Explanations and Thoughts On Baltimore Riots

Orioles COO Offers Perspective On Riots

Above John Angelos, COO of the Baltimore Orioles, and song of the team owner, offers an explanation for the Baltimore riots.  It is worth reading.  Key part:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

Nonviolence as Compliance is what Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in The Atlantic.  Coates is from Baltimore.  HIs article is also really worth reading.  A sample:

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

I used to live in the North East.  I remember driving to a gig in Baltimore one time through a neighborhood that looked like a bombed out Baghdad.  Many of you that have never seen such a place wouldn’t believe it was in the U.S.  I personally have no understanding of what it would mean to live in such an oppressive place day after day.  The fact that we allow whole sections of our citizenry live in such places is shameful.  The fact that those citizens are constantly the targets of state violence is obscene.

Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial

Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial

The above link is to an Atlantic story that talks about how the social safety net actually increases the chances of taking the risk of being an entrepreneur.  The evidence presented in the article seems to back this idea up.  It personally seems like common sense to me.  A safety net is not meant to provide someone with a comfortable middle class existence.  It merely allows for survival in the face of economic hardship.  If one knows they can take a risk starting their own business without facing abject poverty, it seems to me they would be more willing to take that risk.

Plane Crash Not Necessarily the News

I just checked out Huffington Post to see the latest news.  I think if anything Huffington Post is a good place just to check headlines as it is comprehensive, even if many of the articles themselves are not worth reading.  The front page headline is about the European plane crash.  150 people died.  While this is tragic and horrifying, and definitely sensational, one must keep in mind that 457 people have been killed in just the state of Texas on the highway this year.  Maybe this is news, but it is not front page, top of the page news.  If it is news, and I mean this in no way disrespectfully of those who might have lost loved ones in the crash, it is something that should be acknowledged for a brief amount of time and moved on from.  I wish this accident hadn’t happened at all, but since it did, that it was the worst thing that we had to deal with.  However, given the conflicts that are taking place around the globe, the environmental calamities that are threatening us, and the fact that so many people still exist in a constant state of poverty, let alone many other tragedies that are happening all around us on a regular basis, this is distorting our perception of the world.

A Gaping Hole in the Safety Net

A Gaping Hole In the Safety Net

A New York Times article about how our safety net often leaves out those that are most in need of it.  Kurt Vonnegut always used to use the line from A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  I would personally like to change it slightly to, “I have always depended on the kindness of others.”  I know that there are times when I would not have made it if not for the kindness of my family and friends.  The only difference between myself and those I see on street corners sometimes, is that I had people that cared about me, that were in a position to help me when times got tough, and those poor souls didn’t.  I believe most people, if they looked at their lives realistically, would say the same thing.  If it wasn’t for their parents, their friends, a teacher that took an interest in them, whatever, who knows where they might be.  Part of the reason to have a safety net is to extend a helping hand to those that don’t have anyone to fall back on.  Whenever I see an article like this in a nation of such wealth, I find myself disgusted.  We can do better.

Over Half of U.S. School Kids Live in Poverty

Over Half of U.S. School Kids Live In Poverty

I just saw the above article over at Huffpo.  My senses were shocked, but I am not surprised.  Please remember that this is not because we are lacking sufficient wealth.  This is because we have allowed income disparity to reach ridiculous levels.  We also prioritize so many of the wrong things, like military might that far exceeds any sense of reality.  How can we let some people live like feudal lords, while so many children live in poverty?  It makes no sense.  It lacks all common decency.  I remember on the Daily Show when, in one of the bits, they mentioned that income inequality was higher here, between white and black people at least, than it was in Apartheid South Africa.  That is why for the rest of my life, and even if I was to die and be reincarnated several times over, I could never support the GOP.  I’m not saying Democrats don’t have their own issues, but the GOP seems to carry on as if this is not a part of an ever present reality for so many Americans.  It’s a flag, not a blindfold.

Poor People Should Have Things They Enjoy Too

One of my pet peeves is when people complain about poor people buying things they don’t need.  Now this is a different argument from someone buying an item in place of not feeding their kids or something.  It is amoral not to feed your kids no matter how much money you make, as long as you actually have even that much money and aren’t starving.  I am talking about when you see a commenter on TV complaining that we don’t need a safety net in our society because a couple people in the lower economic bracket have a decent TV.

Because someone is struggling, should they be stripped of what small earthly pleasures they do have?  Don’t get me wrong, I find a good deal of what is on TV to be garbage, especially the news. But it is not for me to say what another person should be enjoying, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.  If someone is working a shitty soul crushing job, is a TV or whatever else gives them a couple hours of escapism from the daily grind too much to ask?

What if someone is unemployed, but has a TV or some other item for pleasure?  I can assure you that most people that are on unemployment would rather have some kind of work that brings them a sense of purpose and more money than unemployment does.  And even if not, so what?  Minimum wage jobs in this country don’t pay a living wage, and I am willing to bet the house that nearly all of them are complete soul destroyers.   So you are willing to tell people to go break their backs, still not be able to pay their bills, and when they get home, no pleasure for them?!!!

I was recently in Australia.   Minimum wage there was 17 dollars an hour.  You could actually live on that.  Even if you had to stock shelves all day at least you can provide.

Because here is the other side of this story.  In Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, he talks about how you can’t have poor people going to jail for minor offenses,  while rich people get off for robbing millions while working at Wall Street.  You can have one or the other,  but you can’t have both.  To have both creates a dystopia.

Google extravagant purchases by rich people.   You will find all kinds of ridiculous purchases that are unjustifiable when so many people are struggling.  I just read that Nicholas Cage paid 250,000 dollars for a dinosaur skull!  He deserves that, but someone on welfare doesn’t deserve even a TV?  Someone that works for Walmart stocking shelves should suck it up and sell their TV if they can’t pay their heating bill, while a CEO buys a yacht?  This makes no sense.

You only get one life.  I don’t believe everything could or should be equal.  However, inequality has gotten so far out of whack that it has crossed the border into the realm of the absurd.  Should everyone not get some kind of small pleasure in this world?

I have been lucky.  Through sheer luck I have gotten to travel all over the world.  Yet, I know that some people can’t even afford a car, or even a bus pass.  My point is not to stop others from traveling, or even from buying a mansion or a yacht.  It is just that we should have a system that allows even the worst off amongst us to be able to have some bare minimum level of enjoyment in this life.  It is the only one they are ever going to have.  Good societies have a safety net that allows people to only fall so far.  It doesn’t make everyone equal. It only tells everyone that their life is important, that they have a stake in the game.  Hard work will be rewarded, but if you start out life behind, or ill fortune befalls you, the rest of us are not going to let you slide into oblivion if there is anything we can do about it.

Cornel West On Obama

Cornel West: “The state of Black America in the age of Obama has been one of desperation, confusion and capitulation” http://www.salon.com/2014/10/05/cornel_west_the_state_of_black_america_in_the_age_of_obama_has_been_one_of_desperation_confusion_and_capitulation/

Salon has been pretty terrible lately.  It has slowly been turning into a Huffington Post that seems designed to generate as many clicks as possible through ridiculous headlines.  It might soon be time to delete this app on my phone as well.  But, for the time being, there are still some really great articles there.  I found this criticism of President Obama, by Cornel West, from a leftwing perspective, interesting.  I think criticism of leaders is important, even if you support them over the opposition.  If you understand how politics work, then you know that the people often lead the leaders towards making changes.