Protect civil rights or Mr. Potato Head?

Hippocratic oath, ignored

potato headThe Weekly Sift guy posits: If there’s a theme in recent political news, it’s that Republicans and Democrats seem to be living in different worlds.

“I live in the Democratic world, so the issues Democrats talk about — Covid; the economic effect of Covid on ordinary people; protecting the right to vote; repairing crumbling 20th-century infrastructure and building for the current century; climate change; racism, sexism, and various other forms of bigotry; mass shootings; and letting DREAMers stay in the country — look real to me.

“Meanwhile Republican priorities — making it harder to vote; keeping transgirls out of school sports; changing discrimination laws to increase conservative Christians’ opportunities to express their disapproval of other people’s lifestyles; encouraging more people to carry guns in more situations; more tightly regulating which bathrooms people use; not letting cities require masks; and protecting Mr. Potato Head from cancel culture — are all weirdly divorced from any problems I can see.”

He describes this in much greater detail. And it wasn’t always so, as he explains.

Anyway, while trying not to pay too much attention to a murder trial in Minnesota, some other things that caught my attention.

ITEM: A story about my home county:
Research reveals gaping racial disparities in suburban arrests
“A review of data by the Times Union provided by the Capital Region’s largest suburban police departments revealed Black people are arrested and ticketed at rates that far exceed their percentage of the population in the mostly white communities.

This should surprise no one around here. Of course, the black folks in Albany knew this. But some of the white people in my church have been telling me this for years, how they had received what they perceived to be preferential treatment.

The Talk, redux

ITEM: Asian Americans, many for the first time, are giving children and elderly parents ‘The Talk’ on how to protect themselves from hate
“Some parents have been putting off these uncomfortable discussions, but they’re now unavoidable after the targeted murders of six Asian American women in the Atlanta area.” The conversations with their children are about how to gird themselves against a wave of anti-Asian sentiment, violence, and bullying.

ITEM:  Arkansas Governor Signs Pro-Religious Discrimination Bill Allowing Doctors to Refuse to Treat LGBTQ Patients.
And here I thought doctors followed a Hippocratic oath to recognize their “special obligations to all my fellow human beings.” This is contemptible legislation.

ITEM: Lindsey Graham Accuses President Of ‘Playing Race Card’ On HR 1
There was a time, right after John McCain died, that I thought maybe this guy could become something better. Nope.

ITEM: From The Lancet, no less. Public policy and health in the Trump era
“Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health.

“His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection.” (49 pp, free with registration)

ITEM: SATIRE –  Georgia Governor Declares Water a Gateway Drug That Leads to Voting

On the other hand

ITEM:  Louisiana, Activists May Be Winning a Battle Against Environmental Racism
Analysts say the massive petrochemical complex proposed by Formosa Plastics is “financially unviable.”

ITEM: Brown University students vote to support reparations for descendants of enslaved people connected to the school
“Studying the issue doesn’t put money in Black folks’ pockets,” the student body president said. “It’s lovely and all, but how does that rectify what happened?”
Of course, the question is always, “How?”

In the year of the masks

do I want to know a secret?

Unity MaskIn some way, there was no date more 2020 for me than December 7. I received three packages. All contained masks.

One was a package of 50 disposable items I had ordered about a week earlier. The second was a mask featuring the mustache of John Green, which I had ordered about a month and a half earlier. It was a Pizzamas thing; don’t worry about understanding that, because I don’t either.

The third, though, I had ordered so long before that I had forgotten about it altogether. Ten black masks with the letters UNITY in white silhouette. Within each letter, a message. all in caps.

Healthcare for all. Back Lives Matter. Save the Planet. Protect Dreamers. Ensure voting rights. The image description from Democracy for America: “We believe there is more that unites us than divides us. These issues are not just for the few, they are for all of us.” I hope so.

In my Christmas stocking, Santa brought two more masks. One was a woodsy scene. The other was a black mask with Day-Glo musical notes. I like these.

One more

Finally, in the mail on New Year’s Eve, came a mask with a card, sent ostensibly from my church’s address. The lettering was intentionally designed to obscure the handwriting of the sender. The white mask had a pinkish rectangle that featured a white cross. In red letters:
FIRST PRES CHOIR
2020

For the last few years, an anonymous benefactor had left the choir t-shirts and pens, both emblazed with messages about the church, left near the choir loft. Since we haven’t sung since March 2020 – haven’t even been in the building – I was particularly surprised by this largesse. I have a theory about who it might be; my wife thinks it’s someone else. Thanks to the choir Secret Santa once again, whoever you are.

