He seems nice.

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David Clarke speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
[image: Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0]

Trump Nominates Actual Fascist David Clarke for Department of Homeland Security

Words like fascist and authoritarian get thrown around too promiscuously. But there is no other way to describe David Clarke, who today announced that he was named assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security…Clarke occupies the extremist, anti-democratic fringe of far-right officials, even by the standards of the Trump administration.

O.o  That certainly got my attention, particularly in an article written by Jonathan Chait, a pundit as conservative as Squirrel People conservative Democrats come.

Or so I thought.

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I’m becoming an Irish pagan!

OMFG you guys! I cannot help but think that I have found among the Irish pagans the place where I truly belong!

When I read the email exchanges posted by Pagan Federation Ireland on their Facebook page, I shouted hallelujah! (<-It’s a relic of my xtian upbringing. Obviously, I will have to learn what my new fellow Irish pagans are supposed to shout in similar situations.)

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The beginning of the end of police violence?

Talk is notoriously cheap of course, and at particularly cut-rate discount when it comes from the mouths of government officials. But this sounds really, really good to me.

U.S. police chiefs group apologizes for ‘historical mistreatment’ of minorities

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Gangs of New York.

Over at The Nation, Simon Davis-Cohen has a piece up that will surprise no one who follows #blacklivesmatter. What’s new here, at least to me, is not the NYPD’s over-the-top militarization, or the disproportionate targeting of communities of color for aggressive over-policing. It’s not even that in the United States of La-La-Land, the criminal justice system does not work the way we whites think it does, the way were propagandized to believe it does. It’s that as the system’s tactics morph, new and different harms continue to befall these communities in unexpected—and unexpectedly devastating—ways. With apologies to our cephalopod friends for the unfair comparison, the tentacles of state violence are constantly shape-shifting without reason, compassion or constraint.

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Face-punching for social justice: real vs. rhetorical.

[CONTENT NOTE: discussion of violence, violent and bigoted slurs and “jokes”.]

Via my amazing friend Niki at The Orbit comes this news: George Zimmerman punched in face for bragging about killing Trayvon Martin, witnesses allege.

SANFORD, Fla. — The man who said he shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in self-defense said he was punched in the face while he was talking to people at a restaurant in Sanford over the weekend.

George Zimmerman and a friend called 911 after a man accusing him of bragging about the fatal shooting punched him in the face, authorities said.

Zimmerman is considered the victim in this case, but witnesses inside Gators Riverside restaurant told authorities that the problem started because Zimmerman was bragging about killing the unarmed teen in 2012.

Witnesses said they overheard Zimmerman say to someone, “I love your tattoos. My name is George Zimmerman, you know, that guy who killed Trayvon Martin?” Witness said Zimmerman also showed his identification card.

I commented at Niki’s (awaiting moderation at the time of this posting), but I wanted to expand on that and clarify a little bit here.

I admit to feeling a certain amount of righteous satisfaction from this incident. If there is anyone who deserves a punch in the face, it’s George fucking Zimmerman. Taking a step back though, I wish it was the rhetorical equivalent of violence, and not actual violence. Neither Trayvon’s murder nor Zimmerman’s acquittal happened in a vacuum; they happened in a culture where violence is normalized, expected, and in the case of “stand your ground” laws, practically encouraged.

For example, I’d love to see bros getting right in Zimmerman’s face and telling him to STFU or GTFO of every. single. place. he ever enters, making it perfectly clear that he is an unwelcome pariah there, and that there are unpleasant consequences for him, in the real world, as a result of his (right-wing) views and violent actions.

The problem is that this almost never happens. And not just with Zimmerman, but with all conservative douches. They feel perfectly entitled to occupy and dominate any and all public spaces, freely spouting barbaric and counterfactual nonsense, with nary a peep to counter them. Ever. And why wouldn’t they? Sure, there may be a few eyerolls and whispers, but never any real, unpleasant consequences. Quite the opposite, actually: HIGH FIVE, BRO. And like every bully and oppressor, they will always interpret the silence of bystanders as agreement, thereby reinforcing the legitimacy of their unconscionable views in a perpetual bubble of support and encouragement. It’s what I call “conservative privilege.”

