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The Cecil Outrage

I shared in it. A lot of people, particularly people who are in the #blacklivesmatter were outraged about the outrage. I’d like to discuss their outrage over the outrage, as well as everyone else’s outrage over the actual killing of Cecil.

I’m going to start with the latter, but I first want to give everyone an update; Cecil’s brother Jericho has just been killed by poachers. Jericho had been protecting Cecil’s cubs and territory since Cecil was killed, so the cubs are now in danger. UPDATE: Or not. I am now hearing conflicting reports, but I digress.

The outrage over Cecil wasn’t just about the barbarism of killing a beautiful creature, just to feel like a man for a minute. How someone can feel like a man when they sneak up on a docile (it’s true, they’re docile when they don’t see a threat coming) creature and use a mechanical instrument that someone else made for them to kill it is beyond me, but then again I’ve never had a penis to feel insecure about. I think the underlying outrage is the outrage that has been brewing over the 1% for years now. The idea that some dickless millionaire can spend the annual median household income on a “guaranteed kill” trip to Africa to kill something is just beyond the pale. That’s right, this asshole spent a whole years worth of the average American household’s (not person, but household) income to go to Africa and kill an animal for kicks. That’s why people despise this idiot so much. And then when the outrage began, he read from the millionaire fucker’s playbook and plead ignorance. He had no idea what he was doing because he was a hapless victim of the people he paid a years worth of the average household income to. He’s not an asshole. Like most rich fuckers, he’s just incompetent. Anytime there’s embezzlement, illegal trading, fraud, or any other crime being committed at a company, they CEO who insists they need to be paid the big bucks for their brilliance, suddenly pleads idiocy. Remember Angelo Mozilo from Countrywide? Here’s his sister explaining how her brother wasn’t a crook, but rather a hapless idiot.

I digress. The Cecil outrage is the 99% outrage. It’s about income inequality and the rich flaunting their wealth in the most classless and obnoxious way. Rich people spend their money on the dumbest and most pointless things on the planet. Poor and middle class people spend their money on food and on their kids. We’re tired of the Lifestyles Of The Rich Fuckers show. That’s what the Cecil outrage is about.

Now to #blacklivesmatter. I saw (and shared) this meme a couple of days ago;

 

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The usual #alllivesmatter riddled the comment section of the post. Let me just clear this up once and for all because a lot of well meaning people who probably aren’t at all racist keep saying this. Let me tell you why you’re so wrong in perpetuating this. It’s a tool for diminishing and deflecting from the problem by shutting down a conversation that we should all be having every day. The fact of the matter is that black lives clearly don’t have as much value in America as white lives do. I’ve written copiously about all of the statistics demonstrating the disparity in treatment between blacks and whites by both the law enforcement and the criminal justice communities. I’m not going to go over all of that again. Just peruse the “racism” section of this blog although, you should be aware of it independently of my work if you really cared to educate yourself on what’s going on in America.

Larry Wilmore did a segment on his show that addressed the #alllivesmatter problem;

(Wilmore) “So it seems like there’s a little confusion here over this phrase. Why can’t you say ‘all lives matter? “I mean, it sounds like it makes sense.”

(Enter  Felonious Munk to answer the question) “In the parlance of the hour, if I break my legs, I do not want the doctor telling me ‘all legs should be healed, I want the doctor to fix my leg.”

(Wilmore) “OK, so you’re saying ‘Black lives matter’ is a specific cry for something, whereas ‘all lives matter’ is a just a way of shutting down that cry.”

That’s exactly right. Don’t do that. Just don’t. There is a crisis that’s been building and building in black communities all across the country for decades. Don’t diminish that by implying equality. If we had equality, we wouldn’t need a #blacklivesmatter movement.

