February 28, 2014

Indians in House of Cards

The Indians in Netflix's 'House of Cards'

By Dina Gilio WhitakerUnderwood manages to manipulate his way into the office of vice president where he continues to use people as pawns in his own private chess game. Indians enter the scene when the president becomes implicated in a money-laundering and illegal campaign finance scheme involving a wealthy nuclear energy mogul and an equally as wealthy, powerful and corrupt Chinese businessman. The money is laundered through—you guessed it—a highly successful Indian casino.

The show’s writers seem to clearly understand the structure of the American political machine and the intricacies of its workings. And for the most part they seem to have done their homework when conceiving of the Indians’ role. Themes specific to Native Americans include a complex web of relationships between tribes and the federal government, among other tribes, and references to federal recognition and sovereignty. The wealthy casino tribe is in cahoots with Underwood and his cronies in the money-laundering scheme presumably in exchange for blocking the federal recognition of another tribe whose potential to open a casino is perceived as a threat by the fictitious “Ungaya” tribe. Without giving away the entire plot, let’s just say that the Indian subtext fades away as the debacle erupts into a national crisis.

It was easy enough to write this scenario into the storyline, given the Jack Abramoff scandal in 2005. The scenario bears an eerie resemblance to that fiasco; Spacey went on to star in the 2010 film Casino Jack, a political satire based on the real life scandal, which resulted in jail sentences for lobbyists and implicated a powerful congressman, Tom DeLay.

In House of Cards, the Indians are portrayed in two ways: as both ruthless business people who use their sovereignty claims to evade responsibility for their part in the dirty dealings, as well as underprivileged people ever victimized by those more powerful, even their own kind. Both are familiar tropes in Hollywood’s Indian representations: the greedy money-hungry Indian and the impoverished victim. Nothing about them is neutral or inconsequential. It is precisely this quality that the movie business capitalizes on in the rare occasions when they do incorporate Native Americans into dramatic portrayals.
'House of Cards' Actor Gary 'Litefoot' Davis Gets Down to Business

By Vincent SchillingGary "Litefoot" Davis, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and current President and CEO of the National Center For American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) is raising more eyebrows with his role as BIA Notable Michael Frost in the second season of House of Cards, a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, on Netflix. Davis recently took a few minutes to discuss his character, his career and how Native actors and filmmakers might benefit from the success of projects like House of Cards.Comment:  It sounds like the main Native characters are greedy tribal leaders and BIA officials. As I've said before about casino plots in other TV shows, and in the Scalped comic book, this isn't a huge improvement over past portrayals. The Indians are still corrupt, deceitful criminals and backstabbers. If you've seen old Westerns about Indian "renegades" or "half-breeds," it's basically the same idea.

If fictional portrayals showed a range of Indians that mirrored reality--most people good, a few people bad--I don't think anyone would complain. But that's not the way it goes in most gaming-oriented stories. There's a heavy focus on the "bad" Indians and little or no recognition of the good Indians. You know, the vast majority of tribal members who would oppose corrupt leaders if they could.

Inaugural iGaming Legislative Symposium

If you follow Indian gaming at all, you know the biggest subject in the gaming world is online or Internet gaming (iGaming). Until iGaming goes national, the biggest prize in the field is the California market. And opening the California gaming market to iGaming means dealing with Indian gaming tribes.

I flew to Sacramento Wednesday for the inaugural iGaming Legislative Symposium. One of the sponsors was Pechanga.net, the website where I work. I had a front-row seat, literally, for the event Thursday.

Since gaming isn't the subject of this blog, I won't bore you with the details. If you're interested, you can read about them here:

Sacramento gaming symposium: a review via Tweets

California Assemblyman: Still a Chance for Online Poker in 2014

Online Gambling Imminent, But Concerns Remain

California Symposium Brings Competing Interests Together

California Poker--iGaming Symposium

For those of us who look at gaming as a means to an end, perhaps the most important comment was this one from Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga tribe. As tweeted by lawyer Chris Stearns and retweeted by me:Chris Stearns ‏@stearnsseattle Feb 27
Macarro: gaming has allowed Indian tribes to be Self-Reliant for the 1st time since we became a labor force for the missions. #iGLS14

February 27, 2014

Twitter storm planned for Oscars

The Twitter Storm Before the OscarsI am #NotYourTonto, complementary to #NotYourMascot, references Gore Verbinski’s July 2013 movie The Lone Ranger, which has been nominated for best makeup in this year’s Academy Awards.

The hashtag will be used starting Saturday evening before the Oscars on Sunday to protest Johnny Depp’s depiction of Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s Native sidekick, as a poor example of how Hollywood is “playing Indian.”

The protest is being organized by Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group that started on Facebook to campaign against inappropriate Native images in the media, film and sports.

“There is a double standard regarding Native people and this dehumanizes us to our fellow Americans and reduces their actual knowledge of who we are today,” wrote Jacqueline Keeler, one of the group's members, in an email to ICTMN. “Very few of those engaging in Redface understand we are sovereign nations and this leads to confusion regarding public policy and funding for education and healthcare in our communities and the creation of bad laws and bad judicial decisions.”
Comment:  For more on a related Twitter storm, see Inside #NotYourMascot and Twitter Storm Against "Redskins."

"Circling the wagons" = phony

Circling the Wagons

Like the present, the past is alive with controversy.

By James W. Loewen
Images matter—especially on historic monuments and memorials. Many monuments follow an artistic convention known as hieratic scale—hier as in hierarchy. All across America they depict whites in dominant positions over American Indians. In front of Ysleta Mission in El Paso, Texas, is a monument put up by the Knights of Columbus that features an American Indian kneeling at the feet of a conquistador. On the grounds of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield stands Father Menard—again, with an Indian depicted in subservience. Further east, in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Samuel de Champlain towers on a pedestal above an obsequious native.

Sometimes the pressure to conform to this convention has been so strong that it muddles the stories artists seek to tell. Facing west from the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines are three figures titled The Pioneers. The artist meant them to represent a “father and son guided by a friendly Indian.” But such is the power of hieratic scale that the sculptor has shown the Indian seated subserviently looking off to the side, while the white man stands gazing capably ahead. No visitor would guess that the Indian was meant to be the guide of the group.

And that’s a shame, because the historical commonplace of Indian as guide to westering pioneers is a concept not very familiar to most Americans. We’ve all been influenced by the archetype of the whoop­ing Indians riding around and around the wagon train, circled for protection. It turns out that this scenario probably never happened either—even once. Of course, a moment’s thought makes evident its silliness: Why would anyone ride around and around, trying haplessly to fire accurately from his bouncing steed, while presenting such a tempting broadside target to John Wayne, lying prone with both elbows braced for best aim?

In reality, Indians rode around and around because they were in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and its many imitators, and they were performing in circus tents. Circus tents are round. In the real West, not only did Indians not ride around and around, they were much more likely to make money off the newcomers by selling them fish, helping them ford the river, or, as in Des Moines, hiring on as guide. But we don’t learn that from most movies—or from most historic sites.

February 26, 2014

King touts "values Columbus brought"

Rep. Steve King: Obama should impose Christendom on Latin America like Columbus

By Scott KaufmanLast night, Iowa Representative Steve King went before the House of Representatives and delivered a long speech in which, among other things, he bemoaned that President Obama doesn’t believe in “the pillars of American exceptionalism” as instantiated in “the values that Christopher Columbus brought here across the ocean.”

“It has caught my attention, Mr. Speaker, when I listen to the circumstances taking place in Venezuela, I can’t help but think about essentially the sister state of Cuba and how they have led the Marxist socialist regime in the Western Hemisphere since about 1959,” King said.

“I think of this Western Hemisphere, all of it, as the domain of, as Churchill described it from this hemisphere, Western Christendom; the foundation of Western civilization, Judeo-Christianity; the values that come from the Old and New Testament; the values that Christopher Columbus brought here across the ocean,” he continued.

The “values” that Columbus—who was sailing under the aegis of the Catholic Spanish monarchy—brought to what would become the Americas included the idea, as articulated in his own journals, that he could “conquer the whole of [the natives] with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.” His pleasure involved the kidnapping and enslaving of native “Indians,” the majority of whom died on the return trip to Spain.
Comment:  So conquering and killing are the values that make America exceptional? Okay, if you say so, King.

I demolished a version of this argument in Multicultural Origins of Civilization. Among the stupidities in King's statement:

  • Judeo-Christian religion came from the Middle East, not Europe. As did most of the foundations of our civilization.

  • Remember the Spanish Inquisition? Europe consisted mainly of absolute monarchies and fanatical religions in Columbus's time. The United States was a revolution against the tyrannical European model, not an adoption of it.

