Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Arresting Power (movie review)

Arresting Power is a locally produced film about police cruelty.  A few example cases get a closer look, such as the murder of Jim Jim.  Most of the victims are young black men.

The film excavates a lot of interesting history, reminding us of the fact that being a black person in Oregon was in itself criminal until 2001.  Seriously.  That bit was written into the Constitution by a bunch of low EQ hicks who thought of themselves as brave pioneers of a new state. 

Not every pioneer behind the design of this state was such a moron.

Then the morons decided to criminalize all the behaviors and ethnicities they didn't want to deal with (sound familiar?) and repurposed the slavery patrol vigilante groups, already popular back east, to give us today's police forces (shades of KKK + NRA per the South Park analysis).

OK, that's a bit of a caricature but films have only so much time to set the context and a lot of the viewpoint here is classic Black Panther, which I appreciate, coming from a Laughing Horse background.

A police system is complicated and multi-dimensional.  Professionals inside the system are well aware of the "bad cop" problem.  One reason we have a lot of bad cops, more than we need, is the lack of any credible safety net.  We all pay a price in lower living standards.

Quitting one's job before one is fired would be much more likely if retraining and exciting work, perhaps involving adrenalin rushes, were offered.  

Obvious points:  cops with anger management issues should not have to keep mentally ill from aggravating the public.  Different trainings and more recognized kinds of badge, not necessarily reporting to the same chief, might be effective. People who might be "on drugs" and/or "off their meds" are in a whole different category from those carrying lethal weapons (as police are).

911 needs to learn how to dispatch teams with different types of expertise.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

A lot of the Q&A was about overhauling the system, which currently satisfies no one, police included.

People not good at their jobs, and some police are not, need a way to move on without bringing things to a head.

Peace and Social Concerns Committee (PSCC) no longer concerns itself with already successful organizing efforts per the Seifert Format, and is now pitching its services mostly to activists who need special Quaker expertise. 

The Truthers are getting special help for example.  Given what they're up against, I can understand why.

The cop watch culture in Portland, in contrast, is highly evolved and therefore not especially in need of "Quaker therapy" (like est?).  PSCC was not a sponsor of this event.  Occupy Elder Caucus was the primary organizer with AFSC a co-organizer, providing the projection equipment. 

The AFSC, with independent management, appreciates not having its hands tied by the newly restrictive policies Multnomah Monthly has applied to its own PSCC as a condition for reinstatement (Nominating was refusing to nominate until this possibly crippling new model could be forced through by the Business Meeting's ad hoc group). 

Mireaya (Portland staff) is answering a question right now.  She's outwardly too young to be Elder Caucus but like the Gathering of Western Young Friends, the group self identifies.

So, how do we fire bad cops?  Moving them to "desk jobs" is not necessarily helping.  A lot of them get bored and chafe under the sense of being punished.  Real criminals go to jail.

Dan Handleman worries the subculture of violence porn now popular in the US military will spread, reversing civil values in favor of mayhem as the new norm.  CBS will up the violence level with snuff films as viewers cheer?   Sounds a lot like Fallujah.

How does one fire "bad soldiers"?  How does one de-fund "bad wars"?  These were the deep questions the audience was considering.  Sending the bad apples to kill each other in faraway places only works for so long.  Will Mars become a next prison colony, the one way trip the Americas used to be (and Australia)?

While on the topic, lets look at the question of "bad Quakers" maybe?  Given housecleaning was a focus, I think that question deserves some real thought. I'd be a hypocrite if I acted like only the police have a bad apple problem.  Every group seems to have that.

We used to "disown" our slavers but that comes across as archaic in today's culture.  Mostly one just works around 'em (those slower to catch on), hoping they'll either find another sect, or work on developing their skills.

Phone apps are becoming important.  You can watch a cop do her or his job and upload the clip directly to ACLU.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Equinox Redux

Taking It In

I started my day with a short bench press at the gym on the sitting up machine, just 90 pounds to keep the blood going, then on to an IT meeting with an interested party.

Lew and Ek were in the same building (no, not the meetinghouse) presumably talking over Property Committee business (Lew had some blueprints).

My meeting was about ways to keep Bluetooth going even if the Internet goes down, among other things.  My Razr has succumbed to "smartphone Alzheimer's" so much of what I learned was for the next incarnation.

Tonight was our Equinox Festival at the Linus Pauling House, still ongoing.

I came home to do some doggie care and tackle some business, having enjoyed my fill of good food and great company.  Nirel showing up with the little dog reminded me I needed to take care of Sarah.

We did get our walk in today, Sarah and I, a practice underlined (as in emphasized) by Lindsey when she was here, visiting from Nepal for three months.

Weird atmospherics have been kind to ham radio operators lately, especially those ten million or so who know Morse Code.  Jeff has been bouncing signal from distant corners of the globe.

