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The Real Presidential Primary

That would be the one that you don’t get to vote in. It’s the one that picks who you get to "choose" from when it’s your turn to have some democracy. It’s the primary that happened last weekend when you were busy having heated discussions about ballgate.

The Koch brothers held their first round of auditions to determine who you get to choose from next year, when it’s your turn to nibble on the scraps of democracy that trickle down to you from their table. The contestants who put on their prettiest gowns and tiaras on, and did their prettiest twirl for the Koch brothers in round one were Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.

You won’t be deciding on whether to give Mitt Romney a third bite at the apple because the Kochs have already decided they’re not interested in any more Mittens. But don’t despair, he can still get in the game if he can land himself a Sheldon Adelson, who hasn’t held his primary yet. Or Mitt could land himself Mitt, although Mitt seems to greedy and risk averse to invest in someone like Mitt so that’s not really likely. Mitt likes to invest in sure things, what with being a vulture capitalist and all. That’s too bad, cause the people who think that losing twice means you have no chance at all really don’t know much about Ronald Reagan. Third time was a charm for that two time loser. But he finally won on his third try, which subsequently led to the rest of us losing. But I digress.

The Kochs have budgeted 889 million dollars to buy the 2016 elections with. That’s not just the presidential race, that’s congress too. That 889 million dollars of democracy they’re going to enjoy is roughly equal to what each party has to spend on the elections. So two guys who inherited a fuckload of Stalin money from their sugar daddy (literally) have one third of the total cash in the coffers to fund the next American election. Isn’t freedom of money speech great? If you have a problem with this form of speech, let me give you some words of wisdom from Mitt Romney; just go get some money speech from your parents so that you can level the playing field.

When I said, "If you have problem with…" I meant, "you obviously have a problem with this form of speech. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself; democrat, republican, independent…you all have a problem with it.    

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Wanna know who that 22% of republicans who love the money talks system are? Here are some quotes I compiled for you to peruse so you can see for yourself.

“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.” – Mitch McConnell

“The exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you — that really started my trajectory." – Joni Ernst 

“I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech.” – Mitch McConnell

“I believe in freedom of speech: I think that political spending and political activism is a form of protected speech,” – Marco Rubio

"[The Citizen’s United verdict}a big win for the First Amendment" – John Boehner

"Judicial activism occurs when judges abandon constitutional or statutory meaning and impose their policy preferences instead. A decision that faithfully applies the First Amendment is not activism but rather a proper exercise of the judicial responsibility to keep Congress within its constitutional bounds." – Anthony Dick writing for The National Review

"A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections. It is damaging to our democracy. It is precisely what led a Republican President named Theodore Roosevelt to tackle this issue a century ago." – Barack Obama

"Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign financing is a shameful step backward toward big money special interests exercising too much influence over American political campaigns." – Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

"The Supreme Court’s decision represents a step backward for the American people and our nation’s political process." – Nancy Pelosi

"Allowing corporate influence to flow unfettered into federal campaigns will only undermine the confidence the American people have in their government, and serve only to stack the deck further in favor of special interests at the expense of hardworking Americans." Senator Michael F. Bennet (D-CO)

"With this ill-advised spate of judicial activism, five Supreme Court justices have struck down the distinction between individuals and corporations in election law and opened the floodgates to a hostile corporate takeover of our democratic process." Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT)

"The Supreme Court in essence has ruled that corporations can buy elections. If that happens, democracy in America is over." – Alan Grayson (D-FL)

"Today’s Supreme Court ruling is yet another nod to the wealthy corporate interests in this country. This ruling now allows big corporations to spend large amounts of money to influence elections far beyond the ability of individual Americans. The free market free-for-all announced by these justices makes me wonder, ‘What’s next?’ If today’s ruling isn’t legislating from the bench, I don’t know what is." – Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)

"Today’s decision by Supreme Court is a triumph for special interest and judicial activism at its worst. Overturning the ban on corporate spending on political campaigns opens the floodgates for the corrupting influence and the dominant hand of special interest groups." – Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

"I think we need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals." – John Kerry

"The effects of the decision will be to undermine existing law, flood the airwaves with corporate and union advertisements, and undercut landmark reforms that I and many others fought to secure to put elections back in the hands of the American people. In short, today’s decision was a serious disservice to our country. – "Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

"The best long-term solution is a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Court from overturning sensible campaign finance regulations." – Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

"[The] activist element of the Supreme Court struck down key protections of our elections integrity, overturned the will of Congress and the American people, and allowed all corporations to spend without limit in order to elect and defeat candidates and influence policy to meet their political ends. The consequences may well be nightmarish." – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"The ruling will, to a significant degree, give control of the political process in the United States to the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world and the candidates who support their agenda. Instead of democracy being about one-person one-vote, it will now be about the size of a company’s bank account." – Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Do you see a pattern here? No you don’t, cause everyone knows that both parties are exactly the same. There is no difference between them at all, right?

At this moment, democrats are being outspent by republicans to the tune of two to one. What do you think they’re going to have to do to level the "speech"? Could declining to prosecute a single banker for tanking the world’s economy perhaps be the only path forward?

Look, I don’t know how many democrats are earnest in their desire to give us back our democracy, but I know that we’ll never find out until we actually get money out of politics. I’m not going to attribute things like Obama’s inaction on regulating Wall Street to corruption, until we see him actually make a choice. You cannot call democrats hypocrites until they are in a position of making a choice to serve corporations, rather than the people. They don’t have a choice right now so we can’t really tell how many of them are genuinely corrupt (there are a significant number who are, I’m not kidding myself about that) and how many are just forced to play the money speech game.

Or maybe both parties are exactly the same and you should not bother looking for differences or even voting. Become a libertarian……………like the Koch Brothers. Oh, wait.   

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Greece Vs Wall Street

So this is going to get interesting. The results of the election in Greece are in. The Greeks voted for killing austerity and renegotiating their debt with (basically) Wall Street vultures. This also puts the new Greek government at odds with Angela Merkel, who basically is the EU. But I believe that the Merkel clash is being overestimated and won’t be the standoff that some media outlets are predicting.

