Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Ben Shapiro is Wrong About BLM

If Ben Shapiro really wants answers to his condemnations of BLM, he should start by reading a few books, and then some. For example, he can find all of the answer's he's looking for in:

Slavery By Another Name, by Douglas Blackmon, which shows how "thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality," right up until the 1970s, when I was still in grade school.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Civil Rights litigator and legal scholar, Michelle Alexander, which explains how "mass incarceration" under the ruse of a War on Drugs, has effectively created a caste system that is as pronounced in America today as it was in the Jim Crow south, if not more.

Ghosts of Jim Crow, which was written by Constitutional Law Professor, F. Michael Higgenbotham, which explains in great detail how "the shadows of Jim Crow era laws and attitudes continue to perpetuate insidious, systemic prejudice and racism in the 21st century."

With Liberty and Justice for Some, by Glenn Greenwald, which shows how a two tiered justice system has been used over the last four decades to effectively destroy the concept of equality before the law, not just in our courtrooms, but through our legislatures as well. And coupled with the War on Drugs, which disproportionately targets poor black people, it's no wonder there has been a rise of single parent families in the black community- because many of the "other" parents have been locked up.

That two tiered system of justice was mirrored in a study prepared for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education: A Two-Tiered Education System. Among other things, that report stated:

 The President’s Commission on Education Resource Equity declared in 2001, (that) long-standing gaps in access to educational resources exist, including disparities based on race and ethnicity. These economic reports are new, but the news is not. Thirty years ago, the Presidential Commission on School Finance found that disparities in educational resource distribution among public school districts resulted from a reliance on local district financing for educational revenues. Since that time, there have been lawsuits in forty-five states targeted at remedies for unequal and inadequate funding of public schools.[iv]

What's more, in their book, Urban Schools: Crisis and Revolution, James Deneen and Carmen Catanese explained how such a system contributes to creating a new slave system in America:

During a recent education conference at Princeton University, one speaker referred to America’s urban schools as “a new form of slavery.” The great majority of Black and Latino students are trapped in schools that don’t provide the learning they need to lead dignified and productive lives. They are being equipped to perform society’s least desirable work at minimal wages, and condemned to lives of depending that can readily turn to bitterness and despair. It doesn’t seem an exaggeration to term this reality an enslavement of the majority of children in our impoverished major cities.[iii]

And the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, 2001-2002, found that the U.S ranked “dead last among developed countries when it comes to the difference in the quality of schools available to rich vs. poor children.”

What's more, racial quotas for schools and universities intended to help alleviate such inequality, are undermined by the even greater quota demands that police departments put on their officers to fund their budgets, and the private prison system puts on the American tax payer to satisfy their investors and their shareholders.

I saw this first hand inside a number of high schools in inner city Baltimore. Roughly a decade ago, I had visited several of these high schools to install a new computer lab that was going to be donated to one of them.  But even though every student had a cell phone in these schools, some of the libraries appeared to have fewer than a hundred books.  And many of those, it seemed, were of thoroughly warn copies of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (which was ironic, of course, since someone should've been looking into what the hell happened to all of the other books in these libraries).

In fact, after reading Fredrick Douglas's autobiography, I was amazed to see the many parallels in his life to that of so many people caught in the revolving door of a justice system that too often curtsies to a private prison system that makes certain kinds of addiction a crime, in order to serve its own addiction to profits. And because that system lives parasitically off of the American taxpayer, those private profits always rise in tandem with public debts.

It was, in part, the lobbying efforts of such private prisons that lobbied for a continually harsher prosecution of the War on Drugs, which has gotten rich by getting everyone from the legislators to the courts to incarcerate more people than anyone else in the world, most of whom are black nonviolent offenders. This was true, even though studies showed that white youth abused hard drugs more than black youth, and another study showed that when the same charges were applied to people of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, black people were much more likely to be incarcerated than white people.

Instead of reading any of this, however, Shapiro seems to prefer the thinking of people like Charles Murray, who's book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010, argued that the differences between blacks and whites wasn't because the schools of the former were generally worse now then they were before Brown v Board of Education, but because of "differences in or lack thereof in regards to religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, family, etc.."