  • The Spanish found Columbus's cruelty and barbarism so abhorrent that they threw him in jail after his third voyage. His murderous "values" were too inhuman even for the despots who hated and killed "heathens."

  • For more on Columbus, see Columbus Day Celebrates White Superiority and Columbus Day Celebrates Conquest.

    Indigenous people should drop "Latino"

    Drop the “Latino” and Re-Adopt the Indigenous Label for Mixed-Indigenous People: This is Our Idle No More Movement

    By Hummingbird KnowsIf we identify as American Indian (not the feathered Indian Hollywood portrays, but the modern-day Indigenous in 2014) in the U.S. Census, the United States has to recognize Ecuadorians as an Indigenous Nation in North America. We make up close to 1 million of Ecuadorians in the United States.

    But this is not what the U.S. wants to deal with. Because it’s easier to label them Hispanic or Latino instead of recognizing them as one of the original people of the Americas. Because it’s convenient to make them think they’re the immigrants, terrorists, invaders, thieves, criminals, and idiots instead of treating them with proper respect and solidarity. Because it’s okay to fool them into thinking they’re “free” and they’re chasing the “American dream” instead of disrupting US colonial institutions that aim to steal more land and more resources abroad.

    As long as church authorities force their knees to the floor and media convince us into thinking we’re Spanish with white actors on soap opera, South American and Central American Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous people will not rise as a people with a political right to have a say of their lands.

    But if North American and South American Indigenous people in the United States work together to raise awareness, all Indigenous people of the Americas will have a stronger political voice as one Indigenous race.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see:

    Indigenous Mexicans face prejudice
    More Latinos identify as Native
    What's the difference between Indian and Latino?
    Most Mexicans are Indians

    February 25, 2014

    Stereotypical Indian Chief Robot

    New Arrival Aluminum Indian Chief Robot Handmade Metal Robot Toy WSRB-004Zegapain

    Is every imaginative guy dream

    He is Optimus Prime and megatron!

    He is shaped or predator!

    They are armed to the teeth of the weapon equipment!

    The mechanical structure of fine!

    This series of manual robot will be the perfect combination of robot and the Chinese Kungfu culture.

    rich in style, variety of weapons,

    Realize your dream of intimate contact with robot.
    Comment:  Note the headdress, the braids, and the weapon that evokes a tomahawk.

    I imagine the wires lead to an electrical outlet, and the robot lights up when turned on.

    I wouldn't mind if this toy were some random warrior--e.g., Zegapain. But it's labeled an "Indian chief" and described as a predator. That's stereotypical.

    February 24, 2014

    Whites lack empathy for minorities

    Human brain recognizes and reacts to race, UTSC researchers discover

    By April KemickThe human brain fires differently when dealing with people outside of one’s own race, according to new research out of the University of Toronto Scarborough.

    This research, conducted by social neuroscientists at U of T Scarborough, explored the sensitivity of the “mirror-neuron-system” to race and ethnicity. The researchers had study participants view a series of videos while hooked up to electroencephalogram (EEG) machines. The participants–all white–watched simple videos in which men of different races picked up a glass and took a sip of water. They watched white, black, South Asian and East Asian men perform the task.

    Typically, when people observe others perform a simple task, their motor cortex region fires similarly to when they are performing the task themselves. However, the UofT research team, led by PhD student Jennifer Gutsell and Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Inzlicht, found that participants’ motor cortex was significantly less likely to fire when they watched the visible minority men perform the simple task. In some cases when participants watched the non-white men performing the task, their brains actually registered as little activity as when they watched a blank screen.

    “Previous research shows people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups, and we wanted to know why,” says Gutsell. “What we found is that there is a basic difference in the way peoples’ brains react to those from other ethnic backgrounds. Observing someone of a different race produced significantly less motor-cortex activity than observing a person of one’s own race. In other words, people were less likely to mentally simulate the actions of other-race than same-race people”

    The trend was even more pronounced for participants who scored high on a test measuring subtle racism, says Gutsell.
    White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research showsNew research from the University of Toronto-Scarborough shows that white people’s mirror-neuron-system fires much less, if at all, when they watch people of colour performing motor tasks, and I’m not at all surprised. For years, I just assumed that this was true, and that someone just had to do a study to prove it.

    After the United States invaded Iraq and massacred tens of thousands of Iraqis, worldwide terrorist recruitment skyrocketed, as well as terrorist attacks targetting the U.S. and coalition countries. Terrorist leaders cited the Iraq invasion and the deaths of Iraqis as the reason for the attacks. However, White Americans did not buy it, believing it to be a smokescreen for some other reason. It must be Islam, they reasoned, as they grasped at straws.

    I then realized that the vast majority of White Americans could not empathize with brown people at a very basic level. For most White Americans, the death and violence of thousands of brown bodies was just part of some abstract ethical argument to position oneself as morally superior to the United States. For most White Americans, brown people dying just meant flickers on the television screen about something happening far away. They didn’t feel the overwhelming anger and sadness they would normally feel when someone they know dies without reason. They couldn’t see the full reality of what death means, when the people who die are brown.

    I have seen white people complain online that they cannot see the facial expressions of (East) Asian faces. For many white people, East Asians are like emotionless robots who are efficient at machine-like things like number crunching. Some white people argue that while East Asians may be able to play musical instruments beautifully, they play music without soul.

    Most white people just don’t see us as humans. When brown people die through violence, or East Asians express joy or sadness through our faces, most white people’s brains just don’t register the human connection between our bodies and their bodies. When we watch movies and TV shows and read books featuring white protagonists, we have to put ourselves into white people’s shoes to understand the stories and feel the emotions of sadness, laughter, and pride. But people of colour are rarely the protagonists in the media that white people watch, so they rarely or never have to imagine themselves as us.
    The hearts of white people: the science

    By abagondGutsell and Inzlicht also measured the white students on the Symbolic Racism Scale. The more racist a student the less he reacted to what he saw people of colour do--though it did not affect how he reacted to whites.

    Gutsell and Inzlicht think that mirror neurons are part of what empathy is built on. Meaning that whites are cold-hearted when they look at people of colour. Not as something wired into their brains from birth but as something learned.

    Are whites that cold-hearted when it comes to people of colour? There are plenty of other studies that show it. It also helps to make sense of things like police brutality, the Missing White Woman Syndrome and how blacks receive worse health care than whites regardless of wealth. Katrina also springs to mind–-among other things.

    But there is another possible reason besides cold-heartedness which has yet to be ruled out: white people simply pay less attention to people of colour–-not out of heartlessness but simply because they regard them as less important.
    An important comment from someone named Urbia:

    Brain Research: White People Lack Empathy for Brown PeopleI think it's important to regularly point out that racism isn't just to harbour hate, resentment, or something equally negative against another race. It's also the absence of empathy, compassion, or something positive towards another race that one would have toward their own race. So many times, I hear/read white people prefacing racist statements with, 'I'm not racist, I don't hate ______ people...' and then they say something that lacks empathy with brown people, minimalizes the experiences of brown people, or justifies a system that oppresses brown people.

    It's the latter thing, this lack of empathy, that upholds institutional racism. It's linked to the complacency that accepts the status quo and resists change with the attitude that if something's not broken, it doesn't need fixing. Lack of empathy prevents white people from seeing how broken a system is for brown people.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Majority of Americans Are Racist and Understanding Implicit Bias.

    February 23, 2014

    NFL may penalize N-word

    In a story dripping with irony, the NFL may try to penalize players for saying the N-word.

    NFL may impose 15-yard penalties for racial slurs on the field

    By Michael David SmithWooten’s comments were strictly about the N-word, but if the NFL is going to implement this rule, other racial slurs would presumably be included as well, along with slurs that are homophobic, sexist or religious in nature.

    However, the NFL may find such a rule tougher for its officials to implement than it sounds. Would the NFL provide every player, coach and official with a list of words that can’t be used? And who would determine which words make the list? Some slurs may be considered offensive in some contexts but not in others. Members of a racial or ethnic groups sometimes use slurs among themselves, with no offense intended or taken. If one black player uses the N-word toward another black player, and a white official hears it and throws a penalty flag, that may open a can of worms the NFL would rather avoid.

    And, of course, not everyone agrees on what constitutes a racial slur. Some people consider “Redskins” a racial slur. If the NFL is so concerned about policing use of offensive words, why is one of its teams using a name that many people find offensive?

