Jailed For Being Broke

Jailed For Being Broke

Matt Taibbi writes another article that documents how the criminal justice system is tilted against the less fortunate.  I will continue to recommend his book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

More Shocking News On Ferguson

More Shocking News On Ferguson

More shocking news is coming out of the DOJ report on Ferguson.   Until we as a country can address the fact that rich white bankers who rob millions often get off with no jail time, while innocent people of color are often harassed by police on a daily basis, we must realize that we live in an unjust society.   We can do better! 

The Good Within Reach

I was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals last night and there is a scene right after Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.  Even though it was obviously a controversial measure at the time, a lot of the people in Washington had a joyous celebration that evening.  I remember feeling really happy recently when the news came on and it said that we were establishing a diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  A little door, once closed, now opened a sliver, with the possibility that there might just be a little more understanding between two countries.  I remember feeling happy when Obama was elected for the first time, or when Obama himself put an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Not because I was under any illusions that racism or bigotry had been destroyed, or that it was game over for injustice, or that white straight people like me should pat ourselves on the back.  It was because, whatever you think of the outcome of Obama’s Presidency, the world had become slightly more tolerant and inclusive, even if reality was and remains more complicated.  These were still pluses for civilization.

I keep being amazed by this new Pope.  Instead of spending most of the time focusing on petty internal religious doctrine, like his predecessors often did, he seems to be trying to make the world a more equal, tolerant, and just place.  Although I’m not Catholic and will never join a church of any kind, I find what he is doing to be appealing.

There is a quote that is supposedly by Lincoln himself, where he says, “When I do good, I feel good.  When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”  Now in all honesty, I can’t figure out if Lincoln actually said that, or if it is one of those quotes that has just been attributed to him over time.  Especially with the internet these days it is hard to tell.  But no matter, anyway you cut it it is a great quote.  (Lincoln was known to be a skeptic for much of his life, even if his views did change slightly towards the end of his life.  That still does not mean that he said the above quote.)

I don’t understand why more people don’t get that actually doing right by other people can actually make you feel good as well.   It can actually lead to the happiness that is so often missing in our lives.  Who do you think feels better at the end of the day:  The person that helps a gay couple get married, or someone that spent all their political time and energy getting the tax rate down 1%?

Now there is a funny line.  I’m not talking about feeling self-satisfaction for the kind of thing people should be doing anyway.  Like just because you decided to not be a racist, doesn’t mean you should get some reward.  I mean more the kind of pride and happiness one feels from doing a good job.  Like you can either go into a job and schlep your way through it, not hurting anyone, but not really helping anyone.  Or you can do the best that you can do and take some kind of pride in your work.  You don’t feel pride because you showed up one day and worked harder than normal.  I’m talking about a pride that comes from continuous effort to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstances.

You would think that more people would get addicted to kindness, would take pride in seeing the world become a better place, would feel happy about progress even if they themselves didn’t play any roll in it. Yet, I am never surprised when I see some kind of barbarous cruelty on TV.  Meanwhile when I saw the news about Cuba, I was not only happy, but I was flat out surprised.  Why are we so often incapable of seeing the good that is possible, that is just around the corner, within reach?

A Level of Racist Violence That I Have Never Seen


The above link is an interview with Robert D.G. Kelly, a professor at U.C.L.A. after he took a trip to Palestine.  Kelly, who is an African American, says that he saw there, “A level of racist violence that I have never seen.”  I have been talking lately about he Israeli/Palestinian situation, and if you are curious about the injustice going on there, this article is a must read.  However, more than just documenting injustice, this article is interesting on many fronts.  There is a wealth of ideas and information contained in it.  

Israel is Not My Birthright

Israel is not my birthright http://www.salon.com/2014/07/26/israel_is_not_my_birthright/ via @Salon

A great article by a Jewish writer on the Israel/Palestine situation.  When you criticize Israel you are not being anti-semitic; You are criticizing a foreign country and their political position.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

The Immorality of Our Israeli Position



The above article is about the suffering going on in Gaza, about Israel’s morally bankrupt policy there, and about how AiPAC has used its influence in America to paralyze us and prevent us from doing anything.  We give Israel $3 Billion dollars in direct foreign aid every year and another $12-17 billion in indirect aid.  If you remember I also posted a link to a blog sometime back, from Andrew Sullivan, which talked about how 23 Palestinians die for every one Israeli.  There is outrageous injustice going on in that part of the world and we are helping to fund it.

Crimes of the New Dystopia

Dear god, all day long I’ve been reading the Matt Taibbi book I’ve been talking about, The Divide, and it is fucking depressing.  It’s also essential reading if you want to understand what you know, but just can’t piece together in a coherent argument.  Here is one of the many, many passages that will stick with me:

In the Orwellian dystopia the original sin was thoughtcrime, but in our new corporate dystopia the secret inner crime is need, particularly financial need.  People in America hide financial need like they hide sexual perversions. 

Why?  Because there’s a direct correlation between need and rights.  The more you need, the more you owe, the fewer rights you have. 

Conversely, the less you need, the more you have, the more of a free citizen you get to be.  On the extreme ends of this spectrum it is literally a crime to be poor, while a person with enough money literally cannot be prosecuted for certain kinds of crimes. 

What keeps the poor poor and rushes the money upward is the complexity of the bureaucracy.  If you’re the wrong kind of person and you get caught up in the criminal justice system, or stuck in the welfare bureaucracy, or mired in debt, you can’t get out without navigating a maze so complex and dispiriting and irrational that it can’t possibly even be mapped.  It’s not brains that you need to get through it, but time, energy, strength.  You have to stand on line after line, send letter after letter, make call after call. 

And if you want to change even the smallest law, in your home state or in Washington, you need an army of thousands of lobbyists to get it done.  And even in the rare case that you succeed, you then need to commit to ten years or more furiously boring legal battles and inane bureaucratic rule-writing sessions and fend off tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of dissenting reports and comment letters and policy papers, all developed mechanically by an industry that responds not by human decision, but bureaucratic reflex. 

On the other side of the coin, the secret to conquering the financial bureaucracy isn’t savvy business sense, or the ability to spot a good entrepreneurial idea.  Instead, it’s pure bureaucratic force, the ability to throw a hundred lawyers at every problem, to file a thousand motions and never get tired, to file ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million lawsuits. 

In other words, you need to be a bureaucracy in order to survive one.  This is the overwhelming narrative of modern American economics, that the individual, particularly the individual without a lot of money, is inherently overmatched.  He’s a loser.  And if he falls into any part of the machine, he goes straight to the bottom.

This is obviously a small passage of a much larger narrative that Taibbi tells through stories and statistics.  A must read if you want to understand what is going on.  Also, before you think of this as some leftist screed, Taibbi holds back no venom for policies enacted under Clinton and Obama.  All presidents of modern times in one way or another have helped this reality along the way.  Our current economic system would be a joke if it was the least bit funny.