"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A little birdie tells me.....

I want to agree with Charlie Pierce that Rick Santorum is a....well, a little richard.

But I can't quite make that argument right now.  It seems Rick Santorum is "sickened" by the Josh Duggar story; and rightly so.

In other news, Dan Savage wants to do to "Duggar" what he did to "Santorum."  But apparently Twitter can't quite get around the fact the victims here, and the perpetrator, share the same last name, so using that name to become a new pejorative just seems, shall we say, "sick"?

Even Twitter finds an acorn once in a while; and even supposedly clever people step on their....well, little richard.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015
Sometimes originality is not the key; sometimes solemn repetition is more appropriate....

Perhaps it began as "Decoration Day." Probably it was a memorial for the dead, like Samhain or Dios de los muertos. Now it is to remember that "freedom is not free," even though it was not won by war for the Founding Fathers but simply one's birthright. The militarism of society is a problem for another day. Today, as we honor soldiers we should also honor the dead, whoever they are. Because of them, we lead the lives we lead.

The characters are two African American Marines in the bush in Vietnam.

He was silent for a moment. Then he said "Ever'one here think it easy for me. I be this good little church boy from Mississippi with my good little church-goin' Mammy, and since I be this stupid country nigger with the big faith, I don't have no troubles. Well, it just don't work that way." He paused. Jermain said nothing. "I see my friend Williams get ate by a tiger," Cortell continued. "I see my friend Broyer get his face ripped off by a mine. What do you think I do all night, sit around thankin' Sweet Jesus? Raise my palms to sweet heaven and cry hallelujah? You know what I do? You know what I do? I lose heart." Cortell's throat suddenly tightened, strangling his words. "I lose my heart." He took a deep breath, trying to regain his composure. He exhaled and went on quietly, back in control. "I sit there and I don't seen any hope. Hope gone." Cortell was seeing his dead friends. "Then, the sky turn gray again in the east, and you know what I do? I choose all over to keep believin'. All along I know Jesus could maybe be just some fairy tale, and I could be just this one big fool. I choose anyway." He turned away from his inward images and returned to the blackness of the world around him. "It ain't no easy thing."

--Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press 2010).

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.--Walt Whitman


O Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon us.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.
Arise, O Christ, and help us,
And deliver us for thy Name's sake.


O Christ, when thou didst open thine eyes on this fair earth, the angels greeted thee as the Prince of Peace and besought us to be of good will one toward another; but thy triumph is delayed and we are weary of war.


O Christ, the very earth groans with pain as the feet of armed men march across her mangled form.


O Christ, may the Church, whom thou didst love into life, not fail thee in her witness for the things for which thou didst live and die.


O Christ, the people who are called by thy Name are separated from each other in thought and life; still our tumults, take away our vain imaginings, and grant to thy people at this time the courage to pro-claim the gospel of forgiveness, and faithfully to maintain the ministry of reconciliation.


O Christ, come to us in our sore need and save us; 0 God, plead thine own cause and give us help, for vain is the help of man.


O Christ of God, by thy birth in the stable, save us and help us;
By thy toil at the carpenter's bench, save us and help us;
By thy sinless life, save us and help us;
By thy cross and passion, save us and help us.


Then all shall join in the Lord's Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spare the rod and spoil the society

Just trying to think semi-rationally about this, but if you take this question (and ignore the fact we, a-historic peoples that we are, keep reinventing the wheel*):

Perhaps the most important question is the most basic: Why have American reformers repeatedly invested such high hopes in these instruments of control despite their track record of mixed results at best? What assumptions about human nature, individual psycholog y, organizational sociolog y, teachers, and students underlie these repeated efforts to “rationalize” schooling ? Politically, why have the recent movements triumphed despite the resistance of the strongest interest group in the arena, the teachers unions? Why do these movements draw support from both liberals and conservatives? In the most recent movement, why did a Republican president push for the most powerful version of this vision and in so doing buck the traditions of his own party and create the greatest expansion of the federal role in education in the country’s history? What have been the consequences of these rationalizing movements, not just for test scores, but for the teaching profession, for educational and social justice, and for the shape of the educational enterprise as a whole? And finally, if not rationalization of schools, then what? Is there an alternative that is more likely to yield the results that we seek?
And attach to it the fact we love 'top-down' answers in America (although we say we hate them), which is why we have more people incarcerated per capita than any country on earth (or is North Korea ahead of us?).  We love, in brief, punishment.  We love to lead, not with the carrot, but with the stick.

