Saturday, April 30, 2016

Why "There's no such thing as normal" is a dangerous lie.

There's a line out of the movie "Bladeunner." Rutger Hauer's character has just saved Harrison Ford's. His monologue starts with "I've seen things, you people wouldn't believe."
Yes. That.
I've both lived 'off the grid' and dealt with some wild and weird shit. Never mind things that cannot be unseen. There are things that change you. Starting with the fact that 'normal' has an edge. Not in the sense of a knife, but as in a cliff. Except it's a chess board floating in the infinity of space. If you go over the edge, it can be damned hard to find your way back. (But you'd damned well better. Either that or learn the words to "Space Oddity" (Ground control to Major Thom)
This puts me at odds with people who like to say "There's no such thing as normal.'
I find this to be a very checkerboard-centric attitude. Sure there are all kinds of different squares on that board. Squares that -- within them -- do things radically different, have different rules, and different attitudes. This is both the basis of the 'no such thing...' claim and what gives it credibility.
Credibility, that from a certain 'on board,' perspective makes all kinds of sense. Gawds know I'm not knocking it. Here's why. If you take a good look at those environments, all of a sudden those 'rules' make sense -- including how they've been fucked up. (Years ago I tried to 'scientifically disprove' religious prohibitions. I. Got. Spanked. Turns out that given the environment and then technology, that stuff made sense. Like you and everyone else in your family, village or tribe not dying 'sense.' Here's the real kick in the nuts. From there, things got REAL complicated but just as important.) While we're here I'll never disagree that these localized systems can be fucked up, twisted and turned toxic; conditions that seem to give additional credence to the 'no such thing as normal' idea.
With this in mind, think of it this way. A lot of what we think is 'wrong' is the view from our checkerboard square looking over at another. We see others doing it differently and condemn it.
Or, and this is a lot more common -- and problematic -- we look at other squares, see they're different, and conclude that all rules are bullshit. This is a very 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' attitude. But it is tempered by people not -- usually -- having enough power AND/OR having the rules embedded enough in their subconscious to keep them from really fucking things up.
What is not understood is this attitude can ONLY exist in the comfort and safety of being deep in the checkerboard. Out towards the edge it can get you killed without ever leaving the checkerboard. (That's how they play out there.) Which as an individual sucks, but in the bigger picture is meaningless.
A more practical approach is answering a question with a question. "What is normal?" "Depends, where are we?" Gimme a GPS reading on where we are on the checkerboard and I'll tell you what's normal for the square we're in. This is radically different than there is no such thing as 'normal' -- and therefore you get a free pass to do whatever you want to do. (Or as another permutation has become popular, you get to pick and choose what rules you break, but other people have to follow those rules and can't stop you.)

