…for lifting humanity higher!
Yesterday I snarked on Facebook:
So, exactly how cartoonishly evil does a candidate have to be to not get elected president?
The answer appears to be: “female”
I felt this distilled much of my conflict and disbelief about the election, and after a day of reflection I’m even more convinced that this is the right place to start in trying to digest what happened. Let me explain why.
All the news surrounding this election had surprisingly little substance in terms of policy and governance, instead being focussed entirely on the personal baggage of the two candidates. We heard about Benghazi and Hillary’s emails, and we heard about Donald fat-shaming beauty contestants and calling Mexicans rapists. When we did hear about actual policy proposals, Trump’s were always so impractical they were never seriously considered by the press. Build a wall? Everyone knew that was never going to happen. Deport 11 million people? Inconceivable. Meanwhile, Hillary’s were so practical as to be simply non-newsworthy. It was easy to label them as ‘more of the same’ compared to Trump’s bellicosity, and so we got very little news about them. But we certainly did hear about the personal issues — Trump’s distain for Muslims, Melania’s plagiarizing, Bill’s old infidelities and Hillary’s pantsuits.
And as the news coverage devolved into ever increasing scrutiny of the two larger-than life candidates and away from details of what their presidencies would mean for the country, the two candidates became cartoonishly evil figments of our imaginations.
I and many other Hillary supporters saw a cartoonishly evil Donald Trump, brazenly declaring that he would run as a Republican because the Republican voters are the “dumbest group of voters”. Well, Donald never said that (check out Snopes, folks), but we could see every day that he would string together lie after lie, and folks actually seemed to believe what he was saying. He became the Mr. Burns of the campaign, so dastardly that when he did say he could “shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”, it really didn’t shock anyone — of course that’s how he viewed himself. Of course he won’t show us his tax returns, because everyone knows Mr. Burns exploits all the loopholes and never pays taxes.
Meanwhile, Trump voters knew even before the campaign began that she was corrupt and evil in every way — that she was behind the murder of Vince Foster, she was the inventor of the infamous Obamacare death panels, she left our people to die in Benghazi while she was napping, Whitewater, Troopergate, The Clinton Foundation, Foggy Bottom, and the endless parade of Fox news slander. And when Bernie Sanders seemed to have all the enthusiasm in the primaries but Hillary won anyway, the ‘fact’ that corruption and insider dealings had secured her place as the nominee was very easy to believe. Clinton was the cartoonishly evil Democrat insider.
Which is why, throughout the Fall, we heard that these were two deeply disliked candidates. And how did the American Public choose?
Like many liberals, I believed that America would see the horrifying open racism and sexism of the Trump candidacy, and be recoiled by it. Many might hold their nose while voting for Clinton, but at least she could be trusted to not fire off nuclear missiles because someone insulted her tiny hands.
Alas, America did not vote that way. America, it seems, is just fine with Trump’s disdain for people of color, is just fine with his casual “grab ’em by the pussy” sexism, and is just fine with his cozy arrangement with white supremacists and his anti-semitic ads. What America wanted, it seems, was someone who could lead them in chants of “U-S-A”, “Lock her up”, and “Build the wall”. Could a male candidate have been spun into as cartoonishly evil a character as Hillary Clinton was? I doubt it. Villains, by nature, are hated, but the sexist distaste of a woman in power has been key to building up the level of hatred for Hillary.
Trump, by the way, knows his cartoonish villains. Liberals would probably learn a lot more about why we lost the election by watching pro wrestling than by looking at voter demographics. America didn’t want a candidate pretending to be a face, it wanted a heel.
Steven Spielberg, reflecting on the making of Schindler’s List, said “when we were making ‘Schindler,’ Liam [Neeson] came up to me one day and asked me if I could ever make another Indiana Jones movie where the Nazis are cartoon villains. I said, ‘Never, never.’ Right now I can’t conceive of anything that’s simply entertainment.” And there’s the key to seeing the left wing mistake in this campaign — we let our villian become a cartoon, entertained by his apparent incompetence and unfocussed on the horror underneath his comical orange hair. We were certain that a majority of the country could clearly see the cartoonishly evil villain on the ballot. Indeed, they did, just not the same one we saw.