Which is why we are all so happy to blister the hide off Josh Dugger, rather than consider the strange cult-like family he was raised in could be the source of most of his problems (well, he doesn't fall into any category of "oppressed," so we must hate him, right?)

Although TLC goes to great lengths to mask this fact, the Duggar family is a cult. They forbid their children from exploring outside ideas and expression, carefully monitoring every word and image they are exposed to. They forbid them from wearing shorts. They homeschool them in order to indoctrinate them with backward beliefs. They refuse to let their adult daughters kiss or hold hands before marriage and demand to read every text between their daughters and their suitors. They adhere to a fringe Christian movement called the “Christian patriarchy,” which commands total female submission to men and limited education for women. The Duggars do everything they can to control their children’s minds, then brainwash them with misogynistic dogma.
Which won't excuse you from criminal liability for acting on that dogma (ask Patty Hearst); but it does make you want to reconsider the vitriol directed at Mr. Dugger.

Doesn't it?

Probably not.  We love right, and we want to punish wrong, and we want to do that most severely, in the most bright-line manner possible:

Would you want to send your son or daughter off to study at a university founded and long administered by someone who had opposed Martin Luther King, the desegregation of public schools, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion; had wanted the United States to expand, not end, the war in Vietnam; had supported apartheid, fought legislation forbidding discrimination against gays, spouted anti-Semitic rhetoric, and had voiced the opinion that the Anti-Christ walks among us as a Jewish male; had thought Chief Justice John Roberts not conservative enough, and, to top it off, showed de facto sympathy for al-Qaida by blaming Americans – especially gay and feminist Americans – for 9/11?

It's pretty much the universal way of the internet:  if you don't condemn something, then you condone it.  Hate the sinner and the sin, or you aren't doing it right.  Which may explain why the majority of Americans refrain from voting at all, or bother only once every four years if there is a POTUS candidate inspiring and charismatic enough to stir their interest.  And why the two political parties we allow to exist are so polarized, or seem to be (even though it's still money that matters, in the end.  Ted Cruz is never going to try to slay that golden goose, even if he speaks hardly of it from time to time).

Our public discourse tells us we must hate the poor, or the rich, or the right wing, or the left wing, or the police, or the "gangs," or the "thugs," or the criminals; or anyone who disagrees with us.  We must not only hate them, we must expunge them from the community:  criminals to jail, the religious to expulsion (only the removal of all religious persons from the planet will satisfy Jeffrey Tayler); all who do not think as "we" do to purdah; and only by doing so can we ever hope to attain paradise, or at least secure "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Which pursuit, more and more, seems to rest on who we can punish.

So we will punish the Duggers for their hypocrisy, and make Josh Dugger the whipping boy for our disdain.  We will excoriate those who don't call the bikers in Waco "thugs," and demand all speech about any new story containing violence expunge certain words when non-whites are a factor, and include those words only when whites almost exclusively are involved.  We will insist that all Muslims are crazed fanatics bent on our elimination, even as Muslims go about their lives among us unnoticed, wishing only to live and let live.  We will impose our ideas of "Them" upon "them," whoever "they" are, and we will not rest until our fear of them is dissipated.

The future scares us, so we blame the teachers who are supposed to prepare our children to be adults in the world we cannot imagine.  We blame the teachers, so we punish them:  everything they do is wrong, no matter what they do.  One teacher praised for "excellence" means the rest are terrible and damaging and must be punished.  One problem in any school system anywhere means they all are failing and we must punish them all with new solutions that will once and for all! fix these dreadful problems these dreadful people make, problems that can only be solved by Bill Gates or Michelle Rhee or Arne Duncan, problems that can only be solved by One Solution which will Fit All!

Just as more severe punishments and more people in jail will fix the crime problem in America, and one POTUS or Congress will finally solve all the problems we face so we can get back to worrying about what to eat for dinner.

And funny, if you read the Salon article, how much of this has to do with "science."  Or maybe it's the  perversion of science?  I don't know about that, anymore.  I'm quite willing to accept the responsibility Christianity bears for anti-semitism in Europe, up to and through the Holocaust.  It's buried in the gospel accounts where groups of followers of Jesus of Nazareth were careful to blame the powerless Jews rather than the too-powerful Romans for the crucifixion, so they didn't suffer the same fate for the same perceived sedition.  It may be there would have been anti-Jewish feelings in Europe without Christianity, but it was certainly there because of it.  It was a perversion of a message taught by a Jew, the son of a Jewish mother, herself venerated by Christianity.  How can we say it isn't?