Conflating the 1% problem with the #blacklivesmatter problem is one that I’d been guilty of for years. Not so much conflating, as combining. In my defense, I wasn’t watching daily videos of unarmed black men being beaten and killed by cop all across the country. I had a sound, but very flawed basis for conflating the two issues; OJ Simpson. What a lot of people missed about the OJ Simpson acquittal, is that there was a very important cultural message there; if you have enough money, you can buy the anything you want in America and your skin color becomes irrelevant. OJ told me that the divide really is fundamentally between rich and poor, and that black and white doesn’t matter at a certain point.

I knew that there were thousands of roadblocks set up to prevent black people from getting to the bank balance that creates equality, but I underestimated it. And I didn’t realize how many of those roadblocks were actually bullets.

My fundamental misunderstanding of the crisis is one that most liberals are suffering from. We have a detached view of the situation, and see what the problem will be, once the crisis that we severely underestimate is finally solved. This is a crisis we’re witnessing. If the cause of these high numbers of murders was some sort of disease or epidemic, we would treat it as a national crisis. It is a mistake to see this in any other way than a crisis. It is a mistake to combine this crisis with the income inequality situation.

It’s also a mistake for the #blacklivesmatter movement to talk at liberals who don’t understand the situation. I’ve seen a lot of this from black twitter. Admittedly, 140 characters doesn’t really set the stage for productive and informative conversation. But there’s a lot of anger and lashing out happening there. There’s a lot of talk about how liberals “need to learn” and how “we’re going to teach them”. I agree with both statements. I just don’t think that people are as receptive to listening to you if you come at them, rather than to speak with them. That’s just me. I don’t viscerally react well to being yelled at 140 characters at a time.

I’m concerned about this divide I see opening up. I think it’s dangerous, and ultimately going to cause damage. Robert Reich actually articulated my concerns eloquently on his blog. You should read his whole piece, but I’m going to share the last few paragraphs;

Black lives matter.

But it would be a terrible mistake for the progressive movement to split into a “Black lives matter” movement and an “economic justice” movement.

This would only play into the hands of the right.

For decades Republicans have exploited the economic frustrations of the white working and middle class to drive a wedge between races, channeling those frustrations into bigotry and resentment.

The Republican strategy has been to divide-and-conquer. They want to prevent the majority of Americans – poor, working class, and middle-class, blacks, Latinos, and whites – from uniting in common cause against the moneyed interests.

We must not let them.

Our only hope for genuine change is if poor, working class, middle class, black, Latino, and white come together in a powerful movement to take back our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests that now control both.

We have to stay united. That’s not going to happen until white liberals really start listening to what the black community is telling us. It’s a little disheartening to hear democratic presidential candidates say that “all lives matter”. They’re fucking running for president. They should have a better understanding of this issue than that. I was very disappointed by both Bernie Sander’s and Martin O’Malley’s handling of the #blacklivesmatter protest at Netroots Nation. Fortunately, that clumsy handling of the situation inspired Hillary to give a very eloquent speech (maybe the best I’ve ever seen her give) on the topic;

 

I don’t know if she just saw an opportunity, or wanted to address something that’s on her mind. I don’t care. She’s talking about it. Bernie is finally talking about it.

We all need to talk about racism early and often. We don’t need to shut the conversation down with #alllivesmatter. We also don’t need to be talking at each other.

We all just need to try harder. Even if you think you’re tying hard, try harder. I am.

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Retrograde Republicans

So we’ve watched republican pundits and politicians support the confederate flag for a week now. The obvious motivation is that the republican party is home to the lion’s share of racists in America. But I think there’s actually a more dominant motivator here beyond racism.

Watch this Bill O’Reilly clip (via The Young Turks);

 

I love The Turks, but I think they missed an important part of that clip. At one point, O’Reilly says, “We don’t have a system where racism is acceptable at all. We don’t.” Then he goes on to say, “The world is being told by anti-American haters, that we are a rank racist society, and that is a lie”.

This is about exceptionalism and the glory days (in his mind), when America was the envy of the world.