Here’s a recap of what happened in Greece. The country incurred massive debt. This is very different from what happened in Spain or the US, where the people incurred massive debt even though the result was the same, and the creditors were the same. In Greece’s case, it was the government who borrowed massively. Here’s how banking worked in the olden days of Glass Steagall: banks would assess a borrower’s ability to repay debt and decide whether extending a loan was viable, and setting the percentage rate based on viability. This made banks more prudent in who they loaned to because the goal was to get repaid with a little interest. See the interest was calculated using a formula whose two primary goals were to cover the bank’s total exposure (meaning all they loans they had made) and to create a profit for the bank. But then something horrible happened that wasn’t unforeseen, since it had happened before; banks assigned value to debt. And yes, that’s as crazy as it sounds. They took the projected profit (if everything went swimmingly) from the debt and let investors buy a piece of of that imaginary profit in the form of securities. In the interest of keeping things simple and getting to the point of this post, securities are basically trade-able debt. So now this money that doesn’t actually exist is worth something. Glass Steagall used to separate the banking assets of a bank from their investment assets. The need to do this should not have to be explained. If a bank puts these securities on its balance sheets as assets, they can sell them and still be insured against those losses in the form of the FDIC insurance that real assets (your deposits) have. When a bank can inflate their assets by making insane loans without worrying if those loans are actually viable, what do you think happens? If you guessed that they make loans to anyone and everyone they can, with no regard to viability so that they can sell those "assets" and create a profit stream out of literally nothing, you win a cookie because you’re right.

The Wall Street vultures did this anywhere they could. To the government of Greece, the homeowners in Madrid and the US, and all over south America. They did not care if the loans they made were viable because it didn’t matter to them at all. There was nothing to lose. The money that was repaid became profits, and the money that wasn’t repaid became either someone else’s problem, a repossession, or a fixed (meaning nonnegotiable) debt. That’s what happened in Argentina. A crooked judge made a chunk of Argentina’s debt nonnegotiable when the vultures decided they weren’t going to to along with all of the other creditors who accepted a certain percentage on the dollar (I can’t remember what the percentage was). These vultures demanded 100 cents on the dollar, plus all of the interest on the incredibly risky loans they had made. When only the profit, but none of the risk is an investor’s concern, they’re no longer an investor. They’re a vulture. Argentina subsequently overrode the corrupt judge’s ruling, cleared all of their debt, and are doing just fine now, after a decade of dicking around with the vultures

Greece is still wrestling with the vultures. Since they don’t control their own currency, the EU (Germany, really) decided that they were going to "belt tighten" Greece by implementing austerity measures. Here’s the thing about austerity; when you take money away from people who can’t afford to have it taken away, the whole economy suffers. You can’t shrink the consumer base and think it’s going to work out well for the economy. So Germany, who makes and sells a lot of stuff, austered the shit out of both Greece and Spain. And predictably, there were far fewer people in Spain and Greece who had the money to buy Germany’s stuff. Neither Greece nor Spain have really "recovered" financially, despite the pain that was foisted on the poorest among them. Who could have seen that coming?

Anyway, back to the newly elected government. They were elected on a platform of ending austerity and renegotiating the debt, which is exactly what fucking needs to happen in order for them to ever recover. I don’t think that Merkel is going to be as big an obstacle to all of this, as some people think. She did fuck Germany a little with the loss in sales with the austerity crap she insisted on. No, the big showdown is going to be between the Greek government and the Wall Street vultures. Needless to say, I’m rooting for Greece.

Here’s the thing; you can’t be allowed to do business without accepting any liability for your risks. Some people think that the homeowners, and the governments are to blame for over borrowing. Those people would be republicans, libertarians, or idiots. But I repeat myself. This would be like putting a box of cookies out on the counter and blaming the children who ate them all for being irresponsible. Of course they ate the cookies. They’re not in charge of cookie portioning. Knowing how many cookies should be consumed is not their area of expertise any more than knowing how much money to borrow is the expertise of the borrower. No, that’s the job of the bank. And when the bank is spinning a load of crap telling you that you’re totally within reasonable parameters of debt, you listen to them because that is their area of expertise and you want the money. There is no reason to become a subject matter expert when the experts are telling you that you can have what you want. Creating amortization tables for debt is not something that most people know, or should be expected to know how to do. It’s incumbent on the person with the cookies to determine how many cookies they should give out. I cannot believe this needs to be explained. When a kid pukes from eating too many cookies, the bank needs to clean that shit up. They overloaded Greece with debt, and they should write down their losses.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do for you. Why you? What do you have to do with the debt in Greece, or your neighbor’s upside down mortgage? When Greece or your neighbor are working their assess off to pay the vultures with their money, they’re not putting money into the economy, which puts your job in jeopardy. Let me put it to you another way: paying off the vulture debt means giving your paycheck over to the 1% instead of to the 99%. That’s how this fucking income inequality happens. The dumbest and the greediest among us will have you believe that you need to buck up and bootstrap all of your money over to the people who stacked the deck against you.

That’s bullshit. The 1% will not own a full fifty percent of all of the global wealth this year because they’re all that. This happens when the game is rigged, and anyone with an iota of sense can see that.

So I say, GO GREECE! We need your money more than the vultures do so go get em!  

           

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Trickle Down Bites The Dust

We have what might be the final blow to the ridiculous economic theory that Ronald Reagan made fashionable. The last thirteen years of the lowest effective corporate tax rate made it clear that trickle down is bullshit. But if that wasn’t enough evidence for you, we have the final nail in the trickle down coffin (it was your coffin by design). The plummeting gas prices have given us decisive data to demonstrate that economies grow from the bottom up.