Thanks to Nirel for bringing a dog.  By tradition, I uphold the ethos on nonhuman Wanderers in our midst ("we" being the hominids, not always friendly to our fellow travelers, even when they mean us no harm).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

WQM Men's Group 2015

We came close to maxing out Big Bear Camp facilities this year.  I slept in my car out of choice, not having done so before and wanting to experiment.  Henry, who slept outside the first night, said he could hear me snoring, even through all that glass and metal, which must have vibrated considerably.

During one of the breakout sessions, I practiced sermonizing, based on a Bible passage wherein Jesus has a conversation with the devil where they compare notes on God and holy writ.  Having studied Lucifer's psyche at Princeton, in the form of Paradise Lost, by Milton, I remarked that "the devil within" was likewise a manifestation of the Inner Light, given a fallen angel would also have "Intel Inside" (God within).  Jesus obviously knew this and conversed with angels on a regular basis, not always in an adversarial role.

I like what angels add to Christianity, especially skeptical angels with a strong misanthropic streak, known as "devils" in the jargon, but angels nonetheless.  Not that I'm pushing the literal existence of daemonic beings.  Their figurative existence is quite sufficient.  I figure the ego is likewise metaphoric i.e. the Buddhist doctrine of "no self" means that a self refuting the existence of daemons (or "ghosts") is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black.

Tom and I discussed his being a peer advocate for Mr. Chasse, as they both had similar diagnoses and had to work their respective ways through half way house chapters.  Tom, originally an Irish Catholic from Coos Bay, had gotten caught up in Lyndon LaRouche's political party at the height of its power.  He tells many interesting stories from that era.

Although Joe shared with the group that the main melodrama at Multnomah Meeting these days had to do with complying with insurance guidelines and doing background checks on a minimum of two child care personnel, I told Tom I thought the disposition of the Dove Puppets in coming weeks would likely have more impact on the reputation of Portland's unprogrammed Friends in the long run.  May Day Coalition has written Peace and Social Concerns wondering if we'll see Friends, and their puppets, on May Day.  Or is protesting climate change more the extent of Quaker brand activism these days?  Maybe May Day is too scary?  Not for AFSC at least.

Speaking of which, we enjoyed the presence of programmed Friends in our midst (programmed = Pastoral).  Like the Women's Theological Conference, which Joe has been jealous of (not me), we're sometimes involved in closing circuits, or switch-boarding, across lineages.  I learned a lot about ongoing controversies in West Hills Friends Church, plus was glad to see Henry again, nowadays with Camus Friends Church in Washington State.  I hope to pay both a visit one of these days.

Those of us into IT had some discussions using that jargon.  Quakers have a reputation for being meticulous about record-keeping, which is in tension with our Luddite tendencies, which latter I associate with our shedding of responsibilities over the decades since our peak in power in the late 1700s.  Had we kept our hand on the tiller, we'd have our act more together in cyberspace by now.

Getting our IT back into focus might galvanize us in other ways that increase our ability to make a difference in the world.  Time will tell.  As NPYM's first technology clerk (a co-clerk of the IT committee), I suppose I may over-indulge myself with such hopes and dreams for a more tech-savvy future.

Monday, March 09, 2015

AFSC APC Meetup (meeting notes)

AFSC Meetup
Left clockwise:  Joanne, Kelly, Christopher, Marielle, Cecil, Anna, Mireaya
Not pictured: Kirby (photographer), Leslie & Pedro (on Blackberry device)

Check in included reports from our circle.  I took pictures.  Lots is going on, with immigration law especially.

How does the Board get input from volunteers?  YMAs (Yearly Meeting Appointees) at a higher level, but lets have Executive Committees come up with some ideas.

This group:  unusual in having a cohesive group with across-the-board oversight.  Dividing it more, while inviting individuals to join multiple "subcommittees" (PACs), if still wanting multiple commitments, is the next schema.

I had Alien Boy, the DVD, to flash around, before returning it.  That's overlapping with oversight of civil authorities, police and so on, by citizen bodies.  Portland has a few of those bodies.  Christoper, just turned 20, is on one.

Activists want a front row seat on training, community policing or whatever.

Program Advisory Committees will be more per program, with staffers calling the shots.  An overall APC is not required.  PACs are more focused (our PACs are not Political Action Committees in the conventional Washington, DC sense).

Joanne was clear that interlocking issues (e.g. militarism + migrant rights) would mean a lot of blurring of the boundaries, between this and that initiative.

Two of us patched in by phone.  Anna, a new mother, was here in Portland.

We probably won't meet as this large a group, with this many characters, in the next chapter.  We'll join "away teams" with staff when destiny calls.  Staff will be more like casting directors, picking which circus animals they need, depending on the mission (the task) at hand.

Volunteers don't boss staff, but sometimes they represent organizational memory.  There's ongoing dynamics with volunteers.  No one particular structure is magically going to solve every problem.