Conservatives by definition, hate it when things change. It doesn’t matter what the change is. Change in and unto itself is viscerally abhorrent to conservatives. They like for things to stay the way they are, regardless of how they are. I think that people like Bill O’Reilly genuinely don’t see themselves as racist. I think O’Reilly sees himself as a “traditionalist” who has great regard for the traditions established in the glory days of the United States. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Bill O’Reilly is a giant bigot, but that’s how he sees himself.

We’re in a time now when things are changing at lightning speed so conservatives are more frustrated than ever. No one was talking about marriage equality in 2000. In fact, that push didn’t really start until after the hate-the-gays platform of the 2004 elections. In ten short years, we have marriage equality in more states than not, and hateful bakers are chained to their kitchens and forced to bake gay wedding cakes for twelve hours a day, seven days a week. By next week, we will have equality in all fifty states (yes, I have confidence in how Kennedy is going to go on this one).

Conservative heads are exploding. They’re being left behind by the country whose traditions they so love.

And now the flag tornado. In one short week, that flag has come down in Alabama and been pulled from several retail outlets. Eight days. And it’s going to come down in several more statehouses. Yes, losing a symbol of racism is painful to republicans, but not as painful as so much change in so short a period of time.

That fucking flag didn’t start going up in statehouses in the south until one hundred years after the confederates surrendered to the United States and ended their quest for a treasonous exit from this country. Why one hundred years later? Because it was a racist middle finger to the civil rights movement, which was winning. This isn’t a time honored tradition. It’s a fifty year old tradition of resisting change.

To rub salt in the tradition-loving conservatives’ wounds, every single change they’ve resisted was a positive change for the country. From ending slavery, to labor laws to women’s suffrage, implementing social security and medicare, taxing the fuck out of the rich to end the depression, and marriage equality. Liberals have always won, and liberals have always been right. The one and only “idea” conservatives have ever had, beyond leaving things the way they are, is going down inflames because Americans largely understand that trickle down economics is complete bullshit. The being wrong part doesn’t much seem to bother conservatives, but the constant (and now rapid) change is causing them great consternation.

Bill Kristol, the wrongiest republican ever, is pissed off that retailers are kowtowing to liberals and removing their confederate hate merchandise. That’s the free market, baby. But he (and a lot of other republicans) can’t stand it. They despise a Pope who actually espouses Christian values, rather than the bastardized version they worked so hard to create. He’s breaking with right wing Pope tradition, and they can’t stand that he’s on the same page with Jesus when it comes to the rich and when it comes to consuming the resources on this planet. They hate their own ideals and institutions when those ideals and institutions help to bring about change.

This is just too much change for them to deal with, and it’s coming in rapid fire. We have cell phone cameras finally showing America what black people have been telling us for decades about the brutality that police have been inflicting on them. Republicans hate that. They like things the way they were, when they didn’t have to be confronted with the institutional racism that produces the privilege they enjoy, and used to be able to deny they had.

This is about more than racism. This is about losing the country they once had to an ideology they’ve always despised. They see the desire to force change by taking action and criticizing injustice as being unpatriotic to the country. If you don’t love the United States just the way it is, then you hate it and you’re unpatriotic. That’s why they hate liberals, and that’s why they get irrationally pissed off over something as trivial as “liberal light bulbs”.

Bill O’Reilly said it in the clip I shared above:

“The world is being told by anti-American haters, that we are a rank racist society, and that is a lie”.

Implying that the US is imperfect is unacceptable to republicans and to a lesser degree, conservatives. In my opinion, that’s what the heart of this hate flag controversy is about for them. No rational person honors losers, not even if they had enough courage in their unjust and fucked up convictions to die for them. The confederacy was on the wrong side of history but beyond that, they were losers, wholly undeserving of any respect. Republicans don’t like losers. But they like these losers. Why?

Yes, it’s about racism but I don’t think that’s the heart of the issue here. Al Franken nailed the heart of this issue  twelve years ago in his book, “Lies And The Lying Liars That Tell Them” when he said the following;

“We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world. That’s why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well.”

That’s the issue. And no matter how fucked up the wrongs liberals want to change are, conservatives will fight against us tooth and nail. And they will continue to lose 100% of the time.