Let’s go through it. According to gasbuddy.com, we’ve been seeing a steady drop gas in prices since last June. CNBC just published a story detailing what the drop in prices means in terms of monthly savings, as well as what people are doing with those savings. The data was collected by Cardlylics, a company that tracks your credit card usage and sells those analytics to different brands. According to their data, the average savings per person was $18.00 per month.

What did Americans do with that money? They spent it. Here’s what they spent it on:

  • 2 gallons more per month of gas
  • 10.3% increase in e-commerce
  • 8% increase in fast food
  • 6.8% increase on full service restaurants
  • 6.2% increase on home and garden improvements
  • 5.7% increase in grocery spending 4.5% increase in auto service and products
  • 3.7% increase in quick serve light fare
  • 3% increase in health and beauty
  • 1.4% increase in bars

Americans actually spent more money than they saved on gas. They spent $27.00 per week. This is what people refer to when they poll "optimism" about the economy. Perception is in fact reality to some extent.

These increases in spending increase what is referred to as "economic activity". Economic activity is (for example) the total impact on the economy when you buy an extra loaf of bread. That includes the jobs created (stock clerk, truck driver, farmer, etc). This is what economists mean when they tell you that every $1.00 spent on food stamps creates $1.72 of economic activity. Every dollar that you spend helps to create demand, which creates jobs.

Here’s what does not create economic activity:

  • giving a millionaire $18.00 per month

They’ve got a few million in the bank already, and therefore have no immediate need to spend the $18.00 so giving it to them created no economic activity since it ends up in an offshore bank (or any bank).

Here’s what doesn’t create a job:

  • a tax cut to a corporation whose demand hasn’t increased enough to warrant hiring more people

The only circumstance under which a company hires more people, is when demand dictates that they need more bodies to keep up with that increased demand.

All that bullshit republicans have sold you about tax cuts for the "job creators" is crap designed to get you to support their greed. That crap that you were told starting on January 21st, 2009 about how government needs to reign in spending during a recession is crap. When you don’t have any money, and your neighbor doesn’t have any money, and Mitt Romney is keeping all his money in the Cayman Islands, the spender of last resort is the government. Recessions are precisely the time when the government needs to spend money on social programs to help you create some economic activity which keeps your neighbor employed. And when the government is borrowing at a 2% interest rate (that’s where it was before the republican shut downs), it’s complete madness to suggest that they shouldn’t borrow to keep money in your pocket.

Trickle down was always a crock of shit, but now it’s a demonstrable crock of shit. Believe your own lying eyes instead of your own lying politician or billionaire.     

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Civil Asset Forfeiture

If you’re not familiar with what civil asset forfeiture, let me fill you in because it’s pretty bad. Civil asset forfeiture is an Orwellian term that refers to the government taking your stuff and keeping it. This  isn’t a new thing. It’s been around for centuries, but the Reagan and Bush 2.0 administrations put it on steroids. Civil asset forfeiture is when cops of any flavor (state, or local) find your stuff during a search, and keep in. It doesn’t matter if you’re guilty of anything.

So let me walk you through it with a scenario. Your house is a suspected meth lab, and the police successfully manage to get a warrant to search your house. So the cops come in, search your house and find nothing related to meth production, or any illegal activity drug or otherwise because they got the wrong house. But they do find $50,000 in cash under the floorboard in your kitchen. There’s no more reason to believe that you obtained the cash illegally, as there is to believe you’re a paranoid survivalist who doesn’t trust the banks. But the reason for the cash being under the floorboard is irrelevant. It could have been in a safe in your bedroom. The police can just take it. This is called "civil asset forfeiture", not to be confused with "criminal asset forfeiture". Criminal asset forfeiture would be if they found the money and the meth lab in your house in which case, your stuff is clearly a product of your criminal activity, and that’s why they’re taking it. I think that the fact that they actually have a different term for when they take your stuff when you’re not a criminal is pretty telling.

We haven’t gotten to the really outrageous part yet. When cops take your stuff, you have virtually no hope of getting it back. In a civil asset forfeiture case, the state proceeds with a case against your stuff. The cases are actually against the money so United States vs. $32,820.56 is an actual case. You can read about the case here. Or there’s the comical sounding United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. Nope, I’m not making that one up either. Because the case is against the stuff, you’re a third party who is tasked with proving that your stuff is innocent of all criminal involvement. I’m not kidding. Proving that your stuff is "innocent" can be difficult and expensive. You have to spend money on a lawyer to prove that your money wasn’t gotten through criminal means.

As if all of that weren’t bad enough, the government is incentivized to take your stuff. Police forces all across the country actually add your stuff to their budgets because they want to buy nice things for themselves with it. Did I mention that they get to split the proceeds with the federal government? This is a lovely practice called, "equitable sharing". Since 9/11, local and state cops have equitably shared 2.5 billion dollars from just motorists and warantless searches. So if you get pulled over because a cop thought he smelled marijuana coming out of your car, and finds $20,000 in cash while unsuccessfully searching for the pot, the cop gets to take the cash. Let me rephrase that; the cop needs to take the cash because his police force is holding a fundraiser to buy that up armored hmmwv that they need in case peaceful protests break out in their town of 6,000 residents.

The Supreme Court actually gave their blessing on all of this in 1996 in a lovely case, Bennis v Michigan. This one is really going to steam your beans. Detroit police arrested John Bennis after observing him engaging in sexual activity in his car, with a prostitute. The state subsequently decided that they wanted to take the car that this heinous crime was committed in cause, you know, fundraiser! Anyway, Mrs Bennis challenged the forfeiture because she was a co-owner of the car and her life was already fucked up enough by learning that her husband was paying for hookers, that she didn’t need to lose a car on top of everything else. Well, Tina Bennis got to experience the joy of being reminded of her husband and the hooker for years, as the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court. The conservative Rehnquist court agreed that the state had a right to take the car. By the way, the dissenters were Ginsberg, Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. You know, the liberals plus Stevens. But I digress. Why an

I writing a piece about civil asset forfeiture now? Because that fascist jack booted thug, Eric Holder has barred local and state police forces from taking your stuff except in a few cases. He carved out some exceptions for illegal firearms, ammunition, explosive devices, and property associated with child pornography. This is the only move I can think of that has ever actually reigned in government in my lifetime. If anyone can think of anyone else, please share because I can’t think of any.