    Despite all the potential problems with the rule, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NFL implement it. The investigation into the bullying in the Dolphins’ locker room, which revealed that racial slurs were frequently used by players, made the NFL look bad. Cracking down on racial slurs could be an opportunity for the NFL to make a positive stand. Or it could turn out to be a big mess.
    News flash! Redskins protest huge new burden on every play. "It's not fair that we have to go 25 yards to get a first down," said one team official.

    Another columnist comments on the obvious N-word/R-word dichotomy:

    How the NFL is Perpetuating Racism

    By Christopher Stuart TaylorThe NFL wants to penalize players for using the N-word on the field.

    The NFL is looking at first penalizing a player 15 yards on the first offense, followed by an ejection for using the N-word.

    (You can still call someone the F-word, or B-word, or C-word on the field.)

    I find it appalling that the NFL who has a whole team--I repeat a whole team--that is named after a racial slur against First Nations peoples, the Washington Redskins, is all of a sudden in the business of "politically correctness."
    Could you use a similar slur against individual Native players? No.With the Miami Dolphins saga, you have a White man--Incognito--allegedly call his teammate, a Black man--Martin--the N-word and other derogatory terms in the locker room.

    Moreover, back in November 2013, you had a Black NFL referee call a Black player the N-word (again, allegedly). In the end, the referee was suspended one game without pay. The irony of it all is that the athlete plays for the Redskins.

    You think it would be acceptable if a First Nations or Native American athlete played for the Washington Redskins that a Black or White player or official called him a "redskin"?

    Of course not.
    Poor white players who might not be able to utter their favorite slurs!The bigger issue is that this comes down to privilege.

    White people have a privilege issue with the word:

    They don't like that they can't say it.

    They can't call a Black person the N-word, even though they hear it in the locker room day in and day out by their teammates, some of whom are good friends off the field. They press the mute button in their heads when their favourite Minaj song comes over the radio, while their Black teammates shout in unison that "they ain't no lookin' a** n***a." Unlike Riley Cooper, they bite their tongue when they have the urge to call a Black man that wronged them on the field the N-word.

    February 22, 2014

    The Pyramid of Hate

    Exactly. Mascots and other forms of stereotyping aren't separate from and unrelated to hate, violence, and mass murder. Rather, they form the base from which deadly impulses spring.

    Some background on the Pyramid of Hate:

    Pyramid of Hate ExerciseThe Pyramid of Hate was developed by the Anti-Defamation League as part of its curriculum for its A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. This exercise was created jointly by the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute using video testimony from the Institute’s archive.The Pyramid of HateThe Anti-Defamation League and Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation are partnering to provide resources to educators and students for anti-bias education. To commemorate the United Nation’s International Day for Tolerance, they have combined one of ADL’s anti-bias learning tools, its Pyramid of Hate©, with visual history from the Shoah Foundation’s unmatched archive of Holocaust survivor and witness testimonies, to create an innovative classroom lesson for contemporary educators.

    Future Pledge of Allegiance

    How about:

    "I pledge allegiance to the planet, and all the people upon it. And to the generations, who will inherit it, one future, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    Any takers for my revised Pledge of Allegiance?

    Meanwhile, conservatives are crying over any change to the Pledge, as usual:

    ‘Liberals suck!’: Conservatives freak out after sci-fi TV show omits ‘under God’ from pledge

    Never mind that the original Pledge said only:

    Pledge of AllegianceI pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.For more on the subject, see I Pledge Allegiance to the Constitution.

    February 21, 2014

    Conservative Christian persecution fantasies

    A couple of postings on conservative Christian persecution fantasies. First, what these Christians do--namely, play the victim card:

    Why the Christian right’s persecution fantasies are so dangerous

    Religious conservative groups invest an insane amount of energy in the myth that they're an oppressed minority

    By Amanda Marcotte
    Christian conservatives feel aggrieved and they want to be heard. The problem is that their specific grievance—that everyone else hurts their feelings by not admitting we’re inferior—kind of sounds, well, hard to sympathize with. They need something snappier, a reason to claim that they are being oppressed by “anti-Christian bigotry”. The only problem with that is that in a majority Christian nation, most people are actually pretty accepting and even admiring of Christianity. Even if they disagree with right wing Christianity, they don’t do so because it’s Christian but because it’s conservative. Being a Christian is a privileged position in American society; that makes it really hard to claim you’re being oppressed.

    Inevitably, then, the temptation to fudge starts to seep in, to exaggerate slights or invent paranoid conspiracy theories about how not getting enough praise and accolades for being Christian is an attempt to shove them out. But when that doesn’t work, well, sometimes it helps to deliberately provoke a situation where someone pretty much has to confront you, so that you can lie and say it’s because you’re a Christian. Indeed, it’s starting to become a pattern that goes something like this:

    1) Enter into a community that is, by its nature, inclusive of people of various faiths and beliefs.

    2) Break some common rule everyone is expected to follow.

    3) Get corrected or punished for breaking the rule.

    4) Squeal about how it’s because you’re a Christian and they’re bigots and oppressors.

    5) By the time the truth gets out, your story will be an urban legend spread far and wide, and your fellow conservative Christians will never really know the facts.
    And:Time and time again, Christian right stories of oppression turn out to be bunk. A kid who was disciplined for fighting is turned, in the Christian myth machine, into a kid who was punished for quietly praying to himself. A track athlete is disqualified for disrespecting a teacher, but the Christian media says it was because he thanked God. A Southern Baptist website is blocked for accidentally distributing malware, but in the hands of the conservative press, it’s oppression. They need to be victimized. No one can really bother to do it for them. So they have no choice but to do it for themselves.Second, why they do it:

    A Common Thread Among Young-Earth Creationists, Gun Enthusiasts, Marriage Exclusivists, and the 1%

    By GrafZeppelin127That's been the recurring motif on issue after issue, in speech after speech, in Fox News segment after Fox News segment, ever since. We are the Good People who have done everything right and believe in all the right things, They are the Bad People who wrongly benefit at our expense and don't deserve our help. Not only that, but We are not getting the respect and admiration we deserve [from the Bad People] for being the Good People, indeed We are Being Attacked for it [by the Bad People]. They "hate" Us, when They should admire Us.

    I couldn't help but notice a connection.

    What these young-earth creationist folks were basically saying is that they feel insulted by the idea that Man is not as unique and special as the Book of Genesis would have us believe. Quoting Darwin, "Man ... thinks himself a great work, worthy of the interposition of a deity." There was even some talk in the documentary about pride; paraphrasing, Man should be proud of being Man, of being God's most highly favored earthly creation. That's the self-congratulation part. The resentment comes from being told that perhaps that feeling might not be entirely justified.

    Pride is supposed to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, after all. But, quoting Darwin again, "Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen--though not through his own exertions--to the very summit of the organic scale." Yet somehow, in some people, that pride has grown into a sort of grotesque and exaggerated sense of self-admiration. There are those who admire themselves so much that even an idea that might undermine the basis of that self-admiration becomes profoundly threatening.
    Comment:  As I've said many times, these debates are all about maintaining white Euro-Christian power and privilege. The methods include creating a perpetual "war on terrorism," deregulating Wall Street, pushing mining and drilling projects, cutting taxes on the wealthy, slashing the safety net, blocking bills and nominations, demonizing the black president, opposing healthcare reform, curtailing voting rights, denying global warming, and on and on. If conservative Christians have done anything that doesn't benefit the rich white captains of industry first and foremost, I must've missed it.

    For more on conservative Christian hypocrisy, see Conservatives Dream of White Christmas and Christian Conservatives Play Victim Card.

    February 20, 2014

    "We must give the land back"

    We must give the land back: America’s brutality toward Native Americans continues today

    Americans have unjustly taken vast tracts of land. This Presidents' Day, let's uphold our treaties and return it

    By Steven Salaita
    The problems with invoking Native American genocide to rationalize Palestinian dispossession are legion. The most noteworthy problem speaks to the unresolved detritus of American history: Natives aren’t objects of the past; they are living communities whose numbers are growing.

    It’s rarely a good idea to ask rhetorical questions that have literal answers. Yes, the United States absolutely should return stolen land to the Indians. That’s precisely what its treaty obligations require it to do.

    The United States is a settler nation, but its history hasn’t been settled. Yet most people invoke Natives as if they lost a contest that entrapped them in the past—and this only if Natives are considered at all. As a result, most analyses of both domestic and foreign policies are inadequate, lacking a necessary context of continued colonization and resistance.

    For Natives, political aspirations aren’t focused on accessing the mythologies of a multicultural America, but on the practices of sovereignty and self-determination, consecrated in treaty agreements (and, of course, in their actual histories). Treaties aren’t guidelines or suggestions; they are nation-to-nation agreements whose stipulations exist in perpetuity. That the federal government still ignores so many of those agreements indicates that colonization is not simply an American memory.
    Comment:  Even if you don't think returning the land is practical, you could support Indian treaties in theory. You could say, "I recognize that treaties are the supreme law of the land. We should do everything in our power to implement them."

