The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Watermelon and Core Transformation

There were lotsa comments about my post on the watermelon post card. Some answers:

1) It isn't Liberals who claim that Conservatives are lacking moral fiber. It is partisans on EITHER side who claim that their side has a lock on positive values. Liberals hurl shit in one direction, and Conservatives hurl it in another.

2) I don't claim to be perfectly neutral in all of this, but I'll say something bluntly that damned few people will say: I don't believe there is a monopoly on positive or negative qualities on either side. They strike me as being the same quality of people. I DO think that they have different problems. One of the problems I see more on the Right is racism (excessive hierarchicalism). A problem I see more on the left is Moral Relativism (insufficient hierarchicalism?). What people on both sides try to do is say, no, we've got all the good stuff. That's just crap.

3) Because racism has impacted my life in some very specific emotional, financial, and personal ways, I'm sensitive to it, and tend to talk about it more than other factors which are certainly as important in the world.

4) I'm sensitive to threats against Obama, and racial stereotypes, because they are attacking him as a member of a group, rather than against his individual characteristics. I didn't see much more crap against Bush than I did against Clinton. And yes, I react strongly...but if the Secret Service hadn't been overwhelmed with death threats, I wouldn't take it so seriously when Fox News jokes about assassination. I don't consider this stuff "mere" political talk. There is genuine hatred and fear boiling there, waiting for us to believe they are "just joking". As a result, yes, I'm going to be overly sensitive.

5) It is true that many whites don't understand the racial charges on these comments. Like men don't know stuff that's offensive to women, or straights don't understand what is offensive to gays. There are certainly innocent people who get caught up in this stuff, but...I think we can agree on the 10% asshole factor? The people who actually are bigoted? They will use the exact same excuse: "gee! I didn't know" (chuckle). Gonna put them on a lie detector? Unfortunately, ignorance of widely-known cultural taboos is no excuse. And if you are going to be a politician, supposedly representing the welfare of thousands or millions of people, it behooves you to understand their history a little better than that.

6) Christian: you say that you HAVE to act the way you do, because of the way other people are. With all due respect, this is a child's attitude. You will become an adult when you take responsibility for your actions, regardless of how other people are. You may not have control over what happens to you, but you do have control over how you react to it. Every human being on this planet has a perfect justification for being either a saint or an asshole. We have choices to make.


To revisit a comment, anyone who says that the worst in either end of the political spectrum represents that group is an ass. And people on both sides do it, plenty. And both sides seem to believe themselves immune. Nope. Different diseases, but diseases nonetheless.


The Rihanna-Chris Brown thing gets predictably wierder. They're supposed to be back together. Yes, I look at the family dynamics, and the personal responsibility. I think that people should have enough respect for the future children to postpone having them until they have enough of their shit together to form a relationship with another human being. No one will move me from that position.

But the "Core Transformation" thing, that points toward a desire for union with the divine, casts a fascinating light on negative actions. No matter what the behavior, at the root of it is an urge to salve fear, to move away from pain, to move toward an evolutionary path. I originally read about it in a book by Connirae Andreas, and the transcripts of the sessions was astounding. I got ahold of videos of the process, so that I could watch the micro-cues, and they were all congruent. This seemed real. Tried it on myself. Same result. Tried it on a number of clients. Same result. Wow.

Basically, let's try a broad example. A man beats an old woman to death while taking her purse. The therapist drops the client into a deep trance. The following coached conversation might take place.

Therapist: Why did you kill the woman?

Client: She was screaming. She was going to get me caught. It made me mad.

Therapist: And if you hadn't been afraid of being caught?

Client: Maybe I wouldn't have had to kill her.

Therapist: you wouldn't have been angry?

Client: Maybe.

Therapist: But you would still have taken her money.

Client: Sure.

Therapist: Because you wanted money.

Client: Yeah.

Therapist: And if you had all the money you wanted, what then?

Client: I wouldn't have to worry about my bills. Having a place to live.

Therapist: And if you didn't have to worry about having a place to live, what then?

Client: Maybe my old lady would stop bitching at me.

Therapist: And if there was nothing but love between you and your woman, what then?

(About this time, the client usually takes a deep breath, releases it. The tonal quality of his voice changes)

Client: Then things would be a little better.

Therapist: And what if things were a little better?