Perhaps Shapiro and Murray should both consider who it was that began tearing all those families apart in the first place, over the course of a couple centuries; and who it is that continues to do so even today through a bogus War on Drugs. 

And if such people truly lacked "work ethic" and "industriousness," how were Southern plantation owners so successful in building their fortunes with such lousy workers? And, even more curious, why did those plantation owners fight a Civil War to keep such lousy workers on their plantations? Such a claim implies, in other words, that poor black people used to have "work ethic" and "industriousness" - back before the Civil War - but that their emancipation has presumably resulted in a gradual erosion of both.  

Murray goes on to provide evidence that religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, and family etc. have either remained strong or have weakened minimally in the New Upper Class (of mostly white people), whereas these same attributes have either weakened substantially or have become almost nonexistent in the New Lower Class (.i.e. of mostly black people). And as a result, Murray believes America needs "a kind of civic Great Awakening - a return to the republic's original foundations of family, vocation, community, and faith."

Aside from the unfortunate fact that such claims sound eerily similar to the book, My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding, by former Ku Klux Klansman, David Duke, reading it also made me feel like I had somehow been transported back to the 1800's. These were manifestos to the religion of race. It was like a statistician had done with statistics what Smaual Cartwright had done as a doctor in coming up with the mental condition of "drapetomania," with the former concluding that black people were poor because they were stupid and lazy, and the latter concluding that slaves ran away from their masters because they were crazy.

It's like this whole thing is just one really big, and really bad, joke. And Murray's theory was proven to be just that, when studies showed that that the poorer and less educated someone was, the more likely they were to believe in God (we see this in third would countries too, for example), and the more money a person had, the more likely there were to be an atheist. In fact, Murray's assertion seemed to be based on America alone, since church attendance in Europe has been roughly only 7%, for at least a decade.

In sum, Ben Shapiro and Charles Murray both engage in what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, who authored a study of race relations in the United States in 1944, called An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. In his study, Myrdal painstakingly detailed what he saw as obstacles to full participation in American society by African Americans in the 1940s. The ideals of liberty, justice, and fair treatment of all people formed an “American Creed” that shaped all political and social interactions in the United State.   But despite this creed, Myrdal saw a vicious cycle in which whites oppressed blacks, and then pointed to blacks' poor performance as reason for the oppression.

.Instead, the cycle continues as people like Ben Shapiro and Charles Murray continually mischaracterize the "effects" of racism, as the "cause" of inequality, which is how the most insidious forms of racism have always operated in polite societies. But beneath the veneer of that lie, is a machine responsible for all slavery and every genocide. And today, not much has changed

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

America: Borne in Blood - Race War by Addiction

In the movie Crash (2004) a "good cop" gives into his fear, and a "bad cop" gives into his humanity,  as the former shoots a black male hitchhiker  who had reached into his pocket like Philando Castile, and the latter reached into a burning car to save a person's life. In short, the movie captures the complicated nature of who we are and, by extension, just how complicated issues of race and racism can really be.  And today, race relations in America are perhaps more complicated and more strained, than any other time in recent history.
The complex and ever more complicated web of racism that is both direct and implicit in our society, is interwoven with both social and legal measures designed to combat it. Racial quotas for schools and universities, for example, are undermined by the even greater quota demands that police departments put on their officers to fund their budgets, and private prisons put on the American tax payer to satisfy their shareholders. And even though America finally has a black president, the most egregious form of racism operates in plain sight, with the broad support of many Americans, both black and white, under the ruse of a war on drugs. That war has always been about race. 

Make no mistake - America’s war on drugs has always been essentially a race war.  From Native Americans, to Mexicans, to African Americans, drug laws have always been a proxy for prejudice and discrimination.  Even the very first drug laws passed in San Francisco in 1875, which banned the smoking of opium in opium dens, were specifically aimed at the “tens of thousands of Chinese men and boys who had been imported into the U.S. during the 1850s and 1880s to build the great western railroads.” 

Those who passed such laws justified them by saying too "many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable families, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise."[ii] As it was in the beginning, is now, and perhaps ever will be, the worst forms of racism have always been practiced for the most moral reasons. And this is true even today.