Football!

I went to the local grocery store on Tuesday, moving through as quickly as possible. The cashier wore a Pittsburgh Steelers mask. I asked her if her team was going to win this weekend. She said, “I hope so. They only lost by two last week, and they rested some of their players.” I added, “And the Cleveland Browns needed that game. But what about that three-game losing streak?” She sighed, “I don’t know WHAT that was about.”

I mention this because, too often, the mask is a sign of less sharing. You can’t see people’s facial expressions. But at that moment, the mask facilitated a human connection that I too often miss.

Here’s hoping that in 2022, I won’t need the masks anymore. But I keep seeing those newspaper headlines. LA Times, Jan 1.: Spiraling COVID-19 deaths leave morgues overflowing and funeral homes turning away grieving families. And even around here. Times Union, Jan. 1: In Albany County, the mark of 346 new infections in one day is 77 more than the prior record. So know I’ll still have those masks available in 2021. It’s good to have a variety…

At least I don’t have to deal with these folks.

Unbridled joy at church, as it were

readings, prayers, and conversation

First Presbyterian Church. windowMy church had been working toward resuming in-person worship beginning Sunday, November 29. However, based on the upswing of COVID 19 virus cases in the area, the Session (correctly, IMO) doesn’t feel it is safe to restart.

Since we’re talking about Presbyterians, naturally there is an ad hoc group known as the Reopening Coordinating Committee. The group voted to put in-person worship on hold at least until mid-January. I suspect it’ll be later than that.

Now, we have had worship live-streamed on Facebook every Sunday at 10 a.m. since way back on March 22, after the services were canceled on March 15. It is actually a quite decent production, thanks to the technological prowess of a number of folks. But of course, it’s not the same.

There is a team in the church to check-in and connect with every member via phone or email. I’m one of those team members. But it ain’t the same either.

We did a new thing

On November 22, we had an all-church meeting to discuss the nominations for the new Session members. So it was on the church’s ZOOM account. I had seen most of the people present, from meetings of the choir and adult Sunday school and the Bible guys.

But it occurred to me that some of the members had viewed few or none of the rest of us. What I saw were, in some cases, experiences of unbridled joy. It was very exciting.

Then on Thanksgiving at 11 am, we had a Zoom gathering time of readings, prayers, and conversation. ESPECIALLY conversation.

Now, our church is working on trying to do a carol sing close to Christmas. Of course, we’d all be muted save for the performers. It’d be cacophony otherwise. Still, we could at least SEE each other making a joyful noise.

As our pastors like to say, “We may not gather at the church, but we still gather as the church.”

Lydster: Back to school regimen

my daughter is thriving

The new back to school regimen seems to be going well. My daughter’s high school eased into the new school year with online orientation with the principal and other school leaders on Day 1.

Further orientations for each grade and academy/school division followed. The parents were supposed to participate in this, though we had some technical difficulties.

On the third day, students attended their advisory period, got their regular schedules and the like. The following Monday, students began their schedule of virtual classes. For the next two weeks of class, they had a shortened school day, first in the afternoon, then in the morning.

That last week, students went to the high school to pick up materials and supplies. To keep everyone safe, students were assigned specific days and times to come to school based on their grades and last name. My daughter’s arms were sore for days with all the books plus two different calculators that she carried home.

Change of plans

The City School District of Albany had to change its plans for in-school learning for most of its ts older students. This was a function of “devastating anticipated reductions in state aid that could total as much as $23.2 million for the 2020-21 school year.”

Then the Board of Education confirmed a bunch of administrative changes for virtually every school in the district in early September. It was “part of district-wide staffing reductions.” Principals and assistant principals were either let go or reassigned, effective September 25, after the school year had begun. Imagine the disruption to the schools and to the people’s lives.

Ironically, the students from Myers middle school whose families have selected in-person attendance will attend classes on the first floor of Albany High’s new academic building. Apparently, there are mold and structural problems at my daughter’s former middle school.

With a little help from her friends

When school suddenly stopped in spring 2020, then restarted remotely, this was not a great time for my daughter. She largely tuned out after a few weeks, and only got through the school year because of the work she’d already done to that point. The death of her grandfather on April 22 did not help.