Client: I'd be able to take a rest, you know? Relax a little. Take a look around. Make some plans.

Therapist: And if you had this time and space to make plans, what then?

Client: I got dreams. I'd like to try to make some moves. Maybe do something to make things better for my family.

Therapist: And if you were able to take care of your family, what then?

Client: I'd stop hearing my father laughing at me, telling me I'll never be shit.

Therapist: And if you knew your father approved of you as a man, what then?

(Another deep breath. More relaxed tone)

Client: Maybe Mom would love me, too.

Therapist: And if you felt that deep sense of approval and love you desire, what then?

Client: Maybe I'd feel for the first time that I was O.K.

Therapist: And if you fel that deep sense of "being O.K." that you desire so much, what then?

Client: Maybe I'd be able to show people that I'm a good guy. I'd like to be nicer, but people won't let me.

Therapist: And if you were able to show people who you really are, show them your heart, what then.

Client: the world would be a better place. Different place. I could...just be myself.

Therapist: And if you could just be yourself?

Client: I could be like I was when I was happy. I like laughing and singing and being a good guy as much as anyone.

Therapist: and if you could stay in that place. The happiness. The joy. The sense of loving the world...what then.

Client: I'd feel loved. I haven't felt that...really felt that. In so long.

Therapist: and if you felt that sense of love, joy, all the way down to your bones, all the time...what then.

Client: (another deep breath. A shudder) I'd be at peace. (no shit. This exact same comment came out of about six different people of widely differing backgrounds. Truly bizarre)

Therapist: And if you felt nothing but that deep, lasting sense of peace. What then.

(The client often begins to cry, with an almost child-like smile on their face)

Client: I'd just feel...just a part of everything. Everything in the world.

Therapist: And if you felt one with everything in the universe, what then?

Client: there isn't anything else. Just...God.


I kid you not, you can walk people from the most loathesome behavior, right down to an urge to connect with the divine. The trick of Core Transformation is that you can turn this around, take them to their sense of connectedness, and then let them START from there, rather than trying to GET there. From that point, it's possible to help them build behavioral paths that allow them to feel safe, respected, and loved while remaining within social guidelines.

It's the closest thing NLP comes to a spiritual practice, and is a mundane finger pointing at a profound reality. Whether you think this is a spiritual, psychological, or neurological process (re-connecting with prenatal states, perhaps? The "peace of the womb"?) I've seen massive good come out of this.

The trick? The therapist has to represent the space of healing. Intellectual understanding of the process doesn't seem to cut it.

The way such a process could be applied to the Chris Browns of the world is obvious. Under it all, he was just trying to feel loved, and safe. Grasp that, and you have a chance of leading truly warped men and women to something healthy and generative. At has been my experience, and so I deeply believe.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

We didn't know!

Of COURSE all these images of watermelons on the White House lawn, sent as a digital post card by a Republican mayor in Orange County, is totally innocent. He "didn't know" of the history of using such images as an insult to black people. Of course. And so the strategy takes shape: use racially-charged images and language, and then say: "Liberals are being too sensitive! No harm was meant! It's racist even to think there was!"

And racists, the ignorant, and those who cheer for their team even when it is cheating will nod their heads like bobble dolls. This is just totally predictable, and it's almost creepy fun to watch the vermin crawling out from under the flat rocks. My Conservative Republican friends: you have GOT to speak up about this, or lose your party. Right now, if is looking like your Big Tent is made out of a white sheet. I know that those who believe in the established wisdom of the past, and in small government, and Christian values conservatively interpreted don't really buy into the kind of vicious crap that has led to all the subtle and not-so-subtle racial digs, the calls for assassination, the suggestions that Michelle Obama is a "baby mama," the "affirmative action" stuff. Criticizing the man on personal terms is one thing. But it is clear than for many on the Right, he is not a man, primarily. He is a BLACK man, and that is something that is frightening as hell.

Your party needs you to speak out. Unless you agree, of course. In which case...well, your future is quite...pale.


