The man on the right is Earl Sampson, a 28-year-old employee of the 207 Quickstop on 207th Street in the suburban city of Miami Gardens, Florida. There's not much remarkable about Earl - except if you ask him how many times he's been stopped and questioned by the city's police department. The answer? 258 times in four years - or at least once a week. He's gone through 100 pat-downs and was arrested and jailed 56 times.
Earl Sampson's depressing familiarity with local law enforcement isn't due to his supposed innate criminal nature - possession of marijuana is the only serious charge he's ever faced. A close look at his rap sheet reveals the answer: trespassing - 62 instances of it, nearly all of them at the 207 Quickstop. So how does a guy get yanked up on trespassing charges on a weekly basis at the very place he's supposed to be?
The guy on the right might have a few answers. He's Alex Saleh, the 36-year-old owner of the 207 Quickstop. Three years ago, Saleh signed up with the Miami Gardens Police Department for a "zero-tolerance" program to help combat crime. Back then, the city's violent crime and property crime rates were 77.64 percent and 38.05 percent higher than the state's overall respective rates. In response, the police wanted to apply a bit of the "broken windows" theory Rudy Giuliani used to powerwash New York City, so it seemed like a good idea at the time to sign up.
What Saleh didn't expect was three years of seeing his black customers harassed, harangued and arrested by Miami Gardens police for the most minor of infractions. According to the Miami Herald:
Miami Gardens police officers, he said, began stopping his patrons regularly, citing them for minor infractions such as trespassing, or having an open container of alcohol. The officers, he said, would then pat them down or stick their hands in citizens’ pockets. But what bothered Saleh the most was the emboldened behavior of the officers who came into his store unannounced, searched his store without his permission and then hauled his employees away in the middle of their shifts. He finally told them he no longer wanted to participate in the program and removed the sign.
The officers, however, continued their surveillance of his store over his objections. The officers even put the sign back on his store against his wishes, he said.
This is chilling.
In June 2012, Saleh installed 15 surveillance cameras in and around his store. Not to safeguard his store from robbers, but to safeguard his customers from the behavior and actions of police:
The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.
“There is just no justifying this kind of behavior,’’ said Chuck Drago, a former police officer and consultant on police policy and the use of force. “Nobody can justify overstepping the constitution to fight crime.”
Saleh finally had enough and is now making preparations to file a civil rights suit against the police department. However, doing that has likely made him an even bigger target for police harassment:
Since Saleh has served notice that he is going to sue the city, Sampson hasn’t been arrested, and police are not as active in the store’s parking lot.
But Saleh is mindful of his David vs. Goliath battle with the city’s police department. He worries about his safety, and carries a licensed firearm.
In December, Saleh was followed out of his parking lot by a Miami Gardens police officer, who stopped him after a few blocks. The officer, Carlos Velez, said he stopped Saleh because his tag light was out.
Two other squad cars arrived at the scene, bringing the total number of officers on the scene to six. A police dashboard camera captured it all.
“I thought, you know, there is a lot of serious crime in Miami Gardens,’’ Saleh said. “Why do they need six police officers on a car stop with a burned-out tag light?’’
Another officer, Eddo Trimino, approached Saleh’s passenger side, opened the door and removed a gun that was in a bag containing the store’s money, Saleh said. They ran a check on the gun, which Saleh was licensed to carry.
They cited him for having a bad tag light, tinted windows and bald tires.
Before leaving, the unit’s then-sergeant, Martin Santiago, allegedly told Saleh:
“I’m going to get you mother-f-----,’’
The next day, Saleh viewed video of his truck as it pulled out of the parking lot the night before.
His tag light was working.
If they weren't wearing badges, we'd call them mobsters. But even the mafia would blanch at this sort of behavior.
According to the CATO Institute's National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, there have been 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct that involved 6,613 sworn law enforcement officers and 6,826 alleged victims, based on information gathered for the 2010 calender year.
Seeing instances of police misconduct for yourself is piss easy thanks to the proliferation of cameras, from cell phone cameras to dash cams and body cams a la GoPro and the like. The footage from most encounters often ends up on LiveLeak, YouTube and other popular video sites. Law enforcement officials often argue that such footage is illegal to take. Time and again, the courts have ruled otherwise, although you might end up getting cuffed and booked if an officer doesn't want his face or actions on video.
For the average black American in most major cities, seeing instances of police misconduct is as easy as stepping out of the front door.
Stories like Earl Sampson's and those like him hint towards an even bigger problem lurking under the surface, one that's institutional in nature and thoroughly embedded within the nation's bedrock. It has a lot to do with the relatively unchecked powers of law enforcement and the implication that those powers can be exercised on undesirable groups with as much vigor as possible in the name of safety and crime prevention. It also speaks to the ongoing evolution of the police department into a paramilitary force largely concerned with revenue generation, politics and protection of those well-to-do or those closely linked to law enforcement.
“Plainly there was more to American race slavery that white masters brutalizing resentful Negroes,” Derbyshire writes. “Slavery is more irksome to some than to others; and freedom can be irksome, too.”
