re:publica, ich komme! (#rp15)

re:publica, ich komme! (2015 Edition)

republica_2015
republica_2015
Wenn man dem Raunen im Twitter-Wald lauscht, so flüstert es einem stets zu, dass diese Sozialen Medien in diesem seltsamen Internet ja ständig in Bewegung seien. Ein guter Grund also, um die Analog-Tür einmal zu öffnen, eine Reise in die Kohlenstoff-Welt zu unternehmen, und sich in Berlin jenseits des Neulands unserer Bundesregierung auf die Suche nach Europa zu begeben, wie das Motto der rp15 “Finding Europe” anregt.

Dieses Jahr bin ich zum zweiten Mal als Besucher auf der re:publica in Berlin dabei und ich muss gestehen, dass ich mich schon monatelang darauf gefreut habe. Das erste Mal re:publica war für mich 2013, im vergangenen Jahr konnte ich leider (oder sollte ich sagen glücklicherweise) aufgrund beruflicher Verpflichtungen nicht dabei sein.  

Für mein persönliches Montags-Fitnessprogramm ist diesmal definitiv gesorgt, denn ich erarbeite mir wieder mein Ticket als ‘Helping Hand’. Der Nebeneffekt des zu erwartenden Muskelkaters am Dienstag dürfte sein, dass ich auch aufmerksamer zuhöre, denn zwischendurch Aufstehen ist dann vermutlich keine Alternative mehr 🙂

Neben der Hoffnung, dem ein oder anderen spannenden Vortrag beizuwohnen oder in Workshops Anregungen für die Praxis mitzunehmen, freue ich mich natürlich auf ein Wiedersehen mit Freund*innen und Bekannten, die ich über das Jahr verteilt außerhalb des Netzes selten persönlich treffen kann, nicht zuletzt, weil wir mindestens quer durch Deutschland verstreut sind.


Am Dienstag finde ich folgende Vorträge besonders spannend und werde versuchen, zum einen oder anderen hinzugehen (kann sich auch noch ändern):

Opening

The Community is your Friend

Working in the on-demand economy

Fotorecht – knipsen und teilen erlaubt? Fotografie im Alltag und im gewerblichen Zusammenhang

Die Netzgemeinde ist am Ende. Jetzt geht’s los.

The art of trolling

What The Hell Is Threat Modeling Anyway?

Von der Netzwerk- zur Plattformgesellschaft

Nudge! Nudge! – Was Design von Verhaltenspsychologie lernen kann

Tag 3:

Hack your City

Wenn Behörden zuhören wollen: Social Media Monitoring durch den Staat

Open Source Intelligence: Terrorism Prevention and Intelligence Collection in the Age of Social Media

Der Rabbi und die koscheren Gummibärchen – Die deutsch-jüdische Blogosphäre

Robots in Human Society

Kaiserschmarrn statt Islam! Rechte Volkstribunen im Netz.

 

 

 

The Midterm Elections 2014

It is election time again. Today (November 4, 2014), the United States are holding the 2014 midterm elections.

High chances of a GOP takeover of the Senate They have won.

"Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant" by DonkeyHotel, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
“Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant” by DonkeyHotel, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The odds of the GOP retaking the Senate are very high. Nate Silver, who accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 elections, estimates the chance of a GOP takeover of the Senate at 74%.

The Washington Post predicts an 8 seat win for the GOP which would get them a majority of 53 seats in the U.S. Senate and attaches a 94 percent change. Other major news outlets present high but slightly lower numbers: The Huffington Post says 74 percent and the New York Times 70 percent.

Democracy under fire

As Americans are voting today, the decline of democracy in America continues. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for the long trend of the erosion of democratic institutions in the U.S.

American democracy is under fire from several sides.

One factor is directly connected to the Republican Party’s election strategy. As of 2014, it is continuing its attempts at voter disenfranchisement to keep mostly poor people of color from voting, as they tend to vote for Democrats in the majority. In some twisted way, this strategy fits in with the nationalistic fantasy prevalent in some sections of the GOP of going back to an eighteenth-century America overseen by the infallible wisdom of the Founding Fathers. That idealized America of the past was of course the one in which neither black Americans, white women, or poor white men were allowed to participate in the political sphere. So in this regard, the Republican Party of today is the keeper of American traditions in the most horrible way imaginable.

Another factor for which the GOP cannot solely be blamed is the general corrupting role of money in politics which affects both major parties. And unfortunately, the force of the ‘Money Party’ is particularly strong in 2014. A quote from the Nation:

This is the year of the mega-donor: just forty-two people are responsible for nearly a third of Super PAC spending in the 2014 election cycle. Super PACs, meanwhile, are outspending the national parties.