To the fanboys who want every single panel of "The Watchmen" translated to the screen, every word, unchanged: those of you who have any hope of ever working in the industry, understand that unless you make the movies with your own money, there will always be compromise. And even if you do, you'd better grasp that a book is not a movie. Look at the reviews in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, which consider Zack Snyder's film "slavishly adapted." In other words, chained to its source material. And you STILL aren't satisfied. Many of you will never create anything original. But some of you will. I've worked in the industry for thirty years, and many, many of the fine writers, directors, and technicians were originally "fanboys," and they are often brilliant and have contributed much. But they learned to play with others. I only say these things because some of you are wondering how you might, one day, take your dreams and share them with the world. The truth is that, no, the original artist doesn't always know what would translate their work best. And that no movie ruins the original work. It still exists. There has always been a tension between the artist and the money people. Neither is a better quality human being...they just have different perspectives on the process. If you can't deal with both sides, you will never see your dreams on the big screen. Every single artist whose work you admire in film has learned this truth. I hope that those of you with genuine ability will grasp that I'm not saying this to insult you, but to encourage you to learn to compromise your visions a little, so that you can enjoy the fruits of creative labor. It really isn't that bad out there...for adults.


A prime example is someone who said it's "not professional" for Variety to speculate on the "Watchmen"'s potential box office. Are you kidding? It may not be artistic, but it is certainly professional. It took 100 million of shareholder money to make that movie, and the paymasters had BETTER care about it making money. Hollywood is a blend of art and commerce. This isn't a terrible thing. It's just a thing. Deal with it, or don't. The world belongs to those who can bridge the two worlds.


Can't help but think more about the emerging racial ugliness. Another core tactic is going to be to find a tasteless comment made by someone on the Left, and then promote it. When attacked, you say: "well, such-and-such a Democrat said it first!" This was used with the "Barack the Magical Negro" comment, first made by a Dem, and condemned by Dems. Then it got picked up by Limbaugh, who hid behind the "a Dem did it first" routine, and later turned into a song, which was sent out by a Republican legislator on a Christmas CD. And the claim, again and again, is: "we didn't know this was offensive." Well, if you say that, then you are stumping for the importance of Black History Month, because apparently half the country has no idea about black history, or the legacy of racism and oppression. For them, the statistical anomaly of an Obama presidency means far more than the mere 1% black representation in the Senate. They admit they know nothing of black people, but think they can decide about Affirmative Action, and interpret crime statistics, and make judgements about whether I.Q. tests might be skewed toward the culture of those who created it. All of these things would demand thorough, nuanced understanding of the people you are judging.

I fear for this country, because we need the Right, and its soul-searching, asking why it isn't attracting its share of non-whites seems to be mired in a desperate avoidance of the very issues that would save its soul. I don't see these issues being discussed anywhere, so I have to do it here, or they might not be said at all.

There is more of this poison coming. Watch for it. Be vigilant. The NY Post "Police shooting the monkey" cartoon might be seen as nothing but a bizarre blind spot. Hopefully the Watermelon Man cartoon won't be justified the same way.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another 101 invitation

We're about 2/5 of the way through the first group of "101" program participants, and I want to give some more folks a chance to join. Experimentation is the soul of the scientific method, and we need the feedback! So here it is again:

Appaloosa (2008)

Ed Harris' version of Robert Parker's novel is the damnedest love story I've ever seen. Harris and Viggo Mortenson play freelance Sheriffs cleaning up troubled towns. Renee Zellwegger plays...well, she plays a widow woman making her way through the world the best she can, attaching herself to the Alpha male wherever she happens to be. And Jeromy Irons plays the wealthy, wicked rancher whose murder of a sheriff and two deputies puts a chain of deadly events into play.

This reminds me of early "Spenser" novels, back before Parker got bored with the character. DAMN I loved Spenser and Hawk. Avery Brooks as "Hawk" on the Spenser show was my favorite black character on television up until that time. No, "A Man Called Hawk" doesn't count. Ugh. But I now realize that it wasn't just about the fact that Hawk was black, and a bad-ass, at a time when such things were unknown on television. It was that there was a male bond between these two men that was wholly extraordinary. That is so damned captured in Appaloosa, a bond that makes it possible for two men, together, to accomplish things that two men separately cannot even begin to approach. That bond that men who have been through combat yearn for their whole lives, and find it almost impossible to describe to friends or spouses. There is a scene where Zellwegger, "engaged" to Harris, comes on to Mortenson. He pushes her away. "You're with Virgil (Harris)" he says. "And so am I."