The above comes courtesy of John Derbyshire. Previously, yours truly covered the former National Review columnist's "remix" of The Talk, giving sensible white Americans everywhere 15 easy-to-follow steps to indulge in their fear and avoidance of the dreaded Negro.
Derbyshire's latest beef involves the new movie 12 Years a Slave. He hasn't seen the movie yet, by his own admission, but he's still a bit upset over what he sees as "abolitionist porn." Derbyshire's VDARE column also puts a positive PR spin on the peculiar institution, noting how slaves were simply "happier" during their time of bondage and servitude:
Life expectancy? After crunching the numbers:
U.S. slaves had much longer life expectations than free urban industrial workers in both the United States and Europe.
We’re talking about a period, remember, when life was very wretched for a great many free men: the period of Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, and of Hugo’s Les Misérables.
According to Derbyshire, the average Negro of the period should thank his lucky stars he was bound and chained, otherwise he'd have to live a short, brutish Dickensian life like other free men.
But this is where Derbyshire's column jumps off the rails, over a shark and into the pseudo-intellectual abyss:
Take the matter of what Scarlett O’Hara referred to as “slave concubinage.” Where did all those mulattoes come from, if not from plantation owners and white overseers having their way with helpless Negro slave women?
Genovese quotes Mary Chesnut’s diaries on this topic:
Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds.
Northerners who visited the South came to similar conclusions.
Fogel and Engerman, however, go to the numbers:
It is not the eyesight of these travelers to the South which is questionable, but their statistical sense. For mulattoes were not distributed evenly through the Negro population. They were concentrated in the cities and especially among freedmen . . . The share of Negro children fathered by whites on slave plantations probably averaged between 1 and 2 percent.
Plantation records and diaries show that overseers were sternly warned against fraternizing with slave women, and were generally dismissed if they did so, as their adventures “could undermine the discipline that planters so assiduously strove to attain.”
Venturing into very seriously un-PC territory, Fogel and Engerman argue that Southern white men anyway did not desire black women, an aversion the authors put down to “racism.” They support this with some data from Nashville:
The 1860 census showed that just 4.3 percent of the prostitutes in that city were Negroes, although a fifth of the population of Nashville was Negro. Moreover, all of the Negro prostitutes were free and light-skinned . . . White men who desired illicit sex had a strong preference for white women.
Again, the authors are on their way here to a refutation of the stereotype of black promiscuity. Fogel and Engerman really meant well.
It has done them no good, of course: their fascinating book is down there with The Bell Curve in liberal esteem. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
Here, Derbyshire makes great pains to diminish the mulatto phenomenon, often times living and breathing proof of one-sided master/slave sexual relations, as evinced in the following instance:
The following passages sketch the nature of the master-slave relations, and their consequences:
"Maria was a thirteen-year-old house servant. One day, receiving no response to her call, the mistress began searching the house for her. Finally, she opened the parlor door, and there was the child with her master. The master ran out of the room, mounted his horse and rode off to escape, 'though well he knew that [his wife's] full fury would fall upon the young head of his victim.' The mistress beat the child and locked her up in a smokehouse. For two weeks the girl was constantly whipped. Some of the elderly servants attempted to plead with the mistress on Maria's behalf, and even hinted that 'it was mass'r that was to blame.' The mistress's reply was typical: 'She'll know better in the future. After I've done with her, she'll never do the like again, through ignorance'" (Stanley Felstein, Once a Slave: The Slaves' View of Slavery, p.132).
Here, the mistress was able to take out her aggressions on the girl rather than the guilty master. I suppose we could empathize with the frustration and betrayal these wives felt, but the outlet of their aggressions often became the slave girl. Women in the south were quite powerless. Because the option of divorce was not readily available, the mistresses often times punished the slave women for their husbands' wrong-doings.
Or in this particular instance:
"Louisa Picquet had even less choice. Interviewed after she was set free, she recalled: Mr. Williams told me what he bought me for soon as we started for New Orleans. He said if I behave myself he'd treat me well; but, if not, he'd whip me almost to death. He was over forty; I guess pretty near fifty.
Q. Had you any children while in New Orleans?
A. Yes; I had four
Q. Who was their father?
A. Mr. Williams.
Q. Was it known that he was living with you?
A. Everybody knew I was housekeeper, but he never let on that he was the father of my children. I did all the work in his house(...)nobody there but me and the children. When he had company, gentlemen folks, he took them to the hotel.
When Mr. Williams told me what he bought me for I thought, now I shall be committin' adultery, and there's no chance for me, and I'll have to die and be lost. I had this trouble with my soul the whole time. I begin to pray that he might die, so that I might get religion. It was some time before he got sick, He said that if I would promise him that I would go to New York, he would leave me and the children free. In about a month, he died. I didn't cry or nothin', for I was glad he was dead. I was left free, and that made me so glad I could hardly believe it myself" (Dorothy Sterling, ed., We are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century, p. 24)
It wasn't uncommon for slaveowners to take "liberties" with some of their attractive chattel, whether their bound charges wanted to or not. And it's not surprising to see Derbyshire make a book noted for its liberal helpings of slavery apologia as one of his go-to references for this particular piece. For a bit of supplemental reading, he should crack open the pages of Herman G. Gutman's precision-guided dismantling of Fogel and Engerman's work.