So, yeah, “female”.
Cole Hamels has been traded to the Rangers, so It’s a good day to wear this one:
Hamels was on the mound for the World Series Game #3 in 2009. Phillies lost to the Yankees, 8-5, despite two Jayson Werth Home runs. Not his most memorable game, but memorable nonetheless.
I was reminded of this game rather vividly recently, because shortly after the game ended, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was killed. Five and a half years after that, dashcam video of other officers responding to the scene was played in court where I was a juror, and the background audio contained a sports radio rundown of the game interspersed with frantic police radio communications. Because I remember that game, I remember exactly where I was that night, making the experience of being a juror that much odder.
In any case, Cole, as I heard far too often while I was on jury duty, “Thanks for your service!”. You’ll always be a Phillie in my heart.
I’ve called Bill Frezza a lot of nasty things over the years. “clueless”, “insensitive”, “misogynistic”, “hate profiteer” are a few of the milder ones. I’ve chided him about selling out to the man, questioned how much they pay him to shill for the establishment, and directed all manners of sarcasm in his general direction. In one long running gag on an email discussion list I adopted a mocking Frezza-wannabe personality in the vein of Colbert-as-Limbaugh. But I’ve also called him “brother”. Yep, I am a class of ’87 graduate of MIT from the Beta Chapter of Chi Phi.
So, while I do believe he deserves all the scorn he’s getting for his truly disdainful Forbes article titled “Drunk Female Guests Are The Gravest Threat To Fraternities”, I won’t be joining in on the hatefest. Instead, taking the wisdom of Cecilia Winterfox and Audre Lorde to heart, I assume some of the responsibility for educating Bill about just how wrong he is. I am sorrowful that any of my brothers could write something so profoundly wrong as Bill did, and I offer my heartfelt apology on Bill’s behalf for his mistakes.
We are fraternity brothers. I am allowed to do that (that is, apologize for him). He may hate me for it, but I think he wants to apologize as well, but is too proud to do it. Also, if he’s auditioning for a FOX News gig, forgiveness and understanding might spoil his aura.
In any case, I’d like to enumerate all the wrongness of his column (which, sadly, has disappeared down the rabbit hole of the google cache, but still survives at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/3207597/posts where the comments are mostly repulsive). I welcome feedback on things I’ve missed or gotten wrong.
So, what’s wrong with this article?
The headline is 100% tone deaf.
I would have argued that “People have the general impression that fraternities are factories of misogyny, racism, gay-hating and overall elitist pricktitude” would have scored higher on the “Grave Threats to Fraternities” scale than “Drunk Female Guests”, and I wish I weren’t right.
Anyone who takes issues of violence against women seriously sees clearly how ugly it is to ignore the threat that a fraternity might pose to a “drunk female guest” while holding up a threat that a “drunk female guest” might pose to a fraternity.
Sentence one begins “I realize this headline is click-bait, but…”
So, three sins before the first sentence is over. First, let’s all widely acknowledge that click-bait headlines are evil, and the people who write them (and profit from them) deserve nothing but sorrow and bankruptcy.
Secondly, expecting anyone to turn so quickly to some nuanced intellectual argument with a “but…” after such a seedy headline is bonkers. Even if the rest of the article were well done, all the rhetorical damage has already been done.
And thirdly, that word “click-bait”. Of course, “click-bait” descends lexicographically from “jailbait”, which is a wholly sexist term and very, very apropos for this topic. “Jailbait” is sexist because it implies that the problem with sex-with-an-underage-girl is that the man could face jail. True, perhaps, but it totally ignores the fact that “sex-with-an-underage-girl” is just wrong. If the headline didn’t already ignore the moral wrongness of violence against women, then the use of “click-bait” might not be a problem, but in this instance, it is strongly objectionable.