I don't want to say too much more about this film, except that it leads toward an unavoidable act of violence that defines everyone in the movie. Ultimately, if it had been called "The Wedding Present" that title would have been more perfect. Perhaps. But I want to thank everyone involved for reminding me what I loved about the "Spenser" novels in the first place, before they devolved into the "White guy and his black/gay/Italian/whatever `Other' pal of the month" books they turned into.


Regarding the Rihanna/Chris Brown case, someone asked, implicitly, what I would say if asked to participate in the healing.

1) If the mother came to me, saying that her son had brutally beaten his girlfriend (the term "smack around" doesn't do it for me. That might cover a black eye). I'd want to talk to both of them, starting with mother and son. Her relationship history and attitudes. If there had been a father in the home, and the nature of that relationship. In other words, I would start with my concept of a "healthy" family and see what was missing, and then see what it would take to nurture such an internal representation in the son, so that his internal voices would automatically lead him to appropriate behavior.

2) If the father came to me, I would look first into the father's relationships with the mother, and other women. If the son's behavior mirrored the father's, they would have to be counseled together to determine what rules they were playing by in relationships that made such behavior appropriate. If they agreed with those internal rules, then I'd see if they had enough motivation to tear down the internal emotional/conceptual structures and rebuild.

3) If Brown came to me personally, I would find out about his family relationships, the place where he originally got his rules for behavior in relationships. I would determine, NOT by his conscious answers but with body language and eye movement, whether he agreed with the rules he has been playing by. If not, I would help him align his rules with his actual values. If so, I would determine if he really didn't want to change...or if he merely wanted to avoid long-term consequences for what he did. If so, and I still wanted to work with him, I'd drop him into a "Core Transformation"-style trance, and have him identify with his actual core motivations for this (and all) actions: the urge to come closer to God. Working backwards from there, I would attach pain to inappropriate behavioral expressions, and pleasure to the appropriate ones. To do this, I might have to kick his ass a little first (emotionally only, hopefully) to establish sufficient dominance to put him in a regressed state where he is willing to accept imprintation. The military has understood this, at least unconsciously, forever.

This is one of the reasons that martial arts is such a great way for a young man to mature. By the time his father can no longer pick him up and dangle him by his heels, completely dominate him physically, one whole level of imprintation is no longer available.

What every living being is trying to do is move through life with a minimum of suffering. When you see negative behaviors (such as beating the shit out of people, especially the people you love) the question to ask is: what kind of internal representations and rules does this person have, such that these behaviors diminish the amount of pain and fear they experience in life?

Criminologist Lonnie Athens suggests that human beings go through five stages on their way to becoming irredeemably violent criminals:

1) Brutalization, or violent horrification. The suffering of pain and humiliation, or witnessing those they love suffering it.

2) Rebellion. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.

3) Acting out

4) finding a society of like-minded individuals to approve of his actions (like, for instance, the chorus of people who say: "it wasn't so bad!" "What did she do to make him do that?" "He's just young" etc.)

5) Internalizing the voices.

By the time you get to level five, it is too late. No known form of ALL of my sympathy is with the victims, and with young men and women who are still in stages 1-4, where change is possible. After that...well, change may be possible for a few of the truly motivated, but it can no longer be implemented from the OUTSIDE, if you see my meaning. I would consider efforts to do so to be a waste of resources.

So...IF he really wanted to change, then he could either change his beliefs and values, or learn to bring his actions into alignment with them. Males are these dangerous hunter-killer thingies, and the world needs their energy. But that energy has to be safely channeled, and part of that is total condemnation of inappropriate expressions, and that condemnation must come from mother-figures, father figures, peers and potential sex partners. Women who suggest that this behavior is anything less than sub-human are creating a safety valve: he doesn't have to change in order to get laid? Great! And the behavior is perpetuated another generation.

While I do not believe that oppression of women is good for men, anywhere, at any time, I do see that it can APPARENTLY be good for them, if they don't look long-term, or below the surface of the game...and we are programmed to accept the surface. So the Chris Browns of the world, on some level, belief that physical violence in response to verbal stimulus, or disproportionate levels of violent response (after all, she may have hit him first) is appropriate. So long as any part of him believes this, he is dangerous to himself and others. So long as there is a chorus of voices in his head saying "smack that bitch up," he can act in a negative way.

And there are millions of boys around the world who are asking the question: "what will it take for me to become a man?" And for the answer, they will look at two things:

1) What are sexually alluring women responding to?

