Friday Reads: And now for something completely different …Posted: September 9, 2016
Happy Friday Sky Dancers!
I’m going to change the topic for awhile and just provide some good, interesting reads for you! I hope you’ll share some of the interesting things you’ve been reading this week!
I don’t know if you’re aware of Rebecca Solnit who is considered an important, modern feminist writer and activist. I found an interesting article about her activism and thought I’d start off with suggesting you read it. That’s her picture top left holding the great sign on hope and fury. I picked up this feature on her from Lion’s Roar which is a Buddhist site in my tradition. She speaks on her life and on her Buddhist practice or nonpractice as the case may be.
Rebecca Solnit is certain of only one thing—that hope includes uncertainty. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next, and that gives us room to act,” she says. “Hope is active engagement with uncertainty and the possibilities that it holds.”
Solnit is best known as an important feminist writer and activist. Her 2008 essay Men Explain Things to Me is credited with launching the term “mansplaining.” But as an award-winning journalist, historian, and activist, her work spans many genres, disciplines, and causes: landscapes, criticism, human rights, technology, indigenous peoples, gender, visual art, and climate change.
When I ask Solnit how she describes what she does, she says, “My work has often been about connections between things seen as far apart or disparate—connections to cross fields in disciplines and cross times in cultures. I try and encourage people. I take interest in pleasures and possibilities that are already all around us. I try and connect the present, past, and future in how I tell stories. I try to look for the alternatives and the overlooked entrances and exits.”
I particularly like this quote from her book The Faraway Nearby.
The coolness of Buddhism isn’t indifference but the distance one gains on emotions, the quiet place from which to regard the turbulence. From far away you see the pattern, the connections, and the thing as a whole, see all the islands and the routes between them.”
This suggested read is a local story in the local paper and involves a recent law passed in Louisiana referred to as “Blue Lives Matter”. This arrest is highly dubious and based on this law. I certainly hope the ACLU will look at this because it appears to me that it’s infringes on first amendment speech.
The New Orleans Police Department was wrong to book a man who cussed at officers with an anti-police hate crime, the department’s communications director Tyler Gamble said in a Thursday afternoon email. Raul Delatoba, 34, used racist and sexist epithets to address the police he encountered early Monday morning, and initially the police decided that Delatoba’s disrespect rose to the level of a felony.
But Gamble wrote in his email, “After reviewing the initial facts of the case, it is clear that the responding officer incorrectly applied the law relative to a hate crime in this incident.” Gamble said the district attorney’s office will have to make the final decision regarding what charges Delatoba will face, if any. “In the meantime,” he wrote, “we are in the process of training all officers and supervisors on the updated law to ensure it is applied properly moving forward.”
It’s hard to imagine the “Blue Lives Matter” law being “applied properly” because the “Blue Lives Matter” law was unnecessary legislation that Gov. John Bel Edwards never should have signed. There were already enhanced penalties for hurting law enforcement officers. So what does the law do except give police permission to newly interpret obnoxious behavior as felonies?
The law is bad on its face, and no amount of training of officers and supervisors is likely to redeem it.
Here’s how you can be sure that the law is bad: When a reporter asked the man who wrote the bill if he thought it appropriate for NOPD to pull out the hate crime statute for a man who cussed at them, the bill’s author declined to say no. Instead, Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, punted and said how or if to charge Delatoba would be “left up to the DA’s interpretation.” Of course. That’s always the case, no matter the accusation. But the question was about Harris’ own interpretation of the law he created. If Harris had wanted to say, “No, I didn’t intend for the law to apply to people who cuss cops,” he was free to say just that. His decision not to make such a simple statement suggests that Harris wasn’t at all bothered by what NOPD had initially done even though what NOPD initially did was hugely troubling.
Troubling doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel this situation has shown us about the idea of associating hate crimes and a powerful, government institution like your local police.
Here’s a scary Press Release from our newest banking regulator the CFPB: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Fines Wells Fargo $100 Million for Widespread Illegal Practice of Secretly Opening Unauthorized Accounts ;Bank Incentives to Boost Sales Figures Spurred Employees to Secretly Open Deposit and Credit Card Accounts. You may have to read this a few times to get it to completely sink in on how big and bad it actually is.
Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fined Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. $100 million for the widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts. Spurred by sales targets and compensation incentives, employees boosted sales figures by covertly opening accounts and funding them by transferring funds from consumers’ authorized accounts without their knowledge or consent, often racking up fees or other charges. According to the bank’s own analysis, employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers. Wells Fargo will pay full restitution to all victims and a $100 million fine to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. The bank will also pay an additional $35 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and another $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles.
“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed. Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”
This year celebrates 50 years of the Star Trek phenomenon. I loved the program from day one.
For Star Trek‘s George Takei, it was one of the worst predictions he ever made, and one of the best strokes of luck in his life: Takei, known to fans worldwide as helmsman Hikaru Sulu, originally thought the show would last only one season.
“When we were shooting the pilot, Jimmy Doohan [who played engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott] said to me, ‘Well, George, what do you think about this? What kind of run do you think we’ll have?'” says Takei. “And I said, ‘I smell quality. And that means we’re in trouble.’ ”
Already a bit cynical about the way TV worked, Takei figured any series he liked wouldn’t last long — including the one he was appearing in. He feared Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had developed a show too sophisticated for mass audiences; a show that disguised social commentary with space action.
Fifty years later, relaxing in his comfortable Los Angeles home with a long career as an actor, author and activist, Takei is happy to admit his instincts were off the mark.
