Nationwide protest

The acquittal of George Zimmerman, self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who followed and killed Trayvon Martin inside his own gated community (!) is a blatant example of racism. As has been said repeatedly, if a white 29 year old man had come up to a gated community and gunned down a 17-year old white boy, all hell would have broken loose. But a black boy tracked and killed by a white man, who got injured in the process? That is put down to self-defense. The perpetrator gets off, scot-free.

It’s sobering to watch the two main witnesses for the prosecution, whose testimony broke the case:

Treyvor Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel was on the phone with him during the incident, and should have been the star witness, but when she opened her mouth to speak, she was inept, to put it mildly, and nearly incomprehensible to the court during her 7 hour examination (Language Log discusses race, Ebonese and Jenatel’s use of “creepy-ass cracker”).

Then, medical examiner Dr. Shiping Bao saw the body and could have explained the wounds in clear terms if his English had been better. As it was, he was hard to listen to. Small wonder that the jury obviously switched off. See the summary of this case in the New York Times.

Here are parts of the two testimonies that prove, once again, how essential it is to learn how to speak well before an audience.

Improve your English, folks, or you won’t be able to get done what you want done!

I remember when “Neighborhood Watch” was introduced in my neighborhood on Capitol Hill in 1972. I was almost 10, and my dad was involved. This was certainly not the sort of outcome that his generation envisioned. Back then, people on neighborhood watch didn’t bear arms at all. It was their duty to call the police if they noticed anyone suspicious. In fact, to judge from the guidelines available online, at least in DC that is still valid:

Patrol members should be trained by law enforcement. It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.

I simply don’t understand why the prosecution didn’t try the defendant on these grounds. Today, it seems that taking law and order into your own hands is being condoned more globally. Is that any way to teach young people that we have a rule of law?

Self-defense is a very strange angle to take with Zimmerman. If a neighbor had pulled a gun out of the kitchen drawer on hearing the fight outside, and had fired as someone came in the door, that might be considered self-defense. But Zimmerman provoking a fight and then shooting the person he provoked? That’s profiling and then hunting down.

These are the phrases you hear the family of the victim say in their attempt to contain their disappointment at the outcome:

  • God will prevail
  • Justice will be served

And this is the chant in the streets:

  • No justice, no peace.

Margaret Thatcher – Elvis Costello: Tramp the Dirt Down

The death of Margaret Thatcher has led to an outburst of celebration in the UK that has been absolutely astonishing to someone like myself, on the outside looking in. I had no idea that her policies could excite anything like these emotions so many years later. What I want to know is: Where does the energy for all the spitefulness come from?

The Guardian has put together an excellent report.

In the late 1980s, Elvis Costello wrote a brilliant and  bitter song about her, Tramp the Dirt Down.

Elvis Costello: Tramp the Dirt Down

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young childs
Face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
Coming down on that childs lips

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, Im trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
Long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
Ill stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When england was the whore of the world
Margeret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
The black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isnt
Haunted by every tiny detail
Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
All she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it’s only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn’t angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say thank you straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because youve only got the symptoms, you haven’t got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose heads like a tin-can
Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the lord your soul to keep
I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down

Is privacy the new taboo?

I’ve been online now for just over 5 years. Recently I accidentally found the first video I made of myself, where I self-consciously wondered whether the information broadcasting movement I was about to join had any relevance, or whether it was a half-witted attempt to engage in broader but seemingly disconnected discourses, as half-witted as the information selected for the Voyager time capsule meant for both future generations and extraterrestrials, now spinning around in outer space.

No, I am not going to share it. Too much information.

My blog is again disconnected. I’ve effectively shut down the communication overload that was making me spend more time than I could afford or than was good for me on the internet. Other bloggers are doing similar things it seems, as many networks with their own channels have formed. Facebook is the new general watering hole, and that too will need reducing. Facebook is scary. And that’s me saying it, someone who has shared domestic scenes and childhood memories on her professional blog. It’s the interconnectedness of everything that is so disturbing. It costs the wrong kind of time to keep up, and makes finding things so easy for the wrong kind of people.

I just watched the film on the Anonymous movement and am really somewhat taken aback by the extreme change in attitude that seems to have developed not only among hackers, but among many young people in general that the public has the right to know pretty much anything at any time, certainly about people with any kind of social or economic or political power. It used to be that you had to understand history to understand the now in perspective. I studied history for that reason. Today, history is history. Recently, the loud and pervasive advice to normal people who venture online is: forget privacy, you’ve long lost it. So it seems the only protection against privacy invasion is not to be interesting.

For everyone else, privacy is the new taboo.

Links about Anonymous:

Charles Ferguson

I watched Inside Job the other day, the Acadamy Award winning 2010 documentary about the 2008 financial meltdown, directed by Charles Ferguson, and had a bit of a meltdown of my own. As the blurb to the posted interview with Ferguson states “the film makes the powerful case that an out-of-control finance industry took advantage of a deregulated atmosphere and purposely sought to get rich at the expense of others.” …”Ferguson crossed the globe to find proof that the financial industry intentionally engaged in unethical behavior. His gripping account of the global recession is sure to evoke feelings of disgust, anger, and concern that this all may happen again unless our regulatory system is changed.” That I can confirm. The thing is that nobody minds if banks get rich, as long as everyone else does ok. But they don’t, clearly, and the banks have become more powerful than ever, through the consolidation after the crisis. And Ferguson shows that unfortunately President Obama hasn’t done much to resolve the real issues. (despite Dodd Frank he gives Obama a C-minus overall).

Charles Ferguson is an impressive guy. After majoring in math at UC at Berkeley, he got a PhD in Political Science at MIT, then did postdoc work at MIT on the intersection of high tech and global policy and  advised federal agencies. He then went on to found Vermeer Technologies, the company that developed FrontPage, which he sold to Microsoft to begin his career as a documentary filmmaker. His first documentary was about the Iraq war. And then came Inside Job.

Nothing about the featured interview and the film is new – I’m a full year behind the loop – but if you, too, didn’t catch the film last year, watch it. And watch this interview. It’s an hour well spent.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Naderev Saño, the Philippines’ lead negotiator, gives a brilliant, emotional 3 minute speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Doha, on 6 November 2012. It is enormously difficult to keep your chin up as a negotiator in such a slow and tedious process. But do you always have to keep your chin up? Can’t a show of emotion move people to action and sway decisions?


Originally posted by Adam Mordecai in Upworthy.

The Boston Globe Big Picture features pictures of the typhoon known internationally as Bopha that Saño refers to.

If you know anyone who doubts the reality of anthropogenic climate change, send him or her to listen to the great presentation by Rob Dunbar (TED).

In his talk showing and explaining oceanic evidence of climate change, Dunbar said: “I was in Copenhagen in December (2009), like a number of you in this room. And I think we all found it, simultaneously, an eye-opening and a very frustrating experience. I sat in this large negotiation hall, at one point, for three or four hours, without hearing the word “oceans” one time. It really wasn’t on the radar screen. The nations that brought it up when we had the speeches of the national leaders — it tended to be the leaders of the small island states, the low-lying island states. And by this weird quirk of alphabetical order of the nations, a lot of the low-lying states, like Kiribati and Nauru, they were seated at the very end of these immensely long rows. You know, they were marginalized in the negotiation room.”