Saturday, July 09, 2016

All Lives Matter Is Racist. Here's Why.



What do people not get?

"Black Lives Matter" is in response to a world that hand waves away the unnecessary deaths and ever present discrimination against African Americans. A majority that too often says minority issues are "not our problem." Every day, society is acting as if black lives don't matter, or matter less. That's why when you say "all lives matter," you're either completely missing the point, or an unabashed racist.

Of course all lives matter. No one is saying they don't. You're arguing against a straw man. Let's not pretend the civil rights act suddenly made everything hunky dory. Until white Americans take responsibility for the institutions, policies and attitudes that remain biased against those with different skin, and seek to change them, we can't claim all lives matter. Not when we act as if black lives don't.

When you say "all lives matter," you're not making some bold brave stand for humanity. You're just telling black people, once again, that their perspective, their experience, their lives, are worth less.

Friday, July 08, 2016

What Matters

No one is asking for perfection.

As long as police departments continue to be staffed by human beings, and not sophisticated crime-fighting robots, tragic errors in judgement, sometimes brought on by racial biases, will continue to happen. No amount of training or culture shift can ever remove incompetency entirely. I get that.

Being a police officer can be a scary job, and when a quick reaction can be the difference between life or death, the calls get tough to make. I get that too.

And sometimes, sure, even when we see the videos, we can't quite tell what happened. The instant replay doesn't quite give us indisputable evidence either way. I get that too.

What I don't get... and what I'd imagine most decent people don't get... is how police departments and our elected so-called leaders can continue to erode the public trust by acting like all these shootings are just accidents, incompetence, or tough calls. As if it was some office worker who accidentally lost a big client, or the keynote speech just bombed, or Larry in accounting fudged the numbers.

If you kill someone, you haven't just failed at your job. You've killed someone. That's should be more than a fireable offense. Officers who pull their weapon and kill someone should face appropriate punishment. They've committed a crime. Many would charitably call it involuntary manslaughter.

Instead, there's this circle the wagons thing that happens every time. The police protect their own. The people have no faith justice will be served... because it never is. From Rodney King to Philando Castile, police officers who use excessive force go free or get a slap on the wrist. Fireable offense? Many aren't even fired!

There's an old saying the police like to repeat over and over--"Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." Sure, we all would. The problem is, these officers are never judged by 12. That outcome is unfathomably rare. So an officer is left with a different calculus--the only thing holding them back is bad press. Shoot first--maybe be asked some questions later.

The public isn't demanding perfection. We know that's impossible. But we demand accountability. Killing someone isn't just some workplace fuck-up. Someone is dead! Why should an officer of the law get a pass? Because their job is tough? Because they got scared? Shouldn't we examine any evidence that suggests they didn't have to be? That someone didn't have to die? Those responsible for the murders of police officers in Dallas yesterday will be rightly captured, tried, convicted, and punished. What about the police officers responsible for murdering--however inadvertently--people they were sworn to protect and serve?

By all means, even up the racial makeup of the nation's police departments, so there is less disparity between the demographics of a police force and the community it serves. Put a camera on every cop, so there's a unbiased record of truth in every interaction. Train officers in peaceful deescalation of conflict and the proper procedures for securing a suspect. Work to break ingrained stereotypes and eliminate racial profiling. All that will help.

But the biggest thing that matters? When someone is killed needlessly, justice must be served. Right now, no one trusts the police, the justice system, or our politicians to do that. Of course there is anger toward law enforcement. Because they keep on treating these cases as if each victim was just a set of tragic circumstances, an unfortunate error, instead of a living, breathing person who didn't deserve to die.

I wonder why that is?

Monday, July 04, 2016

Why You Should Worry About Trump's Tweets



Is Trump a capital-R racist? Is he the second coming of Hitler? Perhaps I'm giving him far too much benefit of the doubt, but I'd say no. Hitler wouldn't associate himself with Omarosa, for example, and he wouldn't be too happy about his daughter converting to Judaism to marry a Jew. But that doesn't mean that Trump isn't a godsend to the racists and anti-Semites out there.

Even if he doesn't intend to be, Donald Trump has become a very public mouthpiece for bigots, xenophobes, and white supremacists. This is not in debate. It's fact:

The tweet above? Originated in a vile white supremacist message board.

It's not the first time he's passed along a message crafted by neonazis.

Or the second.

