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Denny Hastert Speculation

I haven’t really said anything about this because we don’t know what happened with Hastert. Since I’m not fond of speculation, I’m going to hold off on comment until we have a better idea of what happened.

To be clear, we have more questions than we do answers. We know that Hastert was paying off someone who was bribing him over something. We know that that something has a sexual component to it and that its being referred to as “misconduct”. That’s all we know from the indictment.

An anonymous source at the FBI said that the person doing the blackmailing (they’re calling him “individual A”), knew Hastert for “most of Individual A’s life.” Another anonymous source at the FBI says that “It was sex.”

That’s all we know.

We don’t know when the misconduct happened, other than it was “years earlier”. That could be five years or it could be twenty-five. We don’t know. Everyone is assuming that it happened while Hastert was a high school wrestling coach, but I haven’t seen a source on that piece of information from any media outlet reporting it. It hasn’t been attributed to anyone. Not an anonymous source at the FBI, not someone close to the victim/blackmailer, not anyone that I’ve found so I can’t treat it as “information” as much as “speculation”.

We know that the extortion started in 2010. That’s the part that makes everything much more murky than people are assuming. If the event happened during Hastert’s tenure as a wrestling coach (from 1965 – 1981), why did the blackmail take so long? Why didn’t the blackmailer step up when Hastert got the speakership was at the height of having so much to lose? Why is Hastert paying? Is he unaware of the statute of limitations? Does the blackmailer have some sort of hard evidence? It’s hard for me to believe that Hastert would feel threatened to the tune of $3.5 million by someone saying that he (Hastert) did something twenty-five years ago. He could easily dismiss the accusations as the wild claims of a would be black mailer.

I feel like there are more questions than there is information here, so I’m not going to speculate on whether he was involved in pedophilia or simply closeted gay sex.

We do know that he’s a hypocrite, but we’re not positive about whether his votes on gay rights issues were hypocritical, or whether his family values platform is where the hypocrisy hive lies.

There is one funny part of the indictment that I can’t resist commenting on. When the FBI questioned Hastert about the large bank withdrawals , he said (from the indictment) that “……he did not feel safe with the banking system”. Right. That’s why as speaker, he went to great lengths to pass regulations that would make banks much safer places for people to keep their money.

Is he aware that he’s a republican, and that the most heinous sexual misconduct he and his party have ever committed involves sodomy with all of the big banks?

I thought that part of the indictment was hysterical.

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Machete Wielding Terrorists In The US

Did you know that the FBI uncovered a major terrorist plot a couple of days ago? It’s a familiar story; a religious whack job was planning on burning a city in New York to the ground, in order to carry out his demented holy war.

Listen to what some of this sick fuck had to say:

“We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

The city in New York that was the target of the attack is a small town in upstate, called Islamberg. Here’s what this deranged terrorist posted on his Facebook page;

“It [Islamberg] must be utterly destroyed in order to get the attention of the American people”

So the plan was to go to Islamberg and carry out an all out assault. The FBI became aware of this violent jihadist earlier this year, and had him under surveillance for months. One of the wire taps picked up a call where the terrorist was sharing his plans to travel to New York to do some “reconnaissance” in early April. He wanted to map out buildings to burn down. He talked about using molotov cocktails to firebomb a place of worship, school and cafeteria in the town.

Here are some of the other things he said in the wiretaps;

“We’re gonna be carrying an M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armor piercing. A pistol with 3 extra magazines and a machete. And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds.”

“We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings, and if anybody attempts to harm us in any way … we will take them down.”

“If there’s a gun fight, well there’s a gun fight. And I want to come home ’cause I love my family and I want to see my kids again. But I also understand that if it’s necessary to die then that’s a good way to die.”

So who is this animal, and why haven’t you heard anything about this? You haven’t heard anything about this because the FBI didn’t send out a press release, the way they normally do when they break up a terrorist plot. Why?

Doggard

That’s why. Meet the vicious terrorist. This is Robert Doggart. He’s an ordained Christian minister in the Christian National Church, who lives in Tennessee. He served in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, including two years as a unit commander. He has a PhD from LaSalle University, and spent forty years as an electrical generation engineer. In 2014, he was a far right independent congressional candidate, running in Tennessee’s 4th district. He got 6% of the vote, but ultimately lost to Scott “no abortions for you, but lots of abortions for my wife and mistresses” Desjarlais.

Who was he talking to in those wiretaps? Militia members in Texas and South Carolina. You know, the types of groups that showed up in Nevada for Cliven Bundy. Why did he target Islamberg New York? Because for over seven years now, Sean Hannity has been asserting that Islamberg is a terrorist training camp.

Despite the fact that this has been debunked, right wing media outlets (like Fox and WND) have been perpetuating the lie as recently as last week. The fact is that Islamberg has about 200 residents. Here are some of them;

Islamberg

Scary. Thank god Doggert was on the case, and that Fox News set him on the path to protecting America from these…….Americans.

If you listen to Fox news, you don’t know shit about shit. It’s actually worse than not knowing shit. Everything you’ve invested your valuable time in learning, is complete bullshit created to make you afraid of things that will never hurt you. An alternate reality has been created to scare and manipulate you.

On a fairly regular basis, these consumers of right wing propaganda plan terrorist attacks and murder doctors in church. Hannity and O’Reilly feed the cuckoo birds with hate, and those birds commit acts of violence as a result of the manure they’ve been fed. And they [Fox viewers] will never be told about people like Robert Doggart, and the FBI will just forget to send out a press release about catching him.

Don’t worry though, you’re safe now. They caught him……………and let him go on $30,000 bail. No, I didn’t forget a zero. It was thirty-thousand dollars (that’s three thousand down if he used a bail bondsman) to get out of jail on charges of planning a terrorist attack. He faces fines of up to $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison. Up to. That would be the most amount of time Mr, “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace” could serve in prison.