2) What are men who seem confident and powerful and sexual doing?

If he does not experience substantial pain in response to what he did, not only will he not change, but he will provide a negative role model for an entire generation, guys who will, in privacy, say: "see? It's cool."

So...positive behaviors have to be associated with pleasure, and survival. Negative behaviors have to be associated with pain, and death. This can be as abstracted as you wish. It can be emotional pain as well as or in preference to physical pain.

Males didn't ask to have the poison of violent propensity. They didn't select it at birth...and only the 10% or so of Alpha males benefits from a system that rewards aggression. But all society reinforces it, creates that chorus of voices that says: "act this way and you will get the money and the girls, and you will survive." The males who behave in violent fashion have to be put under the microscope and corrected IMMEDIATELY. There is no possible positive outcome. If you lose a Chris Brown, but save another hundred young men and women, that sounds like a cheap price to me.

4) If Rihanna came to me and asked me to help Chris. If they were willing to go into counseling together, I'd take a deep breath and dive in. If she wants to get back together with him, I'd want to know where she got her rules about relationships. If she would want her own daughter to get back with a man who had beaten her. I've noticed that a LOT of women cannot and do not love themselves as much as much as they love their own daughters, and would accept treatment that they would not want for someone they love. I would work on her self-love. Then, if she still wanted to be with him, so be it. But I would NOT help her heal that relationship unless the deepest, healthiest part of herself, the part that believed she was made of the same stuff as the stars, believed that this relationship could be healthy.

I would evoke their deepest rules about love, relationship, violence. And attach enormous pleasure to behaving in alignment with those deepest principles, and genuine pain to violating them. There have to be massive communication glitches between and within these two, and that would have to be addressed, big time. If possible, both families should be involved, because the answer for the current pain lies in the web of relationships.

Under no circumstances do I believe that both families are intact with loving mothers and fathers. Just don't believe it. THIS is one of the reasons I have so much objection to people who BEGIN parenting with partial or dysfunctional situations. Baby, you'd better assume that you're going downhill from where you start. Hopefully the slide will be shallow. But if you start with a bad man or woman (or none) at your side and figure "they'll get better" you are doing far more than kidding yourself: you are setting your children up for disaster. Then, down the road, when your crazy partner abuses your children, you'll use the "crazy people need love too" defense. Well, sure. But what I hear when you say that is: "I'm crazy, and where else will I get love but from someone just as nuts?"

That's fine...just don't bring children into the world. They had no choice, and you are DELIBERATELY starting their life journey in the toilet, just because you don't have the courage and honesty to either climb out of it, or flush away by yourself.


So...those would be my actual responses. Yes, when angry I will say nasty things some times. Yep. But words can be lies, fantasies, safety valves.

Behavior is truth.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday the 13th and Roger Rabbit

Friday The 13th (2009)

No, I couldn't help myself. I had to go and see whether they were going to do anything as riveting as the Kevin Bacon magic trick from the original. There was the one scene at the dock...I won't say, just in case you're as twisted as I am and have to go. But what I can say is that it's fairly effective, but utterly the mixture as before. There is no need to detail characters or plot: you know the drill. Horny, dope-smoking teens fornicate, get high, and die at Camp Crystal Lake, victims of the unkillable mindless murder machine Jason. One or two may live to the closing credits. Oops, that's the whole plot, right there. For fans of slasher films, it probably earns a strong "B" or so. For lovers of good cinema...what in the HELL are you doing even thinking about this mess?


WARNING: SAMBO ALERT. Hell, maybe a SLANT-EYE alert as well.

Yes, boys and girls, there is a black character and an Asian character along for the slaughter. They are only interested in dope, while all the white guys have their way with the various women. Oh, there is one white guy who is there to rescue his sister. But one of the women is clearly interested in him, lucky guy.

The non-whites are mostly interested in pot. But wait, it's worse. The black guy sits back and urges the Asian to go after the white girl ("he can't fight! He can't drive! He's not interested in sex!" Ah..."In Living Color", I miss you.) The girl does flirt with him, a bit. The black guy ends up alone in the living room while the white guy who came to Crystal Lake with ONE girl is humping another one in the back bedroom. He decides to masturbate, and looks for a stroke book. Can't find one, and ends up starting to whack off to an image of a fully-clothed white woman.