    Naturally, most Americans don't think this way. In particular, I mean the conservative liars and hypocrites who say they support the Constitution. Especially those who say they support the Founders' "original intent."

    No, they don't.

    Obviously they don't support obeying lawful treaties and giving back the land. You can bet they wouldn't support other constitutional measures such as establishing a national bank, making the Louisiana Purchase, or emancipating the slaves. But they would support limiting voting to white property owners and keeping women and minorities in their second-class place. That's the "intent" they're happy to support.

    For more on treaties, see "Got Land" Shirt Stirs Controversy and Canada Owes Billions for Unfulfilled Treaties.

    The real Indiana Jones

    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones in Saturday Night Live and Indiana Jones's Criminally Bad Archaeology.

    February 19, 2014

    Alternative endings for Europa Report

    Continuing the discussion of Europa Report begun in Review of Europa Report:

    ** spoiler alert **

    If Europa Report had been Star Trek....

    Assume no changes in the story until the ending. You have Kirk, Spock, and McCoy trapped in a lander about to sink into the ice. What happens?

    Spock deduces what the Europans are attracted to: light, heat, vibrations, radiation, whatever. Kirk tells Spock and McCoy to repair the lander while he lures the Europans away, nobly sacrificing himself in the process.

    Spock argues that he's the logical one to sacrifice himself, but Kirk won't have it. Spock stuns him, takes the equipment to lure the Europans, and heads off across the ice.

    Kirk and McCoy repair the lander while cursing Spock's stubbornness and bemoaning his loss. But...as the creatures grab Spock, he mind-melds with them and convinces them he's a sapient being. They didn't realize it; they thought the humans were a weird natural phenomenon.

    Just as Kirk and McCoy are about to abandon hope and blast off, the creatures return Spock to the ship. They share an interspecies moment of understanding before the humans depart. VoilĂ ...mission accomplished, no more lives lost, and first contact with a new species established.

    True, this wouldn't have been the most original episode of Trek. But with the movie's special effects, it would've been entertaining.

    Heroes don't give up

    I wasn't expecting exactly that...but at that point, the crew knew they were dealing with a living organism. I don't know if they could've distracted it or lured it away in the short time they had. Perhaps not. But at least a mention of the possibility would've been nice.

    If you've watched a single SF show on your long trip to Europa, you know space explorers don't give up. Not until you've exhausted every option, and perhaps not even then. Creatures are attacking you for some reason, so figure it out!Well unfortunately they didn't have a Vulcan in their crew. I think also it took them quite a while to figure out that it actually WAS a living thing they were dealing with. I think they were sort of unable to even consider the possibility being so deep in their belief that such a thing couldn't possibly exist there.You've seen or heard Katya dragged under the ice. Even if it's some sort of strange natural phenomenon, you should be talking about it. Trying to understand it in a pseudo-Vulcan kind of way.

    At that point, no way do I step onto the ice without good reason. And they understood that. The two who went out were both acting like it was a death sentence. They thought something was stalking them.

    So in that situation, you go into Kobayashi Maru mode. Even if you don't know what it is, something under the ice is threatening you. What can you do to distract it or lure it away?

    Maybe turn off all your power sources. Or throw a power pack onto the ice. Worst case, one of the three of you sacrifices himself. Doing nothing and giving up is not an option.

    Back to the future

    And that's just an action-adventure story. They could've gone all science-fictiony at the end.

    You want to use a flashback structure? With a sense of foreboding? Okay. You start the story 500 years in the future. On an empty news stage, kind of like how they did it with the Europa Ventures director. So no expensive special effects.

    She tells the story of what happened to the doomed Europa mission 500 years ago. The mission has never been repeated because it was too expensive of a failure. In fact, the Earth turned inward after that. There's been no real space program since then.

    Using the same footage but in a more chronological sequence, she recounts what happened. And she makes it sound like it's breaking news. So you're wondering: Why are they revealing the truth about this mission only centuries later? What horrible thing happened on Europa?

    You go through the same events--except you don't need the year of radio silence any longer. The ship lands, people die, and the last image shows an alien being.

    And now, the big reveal: Europa has contacted Earth after 500 years. Someone or something transmitted the "lost" footage back. And a light is flashing on the landing spot, inviting--or daring--the humans to return.

    Boom! That's also ten times better than the actual ending. Score another one for Rob. I'd agree that it's surprising that they wouldn't use scientific experimentation to try to figure out the mystery. As to the rest, I'd say any of it, including giving up, is not unrealistic at least for some of them. These are scientists and engineers, not hardened Starfleet officers trained to handle themselves under attack from a hostile force.It may be realistic, but it's not effective storytelling. My alternatives would've made for a better movie.

    And I had vague thoughts along these lines while I was watching the movie. So I'm not just taking advantage of hindsight.

    To make a long story short, it's my way of saying why I consider Europa Report merely good, not great.

    Human/Europan hybridsHonestly I don't think I prefer the 500-year flashback suggestion. It pulls you out of the drama and removes the suspense of being in with the astronauts as they're facing the crisis. It would be kind of like watching someone else watch the movie.It's just one of many ideas. And you could go even more science-fictiony. Suppose one of the astronauts contacts you after 500 years. Sends the missing footage along with a voice that matches his or her voice print. How is that possible?

    Answer: The Europans kept the humans alive and bioengineered them into human/Europan hybrids. They've been living under the ice and working to repair their technology ever since. Now they're ready to resume contact with Earth. But...are they friend or foe?!

    I'm pretty sure you can make a flashback movie compelling if you use the right cinematic techniques. Like Citizen Kane or Titanic. Heck, practically any sports movie where you already know the outcome. I hated Citizen Kane. One of the dullest movies I've ever seen. So...there you go.

    I like your second idea better.

    Of course in the sequel, the Europan octopods have rebuilt the capsule and are on their way to Earth...to take over!
    And yet, Citizen Kane is one of the top five or ten movies on most people's lists. I'll go with engrossing almost everyone even if it means losing you.

    My first version was trying to take their story and make it better without violating their basic premise or requiring expensive new scenes. But yes, my second version might be better, dramatically speaking.

    Europa Report 2: Return to Earth could go in several directions. But yes, I'd save the octopods for the sequel. If you want Europa Report to go out with a bang, you end with a shot of the hybrid(s) or something equally chilling.

    February 18, 2014

    Review of Europa Report

    I watched the sci-fi thriller Europa Report recently. Afterward, Facebook friend Brad and I debated its merits. Stick with my review and I'll tie it to my usual Native themes eventually.

    ** spoiler alert **

    Finally watched Europa Report, Brad. Not spectacular, but solid.So I liked it more than you? I wouldn't have said it was Oscar material, but compared to most of the sci-fi that's come out in the last several years, I'd say it's near the top.I think you did like it better.

    I'd say it was better than movies I didn't care for, such as the two new Star Treks. On a par with decent movies such as The Hunger Games. Not as good as the top SF, which would include Inception and Chronicle.I would rank those two ahead of it, yes.Fictional science

    I could write a lengthy review of the flaws, both storytelling and scientific, that kept it from being a superior SF movie.

    For instance:

    Never mind that I doubt we have the capability to pick a good Europan landing site. The astronauts tried to land on top of a thermal vent, chosen for its thin ice or something. Not surprisingly, that proved to be a stupid choice. Gases or something interfered with the landing and blew them off course.

    But...they landed a whole 100 meters from where they intended to land. And that was a huge problem that threw off all their plans. Really? After a trip of 500 million miles or whatever, 100 meters was considered a terrible miss? Something they completely failed to anticipate?

    I'd guess that landing that close to the spot would be one of the greatest feats of targeting in space history. In comparison, Apollo 11 missed its much closer target by four miles. Curiosity missed the center of its target range on Mars by 1.5 miles. We've never planned surface landings to the nearest 100 meters and probably never will.

    And conducting science within a stone's throw of the vent was almost out of the question? The vent was a hot spot of geological and biological activity, but a mere 100 meters away was a frozen wasteland? That must be the most well-confined hot spot in the solar system.

    I would've thought a mile or two from geological activity would be the bare minimum you'd risk for safety's sake. But they wanted to land on top of a site with heat that would and did play havoc with the ice's firmness. Great plan!