Eric Garner died for allegedly (but not really) selling loose cigarettes. Tamir Rice died for carrying a toy gun through a park.

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I know it’s hard to see what’s going on in this picture through all the tear gas and SWAT teams, but that guy checking Facebook on his phone and smoking a cigarette is under arrest for shooting up a diner in Waco, TX with his fellow thugs.

Eric Garner died for allegedly (but not really) selling loose cigarettes. Tamir Rice died for carrying a toy gun through a park.

Your perception that black people are to be feared, and that Muslims are coming to kill you didn’t happen accidentally. It’s been brewed for you, like a well crafted micro brew beer, with the media and law enforcement all doing their part.

White terrorists and murderers aren’t included in your nightly news shows by design. You won’t hear about the Robert Doggarts of America by design, even though there are exponentially more right wing terrorists than there are Muslim terrorists. 83% of white murder victims are murdered by white people, but you should definitely worry about black on black crime.

But I know, we’re living in post-racial, post-911 America so be afraid of all the brown people, who aren’t actually being treated any differently than white people.

My head hurts.

 

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The Inevitability Of Single Payer

I’ve always maintained that a single payer health care system is not only the way to go, but the inevitable endgame for the US. I didn’t love Obamacare, but I saw it as a first step. A first step by the way, that we’ve been trying to make since Nixon was president. Unlike with financial “reform”, when Obama refers to the ACA as “historic”, he would be correct since we historically haven’t made a damned thing happen.

I was incredibly skeptical on where the savings we were being told to expect were going to come from. But they did come, and they came in in bigger numbers than anyone had expected. So I was wrong, and I admitted I was wrong. And then when the rates were announced for 2015, and they stayed completely flat, I was elated to have been wrong.

Republicans were 100% wrong about every single thing they said about Obamacare. Wanna know how you can tell? They haven’t brought it up in a really long time.

On the other side, some liberals can’t take a good day and accept that it’s a good day because Obamacare was a giant giveaway to big pharma and the private insurance companies. I’m talking to you in this post.

Yes it was a giant giveaway but you also had a good day so spare me your analysis about how horrid everything will be tomorrow. When the norm is that you never win and big business always wins, it’s not rational not to celebrate the small victories when you get them. You really have to be a special kind of ideological partisan not to be happy about the savings we’ve seen, regardless of how long they last. The liberals who are so rigid in their ideology, whether it be as advocates for single payer, or as demonizers of Obama for not being a liberal irritate me the most. Obama isn’t remotely liberal enough for me either. That doesn’t mean that I have to demonize every single thing he does and conflate the drone disaster in Pakistan with the brilliant Iran and Cuba deals, in order to make forming an opinion about him easier on myself. That kind of ideological purity is how republicans ended up where they are today.

But back to Obamacare. Of course it’s is going to cave in on itself. Yes, it was a giveaway to private insurance companies, whose business model was fatally flawed. We got a respite on premiums because of the influx of people coming into the system. But corporate greed will eventually prevail. By eventually, I mean in the near future.

This meme showed up in one of my social network feeds:

CignaCEOOf course I got to fact checking, not because that salary sounded high to me. I remember the CEO of United Healthcare collecting over 100 million dollars in 2009. But I didn’t want to reshare until I confirmed the information. The information that I found reaffirmed my belief that single payer is the inevitable endpoint for us. David Cordani did in fact make $27.16 million dollars last year. That was a fifty-three percent increase from his 2013 salary of $17.76 million dollars in 2013.

Are you completely disgusted? Well buckle up, we’re just getting started. Cordani’s compensation in 2013 was an increase of forty-two percent from the $12.5 million he was getting paid in 2012.

I took a look at what was happening with our buddy Stephen Hemsley at United over that same period of time. In 2014, his total comp was just over $66 million dollars. That’s way the fuck up from his 2013 compensation of just over $28 million dollars. He was at $34.7 million in 2012. In his defense, the poor bastard did take a huge cut from his totally reasonable salary of $102 million in 2009.

Jay Gellert, who is the CEO of the worst health insurance company in America (Health Net) saw his salary increase from $5.79 million in 2012 to $12.48 million in 2014.

Do you see the pattern here? 2014 was a very good year for these vultures, who aren’t talented enough to make something you actually want to buy (like Steve Jobs was), so they make money on your back (literally). In Q1 2014, nine of the eleven biggest insurance companies in the US saw their stock prices hit a fifty-two week high because of Obamacare. Health insurance stocks outperformed the rest of the stock market in 2014, as did hospitals. The “big five” health insurance companies are feverishly working on whipping up new plans to offer on the exchange next year. That means that 2016 will likely bring us another year of flat or slightly declining premiums.

As I said earlier, I’ll take it. Am I bothered that the vultures are making out like bandits? Of course I am. They’re talentless hacks, paying themselves blood money and patting themselves on the back for a job well done, because President Obama did all the work for them and brought in higher profits. But we all won too, and that almost never happens for us thanks to the way campaign finance laws have devolved. I’ll take it for as long as it lasts.

It definitely won’t last. We can see the scorpion and the frog dynamic unfolding already. Health insurance companies are scorpions and they will always sting. We’re going to end up in a single payer system because when this caves in on itself, there’s nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, there are going to be some painful years between the collapse of Obamacare and the acquiescence from our politicians to a single payer system. I think we’re going to see skyrocketing uninsured rates that parallel the trajectory of skyrocketing premiums. The more unaffordable insurance is, the fewer the people will buy it. And that will bring the private insurance industry back to its failing business model, and it will cause hospitals to hemorrhage money again.

But I’ll take the respite in the meantime, and I will call this law the success that it is. I don’t need to conflate what I’m positive will happen in the near future with what is happening now.