He does this a lot. Passes on memes, photoshops, and tweets from some of the most hateful people from the darkest corners of the Internet. He does it uncritically, no filter. During a presidential campaign, when he knows every piece of communication from his camp will be heavily scrutinized, he copies things he sees and sends them to millions of people, without even checking the source or worrying about whose message he's passing on.

If he's not doing it deliberately, then he's being hoodwinked, again and again, by KKK-loving anti-government hatemongers. We should worry about someone who is continually deceived into spreading messages lovingly crafted in the backrooms and basements of people determined to wipe out everyone except for white American Christians.

How stupid can one be, really? [UPDATE: Pretty damn stupid. Trump put out an official statement saying the image was taken from another Twitter user. This is another image put out by the same Twitter user.] Trump's latest defense, that the star in the tweet above is a "sherriff's star" is absurd on its face. The image was produced by an anti-Semite for a white supremacist message board. Hillary's email problems have nothing to do with the $100 bills and Jewish star... That's common messaging from Hitler worshippers who believe Hillary is bought and owned by the so-called Jewish elite.

It's not "the media" (the Jewish-owned media, the image's creator would point out) that is twisting this image into something it's not. It takes a lot of squinting and a ton of mental gymnastics to interpret this graphic as a criticism of Hillary's email shenanigans and a reference to the FBI's ongoing investigation. For instance, why $100 bills and not emails or email inboxes as the background (those cute little AOL inboxed would be a particularly germane graphic to use)?  And why not use the FBI logo or the FBI shield (which is not a Star of David) if you intend to refer to the investigation taking place? Nothing about this image says emails or FBI. It's made entirely of anti-Jewish imagery.

Which is exactly the kind of imagery you'd expect once you know this was created for a white supremacist message board.

The fact that Trump has continually given a voice to this type of hate imagery and hate speech should worry anybody who isn't a card carrying racist. Trump's own staff attempted to take his Twitter privileges away because he repeatedly shares content from the internet's scariest trolls. So claiming the image above depicts a sherriff's badge and isn't in any way connected to anti-Semitic bullshit doesn't hold water--if that were the case, then why is Trump's communications team trying to reign him in?

If Trump retweets something, does he believe it? It doesn't matter. What matters is he is exposing these hateful viewpoints to millions of his followers. Every time he retweets a supremacist, he sends that supremacist thousands of new followers. Whether he means to or not, Trump has emboldened the once dormant hate group movements in this country.

If he's giving them such a voice now, can you imagine how loud they'll get if he ever comes to power?

It doesn't matter if Trump is Hitler. He hasn't done anything to counter these voices. He hasn't preached tolerance or expressed scorn for the people who would gas his Jewish grandchild if given a chance. For someone who talks so much, he's said remarkably little about the white supremacists who have gravitated to his campaign.

Plenty of politicians rose to power in 1930s and 40s Germany on the back of Hitler and the nazis. They didn't have to make speeches about the stab-in-the-
back myth or come out against the Jews. All they had to do was give the growing tenor of hate their tacit approval. All they had to do was go along for the ride.

Trump may not be Hitler. But he sure is enjoying the benefits of that kind of hate. He's riding on the backs of racists, bigots and xenophobes. He's echoing their voices and spreading their messages far and wide.

If we don't hold him accountable for that, then he'll only be accountable to them.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Voting on Principle is Screwing Yourself


Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and, well, some people have regrets. That happens when your economy goes in the tank overnight, and you're looking at the prospect of losing the last vestiges of your once vast empire...
“I think there have been a lot of reluctant Brexiters around, people who voted leave thinking it wouldn’t happen but they’d be able to vent and to tell all their friends at dinner parties they’d done it,” said one Tory minister.
“He thought what all those reluctant Brexiters thought: it would be a vote for remain, he would be seen as having stood up for a principle.” 
Welp. Those  people who voted "on principle?" Well... this is what they're saying less than 24 hours after voting to leave:
(Of course, many of those people who voted to leave might not have even known what the E.U. was.)

It's not a great sign when mere hours after declaring victory, the leaders behind the Brexit movement are suddenly, well, backtracking on their promises:
 and looking horrifically depressed:

These were the WINNERS!!!!!!
Remember kids, voting on principle instead of voting for your best interests is a good way to screw yourself!

(Just something to keep in mind in case a big vote is coming up and you want to make some principled stand instead of doing what's best for your country.)

The Brexit Won't End The World; Will Trump?