John Derbyshire's hand-waving of slavery in a greater effort to dismiss a movie he hasn't even bothered to see would be hilarious - if such dismissals weren't already so commonplace in mainstream society. As Bob Cesca notes, he would have made the perfect "noble" slaveowner - one who only and "reluctantly corrects" his slaves, most of whom would have appreciated the (barely) dry lodgings, square meals (from scraps) and the structured activity and lifestyle that being enslaved affords.
Remember, this is the same man who believes that white supremacy is one of history's "better arrangements." Little wonder the man was unceremoniously jettisoned from the National Review, itself a decidedly conservative publication.
The cherry on his stacked shit sundae comes in the form of a comparo of slavery to, of all things, communist China:
People are born, raised, educated, and find themselves in a certain kind of society to which those around them are all accustomed. American slave society was a way of life; a settled way that most people took for granted, as most people will anywhere.
There were aspects of life resembling slavery in the communist China where I lived, 1982-3. People had no liberty to find their own employment. You were “assigned” to a “unit.” If unhappy there, it was a devil of a job to get re-assigned.
Families broken up? One of my Chinese colleagues lived alone because his wife was “assigned” to a distant province. He only saw her once a year.
The guy drank a lot.
Yet while there was much grumbling, and some scattered seething rebelliousness, most Chinese got along with the system. A lot of people were very happy with it. You didn’t have to think much, or take much responsibility. And that suits many of us just fine.
At this point, I think I need a stiff drink.
Today's the day set aside by the nation to commemorate and honor those who've served in our armed forces, many with distinction and valor.
In the midst of honoring our veterans, we should also reflect on the decisions made by our military and political leaders - decisions that have not only had broad consequences, but are also likely to reverberate for years to come.
We should also reflect on how we treat our veterans, many whom are often neglected and forgotten. Many of our veterans find it supremely difficult to get the help and care they need. This is where countless organizations, such as the one represented in the video below, attempt to step in to offer that help.
Health insurance. It's something you might not think you need, until you need it. Then you wish you had it. Or perhaps you want it but simply can't afford it. Either way, it's a critical necessity, despite what many people think to the contrary.
Confused over the ongoing fight over Obamacare? What to know exactly what the hell's going on and how it could possibly affect you? Then take a seat and read on as yours truly attempts to hash out an explanation. Keep in mind this explanation is rather simple and to the point, so there might be a few technical things and other nuances that got thrown out of the boat:
To better understand Obamacare and people's reactions to it across the political spectrum, it's important to understand how health insurance in works, not just in general, but in this country and elsewhere.
How the hell does this health insurance stuff work?
Health insurance is essentially a large group of recipients paying into a pool of money. When a recipient needs medical care, whether it's preventative care (monthly checkups, etc.) or emergency care, money is taken from the pool to pay for their expenses. Since health insurance works on the principle of there being more healthy people than sick, there's always a relatively large pool of money to tap into.
What's up with insurance companies and their coverages and why does the shit cost so much?
The vast majority of people in the United States rely on private health insurance providers. Here, most folks pay either a (steep) monthly or annual premium out of their own wallets or have a portion of their paycheck deducted to pay for a healthcare plan shared with their coworkers. As a result, there are thousands of different pools that people pay into for their coverage, some more expensive than others, all of them with their own rules and guidelines.
Private health insurance providers also have plenty of leeway regarding who gets to dip into the pool and who doesn't. On the face of it, you can't blame them - thousands of scattered insurance pools are more vulnerable to getting syphoned dry by people with a boatload of health risk factors. That means smokers, the morbidly obese, diabetics and others with a slew of health problems are either told to pay ridiculous amounts of money or get tossed out of the pool. Got a preexisting condition? Good luck. Insurance companies also have their profits to think of. These profits usually average around three percent, but that's been bumped up to around eight percent as of late, accompanied by rising premiums. Ordinary Joes and Janes who are the perfect image of health are forced to pay much more than they should, just to cover both profit margins and the folks who need to dip into the money pool.
And that dip's a relatively deep one, too. Thanks to the high cost of health insurance, approximately 48 million Americans, many of whom are on the wrong side of the poverty line, simply go without. That means they go without preventative care unless they're lucky enough to either pay for it out of pocket or land a job that gives them some form of coverage. A lack of preventative care means that potential health issues go undetected, usually for years at a time. In the end, most people won't go to the hospital until the proverbial shit hits the fan and they need a trip to the emergency room. Emergency room care costs big bucks. So does surgery and treatment for issues that could have been nipped in the bud early on (like, say, cancer). At any rate, the overall cost of healthcare skyrockets.
My health insurance provider told me to go fuck myself with a rusty pipe when I got sick. What's up with that?