Here’s the best part of Obamacare; President Obama took the republican health care plan away from them and implemented it successfully. Democrats are now officially the experts on improving the health care system. There is no plan left for republicans to put on the table. Single payer is all that’s left. I’ve studied health care systems all around the world. They’re all either single payer or a much more effective version of Obamacare. Switzerland has a 100% private insurance system, just like Obamacare. Of course, their regulations and cost controls are much more “big governmenty” than ours. They regulate the shit out of drug prices, the cost of medical procedures, and even the profit margin their 90+ private health insurance companies can make (I think they can make a 5% profit vs the 20% that Obamacare allows). They also have the second most expensive health insurance system in the world, after ours. A couple of other places have single payer with private insurance available for those who want it to cover extras.

Trust me when I tell you that single payer is the end of the road. It’s either that, or everything collapses for us, for insurance companies, for doctors, and for hospitals.

Make no mistake, Obamacare was a necessary first step to single payer. We were never going to go from the shit show we had, straight into sanity. I do wish he had fought for it a little bit, just to put the term “single payer” in the minds of more Americans who have no idea what that means, even though they know they want it. But my premiums were cut in half so Obamacare goes in the Obama success column.

Yes, that’s right I have columns. It’s much more complicated than just lionizing or demonizing someone, but I use excel so it works for me!

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Evolve

When the sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev came down yesterday, I was a little torn. I am against the death penalty for the same reason I hold most of my positions; the data makes it clear that state sponsored killing has no upside. It doesn’t deter a damned thing (if it did, people in Dallas would all leave their front doors open), it costs taxpayers exponentially more than a life sentence, and we get it wrong way too many times to make this an acceptable practice.

Even though I’d worked all of this out nearly two decades ago, I was still a little torn. I mean, what he did was horrifying. Make no mistake, I am appropriately horrified at what he did, and I remember the video vividly. A child died on top of the life altering injuries that he and his brother inflicted on so many people. It doesn’t get much more loathsome than what they did. So I was torn because I have some pretty strong emotions about what he and his brother did, and those emotions are at odds with what I intellectually know. So I kicked the tires of being a barbarian around for an hour or so. Turns out that barbarism really isn’t for me. If barbarism was ever going to be a good fit for me, this would be the time. We know he’s 100% guilty, so no fear of killing the wrong guy like we’ve done so many times before. Yes, the deterrent thing is still bullshit and the cost will be astronomical, but those two things will be true in any death penalty situation. But that visceral emotional thing was present here for most of us, since we watched it happen so this isn’t like reading about a murder and thinking about the death penalty from the most detached perspective. Am I as emotionally invested as someone who was there, or had a loved one who was there. Not even remotely, please don’t think that’s what I’m saying. I’m just saying that this is one of those cases where we’re all a little attached to it.

But even in this situation, where the strongest case for the death penalty was put before me, I still couldn’t succumb to my baser instincts. The death penalty is for revenge. It’s not for anything else. I frankly don’t see how adding another corpse to the death toll of the Boston bombing helps the situation, unless your objective is to feed one of the most primitive of all emotions; revenge.

Some of the family members want it, others don’t.  I’m sorry, but those families who need this person to die in order to get “closure” should evolve. We’re a first world country that practices the third world barbarism of execution. Fucking evolve already. There’s no excuse for being a barbarian, when you’re holding an iPhone in your hand. I get being barbaric when you don’t have indoor plumbing and have to dig a hole to shit in. I don’t get it in America when you have all of the world’s knowledge in your back pocket.

If Larry Flynt, who grew up in the backwoods of freaking Kentucky can speak out to spare the life of the man who paralyzed him, everyone can evolve.

If you’re counting in a corpse to give you the peace that you seek, you’re doing life wrong. You’re literally squandering the sentience you were given. It’s time to join the rest of the developed world.

Evolve already. That’s how you’re going to find peace.

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Literally Blinded By His Ideology

Luis Lang 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Luis Lang. Luis is a staunchly republican resident of South Carolina, who hates Obama and ostensibly, all things liberal. Luis is a self employed handyman. Luis is 49 years old and has never had health insurance. Apparently, he prides himself on paying his own medical bills. I have no fucking idea why this would be a source of pride, but we’re only at the beginning of all the shit that makes no sense to me about Luis.

You can see where this is going, right?

In a turn of events that no one could have seen coming (by “no one”, I mean everyone but freaking Luis), this forty-nine year old man developed a serious health issue, as forty-nine year old men are wont to do. He has a partially detached retina and bleeding in his eyes, caused by diabetes. He had a headache in February and like most “proud” people with no insurance, he let the headache continue for ten days before going to the emergency room, where people go to pay more for treatment than anywhere else in America. Turns out that Luis had a series of ministrokes. It cost him $9,000 to get treated in the emergency room. That ate up all of Luis’ savings.

Luis’ vision is rapidly getting worse because he hasn’t done shit to manage his diabetes, so he can’t work anymore. Since he can’t work, he doesn’t make enough money to get a subsidy to buy private health insurance on the exchange. Plus he missed the open enrollment deadline.

So before we get into the really outrageous assholery of Luis Lang, let’s recap the assholery so far. What kind of beyond middle aged man doesn’t think that he and his (presumably) beyond middle aged wife will need health insurance? I mean seriously, how stupid are you? Did I mention he’s a smoker who doesn’t regularly deal with his diabetes? Perhaps because he has no fucking insurance? Nine-thousand dollars. That all Luis had in savings. I spent six thousand dollars on surgery for my cat a few years ago. What did this idiot think was going to happen if he got into a major car accident? He’s basically got a change jar for a savings account, and no fucking health insurance.

Here’s where we get to the real assholery, or the eye of the ass as I like to call it; Luis thought that “help would be available” in an emergency. He and his stupid wife blame President Obama because that magical help didn’t materialize, the way two grown ass people apparently thought it would. They say that because the magic help fairy didn’t come, Obama and democrats are to blame for passing a complex and flawed bill.