    Heck, maybe they could land on one of Io's sulfur volcanoes on the way back. I mean on it, not 100 meters away from it, because that would be too far. You gotta be within inches of a hot spot if you want to do science!I didn't think any of that was a huge detractor. As I recall, they didn't know they were only a short distance away from their target. We saw from the ending they would likely have faced even bigger problems had they actually landed where they were supposed to. And the inability to pick an ideal landing site explains away all of that too. They simply ran into much larger problems than they anticipated. It happens.

    What I thought was a bigger problem was the way the astronauts kept making "horror-movie" style bad decisions that cost them their lives one-by-one, especially when we learned later that the crash doomed their escape from the beginning. That made the deaths completely unnecessary.

    AND where were the robots?! I'm surprised you didn't seize on that! Futuristic space mission and they only had the one probe to drill into the ice--no robots, no rovers, no drones?
    They knew where they landed. They had a computer graphic showing the exact 100-meter path from their landing site to the vent.

    It was my point that they would've had even bigger problems if they'd landed where they intended. In other words, their primary plan was stupid and ill-conceived. And the entire thrust of the movie was based on this ridiculous plan. That the missed landing led to a slow death rather than a quick one is still evidence of idiocy.

    Europa on the cheap

    And that was just an example. I noted many other problems. For instance:

  • They couldn't repair the comm link after a year in space, but after they crash-land, Andrei fixes it in a minute.

  • The second (crash) landing should've demolished the ship. No way do you lift off again after that. Or even live through it.

  • The whole first half of the movie was a red herring. James died mysteriously, Andrei was mysteriously depressed and uncommunicative, and the comm link was mysteriously down. An ominous indicator of something terribly wrong with the mission? Nope, just a garden-variety accident and the astronauts were sad. It had no real bearing on the rest of the movie.

  • Europa's ice is supposed to be 100 km. thick, but I gave them that one. They implied the ice was thin around the vent. And the drill that looked like a simple cylinder could've been one of several super-robotic drills that were specially designed to drill through Europa's ice.

  • In reality, any mission to Europa for the next couple of centuries will be robotic rather than manned. Unless we invent a cheap warp drive, that is. And yes, any manned mission will make extensive use of probes, robots, rovers, and so forth.

    I mean, even Curiosity the Mars rover seems better equipped than this lander. "We can't do anything this far from the vent! Katya has to go there personally and stick her hand into it!

    "If only there were some way to send scientific instruments 100 meters away...across the land...without human help. But...that's impossible!"

    But I gave them that one because a private company funded the mission. I told myself that the company somehow arranged to profit from having people do the exploring. A billion-dollar PR stunt or something like that.

    If you saw the TV series Defying Gravity, it made a point of talking about corporate sponsors. In our media-saturated future, that's probably the way it would be. ("General Motors Presents the USS Enterprise featuring Coca-Cola Captain James T. Kirk.")

    A related problem was how luxurious the lander was. It was bigger than the Enterprise's bridge. It had at least two levels and couches for all six astronauts, even though Andrei was supposed to stay in orbit. "Should we leave Andrei alone? Naw, we got room in our luxury lander for a whole Boy Scout troop. Bring him along."

    The spaceship seemed okay, although we never got a real idea of its size. But no way does a corporation invest in such a lavish lander. Or risk it by landing next to an unknown vent on an unknown surface. A compact lander with a rover that landed a mile away would be safer and more cost-effective.

    Acting like horror victims?

    Katya was the only one who really wandered off like a horror-movie victim. Daniel and Andrei had to go onto the ice to fix the lander.

    I did mind the similarity of the three deaths: alien grabs them through the ice. And I minded the lack of discussion about what was happening.

    You've got a possible source of light, heat, and radioactivity directly under the ice. Which, as already noted, is incredibly thin. This source is causing quakes bad enough to rattle the ship.

    In those circumstances, how about doing all your tests from the relative safety of the ship? If not the safety of orbit? You've got a thing under the ice and you're a prime target: a foreign source of light, heat, and radioactivity. Think about it carefully, in detail, and beware!"They couldn't repair the comm link after a year in space, but after they crash-land, Andrei fixes it in a minute."

    I thought that problem was because it would have required another space walk and after the one guy died it's understandable that they would have been iffy on doing that.

    "The second (crash) landing should've demolished the ship. No way do you lift off again after that. Or even live through it."

    Probably true.

    "The whole first half of the movie was a red herring...It had no real bearing on the rest of the movie."

    I mostly agree with you there. I think the two purposes it served were to set the stage for the "space is dangerous" premise of the rest of the film. More importantly, it was the means by which they got Andrei down to the surface with no one left on the command ship.

    "A related problem was how luxurious the lander was. It was bigger than the Enterprise's bridge."

    Again, I think the only reason they had room for Andrei was because James died. I think HE was originally supposed to go down to the surface with the team while Andrei stayed behind.

    And it was unrealistically large, sure, but I don't think it was THAT big. It had two levels, yes, but the top one just had room for the pilots. I was guessing it maybe only slightly larger than the cabin of the space shuttle. I would have guessed that the old Enterprise bridge was at least 50 feet across.

    Of course some of that has to do with the nature movie making. Sets have to be large accommodate equipment and shooting distance. Defying Gravity was kind of ridiculous that way too--spacious hallways and high ceilings. Of course a real space mission where you have heat that space and burn fuel to push it around, you'd never have that.
    Communications with earth are too important to forgo. And trained astronauts--the best people from all the space programs--should be the last ones who'd give in to fear.

    Besides, if you're depressed over a teammate's death, the last thing you should do is isolate yourself from human contact. This is Psychology 101. "We're totally alone in deep space, so let's wallow in our isolation and not fix the communications"...wrong.

    And even if you could justify that choice, you need to justify it. On screen. Like, "We could fix the communications, but no one wants to risk it. We're all too scared now." That would set up the final fix as more than sloppy storytelling.

    I understand that the filmmakers wanted to create a sense of foreboding with the initial red herring. I just disagree with how they did it. The journey to Europa took another year, which is more than enough time to get over James's death.

    And the movie never addressed why they considered Andrei untrustworthy. Because he saw his teammate die? They all saw it. A year ago. Contingency plans. Trained astronauts. Get over it.

    I was thinking James might've committed suicide. Because the long trip was making them psychotic, and that would sabotage the mission. But no, the film didn't take that approach, which would've been better dramatically. The plot and structure were flawed and I noted it.

    The luxury lander

    The lander had two couches in the upper control module and four more couches in the lower luxury lounge. The mission always allowed for all six astronauts--plus a Boy Scout troop--to go to the surface.

    In the reality of space flight, that's never a variable. If you plan for, say, four people to land, the lander has space for four people. Period.

    William the Chinese commander died because he fell from the top of the lander to the bottom. Which appeared to be 50 feet or more. So the lander was that tall, and I'd argue it was that wide too.

    It's a ridiculous amount of space to have in a lander. All that volume means an insane amount of ship you have to land safely and thrust into orbit again. Even the 1960s Star Trek understood that a small landing shuttle makes more sense.

    Apollo 13 managed to film the story in the tight confines of a realistic spacecraft. I suspect several of the film's choices were made just so the filmmakers could contrive a way to kill everyone. Nobody left in the orbiter? The guy they'd normally leave could be suicidal. Need a way to kill somebody besides falling through the ice? How about a fatal fall within the lander?

    And sure, you can come up with explanations for everything. But if audience members even think about potential flaws, it means you've lost their attention. They aren't swept away by the story, haven't suspended their disbelief.

    Since most of these errors were fixable, that's subpar storytelling. I don't "geek out" when they get some of the science right. I expect them to get the rest of the science right too.I think the deal with Andrei was that they were worried he might kill himself if they left him alone. And I thought the general "sadness" of the crew was just from the isolation of being in space that long, especially after their link with Earth went down rather than being about the death.

    I don't think it was that tall. It was a pilot cabin with a ladder down to the crew chamber. It didn't look any taller of a climb than say a two-story house to me, maybe about 13 feet from floor to floor. That would still be sufficient to kill you especially if the ship were falling fast enough and you landed on your neck or head. As you pointed out, some of the other seated crew members likely would have been injured or killed in that scenario too.

    All in all, your point is taken. A REAL mission probably would have had a small, maybe four-man, lander with room for one pilot, one engineer, and two scientists. And they definitely would have left one of the pilots on the command ship.

    MY big in-movie problem was with the behavior of the alien. Unless you assume that this cephalopod-looking creature was sentient, then its behavior was totally illogical. An animal only acts aggressively like that if it's hunting or defending its territory. And such an animal would have only evolved such a behavior if there were other organisms on the surface for it to fear or eat, which both science and the film had already established was impossible.
    Exploration always good?