When prohibition ended in 1933, Harry J. Anslinger was the head of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which was created to help fight the nation's war on bootleggers and speakeasies. But with alcohol now being legalized, Anslinger needed to find a new enemy to combat, in order to justify the continued existence of both his agency and his position. So, like any good politician, he used the same tried and true tactics of racism and fear used today, to advance his career, while increasing both his funding and corporate profits. And through propaganda films like “Reefer Madness,” he succeeded in turning a plant that the entire American Medical Association at the time concluded posed virtually no danger to society, into the greatest threat to Americans since The Red Scare of 1920.

Thanks to his efforts, America developed a unique ability to simultaneously treat addiction as a social vice and an economic virtue, as both a condition typical of most Americans and a crime, and as the engine for the coffee, tobacco, sugar, alcohol, and pharmaceutical industries on the one hand, and profit, political opportunists, and private prisons on the other. Yet these glaring contradictions of our society seem obvious only to those who are forced to live beneath its heel, and those outside of our society. That’s why 117 delegates from the UN condemned the brutality of America’s justice system recently.

Barry Yeoman put it this way: “Not since Slavery has an entire American Industry derived its profits exclusively from depriving humans beings of their freedom – not, at least until a handful of corporations and Wall street investors realized they could make millions from what some critics call ‘dungeons for dollars.’  “Prison construction and the attendant drive to fill these new structures with human bodies have been driven by ideologies of racism and the pursuit of profit.”  In short, it is a slave system where all the profits are privatized but all of the costs are absorbed through social subsidization. Put another way, certain kinds of addiction were turned into crimes because the private prison industry has developed an addiction to criminals.

Despite a cost-benefit analysis that was done by the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Army, which found that the most cost effective way of dealing with drug addiction was prevention and treatment - a finding which was proven to be largely correct in countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain - America chose to declare a never ending War on Drugs, to the tune of 80 billion dollars per year.

Milton Friedman argued that such a war was immoral, not only because it transferred wealth from tax payers to private prisons, but because it only ensured that drug cartels would enjoy a monopoly over their market at tax payer expense. In 1984, Thomas Sowell likewise pointed out that "drugs have been a financial bonanza for organized crime, and its profits have financed the corruption of law enforcement agencies, politicians, and judges." In fact, in 1996, Gary Webb dared to expose some of that corruption by pointing out that the CIA had been shipping vast amounts of drugs into black neighborhoods in a clandestine attempt to support the Contras. And such corruption has only gotten worse today, despite the growing number of people from across both the political and intellectual spectrum who unanimously condemn it.

But it continues, because the for profit prison industry has developed an addiction of its own, to criminals. Certain kinds of addiction were categorized as a crime, in other words, because we need ever more publicly funded criminals to feed an insatiable addiction to private profits.  Crime pays, and pays well.

The Brother Karamozov

If you watched the RNC, you probably noticed how much some extremist Christians suffer from the very sin they say Satan was thrown out of heaven for.

Such Christians suffer from the very sin that the serpent promised they would suffer from in the Garden of Eden, when he promised them that, by eating the apple, they would "become like God, knowing good from evil." And ever since then, these Christians have been running around "like God," and deciding for everyone on the planet what is "good" and what is "evil"  - according to them (even though they insist it is only according to their imaginary friend they call "Jesus," for whom they are as willing to smite all those who question his existence, as ISIS is willing to behead someone for drawing a cartoon of Mohammad.)

That the very act of making such God like pronouncements, by those who can't even agree among themselves about how to interpret something as simple as a bible verse, only makes them like the Devil, not Christ, never occurs to the Christian, who would happily crucify Christ, in order that they may keep their Christianity.

Like the Grand Inquisitor in The Brother's Karamozov, the Christian cares not about God, and even less about Christ, but lives by their swords and the guns, to die and to kill for the golden cafe of their "beliefs" about God. For it is solely in the latter, that such "christians" are able to condemn and even murder, all those who fail to properly fear them, not God.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gun Nuts and Drugs

God only knows how Christians come to believe that the phrase, "to live by the sword is to die by the sword," has nothing at all to do with their guns. Talk about a miracle even God can't explain!

A close second to this is the fact that so many of these same Christian's demand that something as harmless as marijuana should be illegal, that you have to be 16 and have a valid drivers license to drive a car, and that a person must be 21 to drink alcohol, but that it is completely preposterous to suggest that there should ever be restrictions on gun sales to minors.

