Cops are out of control, but maybe its not their fault

March 20, 2015

I need not collect a compendium of links to show you that American police are more out of control than the crips and the bloods ever were. But, you know what? Maybe if we got rid of the chickenshit laws like underage drinking, possession of marijuana, and the like, they wouldn’t have such an us-vs-them attitude.

A 20 year old kid who wants to drink a beer is not a “criminal.” Some guy who wants to smoke a joint is not a “criminal.” These are usually completely normal people, who are no threat to the state or their neighbors. But, when they are “criminals,” all of a sudden the pie chart of who is a criminal vs. who is “law abiding” starts to look a bit fucked up.

Perhaps we get rid of chickenshit laws, and crap like this doesn’t happen.

Or perhaps we can just require that cops with major personality disorders go find other jobs…


Turkish Journalism Under Fire

March 20, 2015

Yavuz Baydar, in the Guardian, reports on the sad state of journalism in Turkey. (source) This is a boiled down version of his much longer study, available here.

Large media companies kowtow to state pressure, and contribute to a culture of fear and accusations that try to keep independent media in check.

Yet if alarm for the independence of the Turkish press was already high, those concerns were raised still further soon after the outbreak of the summer demonstrations in 2013 to protect Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Protests spread to 78 of the 81 provinces in Turkey. The degree of self-censorship became so intense that the mainstream Turkish media itself became the subject of demonstration and open ridicule. Even so, Erdoğan declared that critical media – domestic and international – were part of a conspiracy to topple him and his government from power. Thereafter the demonisation of independent journalism gathered pace. Journalists who tried to defend their independence and dignity found themselves fired or dispatched to professional limbo.

Sound familiar?

American journalism isn’t doing so well either. We’re down to #49 in the Reporters Without Borders index. (source) But, Turkey’s servile large media companies and government pressure on independent journalists has pushed this so-called “democracy” to #149.

Baydar concludes with a comment on Turkey, but it is not entirely foreign to us here.

The notion of journalism as a check on the irresponsible, corrupt or unfettered exercise of power is evaporating. Investigative reporting, more crucial than ever, is on the verge of extinction. Our democracy now depends on whether the Turkish media can escape the quagmire into which one man’s ambition has driven it.

Power does not like a watchdog.


NH Lawmakers Crush Fourth Graders Bill. Good.

March 19, 2015

And I applaud them for it.

In the spirit of learning by doing, students drafted a bill to learn the process of how a bill becomes law. They proposed House Bill 373, an act establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor. Even though it passed through the Environment and Agriculture committee with a majority vote, some representatives were far from receptive. (source)

Cue the outrage.

In fact, the headline was “NH lawmakers brutally kill 4th-graders’ bill in front of them

Rep. John Burt, a Republican from Goffstown said, “Bottom line, if we keep bringing more of these bills, and bills, and bills forward that really I think we shouldn’t have in front of us, we’ll be picking a state hot dog next.”

Exactly.

The “State Raptor?” What kind of idiotic shit is that?

Besides, the kids did this to see how the process works, right? Well they fuckin learned how it works, didn’t they?

Maybe they learned that a moronic fucking law deserves to die a firey death. The pedagogical exercise was to learn how to draft and propose a bill. The pedagogical exercise was not “and everyone’s a winner, you special little snowflakes.”


Was St. Patrick Really Italian?

March 16, 2015

Irish is, without a doubt, the dominant immigrant culture in Massachusetts. Growing up there, in a town where Sicilians were the plurality, St. Patrick’s Day was always a little underwhelming. Instead, we celebrated St. Joseph’s day on March 19. Of course, every St. Joseph’s Day, someone would bring up the old story that St. Patrick’s day should be “our” day too — since St. Patrick was really Italian. We wanted to believe it, so we did. We poked that in the Irish kids’ eyes, as we liked to bust balls. But, not enough to ever wear Orange on March 17.

Every year, articles pop up repeating the story that St. Patrick was really Italian. Even GoErie.com repeats the tale.

St. Patrick was born around 432 AD and died around 461 AD. He was Italian not Irish. Story is that St. Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 from Rome and brought to Ireland as a slave. (source)

Depending on who you believe, St. Patrick was born as early as 370 and died around 460 AD. At birth, his name was Maewyn Succat. A number of sources say he was born in either Scotland or in Wales to parents Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were reportedly high status Romans.

Given the time periods in play, it is certainly likely that there would be high ranking Romans in Britain at that time. However, at that time, being “Roman” didn’t necessarily mean that one came from Rome.

For centuries before Maewyn’s birth, the concept of being a Roman expanded beyond the narrow definition it had in the early Republic. In 212 AD, Emperor Carcalla issued the Constitutio Antoniniana, which granted Roman citizenship to all free men in the Empire. Even before that, select groups of conquered peoples and powerful and important rulers of conquered lands were often granted full Roman citizenship.