On Democracy Now!, The Nation author Lee Fang explains how the 2014 election is fueled by $1bn in anonymous “dark money” campaign donations:

 

Another example of money in politics:

K Street lobbyists swarm Kentucky to support the reelection campaign of GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They dress down in jeans and t-shirts, knocking on doors, masquerading as ordinary grassroots campaigners.

 

Just in case anyone still has doubts about the corrupting influence of money in U.S. politics, David Bossie, the president of Citizens United—yes that Citizens United from the Supreme Court casejust gave a speech wherein he bragged about how that ruling handed Republicans the election:

Citizens United, our Supreme Court case, leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election.

That ‘leveling’ of the playing field means in practice that large corporations and the aforementioned ‘megadonors’ can buy elections because campaign contributions are legally seen as ‘free speech’ by ‘persons.’

In my opinion, the U.S. needs to restructure its political system in a way that diminishes the ability of the wealthy to buy off elections. Otherwise, it will never get any closer to the textbook fantasy of American democracy which many Americans still hold dearly and which I would also like to see realized.

 

Technical irregularities with voting machines in early voting

As if the problem with money in politics wasn’t bad enough already, there have been reports of malfunctioning voting machines during early voting periods. In some cases, as in North Carolina, the touchscreen where a voter selected the Democratic candidate jumped to select the Republican candidate instead.

Update [November 5, 2014] The GOP has won the Senate

As was predicted by the forecasts, the GOP took the U.S. Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, winning 10 of 13 close Senate races, and expanded majority in the House by 10 seats.

What contributed to the GOP’s victory this time?

Troubles with the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Obama’s appearance in recent foreign policy, and partisan politics in Wahington.

The Washington Post puts it this way:

Obama has seen his image damaged by the bungled launch of his health-care program and by his reactions to crises overseas. [. . .] [P]reliminary exit polls also suggested that Obama had become a symbol of what he once ran against: Washington’s gridlock, and the inability of its leaders to move beyond partisan fighting.

The last point is honestly a bit puzzling to me. After all, the GOP, in my view, has been the main source of intransigence during Obama’s presidency so far. They even made it clear from day one that their strategy was to make Obama’s presidency a failure by obstructing virtually all Democratic policy proposals, out of principle. That is the definition of partisan gridlock in Washington. And while Obama often appeared on the defensive against the GOP’s attack-dog style of political aggression, not really willing to put up a fight, their strategy has worked this time. Obama is now being blamed for the unproductive partisan politics in Washington that Republicans have engaged in since his taking office in 2009.

Al Jazeera America aptly titled an article on the subject “GOP: From shutdown villains to kings of Congress?” and interviewed a political consultant, whose takeaway was that “[t]he biggest lesson for the moment is that Americans have a short memory.” Amen to that.

Bonus fun: crazy campaign ads of 2014

Dirty tricks in the 2014 midterm elections

As if the insanely high amount of dark money pouring into 2014 election campaigns wasn’t enough, some politicos took to really dirty tricks this time. In Iowa, the RNC employed a strategy called vote shaming by promoting Facebook ads that claimed that the ballot was not secret (that is a lie) and that their neighbours would be able to get information on whether they voted Republican. The implication was that people better vote Republican or else an angry mob of conservative neighbours might invade their home in a few months when voting records would supposedly be publicized.

Meine Eindrücke vom Barcamp Kiel 2014

Barcamp Kiel 2014

Barcamp Kiel 2014 #bcki14

Am vergangenen Wochenende fand in Kiel zum fünften Mal ein Barcamp rund um das Internet statt und ich war als Neu-Kieler zum ersten Mal mit von der Partie.

Kaum angekommen, wurde ich mit einem schicken T-Shirt und diversen (Mac-lastigen) Fachzeitschriften versorgt. Ein Frühstücksbuffet mit ausreichend Kaffee war auch gedeckt, für eine gute Grundlage wurde also bestens gesorgt. Und es gab eine schicke große Social Wall von walls.io.

Was so auf Twitter los war kann man auch hier bestaunen.

Was mir gleich aufgefallen ist: Der Männeranteil unter den Besucher*innen überwog deutlich. Aber immerhin war es keine reine Männerveranstaltung. Da ist nach oben noch Luft!

