Saturday, July 29, 2017

RIP: Ray Beez

Fight for Justice
1997, Victory
produced by Tony Brummel

Raymond "Ray Beez" Barbieri - vocals
Jason "J-Sin" Lehrhoff - guitars
"Vinnie Value" Verga - drums
Todd "the Kidd" Hamilton - bass

Warzone started in New York in the early '80s, and along with Agnostic Front, brought the hardcore scenes of Washington and LA to the Big Apple. Not only was Ray Beez and Warzone at the forefront of the scene, but they helped to mentor younger bands well into the '90s. Tragically, this record was their last, as Ray Beez passed away from pneumonia at age 35.

Ray Beez is remembered for being a leader in the scene, a mentor to younger talent, a US Navy veteran, an advocate for at-risk youth, and an opponent of racism, classism, and misogyny. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Political Science for Beginners as Taught by a Beginner

The political/social climate in the United States has taken a turn in the last 20 years to a very strange and dangerous place. I have come to a few conclusions about this whole mess, and have posted about a few things awhile ago that I realize, looking back at it now, foreshadowed what was to happen in our 2016 election. 

I find myself having discussions with people in bars, or on the Facebook (I can't help it) and have come to the conclusion that Trump supporters either A: have attempted to place Trump into a political box where he doesn't fit, or B: behave like politics is a sport like football. 

I understand Republicans who voted with the party and expected Trump to align with party platforms and agendas and at least attempt to be a competent administrator. After all, he ran a campaign based on the incompetency of government while holding up a record of business success as proof he could do better than everyone else. However, based on what I have seen from this guy, his public appearances, speeches, tweets, I see no evidence that he knows or understands his job requirements. Attempting to pin any sort of political strategy to this guy seems like a folly. As Occum's Razor states, the simplest explanation is probably the truth, and based on everything we've seen since Trump started campaigning should lead us to believe he, in fact, is not some kind of political mastermind with any sort of plan, strategy, or anything resembling competence.

There are some very smart conservative economics, political science, and business people out there who have attempted to explain their support for the guy, but it all sounds like they're talking about a different guy. This isn't Nixon, or Reagan, or even Barry Goldwater, he is singularly unique, and we should probably frame him as such, instead of trying to box him up in any sort of political/economic/social platform. 

Recently, I, like many people, have attempted to understand rabid Trump supporters who refuse to take in all of what has happened since the election campaigns began, and form the seemingly obvious opinion that this dude was not fit for office. I think I have some kind of grasp on it, and it comes down to two things: 

1: Not having a clear understanding of what government does and how it operates. Government, contrary to what Fox News says, does not and should not operate like a business. But I hear many people make comments about how the private sector runs similar government ventures far more smoothly. Trying to run a government like a business, however, becomes a problem when tax money is seen as available profit to be reaped by private contractors, instead of money to be used to budget for what the taxpayers need. As an example, read all about private prisons. 

2: Treating politics like a competition. I figured out, while trying and failing to use reason with Trump supporters, that they are not interested at all in eventual outcomes due to Trump-led policies. Actually, they don't seem interested in politics. This is partly due to a disillusionment with modern politics, but also a short-term historic memory, ignorance of political history, and probably just an inability to understand politics in general. But they understand winning a competition, and an election sure looks like a competition. It appears that winning an election is more important than the consequences of that win.

I think, because of an inability to grasp what politics is, how government works, and what the political parties stand for has led these people to just pick a side. The liberal Left has been seen as this elitist, out of touch group of know-it-all arrogant rich kids, who all seem to be Democrats. If one feels like they have to pick a side, and the Democrats are all snobs, perhaps picking the party which appears to be all about the hard working, no nonsense, proud patriot bible carrying Americans is a good choice. And so, instead of a Trump victory signifying more of the same graft and corruption with a lean towards Facism, it signifies to these people as a win over the arrogant Left.

This attitude of glorifying success and reveling in the other side's demise reminds me so very much of athletic competition. Trump supporters talk about the election in the same way American hockey fans talk about the 1980 Olympics, or Red Sox fans talk about the 2004 ALCS and World Series. It isn't about the policies and legislation Trump will bring to American politics, but more about defeating the Evil Empire of Obama/Hillary Democrats. 

That all aside, I think this country needs to revisit civics. Professor Murdaco posted a very lengthy lecture on The American Political System. It's very well done.

I do think it is very interesting how people perceive our system, and how very easily the terms Left and Right get interchanged with Democrat and Republican. Above is a graphic that illuminates the political spectrum, and has laid American political groups along that line.

According to Marx, the spectrum goes from the Radical Left, to the Reactionary Right, those being the two extremes. Lately the term Reactionary has fallen out of favor and Radical is used to describe both extremes. Ideally, the middle of the spectrum is where the Independents lie. I find this to be disingenuous. Technically, an Independent voter doesn't subscribe to either major political party, but is more often than not allied politically along the spectrum, not truly balanced in the middle. For example, I am registered as an Independent, but politically I lean to the Left. I know others that are also Independent voters but are far more conservative.

The terms Liberal and Conservative come to mean a few things. Liberal can mean using resources generously. It also can mean a progressive view open to new ideas, behaviors, and changes. Liberal, then, in a nutshell, is the idea that we have new information that can show us how to change to be better.

In contrast, conservative can mean preserving, saving, and protecting resources, cautiously using them over time in planned, deliberate ways. It can also mean preserving traditional values, and the status quo. Conservative, then, in a nutshell, is the idea that we already know how to do things, it's all been working well, why change?