“(My husband) should be at the front of the line, because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues. We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.”

Right, cause that’s how health insurance works; people who don’t have any should go to the front of the line for free health care. I fucking despise these stupid people. I really do.

Oh, but there’s more to hate. The original story about Luis appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday. Since then, his story has gone viral and his GoFundMe page has raised over 10k. Wanna know who’s donating? Liberals who are trying to talk some sense into Luis (and some who want to just scold him for his stupidity). I will not be one of the liberals who donates to Luis because Luis is a monumental ass.

We’re not done with the assholery. The journalist who wrote the original piece did a follow up interview with Luis today to find out how he felt about all the donations. I’m going to pull from the follow up piece verbatim, and let you decide what you think of Luis.

I [the journalist] had warned Lang Monday that his story was likely to spur criticism of him and his decisions, but neither one of us was prepared for the scope and intensity of reactions. While many commenters were gracious, others were abusive. Lang’s wife, Mary, says she got a threatening phone call at their home Tuesday.

“It turned into a political thing,” Lang said. “That wasn’t my intention when I reached out. This is ridiculous.”

Your intention was to panhandle the public. That is ridiculous. You are ridiculous for complaining about how this has turned out for you, especially since you’re getting the money you were after.

So has he learned anything from this experience?

“I did,” he said.

Figuring out exactly what that was took some follow-up.

Although there has been extensive coverage of the Affordable Care Act since it was passed in 2010, Lang, who gets his news from local TV and the Internet, didn’t know about the Medicaid gap or the fact that income fluctuations can make if difficult to calculate subsidies. He believes his case has helped people understand that.

Actually, no. Some of us familiarized ourselves with the law and knew exactly what to expect. And if something wasn’t immediately clear, the government generously provided you with a number you could call to get someone on the phone to help you with what you couldn’t figure out for yourself. This asshole admits he’s never had insurance. Does anyone think he didn’t get insurance now, because the ACA was too complicated? Or is he just a deadbeat, who has no sense of personal responsibility?

“I hold the whole government responsible for this, state and federal,” he said. Greed from medical providers and the government also add to the flaws in the system, Lang said.

Does he hold himself responsible? There was a short pause.

“I do hold myself partly responsible because of the view that I had. I should have taken better care of my sugar,” he said. “Yeah, I should have had insurance.”

There was a short pause? This idiot is the kind of person who will never learn a damned thing. Luis is the quintessential republican voter. He expects things to just be taken care of for him, even though he’s against big gubment. Everyone else is mooching from him, yet he seems to have no sense of personal responsibility for himself or where his actions have gotten him. He’s the antithesis of the teabagger I wrote about a few weeks ago. You know, the one was able to retire early thanks to Obamacare?

This asshole is going to take the money and learn nothing from what’s happened here. He’s going to take the money and not feel an ounce of shame over having to beg for money on the internet. This guy is an idiot, and he’s going to vote against his own self interest until the day he dies.

And that’s why he gets no money from me. I decided to make another contribution to Bernie today instead, since that’s money better spent.

 

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American Poverty Is Awesome

The right wing keeps saying that. Fox routinely points out that poor people in America have refrigerators, so they’re clearly not suffering enough to actually feel any kind of sympathy for. In a post earlier this month, I talked about lead paint in poor neighborhoods, and the neurological damage it does. I framed that piece around Baltimore, but it’s true of any poor neighborhood in the US.

Being poor in America really isn’t the leisurely life of strip clubs and lobster dinners republicans would have you believe it is. Our poor people aren’t actually the lucky ones compared to poor people around the world. Let’s take a look at some statistics for Baltimore, which has a diverse array of income levels and neighborhoods.

Roland Park is a wealthy Baltimore neighborhood. The life expectancy of  residents of Roland Park is eighty-four years old. That would be five years above the national life expectancy of seventy-nine years. Three miles away from Roland Park is one of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods, downtown/ Seton Hall. The life expectancy of a resident there is sixty-four. That’s twenty years (or 31%) less life, just for being born poor. These gaps in life expectancy are not unique to Baltimore. They exist all over the US although twenty years is one of the biggest gaps. Here’s a little perspective on life expectancies around the world. Countries with a lower than sixty-four year life expectancy are largely in Africa, and all third world. Afghanistan has a life expectancy of sixty-one years. Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Namibia all have life expectancies of sixty-four years. Turkmenistan has a life expectancy of sixty-five, and India comes in at sixty-six. If you’re born in Pakistan, you can expect to live three years longer than someone born in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore. Iraqis can expect to live five years longer than poor people in Baltimore. If you’re born in Mexico, you can expect to live thirteen years longer than a poor person in Baltimore. I can go on, but you get the point.

Let me stop you before you get to thinking that higher crime and homicide rates are the primary drivers of the life expectancy gap. 70.1% of deaths in downtown/ Seton Hall are “avertable deaths”, meaning that if access to health care were the same as in the wealthy neighborhoods, they wouldn’t be happening. Here are the biggest causes of death in downtown/ Seton Hall:

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We have approximately 15% of our population living at or under the poverty line. That 15% number represents 46.5 million Americans. The way the poverty line is defined in the US is basically at $16 per day, per person. Of that 46.5, 20.4 million live at less than half of poverty (so less than $8 per day per person).  Mind you, that’s supposed to cover rent, utilities, food, and everything else you need.

