popehat, (Why does talking about creepers and harassment make people so angry?).  It was a conversation much like many I’ve had on the internet. Not just to subject, but to form.  It was exhausting.  Not only was it some 700 comments long when I started reading it, but it was a venue in which I am not a regular.  Not even all that irregular.  I’ve made,  maybe half a dozen comments in the course of as many years.  And this was contentious.  If you want to read it, well it’s all there.

It was good for me, emotional strain notwithstanding.  It clarified a lot of things for me.  No, it made them more coherent.  I had to pound my thoughts into shape in ways I’d not done quite so thoroughly prior to this.  In the course of reading it I found a piece by Ursula Vernon that I’d missed (as if this was a major failing, it’s less than week old) on how Being an ally is freaky as hell and was struck (in part  by a comment in it, and how my convo at Popehat caused me to read this line:

“Nobody wants to be Readercon. We have to make this a safe place.”

And I thought no. It’s not about making a “safe” space. It’s about making a safer space. It’s about making a place people feel other people will Back you up.

Does it mean nothing bad can ever happen? No. Does it mean there won’t be the odd (sometimes very painful) fracas among the people present? No.

But it means we will do what we can to see people of good will are well treated, and that people who violate the social contract are called out.  If it means we have to ostracise them, so be it.  If we can fix the problem short of that, all the better.   But to let the status quo continue is to decide that this is the Standard We Will Accept, and that standard is unacceptable.   When we allow people to say, “oh, it’s just Fannish Male Syndrome, they don’t know how to act around women”, we are doing neither them, nor the women they afflict, any favors.  Because it’s bullshit.  They do know what the women are telling them, they just don’t like the answers.  Worse, the non-trivial number of men who are actually serial rapists get cover from this.  It affords them a level of Herd Immunity. (this isn’t quite the same as the guys who are tolerated because… I don’t know why: because outing them will bring discredit on the group they belong to?).

A large number of men admit to committing rape.  A large number. 6 percent.  So when they engage in the testing behaviors which let them know who will be an easier victim (because they admitted to doing this), it’s easier if the culture they are working in chalks it up as, “harmless”.

No, I’m not against flirting.  I’m not against going out and getting a drink, or having a smoke, or sitting up talking to dawn.  I’m against people being creepy.  What do I mean by creepy?

Creepy: “unaware of or uncaring about what behaviors are likely to make others uncomfortable

If that gets cut down, everyone has a better time.

Leave a comment


The Union Army put paid to the Confederacy 150 years ago today. From here, 150 years removed from the trials of civil war it looks as if they had no chance. At the time it was touch and go. Lee knew this was probably his last chance to throw the dice with any chance of forcing a decision.

The war was never going to be won for The South, on the field of battle. The battles were all about public opinion. Not, though the history books told me so in high school, the public opinion of Great Britain and France, but rather the public opinion of the Union. Because the nation facing off against Lee, and the Army of Virginia (a regional dept, not actual the army of the State of Virginia), and working it’s way down the Mississippi (US Grant was wrapping up the Siege of Vicksburg while George Meade was, a bit reluctantly, fighting the most important battle of the war) was most decidedly a Union divided.

Any number of interests were unhappy about the war. It was expensive (when all was said and done it cost about 6.5Bn USD: in modern terms, about 75 Trillion dollars). It was also destroying the specific economy of the North. Slavery drove the economy of the nation, North and South. The South had cheap cotton (because they sweated it out of blacks in servitude: depending on where in the South one lived between 17-40 percent of the money earned was stolen from the labor of slaves [Virginia, for which Lee fought was at the bottom of that list; but it also included what is now W. Virginia, so it’s possible the portion which seceded was significantly higher]). If ending it, and accepting a slave-owning South (and that’s what the South was fighting for, a slave-owning society, to the end of time. They rebelled because Lincoln’s Republicans were going to prohibit the expansion of slavery) would bring back the good times when King Cotton ruled, then they were happy to do it.

