Music from friends

I still haven't dealt with the tags thing over on Dreamwidth so music posts will still originate here for a while longer. I have a bunch of open tabs but politics and life stresses have eaten a lot of hours when I'd normally be listening and filtering material. Fortunately I have some help this time around.

The first two items come from sovay and they're both ... well, hot.
Sxip Shirey is an unusual enough name to ring a bell but I had to go searching online to find where I'd seen the name before. Back in 2009 he did the score for an otherwise-silent short film called Statuesque written by Neil Gaiman and featuring as one of its human-mannequin performers Amanda Palmer. This first song is a straight-up bluesy vocals piece sung by Rhiannon Giddens. The track is an excellent example of what a good voice can sound like without the highly overproduced sounds we usually get.
And then there's this, "Cinnamon Stick". I recommend you absorb it twice, as I did. First just listening. Really nice upright bass and voice piece, a combination you don't hear often. Notice but try not to get too distracted by the lyrics, which aren't particularly subtle but OK. Then watch the video and... oh, boy. I'll be in my bunk.
This "One Woman Army" from Porcelain Black caused a small knock-down drag-out in our listening Slack. The poster is a fan of P.B. and the semi-industrial dance-pop genre. Others were like, "Meh, pop is pop". To me this feels like yet another in the "ooh look how transgressive I am while I writhe around scantily clothed" genre. Madonna, Britney, Christina Aguilera, Gaga, and so on. The pop is catchy but as MizA pointed out, no one in the video actually appears to be enjoying themselves. Which is really sad because at least one person gets a full-on two-hands grope of some very nice naked Porcelain Black breasts - that alone would make me smile. Compare and contrast with Cinnamon Stick which is all about exploding your heteronormative ideals and everyone seems to be having a great deal of fun.
I wish I could remember the origin of this one but it's been too long since someone sent me the link. Solange is a lovely-voiced jazz singer and the video has luscious saturated colors throughout. I like her vocal range, too, but the song just sort of drifts off at the end.
This was the soundtrack for the best performance at the Arisia bellydance show this year. The song is tight and well-slung and I really love how it alternates between fast rapping and slow nearly drawled lyrics. There are several versions of the video around; I picked this one because it's the kind of three-minute storytelling that used to characterize videos back in the early days. You don't see a whole lot of that anymore, which is both OK and a shame in its own way. Tech N9ne's choice of Kendall Morgan to do the vocal counterpoints really works well.

This is approximately the coolest thing I've seen all week.

It came to me via my weekly Kickstarter "Things We Love" newsletter. The TL;DR is this:
try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off.

Kids with overdue lunch accounts often can't get the full hot meal and are sometimes publicly shamed by being forced to eat a visibly different cheese sandwich or other lame (and not all that healthy) food. Because we know that publicly shaming a child for their parents' poverty or neglect is always a good idea. Jayzus.

Whoever came up with this idea ought to be nominated for sainthood, if you ask me.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.

We interrupt your politics for some art

From a link posted by BlueGargantua:

Wind Games. It's a beautiful meld of dance and gymnastic-style athleticism. My sole regret is that the safety helmet makes it impossible to see the performer's face.

I love new art forms and particularly new art forms that are enabled by technology (see for example Bandaloop). In one sense there's nothing tremendously new about performing dance moves and poses in three dimensions - dancers have been leaping and spinning for centuries. In another sense, this style integrates the technology in ways that I don't think would be possible otherwise; just look at how much of the time the performer spends head-down for example.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.

Simple self-help

Had a lovely dinner and drinks last night at Cuchi-Cuchi (*) with silentq (sorry, still haven't figured out name-linking in DW). Our evenings are infrequent so there's a ton of catching up and sharing we do.

Among the things we talked about was the sense that we're in a marathon here. Yes, there's a Gish Gallop of awful coming at us, and I expect another one as soon as all the rich white guys(**) in the Swamp Cabinet get into their positions of power. But this is a four-year marathon, not a four-week or four-month sprint.

To that end, we've both been reading a variety of self-help and self-care guides for activists and this morning I came across a really simple rule of thumb from another context that I think applies here: HALT

If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired you are likely to make mistakes, increase your local life negatives, and be less effective. Angry is a tough one - this shitstorm makes me (us) angry a lot, but acting out of anger isn't an effective counter-strategy (see "don't initiate punching Nazis" and the mess at UC Berkeley). The advice is this - if you are in one of those states, halt what you're doing and see if there's something you can do about it.

I particularly like the "lonely" one. We who want to act may find it's more effective to join an existing organization than to work alone. This fight can be isolating and our President is doing a great job of gaslighting the opposition. That's a very lonely-making situation. I feel lonely a lot - to some degree these writings are a response to that. Do what works for you to counter your loneliness because you are not alone in this.

HALT, it's a thing to think about.

(*) Highly recommended. - great drinks, a wide variety of small plates, fun ambiance.

(**) No I haven't forgotten Ms DeVoss. I hope her nomination gets blocked - we're close. But seriously, this is the oldest, whitest, male-est, richest cabinet in decades.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.
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A Very Imperfect Hero

Continuing the discussion I started with my last entry on the actions and firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Ken White (Popehat)'s take is here: Desperation For A Hero. He seems to be coming to some of the things I've been thinking through.

Crucially, though, he points out that her decision not to follow the order was based on her belief not that it was unconstitutional, but that it was "unjust and unwise." I think those things are less debatable than its (un)constitutionality but also they are much worse grounds for a government official to stand on.