Bill goes on to tell the story of a drunk student who “danced her way out a window” at another MIT fraternity. The incident should have been sobering enough when considering the danger to the student and the ramifications for the fraternity. But Bill chooses to stress the rather inconsequential fact that it was a female guest who did this. But he doesn’t really say why this fact is important. At least he didn’t use the old-timey, cringe-inducing (and sexist on its own) term ‘coed’ like he did in this post:
But then he continues implying that the real problem with female guests is that they might be “pretty or flirtatious”. Which would be a great segue into a speech about how men need to learn not to tolerate rape culture, about how to care for intoxicated students and protect them from getting into trouble. But alas, Bill wants to stress legal liabilities over doing the right thing, advising students to leave someone on the sidewalk to pass out rather than caring for them inside.
And here’s where recognizing privilege comes in. If you’ve got a lot to lose, by definition it means you’ve got a lot. Especially if you are male, you have privilege. And sure, doing the right thing in this case might put some of that privilege at risk. But that’s what good people do. I wish Bill were instructing students to “First, do the right thing”. That would be a lesson worth learning at a fraternity.
Next, Bill offers the advice to “assign several brothers to monitor female party guests”. Some of you will read this and know how much this might feel like stalking. It’s creepy. And again, why the fixation on female guests? Being on the lookout for the overly-intoxicated ought to apply equally to everybody at a party.
And as if the message about tending to legal liabilities rather than doing the right thing missed you the first time around, Bill tries again with a warning about the low value of a “signed contract indicating sexual consent…”. Much better would have simply been a clear statement that “any sexual contact with an intoxicated person is wrong”.
And to top it all off, the image displayed with the article is just horrible. Whoever chose that image should be fired. Or worse. Seriously.
But despite the ugliness of this article, Bill is my brother and my friend and I think he is doing great work as the president of our house corporation (it is not an easy job). I I really, really do take some measure of responsibility for helping him understand the world outside his echo chamber. I promise to try (not an easy job, either).
I support our house because I think young men need a place where they can grow up and become adults and have some support as they do it. In my time at MIT, friends (or maybe me) had struggles with losing a family member, struggles with sexual identity, struggles with addiction, struggles with taking responsibility for one’s own actions, struggles with feelings of suicide, struggles of separation from family, struggles with faith, struggles with prejudice, struggles with trying to survive the academic rigor of MIT and yes, struggles with recognizing one’s own privilege. True story: It was halfway through freshman year before I realized one of my roommates was considered an “underrepresented minority”. Having a house of brothers made it possible to survive those struggles and learn from them.
Listening a week ago to the wonderful Isometric podcast Brianna Wu brought up a point that stuck me deeply — that despite the male privilege inherent in our society, one thing that men have trouble with is simply having friends. Friends to confide in, friends to share grief with, friends to celebrate with. I can’t say I have many friends, but I can say that most of the ones I do have I met at Chi Phi. I treasure the friendship of all my brothers, including Bill.
So, Bill, if you are reading (I know you are), know that you are my friend, and know that you are loved by the whole brotherhood, and know that with that love comes the responsibility I feel to set you straight about a few things — my wonderful, liberal MIT education compels me to try at least as much.
Edge Cases had an episode on “Apps for iWatch and Apple TV”, which got me to thinking how Apple might really make use of a wearable device and how it might work.
Here’s my prediction:
The iWatch, or whatever Apple will call it, will be an accessory to an iOS device. It may have limited functionality without a paired iOS device (a watch!), but when paired with an iOS device, it will become a a miniature input device. Software will be written for iWatch in the form of iOS 8 Extensions. If one accepts the premise that the iWatch will be an accessory to the iOS device, then it logically follows that programmability will be an accessory function to an iOS app.
As an example, consider how the “today” extension works: As part of an iOS app, a Today extension allows that app to present very limited content in the Today view of Notification Center. I predict that iWatch programmability will take the form of an iWatch extension that allows an iOS 8 app to present some limited information in the iWatch display. The watch won’t need to be very smart — all the CPU power will live on the iOS device — and the iWatch display needn’t be very power-hungry: even a monochrome LCD will be sufficient for this functionality.
iWatch will also allow the same sort of user input that apps can show on the locked home screen — the best example I can think of is the play/pause / skip forward/skip back control for a podcast app or for iTunes. This will allow you to use the iWatch as your controller for playing audio without getting the iPhone / iPod / iPad out of your purse or pocket.The sensors required don’t need to be very smart — I imagine the functionality being limited to swipe up / down/ left / right tap once / twice / thrice — maybe a few different tap zones on the watch for different functions. it could also be used as a way for a user to trigger text-to-speech on an incoming text or email, again so that one doesn’t need to take the iOS device out to accomplish this. I could see this being useful while driving, or walking / jogging, or doing yard work or housework — exactly the occasions where I’m usually listening to a podcast.