    Also, speaking from my pseudo-Native perspective, it would've been nice if someone questioned the whole mission. Like, "What if Europa does have intelligent life? Is it totally wise to land on top of their home and stick a probe into their midst? What if they react the way Native Americans did--with understandable hostility to the intrusion? From their perspective, we're invading and contaminating their world, and they may not appreciate it."

    Arthur C. Clarke's 2010 implied that message with its "leave Europa alone" ending. These days it's common to talk about the hubris of human space explorers. But "Europa Report" was basically 100% pro-exploration. Its message, which it repeated a couple of times, was "the quest for knowledge is more important than individual lives."

    Well, tell that to the Natives who were decimated by European diseases. The quest for knowledge has potential downsides--ape-men learn to kill, computer goes mad--that a smart story would acknowledge. 2010 was a better Europa film because it touched upon these philosophical issues.Well I certainly would never suggest that this film was up to Clarke's level of writing to begin with. But in this case I don't think the explorers had any belief at all that there was anything more complex than micro-organisms there, if anything. In 2010, the astronauts were given several suggestions that life was out there, some more subtle than others. Certainly the Europa crew had less reason to expect complex life there than Columbus did to expect life on another part of the Earth.Yes, the explorers in 2010 knew about the Monolith. But they didn't know there was life on Europa, initially.

    You don't have to know the lesson before the story begins. You make the point by how the story unfolds. Like when you stick a probe with a light into a dark, pristine environment, it triggers a clear reaction. You discuss and learn from that reaction.

    Like, "Ohmigod, maybe we shouldn't have put that probe in the water. Maybe we should've conducted a month of tests from orbit. Now we're all gonna die!"

    You have Rosa, the pilot who had a chance to leave her thoughts on video: "Maybe we were too careless, too thoughtless. Maybe there are cases where we shouldn't quest for knowledge. I don't know, but this expedition was flawed from the beginning.

    "A corporation sent us here to make a profit, not to advance the human race. A backup communications array was too expensive, they said, so we had to go silent for a year. A rover was too expensive, they said, so we had to land near the vent. The whole mission basically failed because the company was too cheap.

    "If Europa Ventures receives this message, it'll get the payback it wanted: enough biological discoveries to start whole new product lines. Let's hope someone other than the shareholders benefit from them. Meanwhile, we'll be dead, and the Europans will consider us hostile invaders. Not exactly a perfect tradeoff.

    "This is Rosa the pilot, signing off from my tomb on Europa."

    Wow, I just made the ending of Europa Report ten times better. I pat myself on the back for my writing ability. Good job, Rob!

    P.S. See my previous posting about how Hollywood never criticizes the 1%, the powers that be, or the status quo. This would've been a great chance to question the whole American idea of progress--of exploring and searching for knowledge at all costs. Opportunity missed!

    February 17, 2014

    Dunn trial shows America's pathology

    Some commentaries on the jury hung over the murder charge in the trial of Michael Dunn, who killed Jordan Davis over "loud music":

    Like George Zimmerman, Racist Laws Let Michael Dunn ‘Get Away With Murder’

    By Ryan DensonAfter escaping what should have been a 2nd degree murder charge, Michael Dunn is in, “disbelief and it has not sunk in yet.”

    I hope for your sake, Mr. Dunn, that is a positive disbelief and you aren’t weeping in self sorrow while a boy lays six feet under, because you avoided death row. At least for now.

    I’m just waiting for the NRA to say “stereos don’t kill people, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE!”

    It’s also strange, these Stand Your Ground Laws, because everyone knows they are racially targeting blacks. How do we know? Well the Urban Institute recently found that Whites who kill Blacks in Stand Your Ground states are 354% more likely to acquitted, or not even charged.

    The jury did not find Dunn guilty of killing Davis, plain and simple. They found him guilty of shooting at the other kids in the car, as if Davis was never even there, or even a person who had lost their life. It seems that, in Florida, a black boy is expected to obey a white man, and if he doesn’t, then the white man is entitled to shoot him to to death. That is the intent of the law. It has nothing to do with self-defense. Self defense was already a viable defense before Stand Your Ground laws were ever implemented.
    Michael Dunn’s sick license to kill: The hot-blooded murder of Jordan Davis and Florida’s perverted justice

    Dunn created the confrontation, then made it deadly. Under Florida's insane laws, the prosecution was still limited

    By Paul Campos
    Consider how these laws work in the context of Dunn’s actions. Dunn chose to create a confrontation with a group of four young males. He is a middle-aged computer programmer. A middle-aged man who chooses to start a verbal altercation with four teenage boys in a convenience store parking lot on a Friday night knows that he is running a non-trivial risk of suffering great bodily harm, or in non-technical terms, getting his ass kicked.

    But because this is America, Dunn has a trump card: the nine-millimeter handgun in his glove compartment, with 10 bullets in the clip, which he has every legal right to bring to the confrontation he chose to start.

    And because this is America, the fact that Dunn is white and the teenage boys are black–black boys playing loud “thug” music, to use Dunn’s description–makes it seem “reasonable” to him that the confrontation he started is about to escalate to a point where he will suffer great bodily harm. (In America, being a black teenage male playing loud “black” music in an SUV in a convenience store parking lot on a Friday night makes you a fearsome figure to a middle-aged white man like Dunn).

    Furthermore, because this is America, it’s reasonable for Dunn to fear that the scary black boys playing the scary music are armed. After all, there are more than 300 million non-military firearms floating around out there between the purple mountain majesties and the amber waves of grain. That’s no doubt one reason why Dunn has gone to the trouble of securing at least one of them for himself, and (again, perfectly legally) sticking it in his glove compartment, so that it’s within easy reach should he choose to get into a war of words with some black teenage boys in convenience store parking lot on a Friday night.

    Choosing Whiteness or Humanity: Jordan Davis and the Minimizing of Black Pain

    By Tim WiseSure, despite all of this, some jurors might have believed that Dunn acted out of a genuine concern that his life was in danger. Some people, after all, cling stubbornly to their belief in unicorns, and the idea that the Earth is only 6000 years old, and that God fabricated and then planted all those fossils (which are, shall we say, quite a bit older than that), solely as a way to test our faith. And a full 1 in 4 believe that the sun revolves around the Earth. Some people, in short, are so painfully imbecilic as to suggest that they should never be allowed anywhere near a jury room, whether in Florida or anywhere else.

    But then again, it is also possible that the jury hung because although all agreed the shooting was unjustified, some refused to accept that Dunn’s act constituted first-degree murder, while others refused to go along with the notion that it was anything less. Given the defense’s painting of Dunn’s character as generally placid and kind—and given the state’s refusal to impeach this image, by introducing the overtly hateful and racist letters written by Dunn while awaiting trial, or testimony from a neighbor who said Dunn was racist, violent, and had actually approached him to solicit help with killing someone—one can imagine some being unable to see the man in the Mister Rogers’ sweaters (and for that matter, with Mr. Rogers’ voice) premeditating Davis’s death. This, despite the fact that premeditation under Florida law can be formed in an instant, so that it matters not whether Dunn had attended his son’s wedding that night, all the while secretly plotting to kill a black teen at a gas station. That notion of premeditation is a decidedly Hollywood version. It has nothing to do with the law. But perhaps some jurors couldn’t see that. So be it, and the state will get another chance to make that case. Hopefully they will make it better, and this time fully eviscerate the desiccated character of this rancid little man, so that the people of Florida will know: you cannot kill black people simply because you don’t like their music and because they back-sass you when you ask them to turn it down. But if you do, you will be found solely and entirely to blame, and punished accordingly.

    Beyond the Xs and Os, however, and beyond the question of what should be done with “Stand Your Ground” laws—which were implicated in this case because of the way Dunn’s attorneys made their self-defense argument and because of the jury instructions—there is another matter, at once more abstract and yet far more important. It is the question of what it might ultimately take for black life to be realized as fully human by some (indeed many) white people? And what it might take for black pain to actually matter? To be seen as worthy of concern, and more than concern, worthy of being seen as equal to white pain, without reservation or hesitation?

    I ask this not because whites did in this case what most did in the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman—namely, line up behind the killer of the black child and presume that the latter had it coming—for it appears that the racial fault lines were not so neat and tidy this time. Most whites, or so it appears from what is most assuredly an unscientific observation of social and other media, view the killing of Jordan Davis as far less justifiable than the killing of Martin. So there’s that, one supposes; a small peg of progress upon which to hang one’s hopeful hat, for what it’s worth.

