Monthly Archive: August 2016

The Colin Kaepernick shitstorm, Part 3

It is instructive to watch the unfolding of stories and responses on Twitter. As I write this, one of the trending hashtags on Twitter is #VeteransForKaepernick. A lot of military veterans totally support Kaepernick’s right to sit for the National Anthem.
Here are some of the tweets that I found this morning with my comments.

Disrespecting the flag? Disrespecting the USA? Well, well, well. What do we have here?

Colin Kaepernick is a traitor? Holy moly. Somebody is either wilfully stupid, ignorant or both, and needs to go to a dictionary, look up the meaning of the word “treason” and wise up. It’s probably not a good idea for front office execs to be bloviating on this topic at all. 80% of the NFL’s players are not white, and when you have retired players like Jim Brown saying that they support Kaepernick, attempting to excoriate or censor his views is probably not a good idea. The NFL already has a credibility problem with its selective “look the other way” approach to players who, you know, actually commit crimes, like domestic partner abuse. (Conspiracy theorists have already noted that while the NFL had no problem coming down like a ton of bricks on Ray Rice, an African American player, for domestic partner abuse, they have done nothing about disciplining the Giants’ Josh Brown, who was arrested for domestic abuse and is white).
The idea that teams can force employees into compulsory obeisance to ceremonies is not one that will find favour either with employees or, more importantly, the legal system. It may also lead to the filing of a greivance by the NLFPA, which is deeply resentful of the NFL’s attempt, on top of what they consider to be a poor CBA, to impose all manner of non-appeable quasi-judicial punishments on players.

Ah yes. Quite. Currently there are thousands of would-be insurrectionists in the USA, some of whom have actually taken up arms against the US government. Yet their efforts to destablize the USA are being ignored in favor of the excoriation of one man who engaged in a legal peaceful protest action. This is why I consider most of the bloviation against Kaepernick to be profoundly unserious.



Brief summaries – 31st August

1. Employment statistics
One interesting and puzzling (and potentially problematical) feature of the USA is the extent to which adult males in their working prime are disappearing from the job market.

2. The appeal of Donald Trump
This article argues that Donald Trump’s accent and scattershot speech, while signalling to many people that he is utterly unserious, signals to many disaffected voters that he is “not like all of those other hucksters and bullshitters”, which gives him a tremendous advantage with some disaffected groups.


The meaning of the word “freedom”

The recent shitstorm over the failure of Colin Kaepernick to stand for the National Anthem is further confirmation that there are a large number of people in the modern USA for whom the concept of freedom, like some people’s concept of free speech, has become highly selective. When they exercise their personal freedoms, no problem. When another person exercises his freedom in a way they don’t like…well, suddenly that person is a lower form of life.
Sorry, but that is a bullshit interpretation of freedom. You don’t get to sit in judgment on others on how they can and should exercise their freedoms. If concepts like freedom and free speech are to be anything other than nice sounding catch-phrases, we have to accept that freedom means that people will routinely do and say things with which we disagree.
Right now, a significant number of people clearly disagree with Colin Kaepernick’s actions. However, they seem to be unable to disagree without being highly disagreeable. Many of them are behaving like assholes. They are talking keyboard-warrior smack, making threats using both indirect and direct speech, and generally talking like over-sensitive macho warriors with an acute case of butthurt.
We control our reaction to those things that others do or say. Right now, many people’s reactions to Colin Kaepernick’s actions remind me of the classic excuse of abusers the world over (“If you had behaved properly, i wouldn’t have had to hit you”). As Robin Skynner, the British psychologist, once said:

If people can’t control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.