Such gun nuts also insist that God gave them the Second Amendment, even though that same God sent out his original apostles, "like sheep among wolves," to "spread the word of God" by relying solely on their exercise of the First. 

O.J. Simpson and God?

12 jurors, with all of the evidence in the world, couldn't agree that O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson, but we're supposed to believe that 2.2 billion Christian's in the world, and 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, have all come to the unanimous conclusion that God exists, and he created the universe, even though there isn't a single shred of evidence to prove any of it, and plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

America: Borne in Blood - The Blame Game

Thanks to social media, the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile ricocheted in every direction around the country, tearing the fabric of society to pieces as people began blaming "racist cops" and then "racist Liberals" and anyone else they could think to blame.

Kevin Jackson from The Blacksphere," for example, said "the people to blame for this are Liberals" whom he referred to as "the worst people on the planet." He went on to explain that it is not African Americans, but Native Americans, "who are killed more, per capita, than any other race,” as if to suggest that African American’s should therefore be thankful that things are not worse for them.  Others joined in the linguistic lynching of BLM on social media.
Judge Jeanine Pirro, for example, "stoked the (emotional) fires" of division by saying Obama "stokes the fires (of racism) every chance he gets." In the comments, the focus was not about issues of race and inequality, but about those who feel victimized by all those who complain about issues of race and inequality. Many blamed Barack Obama directly, while one complained that “Obama doesn't care that Texas police officers were shot "because they are white and Christian," and a third concluded that Obama “had completed his intention of division."

That the people making such comments apparently failed to see just how much they were contributing to the very "division" they were so upset about, was as bewildering as it was disheartening.

The Comical Conservative, on the other hand, received cheers and applause for claiming that "black lives matter doesn't really care about black lives," because "black people are responsible for killing more black people than anyone else."  Instead, he proclaimed, as if deriving some deep satisfaction from adding insult to injury that both he and his audience shared,  BLM is just a movement for attention, money, and like most activism, more money." His comments made me wonder if he feels the same way about the NRA, the Catholic Church, Doctors without Borders, Wounded Warriors, and a host of other “activist groups."
As the political pundits of every stripe came crawling out of the wood-works, they began to look and sound more and more like professional wrestlers. red faced with fury and spoiling for a fight, rather than people who were trying to live up to the very lessons they had no doubt spent their lives trying to teach own their children.  What parent does not punish their child for acting this way on the playground?

Indeed, when William Butler Yeats wrote that "the best lack all conviction," it was probably because, despite their emotions, "the best" were the ones trying to engage in a conversation that was long over due, "while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as Yeats put it, because they are convinced they know everything they need to know already, and who is ultimately to blame.

And with their righteous indignation and denouncements, "the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned."

America: Borne in Blood - Blame Not Lest Ye Be Blamed

I do not wish to blame all those who blame. I have no doubt that they sincerely believe everything they say, and that they say it with such urgency and force because they really do care. (I may be wrong, of course, but what good would it do me to think in any other way?) But we really have to ask ourselves, is what they're doing, by telling us who to blame, a way of trying to make things better for us, or for them?

 BLM does not just stand for "black people only," nor is it simply a movement protesting only police shootings and brutality. It is a response of a people who have always borne societies ills the most. During the subprime housing crises, for example, blacks lost their homes at twice the rate of any other race, and today, they have toughest time getting a mortgage. In 2015, the black unemployment rate was 9.2%, more than twice the unemployment rates for whites, at 4.4%. And even though it is not always the case that blacks are the most killed or the worst treated race in our society, that doesn't mean they should therefore be thankful that things are not worse.

Simply put, it is a dying man's plea to the man whose hands have been clenched around his throat, that his life matters to him, even when it so clearly doesn't seem to matter to anyone else.

