May 2016
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace


The word of the moment is "pivot", which is omnipresent in news reporting and political discourse as in "Hillary now pivots to the general election". The birth and death of neologisms is fascinating; I am not sure what "pivot" really adds. In fact, it may contribute to a general trend of erasing human agency: don't we really mean that Hillary must "concentrate on" or "deal with" the next phase of the race? "Pivot" makes us all dancers instead of actors, not necessarily a good thing. It also reminds me of an episode of "Friends" when Ross is trying to direct the carrying of a large sofa up a narrow staircase and keeps shouting "Pi-vottt!!!!"

An over-confident gun victim

Reported in passing was the death of a man with a concealed carry license who saw a man hit a woman in a mall parking lot in Texas. The woman had already retreated to safety indoors when the foolish Samaritan attempted a citizen's arrest, only to be shot to death by the soldier he was confronting. He left his own wife and family bereft due to a strangely self-deluded moment in which he mistook his own safety and skills. Its a small illustration of the way in which guns may change the way we view the world.

In a mass shooting incident in Houston this week, a wounded man at first thought to be one of the perpetrators is now also being identified as a good Samaritan who got himself shot.

Kent State

This past month saw the thirty-sixth anniversary of the killings at Kent State, which took place in an atmosphere of government willingness to countenance gross bodily harm to and even the killing of dissenters. After years of trials and law suits, justice was never done.

My right wing blog experience

Two years ago, I ventured onto a right wing blog and literally proposed that "we reason together" about Obamacare. I was met with purple rage and threats, accused of being a paid Obamacare agent, and a liar because my assertion that my new Obamacare policy had a slightly lower premium and covered more trhan my prior policy could not possibly be true. I was then blocked from the board by the blogger. A few weeks ago, he posted an essay bemoaning the advent of Donald Trump and blaming, among other factors, a culture of demonization and divisiveness. Ha.

Fetal pain

The Utah law requiring women receiving abortions to take anesthesia to assuage the "pain" of the fetus is one more gross example of the small government crowd using government to intervene in women's wombs, bodies, bloodstreams. The use of anesthesia in a local procedure is absolutely a matter of free choice and could be refused in any other context. Women who have a history of substance abuse or other issues may particularly not want morphine. Government dictating the use of a drug has nothing to do with the creation of any reasonable medical standards or discretion, and everything to do with a now barely-disguised initiative to redefine women as breeders, responsible only to bring a maximum number of babies into the world, regardless of their personal wishes or the source of the insemination.

Raised fists

Some African American women students at West Point are in trouble for posing for a group photo with raised fists. You don't have to be young, hip or diverse to know that this is an expression of joy and self confidence. Only in a demonizing and sophistical world would anyone make an issue out of this. On a related note, how does anyone oppose a movement called "Black Lives Matter" without acknowledging the inherent message that black lives don't matter?


Miracle of miracles, the Times is, at least for the duration of the election, abandoning its self-vaunted phony journalistic neutrality and has started using "falsely" as an adjective in news stories, such as "Trump falsely claimed the President was not born in this country". For the last few decades, neutrality meant headlines like "Trump calls Sanders space alien; Sanders denies being from another planet".

Trans people and bathrooms

With an unerring instinct for blowing up non-issues into major culture wars, the right has hit on "No men in women's bathrooms". I have a nephew who is a pleasant, deep voiced, bearded young man who grew up a girl. Forcing him to use a women's bathroom makes absolutely no sense, and would likely get him beaten or arrested. Like the anesthesia law mentioned above, this one too has a subtext of heedless cruelty.

George Zimmerman

It is inevitable that when we fail to hold murderers accountable, they brag about and profit from their murders. George Zimmerman tweeted a photograph of Trayvon Martin's corpse and recently sold the murder weapon for more than a hundred thousand dollars.

Crippled software on the IPhone

As part of my litany of routine corporate behavior that would never have been tolerated thirty years ago under our anti-trust laws: My IPhone will not allow me to purchase music on Amazon because it wants me to use Itunes. Nor can I use PayPal to buy Skype credit on the phone; only ITunes.

On a similar note--shocking and disrespectful behavior of technology--I went to install Adobe Reader in a new laptop and the website of this venerable and respected company also installed McAfee security software, without asking my permission. I did not want it and had to uninstall it. On a McAfee support board, I found numerous other people complaining, and the company denying this is happening.