That doesn't make Christianity less responsible for its creations than science is for nuclear weapons or poison gas or all the weapons of "efficient" killing brought to bear since the Industrial Revolution.

When we start down that road then the Prince of Verona in Shakespeare's most famous love story is right, and "All are punish'd."

And why must people be punished?  Because otherwise they will be soft; and there is nothing Americans hate more than "softness":

Each of these movements [to reform education] has been justified on the grounds that it would bring objective data to a “soft” and undisciplined field and standardization to a highly variable social landscape.
To dwell on that issue a moment, in America teaching is "soft."  "Those who can't do, teach," we say.  Teachers should be smart?  "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"  Founded by some of the leading intellectuals of the age, our nation now speaks of intellectuals as "eggheads" and "brainiacs," if we speak of them at all.  A few college professors are wildly overpaid, usually by sitting in chairs funded by industry, and so all college professors are rich, indolent, and contribute nothing to society.  Why, they don't even "get their hands dirty."

The people we draw into teaching are less than our most talented; we give them short or nonexistent training and equip them with little relevant knowledge; we send many of them to schools afflicted by high levels of poverty and segregation; and when they don’t deliver the results we seek, we increase external pressure and accountability, hoping that we can do on the back end what we failed to create on the front end.

This largely historical analysis dovetails with an emerging body of international research on the countries that are far ahead of us on respected international assessments, particularly the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Countries (or national subdivisions) that lead the PISA, including Singapore, Shanghai, Canada, Finland, South Korea, and Japan, very broadly share a model one could see as the inverse of ours: they draw teachers from among their most talented people, prepare them extensively and with close attention to practice, put them in schools buffered from some of the effects of poverty by social welfare supports, and give them time while in school to collaborate to develop and improve their skills. In some cases, as in Finland, such practices largely obviate the need for testing and external accountability, because selection and preparation on the front end makes extensive monitoring on the back end unnecessary. While the United States remains the world leader in assessments and accountability, Finland and Shanghai are the leaders in student performance, and they get there in an entirely different way.

Barack Obama continued the "reforms" of W., which is why Arne Duncan is still Secretary of Education 6 years later.  Bush and Obama are both the products of private schools, where teachers are generally more talented (you get what you pay for), and are in school buffered from most of the effect of poverty, and given time to develop and improve their skills, especially since any student who can't match the pace set by the teacher is quietly ushered out of the school.  Try that in a public school where no one can be turned away.

As Jal Mehta says, the current system of education provides little up front, and demands heavy accountability on the back end.  Punishment, in other words.  We provide as little as possible to those in poverty, and then punish them severely with a police state mentality that jails as many of the poor as society can get its hands on.  The police who deal in this punishment are not to be "sacrificed" unless absolutely necessary.

Punishment must not be undermined.

*this last time, btw, started with Ross Perot in Texas, who wanted to "fix" the education system without, as ever, talking to teachers but with the implicit understanding it was all their fault, so "accountability" (i.e., punishment) must be enforced.  It spread under Clinton (POTUS candidates influence national policy, remember?) and flowered into nightmare under W, to be continued under Obama (himself the product of private schools that closely monitor who gets in, unlike public schools which can refuse no one).  That little detail goes unmentioned in the analysis at Salon.  As I was saying about not learning from history.....

Scanning religious news on Sunday morning

Jim Gaffigan (like Stephen Colbert) is a committed Catholic.  But he also understands how problematic it can be to be identified as a believer in anything remotely religious.  At least, according to his new sitcom, which, interestingly, gets a very fair treatment in ThinkProgress.

The best part of the article, though, is this:

Conversely, liberals sometimes hide their faith when navigating the progressive cultural spaces they call home, wary of triggering the fury of those who are wounded by or critical of religion. (For a sneak peak, check out the anti-religion comments that will inevitably populate the bottom of this post.)
Without a trace of irony, the comments to the article furiously attack religion in all it's imagined forms, and tell it to go away and stop bothering them.   As the article points out:

And while liberal people of faith are increasingly proud of their religion, polls show they do so only with the caveat of not wanting to impose it on anyone else.
Most of the comments are about how imposing their faith on others is all that "religious" people want to do.