Was die Sessions betrifft, hatte ich mir vorgenommen, eine Mischung aus Sessions zu Themen, mit denen ich mich noch nicht so sehr auseinandergesetzt habe und solchen, die mir einigermaßen vertraut sind zu wählen.

Freelancing, wie geht das?

Da war zum Beispiel die Session von @geregeltkrieger und @moeglichewelten zum Thema “Richtig arbeiten als Freelancer”. Als jemand, der noch nicht freischaffend tätig war, klang so Einiges erst einmal etwas beängstigend. Aber es gab viele gute Tipps, zuvorderst “sei berechenbar” und “go at a sustainable pace”. Sollte ich mich mal selbständig machen, werde ich diesen Vortrag beherzigen.

Podcasting, das (un-)bekannte Wesen

Als Hörer bin ich seit längerer Zeit ein Fan des Mediums Podcast, aber die Produktionsseite hatte ich bisher noch nicht so richtig kennengelernt.

Bei der Session zum Thema Podcasting von uisprech.de und fotophonie.de habe ich gelernt, dass man heute mit verhältnismäßig geringem finanziellen Aufwand technisch gute Qualität produzieren kann. Aber natürlich zählen Inhalte. Um die vernünftig zu gliedern kann man in einem Texteditor der Wahl oder in einem Online-Tool wie Evernote eine Struktur anlegen und zum Beispiel Interviewfragen vor der Sendung mit Interviewpartner*innen teilen. Auch für die sehr beliebten Shownotes ist das nützlich. Ebenfalls nicht zu vernachlässigen sind die Themen Branding und Hosting. Das Logo des Podcasts sollte auch in klein gut erkennbar sein und man muss sich bei Erfolg schnell über Datenvolumen Gedanken machen.

Linktipps:

Technik:

Der Lautsprecher – Tim Pritloves Podcast über Podcasting

Ultraschall – Die Wikigeeks mit einem Videocast zum Thema Podcasting

Reaper – Digitale Audio-Workstation zur Podcastproduktion

auphonic – Audio Postproduction Webservice

Podlove – “an initiative by Metaebene Personal Media to improve the overall technical infrastructure for podcasting.”

podseed.org – “Content Delivery Network für Podcaster, das darauf optimiert ist, Mediendateien aus Podcasts schnell und zuverlässig auszuliefern.”

WordPress-Plugin shareadraft – “Let your friends preview one of your drafts, without giving them permissions to edit posts in your blog”

Sonstiges:

Kiel Hack – Hackathon in Kiel vom 05.-07. September 2014

fotophonie.de – “DER deutschsprachige Podcast über Fotografie, Fototechnik, Kamerasysteme und den Kameramarkt.”

uisprech.de – Deutschsprachiger Podcast zum Thema iOS-Entwicklung

Facebook nervt, aber gibt es Alternativen?

Zwei weitere Sessions beschäftigten sich mit dem derzeit größten sozialen Netzwerk Facebook. Wenn man aktuelle Studien verfolgt, ist der Trend zur Abwanderung besonders der jüngeren Nutzer*innen zu YouTube, Instagram oder WhatsApp schon länger festzustellen. Aber auch viele ältere Internetnutzer*innen sind mittlerweile genervt. Das war das Thema einer Session. Warum das so ist? Werbung, der sich ständig ändernde Facebook-Algorithmus, der wohlmeinend Inhalte im Stream verbirgt, notorisches Oversharing von ‘Freund*innen’ oder auch Datenschutzbedenken.

Die zweite Session beschäftigte sich mit dem sozialen Netzwerk friendica.com, das gleichzeitig eine Alternative und keine Alternative zu Facebook ist. In Kurzform: Auf absehbare Zeit ist nicht zu erwarten, dass das Netzwerk die kritische Masse erreicht, bei der komplette Freundeskreise, geschweige denn Millionen von Leuten die Plattform wechseln, wie etwa vor langer, langer Zeit von studivz zu Facebook.

Als Nischennetzwerk für technisch interessierte Nutzer*innen kann friendica aber interessant sein–man denke an ein internes ‘Facebook’. Friendica ist dezentral, hat gute Verschlüsselung und man kann seine Account-Daten herunterladen und an anderer Stelle hochladen (!). Eigentlich eine tolle Idee, um sich mit der Hand voll richtiger Freund*innen zu vernetzen, im Gegensatz zu hunderten Facebook-Freund*innen. Fazit: Für die Masse der Nutzer*innen ist friendica derzeit keine Alternative zu Facebook.

