Sunday, December 04, 2016

Did Retailers Who Start Playing Christmas Music Too Early Tip The Election for Donald Trump?

Did Retailers Who Start Playing Christmas Music Too Early Tip The Election for Donald Trump?

A thinkpiece by J. Robert Loftis

Social media and old media have both been on fire recently with people searching for the exact right way to place blame for the election of Donald Trump. Popular targets so far include the Clinton campaign, white women with less that two years college education, Jill Stein, and El NiƱo. People who like to overtly blame "The Jews" for things are, of course, overjoyed at Trump's victory, and not looking for scapegoats. However, many Trump opponents blame "The Media" and "Coastal Elites," which are generally code words for Jews. Actual Trump voters invariably rank low on people's blame lists, because this game is about expectations, not personal responsibility.

But what if everyone is wrong? Think about it. Most targets of blame since the election results have come in were actually targets of hypothetical blame before the vote. You remember all those posts from September saying "If Clinton loses this election, the fault will lie squarely with The Democratic Establishment/Stein Voters/The Polar Vortex." If we haven't changed scapegoats in light of the new information the election has given us, can we really say we are a reality based community?

What if no one we've talked about so far is really to blame for Trump's victory? What if the real people responsible are retailers who started playing Christmas music too early?

This theory has a lot of merit. For starters, no one likes those people. Also, there is a plausible narrative we can develop about how they tipped the election. Anyone playing Christmas music before November 8 this year was clearly playing Christmas music too early. And what kind of emotions does Christmas music evoke? Nostalgia. Comfort. Love of tradition. All the sorts of things that ignite the reactionary mind. Could it be that retailers in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania playing Christmas music during election season were a crucial factor in energizing Trump's base? Who can say? The research hasn't been done, nor will it be done. So the plausible narrative stands, ready to channel all the resentment people feel toward retailers who start playing Christmas music too early.

This theory has one last crucial advantage: retailers who start playing Christmas music too early won't be an important part of any coalition resisting Trump in the future. It doesn't matter if our blame alienates them.

So I say fuck those guys.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

More on Lorain PD use of force

While I wasn't paying attention, the dashcam video was released for the arrest of Pele Smith. Smith is suing the Lorain Police Department for smashing his head against a cruiser windshield.

Pele Smith was stopped for jaywalking, apparently after there were numerous complaints from neighbors about him selling drugs. He appears to have done something to resist arrest and possibly swallow drugs he was carrying. The video picks up with Smith already cuffed and on the ground. The police walk him to the cruiser whose dashcam we are looking through. Smith is yelling something repeatedly, possibly "Mom!" It doesn't look like he is physically resisting, though. When he reaches the cruiser, the police slam his head into the windshield of the cruiser hard enough to crack the glass. One of the officers says "Shut the fuck up. Do you have any weapons on you?"

During the ride to the hospital one of the arresting officer sits next to him and they argue about what happened. It is clear that they have had frequent interactions in the past. At various times during the argument, Smith admits to using drugs and carrying enough for his own use. Other times he says he didn't do nothing. At all times he strenuously denies dealing and denies resisting arrest, saying "I didn't fight you." The arresting officer, for his part, says that Smith brought all these problems on himself, and does this every time he gets in trouble.

There is also a video of a press conference with community leaders that I haven't watched yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pele Smith Sues the Lorain PD.

Researching use of force by the Lorain Police Department. Most of what I'm seeing fits the Justice Department's 2012 findings that there was a serious problem in the past, but it began to taper off after 2008, when the DoJ investigation began but before they released their final report.
There is, however, this case, where a guy named Pele Smith was stopped for jaywalking, but wound up having his face slammed into a patrol car hard enough to crack the windshield. As his lawyer notes, this fits one of the patterns mentioned in the DoJ report: excessive force for completely trivial stops.
The case has fits another pattern you see a lot: Smith eventually plead guilty (perhaps part of a plea bargain) to a bunch of charges involving resisting arrest and obstructing police business, without any mention of an underlying crime that might have triggered the stop to begin with. The police claim he tried to hide drugs by swallowing them, but no actual drug charges are filed.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Showing Up For Racial Justice North East Ohio has a project going where we study use of force policies for area police departments. I've been assigned the Lorain PD.

Dear Chief Rivera,

I am with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice, Northeast Ohio Chapter), and we are conducting research into use of force policies at local police departments, in conjunction with the efforts of the Cleveland Community Police Commission. On April 29, 2015 the governor's Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations released its final report with a number of recommendations including that "all law enforcement agencies adopt, at a minimum, policies including, but not limited to, the use of deadly force, with the goal of enhancing the protection of all lives".  Subsequently, the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board was created to establish more detailed guidelines concerning use of force as well as the establishment of a certification process for local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Searching the LPD website, I was not able to find a publicly available use of force policy. I did find the 2012 Justice Department letter to the city and police department, and the accompanying Technical Assistance Report. I was very glad to see that it found that the LPD did not have a continuing "pattern or practice of use of excessive force." However, I also saw that it made a lot of recommendations for changes to section 4 of your Standard Operating Policies and Procedures on "Aggression Response."