In addition, our political party system is not mutually exclusive to the political spectrum. The Democratic Party has not always been on the Left of center. Dixiecrats, a southern sect of the Democratic Party, are responsible for seceding from the Union, Jim Crow, the Klan, and a host of other racially charged legislation. Republicans also have not always been where they lie now on the political spectrum. Lincoln was a Republican, and a Progressive.

It becomes apparent, from this last election, and going forward, the people all want change, and the status quo just is not working for anyone except large GOP donors. The Democrats tried to run a conventional campaign in a country that is fed up with convention. The GOP was unprepared for Trump hijacking their primary and running on Nationalism wrapped up in a false promise of political change.

Perhaps, if we all start to educate each other on what this all means, as Americans, and stop trying to pick sides, we'll be able to all get the change we want.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Crossmarketing for Pictures

I realized today that I used to do blogposts here about stuff I would see and take pictures of while working. I don't really do that anymore, mostly because I started using the 'gram. So, I'll link that shit here, and you can follow me there, for all my nature, food, nature food, and stupid selfie pics.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Symbols Mean Things

As human beings, I think personal identity is an important thing. It is why religion is so important and why we create exclusive clubs, and put so much importance in professional sports and local high school athletics. In the United States, this idea of personal identity, answering the question "who am I?" is wound up in the dual question of "what is America?"

We tend to answer these questions with a variety of easily accessible categories with easily displayable symbols and themes. For example, an Irish Catholic American hockey fan from Boston may display shamrocks, rosaries and crosses, Boston Bruins logos, and American flags to show pride in his identity. The definition of a person, therefore, can be displayed in a series of recognizable logos, designs, colors, and symbols.

The one problem with summing up personal identity through symbols is when anti-intellectualism begins to blur the lines between what the signifier wants to say about himself, and what the symbols are actually signifying. A very good example is the redneck culture clinging to the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of freedom, good ole boy country living, and Southern Pride, when in fact it is a symbol of armed treason against the United States in response to northern states pushing for an end to slavery.

In response to this, I often find myself saying things like "that doesn't mean what you think it means", mostly to myself when I see stupid memes, or bumper stickers and flags hung from houses (or the backs of pick-ups). Here are some other examples...

Before I start, and before I get a large amount of hate mail from keyboard cowboys, I do understand how difficult being a police officer can be, or any public authority figure, for that matter. Most police officers are good people, I'm sure. Realistically, not every cop out there is a terrible person. Generalizations are indefensible. This isn't a police-bashing post.

This particular flag is used, presumably, to show support for law enforcement. Lately, it has been popping up probably in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I personally do not see why it would be necessary unless you feel the need to show how much you don't support Black Lives Matter. But, let's just assume the person flying this flag really does support the police with no other agenda or desire to signify something else entirely.

The symbol, as shown above, is a combination of the flag of the United States of America, and the Thin Blue Line. The Blue Line is an analogy coined in the UK. Specifically, the police are the thin blue line separating civilization from anarchy.

On the surface, combining the two symbols together appears to be an homage to American law enforcement. However, I would argue it is a symbol advocating for martial law, one nation under the thin blue line. The American flag is a symbol of the Republic. and the Thin Blue Line is a symbol of Law and Order. Put them together and you have a symbol for a Law and Order Republic.

The emergence of the popularity of this symbol in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at police reform, ending racial profiling, and holding the police accountable seems more than mere coincidence. If the response to the goals of Black Lives Matter is to throw blind support behind law enforcement, the only conclusion that can be made is they support an untethered, self regulating law and order establishment, in short, an America ruled by an overbearing authority.

It's either that, or just plain old American racism.

I hate this symbol. I have a problem with any home made sign or bumper sticker telling me what to do. But this one I find extremely problematic. Perhaps it is just a cute way for parents to show everyone else driving behind them that they just had a baby, and they're super proud of it. I suppose that is a weird way to show narcissism. 

What I see, though, is a yellow street sign. Diamond shaped yellow traffic signs designate caution. They are posted to give warning to drivers with the expectation of slower, more cautious driving. So, this placard then would mean "there is a baby in my backseat, you all need to drive more careful". 

I call bullshit. First of all, don't tell me what to do, you aren't the traffic commision. Second of all, I didn't decide to have a kid, you did. it's your responsibility to keep it safe, not everyone else's. No one should be expected to modify their lives because you wanted a family. Third, your choice to procreate is a terrible reason for me to want to drive safe. I already figured out while driving I can only control my own driving, and no one else's. I have my own reasons to not drive like an idiot, I don't need your reasons also. 

Just as an aside, I also hate those "drive like your kids live here" signs, or those neon plastic children that look like they're about to jump into traffic. I am driving like your kids live there, like a normal driver not worrying about stupid little people running into traffic. Be a parent, keep them out of the street. Also, those plastic children are a distraction. 

This is a pile of poo. Let's get that out of the way real quick. It's not whipped chocolate frosting, or soft serve ice cream. This emoji is the shit. Literally. Like all things seized by pop culture, this thing has been put on all sorts of merchandise, including plush hats. I don't just mean the emoji is embroidered or reproduced on a hat. The hat is a giant poop that you can put on your head. I've seen kids wearing them. This means they probably got them from their parents, who either don't know what it is (plausible), or are okay with their kids walking around as literal shit-heads (actually, that is pretty hilarious). 

As a recap, conclusion, closing, or whatever, I'd like to see more people take time to understand the things they are trying to say, or advertising with the symbols they choose to promote, as unambiguously as possible. It's probably too much to ask at this point, but a little time and research into things could save a few dirty looks from the public. We don't all have to be Professor Langdon to understand symbolism, just take a few minutes to Google some things.