Nächster Halt: Das Stadt-Wiki Kiel-Wiki

Warum machen Städte eine ‘eigene Wikipedia’? Zum Beispiel weil die Wikipedia nicht jeden Artikel zu einer Straße in jeder Stadt für relevant hält. In einem Stadt-Wiki geht das aber und ist explizit gewünscht. Das relativ junge Projekt Kiel-Wiki hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, umfassende Informationen zur Stadt zusammenzutragen. Dabei wird auch auf Bestehendes in der Wikipedia zurückgegriffen und darauf aufgebaut. Auch gibt es mittlerweile Kooperationen mit der Lokalpresse in Form von gegenseitigen Verlinkungen. Als kleineres Schwesterprojekt schreitet die Entwicklung natürlich nicht so schnell voran wie in der großen Wikipedia, aber ich finde, es ist ein tolles Beispiel für ein lokal verankertes Projekt.

Wie informiere ich mich über Landespolitik?

Es gab noch eine weitere Session, die sich lokal-regional mit der Stadt Kiel und dem Bundesland Schleswig-Holstein beschäftigte. Steffen Voß (SPD) @kaffeeringe und Uli König (Piraten) @u98 gaben nützliche Tipps, wie man als Bürger*in in Schleswig-Holstein online Informationen zur Landespolitik in Erfahrung bringen kann. Hier sind einige der genannten Links:

Landtag Schleswig-Holstein

Parla TV – überträgt die Plenarsitzungen des Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landtages

Parla Radio – überträgt Ausschusssitzungen des Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landtages

Plenum Online – Zeitplan des Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landtages

sh.juris.de – Landesvorschriften und Landesrechtsprechung

Kassensturz Schleswig-Holstein (Piraten) – Visualisierung des Landeshaushalts

Zuletzt wurde es für mich noch etwas technischer und nerdiger.

Raspberry Pi

In der Session zum Raspberry Pi ging es um interessante und mehr oder weniger nützliche Projekte, die man so mit dem preiswerten Mini-Computer anrichten kann. Von der Steuerung von Funksteckdosen für den heimischen Drucker bishin zum Tracken von Flugzeugen war alles dabei. Das ist doch vielleicht mal etwas für die kalten Herbsttage.

Linktipps:

raspberrypi.org – Die offizielle Website des Raspi

forum-raspberrypi.de – Das deutschsprachige Raspi-Forum

lets get nerdy – Einige Tutorials zum Raspberry Pi

Freifunk

Zuletzt war ich noch bei den Kieler Freifunkern vom Toppoint e.V. Die bauen in und um Kiel ein alternatives Funknetzwerk mit Zugang zum Internet auf. Mal schauen, vielleicht stelle ich mir demnächst auch mal so einen Router hin.

Schönes Barcamp, wir sehen uns im nächsten Jahr wieder!

Insgesamt hat es mir sehr gut auf dem diesjährigen #bcki14 gefallen. Die Stimmung war freundlich und die Organisation super. Vielleicht traue ich mich ja im nächsten Jahr, auch eine Session zu halten. Ein Thema muss ich mir noch überlegen.

Tinfoil Hat Alert: Obamaphones and Child Soldiers

Tinfoil hat alert
Tinfoil hat alert

The current Central American child immigrant crisis sparks some truly insane conspiracy theories from the usual suspects. One of the latest, courtesy of Alex Jones and William Gheen:

Barack Obama is supposedly giving mobile phones to Central American kids in order to later recruit them as his personal army of child soldiers.

The so-called Obamaphone is actually a program that started under George W. Bush to give low-income households mobile phones for emergency calls. The rest of this claim are the paranoid ravings of the far-right conspiracy fringe. And if you think about it for a moment, the racial undertones become quite clear. In this view, Obama is not the democratically elected POTUS, but only some African warlord. As an interested observer of the American political landscape since Obama’s election in 2008, this claim sounds quite familiar. During the emergence of the Tea Party Movement, the following tropes were a frequent sight on protest signs:

  • Barack HUSSEIN Obama the Muslim dictator (because Iraqi dictator Saddam HUSSEIN’s last name is the same, there must be a connection)
  • Obama as an African witch doctor (because the healthcare reform of a primitive ‘savage’ black president could only result in the death of white America)
  • The whole birther conspiracy theory which claimed that Obama was Kenyan and hence illegally usurping his office

You see where this is going: Obama is not one of us Real Americans™ because deep inside, he is but a primitive African thug.