I want a world where every time some douchebro (or douchesis?) spews something racist, sexist, homophobic, transantagonistic, ableist, rapey, deadly, dehumanizing, etc. etc., some other coolbro (ideally coolbros and coolsisses) shuts that shit down immediately with CBF (Cat Butt Face) and “STFU or GTFO.” And since I’m fantasizing, with a heavy dose of scathing mockery.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking n*gger.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like a racist piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking d*ke/f*ggot.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like a homophobic piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: Look at that fucking r*tard.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. You sound like an ableist piece of shit. Don’t ever say that word around here.

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DOUCHEBRO: That hot chick looks totally wasted. I’ma drive that home and hit that. Heh.

COOLBRO(S): WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. That’s rape, you disgusting piece of shit. If I see you go anywhere near her I will have you thrown out of here. [BONUS: alerts bartender and checks on woman to ensure she has safe way home.]

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That is how culture shifts.

We will probably always have violent bigots of every stripe among us. We cannot afford to legitimize them. That is precisely what makes the Trump candidacy so dangerous. [<- TW for every goddamn thing at that link.]

Korryn Gaines #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter

The following is a post by my friend and Freethought Blogs colleague Nathan Hevenstone. Nate requested that it be reposted far and wide. I am happy to oblige.

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Just when I thought I could start posting lighter stuff…

Cops shoot, kill woman barricaded with little boy wounded in Baltimore standoff (I don’t know if the video in the link shows the shooting… I can’t get it to play. I’m sorry. Be wary just in case.)

In a fit of road rage, Anthony Vigilotti pointed a handgun directly at a police officer, but was arrested later that day without incident. From his mugshot, it doesn’t even look like he received a scratch in the process.

Jed Frazier pointed his handgun directly at police, but “officers and medics took shelter and continued to make contact with Frazier. Shortly before 3 a.m. Police say they broke the windows in the truck and extricated Frazier. Frazier was treated for minor injuries before being taken to the Lawrence County Jail.”

In a quick search, I found a dozen similar stories from July alone. White men, be they mass shooters like Dylann Roof (Charleston), James Holmes (Aurora), or Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson) — or men like William Bruce Ray, Anthony Vigilotti, or Jed Frazier — all live to face a jury of their peers.

Korryn Gaines doesn’t have a violent history. She was a cosmetologist and, according to her friends and family, a doting mother. She should’ve received the treatment that all of those armed white men received. Somehow, in each of those cases, police found in their hearts to overcome their fears without unloading their guns on those men.

That’s white privilege.

It should be noted that at least 682 people have been murdered by the police this year.

korryngaines

Korryn Gaines posing with her son over her back. Both look very happy.

I really want to say more. I’d like to say how enraged I am, how every time I post something like this, I do it through tears. And that is 100% true. I’m in tears now.

But so fucking what? What do my rage and my tears accomplish?

For those who are already dead, nothing.

I can support Black Lives Matter, and they are still dead.

I can post about them, and they are still dead.

I can show pictures of them being people, and they are still dead.

I can vote, and they are still dead.

I can donate money, and they are still dead.

I can talk about my white privilege, and they are still dead.

I can get out in the streets, and they are still dead.

These people, whose lives did fucking matter, at least to me, are now dead, never to see their children grow up, never to see or meet their grandchildren, or great grandchildren, never to see how there lives would progress into the future…

Because they were murdered by the damn state. Everything I try to do to make some kind of small change, to support a future where this doesn’t happen, doesn’t help the ones who are already dead.

But it can help those who are still alive, and still in danger. I can at least do something for all of you still breathing because, so far, the cops have seen fit to let you live.