I had a moment of panic tonight, when I read reports about the Brexit vote. I never imagined Britain would actually vote to leave. I was not prepared, despite the close polls.

I guess after that young MP got murdered by a wacko Britain First guy, I figured people wouldn't want to vote on the same side as a xenophobic domestic terrorist. But Britain was so afraid of being attacked by immigrants that they decided to attack themselves first.

Their currency is currently collapsing. No one knows whether you'll ever be able to buy tea and crumpets in Brussels anymore. Even Game of Thrones, GAME OF THRONES!!! will probably never film its scenes in Northern Ireland again (but where will Yara and Theon call home?).

What's worse, markets everywhere are crashing. That means your... Well,  everyone's, investments will drop considerably in value. You will be worth less tomorrow because of some racist British guy.

And the bottom could be really low. We're bound to see Northern Ireland and Scotland (and possibly other territories--like Gibraltar) make their own Brexits, leaving England behind. That would send markets tumbling further.

So yeah, I was flipping out. About to write an email to my investment advisor... SELL SELL SELL! But then I remembered something I read, a truism preached by Ben Graham and Warren Buffet. I can't be a slave to "Mr. Market." He can offer me $20 for my shares in a company one day and $5 the next. Yeah, the price someone will pay for my investments will drop... For now. But if the things I've invested in are solid, those pieces of companies and properties--they will still be solid no matter what Mr. Market offers. They won't disappear. New deals will be cut, commerce will resume. It may take a while, especially in this political climate. But we'll get most of the value back with time if people do what's in their best interest and don't do things that will sell their investments short.

But... Will people do what's in their best interest? Panic tends to make us do things that hurt ourselves. And make no mistake, the Brits will suffer for this, that's clear by the market's reaction.

There's a lot of panic in the United States right now too, obviously. People so scared of Mexicans and Muslims that they want to elect a mealy tomato (sorry, that's insulting to tomatoes) who vows to kick those immigrants out, keep them out, and hey, maybe send Muslim citizens to some sort of secret "summer camp."

The blog FiveThirtyEight, in trying to explain the Brexit and its impact on the EU, used the United States as a point of comparison:
Imagine that the states of the Northeastern U.S. — New York and New Jersey, plus New England — don’t like the outcome of November’s election (not that far-fetched!) and decide they would rather split off on their own. After all, the Northeast is culturally different from the rest of the U.S., it has the most prestigious universities and the dominant financial capital, and it pays far more in taxes than it gets back in benefits. Why should people there let leaders they didn’t vote for impose policies they dislike?
Now, this is really getting eerie and makes me wish I hadn't slacked off writing my novel. But in the story I envisioned, New Jersey and New York DO secede. The President (elected on a nationalist platform) announces a new policy of "Discernment," where Muslims are required to report to centers where they will undergo interrogation and investigation to establish their loyalty to the U.S. (You could see Trump proposing this!) New York and New Jersey immediately refuse to contribute their tax receipts to the federal government and declare they will not enforce or cooperate with the order. Troops are sent in to make sure they do, some shots get fired, and the states officially secede. The independent nation of New New Amsterdam is short lived, however, as federal troops arrest the Jersey governor (not Chris Christie, in my book) and New York gets in line under a Vichy-like regime puppet-mastered by Washington.

I honestly thought the plot was, perhaps, too complex and unrealistic. But now? Our country is panicking just as bad as the Brits, and its easy to see how some may be ready to break it all up too.

We've got to remember something. We haven't just invested in some invisible concept called America, that is worth $20 one day and $5 the next. We bought into something real. The same land our parents bought into, and those first generations of immigrants: from those who crossed a land bridge from Siberia to follow wild game, to those who crossed an ocean to flee famine, war, and hate. America is something real--houses built and businesses grown and yeah, even cars parked on the Moon. We bought into a land built by people who had seen enough of the misery people make for one another and wanted to lift their families up. That America is still here, despite what some will say, despite its flaws. America doesn't need to be "great again."  It is great. It always was. Now is not the time to panic. Now is not the time to sell.

Some people want us to. Because it benefits them when things fall apart. One of those opportunists cheered on the Brexit, knowing full well it would launch a recession. He's also cheered on other policies that will lower us in the eyes of the world, wither away our perceived value, make us forget how great we are with vague promises of how great we'll be.

Donald Trump wants to buy us for $5.

Don't sell low. That's how people lose everything.

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