I am requesting that you provide us a copy of your policies regarding the use of force. I am also interested in learning if it has been updated in accordance with the Justice Department's recommendations.  This information will be quite helpful in reviewing the use of force policies of Northeast Ohio police departments.

I look forward to hearing from you.


J. Robert Loftis

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Videos of the Allegory of the Cave [updated]

There are myriad videos of the allegory of the cave available, but most are not very good. Searching for videos mostly yields student projects, adaptation of classroom lectures, and videos that are using the allegory of the cave to push a religious or conspiratorial agenda. There are, however, some very good videos out there was well, suitable for classroom use. Three are listed below.

Weiss, Sam (Director). 1973. The cave: a parable told by Orson Welles Stephen Bosustow Productions. Animated. Time: 8:13

Comments: I highly recommend this. The script is a slight editing of the Jowett translation, read compellingly Orson Welles. The visuals are animations of evocative drawings by the illustrator Richard Oden, who among other things did some very striking illustrations for medical textbooks and ran the drawing program at Cal State University Long beach. Oden’s drawings can give the student a clear image of what is going on in the allegory and pack an emotional punch without being distracting. The music by soundtrack composer Larry Wolff is haunting.

The editing done to the Jowett translation is very slight. Mostly, they cut out Glaucon’s replies, sometimes working a few words into Socrates’s speech. A few words are changed here and there. The one major edit is at the end, right before 517b, after Socrates notes that anyone caught trying to free the prisoners would be put to death, the narration skips to a rougher paraphrase of 519d where Socrates says that the enlightened person is obligated to return to the people of the cave “partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.”

Credits: Narrator: Orson Welles; Animator: Dick Oden; Music: Larry Wolff; Producers: Nick Bosutow, C.B. Wismar.

Publication and availability: As of this writing, an ok-quality copy video is readily available online (e.g., however it is not clear who the rights holder is. The sound in the version shared online is a little muddy and the picture a little grainy. The original production company seems to be Stephen Bosustow Productions, and education film company founded by one of the creators of Mr. Magoo. At some point, the movie may have been owned by McGraw-Hill Films, but it does not show up on the website for the current McGraw-Hill companies. VHS copies also show up in the catalogues of various libraries, but it is not clear that any of these would be higher quality than the version currently being shared online.

Ramsey, Michael (Writer, director, producer). 2007. The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay Bullhead Entertainment. Claymation. Time: 3:10

Comments:This is a well done Claymation version, using an original script that is true to the parts of the text that it covers. The main problem, that because it is only three minutes long, it leaves out a lot of important elements, including the important multiple levels of representation, with the shadows representing the objects on the walkway and the objects on the walkway representing the objects outside, etc. It also leaves out all sorts of detail about the return of the cave. Instead, when the freed man returns to the cave, his friends do not recognize him, because he now appears as a shadow on the wall. The clip ends with the narrator emphasizing that the things outside of the cave are “not less real” than the shadows. He doesn’t say that the things outside are more real than the shadows, and he there is no depiction of attempts to free the other prisoners.

Credits: Claymation Artist: John Grigsby, Voice: Kristopher Hutson; Producer Tim Schultz; Photographed by Michael Ramsey and John Grigsby; Editors: Bruce Rudolph and John Grigsby; pyrotechnics: Jack Spivak; PA: Meaghan Lamond.

Publication and availability:Posted to YouTube by the production company that made it, also available at its official website
Gendler, Alex. (Writer). Undated. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. TED Conferences, LLC.
Comments: Gendler is a TED-ed regular who has presentations on topics ranging from how Tsunamis work to logic puzzles. Gendler simplifies the presentation of the cave by eliminating the raised walkway and the puppets that cast shadows on the wall. Instead, the shadows are cast directly by the objects on the outside. This ruins the parallel with the divided line. However, there is still a sense of layering of representation, because he does talk about the escaped prisoner first only looking at reflections of objects in the water. The video concludes with a quick sketch of the theory of the forms. The animation is cute and accompanied by snappy sound effects. Animated. Time: 4:33

Credits: Alex Gendler: Writer/educator; Narration: Addison Anderson; Director: John R. Dilworth; Animator: Pilar Newton/Stretch films; Sound Designer: William Hohauser;

Publication and availability: The video is produced by the TED spin-off TED-Ed, and is covered by a creative commons (BY-NC-ND) license. There is also an online platform that comes with discussion forums and quiz questions and the possibility of creating further lessons that remain under the control of TED-ed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mount St.Mary's targets students with depression for pressure to leave the school.

The survey asked students whether the following statement applied to them during the last week: "I felt that I could not shake the blues, even with the help of family and friends." Students were told there would be no repercussions for their answer, when in fact, their answer would be used to determine whether they would be pressured to leave the school early in order to boost the school's retention numbers.

Every time a lie like this is perpetrated, people with depression become more distrustful of people who seem to be offering help. "I feel terrible all the time. This person might be trying to see if I need help, or they might be trying to identify me as weak so they can shun me." This survey contains the kind of lies that drive people to suicide.