The irony is that this nearly unheard of shrinking of government powers was done by a jack booted thug, appointed by an America-hating Kenyan usurper. Both democrats who did the opposite of what two republican presidents did. That’s right, Reagan and Bush 2.0 made civil forfeiture the new black during their presidencies cause, "war on drugs!" and "terrorists!"

Yes republicans, the "small government" you so cherish is being given to you, in the only form it’s ever been brought to you, by a democratic administration. The odd thing is that I haven’t seen any right wing media outlets cheering for this. Strange.               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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Do You Have A Fox News Poopy In Your Pants?

So the world exploded in collective laughter and mockery of Fox News after they had a "terrorism" expert Steve Emerson on to scare the crap out of their audience by telling them about the super dangerous Muslim-only no-go zones. They’re "no go" because if you’re not a fundamentalist Muslim, you aren’t welcome. Here’s the clip that started the whole world’s collective laughter;  

Did you catch that? Muslim density! Police don’t go in! A caliphate within a particular country! That was just France, where sectors of Paris have been overrun. The situation was much more dire in England, where all of Birmingham fell. And in parts of London, there are Muslim religious police that beat and wound anyone who doesn’t comply with Sharia law!

This idiocy birthed a hashtag that dominated twitter for a couple of days. #foxnewsfacts. Here are just a couple of my favorite posts that came out of that;

quran

 

queen332620587741550_oYou get the idea. David Cameron even chimed in to call Emerson an idiot.

Emerson then did an interview on the BBC, where he apologized for his "mistake".  

He said that it was his bad for not checking his otherwise very reliable source. He refused to share who the source for this absurd information was. He also curiously didn’t know Fox News’ reaction to his completely bullshitty claims about France and England. That was weird, right? Not at all. He didn’t want to tell the public what Fox thought of his make-believe scary Muslim cities within European cities because he didn’t fuck up. He did exactly what Fox instructed him to do; scare the crap out of their audience. Fox’s goal is, and has always been to keep their audience pooping in their pants with fear, so they don’t notice that JP Morgan Chase has a hand in their pocket. Emerson didn’t make a mistake. He did what he was told to do. That wasn’t actually the first time he spewed that nonsense on Fox. He was on Hannity’s show earlier peddling the same crap.

 

In this clip, he claims first hand knowledge from when he was in Brussels a year earlier, and the police were too afraid to take him into their Muslim no-go zones. Seriously? Other countries who are falling to the Caliphate are Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, and Italy. The focus on the fear for Hannity’s audience seemed not to be Muslims, but all immigrants and loose immigration laws. One funny part of that clip is when Hannity claims that there’s a prayer rug in every hotel room in Paris. Yes, cause how outrageous is it to put a religious rug, garment, or book into hotel rooms all across a country?  

Here’s one thing you need to know about cable news shows; when "experts" like Emerson come on once or twice a month, they’re not employed by the network. In fact, they very rarely get paid to appear. They’re independent of the network, and they’re ostensibly brought on to speak on the topic in which their expertise lies. I’m not sure that this is the case on Fox. Why? Because they had another "expert" on another show who curiously had the same bad information. Here’s Nolan Peterson, another "expert" to talk about precisely the same bullshit scenario that Emerson vomited all over a few different Fox News shows;  

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that this clip was shown on a French tv show, who went on to mock Fox for 6 minutes. When the first #foxnewsfacts broke out, I said that Emerson wasn’t going to be reprimanded or banned because he did what he was told to do. The additional segments make that point abundantly clear.

If that wasn’t enough evidence for you, Kenneth-the-page Jindal is going to give a speech in London, in which he doubles down on the bullshit. Oh Piyush, Piyush, Piyush (that’s his real first name). Do you want some of that "he’s a complete idiot" love from David Cameron? Is that what you’re trying to do here? I guess that when he said that the GOP needed to stop being "the party of stupid", he left out the last part, "so that we can escalate to being the party of complete idiots".

This is not a stupid thing that one idiot said on Fox. This is a directive to push a scary story. All of these people didn’t accidentally get the same completely fabricated information. No, they got a memo and they’re going to keep trying to advance this, and other completely fabricated scary stories for as long as they need to because nothing distracts people from the fraud being perpetuated against them by Mitch McConnel, John "tobacco checks" Boehner and Citibank, like the noxious smell of one’s own poopie pants.     

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I Hope The NYPD Temper Tantrum Lasts

So I came across a story in the (I know, I know) NY Post  a few days ago. They took a look at police activity during the course of the week that Pat Lynch’s promised a "slow down" of cops doing their damned jobs. They looked at the week of December 22 through December 29th and compared a few statistics to the same week last year. Here are the things they looked at:

  • Overall arrests – down by 66%
  • Traffic citations down by 94%
  • Summonses for low-level offenses (public drinking, urination, etc) down by 94%
  • Parking violations down by 92%
  • Drug arrests down by 84%

When asked what the fuck they thought they were doing, police officials cited "safety concerns" as the reason for the pseudo strike. Safety concerns? While writing parking tickets? Are you worried about accidentally slipping on a discarded bagel, falling on your pen and slicing open your jugular vein?

Well I say BRAVO! I hope they can keep this up for another 3 months or so. Why? I have a few reasons.

For one thing, I’m not interested in wasting resources on drug arrests. I’d prefer that our cops fight actual crime, rather than clogging up the court system with this nonsense. Each time they arrest someone for something like drugs or selling loosie cigarettes, they get to spend half of a shift booking that wanton criminal. So basically, we end up with a cop on the clock, basically standing there with his dick in his hand for 4 hours. That doesn’t really seem to me like it serves the greater good.