    But it probably isn’t worth much. After all, even if most white folks actually agree this time with black people, and are appropriately horrified by murder (a type of progress about which one can hardly become too animated, since condemning murder hardly requires much moral fortitude), there are still plenty of us who are not. Too many of us—millions upon millions no doubt—still find it possible to give equal consideration to a white man’s paranoiac and racist hallucinations as to a black man’s life; to believe that the former is just as worthy of our indulgence as the latter, maybe more so.

    America founded on race

    Some thoughts on what the non-verdict says about race in the US:

    The Souls of Black Folk and the Shame of the Dunn Verdict

    By Susan Brooks ThistlethwaiteIt is clearer and clearer that in the United States African American lives are not of equal value, especially in states with "Stand Your Ground" laws where a jury was unable to reach a verdict of murder in the shooting death of unarmed, 17-year-old African American Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn, who is white and who has a carry concealed permit.

    The unequal value placed on different human beings, according to race, is not exactly new. I have been re-reading W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk for a class I am teaching, and it is staggering how contemporary his analysis is today.

    "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line," said Du Bois in 1903.

    But in the twenty-first century, with the addition of "Stand Your Ground" laws, as was clear in the Zimmerman case, the "color line" has become a "shooting line."
    Michael Dunn and open season on black teenagers: The onslaught of white murder

    Since Florida cannot defend black life against white fear, the question now is: How should black people respond?

    By Brittney Cooper
    Many white folks believe that black criminality has produced white fear and that white fear in the presence of black masculinity is therefore always justified. But the opposite is true. White anxiety and fear and racism have produced the myth of pervasive black criminality. Intraracial black violence is a problem, but white racism has produced the concentrated structures of poverty and lack of access to education that give rise to violent behaviors.

    Our national inability to tell the truth about this will only lead to more black victims.

    In his famous essay “The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American,” James Baldwin wrote, “Every society is really governed by hidden laws, by unspoken but profound assumptions on the part of people, and ours is no exception.”

    The truth we need to be telling is that the myth of black male criminality is foundational, not incidental, to America’s national identity. Even if there were no black male criminals, to riff on professor Hortense Spillers’ work, they would have to be invented. The presence of black criminals justifies white male rage, white women’s fear and subsequent white male violence.

    More from Tim Wise:Ultimately, it is their allegiance to the ideological strictures of whiteness that makes their demise necessary; and it is indeed whiteness that calls forth their inability to fully feel the pain of so-called non-white peoples, and causes them to shift the discussion and the burdens of proof to black and brown folks, whenever harm comes their way. It is whiteness—a paradigm of thought that relies upon the presumption of cultural superiority for those of us called white in this society, and which presumes that we better understand the problems faced by peoples of color than they do, which must be demolished.

    In short, for America to live, whiteness must die. Not white people but whiteness. You may not know the difference, but if not, that is your problem, not mine.

    Do not misread me here. This is not, dear Nazis who so readily regale me with hate mail, a call for “white genocide.” I do not assume, as do you, that whiteness is an inherent essence of people of European descent. I contend it is a sickness foisted upon us by men who sought to maintain their power and control, and needed some among the Euro-peasantry to help them do it; and so they resolved to make us part of their racial team, even as they had maintained us in poverty for generations in England and Ireland and Italy and France and everywhere else from which our people come.

    And so they told us to fear them, and to hate them, and to place our boots upon their necks so that they, the elite, could go about the business of accumulating great wealth at the expense not only of those people over there, but us too.
    Based on this article:

    On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn

    Facebook friend Brad asked:What do you think? Has America just "grown up" racist?This led to a discussion of what the Dunn verdict says about America:

    Yes, you could say we've grown up racist. I think that the genocide of Indians and the enslavement of blacks are fundamental to our core mythology. Which goes along the lines of, "God gave the American wilderness to the white man to conquer, tame, and develop. Anything that happened along the way was just an unfortunate byproduct."So you'd agree with the author then that "devaluation" of black lives goes back to that?Yes. Basically America wasn't an experiment in creating a melting pot of multiculturalism. It was an experiment in setting up a continent ruled by a cult of white supremacy.

    Only since the beginning of the 20th century have the two philosophies--white supremacy vs. melting pot--come into real conflict. We're somewhere in the middle of a transition that might take a few centuries. By the time the "Star Trek" era arrives, we may actually achieve the "Star Trek" ideal.

    In short, I concur with the others who say racism is fundamental to America.

    P.S. This thread alone would disqualify me for political office if I ever wanted to run. Oh, well.

    Blacks are the new Indians

    Not "new," exactly, but they face the same problem originally faced by Indians. Namely, that their existence confronted the American mythology of white Christian exceptionalism. How is America the "greatest" country if we have to kill and enslave people to become it?

    In other words, this isn't simply a black-white problem, as Gyasi Ross explains:

    Celebrating Killers: Yes, Natives Should Care About a Dead Black Teen

    By Gyasi RossNative Mothers and Fathers: your brown skin little Indian boys’ lives are in danger. Teach them that their beautiful brown skin and powerful long, dark hair puts them in danger. Tell your beautiful brown little Indian girls that they’re a target to be sexually assaulted just for being them—it’s a fact. Let them know that their attackers—both the boys and girls—will never be punished. In fact, they will be celebrated. Hold those powerful descendants of the first people of this continent close. Tell them that you love them. Every single time they go outside or to the store or to the mall, there is a possibility that they can be tried, convicted and executed of being too brown, too scary, too virile. "Their hair is too long." "They have too many tattoos." Treasure their time—their lives mean nothing to America. In fact IF, God forbid, they were to be tragically killed, there are many who would celebrate that death.

    Little Indian boys like thug music, too. Like Jordan Davis. Little Indian boys wear hoodies, too. Like Trayvon Martin.

    They are no different than these little Black boys who keep getting killed for being Black. Their crime is the color of their skin; they are tried and convicted in the blink of an eye. Now, I know that there are Natives who don’t like Black folks, and Black folks who don’t like Natives, therefore we see each other as "different." "It’s just those ghetto Black boys getting killed." or "It’s just those damn Indians getting killed."

    White supremacy doesn’t see any of as any different. At all. How do I know this?

    Because white supremacy celebrates those who kill us.

    Killer Michael Dunn was somehow convicted of attempted murder, but not murder. Killer George Zimmerman will have a reality show at some point and was already scheduled to be in a celebrity(!!) boxing match, profiting from the name he made while killing Trayvon Martin. Bernhard Goetz—pre-reality TV—became a semi-celebrity and had people willing to pay his legal defense. The point? People celebrate when white people kill young Black men.

    As MLK pointed out, celebrating those who take brown lives ain’t nuthin’ new.

    Christopher Columbus. Kit Carson. The 20 Medal of Honor winners of the Wounded Knee Massacre. Abraham Lincoln—the Great Emancipator, Honest Abe—ordering the largest mass execution in US History when he ordered 38 Natives killed in Mankato, Minnesota.

    We’re in this together. These murders affect us. My son carries the royal lineage of chiefs and spiritual healers and protector/warriors, yet he is a suspect each and every time he goes outside because of his powerful brown skin. Just like the little Black boys. Just like every other brown man in this Nation. We gotta stop lying to ourselves that we’re somehow different and protect our babies together.
    The huge amount of violence against Natives, especially Native women, is part of the same problem. From curtailing the safety net to blocking immigration to hyping crime, white America devalues brown lives in innumerable ways. It's all about maintaining the Puritan vision of a select group of Euro-Christian Americans as God's chosen people.

    For more on Trayvon Martin and related matters, see America's Dual Justice System and Zimmerman Verdict Shows America's Pathology.

    Below:  1890: Chief Spotted Elk lies dad in the shnow after the massacre at Wounded Knee. Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds."

    February 16, 2014

    Teabaggers are 25% more racist

    Are Tea Partiers racist? Answer: yes!

    Are Tea Partiers Racist?

    By Arian Campo-FloresA new survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality offers fresh insight into the racial attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers. "The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability"—25 percent, to be exact—"of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters," says Christopher Parker, who directed the study. "The Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race."

    Surveyers asked respondents in California and a half dozen battleground states (like Michigan and Ohio) a series of questions that political scientists typically use to measure racial hostility. On each one, Tea Party backers expressed more resentment than the rest of the population, even when controlling for partisanship and ideology. When read the statement that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," 73 percent of the movement's supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up "without special favors," as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents. The study revealed that Tea Party enthusiasts were also more likely to have negative opinions of Latinos and immigrants.

    These results are bolstered by a recent New York Times/CBS News surveyfinding that white Tea Party supporters were more likely to believe that "the Obama administration favors blacks over whites" and that "too much has been made of the problems facing black people." The survey also showed that Tea Party sympathizers are whiter, older, wealthier, and more well-educated than the average American. They're "just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good," according to a summary of the poll.