Of course, insurance companies absolutely hate paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover medical expenses, hence they'll find any excuse in the book (and a few that don't exist) to unceremoniously drop paying recipients if they dip too deep into the money pool too often. In fact, many companies have panels that review medical requests before signing off on them and those that don't meet their particular criteria are often denied. They'll also stiff hospitals on the bill, which is why they routinely charge insurance companies much more than necessary just in case they get shortchanged. The fight between hospitals, private insurers and their customers can easily be replicated by laying down in the middle of a pack of starving pitbulls with a bloody steak on your face.
Did you know that many private health insurance providers have a network of select hospitals their insured customers can only go to if they're to expect continuing coverage? Stray outside of that network and be prepared to take that second mortgage out on your soul.
So what's this single-payer shit I keep hearing about?
On the other hand, there's single-payer healthcare, commonly known as socialized or universal healthcare. With this type of coverage, there's one money pool (usually administered by a government agency) and every citizen in the country it's enacted in pays into that pool, usually through taxes or mandated fees. Except for the desperately poor, who are given a break and are still allowed to draw out of that pool. The all-inclusive nature of the single-payer system means that 1)there's only one huge pool to pay into and draw out of, therefore 2)there's always enough money in the pool to cover every paying recipient, plus those who aren't able to pay and 3)recipients wind up paying far less in premiums than they had to with private coverage.
Since it's the government footing the bill, hospitals and healthcare providers can rest easier knowing that they'll pay. And since it's the government's dime, the government itself can dictate exactly how much it's willing to pay said hospitals, thereby lowering overall costs.
In short, single-payer saves money. Instead of ignoring that stabbing, throbbing pain in the side for months until you get rushed to the emergency room for a $10k stay and a $100k emergency surgery, your single-payer coverage allows you to go to the doctor to see what that pain's all about. Thanks to that huge pool effectively subsidizing your doctor's visit, the $1k in preventative care costs you zero or damn near close to it.
Other, more respectable countries throughout the world have some form of universal health coverage, provided through public funding sourced from taxes and fees. Some countries combine their publicly funded healthcare with optional coverage from a private health insurer. Other countries leave their healthcare coverage up to these private companies, but strongly regulate how much they can charge and even provide significantly low-cost (or free) health insurance coverage. This is essentially the route that Obamacare's going (but more on that in a minute).
Wait...doesn't that sound an awful lot like Medicare/Medicaid?
It does, doesn't it? In fact, some would say that a single-payer system in America would just be Medicare for All.* As it stands, Medicare is strictly for those over age 65 or anyone with disabilities. Medicaid is for people who are too poor to purchase private coverage on their own - mainly families, women and children. Unfortunately, the eligibility requirements vary among each state. Each year, the federal government disburses a set amount of money to individual states for their Medicare and Medicaid programs. Some states are more generous with the proceeds than others.
Once upon a time, President Barack Obama foolishly attempted to bring single-payer healthcare to these United States. The measure was dragged behind the Capitol by conservative legislators and unceremoniously double-tapped in the head. The End.
Said legislators dressed the corpse in a new suit, took out the stuff they didn't really like (like the whole single-payer thing), slapped on a sticker reading "private insurance-friendly" and reintroduced it as the Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed and the president eventually signed in March 2010.
The simplest explanation of "Obamacare" (which is what opponents called it whenever they wanted to disparage it - the name kinda stuck after a while) is that it's a stop-gap between private insurance and single-payer insurance. In other words, all of the private healthcare providers are now part of a regulated "exchange" where they are obligated to insure each and every citizen, regardless of their condition, at something approaching relatively sane premiums.
At the same time, each and every citizen is obligated (hence the term "individual mandate) to sign up for health insurance, so they won't get tempted to sign up for a quick, free dip into the money pool just at the moment they get sick and subsequently screw other paying customers. Those who don't sign up by March 31, 2014 get hit with a penalty, starting at $95 or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever's greater.
So I lose $95/year if I don't sign up. Big whoop.
$95 or 1 percent of your taxable income. You make $70,000/year? That's $700 you have to pay. And it gets worse. By 2015, the penalty grows to $325 or 2 percent of your taxable income. The year after and subsequent years, its $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income.
But Mack! I don't even have a pot to piss in, let alone a window. How am I gonna pay for this shit?
You don't. At least if your income's below a certain threshold. In addition to the individual mandate, the Affordable Care Act also expands Medicaid coverage to include individuals age 19 to 65. That means those stuck below the federal poverty line can simply opt for Medicaid coverage. That is, if their state's playing ball.
States highlighted in red aren't feeling the Medicaid expansion love.
Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandated voluntary participation, 22 states have opted out or are leaning close to opting out of the federal government's Medicaid expansion through the ACA. That means if you make more than 100% of the federal poverty level, you can buy your health insurance coverage through the exchange for a significant discount. If not, you're left to the tender mercies of your state's income thresholds for Medicaid eligibility.
In the Great State of Alabama, the Medicaid income threshold for a family of three is $3,221. Per year. Make more than $3,221 but fall short of the $19,530 required to qualify for Obamacare? You're just about as screwed as the folks stuck in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole".
