At Ursula, however, the children Sevier …

At Ursula, however, the children Sevier examined—like the panting 2-year-old—were “totally fearful, but then entirely subdued,” she told me. She could read the fear in their faces, but they were perfectly submissive to her authority. “I can only explain it by trauma, because that is such an unusual behavior,” she said. Sevier had brought along Mickey Mouse toys to break the ice, and the kids seem to enjoy playing with them. Yet none resisted, she said, when she took them away at the end of the exam. “At some point,” Sevier mused, “you’re broken and you stop fighting.”
Sevier made her way down the list of names. A 15-month-old baby with a fever had been in detention for three weeks. His uncle had fed him from the same dirty formula bottle for days on end, until a guard replaced it with a new one. Because “all parents want the best health for their infant,” Sevier later wrote in the medical declaration, denying them “the ability to wash their infant’s bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse.” Before her visit, the uncle had asked for medical attention because the baby was wheezing. In response, a guard had touched the baby’s head with his hand and concluded, “He’s not hot,” the uncle told Sevier.

From What a Pediatrician Saw Inside a Border Patrol Warehouse by Jeremy Raff

There is disagreement across party lines about the …

There is disagreement across party lines about the cause of the crisis at the border. A majority of Democrats consider it a crisis because of the treatment migrants are receiving as they attempt to cross the border (54%), while most Republicans say they think it’s a crisis because of the number of migrants attempting to enter the country (63%). Among independents, slightly more say it’s a crisis due to the number of migrants attempting to cross (35%) than because of the treatment migrants are receiving (28%).

About 6 in 10 Americans (62%) say they disapprove of the treatment migrants are receiving at the border, but there’s a steep partisan divide here as well. Democrats are near-unanimous in their disapproval (93% disapprove), and a majority of independents feel the same (60%), but most Republicans (62%) say they approve of the way migrants are being treated by the government after crossing the US-Mexico border.

Jennifer Agiesta

Emphasis added because I’m wondering if the civility police are okay yet with us calling the Republicans fascists, especially given that this is the treatment migrants are receiving which Republicans support and which border agents think is funny.

It’s all well and good, and necessary, that …

It’s all well and good, and necessary, that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus went on a barnstorming tour of some of America’s concentration camps, but combine what the delegation found even with authorities on their “best” behavior with the massive ProPublica scoop about racist and dehumanizing border agent attitudes in a private Facebook group and I can’t help but feel like the only thing commensurate with and proportional to the degree of cruelty and the extent of inhumanity is for all 280 congressional Democrats to travel en masse to one of these camps. Small delegations are important, and good, and need to keep happening, but I feel like if this isn’t a thing for a party to “go big” on, then nothing is. Not because it’s partisan, but because true politics is driven by morality, and the immorality—or is it amorality?–of what’s happening is simply too immense for, well, politics as usual.

The maker of PixelFed, a fediverse-native …

The maker of PixelFed, a fediverse-native alternative to Instagram, has taken to Mastodon to argue, “The sooner we can put politics aside, and work to build a real alternative to corporate silos aka social media, the better.”

Today, I finally unfollowed both him and his project, in the process discovering that he not only didn’t take to heart the public critique of that statement, he just doubled-down on it.

I don’t care who joins the fediverse. I’m focused on making the best Instagram alternative for everyone.

It’s in our best interest to put politics aside and work together to build a real alternative to corporate social media while treating each other with respect.

Here’s the thing: You should care about who joins the fediverse, because (to pick a dramatic example) there’s a difference, say, between posting that nazis should fuck off and die and posting the same thing about 14-year-old brown-skinned migrants. Technically—or should I say superficially–it’s the same speech, but it’s a necessary political decision how you treat each use.

The position that we should “put politics aside” itself is a political decision, and the baffling thing here is it’s literally the same position of the “corporate social media” to which Sup claims to be building an alternative.

Since I’ve been on something of an …

Since I’ve been on something of an intermittent nostalgia kick lately, I thought I’d explain one particular paragraph that’s been on my About page in one form or another through many different websites over the years.

Rolling Stone emphasized his “long black eyelashes” and “face that sees very little sun” while deeming him “a kid from upstate New York with a quick wit”. A public relations professional said he was a “sissy”. Bruce Sterling referred to him as a “punk”. Joss Whedon technically might have described him as “twitchy, unreliable-looking”.

Rolling Stone

On page 37 of the October 5, 1995, edition of Rolling Stone was a story entitled, “10 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference”. While I wasn’t one of the ten people profiled on the list itself, I served as the introduction. Michael Powell met me at the long-defunct @Cafe in Greenwich Village to discuss my mid-1990s online activism against the Communications Decency Act.

Slowdog’s hanging out upstairs at the @ Cafe, in New York’s Greenwich Village, sipping cup after cup of coffee and tap-tap-tapping into the Internet on one of the computer terminals that looms over every table like a television set. Slowdog is 25 years old, with black pants, black T-shirt, black baseball cap, black sneakers, long black eyelashes and a face that sees very little sun.