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Mass Murder In Charleston

This piece is going to be long. I have a lot to say. Deal with it. This post may seem to be all over the place. I have a lot of points I want to cover. Deal with it. I will make every effort to organize my points in a coherent way, in order to help you deal with it.

The Event

You already know what happened, but let’s briefly recap. A white shooter (I refuse to use these assholes names because they don’t deserve fame for what they do) walked into a historic black church in Charleston, SC on Wednesday night. He sat in that church and watched the congregants study the bible while looking all of them in the eye for an hour before deciding that they all must die. He murdered nine people.

The Shooter

According to his roommate, he had been;

“planning something like that for six months”.

The roommate also said,

“He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

But I guess that in South Carolina, this doesn’t seem abnormal enough to raise any warning flags, so the roommate never alerted the authorities to this apparently totally normal and culturally acceptable behavior (more on this later).

At the age of 19, this whackadoodle had no job, no driver’s license, and no habit of ever leaving his house. Naturally, this behavior told his father that buying him a gun for his birthday was a totally responsible thing to do.

That piece of crap father bought the gun for his nutbag son in April, but didn’t let him take it home until a week before the shooting.

Heeelllllooooo, crazy ammosexual. Perhaps using your brain rather than your ammosexual programming would have been good here. You don’t give your obviously disturbed, loser of a son a gun for his goddamned birthday. You give him therapy sessions. If South Carolina has a capital murder charge on the books, I want the father arrested on capital murder charges for being complicit in these murders.

Several sources said that he said that he “planned to kill a bunch of people” a week before the shooting. Again, this must seem totally normal in the fucked up culture in those parts of Charleston, since no one thought to call the authorities (who were busy murdering and framing Walter Scott anyway, so they might not have had the time to deal with it). More on the fucked up culture in South Carolina later.

Here’s what the shooter’s friend (from the trailer park) relayed about what the shooter said (from The Daily News):

The 21-year-old suspected gunman told his friends at the trailer park last week that he wanted to kill people at a local college — but no one took him seriously because of his deadpan sense of humor, his friend Christon Scriven told the Daily News.

“He flat out told us he was going to do this stuff,” said Scriven.Roof moved close to the Lexington, S.C., trailer park about two months ago, he said.

Last Wednesday — exactly one week before the Charleston church massacre — Roof told his friends and neighbors at the park that “he was looking to kill a bunch of people on Wednesday” at the College of Charleston, Scriven said.

The friends assumed Roof, known for his dry sense of humor, was joking.

There are apparently no social media pictures of the shooter that don’t include an overtly racist element (confederate flag or a YAY apartheid! patch). But again, this is apparently not a thing in his community so he felt really comfortable letting his racist freak flag fly. As well he should, since the confederate flag flies over South Carolina’s state house right at this very moment.

The Fucked Up Culture In South Carolina

I know I’m going to get shit for saying this, but I most certainly am not going to get shit for not making my case; South Carolina has a culture that aids and abets these kinds of terrorists. In fact, it has a long and rich history of racism and violence.

Here’s the state capital after the shooting:

Flags

Do you notice anything? Perhaps about the positions of the flags in relation to the staffs they’re on? Interesting. Two flags are paying their respects to the dead, and the one is proudly and defiantly letting its hatred wave from atop it’s perch.

Let me be very clear about this; the confederacy committed treason against this country. Period. There’s no rational way to deny that without redefining treason. And they committed that treason in order to preserve their “state’s rights” to own human beings.  And in the end, they got their asses handed to them by the north.

There is no source of pride in this event; treason, slavery, ass kicking. That’s the story of the confederacy. And yet, the south is the only place in the world where an ass kicking is celebrated and memorialized. I wasn’t in Nashville for 45 minutes before I saw my first monument of some treasonous confederate douchebag. The normal human reaction to getting your ass handed to you, is to do everything you can to forget it. Not southerners. They celebrate their ass kicking. Can you imagine if Germany were this fucking stupid, and had Nazi flags all over their state houses? YEAH, we got CRUSHED! We’re the proudest LOSERS ever!