Speaking of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act also unfucks a lot of what was wrong with it. For starters, enrollees get more preventative services (e.g. mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without paying extra. Enrollees stuck in the $2,970- $4,750 drug cost "doughnut hole" also receive a 50-percent discount when they purchase Part D-covered brand-name prescription drugs at the counter.
So why do guys like Ted Cruz treat Obamacare like the spawn of Satan and Grace Jones?
Because Tea Party?
But seriously, that's a good question that can only be answered with yet another lengthy and well thought-out blog post.
*Ba boom tish!
Today marks week two of the ongoing government shutdown, brought to you by the House GOP's refusal to sign off on a congressional budget that included funding for the Affordable Care Act, a legislative act that was already passed and signed into law way back in 2010. For some reason, the idea of mandated private health insurance with subsidies for the poor (which itself was downgraded from a far-superior publicly funded single-payer system) sends most conservatives into epileptic seizures. So much so that it's resulted in a crisis that's only gonna get worse, by all indications.
Everyone has a stake in this shutdown. For the political parties, this whole ordeal can end one of two ways: if the Democrats blink, that means the Tea Party element of the GOP can cherry-tap their way towards favorable legislative action through constant hostage-taking. The Democrat party ends up getting its electoral chains snatched and reverts to being the perpetual weak sister of the two parties.* If the Republicans blink, it'll cause an already-burgeoning schism between the moderate and extremist ends of the GOP to fully break open. It won't kill the party, but it will be a deservedly swift kick in the electoral jewels. Oh, and John Boehner faces the possibility of having his position snatched from under him by a vengeful Tea Party.
For President Obama, the stakes are much higher. If he doesn't bend and the GOP refuses to bend, the shutdown keeps on trucking towards yet another fiscal cliff and the president's own image gets tarnished. There'll also be plenty of fuel for an impeachment hearing, if the GOP so desires (a far-gone conclusion). If he bends, the GOP gains victory, adds cherry-tapping to its repertoire of effective legislative strategies and the president's own image gets tarnished. That means the president somehow has to force the extremist and moderate sides of the Republican party to have their own "come to Jesus" moment and pass a clean continuing resolution, preferably before October 17 rolls around.
For the average Joe working for various government agencies, the consequences of maintaining a government shutdown hit home and hit hard. Example? The United States Antarctic Research Program is the latest casualty of the shutdown, which not only affects the livelihoods and aspirations of the 500 or so people stationed at McMurdo, but also the integrity of various other international Antarctic programs that rely on the U.S. for various logistics and support. Meanwhile, NASA's down for the count, along with the Congressional Budget Office and countless other federal agencies. If things keep up beyond October 17, there's no guarantee of whether people will continue receiving their Social Security benefits.
For everyone else, it's a prime example of how a few actors within the government, led on by a large contingent of people who thinks that hamstringing the government's ability to function properly is the best way to make themselves and their agenda known. It's also an example of what happens when a small group of people with the government's worst interests in mind are able to hijack a party and force it to do its bidding or face total destruction.
Or when a party attempts to use a bunch of rabid extremists as its enforcer wing to effect legislative changes without getting their hair mussed.
Or perhaps when a party gerrymanders the living daylights out of its districts to hold on to as many seats and as much power as possible, only to watch that power slip into the hands of ideological fundamentalists with a hankering for a threadbare federal government and a possible subconscious desire to revive the concept of "state's rights," all with the relative consent of their constituents, most of whom regard "Obamacare" and other federal programs as a giveaway for blacks, illegals and the undeserving poor.
Either way it goes, current events are clearly showing folks around the world how not to run a country, because this way just ain't cutting it.
*But at least the perpetual underdogs will still be welcome in every cocktail party in D.C.
The idea of people demonstrating deference and piety towards their social, moral and financial betters is a universal one, but nowhere in America is that idea more prevalent than in the Deep South. This idea shows itself prominently when it comes to the issue of labor unionization, as all of the southern states are "right to work" and unions have a negligible, if not nonexistent presence.
For instance, the United Auto Workers have made several attempts to organize Volkswagen's Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, also has its eye on organizing a "works council" within the plant, as is the norm in VW's German facilities. But the prevailing attitude among most workers in this and other auto plants throughout the Deep South is one of not "messing up a good thing" by any attempts at unionization, regardless of if doing so will actually benefit them. It's the fear of seeing their jobs move further southward and the commonly-held view of unions as lazy, parasitic and overpaid louts that's kept unions a rare breed south of the Mason-Dixon. Most workers in the Deep South are also invested in the belief that if they do good by the company, the company will do good by them in return. In the age of Kochist corporate thought, company leaders are often bemused by the thought of acknowledging or returning such shows of corporate piety.
Truthdogg cracks open a window into this sort of thinking, how it relates to the current government shutdown and demonstrates how toxic it's become to the nation at large:
...the idea of the commonwealth, of something for all citizens, is as foreign to this region as the Russian language. Here, we look to our corporate leaders and wealthy families for table crumbs, for protection & entertainment, and for permission to act.