Another good thing to come out of all of this is that these bullshit offenses that are in place to generate revenue, rather than keep our city orderly are largely hurting low income people who end up sitting in jail because they can’t afford to bail out. I say great! I don’t need 3/4 of our jail population being comprised of people who couldn’t raise $100 bail for a public drinking offense.

But my biggest reason for wanting this to continue is that it will debunk the unicorn known as "broken windows policing" that some obnoxious mayors had embraced in the past. The purely unproven theory is that if you crack down on low level criminals, you will deter them from becoming more serious, career criminals. Bullshit. From 2001 – 2010, when New York City was broken-stop-and-frisk-windowing, violent crime dropped by 29%. That sounds awesome, only if you don’t think critically and ask for context. If you do a little research, you’ll find out that during that same period of time, big cities that weren’t harassing people suspected of being low level offenders were experiencing much larger declines in violent crime.

  • Los Angeles  – 59% drop
  • New Orleans – 56% drop
  • Dallas 49% drop
  • Baltimore (yeah, the one from The Wire) 37% drop

One piece of data without context is meaningless but the people that want to manipulate you know that most people will take one data point and run with that in order to create a whole ideology behind it. Three months of this pseudo strike should be enough to debunk the theory of broken windows policing, or at least make it seriously questionable. Violent crime will continue to drop. Why am I so sure? Because it’s been dropping steadily all across the country for 20 years now. Regardless of the policing practices, and independent of reductions or increases in police force size, crime is going down. I have no reason to believe that’s going to change. If I’m right, we will not only debunk this vehicle for acceptable racist practices, but we can start looking at how many cops are too many cops in New York City.

I have to wonder if the revenue they’re generating by writing these pointless tickets and making these petty arrests can’t be offset by shedding some salaries, pensions, and civil suit settlements through a reduction in force. So you keep up the temper tantrum, NYPD. Keep disrespecting the mayor and stay on strike while still cashing your paychecks while you can because this childishness may come back to bite you in the ass. And then perhaps you’ll see your fearless leader, Pat Lynch for the small minded idiot that he really is.     

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The Makings For The Next Tamir Rice Shooting

One of my G+ peeps turned me on to a situation in Cleveland that really should be a national story, but isn’t so I’m writing about it. Please share this, since it needs to go viral. We need to stop something very bad from happening in Cleveland. More specifically, Cleveland PD. I know what you’re thinking, "It’s too late, very bad things have already happened with Cleveland PD since they’re under federal investigation for excessive force, and one of their officers murdered Tamir Rice". You would be correct, but more bad things may be happening.

I’m going to briefly recap the situation in Cleveland, since I want this piece to be relatively short and quickly readable. We all know about the Tamir Rice shooting by now, and have probably seen the video (it’s on youtube). And some of you are familiar with the history of the officer who murdered Tamir. If you’re not, let me give you the highlights. Officer Timothy Loehmann joined Cleveland PD in March of this year. This was a year and a half after he was forced to resign from the Independence Police Department, who found him unfit to serve as a police officer on their force. Here’s a copy of the memo that the deputy chief of the department sent to HR (that’s important but I’ll get to it later). In that memo, the deputy chief described Loehmann as follows, "dangerous loss of composure during live range training" and an "inability to manage personal stress." And he made the following recommendation, "I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies".

Loehmann subsequently resigned. When he applied to work for Cleveland PD, they were aware of his previous employment with Independence. Loehmann’s background check went like this;

Interviewer: Hey Loehmann, are there any disciplinary actions or incidents that we should be know about before hiring you?

Loehmann: Nope

Interviewer: Alrighty then!

To be fair, they did also call HR at independence. That HR person’s comments were (according to Cleveland PD) limited to letting them know that he resigned due to personal reasons. The whole truth of the situation is that he submitted his resignation for "personal reasons" after he was told that a disciplinary process of separation had begun. Whether that last piece of information was included in his personnel record or not is up for debate.

And this brings us to today. 133 police cadets will be graduating, and becoming full fledged members of Cleveland PD tomorrow. Among them is this guy:

Smith

 

His name is Brandon Smith. If you live in Cleveland, you need to burn this picture into your mind. Why? Cause little Brandon here isn’t new to law enforcement. He served on the East Cleveland police force for a few months in 2012, until he resigned right before he was about to be fired. Fired? Yeah, fired because he and his partner shot 10 – 11 bullets into the car of a woman who was fleeing from the cops. She was pulled over for running a red light. They thought, that instead of putting her license plate out there in the "be on the lookout" list, or following her until she ran out of steam, they would fire copious amounts of bullets into her car. Here’s just one news story on the incident at the time it happened. Why do I share that link? 

Two reasons:

  • Google is awesome, especially if you’re an HR person like I am
  • The article says that Smith was fired.

This is important because if I can find a story that says he was fired, the HR department for Cleveland PD can find it too. What Cleveland PD is claiming isn’t clear to me. I keep finding the same article on several local news sites that all contain exactly the same text (isn’t McJournalism grand?): 

"Cleveland City Hall points out Smith was never hit with criminal charges for it. Cleveland’s Department of Public Safety had been under the impression Smith was fully cleared. However, the East Cleveland mayor has told us he let Smith resign instead of getting fired."

WTF is going on in this clown car of a city government? Here’s one thing we do know Cleveland PD became aware of; Smith lied on his application when he failed to disclose a lawsuit against him. A lawsuit over the same shooting incident. They knew about the incident if they found out about the lawsuit. They didn’t even take any disciplinary action against him, never mind explore the incident in greater detail.

The problem here is not a lack of communication. It’s a lack of honest communication. Everybody seems to be bending over backwards not to sully these brutish cops’ employment records so they let them resign rather than firing them, or they leave out details of the resignation. No, I’m sorry but criminals don’t get to erase their records even after they’ve been held accountable for their actions by serving their time. Why do cops get to enjoy a lovely (and lethal for their communities) combination of not ever being held accountable, and not ever suffering a single repercussion of their actions?