There was also a lot of endemic racism; by 1863 the war had cost a lot of lives, and the shift to it being about freeing slaves was well under way, which wasn’t as palatable.

So Lee had the chance to gain a victory (as an election was coming; where McClellan, seen as a hero (and possessed of large factions in the Army of the Potomac) was going to be running against him. If there was a large victory for the Confederates, then Lincoln might be forced to sue for peace. If he didn’t the odds were good he’d be turned out of office and McClellan (who would rather have had no war in the first place) would be in office and something could be negotiated.

So Lee sent his army north, and told Jeb Stuart to go and harass the enemy. Which he did. He may not have been much of an actual cavalry general (the US didn’t have anything but light cavalry, which had some interesting effects on the battlefield, not the least of which making the slaughters a bit more awful, because broken units were hard to chase from the field, and so they could reform and come back to the line) but he loved to raid. His troops went on a spree, sending as many blacks South (into slavery) as they could lay their hands on. He was a bit late getting back to Lee (but no so late, nor so distressing in his absence as Lee’s later hagiographers would have you believe), which was most troublesome in that his men were exhausted from eight days hard riding, and raiding.

With the screening/recon/raiding of Stuart underway he slipped into the Union. Consternation ensued. His intent was to engage The Army of the Potomac. Given what transpired in the tail end of June, when he began the campaign things seemed to be going his way. The command of the Army of the Potomac was taken from Joe Hooker (whom Lincoln was trying to pressure to resign the command) and given to George Meade, who didn’t want it (no one much wanted it, except McClellan, who wasn’t going to have it returned to him). The troops didn’t like Meade. Meade wasn’t all that resolute in the best of times, and this was far from the best of times. An army in the field was invading the United States, and his forces were spread across Hell’s Half Acre.

If Lee could engage the Union of the Potomac piecemeal, and defeat it in detail he could move on DC, and threaten the capital (it’s not likely he could have penetrated the defensive works [which McClellan had designed; you can still find remnants here and there. I walked to one near Walter Reed when I was a patient there).

A major defeat, and that threat against Washington (or Baltimore, or PhiladelphiaL both of which were panicking) would probably have brought about an armistice, of some sort (though the fall of Vicksburg, and Grant’s bulldog bellicosity, might have affected that). The North couldn’t lose, so long as it had the will to fight.

Gettysburg (more than Vicksburg) stiffened the resolve (and Lincoln exploited the battle to the utmost with the Gettysburg Address), and self-created the, “high water mark of the Confederacy”.

The battle itself is too complicated to go into in detail, from the myths about Pickett and Chamberlain. The latter’s defense of Little Round Top was desperate, and well managed, and important, but it wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination the “lynchpin” of the battle, as some might have you believe (I had to give a presentation on that battle in BNCOC [an army course for Staff NCOs], it was well fought, and important, but minor). The former’s assault on Cemetery Hill was dramatic, but the issue had been decided by the time his troops left cover.

In truth the battle was probably won in the middle of the second day; and it was touch and go; because Sickles had overextended his line. Lee was, wisely; given the logistical trials he was under, and the nature of the Union army, engaging in an “echelon attack” and on both the first and second days came close to pulling it off. Sickles blunder was the closest he came to a decisive breakthrough (I think, had he won the first days engagement, Meade would have withdrawn, and the incomplete victory would have required the campaign to continue, which wasn’t in Lee’s interest).

Sickles (a figure of mythic proportions; none of them good) had created an exposed salient, and Lee sent Longstreet’s Corps against it. Sickles’ Corps was both understrength (he was short his third division), and overextended, with a large gap (about 600 yards) on his right flank. He was asking 10,000 men to defend a front of 1 ½ miles. Had Longstreet’s divisions been less tired, and the supporting troops on Sickles’ left less on top of things, and Hancock pouring his division into the breach it wouldn’t have mattered that Chamberlain held Little Round Top because the Union forces would have been split, and the odds of them being able to stand were slim.

But they didn’t, and Lee didn’t change his plan, and the next day tried again, and failed again.

And the Confederacy was doomed.