I've just laid the framework for all kinds of problems -- including someone with a dysfunctional interpretation of 'how thing are' seriously screwing up your life. But in that last sentence there's a word that is the root for all kinds of problems. It's 'dysfunctional.'
Now when John Bradshaw started applying this term to screwed up family dynamics, it really was a break through. I mean really, seriously. It was needed a tune up to countless peoples' sputtering engines. The problem is 26 years later, people have run with it and twisted it. Basically they use it as an excuse and a basis of their trauma drama narrative.
Here's something to consider. The current definition of dysfunctional is '1) not operating normally or properly. 2) having malfunctioning part or element 3) behaving or operating outside social norms. 4) the condition of having poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes within a group of people. (Which given that the prefix dys means 'bad, ill, abnormal' makes lots of sense.
However, dysfunctional is still working.
As screwed up as it is, it's limping along. It's not completely broken down or off the grid. Now a lot of people misidentify other checkerboard squares as dysfunctional. Umm... no. As in just because you don't think that's how things should be doesn't mean holding your breath, kicking your feet is going to make it change. There are a lot of 'unpleasant normals' that actually work. They work because they have components that you aren't looking at, can't, or won't understand. Those components are what allow for it to function -- in that environment.
Is the checkerboard analogy beginning to make sense now? It doesn't really matter where on the board an environment is, what makes it part of the board is: It works. Maybe not well. I've been in places where 'normal' is as fucked up as a soup sandwich. But things STILL limp along. It isn't until you go over the edge (off the grid) that you realize the huge difference between dysfunctional and not working.
Or that things can even get to the point of not working.
If you've ever ended up there or dealt with someone who's stepped off the edge of the board you get one of three common reactions. One is the person is so damaged he or she does a Major Thom and floats away. Two is the person LIKES it. I'm talking getting off on it and goes even faster or harder. (The difference between falling off the edge and doing a double gainer with a half twist off the edge.) Three is you become REALLY fond of being on that board of 'normal,' because both sanity and survival are on it.
So is there 'normal'?
Well technically speaking there are lots of them. They all make up that checker board. Some of them are more stable, others are a lot more shaky and unpleasant than others. But what they all have in common is that they work -- to some degree or the other.
Thing is when people go on about 'no such thing as normal' they're often framing it in term of a 'universal' normal. To which the answer is "no there's not." There is no one square on that board that defines normal. Conversely, just because there are countless, diverse squares doesn't mean it's all bullshit. The rules, attitudes and customs of any square may not benefit an individual, but they serve to get the most number of people through the day.
Which if you look at the death tolls of when it breaks down, yeah, that isn't a bad thing.
Now, on a more personal level, the idea of a checker board actually gives us a lot of freedom -- at least in the West. If you don't like the rules of where you're from (that particular square), you can jump to another square. This however can be unpleasant too. If you don't adapt to or follow the rules of a square you can be pushed out. Although this actually far less common than people think. What is far more common is you are assigned lower status in that square and -- if you don't accept that status -- you can be beaten down into it. This turns the whole checker board idea into a 3-D chess board and beyond the scope of this article. I mention it because a lot of people who are having trouble in a square don't recognize the correlation between their behavior and status -- especially their low status.
Also the consequences of prioritizing other issues is not the same thing as abuse, oppression or injustice. Which is kind of the default targets of blame on all scales (individual 'mommy blamers' to 'society is the root of all this evil that is happening to us.'). What works very well in one square doesn't function so well elsewhere. As friend of min pointed out the traits that allow you to survive and function in poverty, not only don't help you get out of it, but keep you there.
I tell you that because it's the other edge of the sword of 'there's no such thing as normal. How many people are trying to take their normal, their square and trying to make it the whole board? Or insisting that the rest of the board adjust and cater to what they want? This is basically expanding their idea of normal to force everyone else to follow it? You can actually look at the results in history. At the risk of accusations of Godwin's Law, check out how the Nazis, Communists and the French Revolution first secured their power base and then pushed their version of how things should be done. Did those events go over the edge or come close to breaking the board? I'll let you figure that one out.

There's a lot of dysfunction out there. But we have to be careful not to buy into the narrative that confuses dysfunction with not liking the rules of a certain area. In the same way we have to be careful not to confuse abuse, oppression and injustice with the self-righteous anger of the rules you do follow not working outside a particular square.
Spend a couple of days thinking about the implications of what I've said here. As humans we have a bad habit of thinking that our particular square is both 'right' and applies everywhere. Thing is as you move through squares, you need to set those aside and look at how things work here and why they are the way they are.
When you do this you'll begin to see the potential dark side of 'there's no such thing as normal" That is how often it's a "Fuck you, I'm not going to change. I'm going to do what I want and you just have to put up with it."
That's an attitude that's heading hard and fast either towards the edge or the bottom.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

