Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Old Enough to Be Given a Gun & Sent Off to War, Old Enough to Buy a Gun

Justice "John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment
— and raise the age for purchasing guns to 21.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Guilt and "Agency": Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump, and Deserving

I was struck by and somewhat upset by Stormy Daniels's in the 60 MINUTES interview saying she felt she "deserved" having sex with Donald Trump even though she didn't want to. I hope she's come to realize that that feeling of "having it coming" (as an FB contributor pointed out) is itself a kind of victimization.

I hope also that Daniels's comment renews a discussion.

Three background stories I can add to such a discussion:

(1) Years ago, the National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter in Butler County OH met with a rape counsellor, and we went through an exercise on how one should counsel a woman who'd been raped, including a woman who felt she somehow had invited the rape or "deserved" it. Some of the participants quite correctly denied that our hypothetical "she" had done anything wrong and deserved rape but repeated variations on "There was nothing you could have done"; "There's nothing you can do to prevent a rape like that" — and it got pointed out that it's a bad idea to substitute for guilt a sense of helplessness. (The rape counsellor counseled us to say "It *wasn't* your fault" and then say less and listen more.)

(2) Even longer ago, a rehab person told my father that he couldn't help having had a stroke, but "Invalidism is a separate disease"; she insisted strongly that he *could* choose not to become an invalid.

(3) A member of a local Jewish congregation is a survivor of the Nazi death camps. One occasion when she was being introduced as a survivor and that was dwelt on, she said that she had lived a long life and had done many things and was not *merely* a death-camp survivor.

There are horrific exceptions — some prisoners, e.g., children in abusive families — but much the time people can't avoid being hurt, but we can avoid becoming victims. It is a delicate issue, but in various senses of "we" we need to help people who've been harmed to heal and to not "get over it" but use the experience in ways that they can feel and be empowered.

We (in those various senses) need to help people lose a sense of guilt while retaining and strengthening a sense of agency. We need to help people — where it's possible — to recognize they've had a literal or figurative stoke but not become an invalid; to understand they've been hurt but to be a survivor, among other things, and not, at their core, a victim.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Unplanned Pregnancies, Sexually-Transmitted Diseases, and Effective Sex-Ed (Mostly Male Division)

Opening of a recent news story from the US Midwest: 
"The former head of Ohio’s sexual abstinence programs 
played a role in the Trump administration’s decision to end
a federal grant program to fight teen pregnancy [...]."

My comment on a key aspect of effective "sex-ed" for reducing unplanned pregnancies and VD/STDs, and more generally: 
One of the more useful moves that will reduce unintended pregnancies is the law in LA requiring male porn performers to wear condoms while performing on camera. America needs a well-crafted and mildly Machiavellian "Wrap That Willy!" campaign getting across the message that Real Men control their reproduction and protect their health, and that young, virile, Real Men use condoms and hold their erections (as opposed to their literally limp-dick elders).
The issue here is indeed morality and values and whether we value taboos and decorum over preventing unwanted pregnancies and definitely unwanted diseases — and reducing the number of abortions. (Mature men additionally value the health and desires of their sexual partners, but that's another ad/propaganda campaign.)I am serious here. When AIDS was a pressing issue I challenged some S.W. Ohio newspaper editors with the question that if they could save ten lives a year they'd run stories with headlines like, "Butt-Fucking Is Risky: Wrap That Willy." Linguistic and other taboos vs. lives. They said, of course, that they'd obey the taboo and not run such headlines or stories — but I'd made them think about it and feel bad, and I said both were my objectives with the thought experiment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"None Dare Call it Treason" Again (a View from the Left)

Running through my mind is a bit attributed on "BrainyQuote" to John Harington, but now part of folklore and popular across the political spectrum, if especially on the Right. I give a verse version:
"'Treason doth never prosper!'" Hmmm ... 
"What is the reason? ...
"For if treason prosper,
None dare call it treason."
Treason against the United States consists "only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort," which is clearest in times of war, declared by the Congress — which we are not in. Still, Lyndon Johnson had a point in accusing Richard Nixon of treason for his dealing with the Vietnamese to continue what we call the Vietnam War — and the same for Joe Biden's exclamation for the Russian Affair if it turns out to be a soft coup.
Anyway, in the larger "Russian Affair," we may be looking at "conspiracy against the United States" in an everyday-English meaning of people's working together in ways that undermined a crucial democratic aspect — elections — of the "mixt constitution" of the American Republic. You can't get a clever saying out of that or a bumper sticker or a chant, but it would be a deep betrayal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Right to Be Let Alone

In 1972, Student Life officials at Miami University (Oxford, OH) applied the University rule against solicitation in the dorms against political campaigns. For sound political reasons, neither the McGovern nor Nixon campaigns intended to canvass the MUO dorms, but we joined together to assert what I explicitly called our right to annoy people to spread our message — propaganda in a neutral sense — and solicit votes.
The two campaigns and our First Amendment rights prevailed, which was and remains a good thing.
Since then, the means of communication have multiplied, and simultaneously we've moved toward the hyper-capitalism and rule by hucksters satirized in Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's great comic dystopia, The Space Merchants (1952/53). So nowadays we must balance a generalized First Amendment right to propagandize, sell to, and annoy against a generalized (Fourth Amendment) right that can be usefully overstated with Justice William O. Douglas's line, “The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
As lawyers can now chime in, it will be a complicated balancing act.

