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The Statistic I Cannot Get Through My Head

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One of the refrains from people who don’t like the way the Freddie Gray case has been covered is that all this coverage paints police in an unfair light. A Hartford Courant commenter named John McCommas wrote, in response to one oped: “The clear, unmistakable, indefensible blunt intent of your message on that lousy graffiti rock, ‘Black Lives Matter’, is that the lives of white police officers don’t matter. Not to you anyways.” An email to me from WNPR listener Walter complained that the tone of coverage relating to Gray was accompanied by the message that:  “cops are not ‘real people.’ They are just bigoted murderers.”

I sure don’t feel that way.  I know plenty of cops. They’re real people to me, and I want them to be good at their jobs. Their lives matter to me. I have always assumed that the #blacklivesmatter campaign was a way of saying “We want black lives to matter as much as white lives currently do.”

Anyway, writing back to Walter, I wanted to make the point that we’re not dehumanizing all cops if we acknowledge that there’s a problem in this country with death at the hands of police.

And then I wondered how often it happens per year.

It turns out that record keeping on this subject tends to be a bit makeshift but that 1,000 deaths-by-police is not a crazy number.

1,000. In a year.

I can’t get my mind to ingest that number.

In Great Britain, the usual number, per year, seems to be zero.  Give or take one?

Germany reported 8 deaths by police service weapons in a two-year period.

In Canada, well, I read a  bunch of reports like this one, but I never got a hard number. I think if you said a dozen a year, you wouldn’t get much argument.

1,000.

I’m in shock. We really have to look at this. To pretend that calling attention to it amounts to some kind of verbal war against police is ridiculous.

Thursday Thoughts: Mr. Bridesmaid

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I seem to have been second best a lot last year. In recent days, I have finished second in these national awards for column writing, finished as second best radio show around these parts, also finished as second best radio personality

I’m Number Two! I’m Number Two!

As I get older, collective efforts seem like more fun, so I’m proud to stand with my colleagues at WNPR as Best Radio Station. Also won Best Blogger. I win every year because I’m the only name everybody knows. I’m a terrible blogger. Give it to someone else. Please.

nbIf you do nothing else for me this week, listen to my interview with Nancy Butler, a wonderful, radiant lady who founded an “inclusive evangelical” (LGBTQ welcome!) church here. Nancy has ALS. You can’t see it the picture but she’s in a high tech wheelchair, still preaching on Sundays. I’ve been attending her church all month. I’ve learned a lot from her. Mostly about joy. (The t-shirt I’m wearing here says “God Listens.” It’s from a Christian radio station.)

We did a yang for the yin of that show the next day with a Betsy Kaplan-produced show about the struggles between religion and science. 

Coming attractions: This event with Danny Glover, Charles Grodin and a cast of thousands. I’ll be moderating a panel. They’d love it if you came. Two days earlier, this great event for the wonderful Institute Library. I’m hosting at Thali, but my part of the event seems to be sold out, Tickets still available to a few of the others. And everybody hangs at the Library at the end.

Here we are talking on WWL about Ammogate:

What else? Today’s “wish I thought of it” image. Emily Nussbaum writing about Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall (the TV series, not the book, Broadway play or fragrance).

Pearls framing her cleavage, eyes narrowed, chin high, she seems eternally aware that she’s being watched, because she’s stuck inside a truly insane system, a reproductive panopticon in which all that matters is the illusion of virginity and the emergence of a male heir, as wombs are traded like unstable derivatives.

Monday Memo

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This guy nails the problem(s) with the White House Correspondents Dinner, a/k/a the Nerd Prom, although I sympathize slightly with attendees who are asked point blank to name their favorite White House Correspondent. A cool answer would have been to go vintage: “The ’74 Dan Rather.” From the current crop, Don Gonyea is always a nice answer. Mark Knoller is a super-wonky answer. And then there’s the  Cheshire Cat.

On our Monday show, The Scramble, we’ve decided to bag that nerd prom and cover a different one.  Maybe a little less nerdy. We’re talking about Kantchella. We’re talking about Nietzschepalooza. We’re talking about Lockestock. We’re talking about Frommaroo. We’re talking about the 62-philosopher smackdown. Here’s our guest for today on that one.

By 9 p.m. John Cage had given way to pounding disco classics from the 1970s in the embassy’s bookstore, Albertine. Over at the Ukrainian Institute, the coffee machine broke down. On the plus side, free charcuterie from D’Artagnan appeared. Speaking in the Ukrainian Institute’s concert hall, Susan Schneider, of the University of Connecticut, speculated about the nature of alien consciousness and cast doubt on whether extraterrestrial beings might be as interested in communicating with us as we are with them. “You don’t spend time reading a book to your goldfish,” she said.