False Rape Allegations

I have a longstanding habit. I find professionals in a field, feed them alcohol and then get them talking shop. I figure "En Vino Veritas" about what is going on behind the scenes. I did this with sex crimes investigators and their answers floored me. 
There is a claim by rape industry advocates that only 2% of all rape allegations are false. This low number is why we should always believe the accuser (Does that apply to your husband too Mrs. Clinton? Okay, that was wrong of me, but I'm weak). That 'low number' is also given as why we shouldn't be concerned about false allegations of rape.
Au contraire mon ami.
Anyway, I've tracked the official numbers of rape for decades via the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. As I say about that, “EVERYONE knows the numbers of the UCR are low.” But ‘how low” is the problem -- and believe me, that’s a big problem. See, the UCR is the ONLY available numbers that does not exclusively rely on the word 'estimated.’ (Yes they use it, but more of an ass covering device.) Why’s that important? Because usually when you see the estimated numbers four things happen. 
 1) The word ‘estimated’ appears once and immediately disappears 
 2) The ‘numbers’ go WAAAAAAY up 
3) Post disappearing act, whatever numbers are presented are set forth as unquestionable facts (it’s in that disappearing word) 
4) Nobody wants to show you how these estimated numbers were arrived at. (The files are confidential doncha know?) 
So why do I have such a big problem with such a petty detail? The list is long. Let’s start with I once did the math of 'estimated rapes' by a Denver Rape group and discovered that -- if these numbers were true -- to maintain them every woman in the city of Denver would be have to be raped on a repeating two year cycle. Half this year, half the next. Yes, the 'estimated' numbers amounted to over one quarter of the entire population. Don’t come to Denver, ladies. The Denver rape culture is totally out of control -- at least according to that source. 
Yet the 'official reported' number for Denver that year was around 250. It was those reported numbers sent to the UCR, not the rape crisis center’s. Do I believe that only 250 rapes occurred in Denver that year? No. Do I believe that one quarter of the population was raped that year? No, I don’t buy that either. As with so many things the truth is somewhere between those extremes. The UCR is much more transparent about how they get their findings. But since extreme numbers are good for funding . . .
Moving down the list, in ye olde days the FBI regularly reported that approximately 10% of all reported rapes were found to be 'without merit.' (Remember we’re talking yearly fluctuation). Now days, the standard numbers presented are between 6 and 8% are found to be meritless. Ten percent was before the lowering of proof and expanded definition of rape; but even after that we’re not down to the claim of only 2% of allegations are found to be false. 
Ummm, about the use of the term ‘false.’ Just so you know it’s not the same as meritless. Here is where you have to know what “meritless” (or without merit) means. Because there is one hell of a shell game going on here. But to do that, let’s first look at what says about the word merit: Merit is a term subject to various meanings, but in the legal context, merit refers to a claim which has a valid basis, setting forth sufficient facts from which the court could find a valid claim of deprivation of a legal right.
Got it? Valid basis, sufficient facts, etc.. One of the ways for a layman to look at this is there’s enough evidence that a crime has been committed that arrest, prosecution and conviction can occur.
However, from the same page: If the evidence defeats the claim, the claim is "meritless." 
This is not the same as a ‘not guilty’ verdict. “Not Guilty” is the result of trial. For it to go to trial there has to be a degree of merit. This is something different. Taking the same idea for layman, meritless (or without merit) is there is enough evidence to definitively state, it didn’t happen.
Case closed. Official stamp DONE on the file. The ‘State’ has moved on to something else now. (Like when the North Carolina Attorney General announced at a press conference the Duke Lacrosse Rape case was over and that the accused were innocent -- and then spelled the word to the Press.) In the legal system, it’s dismissed. In police investigation case closed. 
 I tell you this because simply stated, the difference between the evidence to prosecute and what it takes to declare an accusation without merit, is the difference between a hill and a mountain. But an even bigger difference between ‘false’ and the official status of ‘meritless.’
The supposed microscopic numbers of ‘false rape allegations’ are in fact, based on the accusations the police can definitively and officially say, “Didn’t happen.” That takes a LOT of evidence. That is why most cases are not officially closed. It’s a lot easier to clear an accused individual in the process of an investigation than it is to declare the entire case meritless. 
That sounds like legal argle bargle, but think about it this way. We can prove ‘he didn’t do it,’ (security video shows he was elsewhere), but we can’t prove someone else didn’t rape her. As such, many, many cases/accusations are left open -- supposedly still under investigation -- but nothing more is done on them. The investigating officer knows it’s BS, but doesn’t have the evidence to get it officially declared closed. 
Since, unless someone is selling something, there’s no such thing as a simple answer, let’s flip this coin over. Often the investigator can get the evidence to prosecute a rapist. (Yay!) But this same lack of evidence also applies when the cop knows the rat bastard did it -- except there just isn’t enough evidence to arrest and prosecute. So this same process is very much a double edged sword. There are monsters out there who know how to get away with this. As my mentor said “The real monsters slip through the system like smoke through a screen.” In these cases, that lack of evidence gnaws on cops guts -- often until the end of their careers, but damnit, there just isn’t enough evidence. 
Now there’s another category, that is something happened, but it’s not clear what. This can be understood as either someone is lying or everyone is. And if so, how much? These cases are a real mess. The evidence isn’t enough to go either way, so the case is left open. The investigator isn’t sure what is going on -- not just what happened but what else is going on -- because parts are missing. Want an example? Try investigating a rape at a drug house. An amoeba would starve on the amount of cooperation you’ll get. 