When a white person like Brock Turner is caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and given only 6 months in prison, or when a rich white kid only gets a two year jail sentence for killing 4 people in a drunk driving accident - because he was brought up in such wealth and luxury that he now suffers from "affluenza" - while non whites are more likely to be jailed and receive longer prison sentences than their white counterparts who have been convicted of the same crimes, as well as being victimized by police brutality far more often than whites, it's impossible for even an eighth grade child to look at this country and conclude that a black life matters as much as a white life.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

America: Borne in Blood

If the Abolitionist Movement of  the1800s and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had been subjected to the same kind of political spin doctoring as BLM, slavery would never have been abolished and black people in America would still be fighting to sit in the same trains, at the same lunch counters, and even on the same toilets, as white people today. Instead, political spin doctors are working everywhere in the name of "patriotism" to accomplish through social media what COINTELPRO failed to accomplish through subterfuge, by subverting all those who seek equality by accusing them of using the color of their skin to seek a special status.

Doing so is like calling Martin Luther King a terrorist, Muhammad Ali a communist, and Rosa Parks an anarchist. But worst of all, it is to judge a movement not by the content of its claims, but by something as superficial as a name. And in so doing, demand that those we treat as separate necessarily see everyone as equal, even though Brown vs Broad of Education established that separate is always unequal. Indeed, only in a Orwellian world can we believe that a cry for equality is simply the complaint of those who think they should be treated better than everyone else. (And by so believing, dupe ourselves into believing that those who see the rest of us as inferior, will treat us as their equals as well.)Or as some have already put it, it is to "make America great again" by making us hate each other, more than we ever have before.

Thanks to people like Edward Bernays, the father of modern political spin doctors everywhere, the power of the video lens to narrow our vision is not limited to just our sense of sight, but far more so, our sense of perspective. This is done more by what we are not told than by what we are; by limiting not only the range of ideas discussed in any interview or debate, but by carefully selecting the debaters and the people being interviewed. That’s why a country so divided on every issue, including race, can so unanimously agree that Hilary Clinton may be just as bad for America as Donald Trump. It’s also why we tend to see people like Larry Elder discussing “racism in America,” instead of Tim Wise.

By limiting the conversation about the shootings of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile to simply questions related to police brutality, we deliberately exclude any discussion of the broader context and deeper issues related to racism in America. By doing so, political opportunists are able to rely on “straw man” arguments to attack cartoon caricatures of BLM. Like Leland Gaunt from Stephen King’s book, Needful Things – the impish antique shop owner who masterfully manipulated people’s fear and hate by giving them exactly what they wanted - such opportunists exploit the politically charged issue of race in America with about as much objective balance as Mein Kampf; and for the same reasons as  Leland Gaunt. 

This masterful manipulation of mass perception is why so many people saw the election of Barack Obama as the beginning of a new chapter for race relations in America. But with the disproportionate number of black people who are thrown into prisons for mostly non-violent offenses every year, even though studies show that whites tend to use hard drugs more than blacks, the ‘new chapter’ is simply a new spin on an old story. Such manipulation is accomplished by presenting discussions that appear to cover the whole range of issues related to race, while only ever actually discussing a very narrow range of such issues.

 Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the audience is directed to focus only on what is being discussed, and not on the much larger universe of things that are all directly related to the issue, but are deliberately being ignored. And in this way, the complex reality of race and racism in America is whitewashed with simple accusatory conversation, buttressed with statistics and carefully picked examples, and the hard work of sharing responsibility and improving our lot is replaced with the easier and far more righteous exercise of assigning blame. And as a result, things only ever go from bad to worse. 

In this way, use of “the noble lie” and the “necessary illusion”- as Plato and Reinhold Niebuhr put it respectively – allows “the man behind the curtain” (or in this case, the camera) to shape public opinion by focusing our attention only on what he wants us to see. And like a wizard, he seduces us with the apple of a story that conforms exactly to the very fears we have harbored all along; much to his benefit, even if it’s to the detriment of everyone else. And it is.

But in the words of a Kenyon, Minnesota police chief, who admonished his officers with advice for us all, "if we give into fear, violence, propaganda, etc. we will not be part of the solution." In fact, the very disintegration of society along racial fault lines that we are experiencing in America today is exactly what Charles Manson was trying to start in 1969, by brutally murdering  the Tates and LiBiancas and then writing the word "PIG" on the wall, with their blood.

Indeed, that is not the kind of "family" that any of us should want to be a part of. After all, such megalomania is always the impetus of anyone who is simply trying to build their career and make a name for them self, by preaching the gospel of blame.

Religion is a disease masquerading as it’s own cure.