No, this needs to stop. Most police departments make if very difficult for someone to access the personnel records of their officers. And if those personnel records are legally mandated to be public, they will bury personnel issues within the individual incident reports so that they’re not easily locatable. We need transparency here because it’s clear that everyone or anyone associated with a police department has far too many ways to cover for a bad cop.

This has to stop.

But right now, our immediate concern is in making sure that little Brandon Smith doesn’t hit the streets of Cleveland tomorrow, after his graduation ceremony.

 

Here’s a link to the petition urging Cleveland PD to fire Smith. Please share!

         

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Privilege, Part II

I unpacked just some of the institutional racism black people face in the US. Trust me when I tell you that I barely scratched the surface, but I hope that I presented enough to paint at least a partial picture of how the deck is systemically stacked against black people in America and therefore offers white (or whitish) people privilege. White people have the privilege of having access to better education, opportunities for career advancement, fair (in the context of the scummy banks we all have to deal with) bank loan opportunities, and a multitude of other things that you literally don’t know you have because you can’t know that other people don’t have what you have, unless you listen and trust what is being told to you.

Some (okay, a lot) of people take personal offense to the notion of white privilege. Some people actually become angry at the mention of white privilege. Those people are usually the dumb racists. Why do I say dumb racists? Because studies show that racism is tied to low IQ. It’s not just one study, there are several out there. Sorry, I got off track with the dumb racists and whatnot. My point is that having white privilege isn’t your fault, and therefore shouldn’t be a source of shame or anger. Telling you that you have white privilege isn’t an accusation. It’s simply a statement of fact. I have white privilege. I never asked for white privilege, I’m not even white and yet, I am the proud owner of white privilege. Okay, maybe not proud but also not ashamed. I’m simply aware that I have it.

In this post, I want to get into the ways that racism is practiced by we, the American people. Not the institutional kind, but the kind that happens on the street, in stores and shopping malls and restaurants.

I’m going to start where I’ve spend much of the past three months; with cops. Cops are racist. Lots of cops are racist. Black, Latino, and white cops can all be racist. A really interesting study was published in the American Psychological Association earlier this year that looked at how young black men are perceived by cops (to be clear, I will be using "cops" as opposed to "policemen" based on nothing other than the number of characters I need to type, not disrespectfully). In this study, researchers tested 176 cops to look for 2 types of bias, "prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes". I’m actually not going to get into that second one because I’m just dubious of that characterization. So they took 176 mostly white cops from large urban areas and asked a series of questions. From the study;

"To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as “It is likely that blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.” To determine officers’ dehumanization of blacks, the researchers gave them a psychological task in which they paired blacks and whites with large cats, such as lions, or with apes. Researchers reviewed police officers’ personnel records to determine use of force while on duty and found that those who dehumanized blacks were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize blacks. The study described use of force as takedown or wrist lock; kicking or punching; striking with a blunt object; using a police dog, restraints or hobbling; or using tear gas, electric shock or killing. Only dehumanization and not police officers’ prejudice against blacks — conscious or not — was linked to violent encounters with black children in custody."

One of the really interesting things that emerged is something that definitely requires further study. From the article;

“We found evidence that overestimating age and culpability based on racial differences was linked to dehumanizing stereotypes, but future research should try to clarify the relationship between dehumanization and racial disparities in police use of force”.

Fortunately, they did that research. This study took 264 mostly white, female undergraduate students from large public U.S. universities and asked them to rate the innocence of people ranging from infants to 25 years old. They judged all of the pictures of kids up to 9 years old, regardless of race, equally innocent. In other words, it didn’t matter the race of the child, they were all seen with roughly the same amount of innocence. And then something interesting happened. Starting at age 10, they saw far less innocence in the black kids. From the article;

"The students were also shown photographs alongside descriptions of various crimes and asked to assess the age and innocence of white, black or Latino boys ages 10 to 17. The students overestimated the age of blacks by an average of 4.5 years and found them more culpable than whites or Latinos, particularly when the boys were matched with serious crimes, the study found. Researchers used questionnaires to assess the participants’ prejudice and dehumanization of blacks. They found that participants who implicitly associated blacks with apes thought the black children were older and less innocent."

So 10 year old black children were seen as nearly 15 year olds. Back to the article;

“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD, also of UCLA. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

So when Timothy Loehmann opened fire on Tamir Rice without saying a word to him, and then claimed he thought Tamir was 20 years old, he was probably telling the truth (but just about that one thing). These studies suggest that he thought Tamir was 20 years old because Loehmann is a racist fuckwit with a really, really low IQ. In fact, his father’s statement on the shooting tells me he comes from a long line of racist fuckwits with low IQs.

More from the article (to address the racist part);

"In another experiment, students first viewed either a photo of an ape or a large cat and then rated black and white youngsters in terms of perceived innocence and need for protection as children. Those who looked at the ape photo gave black children lower ratings and estimated that black children were significantly older than their actual ages, particularly if the child had been accused of a felony rather than a misdemeanor."

In our society, black people no longer appear to be innocent children by the age of 12 or 13. They start appearing less innocent to us by the time they’re 10. Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine being seen as and reacted to as an adult at the age of 13? And it’s not just cops, it’s all of us. So when you’re 13 and people treat you like you’re 13 and want to protect you, that would be referred to as privilege.

Here’s an interesting little graph The Washington Post published that shows how much crime white people attribute to black people, versus how much crime is actually committed by black people.

SC AM

Do you understand that this means that we see black people not only as being less innocent, but also as being more guilty? So when a car is broken into in your neighborhood, who do you think the cops are going to look for first? And in a situation that is unfolding quickly, who are the cops most likely to shoot if they have to make a split second decision? No need to guess, I have some numbers (of course I do!)