God I’m sorry. It means nothing, but I’m sorry. We white people have to make it stop. Things have to change. And I’ll keep using my privilege and my platform to speak up, for those of you who are still alive, because your lives DO FUCKING MATTER. And until this country accepts that, I won’t stop saying it.

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Thank you, Nate.

blacklivesmatter

 

Erasure and Victorian women.

I first started giving more thought to the phenomenon of erasure in 2013, after hearing talks from Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Michael Hecht at CFI’s Women in Secularism 2 conference (yes, that one). Both presentations touched on the stories and accomplishments of women being written out of narratives in favor of men’s, a well-documented and observable manifestation of male privilege. A woman’s erasure turns out to be even more likely when she is a nonbeliever or otherwise unorthodox (Christian/conservative privilege); similarly, atheist men also tend to be erased from historical narratives in favor of believers (same).

Erasure of racial, sexual and other minorities should be too obvious to need mentioning, but I will mention a few off of the top of my head*:

As with all modes of privilege, for those with intersectional identities the likelihood of erasure is compounded. And as with all modes of privilege, erasure is self-perpetuating.

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NYC FTW.

One of the things I love most about this city is that it is constantly recycling itself. If you’re a fan of urban hiking, you can walk the same streets day after day and almost always discover something new. Sometimes you notice something old that somehow escaped your attention. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get yelled at by the police for taking pictures with your iPhone in a public fucking building.

Anyway.

On Friday I had some business at the New York County court house at 60 Centre Street. The subways on the West side don’t get you very close, so when you come up from the station on Chambers Street you have to zig and zag your way North and East for several blocks. I guess I had never taken this particular path before, or at least not for a long time, because I stumbled on something striking: the African Burial Ground National Monument.

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It reads:

For all those who were lost
For all those who were stolen
For all those who were left behind
For all those who were not forgotten

From the plaque by the street:

A Place of Remembrance

From the 1690s until 1794, an estimated 15,000 enslaved and free Africans were laid to rest in the African Burial Ground. In 1991, during construction of the Ted Weiss Federal Building, 419 skeletal remains were exhumed. The rediscovery of the cemetery sparked vigorous efforts to preserve this hallowed ground. In 1993 a small portion of the original 6.6 acre cemetery became the first below-ground New York City landmark and a national historic landmark. African Burial Ground National Monument was proclaimed on February 27, 2006. Widely regarded as one of America’s most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century, it is also a place of remembrance and reflection.

Ancestral Reinterment Ground

On October 4, 2003, the exhumed ancestral remains were reburied on this site. The bones and accompanying artifacts were placed in hand-carved wooden coffins made in Ghana and lined with Kente cloth. The coffins were placed in seven crypts as close as possible to the original burial positions with heads facing west. Seven burial mounds mark the locations of the reinterments. If you wish, you may place flowers on top of the burial mounds.

The plaque also gives an overview of the layout:

plaque

Circle of the Diaspora

The African Diaspora is the forced removal of Africans from their homeland to different parts of the world. It is also Africans’ unwavering spirit and ability to adapt. This circular wall, ramp, and interior court display cultural and spiritual images from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and other areas throughout the Diaspora.

Ancestral Chamber

The 24-foot-high Ancestral Chamber represents the soaring African spirit and the distance below ground from which the ancestral remains were exhumed. It is made of Verde Fontaine green granite from Africa. The heartlike Sankofa symbol from West Africa means “Learn from the past to prepare for the future.” The interior recalls a ship’s hold and provides a place for individual contemplation and prayer.

I found all of this quite moving.

It was a cool gray day, raining on and off. There was a long line to get inside the visitor center, but the monument itself was practically deserted: I saw only two people, both black, come and go separately. (You will be happy to learn that I waited until they were well out of sight before I started snapping pictures like a maniacal tourist.) The monument’s web site has some interesting resources, but I’d really like to explore the visitor center when I have a little more time. It has a book store, which I’m hoping houses a treasure trove of titles that can rarely be found all in one place.