This flies in the face of our popular ideas of the smartass rebel, glorified by the Dukes of Hazzard and other tv shows and movies. But it makes sense once it’s understood that the smartass rebel is a marginal character here, much more likely to end his life as Cool Hand Luke than Bo Duke, muttering alone in his shack if not prison itself. As celebrated as the lawbreaking bootleggers still are, they exist outside the mainstream, with their romanticization from the ruling class little different than memories of childhood squirrel hunts and canned sardine lunches.
The mainstream is obedient, deferent and possesses a mixture of awe, gratitude and fear toward the fabulously wealthy that is painfully embarrassing to behold. Watch one of our Congressmen apologize to BP executives for the Katrina disaster if you want to scratch the surface of the worshipfulness that is expected here.
I know, I know. I’m describing something that exists all across the nation in many ways. This is certainly not limited to the South, just like racism is not, and I’m not someone who claims the South is full of more bad people than elsewhere.
But here, this idea of a fixed class permeates in ways that are more difficult to escape, with struggling workers admiring the charity of the Walton family, or arguing that development companies should be given free rein to foul their own water. Today they’re arguing that they don’t need health insurance, that they (I suppose) will just wither and die once it’s clear that the church bake sale can’t pay for their future lung cancer treatments, because they know that they’re lower class and don’t deserve anything more. Perhaps one of their libertarian heroes of finance will step in and personally intervene like God himself, but if they do not, His will is being done.
Passions flare over this in no small part because of race. A rigid class structure maintains the illusion of permanent white dominance, and masks the prevalent white working class fear of slipping to an even lower rung in society. Control is the most important issue for the whites I know who fear changes in racial status (or its loss) and the “tradition” of conservative subservience is the path for keeping it. The adoration of the financially successful reinforces it.
The rigid social structure of the long-lost yet seldom forgotten Confederacy provided plenty of benefits for the "right" folks. The ruling class were rewarded with a never-ending and self-replenishing flow of free labor, while the lower orders looked up to them with a mixture of awe, gratitude and fear. Working-class whites were just grateful for receiving whatever crumbs the ruling class deigned to brush aside in their general direction, all the while comforted with the assurance of always having it better than those coloreds, free and slave. No matter how far down the societal rung one slipped, at least your average Joe of the time knew he would always be a cut above a Negro.
Even after the death of the Confederacy, this mindset still reigned supreme throughout the southern states, intermixed with anger at the federal government for infringing on their way of living (except in cases where they benefited immensely). A large number of people were simply comfortable with the rigid social structure of old, as they knew exactly where they stood and what their assigned roles were. People often reacted to any attempts at bucking or demolishing the social structure with a vicious, inflamed passion. That explains why many people treat the idea of universal healthcare like a communist plot (at least until the hospital bills comes due).
It also goes a long way to explain much of the consternation over Barack Obama's presidential election:
The election of a highly-educated black president shattered it. In fact, as with Bill Clinton, his humble origins are the most distressing part of his biography here. If he were born into a wealthy black family, perhaps with a slaveholding ancestry, or even someone who slipped comfortably into a CEO role (like Herman Cain, subservient to the Koch brothers), President Obama’s election may have been easier to accept.
But he wasn’t like either of those things. Barack Obama leapt over many people in his ambitions, drive and focus, and argues for making his path easier to follow, as liberals tend to do. He’s an inspiring figure for anyone inclined to be inspired. He doesn’t claim that his success comes only from his work and ambition, even while that is clearly a major part of his story. But for those who rely upon inequality and fixed social classes in order to maintain the facade that they aren’t the poorest citizens of this country, his biography destroys everything they thought they knew about the world.
The GOP party goals of lower taxes and freer reign for the corporate class and landed gentry, greatly reduced federal social services, sacrosanct defense expenditures, free or greatly reduced-cost labor via public and private prisons and a landscape of districts gerrymandered just enough to insure a permanent Republican majority all echo a desire for a strong ruling class and a populace too enamored with the tradition of conservative subservience to bother with any sort of genuine progress - at least progress that doesn't directly benefit the ruling class.
There's also the never-ending drive to figuratively and legislatively lynch the first (and as conservatives hope, the last) president of color by cutting off as many of his policies off at the knees as possible. Perpetual gridlock, shutdowns and standstills are all a part of paralyzing government to which it'll have no capacity to make any serious legislative changes until a suitable GOP president is back in the Oval Office. That's something to think about as the House Republicans hold the nation hostage over the Affordable Care Act.
Below, VC3 of Cultured State explains why no one should expect the GOP's death based on the current government shutdown:
Speaking of false equivalency, that's something I haven't seen much of in the press in light of the shutdown. In most media outlets, the blame is squarely placed on the House GOP's shoulders. Call it a "false equivalency timeout," since if anyone who keeps claiming that both sides are to blame somehow will just look dumb.
Yesterday's government shutdown is the end result of what happens when one group of politicians play a game of chicken with a telephone pole. Things tend to get messy real quick and in this case, the engine of government was the first to go.