In case you missed it, I just described to you why so many rape cases aren’t prosecuted, but instead left open. This huge number ( and yes it’s way larger than either arrests/convictions or clearances) is the basis of the advocates claim that rape isn’t prosecuted hard enough and we need to do something about it. Generally the claim is about 85% of all rapists are never arrested or charged, (although I’ve seen it as high as 97%), 15 of 16 of them will never do prison time etc., etc.. These numbers are why ‘things must change’ Protect the victims! This injustice must stop! Rapists must be punished! Lower the standards of proof for more convictions!
There in lies the rub.
Remember the feeding the booze to professional sex crimes investigators? And by the way, I mean trained law enforcement here. Not advocates, not academics, not researchers, but cops with the weight of the legal system behind them and specialized training. I’ve asked six of them, from their personal experience what percentage of the cases they’ve worked on do they think were false -- but they couldn’t prove it to the point of meritless.
The numbers range between 30 and 50%.
Pick me up off the floor and wave smelling salts under my nose, because I just fainted. WHAT? You heard me. The divisions ran, two 30s, two 40s and two 50s. I can’t give you any more because of confidentiality, but I will tell you both of the 50s had special circumstances - one of which was a university in his jurisdiction. (Oh and BTW, I have personal experience with a family member losing a scholarship as the result of a false accusation on campus. SHE wasn’t even one of the ones having sex. That’s what got me thinking outside the box on this issue.)
In the assessment of motives, the investigators gave two primary causes for these accusations: 
1) Hell hath no fury ... 
2) Save your ass, by throwing someone else under the bus. 
A point of interest, the two 50s - being in different circumstances - put suspected motives in different orders. While trouble was the primary motive in both, what varied was if getting someone else into it (revenge) or getting oneself out of it by claiming rape. 
Now there’s something I should point out here. These numbers in no way, shape or form subtract from the legitimate cases of rape and sexual violence that routinely occur. Nor is it in any way meant to try to detract from the trauma and injury caused by rape or the need to sit down and try to figure out what to do about the problem of rape and victimization. Nor is it an attempt to deny that actual rape victims are further traumatized, by the fact that ours is an adversarial court system.
What it especially isn’t is a denial that in times past the courts were seriously stacked against the woman saying she was raped. But you know what? Under Sharia law the woman is automatically guilty in charges of rape. The standards it takes to convict a man of rape are impossibly high. If you believe that sort of system is screwed up, then it is screwed up -- no matter who is the protected class and who is automatically blamed. 
While we have to acknowledge that things used to be stacked against an American woman saying she was raped, we have a different problem. That is we have to be careful about people calling for a return to the bad old days - but with the pendulum swinging as far the other way. “So you men will know what it feels like!” (Yes, that is an actual quote; as well as a sentiment I’ve heard more than once.) Should we turn our legal system into a kangaroo court system where a woman claiming she was raped is enough to imprison someone? Should we just automatically assume the man’s guilt and -- out of fear of retraumatizing her --the only questions we ask the woman are so we can hang him?
The problems with this approach are obvious. What is not so obvious is the understanding that our legal system is a meatgrinder. That equality means you have a 50/50 chance of losing. That no matter who you are, the suck factor, unfairness and expense is high. Add that to the long list of things I don’t know what to do about.
Now I will tell you this New Sharia has gained ground on universities when it comes to Title IX tribunals. (Odd thing is the tribunals had a legitimate basis for violence against women on Indian Reservations, but it unwittingly [?] slopped over to universities. The reason for the [?] is the question, “Or was it unwitting?” But there was/is a big problem with violence on Reservations because of tribal sovereignty. ) I found once source that claimed under the Obama Administration sexual misconduct trials on campus have gone up by 3000% -- especially since the Office of Civil Rights (remember their involvement in the Rolling Stone Rape story?) sent out their “Dear Colleague” letter in 2011 
 Here, this might explain that better and why F.I.R.E. is fixing to sue over that letter
The decisions of these tribunals are more and more being overturned by the courts because they violate due process and the rights of the condemned. And yes, that word choice is intentional. I know of some campuses where rape victim advocacy groups are pushing that one of their members be appointed to all tribunals regarding sexual misconduct. In case you missed it, that’s like insisting a member of the Westboro Baptist Church be on a panel judging homosexuals.
Do I have an answer about how to nail the actual rapists but protect people from false accusations of rape? No I don’t. But I wrote this article, because there are too many people out there calling for changing our system to the point that the accusation of rape should be all that is needed. That the evil that is not punished to their satisfaction warrants the destruction of the lives of innocents. 
The cries of “97% of all rapists get away with it!” and “Only two percent of all rape allegations are found to be false!” make it seem like false allegations are such a small, insignificant number. Give up your right of due process and professional investigation to make it all right. After all the numbers are so small, we can afford to be occasionally wrong in the name of greater justice. 
Except a bunch of sex crime investigators with a drink or two under their belts tell a different story.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fighting Our Way Back To The Middle