You know how $2 a day is the global poverty number that’s usually used? Well, Brookings tried to figure out what the percentage of Americans living on $2 a day is. It turns out that this isn’t so easy to do. The income of extremely poor people in the US doesn’t remain fixed for long periods of time. In other words, they can average $2 a day for a month or two, but any tiny amount of income puts them at an average of $3, $4, or $6 a day. You should read the study for a more detailed explanation, but Brookings came up with a range of 0% – 5% of households in America who live in $2 a day. 0% doesn’t appear to me to make much sense, since the method used to get there is by using consumption surveys as opposed to income surveys, the way the World Bank counts poverty all around the world. The problem is that when graphing both consumption and income surveys, the correlation between the two diverges significantly in the US compared to third world countries. In other words, at an income of $2 a day, the consumption survey doesn’t diverge proportionally to the income survey compared to someone with an income of $20 a day. It’s complicated, but it basically doesn’t seem like a reliable measure. So 0% doesn’t seem accurate, but neither does 5%.

But that’s okay because the actual percentage isn’t as important as the trend. Let’s say for arguments sake that 2% of American households are living on $2 per day, per person. Since 1996, that $2 a day global poverty rate has been reduced by 1/3. In the US, it’s going in the opposite direction. The factor that keeps Americans above that $2 a day line are SNAP, welfare (which can only be collected for a total of five years over the course of a lifetime), social security, and medicare. First world programs. That’s the only thing keeping our “$2 a day” population under 5%.

Why is the extreme poverty class in the US growing, while it’s shrinking in the rest of the world? Republicans. They keep cutting life saving social programs in an effort to end all that high living that we all know is happening in slums all across the country. All of that welfare, food stamp, medicare, and medicaid fraud they can’t find must be stopped! By the way, any retail business would be fucking overjoyed with a loss rate of under 10%. Relative to the private sector, these loss (fraud is less than 4% in each program) numbers are a freaking miracle. But nonetheless, they need to stop the poor people from bleeding us all dry with their eating and such. Plus, if the don’t have food, they can sell those awesome refrigerators and air conditioners that came with their mold and lead riddled apartments, thereby enabling us to cut welfare even more because they would be living large on that pawned refrigerator money. It all makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Republicans are literally turning this country into the slums of Ibadan, where you can expect to live longer than you can if you grow up in Baltimore. That’s actually not true, and I must apologize for the hyperbole. Adolescents in Ibadan are actually more hopeful and healthy than adolescents in Baltimore so I apologize for the unfair comparison.

Poverty in the US is getting worse, and contrary to what the right wing is telling you, being poor in America isn’t awesome sauce. In fact, it won’t be long before people living in the slums of New Delhi aren’t professing their gratitude that they don’t live in the US.

The richest country in the world should not contain poor neighborhoods that are comparable to third world slums. That just shouldn’t fucking happen.

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A Culture Of Police Brutality

Since it’s a day that ends in “day”, we have another cop brutalizing another member of the community he’s supposed to be serving and protecting. This one is a slight variation on the theme we’ve grown completely accustomed to in that, the cop is a black male and the victim is a tiny white woman. This incident happened in Miami in 2013, but we just got the video and “justice” yesterday.

Let me start with what happened. In the early evening of June 26th 2013, the police get a call from the South Bay Club, who had a drunk woman (Megan Adamescu) who wouldn’t leave in their lobby. Enter officer Philippe Archer, who responded in plain clothes. He takes the woman outside and tried to get her to give him her ID. She was apparently too drunk to comprehend what was going on, so he took her purse and started looking for ID. That’s when fifty year old Andrew Mossberg happened to be walking by. He thought he was witnessing a mugging so he called the police. Here are his words from an article in the Miami New Times;

“I saw him grab her purse and pull things out of it. When she tried to grab the bag back, he punched her in the face. She fell down, got up, and tried to go for her purse again. He then kicked her legs from underneath her so she would fall down again.”

Mossberg……alleges Archer was not wearing a police badge or any other ID. So Mossberg called the Miami Beach Police nonemergency number and asked the dispatcher to send units over. “I yelled at him that the police are on their way,” Mossberg says. “That’s when he ran at me, kicked me once in the left side of the head, then kicked me again in the forehead, and punched me twice.”

Okay, so this a fifty year old man who is trying to do the right thing when he sees what he believes to be a crime being committed. Here’s the cop’s version of events (from the report he filed);

Adamescu yelled “fuck you nigger,” “became hostile and belligerent,” and that she “attempted to snatch her passport out of my hands.” Archer alleges he got distracted when Mossberg approached him. That’s when Adamescu “slapped me on the left side of the face, knowing that I was a law enforcement officer. I immediately countered with an open hand strike to [the] right side of her face causing her to fall to the ground and hit the back of her head,” Archer wrote.

That’s when Mossberg charged me, preparing to attack me. I conducted a front kick to his abdomen area, causing him to step back. [Mossberg] became enraged and came back at me. So Archer says he kicked Mossberg in the face. “During the violent and physical confrontation, [Mossberg] sustained a laceration to the right side of his head, a left swollen face cheek, and scratches about his arms,” Archer wrote.

As far as I can tell, the cops own original account doesn’t indicate that he identified himself as a police officer to Mossberg. I don’t know if he subsequently made that claim, but it doesn’t matter (you’ll see why later).

That report did leave out some punching and kicking that he did to both Adamescu and Mossberg (of course it did).

So Archer takes both Adamescu and Mossberg to the precinct, where this happens in the parking garage;

Before some of you say that she kicked him (and what a forceful kick it was), so he was justified in what he did, it’s picture time.

This is officer Philippe Archer:  

Phillippe-Archer  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Andrew Mossberg:

Moss131-2E33A0602152-50996-000023321A0E3692

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what Mossberg looked like after Philippe fended off the obvious threat to his life:

mossberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You could clearly see Megan Adamescu’s size relative to Archer’s in the video. Here’s what she looked like after he punched her:

Bandagemiami6n-1-web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you decide if the cop was justified in his actions, given the threat level these two posed to him. He had another detective take a picture of himself with Amamescu in her bandaged state, where he’s grinning from ear to ear. That photo hasn’t been published anywhere, but doesn’t he sound charming?