Honestly, "religion" is like a dog-whistle on the internet:  the very word provokes Pavlovian responses completely unconnected to the topic of the article.  As Ana Marie Cox said:  "Why do I need to prove my faith--and why should I try?"  Funny, too, because her attitude is not all that different from what one might expect to hear from Kathleen Norris:

It does come up: Since leaving Washington, I have made my life over and I am happier, freer, and healthier in body and spirit and apparently it shows. When people ask me, “What changed?” or, “How did you do it?” or, sometimes, with nervous humor, “Tell me your secret!” I have a litany of concrete lifestyle changes I can give them—simply leaving Washington is near the top of the list—but the honest answer would be this: I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray. 
Meanwhile Pope Francis is talking like what the Jesuits call a "free person":

Francis asked the bishops to reinforce the "indispensable role" of ordinary folk in their dioceses. "In reality, lay people who have an authentic Christian formation shouldn't need a bishop-pilot, or a monsignor-pilot, or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level, from political to social, economic to legislative," he said.

"Rather, what they all need is a Bishop Pastor!"

He complained that often official church documents are too heavy on doctrine and theory "as if our orientation isn't aimed at our people and country but rather students and specialists."
A comment at Salon attributed the decline of Christianity to the Internet, which provides more information about 'reality' and the falseness of religion than ever before.  The internet provides us more information, it's true.  But what is true and what is false requires must as much discernment as ever.

And as for that scary news that denominations are in decline?  You could do worse than reconsider that is more important:  your denomination, or God.  There are two ways to put this (or six, if you prefer a list).   You can pray the prayer of Church Anniversary of the old E&R Hymnal:

Grant that thy Church may be delivered from traditions which have lost their life, from usage which has lost its spirit, from institutions which no longer give life and power to their generation; that the Church may ever shine as a light in the world and be as a city set on a hill.

Or you can boil that list of six down to the essential:  Things don't matter.  Ideas don't matter.  People matter.

And lastly, it's Pentecost; have some art.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ta. Comhionannas

The conventional wisdom is that human rights should never be subjected to a referendum because that's not how human rights issues should be enshrined into law.

And today there's Ireland:

"We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it's a very proud day to be Irish," said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland's conservative Catholic constitution.

People were apparently actually returning to Ireland from around the world for this vote.  Tens of thousands of young Irish voters voted for the first time, mobilized by a clearly effective social media campaign.

Well, and a sense of humanity:

Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin, a Cork politician whose opposition party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church, said he couldn't in good conscience back the anti-gay marriage side because "it's simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality."

I cannot but contrast that with the grieving father wondering still why "gun rights" trump his son's right to be alive, and the sheer hatred heaped up by people who will scream at grieving family members about their "right" to "bear arms."  Or, more relevantly, the right not to bake a cake.

And all I can say is, we are clearly a lesser country, and a lesser culture, and a lesser people, than the Irish today.  They are to be congratulated on their morality, and their humanity.

Friday, May 22, 2015

At least they called it a 'riot'

Because it looks like white kids were involved.

Maybe the cosmic scales of justice have been balanced now.

Breaking News

Nothing says "Dangerous thug" like "Veterans of Bell County" or the USMC logo

NPR has reportedly decided the real story out of Waco is the arrest of 170+ persons without probable cause.

Which falls more on the DA and the judge who arraigned them all and set the bail.

The story is supposed to be broadcast this weekend.

Stay tuned.....

Thursday, May 21, 2015


"I hope people always question government," [former Governor Rick] Perry continued, "but don't question your military. Don't question the men and women who have put their hands up and sworn this oath to our Constitution and defended this country.”

And while we're at it, let's get government outta our Medicare!

Perry's idea is even scarier than the one about not trusting government.

Location, location, location

Oh, and: film at 11. 

Coleman noted that protests, some violent, that flared up around the police killings of black men, most of which involved an overwhelmingly black crowd, were called "riots" while college and professional sports championship celebrations and losses that turned violent, most of which involved an overwhelmingly white crowd, are not.

"But when you look at Ferguson, or you look at a Baltimore, when you look at these sorts of incidents, we have a tendency vis-a-vis the media to actually question why it happened to the victim, and we go further and then we impute liability on the entire community and sort of do this systematic victim blaming of black America," he said.

Texas Monthly's Dan Solomon wrote Monday in a column that comparing Waco with Baltimore or Ferguson "was probably not an apples-to-apples situation."

"But it's nonetheless difficult to imagine that if a shoot-out involving dozens of young black men that ended with nearly 30 casualties had happened in a strip mall in Waco, it would be perceived as an isolated incident involving only the people who drew their guns — or that police would be chatting and friendly with people in the area in gang attire afterward," Solomon wrote.