In the vigorous pursuit to defund what very well could be the stepping stones towards universal healthcare in the U.S., 30 caucus members representing the GOP's "tea party" faction in the House saw fit to double down on the rhetoric and attempt to push through a measure to delay and otherwise attempt to strangle the Affordable Care Act in its crib - something that the Senate predictably rejected.
Which brings us to where we are today, with national parks closed, most veterans services shut down and hundreds of thousands of government workers either furloughed or working without pay as essential employees. The Tea Party contingent are doing a remarkable job of showing the people that government does not work...by making sure it doesn't work.
At this point, you have to feel for House Speaker John Boehner. If he tells the Teabaggers to go forth and engage in a vigorous round of auto-fornication by passing a "clean" continuing resolution, he risks the likelihood of losing the remaining shreds of his authority and his seat to a more Teabagger-friendly Republican, most likely wannabe House Speaker and current Tea Party ringleader Ted Cruz. After all, he's demonstrated time and again that he's the one calling the shots.
If he decides to play to the baser instincts of the Teabaggers and maintain the congressional stalemate, the shutdown continues. Too bad neither the Senate nor the president has any intention of capitulating to GOP demands. That means piecemeal solutions like reopening parts of government here and there are out of the question. Either way it goes, the orange one comes out looking like a complete chump.
An increasing number of moderate Republicans now fear having their legislative asses handed to them by a beyond-pissed electorate, which explains why folks like Michael Grimm and 11 other House Republicans have indicated their support for a "clean" CR - one that's stripped of the poison-pill provision that hamstrings ACA funding. The longer this goes on, the worse the pain gets for the GOP in general.
Meanwhile, the American people have to put up with some of the inconveniences of a government gone fishing:
- All of America's national parks and monuments are now closed. So don't bother packing your bags for that trip to Yosemite National Park.
- Don't bother sending in your application for a small business loan or loan guarantee, either. The government's not taking those while the shutdown's in effect.
- If you're a veteran with questions about your benefits, good luck. No one's around to answer your questions.
- The National Institutes of Health is also shuttered for the duration of the shutdown, so no further research into life-threatening diseases will be conducted and ongoing clinical trials are closed to new patients.
- Government workers tasked with border patrol, food inspection and air traffic control will work through the shutdown sans pay. Hundreds of thousands of other non-essential govt. workers are now on furlough. Figuring out how to pay the house note is going to be a bitch, but at least they won't have to worry about their car notes.
- No more non-essential inspections of drinking water systems and chemical facilities by the EPA until further notice.
- Some services for seniors and young children may run out of money in the event of an extended shutdown.
- Even the president isn't immune to the effects of the shutdown. Teabaggers are no doubt pleased that he has to cut his Asia "vacation" short to tend to matters closer to home.
But it's not the shutdown that should have people worried. The debt ceiling deadline is just 15 days away and unless there's a bump in the $17.5 trillion debt limit, the ramifications could very well kick the legs out of the country's current attempts at economic recovery. Without a debt ceiling increase, the U.S. government loses its ability to borrow and defaults on some of its debts, which could set off a chain of events that could eventually lead to sky-high interest rates, frozen credit and investors backing away from U.S. currency and assets as quickly as possible.
Having the government lurch from crisis to manufactured crisis is precisely what the GOP quack doctors prescribed in the first place. A close look at the "Williamsburg Accord" lays out the current stratagem to reorient the national budget towards the general direction of the Ryan Plan, by any means necessary:
In January, demoralized House Republicans retreated to Williamsburg, Virginia, to plot out their legislative strategy for President Obama’s second term. Conservatives were angry that their leaders had been unable to stop the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on high incomes, and sought assurances from their leaders that no further compromises would be forthcoming. The agreement that followed, which Republicans called “The Williamsburg Accord,” received obsessive coverage in the conservative media but scant attention in the mainstream press. (The phrase “Williamsburg Accord” has appeared once in the Washington Post and not at all in the New York Times.) But the decision House Republicans made in January has set the party on the course it has followed since.
If you want to grasp why Republicans are careening toward a potential federal government shutdown, and possibly toward provoking a sovereign debt crisis after that, you need to understand that this is the inevitable product of a conscious party strategy. Just as Republicans responded to their 2008 defeat by moving farther right, they responded to the 2012 defeat by moving right yet again. Since they had begun from a position of total opposition to the entire Obama agenda, the newer rightward lurch took the form of trying to wrest concessions from Obama by provoking a series of crises.
Heritage Action for America's Michael Needham drove home the push for a "balanced budget" through an open letter to conservative congressmen:
In the coming months, you will face tremendous pressure to accept a deal to raise our nation’s debt ceiling. Conservatives around the country will insist the debt ceiling not be raised unless our nation gets on a path to a balanced budget within 10 years and stays balanced. This is not an arbitrary marker; rather, it is the marker laid out by the entire House Republican Conference in what has become known as the Williamsburg Accord.