So, it seems that Maewyn Succat was most likely a Roman. But, he could have been “Roman,” without possessing have a single strand of DNA originating from from the Italian peninsula.

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, lets just assume that his family came from ancient Patrician blood, and that his parents were born in the shadow of the Colosseum. While this is entirely unlikely, lets say that’s how it was — and therefore, little Maewyn Succat was so Roman that he bled eagle blood and preferred his wine mixed with wolf’s milk.

Does that make him Italian?

One problem with claiming him as Italian is the difficulty of accurately defining “Italian.” What we now call “Italians” are really a mixture of a diverse ebb and flow of ethnicities made up of pre-Roman populations like the Etruscans, who later mixed with various Celts, Greeks, and Germanic tribes. Sicily? Don’t even get me started. “Italy” as a nation didn’t even exist as an idea until the Risorgimento in the 1800s.

Back then, some like Austrian Prince Metternich angrily scoffed that Italy was nothing more than a “geographical expression.” Those who drove the Risorgimento found this insulting, but after Italy gained unification and independence, Massimo d’Azeglio seemed to affirm it by writing “we have made Italy; now we must make Italians.”

Look at it this way: At the time of unification, only about 3% of “Italians” spoke Italian. Even the King, Vittorio Emanuele, barely spoke it. Even today, much of Italy communicates in regional dialects at home, which are often mutually unintelligible.

So I suppose the answer is this: St. Patrick was likely Roman of some color or another. It is unlikely that he was Roman under the definition used by Italians who try and claim him. It is very likely that little Maewyn was actually some kind of Gaul. Even if he was as Roman as Marc Antony, most Italians trying to claim him as their very own have a pretty loose grip on their own connection to the Romans as their ancestors.

It seems that the Irish should be permitted to maintain their claim over Maewyn Succat. Not that he was Irish either. But, if his historical significance is that he was an important missionary in Ireland, and he died there, well then they can have him.

The only thing they can’t have is the story about him banishing the snakes from Ireland. That’s not true. Glaciers did it almost 10,000 years before St. Patrick was born. (source)

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, the correct thing to shout is Erin go Bragh, and not Viva Italia.


Ask where your Salmon comes from

March 15, 2015

Next time your server or your supermarket tries to sell you Salmon, ask where it comes from. If it is “Atlantic Salmon,” tell them to fuck off. Well, if you want to be polite, you can just say “no thank you, I don’t eat that garbage, and you shouldn’t be selling it, you soulless heathen fuckhead.”

There is no such thing as Atlantic Salmon. Well, correction, there really isn’t such a thing as a commercially viable Atlantic Salmon fishery. If it comes from the Atlantic, there’s a 99% chance that it is farm-raised. And if it is farm-raised, then it is about as healthy for you as mass-raised chicken. It likely lacks most of the omega 3s that make wild-caught Pacific salmon so fucking awesome. In fact, it wouldn’t even be “salmon colored” if the farmers didn’t feed it color pellets. (source)

Trust me. I used to be a salmon fisherman before I was a lawyer.


German High Court Strikes Down Hijab Ban

March 15, 2015

Germany’s high court has ruled unconstitutional a North Rhine-Westphalia regulation prohibiting teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves. (source) The law bared religious symbols or actions that were deemed to be a “threat to harmonious co-existence.” (source)

The ruling leaves an opening though.

Judges at the Karlsruhe-based court in southwest Germany said a ban could only be justified if the wearing of the Islamic headscarf led to a “sufficiently concrete danger” of disruption in the school, or of “state neutrality”. (source)

I am relying on third party sources here, as I can not read German. But, it would seem that this ruling would comport with EU Human Rights regulations. The initial ban seemed targeted simply at displays that cracked Germany’s homogeneity, but simultaneously infringed on the teachers’ rights of self expression. The court’s logic seems to provide that a ban could be revived or tailored for legitimate pedagogical purposes, or if the religious displays crossed the line to state endorsement of religion. Under U.S. law, it would be the difference between a public school teacher wearing a crucifix or putting a crucifix up on the wall of the classroom.

The ruling seems to make sense. Banning the Hijab seems unnecessary – unless you’re really trying to get Muslims to assimilate, and of course, even then, it would be incompatible with EU and German law. But, what if the ban was just on the Niqab, Batula, or Burqa? I could see banning those, everywhere, as a matter of promoting human rights. Sure, some women might say they want to wear them – and perhaps they do – and maybe I’m just too western to respect that. They seem downright inhuman to me, and banning them is a way to give women the “out” they might need to get out from under something so damn oppressive.

Would that also infringe on some religious freedom? It might.


Remember Righthaven?

March 14, 2015

How could we ever forget? This week marked the five year anniversary of that ill-fated mission. (source)


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