Wow. Let me guess: the entire creative team for this film is white guys, perhaps? I had to shake my head, as it reminded me, quite clearly, why I so dearly loved watching white people get butchered in slasher movies in the 80s. It really was worth every dollar I ever paid. Not so much these days. With Obama in the White House, it almost seems...petty.


Arrgh. Realized this morning that I was going backwards/upside down in my meditations. I was trying to get enough light to push back the darkness in my head. Just exactly wrong. What I have to do is find whatever light is in my mind, then squeeze my ego down to fit within it. The more I compress it, the brighter the light seems. If I can strip away enough "me" and the light is darkness. In other words, the act of looking for the darkness, or resisting it, creates it. Amazing how often I forget this.


Sitting with Jason this morning, watching "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" while I write my morning stuff. Brilliant movie, with some occassionally insensitiv racial subtext (the whole Tunetown thing does the Tune/Human dichotomy exactly as uncounted detective/police films have depicted the 1940's black/white power relationships, complete with a "Cotton Club" sequence. That, of course, puts a different spin on the moment when Eddie Valient calls the club bouncer a "Gorilla"and goes "Ugga-buggah." Considering Disney Animation's rather regrettable racial record, I could do without this.

On the other hand, it's interesting to note that Disney live-action seems to be quite aware of their 20th Century record. Their recent film "The Express" touched on the sports-race connection as quite a few other Disney movies seem to have done. Like one hand is a little ashamed of what the other hand did. They can't change their past, but they can reflect the awareness of the present, and for that I give them full credit.

And no, I'm not imagining things about Disney Animation. And no, it isn't a statistical blip. I worked for seven months at Don Bluth Productions when they were doing "The Secret of NIMH," and heard stories about the classic animation department, who they would and wouldn't hire, and the images they wouldn't use, or insisted on using. No accident at all. No accident either, that within a couple years of the last of the "Nine Old Men" retiring, the policy suddenly changed.

I know of similar crap at other animation studios. There was an animation character over at Hannah-Barbara called "BlackStar" who was originally envisioned as a black character, the first they'd ever had...but turned white when the sponsors got nervous. Let alone the fact that, say, the Flintstone's Bedrock was totally white. Well, that's actually kind of believable, a passing nod to actual anthropology. But what of the Jetson's future? There were, over the course of the television series, the several TV movies, and the theatrical film THOUSANDS of character designs, those with voices, those passing in cars or walking past on streets, or on space stations.

Every single one of them white. Half of them were women, by the way, and about a third of the animation execs I met in the 80's were as well. Race closes ranks in ways gender never has.

I remember Tananarive sitting on a plane next to a nice little old white lady, who after listening to T describe her work, said something I've heard innumerable times from white folks: "it sounds so interesting. But why do they have to be black? Why does race have to be described at all?" That all sounds so reasonable until you grasp how poisonous that is. Race doesn't long as everyone is white. Then you can pretend it's all an accident, or that black people are being racist to point it out (that's my favorite insanity). It matters because unless you actually stop and quantify for a minute, those with an actual negative agenda are concealed among those merely content to let the natural human tendency to surround yourself with "your own", and the status quo continues on for another generation.

Well, we have a game-changer. The wave begun in the 60's has actually ripened, as as long as you don't let the "Obama's in the white house, Racism is over" blind folks convince you it's racist to notice that only 1% of the Senate is black, we're all right. But the line of the status quo is quite elastic, all that force has stretched it, but man oh man, it wants to snap back to its original position. Listen carefully, and you'll hear the old racial attitudes straining not to call Obama a nigger. You'll watch Fox News accidentally letting out "Obama's Baby Mama" jokes, joking about him being assassinated, the Post joking about the author of the simulus being a chimp shot dead by white cops.

Humor is a release of tension. We'll see more of this stuff, and every time they'll claim they meant nothing, that Obama is too sensitive, that it is NOTICING this stuff that is "racist" and so forth. No. Fantastic, almost unbelievable progress has been made. But when rape jokes about women are "just humor" I'll believe that anything vaguely resembling the Amadou Diallo shooting is "just humor."

Sell that crap to someone else. At the least, it was blindness and insensitivity on a grotesque level. I have no memory of a major American news outlet saying ANYTHING that implied violence to Bush. Obama's been in the White House about a month, and there've been about a half-dozen. This is loathesome, and I won't pretend I don't see it.