This semester, she had hoped to go back to in-school learning. Still, she knew what she would be facing by late August. The salvation is that a couple of her friends, Tee and Kay, have come over to our house and worked with her.

It is not without risk, I suppose, especially to me. I suppose I fall into that immuno-compromised group for COVID now, though the NYS infection rate is low. But my daughter is thriving when she had not been. THat’s critically important to me. I don’t want her flunking out of 11th grade.

June rambling: And They Lynched Him

1600 Black Lives Plaza

goofus and galliantMia Birdsong is the host of More Than Enough, a Nation podcast that uses the concept of universal basic income to start a conversation about dignity, deservedness, and the country America can and should be.

UMBERTO ECO: a practical guide for identifying fascists.

In Memoriam: Duane Ivan Todman.

Sudan: Anatomy of an internet shutdown.

People Who Tried New Quarantine Hobbies Tell Us How That All Worked Out.

Deciphering appliance error codes for washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ranges.

A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York, a stretch of road I know extremely well.

Kurt Thomas, U.S. gymnastics’ first world champion, dies at 64.

Triangles vs. Rectangles: What’s the Better Way to Cut a Sandwich? (it involves math)

She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird.

Ain’t it the troooth.

If you can’t find self-rising flour, just add 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per cup of all-purpose flour.

Why Is It ‘Eleven, Twelve’ Instead of ‘Oneteen, Twoteen’?

Race in America

George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America.

The cascade of crises in black America.

The Mimetic Power of D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Mural.

Why The Small Protests In Small Towns Across America Matter.

The protests bring on a Me-Too reckoning and media reckoning on race.

This Is How It Feels To Be Racially Profiled.

From 2018, and still unfortunately relevant: Before You Call the Cops – The Tyler Merritt Project.

The Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List and Anti-racism books (NYT).

CNN/Sesame Street town hall on racism.

Lots of resources here and here.

What You Should Keep In Mind About COVID-19 If You’re Protesting.

Fox News apologizes for segment linking stock market gains to the deaths of unarmed Black men.

vlogbrothers.

Iowa Republicans Vote Out Rep. Steve King, the most overtly racist member of Congress.

Ella Jones Elected to Serve as Ferguson’s First Black Mayor.

The myth of the kindly General Lee.

#IMPOTUS

Blessed are the poorIf He Goes Even Lower, We’d Better Be Prepared.

The Regime Is Beginning to Topple.

History Will Judge the Complicit Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president.

Cockwomble (noun) – A person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behavior while generally having a very high opinion of his own wisdom and importance.

This is your America.

NYTimes Op-ed warns of a ‘vaccine’ October Surprise.

The unemployment rate is really 3% higher than claimed.

Lincoln Project ads: Leadership and Steps and Mattis.

An idea: buy a postcard, send it to Temporary Occupant, 1600 Black Lives Plaza, Washington, DC 20500 (ZIP Code should get it there), and send your message of disdain. (Postage is 35 cents, but hey, spend 20 cents more, slap that first-class stamp on it, and support the USPS.)

The Bunker Boy – Randy Rainbow.

Now I Know

The American Civil War of World War II and Giving a Word a Different Spin and They Called it “Massive Resistance” and A Step Too Far? and Cherries, Helicopters, and Hair Dryers and High Altitude Flatus Expulsion and It Doesn’t Stand for “Eradicating Dangerous Mosquitoes”.

MUSIC

And They Lynched Him On A Tree by William Grant Still.

Lift Every Voice, Karen Briggs violin rendition.

Rise Up – Andra Day.

EK Ellington, W Marsalis, O Wilson.

No One – Kevin Flournoy ft. Rebecca Jade.

Jungle Love – Morris Day and The Time.

People Get Ready.

Lizzo.

Coverville 1311: Cover Stories for Outkast, Lauryn Hill, and Jack Johnson.

Took The Children Away – Archie Roach.

Flivver Ten Million by Frederick Shepherd Converse, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Let The Sunshine In from HAIR Virtual Corona Version | 2020.

Sound of Silence – Dana Winner.

21st Century Schizoid Man – Toyah & The Humans, A tribute to Bill Rieflin.

Smile – Voctave A Cappella Cover.

Once in a Lifetime – Kermit the Frog.

Mr. Ed Theme Song, in German.