The advantages I see of this approach are: A) the cost of the iWatch can be lower than if there’s any CPU or power-hungry components. B) Apple leverages the strength of the existing iOS app store and iOS app ecosystem as a way to get functionality on the iWatch.
Last year I wrote a short piece for my daughter’s school’s Annual Giving campaign. It’s that time of year again and I’ve been thinking about that a lot — perhaps it is worth sharing. Here’s the letter:
Dear fellow Juniper parents,
While we are all getting ready for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Holiday season, please allow me a few minutes to tell you a story about why I’m a supporter of the Woodinville Montessori School Annual Giving campaign.
My Father was the one who taught me about philanthropy. Of course, he never sat me down and said “let me teach you about philanthropy…” — I don’t think he ever did that about any subject. But when I was ten years old or so, he did something that continues to inspire me.
There was a meeting of the congregation at my church — a rather unremarkable place with a well-meaning group of people who were confronting the financial reality that their available budget didn’t quite match their ambition. The budget fell rather short, actually, to the point that it was clear that business as usual would not be possible. I remember one man getting up to speak — his name was John Baron, if I recall correctly, though he was “Mr. Baron” to me — and he laid out the unpleasant facts. There was not enough money to pay the pastor and fix the roof and maintain the plumbing and pay the heating bill and tend to the long list of all the other necessary expenses. The Church Council did not want to make the difficult choices about what to cut. He pleaded for people to give more money to the church. “We’ve got to give until it hurts!” he said.
It was all true, of course. No one could dispute the facts. The assessment was grim. The room was awkward and silent.
Then my Father stood up and walked to the front of the room and turned to face everyone. And he broke out in a big grin. He began, “Well, John, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you.” The tension in the room was incredible. “If it is really going to cause you pain, John, I’d like you to keep your money. In fact, I don’t want anybody to feel bad about giving to the congregation — instead, I’d like people to feel good about the contribution they can make.” You could hear people exhaling as the mood got suddenly lighter. My Father went on talk about how proud he was to be part of such a fine organization that did such good work, that he saw the dedication of the people who volunteered there, that he saw the difference it had made in people’s lives. Joy spilled from his face as he said that when he wrote a check to the church, it made him feel great to be able to support such a worthy charity, that he would feel worse if his gift was any smaller. “No,” he said, “nobody should give until it hurts — you should give until it feels good!”.
The laughter that echoed through the room at that moment didn’t change the fact that the church was facing financial uncertainty. But suddenly it seemed like people were happy to be there. Happy to contribute what they could. Happy to help each other weather the crisis. Happy to know that their contribution was needed.
It is really quite a simple lesson: ‘You should feel good about being able to support a valuable institution’. I remember it whenever I write a check to support the places that I care about, and I feel great about being able to make my contribution to Woodinville Montessori School. It is a place you should feel very, very good about supporting. Make your contribution to the Annual Giving program today. Your tax deductible gift will support the great work of teachers and administrators who make sure that our children receive the highest quality education.
Would old taxation be forgone
and sequestration spawn?
The Congress blurts out “No!” but, then
our Senate flibusters on.
To the 1% have ye sold your soul
ye cannot bear to think
of Reagan era taxation rates
Instead of the fiscal cliff?
Over the fiscal cliff we go
Over the fiscal cliff
Our Congress sucks, let’s send those fucks
Over the fiscal cliff!
This is a print by Joseph L. Teeters called The Miner’s Donkey. My father got it from our neighbor in 1977, who apparently got it directly from the artist in exchange for some books. Teeters was apparently then on the faculty of University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and authored a book, Creating Tesselations.
Staffan and I went looking for any reference to this print on the internet, and we found none. So, this is perhaps the interwebs debut of this particular work. If anyone has more details about the artist, please pass them along.