Also on our show today, when it comes to crime and punishment you might thing that the following two things would result in increased punishment (a) a cynical, as opposed to idealistic, motive (b) the betrayal of a position of great trust. You would be wrong, at least when it comes to Gen. David Petraeus. It turns out that the more important you are, the lighter your punishment, even if your crime involved a direct violation of what made you important in the first place.

Looking down the week toward the Nose, we’re already getting interested in the PEN controversy over Charlie Hebdo. And we’re wondering if we can connect it — at least at the level of walk-outs — with the Adam Sandler controversy.  Here’s Garry Trudeau, over the weekend, on Hebdo:

 

 

So Does Connecticut Have a RFRA Like Indiana’s?

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1855 Colton Map of Indiana - Geographicus - Indiana-colton-1855
Yes and no. Mostly no.

You’re going to read this often in the commentary about Malloy’s travel ban. It’s in the comments to this article.  And it’s in this disingenuously worded piece of commentary. The argument made is: how can Malloy object to Indiana when Connecticut has essentially the same law?

Believe me, I came to this question with an open mind.  It would have amused me if Connecticut were caught in an act of ahistorical hypocrisy, and I like being amused. In a different way, it would please me to say that our law is not like Indiana’s. I’m happy either way. So let’s look at the facts.

Connecticut’s law is relatively old. It dates back to 1993.  You can read the text here. The law is restricted to interactions between the government and a person, and it says that the government can’t burden the person’s “exercise of religion” except in furtherance of a compelling government interest and even then only when the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. That’s the whole law. You could say it screams out for court cases that will define terms like “exercise of religion” and “compelling government interest.” You could not say that it goes out of its way to define those terms on one side’s behalf. I was halfway into writing this post when Dan Klau, an actual lawyer, published his own take on it. He gives you some of the 1993 history here. 

The Indiana law — read it here –is, of course, the modern, updated version.  But that does not, in this case, mean “sleek.” The Indiana law is clunked up with new language, and most of that language is based on lawsuits from the intervening years. The purpose of the new language is almost invariably to make it easier for the party claiming religious injury to prove its case. Let’s pull this out of the realm of the abstract. Let us imagine that I am a communicant of the Church of the Giant White Serpent (CGWS). My church believes that blacks are inferior and that physically disabled people bear the mark of Cain. The First Amendment allows me to belong to such a distasteful church, provided I don’t go around inciting wrath. But now I would like to go a little further. I would like to open a lunch counter, and I would like to run it along the lines of my beliefs. What does the new Indiana law do for me?

1. Perhaps the biggest difference between Indiana and Connecticut is that the Indiana law does not restrict itself to state vs. person conflict. Instead it says I may make my argument  “as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the judicial proceeding.”  At my CGWS lunch counter, I make blacks sit separately and I don’t let disabled people in at all. It’s my religion! The Connecticut law deals only with my rights vis a vis the state, but the Indiana law arms me against complaints from private parties. I can kick out the guy in the wheelchair, and I’m on firmer legal ground, even if he sues me. In Connecticut, I don’t really have any spelled out rights until the Attorney General shows up and tells me I have to seat African-Americans and blind people alongside my regular customers.

2.   But wait. There’s more. Indiana’s law affirms that I can assert that my exercise of religion has been burdened “whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” So I don’t even have to prove that my intolerance toward blacks and the disabled is a central tenet of the CGWS, just that it’s in the mix somewhere. (So don’t fall for the argument that Indiana’s law has a higher burden of proof because it uses the phrase “substantially burdened” while Connecticut’s does not. The Indiana law is in other respects explicit about how insubstantial the burden can be. Also, see item 3. )

3. What else can Indiana do for me? Well, it can say that I don’t have to prove a burden to seek relief. I can claim I am “likely to be substantially burdened.” What does that mean? I have no idea, but I hope my CGWS attorneys will argue that even the possibility that someone — a government agent or a private party — will show up and claim I’m in the wrong is more than my pretty little white head should have to bear.

4. The Indiana law spells out four forms of relief.  Go ask Klau what that means.  It’s certainly different from the CT law.

5. Is that it, Indiana?  I mean, I’m just a little guy, a lunch counter owner whose religion contains important teachings about the pernicious nature of blacks and disabled people. What chance do I have if the government shows up claiming that it has a compelling interest in making me serve these children of a lesser god?

In Connecticut, that killjoy George Jepsen is probably going to shut down my racist lunch counter with the argument that it is not an exercise of religion. It’s just a damn lunch counter. George would say I’m not exercising my religion when I’m making and selling sandwiches.

But the new Indiana law includes, in its definition of a (possibly burdened) person “a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.” Whoa!  This is certainly not in the Connecticut statute. I am engaging in protected religious exercises when I’m making and selling (or refusing to sell) liverwurst sandwiches. Who knew?