Monday, March 12, 2018


News story passed along on Twitter: 
"The NRA [National Rifle Association ...]
just sued Florida based on the astounding 
argument that 18 year olds have a constitutional
right to buy assault rifles."

On this issue, I'm kind of with the NRA, which is something that hasn't happened much since I quit high school ROTC and the rifle team (in the 1950s) and since the NRA was taken over by fanatics.

I'll get in the argument this far, with my standard comment on young adults but with a bit of a twist: As is frequent, a wide-spread problem in the US about which we must DO SOMETHING!! is shifted to the schools and to young people. Mass shootings are only a small proportion of US gun deaths; most mass shootings do not occur in schools; the great majority of shooters in mass shootings are White males between the ages of 20 and 49, not teens. 

Humans mature into our social roles at different speeds and in complex ways, some people living long lives but never making it to adulthood. "The age of majority," therefore — when one gets pretty much the full rights and responsibilities of adulthood — is always somewhat arbitrary. That is *not*, however, a good argument for adulthood by degrees, but for setting a minimally ambiguous age of majority, enforcing it, and, in a manner appropriate in a secular republic, ritualizing it with some brief ceremony/"rite of passage." 

Old enough to be conscripted to take up weapons in defense of the country, old enough to vote. Old enough to function as a sovereign citizen electing officials and voting on referendums, old enough to buy legal psychotropic drugs such as ethyl alcohol (street names: booze, "drink" ...). Old enough to buy booze, old enough to keep and bear legal firearms: which I'd have bolt or pump-action, single-shot, small caliber long-guns unless one has a really good reason for something more deadly — plus a background check, training, and a license that needs periodic renewal after testing at least as rigorous as for initial drivers' licenses.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


I've recently been thanked for what for me have been generous contributions to local political causes, and I replied something like, "Thank you ... but they really aren't all that generous."
They aren't, and I'll share with the group part of why not.
In part, it's money my heirs fortunately don't need and which, unfortunately, I won't need for my illustrious career in film production (now, let us say, on long-term hiatus).
More relevant, it's money I'm withholding from commercial ventures, politicians, and charities that are practicing "Constant Contact" — actual name of actual company — far too literally.
Some people like a lot of stimulation, some a little. Me? I find it uncomfortable just to use washrooms where the light intensity is for women applying makeup. Also, many of us old folk were raised to respond and respond politely to requests. So I find the inundation of ads, catalogs, and, importantly here, appeals in varied media to be more than just annoying but mildly painful — and a serious matter when important mail gets lost in the mass and my not-*that*-old computer functions get slowed down.
A bit of street theater that moved me to action in the Vietnam Era was on the theme, "If You Don't Like the War Machine, Don't Feed it." The moral issues are much less urgent here, but I will resist feeding "Constant Contact" as both a corporation and a fund-raising strategy. Those groups I'm supporting, I'll mostly continue to support. Newbies who've bought my contact information — unless I've heard of you some other way, and you've got a really good cause (and maybe an "UNSUBSCRIBE" function that definitively stops your appeals) — you are likely out of luck.
Local folk and groups I know and who know how to ask and then back off: Yep, now and then you'll find me looking considerably more generous than you expected. Don't thank me too much, though: part of that money has been shifted from good people taking prudent advice — and succeeding at pissing me off enough to stop complaining and act.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

If You Don't Know What First Name I Use, Should You Be Calling Me By My First Name?

When I first started teaching, forms of address were simple: my students called me "Mr. Erlich," and I called them "Miss/Mr./Mrs./later Ms. Last Name." Then my students mildly objected to formal usage for themselves, and I mildly complained about their complaint to a colleague, sniffily noting that it was a matter of indifference. And he threw back at me a line I'd used, "If it's a matter of indifference to you, and they care, do it their way."
Since I taught English, what I did was spend a few minutes first day of class on forms of address, and we had an exercise in very limited democracy where the students voted on how we addressed one another — with the restriction that we'd stay on one level of formality, and that wouldn't include calling each other by just our last names (which is for superiors to inferiors or close friends or colleagues). They almost always voted for "a first-name basis," but I had to insist that I really wanted "Rich" and not "Uhhhh." (The "Mr. Erlich" vs. "Dr." or "Professor Erlich" is another issue. When and where I was, it was "Mr." when I got my Ph.D. — after the first couple of weeks, anyway.)
Retired, I'm caring again about how I'm called, especially in medical contexts where I already feel somewhat juvenilized. When called "Richard," I'm tempted to say, "I don't go by 'Richard'" and if asked what I go by reply, "If you don't know the first name I use, maybe you should call me 'Mr. Erlich.'"
It's "Err-lick," as in "to "err is human," and either pronunciation of that "err" is fine, and if you use a German "ch," that's also okay, and I'll shudder and accept "er-lich," with an English "ch." That's two syllables of a fairly common name. People should try, but pronunciation issues aren't the main point. The point for my students was a legitimate desire to stave off adulthood (which in the US often sucks); and, more generally, the issue is good ol' semi-sincere American friendliness.
About now in life, from people half my age who don't know me, I think I prefer some stodgy formality. Especially when that first name reference is followed by, "And how are *you* today?" when they really don't care and — unless getting medical information — do *not* want you to tell them.