The gathering at the Twin Peaks in Waco was not a protest.  Bikers didn't gather to object to the commodification of America, the strip-malling of America, the objectification of women in "breastauraunts," or the ugliness of urban sprawl (most of I-35 between Dallas and San Antonio is now a forest of signs and parking lots).  They didn't gather to protest the injustice done to veterans of foreign wars (biker gang actually started after World War II, and every war thereafter has added to their ranks), or even to their portrayal on the Fox Network.

They were there to make trouble over who had the right to wear a patch among their "colors."  And that's why Waco police and McClennan County Sheriff's officers were there.  And when the shooting started (because someone unjustly ran over someone else's foot in the parking lot; O, the humanities! O, the inequities and vicissitudes of an uncaring society!), people started shooting, and apparently a lot of people ran for cover.

As gunfire broke out in the parking lot of a Texas restaurant, dozens of motorcycle riders ran inside seeking cover and tried to guide others to safety, security video reviewed exclusively by The Associated Press showed Wednesday.

The video, shared by representatives of the restaurant, shows bikers on the patio ducking under tables and trying to get inside. At least three people were holding handguns. One biker was seen running with blood on his face, hands and torso.

The footage shows only one round being fired — by a biker on the patio who then ran inside.
Video shows police with assault rifles entering the front door at about the same time. As two officers enter, bikers can be seen lying on the floor with their hands spread.
Police didn't use tear gas and tanks because they didn't need to.  Law enforcement was able to arrest 170 people rather easily and quietly, once they got the shooting stopped.  It also explains why TV cameras weren't there to record that mayhem; by the time the media had heard about the story, there was nothing to photograph but bikers waiting to be hauled off to jail.  Events in Ferguson and Baltimore went on for days; the incident in Waco was over before evening.

I still think it's a pity the Twin Peaks restaurant wasn't burned to the ground (no great loss, but great video!).  But Waco is not Ferguson is not Baltimore because these are not at all similar situations.  The prisoners are all being held on $1 million bail, but Jay-Z and Beyonce (or Donald Trump and George Soros) aren't going to be bailing them out anytime soon, and the closest thing to a mother yanking her kid off the protest line is a wife who claims her husband was innocently in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong vehicle.  Whether or not that proves out, don't expect her to become a viral phenomenon or get invited onto any TV shows soon.

More importantly, this wasn't the protest of a community, of a neighborhood, of people tired of injustice and ill-treatment.  This was a bunch of idiots on motorcycles with too easy access to firearms and a too-stupid reason to use them (Territory?  Seriously?).

Yes, there is a severe degree of bias and even racism in news coverage and attitudes about who is responsible for acts of violence and what terms we should use to describe it (though the argument over whether or not these bikers were "thugs" is supremely silly).  But this incident is not the poster-child for that problem.

And it really doesn't do anything for that problem to complain so much about the narrative for this incident.  Especially because the real story here may end up being the mass arrests of people who can't be charged with any crime except going to a tacky restaurant on a motorcycle.  And will we then complain about the curtailment of their civil liberties?  Or complain the police didn't beat them enough?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One more reason motorcycles are not safe

So, to try to put this nonsense in Waco in perspective, and explain why CWP's are making us safe (and open carry would make us safer!):

Falco: You have a biker event—any time there’s a biker event in an area, the motorcycle gang that believes they control that area will show up and police it and make sure other motorcycle gangs aren’t there. They’ll protect that territory. So what happens is that, now that the Cossacks are claiming that territory too...

Neyfakh: When you say “biker event” what do you mean?

Falco: It’s just a day event. Like, a restaurant will hold a biker show or a bike contest. Hooters does it in different locations. It’s just a day event where you bring your family, look at some nice bikes, drink a couple beers, and then it’s over by 5 p.m. But when I was doing the Outlaw infiltration, the Outlaws would show up at Hooters looking for Hell’s Angels that might be in the area and try to show up, and waiting to have a shoot-out with them. And that’s what happened here.

Neyfakh: So that’s why they were all in the same place. And the guys who ended up causing the violence were probably planning to do that, right? Or do you think something sparked it unexpectedly?

Falco: Yeah, I mean, anything can do it—you park in someone else’s spot, you cut him off. But it was gonna happen. Something was gonna spark it. Because they didn’t show up there in big numbers just to drink beers with each other. And they were all armed, right?

Neyfakh: Yeah, they were all really armed. Is that normal, for gangs to travel with so many weapons?

Falco: So what happens is, in the states where they allow concealed weapons permits, all the big biker gangs have ordered all their members who aren’t felons to get concealed weapons permits.