You know things are seriously screwed up when you find yourself thinking that a Fundamentalist, anti-homosexual streetcorner preacher is the voice of reason. Yet, here it is...

This occurred on Arizona State University property. I don’t know about you, but I kind of hate having to take his side. It is kind of a 'the ACLU defending the KKK's right to hold a rally' situation. ASU /Arizona had a kerfluffle about that dang ol' First Amendment and yes, preaching on campus is protected free speech. So the U -- which takes money from the government -- can’t officially say ‘no.’ However, the hostility of the 'locals' is well known. As this young gentleman so demonstrates with such grace and decorum.

There is something that both interests and concerns me. 
As I've said many times, I'm not a Trump fan (or anybody elses). I do however see his popularity as indicative of a growing resistance -- possible push back, hence the concern -- to the bullying and pushing of the progressive behavior.

I know this is a hot button term, but I ask that you bear with me for a while. The behavior is hurting not just people, but the cause. The behavior isn’t just shutting down communication, but it’s eroding support and credibility. For example, this kid. MSU. Yale. BLM at rallies, Occupy, Deadlocks, etc. The list long and it’s growing longer. It's gotten not just over the top, but they're getting bolder and more aggressive.

Another part of this... well let me explain it this way. Some years ago the PLO/PNA spokeswoman came to speak in Denver and there was a protest. And it was serious. No fancy camera shots to make 20 people look like a mob. There were lots of people. The local News interviewed a cop on the scene and he was... disquieted. His observation was "Usually with protests you see the same faces every time. This protest is different. These are everyday people." When everyday people -- who really don’t have a dog in the fight -- start turning against you, it’s time to reevaluate strategies.