Pro Publica took a close look (read the whole article because there’s a lot there that I’m not going to go into) at federally collected data on police shootings. If you follow my Facebook or G+ pages, you know that this data is seriously incomplete (by design), but it’s all we have to work with. They looked at 1,217 fatal police shootings from 2010 – 2012. They found that that blacks, from the age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, compared to whites who were killed at a rate of 1.47 (same age range). If you’re not awesome at math, this means that black teenagers are twenty-one times more likely to be shot by a cop than white teenagers are. If that number isn’t shocking enough for you, they were kind enough to put this into perspective;

"One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica’s analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring – 185, more than one per week."

How do imagine white people would react to 185 more of their kids being killed by cop? Don’t. Don’t imagine what you would do. You have no fucking idea what you do because you haven’t experienced all of the layers upon layers of disadvantages that have been foisted on black people in this country from almost the moment they’re born. Just don’t do it. This is not your lane, and it’s best to stay in your own lane. When the looting and rioting broke out in Ferguson, I had no judgment to make on the matter because I understood that I couldn’t possibly understand. And even though I think I understand the situation intellectually by way of examining the data, I know that I don’t understand it emotionally. I have no idea what the appropriate level of rage is in this situation. I’m actually someone who feels perfectly comfortable not having an opinion about things. I don’t feel compelled to chime in on every topic, just because. And when I choose to have no opinion, that’s not an opinion. Not judging the rioters in Ferguson wasn’t a tacit approval of what they were doing. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to understand that not having an opinion is okay, and many felt the need to judge my lack of opinion.

I have another interesting study that I couldn’t smoothly work into this piece, so I’m going to share it now in order to lighten the mood from riots. Well, lighten as much as one can lighten the injustice of prejudice. I went over how being black costs you more money in the form of job opportunities, salary, financial opportunities, etc. Being black also means that you can’t sell your stuff without paying a let’s just call it "black tax". There was an interesting paper that examines racism on eBay. Yeah, I said racism on eBay. They specifically looked at items where the picture of the item included a hand. Presumably the hand of the seller. Since eBay is fairly anonymous and you can’t tell who you’re buying from, what their history is, and even if they’re male or female, the color of the hand might be the most you know about who you’re buying from. Wanna know what happened to the purchase price in auctions where there was a black hand in the picture of the item? I’m pretty sure you can guess where this is going. On average, those items sold for 20% less than comparable items held by white hands.

Be honest, did that ever occur to you? In all of your thoughts on racism in America, did it ever occur to you that eBay is racist too? It didn’t occur to me, which is why I can’t judge events like Ferguson. My point in writing these two posts is to show you that, if you’re not black, you can’t possibly understand the scope and the depth of the privilege you have. We never notice when we get more than the person next to us, but we always notice when we get less. And that’s why black people see the privilege you have, even if you don’t.

So what do you do about it? Pay closer attention. Don’t dismiss president Obama when he says he was followed around in stores as a young man, or Bill de Blasio when he says that he had to have "the talk" with his son. Listen. Be more aware. Learn what "the talk" is. You can’t take away your own privilege, but maybe you can help to give it to those who have never had it by virtue of noticing when it isn’t offered to them.                    

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Privilege, part 1

I know that white privilege is a difficult thing to wrap one’s mind around. It’s something that you never asked for and don’t realize you have unless you make a concerted effort to look at how things are for people who don’t have it. I did. I tried very hard to learn what privilege means, and the degree to which it exists. I’m still not sure I have it all figured out.

I’m going to try and present a number of seemingly unrelated data points to try and paint a picture of what privilege is and how it works. I’m going to start with income and wealth inequality. Pew recently published a paper on income inequality and how it’s been growing among racial groups since the end of the great recession. We know that the inequality gap is growing wildly between the top 1% and everybody else, but minorities are getting fewer of the crumbs left over than white people are. The wealth gap between whites has widened to a 13x multiplier. So the median worth of a white family in the US is thirteen times that of the medial wealth of a black family. In 2010, that gap between blacks and whites was 10x. The gap between whites and Hispanics smaller, but it’s still a shocking ten times multiplier up from 9x in 2010. The interesting part is that the typical (not median) worth for whites remained virtually unchanged in 2013 from the 2010 number of $82,300 (adjusted). Meanwhile, the median wealth of black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. Among Hispanics, median wealth went down by 14.3%, from $16,000 to $13,700. Every race took a hit because of the recession so median net worth is down across the board. Pew speculates on some of the factors that may have contributed to the growing gap. Blacks and hispanics may have had to dip into more of their savings during the recession, or weren’t able to replenish their savings as much when it ended. Also, financial assets like stocks recovered more robustly than did the housing market, and since white people own more stocks (directly or through pensions or 401ks) they would have recovered more quickly.

This disparity in wealth exists in every conceivable way you look at the data. Pew looked at all blacks and did a median wealth comparison to all whites. Here’s a graph that DEMOS put together, comparing blacks, Hispanics, and whites by income level.

Fig-1_0

This doesn’t really paint much rosier a picture, does it? For the bigots who don’t know they’re bigots, and are in fact positive they’re not bigots, but are totally bigots, let me answer your point for you. No, it’s not their fault for not picking  themselves up by the bootstraps and getting themselves an education. Wanna know how you can tell? That median income for the top 10% of earners is just under 500k. Are you telling me that those people didn’t beat your ass over the head with their bootstraps by making over 3x your median income? And still, with all that bootstrapping, they can’t manage to earn more than 1/3 of their white counterparts? They’re clearly educated. So what happened? That’s easy: that top 10% of whites inherited their bootstraps and they were sewn together for them using gold thread. Remember, 3 generations ago, black people had virtually no access to higher education. From the DEMOS article;

"Why is this the case? There are many factors, but one in particular looms large. It turns out that three centuries of enslavement followed by another bonus century of explicit racial apartheid was hell on black wealth accumulation. Wealth accumulation opportunities haven’t exactly been evenly distributed in the last half century either. Because wealth is the sort of thing you transmit across generations and down family lines (e.g. through inheritance, gifts, and so on), racial wealth disparities remain quite massive."

I cannot believe this needs to be explained to some, but it does.