Conservatives cannot enter into the debt ceiling debate without understanding the promise of the Williamsburg Accord.
On January 18, four current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee announced an agreement to re-sequence the 2013 fiscal fights. In exchange for holding the line on the sequester and producing a budget that balanced in ten years, conservatives agreed to postpone the debt ceiling debate for several months. In turn, the debate on the debt ceiling would revolve around enacting the policies that put the federal budget on the path to 10-year balance.
A few days later, Speaker Boehner declared, “It’s time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years.” He said it was the GOP’s “commitment to the American people.”
As the proverbial ink dried on the Williamsburg Accord, the House Republican Conference marched in unison. Lawmakers focused on laying the groundwork to enact the policies necessary to achieve a 10-year balance, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and attach them to any future increases in the debt ceiling.
At the same time, the National Republican Congressional Committee quietly poll-tested the message in key districts. Balancing the budget was a winning political argument in swing districts. The NRCC poll found that 45 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents and 76 percent of Republicans thought balancing the federal budget would “significantly increase economic growth and create millions of American jobs.”
Good policy is good politics, and we know from recent history a coherent, principled message on the debt ceiling can shift public opinion. Before landing on the Budget Control Act in August 2011, Republicans consistently said America had a spending problem and spending reductions must accompany any increase in the debt ceiling.
Not surprisingly, the accepted narrative of that showdown is wrong. Many forget Republicans were winning the generic congressional vote the entire month of July. President Obama’s disapproval rating stood at 52% by the end of August. In September, Mitt Romney was leading in head-to-head polling.
The path to balance is the path to victory.
Conservatives should not raise our nation’s statutory debt limit unless Congress passes and the President signs into law real reforms and immediate spending reductions that place America on a path to balance within 10 years without raising taxes and keeping the budget in balance.
Regardless of how many concessions the Democrats offer to conservatives, the GOP in its current state is bound to go with the Assad option and obliterate everything within reach, just because. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation's getting pretty sick of playing hostages to a bunch of legislative psychotics.
In lieu of a fleshed-out post on the impending shutdown, here's Bill Clinton recounting his own experience with government shutdowns and a few bits of advice for President Obama:
Clinton would not negotiate, he said. “The current price of stopping it is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and taking their medicine,” he said. “If they’re going to change the way the Constitution works and fundamentally alter the character of our country and damage the future of a lot of kids, you just have to say no.”
I thought about getting a gun.
Like many people, I thought about getting one for my own personal protection, especially in rough, crime-ridden areas where the onus to protect one's self becomes exceedingly great. I also thought about obtaining a concealed carry permit. It's something I've thought about doing for a while, now. Thing is, I've never had one before. As a youngun, my mother wouldn't even let me entertain the notion of playing with one of those toy cap guns. Considering how law enforcement officials tend to mistake cell phones and wallets for deadly firearms, it was probably for the best.
In my state, it's relatively easy - a simple exchange of funds (and a perfunctory background check for gun store sales) and a permit application that'll most likely be accepted without much hassle. However, I've always developed second thoughts about having a gun.
I started asking myself a few questions: "do you really need this? Can you handle the responsibility of having this around?" A purchase like this is nothing to take lightly...or perhaps I've just always talked myself out of going through with it at the last minute...
A gun is nothing to fuck around with. It's an instrument with one clearly defined purpose, leaving the user to decide whether to use it for protection of oneself or others, or to use it in malice. It's an easy instrument to use in anger, as tens of thousands of people currently incarcerated for firearms-related crimes could attest to. 8,583 Americans would attest to it, too, if they were alive to talk about it. It's also an easy instrument to use in despair. 19,392 Americans would attest to that fact had they managed to survive their suicide attempts with them.
One has to consider their own mental state of being when it comes to purchasing and keeping a firearm in the home or on one's person. One has to consider the well-being of others who could possibly come into contact with one, either by accident or otherwise. 1,300 Americans under the age of 25 would attest to the dangers of accidental gun discharges if they were still alive.
Last but not least, one has to be careful not to get sucked into the "cowboy/tough guy" image that comes with certain aspects of gun ownership. For some, having the ability to end someone's life in an instant is the ultimate rush and it's one that often leads them to adopt cavalier attitudes and to do stupid things and take idiotic risks that they otherwise wouldn't have taken had they not had instant death in the palm of their hands.
A gun comes with a healthy heaping of responsibility. For protection purposes, it should be treated as a means of the very last resort. Not as a tool of intimidation. Not as a trump card for dealing with otherwise trivial situations. Not as a cool accessory that makes you look tougher than you really are. A gun should not give you false courage. A gun demands a measure of respect for its abilities. Those who don't respect guns are often undone by them.
There are people who responsibly own and enjoy firearms for sport - hunting, target practice, etc. - that sort of thing. By far and large, they respect their firearms for what they're capable of and handle them accordingly. As it should be everywhere else, gun safety is paramount with these folks. Sadly, there are many people who don't share the same sort of beliefs or respect for firearms.
For now, I've put off buying that gun, especially in light of continuing gun violence from all corners.