Then comes the next step. There's an old protest quote often attributed to Ghandi "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." ( A sub-variant of this is with 'hate you.') While it's an inspiring quote for those calling for social change, it kind of overlooks the number of times movements have failed miserably. Not just squished, but failed. There are a lot more of those times than ‘wins.’ Often when movements turned toxic and went too far resulting in their allies pulled away. These aren’t everyday people, these are allies, if not your support base.

Something that I'm noticing among all the clamor of all these protests is what voices aren't there. Voices that have traditionally been there for these movements aren't pitching in as much. And that is VERY telling.

I've long made a distinction between Liberals and Progressives (remember, I was raised Liberal). Again, I know this is a kneejerk issue, but please hear me out. I strongly feel there has been a gradual hijacking of the liberal agenda by extremists and special interests. I first noticed this change when I heard the term "Hold my nose Democrat." These were some very smart people saying they hold their nose and vote Democrat -- basically as the lesser of two evils. 

I’m seeing an erosion of liberal support of this behavior; and like erosion it’s not a loud process. It used to be that folks were always there supporting a position out of reflex. Someone says it and you get the 'yeahs' and 'me toos.' But things have progressed to the point where a lot of folks ...well they could be quoting the movie "The Abyss" with "Hippy, quit being on my side." Except they aren't saying that yet. 

What they are doing is not saying anything. 

And that silence is telling. For example, take the Dreadlocks/cultural appropriation confrontation incident that happened at San Francisco State University. The SFGate ran an on-line article about it. Now my feelings about San Francisco is if there was a zombie apocalypse there'd be Zombie Rights activists in SF. (Along with the traditional hip 'yeah' and "me too" support from the coffee shops and microbreweries.) My jaw hit the floor when reading the comment section. At the time, nobody came out in support of her. In fact, the comments were unanimously against the woman’s behavior.

The fact that people from other political positions are beginning to come forth saying ‘enough’ is very telling, but so too is this growing silence. Things might be moving beyond just pretending these problems don’t exist in your own group. Kind of like Christians don’t have a problem admitting that the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t representative of all Christians, people with a more liberal persuasion have an opportunity to actively distance themselves from the more aggressive and hostile elements weaponizing what you sincerely believe in. Do you really want those folks dictating what it means to be ______(fill in the blank)?

At the same time I’m going to suggest that this is a chance -- and please God, don’t let it be the last chance before the SHTF -- for people to start coming back to the middle. 

That means people from different positions talking to each other instead of letting the extremists of their own side tell them what those ‘other people think.’ In case you missed it, that is a shout out to everyone to stop being bullied by the extremists, liars and hate mongers of your side and go out and talk to people who think differently than you. Most importantly, stop listening to the screamers on your side about what the ‘other side thinks’ and actually sit down with the moderates from that side. Yeah, there’s going to be some concern and confusion, but stop and compare notes. Starting with “When you use this term, what exactly do you mean? Because when I use it I mean ______”

I think you will find that you have more in common than you imagined. Including the fact that much of the bullying, abuse and silencing you’ve been subjected to is coming from the more vocal fringes -- who have also been controlling what you can say -- rather than the far more numerous folks who believe a certain way. We’ve been conditioned to be afraid of each other. That’s not a good thing, because after fear comes anger. And a bunches of pissed off, self-righteous people who aren’t actually talking but throwing verbal abuse at each other is just a short step from things getting bloody.

And that’s something that most people don’t want, but the extremists are pushing us towards -- usually by screaming hatred in our ears about what haters those other people are.

If you really want peace, be brave enough to walk over -- with an open heart -- to the other side to find out who they really are. And do it before the extremists on all sides -- including yours -- push us into being cannon fodder for their hatred.