I found a really interesting study done by the Institute On Assets and Social Policy, who really took a close look into why the disparity among blacks and whites exists. From the study;   

"Our analysis found little evidence to support common perceptions about what underlies the ability to build wealth, including the notion that personal attributes and behavioral choices are key pieces of the equation. Instead, the evidence points to policy and the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated and that continue to permeate the most important spheres of everyday life."

They’re talking about the institutional racism that privilege is part of. They found an increase of $152,000 in the disparity of median worth between 1984 and 2009. Here’s an excerpt from the study, explaining their approach to getting to the bottom of the widening wealth gap; 

"We started our analysis with an overriding question: Why has economic inequality become so entrenched in our post-Civil Rights era of supposed legal equality? The first step was to identify the critical aspects of contemporary society that are driving this inequality Next, we sought to determine whether equal accomplishments are producing equal wealth gains for whites and African-Americans This approach allows for an evidence based examination of whether the growing racial wealth gap is primarily the result of individual choices and cultural characteristics or policies and institutional practices that create different opportunities for increasing wealth in white and black families."

They looked at the households whose wealth increased over that 25 year period and found that years of home ownership accounts for 27% of that disparity. The second largest factor is family income. More education = more income, but it = 5% more income for whites than it does for blacks. Inheritance accounts for 5% of the gap. The amount of wealth that a family started with at the beginning of that 25 year period determined how much wealth they would have by the end. Unemployment was the only significant factor that depleted wealth. That accounts for 9% of the gap. From the study; 

"In addition to continuing discrimination, labor market instability affects African-Americans more negatively than whites."

Those factors that I just went through explain 66% of the wealth gap. So they dove deeper into those factors to study how these effects differed by race. I’m going to lift paragraphs directly from the article because I can’t improve upon the explanation;

"The number of years families owned their homes was the largest predictor of the gap in wealth growth by race. Residential segregation by government design has a long legacy in this country and underpins many of the challenges African-American families face in buying homes and increasing equity. There are several reasons why home equity rises so much more for whites than African-Americans:

  • Because residential segregation artificially lowers demand, placing a forced ceiling on home equity for African-Americans who own homes in non-white neighborhoods

  • Because whites are far more able to give inheritances or family assistance for down payments due to historical wealth accumulation, white families buy homes and start acquiring equity an average eight years earlier than black families

  • Because whites are far more able to give family financial assistance, larger up-front payments by white homeowners lower interest rates and lending costs; and

  • Due to historic differences in access to credit, typically lower incomes, and factors such as residential segregation, the home ownership rate for white families is 28.4 percent higher than the home ownership rate for black families

Homes are the largest investment that most American families make and by far the biggest item in their wealth portfolio. Home ownership is an even greater part of wealth composition for black families, amounting to 53 percent of wealth for blacks and 39 percent for whites. Yet, for many years, redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices, lack of access to credit, and lower incomes have blocked the homeownership path for African-Americans while creating and reinforcing communities segregated by race. African-Americans, therefore, are more recent homeowners and more likely to have high-risk mortgages, hence they are more vulnerable to foreclosure and volatile housing prices."

As an aside, I want to tell you something that my landlord told me. My landlords are a black couple who bought a brownstone in Harlem in 2003 (I moved in in 2004). Since about 2002, Harlem has been in revitalization mode. The beautiful brownstones up here were decrepit and literally unsellable from the mid 80s until about 2001 or 2002. They weren’t worth the property tax payments. But in the early 2000s investors started coming in to renovate the brownstones and set them up as rental properties. But it wasn’t all investors. Some of the buyers were middle class black people who had saved enough money to buy one of these brownstones, which were worth very little at the time. My landlord told me that when he would walk across 125th street from about 2004 – 2008, people were standing out in front of every bank, trying to get people to refinance their homes. He said that he would walk by an bank and be asked, "hey, do you own your home?" He would respond in the affirmative, and then got a pitch for what sounded to him like a pretty shady refinance pitch. It turns out that they were pitching subprime refinancing. These scumbag bankers were preying on people in poor neighborhoods who were less likely to be able to spot a shady deal than someone whose parents owned a home.

I digress. Back to the study. There is a lot of interesting information in this paper, and I encourage you to click on the link that I provided to read the whole thing (it’s only 8 pages long) since I’m not going to go through all of it. I want to share another graph from the study that is really shocking;

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 10.34.00 AM

Wow. Now let me show you why this is because I know what the racist nonracists are thinking. From the study;

"The dramatic difference in wealth accumulation from similar income gains has its roots in long-standing patterns of discrimination in hiring, training, promoting, and access to benefits that have made it much harder for African-Americans to save and build assets. Due to discriminatory factors, black workers predominate in fields that are least likely to have employer-based retirement plans and other benefits, such as administration and support and food services. As a result, wealth in black families tends to be close to what is needed to cover emergency savings while wealth in white families is well beyond the emergency threshold and can be saved or invested more readily."

So no, they’re not spending it as soon as it comes in. That’s not what’s happening here. Every piece of institutional racism cascades out into every aspect of one’s life. A friend of mine who worked in the admissions department at a big state school in California once told me something interesting. A kid graduating from Compton High with a 4.5 GPA is weighed against a kid graduating from Beverly Hills High with a 3.7 GPA. Why? Because the quality of the education is better at Beverly Hills High. And if you live in Compton, you can’t attend Beverly Hills High. The game is rigged from the very beginning.

Here’s another interesting part of the study. If a black family and a white family start off on an equal playing field with the same wealth, that $1 in income increase equals $4.03 in wealth accumulation for the black family. In other words, there’s no cascade from prior institutional racism. There is only present institutional racism that will cascade in the future.

So that was my breakdown of institutional racism and therefore institutional privilege. Part 2 of this post, which will be published tomorrow goes into societal racism, as opposed to institutional racism. And yes, I’m going to go into the cop situation because too many people seem to think that cops treat everyone equally.

 

 

 

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