    If Tea Party supporters are doing relatively fine, what are they so riled up about? These studies suggest that, at least in part, it's race. The country that the Tea Partiers grew up in is irrevocably changing. Last month, new demographic data showed that minority births are on the verge of outpacing white births. By 2050, Hispanics are expected to account for more than a quarter of the American population. The Tea Partiers "feel a loss … like their status has been diminished," says David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which examines issues of race. "If you listen to [their] language, it's always about 'taking our country back.' But it's really not taking the country back as is. It's taking the country back"—as in time.

    Bositis finds the movement's arguments about reckless federal spending unpersuasive. Why, he asks, weren't they up in arms when President George W. Bush launched two costly wars and created a new unfunded mandate with his Medicare prescription-drug plan? Why didn't they take to the streets when he converted a surplus into a massive deficit? "I don't like to be in a position where I'm characterizing people as being racially biased," says Bositis. "But when the shoe fits, what do you do?" Given modern societal norms, "they know they can't use any overtly racist language," he contends. "So they use coded language"—questioning the patriotism of the president or complaining about "socialist" schemes to redistribute wealth.
    Comment:  For more on teabagger racism, see Obama = "Trifecta of Othernesss" and Republicans Want to Restore Confederacy.

    February 15, 2014

    "Zombies are the new Indians"

    Noam Chomsky: Zombies are the new Indians and slaves in white America’s collective nightmare

    By Scott KaufmanDuring a question-and-answer session with students on February 7, 2014, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky was asked why there’s a cultural preoccupation with “the zombie apocalypse” in United States.

    “My guess is,” Chomsky said, “that it’s a reflection of fear and desperation. The United States is an unusually frightened country, and in such circumstances, people concoct, maybe for escape or relief, [narratives] in which terrible things happen.”

    “Fear in the United States is actually a pretty interesting phenomenon,” Chomsky continued. “It actually goes back to the colonies—there’s a very interesting book by a literary critic, Bruce Franklin, called War Stars. It’s a study of popular literature…from the earliest days to the present, and there are a couple of themes that run through it that are pretty striking.”

    “For one thing,” Chomsky said, “one major theme in popular literature is that we’re about to face destruction from some terrible, awesome enemy, and at the last moment we’re saved by a superhero, or a super-weapon—or, in recent years, high school kids going to the hills to chase away the Russians.”

    According to Chomsky, “there’s a sub-theme: it turns out this enemy, this horrible enemy that’s going to destroy us, is someone we’re oppressing. So you go back to the early years, the terrible enemy was the Indians.”

    “The colonists, of course, were the invaders…whatever you think about the Indians, they were defending their own territory.” After a brief discussion of the Declaration of Independence, Chomsky notes that one of the complaints listed in it is that King George “unleashed against [the colonists] the merciless Indian savages, whose known way of warfare is torture and destruction and so on.”

    “Well, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that…knew quite well that it was the merciless English savages whose known way of warfare was destruction and torture and terror, and taking over the country and driving out and exterminating the natives. But it’s switched in the Declaration of Independence,” Chomsky said, indicating that this is yet another example of Franklin’s thesis that oppressed people become, in the popular imagination of the oppressors, the “terrible, awesome enemy” bent on the destruction of America.

    Related to this fear is greed. "We want it and they have it, so we try to take it from them. When they resist, we hate them and fear them."

    Thomas King asks: What do whites want?

    Taylor Prize nominee argues the issue that came ashore with the French and the English was—and remains—land

    By Brian Bethune
    What do Whites want? No, it’s not a trick question. And I’m not being sarcastic. Native history in North America as writ has never really been about Native people. It’s been about Whites and their needs and desires. What Native peoples wanted has never been a vital concern, has never been a political or social priority.

    The Lakota didn’t want Europeans in the Black Hills, but Whites wanted the gold that was there. The Cherokee didn’t want to move from Georgia to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but Whites wanted the land. The Cree of Quebec weren’t at all keen on vacating their homes to make way for the Great Whale project, but there’s excellent money in hydroelectric power. The California Indians did not ask to be enslaved by the Franciscans and forced to build that order’s missions.

    What do Whites want? The answer is quite simple, and it’s been in plain sight all along.


    Whites want land.

    Sure, Whites want Indians to disappear, and they want Indians to assimilate, and they want Indians to understand that everything that Whites have done was for their own good because Native people, left to their own devices, couldn’t make good decisions for themselves.

    All that’s true, from a White point of view, at least. But it’s a lower order of true. It’s a spur-of-the-moment true, and these ideas have changed over time. Assimilation was good in the 1950s, but bad in the 1970s. Residential schools were the answer to Indian education in the 1920s, but by the 21st century, governments were apologizing for the abuse that Native children had suffered at the hands of Christian doctrinaires, pedophiles and sadists. In the 1880s, the prevailing wisdom was to destroy Native cultures and languages so that Indians could find civilization. Today, the non-Native lament is that Aboriginal cultures and languages may well be on the verge of extinction. These are all important matters, but if you pay more attention to them than they deserve, you will miss the larger issue.

    The issue that came ashore with the French and the English and the Spanish, the issue that was the raison d’ĂȘtre for each of the colonies, the issue that has made its way from coast to coast to coast and is with us today, the issue that has never changed, never varied, never faltered in its resolve, is the issue of land. The issue has always been land. It will always be land, until there isn’t a square foot of land left in North America that is controlled by Native people.

    Land. If you understand nothing else about the history of Indians in North America, you need to understand that the ques­tion that really matters is the question of land. Land contains the languages, the stories and the histories of a people. It provides water, air, shelter and food. And land is home.

    Excerpted from The Inconvenient Indian. Copyright © 2013 Thomas King. Published by Doubleday Canada. All rights reserved.
    Comment:  For more on zombies and Indians, see What the Zombie Trend Means. For more on Noam Chomsky, see America the Self-Declared Victim and Chomsky on Genocide Denial. For more on related subjects, see Hating Indians Is in Vogue, Indians Are Inconvenient to Americans.

    Mohegan Sun on Undercover Boss

    The Mohegan Sun's casinos were recently featured on the Undercover Boss reality show. The first posting tells what happened:

    'Undercover Boss': Mohegan Sun Chairman Gives Valet Who Flunks Him Life-Changing Gift

    Bruce 'Two Dogs' Bozsum rewards single mom $35,000

    By AOL Jobs Staff
    Just because you've been a valet customer, doesn't mean you can be a valet driver. Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, retiring chairman of the Mohegan Sun, learned this first-hand during Friday's episode of "Undercover Boss." The Mohegan Sun is a three-location gaming, lodging and entertainment empire owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe of America. Employing some 13,000, the enterprise generates more than $1 billion in revenue annually.

    Mohegan means "wolf people" and the tribe took the unconventional route of Wall Street funding to open its first commercial casino in Uncasville, CT. Since then, casinos have opened in Pennsylvania and Atlantic City, N.J. Decisions are made the tribal way for the long-term, based on looking ahead 13 generations, according to Boszum.
    The second offers a Native reaction to it:

    How Do You Feel About the Mohegan Sun Episode of 'Undercover Boss'?

    By Sonny SkyhawkThe show delivered as was advertised, and after it ended our very discerning and critical crowd let out a surprising steady and appreciative round of applause. The episode was formulaic to a T, and Mr. Bozsum did a great job navigating that formula and seemed quite at ease with it. We applauded for a few reasons, but most important was that we had experienced a rare occurrence in Hollywood: a feel-good Native storyline and portrayal. We are so accustomed to seeing our people playing the stereotypical villain or second banana to a masked man, that we are awed by any depiction that breaks that mold.

    This portrayal was truly welcomed. Oh, I know some who see it will be quick to criticize, or complain that the depiction was hokey, or this or that wasn't right, but I happen to think it was a very positive portrayal of Bozsum as a modern businessman and tribal leader. It was also diverse in nature, in that it dealt with people who weren't Tribal members or Native.
    Comment:  I agree with Skyhawk's assessment.

    The show spent a few minutes on Bozsum's biography--just enough to humanize him and set him well apart from the stereotypical Indian chief. The bulk of the show demonstrated that Mohegan Sun is a great place to work, with only a few technical difficulties. And the life-changing ending for the employees was truly heartwarming.

    The only possible complaint was a few moments of stereotypical flute music and powwow dancing at the beginning. They didn't particularly hurt; indeed, they may have helped. They may have set up expectations for the typical viewer, which the rest of the show proceeded to thwart.