Mireaya has a clear vision of where she's taking her program.  She's cutting edge and needing fresh blood, one might say.  Shaking off dead weight, in program committees, shedding skin, is part of what's happening.  Marielle (regional staff) just said "fresh blood" so I feel OK with this metaphor.

Our APC doesn't consider itself deadweight but we understand the Regional Executive Committee has regional responsibilities and West Region is ready to experiment with a new design.

Staff expressed sincere appreciation for our work together so far.  The move from E Burnside (which was literally a near death experience for Mireaya) to here, marks a new beginning in other dimensions as well.

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chappie (movie review)

I enjoyed this movie in many dimensions at The Bagdad, now first run, with better sound and picture.  I'm privileged.  I even wolfed down beer and pizza, on my way to Lucky Strike later, for dessert.

Chappie is all about USA meets RSA, and wow what a synergy.  You'll see a little Microsoft in the warehouse (did you catch it?) but for the most part RSA is Ubuntu country, and it shows.  They're light years ahead with their prototypes.  Even the dumb old Moose is able to negotiate some tight corners once a human bad guy pilot sits at the console, drone-style, and takes cowardly action.

This isn't a subtle interpretation or anything.  The mom wears a USA flag, the RSA flag is on Chappie, and the two flags appear jointly in a great many shots.  One of mommie's best friends is named The American by Chappie's mom.  The parents both have JoBurg haircuts, known around the world as "the JoBurg look" (I've actually never been to JoBurg, just Cape Town and Bloemfontaine and stuff -- when a family HQS was in Lesotho).

Chappie's creator is a bit classist and doesn't like that Chappie wants to "be cool" like his mom.  Chappie comes to understand the problem of mortality drives us all and joins in the craziness, misdirected into thinking he's not really hurting people with those Bruce Lee maneuvers, as his compassion circuits are hard-wired.  In the end, he ends up saving more lives than he wastes, if we count the movie-going audience and its sensibilities, which I do.

Having consciousness go "by wire" from A to B is so philosophically problematic as to make this a comedy on steroids.  I laughed and cried with my beer and had a generally great time at The Bagdad.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Meeting on Grand Avenue

I joined Bridge City Friends for singing and worship this morning.  I joked that I have a beautiful internal voice that sings along, right on key, even if I'm the only one who hears it.  Such is the nature of internal voices.

Given this was the first First Day (Sunday) of the month, a query was read from Faith & Practice about participation in the life of the meeting.  Do we make strangers welcome in our midst?  Or, as I would put it, do we serve the general public thereby earning our 501(c)(3)?  We're not a church, lets remember, even though we're treated as such.  We can't use "needing to tithe to pay our pastors" as an excuse for having an untaxed income.

During worship I shared how Quakerism, seen as a role playing game (like a board game but more immersive) is definitely a great public service.  People come to our playground of counter-balanced committees and learn what it means to run a business with no one person in control, given we're not organized in a pyramid apexing in pastors so much as in a geodesic sphere, well rounded.  We have a structure for learning and exploring self government, with real money and real property.

As I wrote to a SMADster recently:
I think of Quakerism as a "jungle gym" (lots of puns) in that we offer the public a rather unique infrastructure:  a watchworks of inter-balanced committees, with State of Society Report, committee reports, lots of infrastructure.  As a software engineer, I stand back sometimes and muse about what "shrink wrapped Quakerism" (with open source versions) might look like.  Quakers!  The Game:  sustains a nonprofit business, up to and including sound systems, air conditioning, heating, telephony.  Lots of silence expected.  No voting, but lots of communicating.

Multnomah is such a gym, and we the public go there to work out. 
At the rise of meeting, Timothy Travis mentioned he was on Nominating Committee and gearing up to fill out next year's slate.  I asked him if Peace and Social Concerns Committee was being restored.  He said they're thinking about it.

I mentioned that Multnomah's Nominating Committee was in hot water for having inappropriately sourced a proposal to drop ours (nominators should not be in the business of proposing to drop the very roles they're charged with filling, as they also have the power to simply refuse to nominate, their strategy from June to January, making any "proposal" more an "announcement" as in "done deal" -- Oversight never agreed to this strategy).

In Bridge City's case, the Business Meeting approved reducing the slate to a single Coordinator.  Our Business Meeting roundly rejected that idea, both because we're a much bigger meeting, more of a flagship, and because of where it was coming from (an inappropriate committee).

We like to steer newcomers towards Peace and Social Concerns as a hallmark Quaker institution.  It's what the general public expects of us:  to be walking our talk, practicing Quakerism, speaking truth to power and all that.

In terms of role playing, PSCC is one of our most important committees, one could say the raison d'ĂȘtre for all the others.  It's where the rubber meets the road.

it was at the June 22 Meeting for Business
that we stood up to the "shelvers"
(those eager to shelve PSCC)