She has an obligation to refuse to do unlawful things, but she has no right to refuse to follow orders because she disagrees with the policy behind them. She publicly asserted that the order might be unconstitutional, but didn't explain how or suggest a method or schedule to resolve the question. She didn't use clarity to promote and defend the rule of law. She was right to stand up for justice, but wrong to confuse and obscure the role of the Attorney General.

And he comes to the same conclusion as I had - that we need heroes who don't just stand up for what's right, but who stand up for the rule of law and the necessity of all officials to abide by it.

Ms Yates is a hero for taking a stand against injustice and prejudice. I'd cheerfully buy her a drink of her choice, given the option. But we have to acknowledge that acts of defiance occur within a context and if we open the door for our enemies to behave badly we may end up doing more harm than good.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.
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I am startlingly conflicted about the firing of Sally Yates

Given: I agree that the order is likely unconstitutional. I agree that government officials have a duty to refuse to follow or enforce laws and orders they believe to be unconstitutional. I believe that Trump's statement in regards to her firing is further indication of his petty, tyrannical, narcissism and another dollop of evidence that he is temperamentally unfit to hold the office in which he is now camped.

That said, it is the President's right to fire members of the Executive Branch. Like all of us without contracts, they are at-will employees who may be terminated for any reason. Civil service union contracts may provide some government employees with further employment protections - I'm not clear if Ms Yates was a member of such a union - but absent that it's expected that higher-ups are going to fire subordinates who order disobedience.

The rub, for me, is that there are better and worse ways of acting in the situation Ms Yates found herself in, and I think her chosen course was not the best. Generally, a high-level appointee (even acting) who disagrees with an order or policy should make that disagreement known internally, advocate for reversal or amendment of the position, and if that is not possible then resign. I am reminded of John Ashcroft's refusal - under duress - to re-authorize illegal domestic surveillance in the Bush era. Once outside the public service, that person should be free to voice their concerns, raise objections and awareness, and so on. If the law or order is unconstitutional it should not be followed, but in-house direct disobedience is likely not the best or only recourse. Even Edward Snowden, confronted with evidence of the most massive illegal program in history, appears to have used internal channels to voice his concern before taking more dramatic action.

Think back, if you will, to Obama's tenure. He had a couple of unusually public disagreements with ranking military officers who opposed his policies. Those generals were let go or resigned. Imagine a Democratic successor (*) faced with a subordinate Trump appointee who refused to implement an order re-funding family planning clinics. You'd expect that subordinate to be fired as Ms Yates was fired.

Long-time readers may recall that when the Democrats were in charge in Congress they moved to change the rules on filibusters. I said that was a bad idea and now in 2017 we find ourselves in a situation where none of Trumps awful appointees can be filibustered. Govern not as you would when in power, but as you would want government to operate when you are not.

I applaud Ms Yates's courage and principled stand. I wish more civil servants would find ways to oppose corrupt, harmful, and likely unconstitutional directives. But I am left ill at ease by her chosen course of action. Rights and values again.

(*) Michelle Obama 2020 - who's with me?

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.
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Commerce is political

To my Uber-using readers... if you do not support Drumph's anti-immigrant, refugee-killing, Islamophobic new policies you should consider whether switching from Uber to Lyft is something you can do.

In short:
- Uber worked to break a work-stoppage protest by taxi drivers at JFK airport over the detention of people with legal visas.
- Uber's CEO is a member of Trump's Policy Forum. (*)
- Lyft has pledged a million corporate dollars to the ACLU

(*) Presumably the Forum approves of this policy. I would believe that it was not consulted, because Steve Bannon doesn't seem to want to consult anyone before bull-in-a-chinashopping the country. However, remaining silent in the face of this action is complicity. Silence = Death, about which I'll have more to say later.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.
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Art is political

I could not be at Copley today to join in the protests, which made me sad.

So I made a little bit of art - this new profile icon - and I would like to share it. If you are unable to copy the GIF let me know.

I tried a few variants of it, but the rainbow text against stark black seemed best to me. If you'd like something different please suggest and I'll try to make it. Either static or animated, profile icons are limited to 100x100.

This is likely to be my default icon for a while. I'll try to synch up LJ and DW but if you don't see the "not OK" icon where you're reading please click through to Dreamwidth for the original.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.

On rights and values

There's a meme going around vis-a-vis punching Nazis. I am not a pacifist - I believe that violence is sometimes necessary and that non-violent alternatives are not always the best choice. But I try not to instigate violence, even against fuckin' Nazis. Talk about your conflicted feelings.

I was (h/t Popehat) then directed to this statement by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks of UC Berkeley on the planned appearance on that campus of noted troll and gay-bashing hatemonger Milo Yiannopoulos. I think this statement gets it exactly correct. There are rights each of us enjoys, including the f'ing Nazis, and we must respect and uphold those rights even in the face of extreme provocation. We do so not out of some abstract loyalty to a code of rights, but because upholding such rights is consistent with the values of the communities we wish to build.

I forget who said it first, but I've always held to the principle that free speech is not necessary for popular speech - free speech is necessary for the unpopular. Lots of things my side says and will say are not popular, such as calling Drumph and his cronies liars. And some of the things the other side says are also unpopular.

When it becomes hard to uphold the unpopular rights we have to take a wider view and see who is not just having a hard time but who is actively being threatened. Who is potentially harmed by this exercise of rights? Because rights exist in a culture of values, we therefore value extending extra care and protection to those who are at risk. Our values call us to balance rights such as free speech with rights of safety and the basic liberty associated with being free of threat.

This stuff is hard even in the best of times and I suspect it's going to get harder and harder in the next four years. I want to come out of this dark period not only with my rights intact, but with my values still solid.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at You can comment here or there.