Born Christopher Frankonis, Slowdog used to work at the New York Public Library and log on, stop at the @ Cafe and log on, traipse back to his basement flat in Brooklyn, N.Y., and log on, surfing the Internet that runs like a vast river through wired America.

Public Relations Professional

Towards the end of my three-year stint writing Portland Communique in the early 2000s, the flack for a local developer whose proposal for the Burnside Bridgehead I disfavored went on something of a tirade via email, which I then published because it wasn’t off-the-record. Communique is long since offline (in part because I could never get the guy who handles * domains to get back to me so I could try to at least link the Wayback), but the full text is still up on Jack Bogdanski’s blog.

How many people did you employ? Or, did paying an intern to help your rumor-mongering business not factor in your parents monthly support of your hobby? But enough of this childishness, how about you and me in a public debate. You bring your slander and innuendos. I’ll bring a group of friends and some chips ‘cause I know you can’t really afford to buy snacks on your parent’s allowance. Oh, but you’ll have to crawl out from under that rock you live under to do it. Name the place, I’ll bring my friends, you bring yours (if you have any). I’d like to see you address me in public the way you do in your site – you sissy. I’d say more, but am sure you’ll print every word I write and I recognize children may be reading this. I know infants are. If you don’t set a date, I’ll find you at Stumptown and we can make a big show of it. Game?

For what it’s worth, later an anonymous troll using my site’s own comments to accuse me (falsely) of taking bribes in exchange for favoring another developer’s proposal was traced to a company with links to this “professional”. It wasn’t him, but the connection was quite the discovery.

Bruce Sterling

At some point during the Eighth Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy held in Austin, Texas, in 1998, there was a party at Bruce Sterling’s house. Somehow having stayed too long to get back to our hotel, a friend and I somehow ended up sleeping in Sterling’s guest room. The next day in a post to The WELL he referred to the “two punks” who had stayed in his guest room. (It’s actually even a bit weirder, as he and his family left us alone in the house the next morning as they went off to brunch, or church, or something.)

Joss Whedon

In the sixth episode of the somewhat controversial television show Dollhouse, “Man on the Street”, there is a substitute handler referred to in the script, written by Joss Whedon.


Boyd with the twitchy, unreliable-looking BICKS, another handler.

It’s never been confirmed that this homophonic name is a reference to me, but he’d at least known my name from having founded Can’t Stop the Serenity, and outside the Omni San Diego during my first Comic-Con he’d drunkenly said that he’d “beat[en] up a couple of false b!Xes earlier”. Regardless, I embraced the description and for awhile in the late 2000s had a blog named for it.

Now you know.

Liberals tend to believe that everyone has the …

Liberals tend to believe that everyone has the right to the public square no matter how reprehensible a person’s views are. In trying to tolerate the intolerant, American liberals tend to believe they are being good liberals and by extension good Americans. The marketplace of ideas, they believe, will sort out the whole truth in time. But the reverse is the case. What they are really doing, in a context of fascism politics, is helping fascists exploit liberal principles to undermine and replace democracy.

From Liberals Must Name the Evil from John Stoehr

If you are experiencing a sense of déjà vu that we …

If you are experiencing a sense of déjà vu that we are debating the term “concentration camp”, that’s because exactly one year ago we were having this exact same discussion. It’s a strong indicator of just how badly we have failed to protect immigrants that despite our “never again” protestations every time this comes up, apparently we don’t even realize that we’re having this debate again.

For reference when we are gnashing our teeth and rending our garments about this again next June, two articles to bookmark: one from 8Asians and one from NPR.

Likely it’s something to do with my …

Likely it’s something to do with my inability to sit still for them without becoming distracted, but podcasts really are not my thing.

However, I do listen to two: The Good Place: The Podcast (because, you know, it’s motherforking about The Good Place), and Technopolis, (because I have a passing interest in urban planning going back to when I covered politics and planning here in Portland). I listen as I’m waking up in the morning; it’s the closest I come to being a captive audience.

The latter is self-described as “explor[ing] what needs to change for tech to help solve more problems than it creates” and tends to feature to sorts of people you’d expect for the subject matter from all along its spectrum of opinions.

This month, however, things took a turn.

Technopolis hosts Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis recently sat down with Hannah Beachler, production designer of Black Panther to discuss the Golden City of Wakanda.

For as long as there have been movies, there have been fictional visions of tech-forward futures. But few cities on film have inspired the awe of urbanists like Black Panther’s Golden City, devised by production designer Hannah Beachler. In this special bonus episode, Jim and Molly talk with Beachler about the role tech played in her meticulously crafted urban vision. Beachler, who won the Academy Award for her work in the film, helps us understand why the Wakandan city feels so right—and what she thinks some real-life tech-led urban designs are getting wrong.