“The Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth,” he adds, referencing an acronym Roddenberry cited often to describe his approach: IDIC, or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. “It was the diversity of this planet — people of different backgrounds, different cultures, different races … all coming together in concert and working as a team … I think that’s why, even a half century later, it’s as popular as it is.”
On Sept. 8, one of the most enduring franchises in TV and movie history celebrates its 50th birthday. Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, developed by Roddenberry, a former Los Angeles cop who wanted to make a TV series that could sneak past the rampant escapism of most programs back then.
The swamps of the Southern United States are giving up their secrets. Archaeologists are finding how escaped slaves developed hidden communities to keep their freedom.
The Great Dismal Swamp, now reduced by draining and development, is managed as a federal wildlife refuge. The once-notorious panthers are gone, but bears, birds, deer and amphibians are still abundant. So are venomous snakes and biting insects. In the awful heat and humidity of summer, Sayers assures me, the swamp teems with water moccasins and rattlesnakes. The mosquitoes get so thick that they can blur the outlines of a person standing 12 feet away.
In early 2004, one of the refuge biologists strapped on his waders and brought Sayers to the place we’re going, a 20-acre island occasionally visited by hunters, but completely unknown to historians and archaeologists. Before Sayers, no archaeology had been done in the swamp’s interior, mainly because conditions were so challenging. One research party got lost so many times that it gave up.
When you’ve been toiling through the sucking ooze, with submerged roots and branches grabbing at your ankles, dry solid ground feels almost miraculous. We step onto the shore of a large, flat, sun-dappled island carpeted with fallen leaves. Walking toward its center, the underbrush disappears, and we enter a parklike clearing shaded by a few hardwoods and pines.
“I’ll never forget seeing this place for the first time,” recalls Sayers. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I never dreamed of finding a 20-acre island, and I knew instantly it was livable. Sure enough, you can’t put a shovel in the ground anywhere on this island without finding something.”
He has named his excavation areas—the Grotto, the Crest, North Plateau and so on—but he won’t name the island itself. In his academic papers and his 2014 book, A Desolate Place for a Defiant People, Sayers refers to it as the “nameless site.” “I don’t want to put a false name on it,” he explains. “I’m hoping to find out what the people who lived here called this place.” As he sifts the earth they trod, finding the soil footprints of their cabins and tiny fragments of their tools, weapons and white clay pipes, he feels a profound admiration for them, and this stems in part from his Marxism.
“These people performed a critique of a brutal capitalistic enslavement system, and they rejected it completely. They risked everything to live in a more just and equitable way, and they were successful for ten generations. One of them, a man named Charlie, was interviewed later in Canada. He said that all labor was communal here. That’s how it would have been in an African village.”
On the outskirts of Boone, North Carolina, a small college and ski town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travis Cornett had turned his bucolic farm into a virtual fortress. He’d started by installing a handful of security cameras across his 12 acres of sloping pine woods. Then he’d nailed 15 bright red signs to tree trunks along the property line that warned, “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” He also kept a .22 Ruger rifle and a Kalashnikov on hand.
As far as Cornett was concerned, no one was going to touch his ginseng.
It was the fall of 2013, six years since Cornett had planted his first “sang,” as locals call it: some 40 pounds of seed in a patch of forest shade. Initially, Cornett wasn’t too worried about poachers, well known around Boone for stealing ginseng from land that isn’t theirs. His fledging crop, low growing with green, jagged-edged leaves, had looked like wild strawberry plants. Now, though, it was coming into its prime. The maturing stems were taking on a distinctive purple tinge, their leaves multiplying, their berries turning lipstick red. Cornett knew that the plants’ roots, which are more valuable with age, could soon fetch hundreds of dollars per pound. It was only a matter of time before the rest of his farm, where he’d planted more seed over the years, would grow ripe for profit — and for theft.
Yet his fortifications weren’t enough. One September afternoon, neighbors saw a scruffy man creeping around Cornett’s land. When Cornett got the news — the security cameras had failed to pick up the intruder — he grabbed a weed whacker and unleashed it on his oldest ginseng, slicing off the leafy tops. If poachers couldn’t spot the decapitated plants, he reasoned, they couldn’t steal the roots.
A week later, though, he got a call that the trespasser had returned. Just then, the man was walking up a country byway near Cornett’s property, wearing dirt-covered jeans and carrying a backpack. Cornett, who was a few minutes from home, jumped into his black GMC truck and sped through the rural hills until he spotted David Presnell. When confronted, Presnell pleaded with Cornett not to call the cops. Cornett pulled out his cell phone anyway, and Presnell took off running, unzipping his backpack as he went. Then he reached inside and started tossing tan, snaking ginseng roots by the handful into laurel thickets lining the road.
By the time police arrived several minutes later, nothing was left in Presnell’s bag save some dirt and a few stringy runners. At Cornett’s urging, however, the cops drove to Presnell’s mobile home, where they found several roots strung up to dry. Others were dehydrating on large screened trays. The incursion into Cornett’s property, police suspected, wasn’t a first offense.
In December 2014, Presnell became the first person in North Carolina to be convicted of felony ginseng larceny on private property. He joined other thieves across Appalachia — the mountainous strip of territory extending from southern New York through the Carolinas down into Mississippi — who’ve been arrested, fined, even imprisoned for various ginseng-related crimes, including poaching, illegal possession, and unlawful trade across state lines. Presnell received 30 months’ probation.
So, hopefully these are some relaxed and interesting reads to help kick off a starting-to-look-like Autumn weekend. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?