By the way, losers – when are you going to overthrow the tyrannical government that still has its boot on your throat? I mean, we’re still suppressing your states’ right to own people. You’re armed to the teeth. When is this overthrowing of the government going to happen? What are you waiting for? I mean, every day that you keep stockpiling the guns (we have less than 40m households with over 300m guns), and not overthrowing the government, just makes us think that you’re spineless chicken hawks who just like to play with guns. The fact that you can only seem to use those guns to shoot off your own teenie weenies doesn’t help your stupid confederacy pride rhetoric. Practice what you preach already. Go ahead, members of the confederacy; finish what your loser predecessors couldn’t. Or stop celebrating them, cause you’re just pathetic.

The confederate flag is just part of the fucked up culture in South Carolina, that thinks nothing of people spewing racist remarks. Cause hey, who doesn’t?

South Carolina does not have a hate crimes provision on its books. It’s one of only six states who apparently feel that prosecuting people for terrorizing a community based on race is just too “big governmenty”. Besides, what’s the big deal about targeting someone based on nothing other than race? Plus, how can you tell who a hater is, when the whole fucking state thinks the confederate flag is a source of pride? It’s just white pride, right? So the federal government is stepping in to take care of the hate crimes portion of litigating this mass murder. That’s more tyranny for you confederates to suck on. Enjoy.

South Carolina has a population of 4.8 million people. That’s a little over half the size of New York city and yet, they have two different factions of the KKK and four white nationalist organizations.

There is a cultural problem in South Carolina. In 2010, they actually held a “succession ball” in Charleston. I’m not kidding. People dressed up in their “YAY, we’re LOSERS” costumes and celebrated treason.

Look at this stupid twit:

 

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If she cared at all about history and honoring it authentically, the dress would be all burned up and there would have been a bullet hole somewhere in it because her side LOST.

Okay, enough of that.

Fucking Fox And Their Foul Racist Mouths

Fox is very concerned about not jumping to conclusions;

 

Oh my fucking god, there’s so much bullshit going on here, that I fear my head will explode before I can get it all out. I’m going to try and be brief in my unpacking of this, so as not to be as agitated as I was in the last section.

An attack on our churches? Yeah, this was about the religious beliefs of the congregants, rather than their skin color. Did I miss the part where the shooter proclaimed, “fuck leviticus and fuck Jesus”?

This is part of a rising hostility among Christians because of their biblical views? I just can’t.

Pastors should arm themselves? What kind of sick fuck uses this as an opportunity to sell more guns?

People are jumping to conclusions about this shooting, just because a white guy shot up a black church? In addition to his copious racist comments before the shooting, he said (during the shooting), “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” No asshole, there’s no jumping to do here. He told you why he did it.

It’s a tragedy beyond human comprehension? Listen, uncle Ruckus; some of us have been comprehending this since the beginning of time. I’m not sure why “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go” is confusing to you, but your ancestors probably wouldn’t be flummoxed by what’s going on here. Racism isn’t beyond human comprehension. It’s beyond your paid, phony shill ass’s comprehension, but the rest of us get it.

I’m going to wrap up this very long post by saying one last thing. I haven’t heard of anyone referring to this mass murder of nine people as a thug, the way Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner were referred to. I’ve heard a lot of talk of mental illness, which I never hear when referring to a black person suspected of anything.

But I know, I know….we’re living in post racial America.

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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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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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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.

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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.

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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;

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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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Rosa’s Fight Still Isn’t Over

Today is the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus. A lot of people don’t know this, but she didn’t spontaneously do this. She actually served as secretary for the local branch of the NAACP. She was part of an organized group, and the event was planned. On the first day of her trial on December 5, 1955, the black community began their boycott of the buses, which they kept up for 381 days.

For over year, 40,000 people walked to work, carpooled, and did whatever they had to do to earn a living without taking a bus. They comprised 75% of all the bus riders in Montgomery.