Did I mention that Archer has been accused of police brutality at least three times prior to this? I couldn’t tell you how many times because, while cops have the ability to run your record in a few seconds to see everything you’ve ever been charged with, we don’t get to easily access their performance records. I do know that when this incident took place, but I do know that the good citizens if Miami had just paid out $60,000 to settle one claim against Archer who didn’t appear to have been punished at all.

There was an internal investigation that concluded that Archer was guilty of excessive use of force. Here’s what the Miami Herald said about the report;

“Your experience, knowledge of rules, policies and proper practice dictates that you knew you should have reported and documented the events at the police station, you knew that taking a photo with a prisoner was inappropriate, you knew you should have properly secured the prisoners, and you knew you used excessive force,” states the report. “Your lack of judgment and your poor decisions defy your tenure as a Miami Beach Police Officer of 19 years.”

The report continues: “You met this slight woman’s meager schoolyard kick with excessive, unnecessary, and unwarranted use of force.”

The good news is that Archer is facing swift and severe punishment for his brutal beating of two people who posed no threat whatsoever to him. That’s not true, he’s technically only been found guilty of punching Adamescu, since that’s all we have video evidence of. There’s no video of what he did to Mossberg. No video means nothing untoward happened, right? He’s being suspended for a month without pay. Harsh. I know, right? But don’t worry, he won’t have to lose that pay for a whole month in a row. He’s going to take several long weekends from May – July so that he’s only missing a few hundred dollars out of several paychecks, instead of getting no paycheck at all for a month. WHEW! My heart was starting to bleed for him, thinking about the hardship he was facing. It looks like the poor bastard may make it through after all.

Does any of this sound like  it’s going to serve as a deterrent to the next cop with anger management issues?  This asshole has kept his job through lord knows how many excessive force complaints, at least one settlement over his brutality and now this. This incident is going to settle for a much higher amount because he was found guilty of excessive force. That’s just going to help the plaintiffs in their civil suits. And to be clear, he didn’t get fired because he’s been on the force for nineteen years. Being fired means losing his pension, when he’s one year away from being eligible to retire. There was no way his union was going to let that happen. See, the longer a bad cop is serving on a force for, the harder the union is going to fight to get him to that retirement finish line. By year twelve or so, a shitty cop is almost entire unfireable.

There is a cultural problem with out police forces all across the country. There is no deterrent mechanism for violence and brutality. If I were a sociopath with sadistic tendencies , I would be signing up for the police academy. I’m not kidding. This is the place for me to act out my issues with impunity and no fear of punishment. Each time one of these cops gets away with these killings or beatings, they make very other cop confident in the knowledge that they can do whatever the fuck they want without fear of retribution.

None of those cops in the garage reported the punch that was recorded on the video. How many “good cops” does that leave us with? And why fucking bother? Seriously, why bother being a good cop? Obviously, you can’t report a fellow officer punching the shit out of a twig on two legs because that isn’t something cops do. Even if you did, that cop will suffer virtually no punishment, so why bother?

The abuse by cops is always doled out on members of society who they deem to be powerless. This is why it’s predominantly people of color who are getting killed and beaten. This doesn’t happen in Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan where people have power. We know about the affluenza sufferers in these neighborhoods, so it’s really not like there aren’t any miscreants to beat the fuck out of. It’s just that miscreants in Beverly Hills come with high priced attorneys. Beating the shit out of, or murdering them would be a career ender. But shooting Tamir Rice, that has no consequences. That motherfucker hasn’t faced a single charge yet because he chose his victim wisely.

People keep saying there are lots of good cops out there. I think that’s true. It’s just that all the “good cops” are patrolling affluent neighborhoods where the incentives don’t allow for beating and killing members of those neighborhoods. I’ve said this several times; I have a bias against cops. My bias comes from each new video I see of a cop behaving viciously toward someone who is unarmed (both physically and societally) and powerless to stop them.

There are no good cops in poor neighborhoods. There just aren’t. We’d see more news stories of cops being retaliated against for reporting their psychopathic co-workers if there were good cops in bad neighborhoods.

I’m forced to conclude that the only good cops in America work in upper middle class or affluent neighborhoods. Is that true? Perhaps not but I can’t tell, what with all the secrecy within the police departments. Is it fair? You’re goddamned right it is. Every single time this happens, it’s fair to conclude that cops are the problem.

I’ve said this before; I know where my bias comes from. Where does the bias on the other side come from?

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Leaded Rioting

Violent crime started dropping precipitously in the 90s, and has continued to drop for over twenty years. It started happening during Bill Clinton’s presidency. In 1994, he passed a crime bill that did several things including putting around 100,000 more cops on the streets by issuing $200 million in grants to local police forces to help them staff up. It also included a lot of other "tough on crime" legislation that put more people in prison for longer, but I’m not going to get into the specifics because they’re not relevant to this piece. The Clinton administration naturally took credit for the decrease in violent crime, which sounds reasonable until you realize that those crime rates started dropping in 1991 and never went up for a single year since then.  

Governors all across the country also took credit since their crack downs were clearly the reason for the decreasing violent crime rates. Rudy Guiliani, the most obnoxious of all mayoral peacocks, still claims that his harassment of people of color approach (it’s called the broken windows policing) is why crime went down in New York City during his tenure as mayor. As I stated above, violent crime started declining three years before Rudy began his racially bias policing practices so no rational person would agree with his self aggrandizing assessment of his efforts.

The Freakonomics guys had an interesting theory that Roe v Wade was responsible for the decrease in violent crime. Their thinking is that legalizing abortion meant that would-be criminals weren’t being born because the mothers who weren’t equipped to raise children had access to safe and legal abortions. There seems to be a correlation in terms of the timeline. Roe was decided in 1973, about 18 years before the crime rate started dropping. Sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast. Just like the "tough on crime" thing, it doesn’t hold up to more scrutiny. This theory doesn’t work outside of the US. The UK legalized abortion in 1968. Their crime started dropping in 1995.