In conclusion, anybody who tells you Indiana and Connecticut have the same RFRA law is a big fat liar.

Now, if my lunch counter refuses to serve gay couples, yet another difference kicks in which is not contained in the two laws. Connecticut affords specific protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation — oh God, please, don’t make me explain “quasi suspect classification!” — whereas Indiana does not.  I suppose you could say that the new Indiana RFRA strengthens the capacity of business to discriminate against gays, as opposed to creating a whole new capacity. (Klau, any thoughts?)

What you cannot say, however, is that our beloved Porcupine has failed to note the similarities between the Connecticut and Indiana laws. They are not the same laws — in intent or letter.

 

Still Rubble-utionary!

by Categorized: Uncategorized, Year in Review Date:

Here is a new idea.

With no money for staff and upkeep of our once-proud state park system, why not knock things down and market the faux ruins?

A second concept, called an “ecological park,” would involve restoration of a historic building as a visitor center, while other buildings may be demolished or restored to a ruined state to preserve the spirit of the history of the property.

The great thing about this is idea is that when the park falls into neglect, nobody will be able to tell!

An “attractive ruin” is a building left intentionally in a ruined state intended to be evocative of the structure’s historical uses.

I like the name Pam Award.

 

Ogrodzieniec widok z wi?y obronnej.jpg
Ogrodzieniec widok z wi?y obronnej” by AisogOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 pl via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Not In My Name, Please

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized Date:

Last year I wrote about the unsightly danger of Dan Malloy turning into a hockey goon for the national Democratic party.

Twelve months passed and — guess what? — here he is in full goon mode, lining up the same spindly opposition player.

“He must have been beaten up really bad on the playground. Really bad, I think,” Malloy told BuzzFeed News when describing Jindal’s demeanor and what he said was a similar sharp-elbowed persona on and off camera.

I cannot tell you how distasteful I find this. First, the smirking suggestion that kids who get bullied on the playground grow up to be men who merit our disdain is repellent coming from anybody  but especially from a man who has whined ad nauseam about the treatment he received as a misunderstood, disability-laden boy.  Make up your mind, Governor. Do wretched little creatures deserve our scorn or our understanding?

I also fail to see how this serves the people who elected Malloy. We elected him to do a job, and in no way does that job involve kicking Bobby Jindal around or carrying water for politicos in the other 49 states. In particular, I expect him to make at least some effort to work cooperatively with Republicans and forge compromises that serve everybody’s best interests.

Renting himself out as a Chris Christie-style jerk-provocateur, he is unlikely to do this.  He already has pushed the drama button — which is a mile wide and set on a hair trigger — of Minority Leader Themis Klarides. How does this help us, here in Connecticut.

Malloy and Klarides photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Malloy and Klarides photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR

themis_klarides

Northern Courage

by Categorized: Colin's Theories of Culture, Deep thoughts, Show ideas, Uncategorized Date:

Johan Christian Claussen Dahl - Nordiske landskapet
On days like the one we’re having here, it’s not uncommon to see one of us northerners post something on social media and see, in response, a comment from a transplant: “I wouldn’t know. It’s 76 today here in South Carogeorgialorida. So glad I’ll be out on my boat today instead of shiviering with the rest of you!”

And I reflexively think: I’d rather be freezing my cheeks off up here than wedged up against a d****ebag frothing with self-congratulation because he figured out it gets warmer as you approach the equator. I’d like to be warmer too, but not if it means being surrounded by people with no sense of irony, people who are more likely to be depicted in than entertained by Coen Brothers movies. To re-phrase “Repo Man,” sometimes it seems like the more you drive South, the stupider you get.

But that’s too easy, and it’s probably wrong to exalt one’s choices at the expense of a whole region of people many of whom are perfectly nice. Why the hell ARE we here? And then somebody sent me this essay, which feels more like the beginning of a conversation — and therefore a radio show idea! — than a solid answer.

Could northmanship be a thing? I mean, is there a connection that we make to truth and beauty here in the north? Of course, the north itself is retreating from us. One of McEnroe’s Immutable Theories of Culture is that the more we celebrate a thing, the more likely it is that it’s dying. And right now, we celebrate the north. I mean Joakim Zander is the new Henning Mankell who is the new Stieg Larsson. Iceland is hip. Cultural conservatives are shook about Lady Thor. Nordic pop and Canadian comedy. Holla!

I stray from my point. I wonder if there’s something mystical and meaningful about the cold and the darkness and the starkness. In which case, we should embrace it, rather than curse it. We should be content with the notion that Rilke is cooler than Jimmy Buffet. And not — as one voice in the Gould piece says — not throw away our North for a mess of pottage.

Often when I imagine you your wholeness cascades into many shapes. You run like a herd of luminous deer and I am dark, I am forest.