On June 5, 1956, a Montgomery federal court ruled that any law requiring racially segregated seating on buses were in violation the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Montgomery, what with being Montgomery and all, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld the lower court’s decision on December 20, 1956. The buses were integrated on December 21, 1956.


If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is. It’s too bad that this day has a Darren Wilson shaped cloud hanging over it. 

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Racism Enablers

I posted the following joke on my Facebook page recently;

As you may already know, it is a sin for a Muslim male to see any woman other than his wife naked and if he does, he must commit suicide.

So on October 29th, at 10:00 GMT, all British women are asked to walk out of their house completely naked to help weed out any neighborhood terrorists.

Circling your block for one hour is recommended for this anti-terrorist effort.

All patriotic men are to position themselves in lawn chairs in front of their houses to demonstrate their support for the women and to prove that they are not Muslim terrorist sympathizers.

Since Islam also does not approve of alcohol, a cold 6-pack at your side is further proof of your patriotism.

The British government appreciates your efforts to root out terrorists and applauds your participation in this anti-terrorist activity.

P.S.
If you don’t share this, you’re a terrorist-sympathiser

I shouldn’t have been too surprised, but a rash of stupid broke out.

The dipshittery ranged from accusations of racism and racial insensitivity, to calling me stupid. I’m going to take a minor detour from my broader point to address that "stupid" comment. I can’t think of anything dumber than a person who comes to such a conclusion based on one post you don’t like. That is the epitome of a teenie tiny little mind. And the growing desire to label people (politicians specifically) one thing based on one comment is what’s wrong with America today. FDR would never make it through a primary in America today. He, like every other fucking person on the planet, was complicated. We would never have had one of the most successful and accomplished presidents in our history, if it were up to the simple thinking that more and more Americans favor. I know that nuance is hard. And complicated people make you actually have to use your brain. Bummer.

I say this all the time to the Obama lovers and the Obama haters; stop being such a simpleton. It’s bad for our political discourse.  

Now back to my bigger point. I got an email asking me to take down the joke, which I did. Not because there’s anything wrong with the joke (which is why I’m publishing it again here), but because I wanted to explain the precise nature of the "victory" won by my taking it down (and I couldn’t do that if I didn’t take it down, now could I?)

First, I want to start with addressing the joke itself. I can’t believe this needs to be explained but this is a joke about men. Not Muslim men, but all men. Actually, that’s not true. There is a subtext of broadly mocking religion. The facet of Islam that is being mocked in this joke is precisely as ludicrous as eating a cookie and believing it’s the body of Christ. Religion can be stupid. It can be lovely, but also stupid. As with people, it’s more than one thing. Every single religion on the planet has a significant stupid component. Wanna know who sees the stupid? People who believe in a different flavor of religious stupidity. If your religion can’t withstand my mockery, it’s time to revisit the veracity of your beliefs. I’m not going to get further into the religion part because again, it was a joke about men.

The next paragraph is largely copied verbatim from the reply I sent to the person asking me to take down the post. 

Bad things happen when people play it fast and loose with their "outrage". I wonder when and why we stopped using our brains? Context matters, and my page advocates for equality for everyone, just about every day. I wrote a blog post about the Boston bombing that makes my position clear. I created a whole fucking category just for racism. Before throwing out accusations of racism, consider context because it’s very relevant. When Joe Biden referred to (then) senator Obama as bright, articulate, and clean, he wasn’t being a fucking racist. Wanna know how I knew? Context. He had no history of racism and since I’m not a simpleton, I considered the evidence before coming to my conclusion. If you don’t know the context, go find it. Not knowing or giving a shit about  whether Bill Maher is actually a racist when listening to his jokes makes you the stupid one. 

Being offended carelessly or gratuitously diminishes actually offensive behavior, just like (I make this point regularly) holocaust comparisons diminish what happened during the actual holocaust. We damage ourselves every single time we become outraged gratuitously. And we give people who are actually intolerant something to hang their hats on when we do it.