Finally, the idea of Obama’s personal child army has been promoted elsewhere before, but with a slightly different twist. In 2009, when Obama gave a speech about the importance of education and staying in school, something fairly uncontroversial that most presidents have done before, figures such as Glenn Beck claimed that Obama was trying to indoctrinate American kids to build the modern-day equivalent of Nazi Germany’s Hitler Youth.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Argumentum Ad Hitlerum: Climate Change Denial Edition

As readers of this blog might know, one of my pet peeves is ridiculous comparisons of random things to Adolf Hitler that I find on the Internet. Here we go again.

Argumentum ad Hitlerum
Argumentum ad Hitlerum

This time, the culprit is a corporate-funded climate change denialist who apparently does not consider it beneath him to smear the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change by comparing it to the persecution of Jews under Adolf Hitler. You read that last sentence correctly.

As progressive media watchdog website Media Matters for America reports, Exxon-funded physicist William Happer—who is not a climatologist, mind you—appeared on CNBC recently, and was, to CNBC’s great shame, presented as an ‘industry expert.’

Happer claimed that

“the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

Where to start here? First, you cannot murder carbon dioxide. But six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. To insinuate that corporations with a high carbon dioxide footprint, such as Exxon, are persecuted like Jews in the Third Reich is just obscene.

Second, climatologists do not ‘demonize’ carbon dioxide as such. This is a total straw man argument. In reality, climatologists examine the effects of the high amount of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere. The general scientific consensus, as compiled by the IPCC is very clear: humans are a factor in the rising temperatures on this planet. You can read about it here. Climate change denial is at this point willfully deceptive.

The Pope Is Against Marijuana Legalization

The_Pope_does_not_smoke_dope

 

 

Papa non fumigant [The Pope does not smoke] (I assume).

Me neither, but I tend to disagree with his recent comments on marijuana legalization. He said that

“even limited attempts to legalize recreational drugs ‘are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.'”

We need to look into what the ‘desired effects’ are.

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!”

If, as I assume from the above statement, Pope Francis thinks that “the problem of drug use” is that people take drugs, then he is right—but also wrong.

Apparently, humans in all kinds of civilizations, long before the advent of Christianity, have been taking psychoactive substances. There seems to be a basic impulse in humanity to change the perception of reality, be it for the purpose of ritualistic religious practice or much more mundane motives.

Papa don’t preach!

In essence, Pope Francis is making a moralistic argument: drugs are just wrong.

Make no mistake: I am as terrified of the recent reports of flesh-eating ‘bath salts’ zombies, the sight of ‘meth mouths’ with rotting teeth, or the human decay caused by heroin addiction.

These are indeed harmful substances. Hard drugs. Most reasonable persons would agree that it is a bad idea to get involved with them.

But I think it makes sense to put marijuana in another category. If you look at the statistics on deaths caused by substance abuse, alcohol is the obvious outlier. There are no recorded deaths from marijuana consumption. You can read an article on the matter from American Scientist here.

The ‘War on Drugs’ has failed

As a practical matter, prohibition has failed.

In the U.S., the so-called war on drugs has dragged on for decades, and it is clear that it is unwinnable, just like the similarly silly concept of a ‘war’ against terrorism.

Should one not be worried about terrorism and not do anything about it?—absolutely not! Should one abandon the issue of drug addiction and leave addicts to their own devices? No.

What I am getting at here is that the strategy needs to be revised.

Just as much as I see the problem of terrorism rather as a task for police and intelligence services (but without violating everybody’s civil liberties, like the NSA), I think that the problem of drug abuse is more a task for medical professionals and health education.

This approach would also reduce the steady flow of people into the out-of-control American prison-industrial-complex which disproportionately jails young men of color for non-violent drug offenses and puts them in an environment full of violent hardcore criminals. And this is a manifestation of systemic racism, or, as one famous book on the subject calls it “The New Jim Crow.”

Legalize, tax, educate

My policy prescription would involve the legalization of drugs, their subsequent taxation, and the reallocation of funds used for the ‘war on drugs’ to health education and treatment of addicts.

A pope who has built his reputation as an advocate for the poor should understand this.