That was a nice try by Freakonomics. It sounded great, and relied on more data than criminologists turn to. I generally like theories from economists more than I do, those of criminologists. They don’t suffer from the curse of being a hammer, and therefore needing to turn everything else into a nail. Also, economists found the flaw in the economists’ theory. The criminologists are still clinging to their fallacies.

Criminologists have also theorized that crack was the culprit. See, the crack epidemic had increased violent crime so much, that when the crack epidemic burned itself out, crime dropped. But after crack there was meth. And during crack and meth, there’s always been heroin so that lame theory doesn’t hold up to 20 seconds of just thinking it through without having to Google anything. They also came up with the "when times are tough, crime gets worse" explanation. The problem with that is that the late 80s were a pretty good time to find a job. The much bigger problem is that crime didn’t increase from 2008 – 2012, when times were as tough as they’d been in sixty years.

So what is it? What explains the drop in violent crime. It’s looking very much like lead is the culprit. We have another economist with a theory that seems to be holding up all around the world, in a way that hasn’t yet been countered. In 1994, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (yes, the dreaded HUD) hired an economist named Rick Nevin to help them do a cost benefit analysis on removing lead paint from old homes. There had been a mountain of research at that point, demonstrating that exposure to lead can cause a laundry list of issues like lowered IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities. There was also a study that linked lead exposure to juvenile delinquency. This study got Nevin thinking about whether there could be a link between lead and violent crime. Remember, this was 1994 so violent crime had been decreasing for three years at that point.

Nevin found that the highest lead exposure wasn’t coming from paint, but from leaded gasoline.

Here’s a little history on the lead in the gas. In 1921, tetra-ethyl (known as TEL or ethyl) lead was developed for GM by Thomas Midgley, who discovered that adding the lead to the gas reduced the "knocking" in engines. In February, 1923, leaded gas was first sold commercially. Four months later, the US Public Health service was made aware of the leaded gas and requested safety tests (pesky big government!). By September of the same year, workers in the DuPont TEL plant were starting to die. The scene was described as, “sickening deaths and illnesses of hundreds of TEL workers… Gripped by violent bursts of insanity, the afflicted would imagine they were being persecuted by butterflies and other winged insects before expiring, their bodies having turned black and blue.” By April 1925, a Yale study (among others) concluded that "the greatest single question [whether leaded gasoline is safe] in the field of public health which has ever faced the American public.". In May 1925, the US Public Health Service held a conference to discuss both sides of the ethyl (as usual, the sides were science vs corporate profits) issue and appoint a blue ribbon committee to conduct an independent inquiry.

What followed was a now very familiar decades long period in which more and more studies around the world were sounding alarm bells about the dangers of lead, which naturally generated industry funded "studies" to counter the broader scientific community. This was the beginning of the allegations (by DuPont and GM) of "partisan science". Stop me when this starts to sound familiar to you. People are dying in the manufacturing plants, and everyone knew it was because of the "looney gas". By the late 60s, the government was starting to lay out timelines and regulations for the phasing out of lead. Here’s a fun quote from the VP of Ethyl Corp in 1971;

“The clincher by all prophets of doom is that someone started the rumor that lead was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire… The legend always gets fuzzy — sometimes it is caused by lead-lined aqueducts, other times it is from their wine being drunk from lead-lined flasks.”

Again, just let me know when this is starting to sound familiar to you. The victimhood, the hyperbole, the fear tactics…these are all echoed by tobacco companies, the NRA, the entirety of the energy industry. Basically any corporation who needs for science not to be so sciency. And when it gets too sciency, it’s time to cook up just enough "science" to claim that there are unanswered questions. There were no unanswered questions about tobacco. There were no unanswered questions about lead. There are no unanswered questions about why our climate is changing, and there are no unanswered questions about how to reduce gun deaths and gun crime.  

In 1972, the EPA mandated that gas stations would be required to sell unleaded gasoline to protect these new fangled "catalytic converters" that the government forced the automotive industry to develop (fucking big government, all up in our business again!) It wasn’t until 1986 that all leaded gasoline was eradicated in the US. That’s over sixty fucking years from when serious questions about lead emerged. No wonder this tactic is still being used.

Okay, back to Nevin. He’s published dozens of papers on the topic of lead and its correlation to violent crime. Here’s a link to the one paper I’m primarily using. I’m just going to give you some bite sized samples of what he’s found by sharing some of his graphs.

Robbery

 

It’s impossible to imagine a more clear correlation.

 

AggAssault   

 

 

 

Murder     

You get the idea. He demonstrated a clear correlation between lead and IQ, behavioral issues and violence. All of it correlates as clearly as the graphs above.

Guess where lead paint still exists in the US? If you guessed that it exists in poor neighborhoods, you win a cookie. Wanna know where there’s likely still a decent amount of lead paint? Yep, Baltimore. Three years ago, they paid out a $3.7 million settlement to a public housing resident who suffered lead poisoning as a child in the 80s.

Maryland’s lead poisoning prevention law didn’t kick in until 1996. Nevin found a nearly precisely twenty year correlation between the elimination of lead and the reduction in crime. In other words, if Nevin is correct and all of Maryland took care of its lead paint problem (I know, I’m being hypothetical) in 1996, we should expect to see low IQ, behavioral issues, and violent tendencies until 2016.

There is an actual physiological factor at play in poor areas of America. All of the privileged people who get to say, "violence is unacceptable under any circumstances" have no idea what they’re talking about. Of course violence is unacceptable, and I’m fairly certain that a significant number of the people committing the violence would be able to agree, had they grown up in a different neighborhood. Being poor comes with innumerable hazards that don’t come with being middle class or rich. Don’t even get me started on the asthma situation.