In what easily is the most compelling and human episode of Technopolis to date, Beachler seems to care more about people’s lived-in lives on a visceral, experiential level than almost any urban planning person I’ve ever heard from. Tellingly, I was struck by how differently such issues are discussed when the guest is neither techbro nor technocrat but instead an artist.

(Had I a time machine, I would go eavesdrop on every single conversation Beachler ever had with director Ryan Coolger about designing Wakanda, and I desperately want to see the 500-page design document they drafted to detail life in the Golden City.)

I don’t mean to keep coming back to it, but later I found myself again thinking about that notorious Rolling Stone interview with Jack Dorsey in which he explained that Square runs so much more smoothly than Twitter because it “has to” since “you’re dealing with people’s money” and “it’s extremely emotional”. Yet he never speaks in such animated and humane terms about people having to suffer harassment and abuse on Twitter.

Something in the way Beachler talks about Wakanda, a fictional city, is more suffused with an abiding respect for people and the environment in which they live than anything in the way Dorsey talks about real life.

Anyway, the point is that while many of the other Technopolis guests have had deep curiosity about cities and technology and livability, few if any of them spoke with such meaning and passion, even when truly believing in the mission.

Beachler talks a lot about designing a city that was focused on people rather than on technology, despite Wakanda being a society more technologically advanced than the outside world, and about drawing not just from African traditions but specifically from some of her own African-American traditions such as the cultural (and, per Rosa Parks, political) significance of the public bus. Wakanda easily could have had self-driving buses, she points out, but it doesn’t. Partly because that’s a job someone can have and partly because of the human connection that exists because of it.

There’s a great bit about Steptown, that neighborhood we see full of people walking and shopping and hanging out and, yes, taking the bus (and whose name I didn’t know until this podcast). They talk about how the streets there are not paved, and how that was informed by Beachler’s observations about how when cities flood there is nowhere for the water to go, because everything is pavement and concrete.

I don’t want to recap the entire thing, although for me it’s definitely worth a second listen. I just want to really drive home how intensely curious was this episode.

One other thing struck me afterward was I started thinking about Albina Vision, an ambitious proposal to resurrect a historically black neighborhood here in Portland (“a district that was once the heart of Portland’s black community,” in the words of Bridgeliner) which decades ago was razed to the ground in favor of an interstate highway, a sports complex, and a hospital.

The idea, at least as conceived today, isn’t just to bring traditional urban redevelopment but to build upon the displaced history, as described last year by Rukaiyah Adams.

“Decades of intentional design decisions choked the vitality out of Lower Albina,” the 45-year-old Portland native says. “We designed the intentional displacement of whole communities. We designed highway systems that prioritized automobile transit. [Now] we must also intentionally design inclusion and connectivity.”

Adams was a little more deservedly blunt in that Bridgeliner post from just a few months ago.

“No one factor caused the transformation of Albina, but racism was probably the thread that carried through all of them,” Adams said. “As Portland evolves, we have to learn how to grow and hold onto our urban ethnic history and not just wipe it out.”

Getting caught up on the Albina Vision project, I started to want the designer of Wakanda’s take on the whole thing. It’s not the Golden City, and Portland can’t draw upon the vast technological and financial resources of a vibranium mine, but I feel like Adams and Beachler would have a lot to talk about.

“They are so sick and tired of being sick and …

“They are so sick and tired of being sick and tired of Trump, there’s this almost unconscious feeling they’re going to go with the candidate that is more likely to beat him,” said Ron Lester, a Washington pollster who has spent decades surveying the attitudes of black voters.

For many, Lester said, “that is probably a white male,” given their deep-seated belief “that America is still a very racist place and a very misogynistic place and that a candidate who doesn’t get any white votes is probably going to lose.”

Mark Z. Barabak

What’s weird about this framing is that it refers to a hypothetical black or female candidate “who doesn’t get any white votes”. A candidate who doesn’t exist. It’s not clear to me whether this is Lester’s framing or that of voters he’s spoken to or polled. Hyperbole to underscore the point, I guess?

It’s not that I don’t understand the trepidation and conservative (not in the political sense) instincts for self-preservation women and especially people of color are communicating in this article. There’s nothing surprising about it, which makes me sad, and angry. But if all we get out of the next presidential election is a return to the pre-Trump status quo, it will be a colossal failure and wasted opportunity. That previous status quo literally is the source of all our problems–of which Trump is but one.

Biden represents nothing more than that status quo, as provocatively-stated by Christina Greer on MSNBC yesterday, and the degree to which polite, white American media doesn’t understand the point can be seen in the sort of stymied paralysis exhibited by host Nicolle Wallace.

The next election resulting in a President Biden would be a win in the technical sense, and surely less of an overt national disappointment (or, you know, threat) than is a President Trump, but a disappointment all the same.