I love New York City, and I’ve learned over the years that its history has at least as many facets as people. Sometimes its stories are sad or strange, sometimes surprising or even exhilarating. But at the rate this city reinvents itself, it seems unimaginable to me that any one person could learn all that much about it, relatively speaking, even over the course of a lifetime.

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A few blocks away, I was standing in line to clear security in the lobby of the court house. It’s pretty much the standard airport security theater setup: x-ray for bags and coats and whatnot, walk-through metal detectors and a phalanx of people in uniform, inside-joking with each other while waiting for someone to set of an alarm. Except unlike TSA agents, these d00ds were armed—NYPD, I think—and I couldn’t help wondering if they were also waiting for an opportunity to pull their guns. You know: to break up the monotony of Keeping Us Safe™ by killing someone.

As I waited my turn, I took in the stunning architecture, not for the first time. Soaring columns, vaulted ceilings, gorgeous details—lit up, unfortunately, by a monstrous chandelier ablaze with fluorescent glare.

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“Hey! Hey! You can’t do that!” I heard one of the uniformed gentlemen barking. I ignored it —it couldn’t possibly be directed at me—as I snapped another shot with my iPhone.

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“HEY!” Much more emphatic this time.”YOU CAN’T TAKE PICTURES IN HERE!”

“Oh. Really?” I was a bit miffed. What Sooper Seekrit stuff could there possibly be in the lobby of the same building where millions of New Yorkers serve jury duty, FFS.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t know.” It’s not like there was a big sign that said NO CAMERAS or anything. I slipped the phone into my pocket. “Did you want me to delete them?”

“WHAT?” he snapped back.

“The pictures, do you want me to delete them?”

He seemed to think about it for a second or two before shaking his head in exasperation. Or disgust. Hard to tell, really.

Later I wondered if I were black whether he might have opened fire instead.

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On my way back to the subway via a different route, I spotted a Lot-Less store. It’s one of those discount/closeout/outlet operations that pepper the city, promising (and often delivering) all kinds of brand-name retail items, from food to shoes to housewares to electronics at, like, 80% off. I’ve always been a sucker for these shops, not least because when I’ve been poor, I could always score a deal there on some necessity. And when I’m not-poor, I take pleasure in paying a small fraction of the retail price for my gym socks and bathroom rug. Another opportunity to stick it to The Man!

I decided to take a quick swing through. And lo, it came to pass that I did scoreth The Deals.

For myself, I found an amazing dress for $20.

lotlessdress

It fits me really well, which is a small miracle because there are no fitting rooms at Lot-Less and also because NOTHING EVER DOES GODDAMMIT. I almost didn’t buy it. But then I figured what the hell: worst case, I donate it to Housing Works with the tags still on it. (They’d probably get more than $20 for it too.) It seems well made, of 97% cotton 3% spandex, and it has deep pockets. WIN.

But this dress? This dress is nothing compared to what I scored for My Amazing Lover™. That’s right, people: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles boxer underwear—with a detachable cape! As I’m sure you can imagine there were precious few of them left, so I breathlessly pawed through the racks hoping to find a pair in his size. And find them I did.

tmnturtlesboxers

L-R: front view, back view, back view with cape. 

I cannot fathom how one could possibly experience more joy for $3.99. Unless it’s happy hour, obviously. And yes, he loves them and will wear them to work under his business suit.

Possibly sans cape.

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Speaking of happy hour, I was shortly back in my neighborhood, treasures in tow, and headed for one of my local watering holes for a late lunch and some very good Rosé. The weather here this winter has been all kinds of fucked-up, but somehow the Bradford pear trees have rallied to put on their annual show of snowy white blossoms.

christopher&amp;gay

The streets of the West Village never look more magical than they do in the spring, even on a dreary day. Soon all the white petals will fall to the sidewalks, and everything will seem snow-covered for a day or two. But the breezes will be warmer. And then I’ll get to wear my new dress, with open-toed shoes.

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[cross-posted at death to squirrels]