My response to every single "this is unacceptable" comment was that this isn’t mine to judge. If you didn’t grow up under the circumstances that residents of Ferguson or Baltimore did, then you are not qualified to judge what the appropriate level of rage would be. Lead is just one of dozens of factors involved in these situations that most people aren’t aware of. Stay in your lane. Judging people in these neighborhoods is not your lane. And making an uninformed judgment says more about you than it does about the rioters. I’m just saying that realizing that you don’t know what you don’t know would be the wise thing to do sometimes.     

   

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Freddie Gray Was Mortally injured In The Van

UPDATE: Freddie Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide and charges will be filed against the 6 arresting officers. This just came in at 10:55 (30 minutes after I wrote this piece), so that’s all the detail I have right now. And yes, I know that it contradicts something I said in the piece, but never let it be said that I can’t admit an error in my conclusions! 

 

 

Last night, we got a bunch of new information about what happened on the day Freddie Gray was arrested. I have to say that I’m not loving how we’re getting the information, and I’m not sure how much of it will actually be in the "official" investigation, but I wanted to share it. I normally wait until something more concrete materializes, but this is important information so I will share it with minimal speculation (cause that’s how these things get dumb).

The source for all of this information is a local ABC news affiliate, who got it from an unnamed source who was briefed on the investigation. I’m generally uncomfortable with stories that are entirely unsourced, but there are a few pieces of information disclosed by this source. that I believe will prove to be accurate.

The first big piece of information that we have, is that;

"Gray’s catastrophic injury was caused when he slammed into the back of the police transport van, apparently breaking his neck; a head injury he sustained matches a bolt in the back of the van."

That’s verbatim from WJLA’s piece. Here’s another direct quote from the piece that’s important as it relates to the information above;

"An investigation into the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray has found no evidence that his fatal injuries were caused during his videotaped arrest and interaction with police officers, according to multiple law enforcement sources."

The source seems to be making it clear that the blame is focused on the van ride, and away from the arrest. Did you notice the qualifiers there?

Remember the absurd allegation that was floated a couple of days ago, when Freddie Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself” according to another prisoner in the van? Well, they haven’t taken that heaping pile of bullshit off the table, although there didn’t seem any new advances in this fanciful story. The prisoner that was attributed to spoke up to dispute how his testimony is being portrayed. His name is Donta Allen, and here’s what he had to say (from the article);

Allen said he did not know a man was already in the van. Gray was on the right side and Allen was loaded on the left side with a divider separating them.

Allen described what he heard: "When I got in the van, I didn’t hear nothing. It was a smooth ride. We went straight to the police station. All I heard was a little banging for about four seconds. I just heard little banging, just little banging."

Asked whether he told police whether he heard Gray banging his head against the van, Allen said, "I told homicide that. I don’t work for the police. I did not tell the police nothing."

According to the autopsy on Gray, there is no evidence that Gray hit his head against anything on his own. His fatal neck and spinal injury was a kin to the type suffered in a car accident; it needed that amount of force and energy.

Sources have told the 11 News I-Team that by the time Allen was loaded into the van, Gray was unresponsive. Citiwatch camera video shows officers looking into the Gray’s side of the van with the doors fully open.

Medical experts said as Gray’s condition deteriorated after the injury occurred, he may have suffered seizures.

Allen told the 11 News I-Team what he heard when the van arrived at the Western District Police Station: "When we got to the police station, they said he didn’t have no pulse or nothing. They called his name, ‘Mr. Gray, Mr. Gray.’ And he wasn’t responsive."

So it’s clear that the "he did it to himself" turd isn’t going to float.

Here’s one of the big shockers we got last night; the van made another stop that we didn’t previously know anything about. As if that wasn’t sketchy enough, investigators learned about this previously undisclosed stop because it was caught on a privately owned camera. And here’s another shocker; the van driver has still not given a statement. This incident occurred nearly three weeks ago, and there’s no statement from the van driver? I believe that WTF? would be the only appropriate reaction to this. And then fate stepped in to further fuck up this situation. A security camera at a market on North Fremont Avenue and Mosher Street caught this unlogged stop on tape. Police copied that footage sometime (the owner guesses) on the week Gray died. The store owner’s copy of the footage was lost when the store was looted during the riots.

See what happens opportunistic looters? You may have just helped the police in crafting a more convenient story for themselves. Well played assholes, well played.

And here’s one more bombshell that we heard yesterday, independent of the source conveying what they heard in the briefing. A relative of one of the six officers involved in the arrest (before Gray was put in the van) believes that Gray was injured during the arrest. She wouldn’t go on record, so take her information in the context of a relative of one of the arresting officers, who doesn’t want to be known by name. She said, "Six officers did not injure this man. Six officers didn’t put him in the hospital. I’m worried that instead of them figuring out who did, that six officers are going to be punished behind something that maybe one or two or even three officers may have done to Freddie Gray." She also said that they didn’t buckle Gray in because he was being belligerent. "They didn’t want to reach over him. You were in a tight space in the paddy wagon. He’s already irate."

To which I say, if you figured out a way to catch him and get him in cuffs, you can figure out a way not to severely injure him the way you’ve already paralyzed at least two people by not buckling them in.

Isn’t perspective amazing? The only person in the country who would be concerned with cops being blamed for something they didn’t do, would have to be related to a cop. I mean seriously, the rest of us witness cops never being held accountable for what they did do, and this woman is worried about a mass incarceration of cops? Amazing.  

And one last interesting piece of information. Five out of the six arresting officers have been interviewed by detectives. One invoked the right not to be questioned. Cops have a right not to be questioned? What the fuck is that horseshit? I’m pretty sure that the rest of us have no such right. We have a right to have an attorney present for questioning, but we aren’t afforded the privilege of skipping the interview process all together.

So this all seems to be getting more confusing with each passing day. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get anything official anytime soon. My guess is that since we haven’t heard anything official yet today, we’re not going to. I will be updating the situation as I get more information.      

 

 

         

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