The prevailing sentiment of many people opposed to Colin Kaepernick’s actions occupies some weird zone, comprised of a mixture of demanding that he change his behavior (apparently he is not do to that again, ever, and he should be issuing groveling apologies until I decide that he has been sufficiently penitent) and cersorious mean-spirited proposals for draconian punishment (as in, the 49ers are supposed to terminate his contract).
These sort of reactions convince me that many people are indeed unable to control their emotions, which is not a good thing for them. They are the ones that need to be examining their behavior rather than Colin Kapernick, who did nothing wrong by sitting down for the National Anthem.
By the way, if the NFL or any NFL team tries to mandate that players stand, and the case goes to court, the NFL and/or the clubs may well lose, based on previous SCOTUS rulings that nobody can be forced to stand for or recite an anthem or pledge. The lack of constitutional validity for demanding fealty to symbols (already established by SCOTUS rulings that nobody may be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance) may well override any attempt by NFL teams to mandate standing for the National Anthem. This sort of mandatory fealty that some people are expecting or demanding is, in my non-lawyer opinion, unconstitutional, and it should remain that way, since the only governments that mandate such fealty are dictatorships.
Various people, including Drew Brees, have explained carefully why they think Colin Kaepernick’s action was incorrect. I happen to disagree with Drew Brees, for several reasons, but he was polite and careful in his comments, so I have no problem with his position. I have a big problem with the juvenile, potty-mouthed asshats who seem to comprise the majority of the online mob that seems to be convincing themselves that Colin Kaepernick is the personification of un-American Evil. Those people are unserious, have nothing useful to say, listening to them is a waste of my time, and if they continue to pollute my Facebook wall with drivel, they will be disappearing off my Friends list in short order. Or, to return to where I came in…freedom gives people the right to behave like juvenile asshats. It also gives me the right to ignore them or remove them from my online world.
UPDATEKen White over at Popehat articulates a lot of my objections quite eloquently.


The current state of the major political parties in the USA

This is a pretty good explanation for how the two major parties ended up where they currently are, in terms of their support bases and policies.
The analysis also makes it clear that Donald Trump’s rise to become the Republican nominee for POTUS is not some weird one-off event, after which things will revert to “normal”. Donald Trump and the attitudes he represents may become the new “normal” for the GOP. His rise has been a long time in the making.


Colin Kapernick and the online mob

Colin Kaepernick is now being subjected to the excoriations of a baying, tribalistic, online mob. Reason, considered discussion and debate have been jettisoned by a large number of people for whom his actions seem to represent something approximating to sedition.
I am even seeing tribalistic bonding in front of me on my Facebook wall.
I don’t often get angry at what I read online, but I am starting to get very annoyed at the utter abdication of intellectual thought and considered reaction by people on Facebook who I thought had higher standards. Some of you have let your standards slip. Badly.


How to get disbarred (no, really)

Based on my following the legal profession informally for a while, it takes a lot for a lawyer to be disbarred in the USA. Most state Bars are reluctant to disbar lawyers for malfeasance or bad behavior. It seems that stealing money and violent conduct are required (or a combination of both) to get yourself disbarred. Most other disciplinary actions involve temporary suspensions and/or fines.
However, once in a while some lawyers behave so egregiously badly that a state Bar decides to permanently lower the boom on their practice of law in that state. This is one such example.


The political insurgents and the underlying root causes

As lots of you will have noticed, the political process in the USA this election cycle has been dominated by two insurgent candidacies in each of the two major political parties.
In the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders attempted to win the nomination, gained a lot of votes, delegates and air time, and came close to winning. For the Republican Party, Donald Trump steamrollered his way to the nomination, with most of his more established and mainstream opponents withdrawing once it became clear that they could not win.
The popularity and success of those insurgent candidates shows that the mainstream leaderships of the two major political parties in the USA have lost legitimacy in the minds of many electors. Given the lack of traction of third parties in the US political system, the result has been the capture of the GOP by forces whose world view is both authoritarian and nativist. Many of Donald Trump’s supporters are deeply and viscerally hostile to many of the developments of modern international commerce such as technology, open borders and free movement of labour. They see many of those developments as a conspiracy to marginalize them, and ensure that their lives will be negatively impacted. Moving outside of the loud and aggressive Donald Trump support base, a lot of Americans are not happy with the economic progress of the modern USA, as this Guardian article shows.
Many people have been attempting to make sense of these insurgencies. many explanations have been offered, but most of them have little to say about the underlying root causes.
Without understanding those root causes, there is unlikely to be a solution that addresses the disconnection, cynicism and general discontent of many electors. This is corrosive to democracy, and will encourage further insurgent candidacies, some of which will, based on recent history, result in the appearance of demagogues and fascists offering simplistic solutions based on eliminationist approaches to out groups and opponents.
This article from Evgeny Morosov attempts to analyze the root causes of this discontent. His conclusion is that tech companies are the main underlying root cause.


Interesting piece of re-positioning

This tweet points to desperate attempts by supporters of Donald Trump to engage in clarifications along the lines of “what Mr Trump really said” variety. As a humorist on Twitter noted, it is not clear whether Trump intends to make Mexico virtually pay for his virtual wall.

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