When you can’t tell the difference between Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, you help enable Rush Limbaugh. That’s just a fact.

To be clear, this post isn’t about me and about defending myself. I didn’t do anything that warrants that. This post is about the big picture contribution that careless outrage makes to our society. When you cannot tell the difference between something that is actually racist, and something that probably isn’t, you’re helping the worst people in our society.

This is precisely the same as asserting that both political parties are the same. You enable republicans and their recalcitrance when you say that.    

I think it’s pathetic that we’ve become thin skinned, short sighted, reactionary, and humorless.

I think it’s pathetic that people don’t think, research, and look at context before deciding to be offended.

I think it’s pathetic when people carelessly help those who are actually hateful by giving them cover. But Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh greatly appreciate it.

I took down my post because I want tell everyone who demanded that I do, that Rush Limbaugh thanks you for the assist.

For the sake of my currently unhealthy blood pressure level, I want to end this post on a less pissed off tone. The person who emailed me about taking the post down ultimately agreed with that I said to her, despite my less that congenial tone (sorry about that). I have all the respect in the world for her for reconsidering her position. I myself do it all the fucking time. And if I don’t reconsider my position, that’s purely a result of not having presented with a compelling point that I hadn’t already considered.

So please consider what I’ve said here and ask yourself whether your feelings of being offended are part of the problem, or part of the solution.    

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Michael Brown’s Private Autopsy

We finally, nine days after an unarmed boy was gunned down in Ferguson Mo, have an autopsy. Do we have an official autopsy from the ME in Ferguson? No. Nine days later, do we have a statement from officials in Ferguson regarding the manner of Michael Brown’s death? No. What we’ve gotten from Ferguson officials in the past nine days is a video of a completely unrelated crime committed by the victim. But virtually nothing regarding the actual murder of Michael Brown. To recap; Ferguson officials have given the public no information regarding Michael Brown’s death, but have instead provided us with a video that depicts malfeasance on behalf of the victim. Curious, but I will get back to this later. Now about the autopsy.  

What we finally have, is a private autopsy conducted by a medical examiner from New York, that was done at the behest of the victim’s family. That’s right. In order for a family in America to know how their son/brother/cousin/nephew died in America, the family must now pay for their own medical examiner (this one did the work pro bono, but you get my point).

What did the autopsy show? Michael Brown was shot six times; four times in the arm, and twice in the head. Here’s the actual visual from the report (I highlighted the bullet wounds in red because they were hard to see).

Autopsy1

 

This lines up with witness accounts. We only have witness accounts because nine days later, we still haven’t heard the shooter’s version of events. Does anybody think that if they killed someone in Ferguson, that the police would give them a week and a half to get a story together? Or is it standard procedure to question a suspect immediately after a crime has been committed? Okay, that waiting to get a story out there thing isn’t unique to Ferguson, but it’s still bullshit every single time a police force does it. They shouldn’t get a different standard than any other suspect in a crime.

My point here is that everything the Ferguson police department has done so far looks like a cover up and a smear job. Their only comments about Michael Brown so far, have been in reference to the (let me say it again) completely unrelated crime that he committed prior to being killed. Not a peep about the killing itself. Not a peep about the manner of death. Not a peep about why the officer felt justified in firing several bullets at Michael. They have literally given us no reason to believe that this killing was justified.

And yet, despite that fact, there are a group of people rallying on behalf of the shooter. Let me repeat; the shooter himself, has said nothing to defend his actions and yet, there are people out there who are willing to defend him. It seems to me that defending someone who hasn’t defended themselves appears to be a choice that’s separated from the situation. When we hear another account, we will weigh that. But for now, we have several witnesses and (now) an autopsy that supports those witness accounts that this was a wholly unjustified murder. And that’s all we have. Creating a narrative on the other side is just that; a creation.

Huh. What could the motivations here be? Why would a person create a defense for someone who hasn’t come forward with one of their own?

I’ll let you decide.    

 

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