Neyfakh: I guess what I’m so surprised by is that these are rivalries that are based on nothing—that they’re not fighting over anything more specific than intangible control over a particular area.

Falco: Yeah. Goofy, right?

Neyfakh: Yeah. I mean, how old are these guys?

Falco: Old! They’re old. They’re like 40s, 50s, 60s. Your average street gang is made up of Hispanic or African-American kids who grew up in an area where they didn’t really have a choice. These are guys that do have a choice—that didn’t grow up in an area like that, but later in their life decided to become part of a gang. A lot of these guys are ex-vets—they’re war vets. Most of these biker gangs were created by war vets in Vietnam, World War II, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s attractive to the anti-social war vet. Your normal war vet is a hero, and comes home a pro-social person. But your anti-social Caucasian war vet is attracted to these biker gangs, and so a lot of these guys are very highly skilled with weapons.

Neyfakh: Do they live together?

Falco: No, but they have a clubhouse, and mandatory runs, and they have to hang out with each other. There’s a lot of that.

Neyfakh: Just to close, what do you think has changed since you were on the inside of this culture?
Falco: I was 2003 to 2006 with the Vagos, and then 2008 to 2010 with the Mongols and Outlaws. Not much has changed. The only thing that’s changed is more states are allowing concealed weapons permits, so you have more of these guys who are armed to the teeth.
Thanks, NRA!

It's kinda cute they have a clubhouse.  Then again, they're armed, and have decided to avenge the deaths and arrests of their club members.

Oh, boy.

This Twin Peaks ("because 'Hooters' just wasn't racy enough") restaurant has lost its rights to the name "Twin Peaks."  And Waco police and the sheriff knew this rumble/riot/melee/brouhaha was gonna happen.  They told the restaurant not to allow it, but it was allowed anyway.  Again, because Hooters wasn't racy enough; or something.

And the day after the Texas Lege took up the noble cause of allowing open carry of firearms, which would have made things worse in Waco, as the police there are saying.  But hey:  "FREEDUMB!"  And territory.

Besides, it's a buncha old white guys.  It's not like they're gonna start a riot, or somethin'.....

That argument, that this was a "riot" and that the media is not treating it as seriously as Baltimore, and therefore "RACISM!", is still making the rounds.  And there is a problem with the coverage of Waco.  Law enforcement there says it's one of the worst scenes of violence they've ever seen; but there are no burning buildings for the TV cameras to focus on, no lines of protestors hurling rock and epithets at police in riot gear, so according to the national news, it's just a "shooting."

Well, I suppose.

But Waco is being "downplayed," if at all, because it's in Waco.  Where's Waco?  It's in Texas.  But what's Texas?  Aside from being the second most populous state in the Union, it's nowhere.  There's Austin; everybody thinks they've heard of Austin.  There's Houston, fourth largest city in the country (and when was the last time it was in the news?). Rahm Emmaunel makes news in Chicago, Bill DeBlasio in New York; California has a drought worse than the Texas drought, but not by much, and Houston has a lesbian mayor for a second term.  But who cares, 'cause it's Houston, right?

Texas only gets mentioned on news websites when the Lege is in session and tries to pass crazy laws. Otherwise, Texas is too far out of the way to bother with.

But then, so was Ferguson.  Nobody knew where Ferguson was until the "riots" broke out (a word to be used advisedly, now).  Then there was some focus on the cities of St. Louis County, but it faded.  Shit got real when Baltimore exploded, because that's 40 miles from D.C., and well within the Bos-Wash where all national media is located and focussed.  Tell the truth, would anybody have ever taken Chris Christie seriously as a "national politician" if he was governor of Montana?  If the George Washington Bridge ran anywhere but into New York City, would national news have ever noticed it was all but closed down?

Once Baltimore was in flames, the national discussion of racism and police violence had to be taken seriously.  And now it's our media touchstone:  if Waco isn't treated like Baltimore, then something is rotten in the state of America.

Annie Dillard once wrote about an "out of the way" spot in South America, along the Amazon, if I recall correctly.  But "out of the way" from where, she asked?  Out of the way from whom?  Afghanistan is "out of the way", except we insist it is important.  But important and "out of the way" are matter of perspective, aren't they?  Rather like race and racism, in fact.

Is the coverage of the event in Waco a reflection of racism?  Or of regionalism?  Ferguson didn't really change our national discussion, but Baltimore did.  Why is that?

Maybe it has something to do with Waco.