 

 

 

 

One Hispanic News Anchor Challenges ‘Blowjob Journalism’

Picture: "Newspaper Line" by Genista / Kai Schreiber, flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/, text edit
Picture: “Newspaper Line” by Genista / Kai Schreiber, flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/, text edit

Jorge Ramos, a popular news anchor for the Hispanic-oriented Fusion network, reminds us that the role of journalists in a democracy is not to write blowjob pieces, but to hold power accountable:

“The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci used to say that for her, an interview was like a war [. . .] I get the sense that we’ve forgotten that here in the United States. You turn on the TV, and you see very bland interviews. Journalists in the United States are very cozy with power, very close to those in power. They laugh with them. They go to the [White House] correspondents’ dinner with them. They have lunch together. They marry each other. They’re way too close to each other. I think as journalists we have to keep our distance from power. [emphasis mine]” – Jorge Ramos, Fusion anchor

Recently, in a way validating his point, Ramos received criticism from exactly the kind of establishment journalist he was talking about after hammering Speaker of the House John Boehner for blocking a vote on immigration reform and not letting him divert from the issue.

The unspoken rule of providing groveling, uncritical reporting in exchange for access to politicians—i.e. ‘blowjob journalism’—is exactly what is wrong with contemporary corporate-controlled mainstream media.

Those so-called journalists enganged in this travesty are indeed a disgrace for the profession and corrosive to democracy as a whole.

Thank goodness there are still some brave individuals willing to go against the grain and ruffle some feathers.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/jorge-ramos-fusion-politics-immigration-107124.html

German Interior Minister Buries NSA Scandal

“Ich will gerne nochmal unterstreichen, dass unsere [deutsch-amerikanischen] Beziehungen wichtiger sind als das schwierige Thema NSA.” – Thomas deMaizière, deutscher Innenminister

 

“I would like to underscore, once again, that our German-American relations are more important than the difficult issue of the NSA.” – Thomas deMaizière, German Interior Minister

https://netzpolitik.org/2014/innenminister-de-maiziere-deutsch-amerikanische-beziehungen-sind-wichtiger-sind-als-das-thema-nsa/

An Ice Cream Truck Song From 1916 Is Incredibly Racist

Image: "People posing in front of a Dreyer's Ice Cream truck." simpleinsomnia, flickr (CC_BY_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Image: “People posing in front of a Dreyer’s Ice Cream truck.” simpleinsomnia, flickr (CC_BY_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In my opinion, popular culture (as in everyday culture) is often a good indicator of a cultural mainstream at a given time. Therefore, if we look at a seemingly banal or innocent artifacts, that may give us clues about the zeitgeist of a period. Theodore R. Johnson, III over at NPR thought so, too, and examined the origins of a famous ice cream truck song going back to the minstrel shows of the nineteenth century (go and read the article, it is great!). And he found a 1916 record by a Harry C. Browne, courtesy of Columbia records, that contains lyrics like this (warning: incredibly racist):

Browne: “You niggers quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream!”

Black men (incredulously): “Ice Cream?!?”

Browne: “Yes, ice cream! Colored man’s ice cream: WATERMELON!!”

Almost a century later, such open forms of racism are quite shocking and thankfully would be unacceptable in mainstream advertising. That is not to say that popular culture today is free of racism. But I would argue that these days, for the most part, racism manifests itself in subtler forms. I am not talking about the realm of politics. There, as a regular observer, I note a lot of dogwhistling, especially since 2008 and the election of Barack Obama for POTUS. But that discussion is for another time.

 

Horrible Politicians: Texas Democrat Downplays Domestic Violence

Horrible Politicians: Texas Democrat Downplays Domestic Violence

Alternate Texas flag map. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
Alternate Texas flag map. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

When I read about reactionary politicians in America, these days it is almost a sure bet that the latest horrible thing uttered about women, LGBTI people, non-white Americans, poor people, foreigners, or anyone who is not of their particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity, comes straight outta GOP. But not this time!

As the Huffington Post reports, Lloyd Oliver, a candidate for District Attorney in Harris County, Texas, frequently says absolutely terrible things when it comes to the issue of domestic abuse.

For instance, he thinks that domestic violence is “overrated” and that it should be prosecuted less.

To that effect, he gave ‘helpful’ advice to victims of domestic abuse during a call-in show in 2012, encouraging them to “maybe learn how to box a little better.”

In that same show, he also downplayed domestic violence as a problem, claiming that it was a part of “some couple’s sexual routine.”

Statistics see serious domestic violence problem

Be that as it may in a tiny fraction of cases, but as the HuffPo article notes,

Harris County has the highest rate of domestic violence homicides in the state. According to a report by the Texas Council on Family Violence, 30 women were murdered by intimate partners in 2012.

Taking this into consideration, domestic violence is certainly not a non-issue, something that maybe a few kinky BDSM afficionados engage in consensually. It is, instead, a serious social problem.

But Mr. Oliver seems quite ignorant of that fact.

Here’s a clip from the progressive news show The Young Turks with some more details: