Dear Senator Sanders: The Time for Universal Healthcare is Now.

I wrote and sent this to Bernie Sanders through the Contacts page on his official website. I encourage everyone who cares about Universal Healthcare for all to write to Bernie Sanders. Since Trumpcare failed and not likely to be resurrected any time soon. Now is an opening for Congress to draft the real alternative to Obamacare.

The link to his Contacts page is here: https://www.sanders.senate.gov/contact


Dear Senator Sanders:

Now that Trumpcare has failed spectacularly with no hope of it ever resurrecting itself, I implore you to introduce legislation which provides Medicare for all. The time is now. The time has come. There will be no time other than now where this legislation is the most necessary, most imperative when compared with other legislations. None.

Access to good healthcare is a universal human right. It should be freely given on demand, no questions asked. Lifesaving medications should be dispensed on demand, not after checking with the insurance company and collecting a copayment.

Families are choosing whether to put food on the table or visit the doctor or to fill that prescription, this is unacceptable. Senior citizens are choosing whether to eat or pay for their medication, this is disservice to them. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals for profit is an abomination. For publicly traded corporations to profit from the illnesses of their customers is an abomination. To put a price on a person’s health and deciding whether that person deserves to live or die based on how much money they have or don’t have is an abomination. People filing bankruptcies because they’ve had an unfortunate medical emergency and are uninsured and do not qualify for state Medicaid is an abomination. Young people crowdfunding on social media to pay for their medical costs should cause an outrage of biblical proportions.

Access to quality healthcare is an inalienable human right. It is a feminist issue, it is a child advocacy issue, it is a family advocacy issue, it is a senior citizen issue, it is a civil rights issue and it is a LGBTQ issue (this group receives some of the shoddiest medical care when they do get access to healthcare). It is lifesaving for the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Access to healthcare and medicines on demand is a non-negotiable inalienable human right. What use is all of our amazing medical innovations and advancements if the people that need it the most can’t get access to it. What good are medical breakthroughs if only the richest 5% can enjoy it?

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a step towards the direction of getting everyone covered under one form of insurance or other. If your employer doesn’t provide health benefits and you are too poor to purchase health insurance on exchange, you can get covered by Medicaid expansion (if your state agrees to sign on). While the intent may be there, the implementation has been a disaster. The minute that insurance companies see that they are not profitable being in the market exchange, they start charging higher premiums, increasing deductibles and reducing benefits. Some companies have withdrawn from the exchange all together which then reduces the pool of competition so that the remaining insurers can charge whatever they want, which renders the idea that of competition will drive prices down to be moot. What’s worse is doctors started cherry picking which insurance they would accept and which they wouldn’t and many doctors in my home state of California has refused to accept private insurance regardless if it was purchased on or off exchange, they only want the big group plans sponsored by employers as those almost always guarantee coverage and payment. So we are back to a two-tiered health coverage again: those with good coverage and those with poor coverage.

What we need and what we needed all along is a Single-Payer system, Universal Healthcare, or Medicare for all. And we shouldn’t have to wait until we are the age of 65 with one foot in the grave to get it. This means-testing method has failed on almost all social welfare programs. Those who are vulnerable but not quite poor enough fall through the cracks – and this group is only increasing every year.

To those who say ‘how will we pay for it?’ or ‘we can’t afford it?’ or the better question ‘who will pay for it?’ I would point to a small island nation 90 miles south of Florida, a country that has been under economic embargo for decades; Cuba has managed to train an abundance of good doctors to where they go to other developing and third world countries to train other doctors. Cuba provides universal healthcare for all, and this is supposedly a bankrupt country that is barely hanging on and is about to collapse every other month. There are many problems in Cuba but not having access to a doctor and medical services when you need it isn’t one of them. They have also made huge innovations and progress in cancer treatment and managing chronic illnesses.

Our medical cost for services and medicines are through the roof. They are at inflated prices, put there for profit, they are not the real prices. An Epi-pen doesn’t cost $600, it doesn’t even cost $100 to make. A packet of lifesaving 10 dose Tamiflu doesn’t cost $145, it should be free. A bag of antibiotic IV doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, it costs tens of dollars at most. When hospitalized, a single tablet of Motrin or Tylenol doesn’t cost $15, a whole bottle doesn’t cost $15 at the local drug store. A routine stay at the hospital shouldn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars. A ride in the ER van shouldn’t cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket. These are routine drugs and services which have been in use for decades. Profit in medicine and healthcare services needs to be abolished, just like we don’t expect the local fire department to make a profit when they are putting out fires and pulling people from burning buildings. It is immoral and unethical to make a profit off of someone’s illness.

I am fully aware the bill may not pass and it may not even make it out of committee and for sure the senior leadership in both parties won’t be behind you advocating for this bill and for sure Trump will veto it. But it’s worth a try to get some senators behind you, and it is worth convincing them that if they lose their reelection over their support of this bill, it would have been for a good cause – advocating on behalf of the people.

You ran for president on this platform and this resonated with your supporters, because it is the necessary and humane thing to do. For all the millions of people who voted for you in the primaries, myself being one of them, please draft the Single-Payer legislation for them.

 

 

10 Cent Bags: Another Gimmick of the Liberal Elite

There was a ballot measure on the California ballot this past election requiring grocery stores to charge 10 cents for every bag a customer uses, every time. Customers may bring their own bags and get a 5 cent credit per bag every time. Many grocery stores anticipating this measure may pass already got reusable grocery bags made and are selling them for 99 cents – $1.50 per bag. The ballot measure passed. Of course it did. Laws like these are the wet dreams of city and suburban dwelling bourgeois liberals, they think they are saving the planet every time they go to Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s to buy their organic, gluten free, soy free, non-GMO, fairly traded kefir.

The intention of this law is an attempt to slowly and in every way possible reduce the carbon footprint and reduce global warming in the long run. Reducing global warming while is a collective effort and everyone needs to participate, inconveniencing the poor while they do their grocery shop is again misplacing the burden on to the wrong people. It’s not the poor who is lobbying for fracking rights, who wants to build North Dakota Pipeline or drive big guzzling SUVs. Grocery shopping is something one must do every week, if not every two weeks, the 10 cent bags will add up. Further, anything that is not food related cannot be paid for with SNAP (food stamps) benefits. California currently has 4.2 million people on SNAP benefits. For those that want to purchase reusable bags, the one time cost aside, you’d have to remember to keep a couple of bags in your car or on your person so that if you need to make last minute trips to the grocery store, you have bags to use to carry out your groceries. For those that do not drive and rely on public transport, carrying extra bags for just in case runs to the grocery store is cumbersome. And the negligible cost of 10 cents aside, why would any rational person, rich or poor, pay 10 cents for a bag which may be converted into a trash bag at home and thrown out later. It’s literally throwing money in the garbage.

Ballot measures like these assumes that everyone either drives or lives close to grocery stores. There are people in California whose only mode of transportation is our very unreliable buses and rail systems. Unreliable and expensive, especially the trains. The trains in California are reserved for corporate professionals who live too far from their high-rise corporate office and must take a train to Downtown and then catch a taxi or Uber from the station to their office. Daily round trip fare for those trains are between $30-40 and monthly passes are in the hundreds of dollars. Not something a working class Californian can even begin to contemplate, never mind one on public assistance.

These are the kind of laws and ‘values’ that elite liberals love to shove down the throats of the working class that is both inconveniencing and insulting. It’s also the kind of thing that handed Donald Trump and Republicans their wins. This small but seemingly insignificant ballot measure symbolizes the culture policing of liberals. It’s not about the 10 cents, it’s forcing everyone to adapt and adhere to a certain set of values which makes no sense for a large number of Californians.  Saving the planet and protecting the environment is a noble thing and it’s now become an imperative which everyone needs to participate. Everyone knows that, especially the working class and the poor, as they are the ones most affected by pollution caused by global warming and greed. The residents of Flint, Michigan can tell you just how global warming, pollution and greed as a result of capitalism affects their lives. They were deliberately being fed rancid, poisoned water tainted with toxic industrial waste from nearby factories, only to save the state of Michigan a few million dollars a year, which doesn’t even make a dent in the budget deficit and Detroit went bankrupt anyways.

Will charging everyone 10 cents for every grocery bag used make a dent in the larger problem? Even if every California resident switched to reusable grocery bags tomorrow, will it stop the South Dakota Pipeline from being constructed? Or underwater oil drilling, or fracking or drilling in the Arctic seas? Will it stop China and its manic need to consume coal, oil and other natural resources in its tracks? Will it stop people from illegally logging in the Amazon rainforest? Or destruction of the Sumatran forests (and its animals which reside in it) to grow that palm oil to put in our processed foods?  These are actions of global corporations, capitalists, not the world’s working poor. How is charging everyone 10 cents for a grocery bag going to stop any of this from happening? How will making everyone put solar panels on their homes change the larger picture or encouraging people to keep their homes at 75 degrees and above reverse what capitalists are doing all over the world?

See this clip from George Carlin. He can illustrate my larger point about bourgeois environmentalism better than me. It’s not about the earth, the soil, the water, the environment, it’s about them having a ‘clean and safe place to live’. The bourgeois environmentalists are not the Native Americans fighting for their land in obstructing and protesting the North Dakota Pipeline, which for them is a battle of life and death. The bourgeois just want to feel better about themselves by making everyone pay a fine or penalty for doing the most mundane of things, such as grocery shopping.

We have a new pediatrician

I have a new pediatrician for my children. She is an excellent doctor who loves her job and has a lot of experience. She is thorough, meticulous and not ‘on a clock’ to see as many patients possible in one day to maximize her income. My new pediatrician doesn’t accept insurance policies purchased on the Exchange (Obamacare) nor does she accept Medi-Cal.  She has created an affordable cash patient scheme for parents who do not have health insurance, have inadequate health insurance or on Medi-Cal. She charges only the ‘cost’ for vaccinations, meaning the cost for her to purchase and her examination fees are only $35 (as opposed to the average of $75-100 for cash patients). Her practice is in a very well off part of town and she comes highly recommended. She is open and upfront about the insurance policies she accepts and her cash patient fees and she even gave me a list of free health clinics that give free vaccines to children who do not have health insurance and recommends that we go there for vaccines if that’s all we needed to see her for and save the vaccine cost and examination fee. And we got to discussing the bureaucratic mess that is Obamacare, why the cost of health care and services are so high despite the reforms and the special interests that are driving them. I talk a lot about health insurance and health care on my blog. It’s something that matters a lot to me, because like millions of families, we do not have endless budget to devote to health insurance and health care costs and it’s my job to find the best policy for the budget we have.

I’ve never discussed at length with a doctor, especially a pediatrician or family practitioner about the ramifications of Obamacare and today I got the opportunity to. The reason why this doctor chose to opt out of the Obamacare exchanges and Medi-Cal is because it’s unsustainable and it doesn’t serve the best interests of her patients. With Medi-Cal she is very restricted on what she can do to treat her patients and the same goes for the Exchanges. Another requirement of Obamacare is the ‘transparency’ part on the part of doctors. Doctors are required to fill out pages and pages of cumbersome forms in the name of transparency under the new Obamacare law and if they don’t have the time to do it, they have to hire more staff to do it but at the same time her claims compensation are capped by the same law. But to her the most egregious is, a law, written by Harvard graduates, who live in an “ivory tower”, most of whom aren’t Medical Doctors, but are dictating public health policy from a business model (i.e. profit and loss) standpoint.

My pediatrician attends a lot of public health policy conferences and she sees these “ivory tower” folks often, and when she brings up the glaring fact that they are not in the trenches practicing medicine with one hand tied behind their back; they get offended and taken aback – typical neoliberal response. When I bring up the common trope that it’s the doctors and practitioners who are driving up the price of health care by practicing defensive medicine to avoid malpractice claims and demanding higher salaries – which is addressed with higher claim amounts, she says that the insurance company only pays her $60 for every trip to the hospital to exam a newborn and this can be any time day or night, any day of the week (depending on when the baby is born). And depending on where the hospital is, that $60 may not even cover the gas to travel to and from the hospital. But she must take this potential ‘loss’ and go because every newborn and their potential siblings are her potential new patients.

We spoke at length at the monstrosity that is Obamacare, she said the law did away catastrophic insurance, which is high deductible and covers only catastrophic events such as car accident, cancer, heart disease; and this insurance is usually favored by those who are young, healthy and are self-employed. These plans keeps monthly premiums low and this is done by design as it’s meeting a demand by users. Right now these plans have been outlawed, every single plan now must be a normal insurance plan which covers for all events, but the premiums are still high and deductible is still high and essentially “all plans now are catastrophic plans”. As a medical professional, she enlightened me to the fact that the reason health services are so high, and why it costs over $10,000 for a 2 day hospital stay to have a healthy, uncomplicated childbirth and why an MRI costs $3000 is because the huge bureaucracies involved in these companies and how everyone needs a piece of the pie and they are also charging for  people who can’t pay for them by inflating the cost for every person counting on the insurance company to pay 50-80% of it. My pediatrician keeps her costs by sourcing private labs and CT and MRI scanning places who are out of the networks of insurance providers, who work on a cash basis only; they do not bill the insurance and through those facilities the true cost of services are revealed to be reasonable. You can get an MRI for $300, a CT scan for $150 or $200 and blood tests can be processed without going through a huge, messy and expensive bureaucracy. She also chose to opt out of the Exchange because she believes, due to the unsustainability of Obamacare, it will come to a natural end, without needing the Republicans to repeal it.

We discussed the single-payer system, and she said that’s not the panacea either, it can help in some situations, but for those with complicated medical histories or unusual diseases, single-payer system can be terribly restrictive. Single-payer only works if government doesn’t dictate what kind of care for what kind of diseases in order to control costs; basically a free for all. Every patient is unique and as a result the services they need for diagnoses and treatment are unique; and it’s this simple concept that those in “ivory towers” can’t understand. Single-payer system works best in routine illnesses which protocols and treatments have already been established. Those with illnesses which require more creative methods or experimental methods of treatment, the single-payer system doesn’t address that concern very well, you spend half of your time trying to get approval for treatment versus getting the treatment. In the end, we ran out of time discussing this subject but she did say, with all of our resources and innovations, we should be able to work something out where a viable, affordable, good health care system can benefit most people. There is no perfect system where every single person can be taken care of, but we should aim for getting the majority of the people covered without creating so much anxiety for average families.

The doctor spent nearly 2 hours on my daughter, she was due for her annual wellness check and new patient assessment. She also got a vaccine shot, and my total cost for her services rendered was $275 (I didn’t have her in-network insurance and I chose to forgo the agony of arguing with my current insurance and paid the cash). She had a lovely and kind nurse work with my daughter for her assessments, not once did we feel hurried or rushed. It was the first time a doctor spent so much time with any of my children and in the end, it was $275 well spent. I came away with all of my questions answered and feeling confident that my daughter’s clean bill of health was the result of thorough examination.

Health Insurance: Right or Privilege?

After speaking to many people on the complicated and aggravating but necessary issue of having adequate health insurance and after reading many articles, op-eds, ‘policy’ papers even small portions of the Affordable Care Act – where one stands on the issue of this debate really depends on if they feel that the access to good healthcare is a right or a privilege. It’s not even about whether one is Republicans or Democrat, liberal or conservative, neoconservative or neoliberal; it’s about whether you think it is morally acceptable for the poor and those who live in isolated locations to be cut off from good healthcare access and those that can afford it have the access to the best healthcare available. It is whether you believe having free and unrestricted access to healthcare is a fundamental inalienable right like the right to bear arms (the right to free speech and religion have been curtailed depending who is speaking, what the subject is about and which religion is being practiced), which is about the only inalienable right left where the right is conferred upon anyone regardless if they deserve it or is responsible enough to own guns or not.

Those on the right already made their positions clear on this topic. Any half-baked, loony white supremacist has the right to purchase and own guns because to take away his right to own guns is the same as taking away a responsible person’s right to own guns. But when it comes to healthcare, only those that deserve it, have paid their dues, has paid enough taxes, who are part of the political elite and ruling class plus a few others has a right to good healthcare. Everyone else, the 47% are just asking for gifts and handouts and ‘those people’ daring to ask more than what they deserve based on where they fall in the complicated intersectionality of race, social class, income level are just entitled freeloaders who want something for nothing. But this scorn doesn’t extend to the Medicare recipients, who are people aged 65 and older because they are an important voting bloc and they’ve deemed to have ‘paid their dues’. Their position is very clear, very decisive and there’s a pretty firm line in the sand.

Democrats, liberals and neoliberals have a more wishy-washy take. Neoliberals in particular favor the ‘means test’ nonsense. Everything is means tested – even the free lunch program in public schools where the food is crap, cheap because it’s sodium laden and processed has to be means tested within hundreds of dollars in deviation of parents’ income. If America like Europe charges people to use the public bathrooms, it’d be means tested. Really poor people use it for free, and then it would breakdown to whether it’d be a nickel, dime or quarter depending on income level. And those with ‘male cis-straight white privilege’ will be charged one full dollar for taking a leak in a public bathroom. This kind of tedious, mind numbing, time consuming bureaucratic bullshit is a favorite for the neolibs who are obsessed with means testing everything. It’s like a compulsion they can’t help. The DSM needs to include this in their list of psychological disorders.

They’ve extended this ‘means testing’ to everything. Republicans demand cuts to social security and Medicare or else they’ll shut down the government, the Democrat’s response? Instead of cutting across the board let’s ‘means test’ it and adjust accordingly, it’s better than forcing cuts on everyone. Bernie Sanders proposes free college tuition for all state colleges and universities, Hillary Clinton just came out with her own cheater version, and again, it’s means tested. The Affordable Care act, instead of creating a single-payer plan or just expanding Medicare to include everyone, not just those over 65, and the Democratic president and Congress, can for once, stand up for the American people and stick it to the for-profit insurance companies and big pharma companies, what did they do? It’s another, means tested, complicated, tedious plan which after the final analysis didn’t really improve coverage or cost.

That the Democrats have such trouble saying to neoliberals and Republicans ‘No, we are not going to cut social security, Medicare or welfare, we can afford this if we can afford 2 illegitimate wars’ proves they don’t really care about their voters or their base, who have for over 30 years demanded real reform to healthcare where good health coverage is accessible to all with no caveats, no means testing, no filling out tons of complicated forms, you don’t need a ‘customer service agent’ on the phone to assist in signing up for a simple dental or health insurance plan, nothing. You are born, you are assigned a social security number and viola you have health care, just like when people turn 65, they fill out a simple form and within a month their Medicare is sorted. Social security benefits should not be cut, they should be increased – tied to inflation, Medicare should include more coverage not less and it should be expanded to cover everyone (even trailer trash and those people in the inner cities that police love to shoot). Big pharma and for-profit insurance companies should not get away with making money off of the illnesses and deaths of others. They should be made accountable for their expenditures if they plan on recouping that cost by charging their patients when their product makes it to patients for use. Getting cancer and needing treatment should not be a choice between bankrupting yourself and family to try to get well or let the disease take its natural course and die a premature death. A hospital stay due to an accident or illness should not bankrupt a family – no matter what. These are very clear black and white moral stances, I see very little room for gray here. Unless the neoliberals get a hold of you.

Their favorite argument – people will ‘value’ the privileges they get more if they have to sacrifice (pay) for it. What about the rich people? They have money to burn, they never have to worry about an illness bankrupting them, they have access to the best hospitals, doctors and treatments; where is their sense of ‘gratefulness’ or the ‘obligation’ to earn the privilege before they are allowed to enjoy it? The children of the rich get to attend Ivy League schools not because of superior academics but because daddy and granddaddy went there and the family has an endowment, which all but guarantees their offspring’s enrollment even if they are complete degenerates and wastrels. Which is no different than Hillary Clinton’s original opposition to free college tuition and that is children of billionaires will abuse the privilege – well, they already are abusing that privilege by using reeking cash to buy it. And please don’t tell me the rich worked hard to earn their money. No one works harder in America than the working class, no one’s labor is more abused than the working class people of America. To lecture the working class about the value of their hard earned money in poor conditions and low pay is an insult to their existence.

This means testing, nickel and diming is also an attempt to portray ‘fairness’; to make sure no one gets anything they don’t deserve to have and didn’t ‘earn’ to get. This is a classic neoliberal argument about why free college is a “really terrible idea”, which can be applied other benefits such as healthcare :

A basic tenet of economics is that costs should be borne by the consumer. There’s good reason for this. When consumers have skin in the game, they ration much more effectively because they’re confronted with the opportunity costs of their decisions (any money or time spent on education can’t be spent on something else) as well as the reality of paying that money back some day.

By contrast, having prospective students make unobligated investments with other people’s money would almost guarantee that more bad investments are made. That means too many people earning degrees in areas that aren’t in high demand and are unlikely to pay for themselves. It’s not that I don’t want anyone to major in art history or theology, but if you’re going to you should pay for it yourself.

We are talking having access to education and healthcare folks – we aren’t talking about buying a luxury yacht where having “skin in the game” is of paramount importance. Students are not ‘consumers’, patients are not ‘consumers’; they are trying to access essential lifesaving benefits as part of their right to exist and live in dignity (just like that racist murderer Dylann Roof has the right to buy a gun). Compulsory education ends after three years of secondary education, because it was deemed that students without at least a high school diploma cannot get good jobs. Now a high school diploma is useless, everyone needs some sort of post-secondary education to even get a toe in the door, hence the need for free college tuition. And yes, should the day come where having a graduate degree is required to get good jobs, just like Denmark, the government should subsidize that too.

To the neoliberal – everything is about economics, the deity of the free market and how upsetting this supposed ‘natural’ flow of money will bring down the whole house of cards.

The fatal flaw in this theory of one must have “skin in the game” (aka pay enough taxes to earn your privileges) is that in reality, the exact opposite happens. Millions of middle and working class Americans pay plenty of taxes, pay plenty of dues (labor and wages) and got nothing in return. Wall Street got bailed out, Main Street was left to fend for itself. Millennials are being told that the ‘gig economy’ is cool and hip when the reality is the opposite. When the city of Detroit went bankrupt, tens of thousands of retired public employees (teachers, fire fighters, civil servants etc) and those who will retire in the future saw their pensions and health benefits slashed. These are people who pay their taxes and paid their dues and they most certainly weren’t responsible for the abysmal financial state in Detroit. Why weren’t the neoliberals out in force defending their hard earned privileges? Because the market dictated that Detroit had to go bankrupt, Detroit and its residents had outlasted their usefulness. Detroit (and by extension its residents) need to be taken off life support and just expire because that’s what the market is dictating.

One day, we will all be expendable, just like Detroit and it all started with nickel and diming ‘means testing’ and allowing market forces to dictate.

Health Insurance Deductibles – An Extortion of Patients

On top of navigating the maze that is Obamacare, after you’ve found your plan that includes all of the doctors you want, and an in-network hospital with an Emergency Room is within 10 miles of your house (and making sure to save a breath and tell your ambulance driver before losing consciousness), making sure the hospital in which your children’s pediatrician has staff privileges is in-network and hoping that all of the ‘in-network’ locations are reasonably close to your home so it doesn’t take all day to sort out doctor’s appointments, you come to the next thing on the list, and that is when and how do you want to spend your money. Do you want to spend it all now or save your money now and spend it later?

Insurance premiums and deductibles have an inverse relationship, the higher the monthly premium, the lower the deductible, the lower the monthly premium the higher the deductible. And before I go further, let me explain what a deductible is – and that is basically insurance company’s way of bleeding you dry before they’ll step in and do what you pay them to do and that’s to cover your fucking medical bills. So on top of paying x-hundreds of dollars a month in insurance premiums, should I or God forbid my children ever need a hospital stay, I’ve got to shell out extra x-thousands of dollars before the insurance company will pay one dime. As far as how many thousands of dollars will I need to shell out depends on how much I want to pay every month. If I want to be economical and wishful that my children will not need major medical services, I will stick with the low monthly premium and high annual deductible plan. Because come November or December, after I’ve plowed $800 a month for health insurance, but all we ever used was the preventative care, which is covered anyways without subject to deductible, I would have just wasted thousands of dollars for nothing. But if God forbid someone needed a hospital stay, and I had the low monthly premium plan we would be forced to pay $4000 at the very least before the insurance company lifts one finger. Before I go further, it’s worth noting that deductibles renew every year, unlike unused cellphone minutes, they do not roll over to the next calendar year. So, come December 31st of every year – if you have unused deductible, come January 1st, it will expired and you start over again. So, potentially, anyone, on any given year or even consecutive years running, can access just under the amount of deductibles of medical services and basically be paying for all their own healthcare whilst being ‘fully covered’.

This is one area Obamacare didn’t address at all. They pretended to address it by putting artificial ‘caps’ on the wrong things. They put artificial caps on doctor’s salaries – which is the least of the problems in this equation. Doctor’s are not the people raising the cost of healthcare, it’s the health equipment manufactures and providers, pharmaceuticals and the fuzzy and grey R&D where untold billions are spent on ‘research for new drugs’ without ever needing to account for what the money being spent on or if the money spent is even effective towards the research. The effect of that is reflected in every medical bill you get.  I’ve heard anecdotally from people I speak to, that after doing the math, it wasn’t worth it for some people to attend medical school rack up hundreds of thousands of student loans and become doctors, especially if it’s like ER doctors or General Practitioner because of the salary caps. It makes more sense to be a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. How does artificially capping the doctor’s salary help bring down the cost of healthcare? It just discourages people from becoming doctors as it’s very expensive to go through medical school and do all the necessary training only to have a lifetime salary cap of x-dollars especially for those doctors who are not going into the more lucrative fields like anesthesiology or radiology. Obamacare mandated that 80% of premium payments must go towards healthcare and health services and any amount not used must to be refunded to policy holders at the end of every year. While it’s nice to receive a small check from your insurance provider, it still doesn’t go towards solving the real problem, which is lowering the cost of healthcare. To start off, the whole system of deductibles in health insurance should be abolished all together. While it makes sense to institute a deductible in other forms of insurance such as property insurance or car insurance – those premiums are substantially lower than health insurance; people normally access their health insurance not because they want to but they need to. To add such a prohibitive cost on top of a health emergency and the patient already pays monthly premiums is the equivalent of extortion.

In this whole debate about the cost of healthcare, as usual, is riddled with red herrings and false alarms. Doctors are not the main reason why healthcare cost is out of control. Doctors are essential in a well functioning healthcare system, yet the insurance industry are putting the blame on error prone doctors for their continuing increase in premiums and deductibles. The high cost of malpractice insurance and doctors passing on that cost to patients is a symptom of a larger problem. The problem is our overly litigious environment. Ambulance chasing attorneys are a dime a dozen and when they smell a whiff of blood in the water, they convince the patient to sue doctors and hospitals and they take their 33% - it’s an easy paycheck. Doctors and hospitals, to counteract this, begin practicing defensive medicine, ordering every test, every scan, regardless if necessary or not just so in the event they get sued – they are covered at least in the negligence department. Putting caps on malpractice suits again is just another artificial fix to a deeper problem, what’s more, it robs patients who suffer from true medical malpractice to be shortchanged in their compensation.

Capping the pay of doctors and providers on its own is not problematic if all the other cost related issues are addressed at the same time, especially the shadowy R&D and ‘marketing’. The billions spent on marketing and ‘research’ gets passed down the chain of medical services. For a routine hospital stay, they charge you $15 for an aspirin. We all know aspirin doesn’t cost anywhere near as much. A routine surgery can cost anywhere from $30,000-$40,000 for less than half a days use of the operating room and staff. A bag of IV doesn’t cost $200, an overnight stay at a regular room easily runs over $10,000 – cost of an all inclusive 5-star hotel. Every single one of these items, hospitals are padding their costs in the event they get sued. The fear of being sued is a doctor and hospital’s greatest fear. It can put a small practice out of business and a major PR headache for a big reputable hospital. Doctors, like teachers, are having their voice stripped away. Like teachers, big moneyed interest groups are telling doctors what they are doing wrong and how they should be doing their job. A doctor, who holds a medical degree, who is licensed to practice medicine and dispense medical advice and treatment, yet they are being dictated by insurance companies, big Pharma and other interest groups on how to do their jobs. And while they are at it, they line their pockets whilst cutting the pay of doctors – the people who actually do the life saving.

While Obamacare addressed the problems on a surface level and provided artificial band aid fixes, he never attempted to reign in unaccountable spending at big Pharma and medical equipment companies. Does a MRI of your right thumb really cost $1200? Speaking of scans, because of improvements and breakthroughs in breast cancer screening, the cost now is so low that it’s included in preventative screening coverage. If GlaxoSmithKline or Eli Lilly says they spent $500 million researching a new cancer treatment protocol hence treatment for cancer will cost over $100,000 over the treatment period of a few months – they should be made to prove that they did indeed spend this money on research and not research and marketing. No one denies research is important, not just with new drugs and treatment protocols but medical equipment and streamlining technology etc, but since these big firms will pass that cost onto the medical provider and the provider onto the patient when their research is finally done and their final ‘product’ is on the market, the public has a right to know exactly what research was done. You often see television commercials of big pharma saying they spent $200 million researching this drug or that drug, thereby justifying their patent and charging a premium while they own their patent, but the public never gets to see the proof of how that $200 million was spent.

While on the topic of research spending for new drugs, big Pharma do not spend their research dollars based on what medicines are most needed, they spend their money on what will be the most profitable. The most classic example of this are the erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis, hundreds of millions was spent to ‘research’ and ‘market’ these drugs to a bunch of horny old men who want a second or third hurrah in the bedroom and they’ve made a killing on these drugs. In fact, it’s even been approved to be covered by Medicare under the Plan D in some states. While Viagra and Cialis is celebrated by society as a step forward in treating erectile dysfunction, the female contraceptive pill is facing tougher and tougher restriction for coverage. You have Catholic organizations refusing to cover it for their employees – even if it’s at no additional cost to them and they need not even know about it – but, based on principle, they can’t knowingly allow it. There’s Rush Limbaugh demanding a sex tape for every woman who demands to have her birth control pills fully covered by Obamacare but the elite (who mostly consist of horny old men anyways) have no moral qualms about having their erectile dysfunction medicine be covered by Plan D of Medicare.

A packet of lifesaving Tamiflu should not cost $100 to buy for those without insurance or those with insurance but haven’t met their Rx deductible yet. I was struck down with a really bad flu once, and my college health clinic was able to let me buy Tamiflu at a student discount, by the time I was on my third day of taking Tamiflu, I was never so grateful. Research money should be poured into lifesaving drugs for dangerous medical conditions and illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to treat erectile dysfunction or getting rid of your toe nail fungus, but research money should first be allocated to serious diseases which have no known cure.

The soaring cost of medical care, the big moneyed interest group, as usual blame it on everything but themselves. They blame it on doctors making too many errors, doctors constantly demanding more reimbursement, ambulance chaser attorneys, obesity, smoking, poor diet, the aging baby boomers, people living longer. While all of these things play a part in the rising cost of healthcare and need to be addressed, why does the for-profit insurance companies, big pharma and medical equipment corporations get to keeping lining their pockets? And why are the patients made to bear this cost? Especially when they are at their most vulnerable?

The Unspoken Catastrophe of Obamacare

The Obama-era is nearly over. President Barack Obama was the first president I voted for with great enthusiasm and confidence. Eight years ago I’d argue that he came at the perfect time for me to vote for him, my political consciousness was developed and I had a candidate I can vote for which matched my political consciousness. In November of 2008, Obama was elected, the country was elated. It was a historic election, the first black president. He was going to bring great change to our country. In the euphoria of post election – some even forgot that we are in the deepest recession the country has ever seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The economy was something Obama can wave a magic wand and fix too.

His signature piece of legislation was of course Obamacare passed in 2010. It was to be his signature achievement in domestic policy. It was what he wanted to be remembered for. He passed this bill while Republicans in both houses were kicking and screaming. There were other serious problems in the country at the time, namely the recession, high unemployment rate, but he kept his laser focus on healthcare reform. It had been on his agenda since he was a presidential candidate. He wanted to overhaul and reform the broken, cost prohibitive healthcare system in America, where you’ve either got to be very poor, very rich or past the age of 65 to get decent healthcare. He wanted to do what the Clintons couldn’t do. The most obvious fix is the single-payer system or convert the current medicare system to cover everyone, not just people over 65.

He started out the reform proposing a single-payer system, but when the insurance companies lobbies came calling, harassing and threatening Democratic legislators, one by one they caved. What we ended up with was a hybrid between a single-payer system with the market system. State medicaid was expanded to cover those earning in the bottom 25th percentiles, but that was subject to the discretion of the states. So governors in Red states one by one, decided to cut their noses to spite their faces, many rejected the expanded Medicaid. Yet as each one rejected the expansion, they had no alternative plans to keep the most vulnerable (usually women or PoC) covered, in fact some even cut aid to state Medicaid – such as the state of Texas under governor Rick Perry. The states that needed the expansion of Medicaid the most, rejected it, and those are states with high population of people living in poverty.

For the rest of the people that fell in the middle, we were stuck with an impossibly difficult, time consuming, byzantine process while trying to apply for health coverage for the family. Where if you ticked the wrong box by mistake can screw up your whole family’s application. Every year, come renewal time,  you’ve got to check and make sure all of the doctors your family sees are still in the network you are on – if they are, then you can continue with your coverage, if not,  you have to find a new insurance plan to include them. More than half the time, the doctors of your choice are no longer in ‘your network’ because they found another ‘network’ which offers higher reimbursements.

While it’s nice the federal government provide generous subsidies upfront, even up to families of 4 making $125,000 per year and the demand side of the equation is solved, the supply side of the equation (the insurance companies and health service providers) presents new problems. While it’s illegal to do, many doctors, because of the hassle involved simply refuse to accept anyone who purchased health insurance from state or federal exchanges. Meaning to say, if two patients had the exact same health insurance, but one patient purchased it privately (off exchange or through employer) and the other patient purchased the coverage on the exchange (with federal subsidy), the doctor will take the patient who purchased it privately. The doctor will attempt to work out a cheaper ‘cash’ deal with the patient who purchased their coverage on exchange just to avoid the extra hassle and paperwork they must do for patients who purchased their insurance on the exchange with federal subsidies. The insurance plans with federal subsidies reimburse slower so no doctor or healthcare provider likes them and one can’t blame them. It creates extra work for their office staff which would then raise cost of wages. I was told this practice was illegal, but many doctors are doing it on the sly.

A lot of doctors, in the face of Obamacare decided to ‘go private’. Our children’s pediatrician did this. He didn’t want to bother with insurance companies at all. So what he did instead was he charged a flat fee per child per month and that flat fee would include wellness visits, immunization shots and sick visits too. Amazingly, he was able to keep over 50% of his patients and through word of mouth recommendation, was able to get new patients. So, if we wanted to keep our pediatrician, whom we love because he has an alternative and flexible immunization schedule and give my children lots of stickers at each visit, we have to pay his monthly fees and health insurance on top of that. Then you have the in-network and out-of-network issue, in non-emergencies, it’s fairly easy to arrange to see all in-network providers. But what if there was an emergency and an ambulance was called and you are unconscious or bleeding profusely, are you meant to tell your ambulance driver to make sure to take you to Hospital A instead of Hospital B or else you’ll be stuck with a $10,000 deductible – which would really render your insurance useless?

And for those who are on Medicaid, you can forget about seeing the doctor ‘of your choice’. Most doctors with established practices stay away from Medicaid, reimbursement is low and slow and involves a ton of paperwork, a trifecta no well reputable doctor wants to touch. So, doctors who tend to accept medicaid are doctors in not-so-good parts of town, in dingy buildings where the waiting room is full of coughing, puking, screaming children and their exhausted mothers. This is not a slight on those doctors or nurses, those are great doctors who care deeply about their patients, but they are overwhelmed, with too many patients and not enough reimbursement, forced to practice in bad parts of town, in old buildings and most of those patients are women and children of color or undocumented immigrants. Many community doctors in California treat undocumented immigrants for free or for very cheaply. These are great doctors who perform their Hippocratic oath with very little reward in end.

That Obamacare allowed 90% of Americans to be covered by health insurance is an often touted statistic to prove the success of the program. Yes, 10% fell through the gaps and it’s the most vulnerable 10% of the population, but that’s becaues their states refused to expand medicaid and then you have the few lazy people who just can’t be bothered with applying for insurance. However, being ‘covered’ doesn’t mean anything if that coverage is restricting, cost prohibitive in the deductible and co-pay side. That’s no different than having just the basic coverage, just in case of a major medical catastrophe or accident happens – you will be covered, but for those with chronic conditions that require frequent doctor’s visits, or those with children who catch colds and viruses from other children. The cost of healthcare is still prohibitive.

I don’t want to go on a rant about Obamacare and not point out the great benefits that came with the law. Pre-existing condition is no longer a reason why anyone can be denied coverage, it was nice for once while applying for insurance, your insurance agent doesn’t even ask you about any pre-existing conditions you have. Children get to stay on their parents insurance until age 26. There are no more lifetime maximums for coverage, so those with serious chronic conditions who need a lot of medical care don’t ever have to worry about their insurance limit running out while they are still alive. Children’s policies immediately include a dental policy, so parents don’t have to purchase additional dental policies for their children. Children born with serious conditions are immediately covered on their parents health insurance plan without new ‘underwriting’ to determine eligibility or to raise their parent’s insurance premiums more. All of these are great improvements – but it doesn’t address the cost side. Those with a known pre-existing condition while can’t be denied coverage, can be charged higher premiums. Women of childbearing age are charged higher premiums – even if those said women have taken permanent measures to not have any more children. People over the age of 60 but not yet eligible for Medicare are charged sky-high premiums. This was the trade off or deal Obama made with insurance companies. This is where they ‘got’ us. Right now, some insurance companies such as Humana and Unitedhealthcare have chosen to exit the federal and state exchange business as they are losing money and they can’t do what they want with their plans and how they spend their money. If exchanges keeps losing insurance providers, then the ‘competition’ side of the exchange will weaken, with less competition, premiums will begin to rise anyway.

Which brings me back to the single-payer system, a beautifully simple, wonderful solution to the mess of choosing the right insurance and making sure the network includes your favorite doctors. There will only be one network, in which all licensed practicing doctors and health practitioners and providers belong. Very much like Medicare, it’s a single-payer plan for people over the age of 65. Incidentally, most of the people I know who work in the medical field love Medicare. Reimbursement is prompt, without much paperwork fuss and the amount is adequate. The patient is happy and the doctor is happy to treat the patient and provide them with great care. Most seniors also love their Medicare. The doctor’s practice is a business, their income has to exceed expenses for it remain a going concern. Perhaps a single-payer system can introduce method of reimbursement that not only reimburses doctors on a per patient basis, but subsidize the doctor on his overhead expenses as well. Since it is a single payer system – market based competition won’t apply, the government needs to make sure that each doctor’s practice, practicing in the single network of the healthcare system is well looked after and maintained. The area of healthcare, on principle and just on human decency should not be one that is based on ‘profit’. An insurance company making a ‘profit’ off of the illness of other people is grotesque. Their business model of hopefully having enough ‘healthy’ people who rarely visit the doctor but dutifully pays their monthly premiums to compensate for those who aren’t healthy is Orwellian and dystopian.

A person’s health is their wealth. It’s not a old cliche but a simple fact of life. That without your health, nothing else in the world matters. Billionaires will gladly give over their whole fortunes if someone can cure them of an incurable illness. I am willing to bet all I have that Steve Jobs would give over significant amounts of his fortune if someone could cure his incurable cancer that ultimately claimed his life prematurely. It took me having my mother who became critically ill, but thankfully was in a country that had universal health care that provided her with lifesaving surgery and brought her back to full health and not costing her a dime for me to appreciate this old ‘cliche’. I shudder to think what would have happened to her if she was in the United States when her health crisis happened and she was inadequately covered.

Healthcare and Education: Still a Privilege and not a Right

Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. He’s officially conceded his position in the race and accepted that she is the winner of the Democratic nominee for the race of the President of the United States. Bernie supporters knew this would come but still lamented when the inevitable happened.

In exchange for Sanders endorsement, Hillary Clinton has hopped on the Bernie bandwagon for free college tuition for state universities and colleges. The New York Times headline screamed Candidates Join Clinton in Push for Tuition Plan Inspired by SandersBut, alas, upon closer examination, it’s the same old ‘means tested’, reserved for those that truly deserve it type of assistance:

Mrs. Clinton’s program, modeled after a Sanders plan, would allow members of families with an income of $125,000 or less to qualify for free tuition at schools in their home states by 2021. Funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.

To break this down: it won’t take effect until 2021, it only applies to ‘families with an income of $125,000 or less’ and the biggest catch of all ‘funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.’ Which really means nothing if the states get to opt out of such a program (Obamacare dejavu), and we can already guess which states will choose to opt out, those that need it the most that are south of the Mason-Dixie Line.

The Clinton campaign and the neoliberals took an idea by Sanders, which was one of his most popular platforms during his campaign, co-opted it, watered it down and is serving it up to the people as a bone the neoliberals are throwing to its voters. In the final analysis, access to decent high quality post-secondary education, just like health care, is ultimately a privilege and not a right.

A right is something that a person is endowed with by virtue of being born, by virtue of being human. A privilege or entitlement is something one must earn or be endowed with based on social class dictated by capitalism. A right cannot be taken away but privileges can be snatched away with the stroke of a pen.

Education, specifically, higher education, so crucial to the economic futures of people. Sanders made it a platform in his presidential campaign to provide free tuition to all students who wish to attend public state universities and colleges. It’s really caught on, especially with young people who are saddled with tens of thousands dollars of debt and no gainful employment after graduation. And it’s free with no strings attached, even children of billionaires could access this right. Hillary Clinton jumped on that saying that the wrong type of people (children of the super rich) will take advantage of it. But she would only take this view because she sees quality post-secondary education as a privilege and not a right. Because if it’s a right, everyone should have access to it, yes, even the grandchildren of Donald Trump. Because it’s a right.

President Obama wanted to do what the Clintons couldn’t do in the 90s, which is to pass some kind universal health care legislation where every person in America has access to good quality health care coverage that won’t put them in bankruptcy if they are uninsured or inadequately insured. His original plan was ambitious and that is to provide a single-payer system, basically Medicare for everyone (another one of Sanders campaign platforms). It would put individual, for profit insurance companies out of business and maybe the vast, expensive, overly bureaucratic medical services sector will be forced to streamline and for once, tend to the needs of their patients first before profits. What we got in the end was the monstrosity called Obamacare, an even messier, byzantine, convoluted set of bureaucracy, endless paperwork, endless cross referencing of doctors to make sure they are still on the same network as last year. Obamacare solved some problems such as people can’t be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, children cannot be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, children can remain on their parents health insurance until they are 26, and pretty generous subsidies have been provided to families on middle to higher income brackets. Those who can’t afford any insurance due to under or part time employment or unemployment can go on their state Medicaid (if their state chooses to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, another caveat that left millions uninsured). Obamacare expanded the funding of Medicaid to states accommodate those who can’t afford to purchase any insurance – but states can choose to opt out. Those who choose to not go through the bother of unending paperwork and bureaucracy will be fined, but then that fine can be waived too if you are indigent. So on the surface, while it may not be a single-payer plan, it’s a markedly improved system. Two years after Obamacare’s full implementation came into effect, 90% of the people have medical coverage of one form or another.

But the devil is in the details. This is typical of Obama, trying to find the middle of the road, a grand compromise so that everyone settling for something is better than no one getting anything. Those that voted for Obama, find out fairly early on, that this is modus operandi for every important issue of his presidency:

The lawyerly and evasive Obama, who always tries to please everybody, as usual winds up pleasing nobody.

It’s like tossing scraps to angry people, demanding that they be happy with scraps or they get nothing at all. With the convoluted Obamacare, the insurance companies still get to do business as usual – which is profiting off of people’s illnesses and injuries, albeit on a lesser scale because 80% of the premiums must go towards patient care and not administrative and marketing and any premiums not used towards patient care must be refunded back to subscribers at the end of the year. But Obama’s refusal to shut down or reign in the for-profit insurance business, insurance companies have found other ways to stick it to the subscribers. Such as charging higher deductibles, out of pocket expense and out of network expense before the ‘real coverage’ kicks in. So the best insurance policy is still to not get sick or injured at all.

The single payer-plan is a brilliantly simple and straightforward concept. It requires no in depth explanation or fancy charts created by policy wonks to explain how it works. In a civilized society, who cares about its citizens and the human rights of all of its citizens should endeavor to provide quality healthcare to all, free of charge at the point of service. It’s provided through taxation obviously, but it’s free at point of service to all that need it, any time they need it, rich or poor it doesn’t matter. This is not a privilege or an entitlement, this is a right. It is right of every human being to have access to quality healthcare when they need it. No mother should have to wait out a 105 degree fever at home with a screaming baby because she can’t afford a doctor and if push comes to shove she takes her baby to the emergency room and she’s stuck with a $5000 bill for tending to a fever which could be cured with an anti-fever injection, doctored monitored ice bath and some antibiotics. Many countries have have implemented single payer health plan and it’s worked quite well. They range from our Canadian neighbors to the north, to most of the EU countries and the UK. Yes, the cost is significant, especially as the baby boomers in each country age, but all in all, it’s a fair and equitable system where contribution and access balances each other out in the long run. And if Cuba, one of the most economically sanctioned, economically deprived countries in the world can provide universal healthcare to its citizens, what excuse is there for the richest nation in the world. And they don’t just provide the basics, they provide excellent healthcare, better than the United States. Doctors in Cuba have learned to stretch what little resources they have to make sure everyone’s healthcare needs are looked after. So, it’s not about the money or the cost, or the aging population, or smoking, or obesity, or heart disease. It’s about privilege. It’s about making sure insurance companies get richer and make more profit off the backs of the sick and injured. The elite want to keep good quality healthcare to themselves and everyone else has to make do with scraps. For all the lawmakers that strongly opposed the watered down health care reform to be known as Obamacare, they (and their immediate families) got to enjoy the best health insurance coverage that exists, offered only to high level federal employees, something that was conferred to them on the basis of their elected positions, but they don’t want to extend that privilege to everyone else.

It’s the same when it comes to education: good, high quality college education, where students graduate without debt only belongs to the elite. Only the children of the elite get to graduate college without debt. And in the new plan put forth by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform, only parents who make less than $125,000 per year, can their children then enjoy the privilege of attending a state university for free. So, if they make $125,500 – they’ve been shut out of this privilege because they exceeded the bottom income by $500. Why not make it free for all students? Yes, even the children of billionaires, should they wish to  mingle with those less fortunate than they, it should be seen as an investment in the future of this country. World War II veterans got the G.I. Bill and FHA loans to get a jump start in their economic futures, which then created the most prosperous generation the world has ever seen, why can’t we take that approach again with our future generations by funding their college educations for free with no strings attached. This is investment in human capital.

In the new-age quackery of ‘I am special just by being me, because I exist’ mentality, everyone tries to outdo each other in the ‘special’ department. To be special also means to be privileged in some way by having access to things that others don’t, more importantly, if everyone has what you’ve got, then you are not special enough. If everyone has access to good health care, get the doctor they want without the hassle or jumping through a million hoops, and paying through the nose just to get an appointment with a specialist then they are no longer special. If everyone can get into University of Texas – Dallas Campus, one of the best public universities in Texas, then poor Abigail Fisher is no longer the special snowflake that her mother told her she was. Especially if she was weeded out by her own mediocrity and not affirmative action quotas; an obvious and simple fact she won’t accept.

Because things that should have been a basic human right which have, through neoliberal policies, been turned into a privilege, everyone now is ‘checking their privilege’ and keeping score on who has more privilege based on what they have access to because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity and whatever intersections I haven’t thought of yet, and the list never ends. Countless articles, blog entries, books, newspaper bylines have expounded on the subject of ‘privilege’, who’s got it and how much of it.

When trillions are spent overseas in the wars in the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan over a period of 12 years, spent without any accountability to the taxpayers; do not tell the American people that a single-payer health care is too expensive or free tuition for state colleges is unfeasible, or reduce the already meager social security benefits or means test Medicare. There is plenty of money to go around, it’s just being spent in the wrong place.

That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race. – Corey Robin

When everyone has access to basic rights which allows them to prosper and get ahead without needing to access some form of privilege (which, in other words, someone somewhere is being denied theirs so that you can have yours), the whole futile and often comical exercise of privilege checking will lose its purpose (and hopefully go out of fashion). If the 99% is scraping the bottom of the barrel to survive on scraps the 1% tosses out, does it really matter that Kevin the Asian kid has ‘more’ privilege because he’s Asian and not black? All this privilege checking is just a distraction the neoliberals want us to engage in to divert our attention from the real cause of all this and that is profound social and economical inequality. Corruption and manipulation of economic markets at the highest level of banking and government and the people who are elected to serve the people of this country are just serving their own interests, lining their own pockets.

The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more. – Corey Robin

Half baked measures like this means-tested free tuition for state universities, only if the state chooses to participate in the program should be rejected in its entirety by the Left, it’s all or nothing. No more of this Obama, wishy-washy, in the middle of the road, trying to please everyone nonsense. The results of the last eight years show, when you try to please everybody, no real progress is ever made, just band aid measures to paper over the cracks.

From Orlando to the UK: The Toxic Political Discourse

The assassination of Jo Cox shocked not only the United Kingdom, but the world. Jo Cox, a British Member of Parliament for the Labor Party was murdered on Thursday, June 16. The murderer shouted ‘Britain First’ (a right wing neo-Nazi group who are pro-Brexit) as he shot and stabbed her to death. Besides being a terrible tragedy to her family, her two small children, her constituency, the British Parliament – it is a low point in politics. This was a political assassination. This was not just the work of some lone, deranged, anti-social, mentally unstable individual. Her murderer, Thomas Mair was part of a neo-Nazi, right wing group in the UK – he is seen posing with them in photos, who are against immigration, banning refugees and in general wants to keep Britain for Britons only.

Just a few days before, on June 12, forty-nine people were gunned down in an Orlando nightclub Pulse, it’s an LGBTQ club, the shooter Omar Mateen, besides being an obvious homophobe and therefore targeted members of the LGBTQ community, is allegedly to have ties to ISIS, Al-Qaeda, he was also a closeted gay man and some reports even say he had links to Hezbollah too, the Lebanese Militia who are in a mortal fight with ISIS in Syria. To this day, the public have not heard the 911 call placed for this mass shooting, no security camera or cell phone footage have been released showing what happened before, during and after the massacre (how did Mateen get in the club? How did he get by the bouncer? What did he do after he got in? How did he get in with an assault rifle dangling off of him since they are too large to conceal? How did he carry that much ammunition on him without getting thrown out of the club?). The public has been forced to believe what’s been told to us by the Corporate Media. The FBI and other authorities have access to information but the public don’t. The public, rightly so, has a million questions, but anyone asking the more pointed questions are accused of being insensitive during a difficult time. In other words, the public discourse on the worst mass shooting in America, has been politicized and conversations policed.

The only things we know for sure are Omar Mateen was born in New York City, he was 29 years old, son of Afghani immigrants who came to this country over 30 years ago. He is a Muslim. He was a follower or sympathizer of ISIS and finally, he was a radicalized Muslim, which means he’s a terrorist. The words ‘radicalized’ and ‘Muslim’ are on some sort of loop repeat, it gets tossed out every few sentences from whoever is reporting at the moment. For those that are slightly more objective, they work the mentally illness angle. Mateen was Afghani descent, a radicalized Muslim, a terrorist AND he was mentally ill.

The assailant of Jo Cox is a middle-aged white male, loner, with a history of mental illness. This is how all the headlines read when news of Jo Cox being gunned down and then stabbed and kicked to death in broad daylight was reported. The ‘T’ word (terrorist) was not uttered. As more information filtered out, it turned out that he wasn’t really such a ‘loner’ as there are photos of him posing with members of Britain First  – so he did get out of the house to socialize. His neighbors reported him being helpful but that he largely kept to himself and never talked about politics. The reaction was “you would have never thought he’d do such a thing.”

The actions of Thomas Mair are the actions of a terrorist. He gunned down and stabbed an innocent woman in broad daylight, he knew that she was a Member of Parliament, she was targeted for her progressive politics and her ‘In Campaign’ for the Brexit. After he shot her three times, he proceeded to stab her and kick her until an ambulance came. This is the definition and actions of a terrorist, yet the media was reluctant to call him one. The western media has associated the word ‘terrorist’ to mean ‘Muslim’.

The mental illness angle is concerning as well. There is already enough shame and stigma attached to mental illness sufferers. The majority of mental illness sufferers are not violent, they only person they harm is themselves. Next, exactly which mental illnesses Omar Mateen and Thomas Mair suffered from was never clarified. Mair ‘allegedly’ suffered from OCD and washed his hands many times a day. Being OCD doesn’t make one violent. The words ‘mental illness’ is being tossed around like a blanket term for mentally disturbed people who commit violent acts. Being mentally ill doesn’t automatically absolve people of their moral judgments, it doesn’t mean one no longer knows right from wrong just on the account of having mental illness.

In the case of Thomas Mair, it’s being reported as an isolated incident, an antisocial loner who decided to attack a progressive Member of Parliament. It wasn’t politically motivated and it’s not nothing to do with the Brexit campaign. That he targeted a vocal MP with a progressive track record, who helped get the bill of accepting unaccompanied Syrian refugee children passed and is part of the ‘Stay’ campaign screams political assassination. Jo Cox represents everything on the British right hates: pro-immigration, pro-EU, wants UK to accept asylum seekers and refugees, against cuts to public services including the NHS. Outside of politics campaigns for an end to violence against women and is a strong supporter of the Palestinians.

Omar Mateen, the fact that he was a Muslim and the son of Afghan immigrants is enough for the corporate media and authorities to announce that this is an act of Terror, it’s Islam waging a war on the liberal values of the West – which incidentally, the normally conservative Fox News jumped on this bandwagon too. They are usually the ones gay bashing and condemning LGBTQ people as immoral. But for the sake of ratings and getting Donald Trump elected president, they’ll be fake-tolerant to LGBTQ people in the short term.

The actions of Omar Mateen are the actions of a terrorist – not his religion or ethnicity. His hatred are his own, his homophobia are his own. Mateen, in the dead of night, went to a prominent gay nightclub in Orlando with an assault weapon and proceed to kill 49 people and injured scores of others. It is his actions that make him a terrorist, not his religion or race. His possible associations with radical Islamist groups are important but to this day we don’t really know exactly what his associations are, is he part of Al-Qaeda? Did he pledge allegiance to ISIS while at the same time being a closeted homosexual and fights for the Hezbollah at night? No one brings up Thomas Mair’s religion or which church he belongs to. He is just some ‘loner’ with ‘mental illness’.

In the US, the Republican Party, over the past 50 years has flirted with, openly and surreptitiously, with the extreme right. It has flirted with racism via the back door. Nixon’s ‘The Silent Majority’ – which refers to the majority of mostly white ‘silent’ Americans who are not participating in Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, those who do not support rapid Civil Rights reforms and the resulting social changes, especially the integration of public schools; these poor white people – the majority of them really, have been bullied into silence by the 1% of loud, liberal, anti-America people. They’ve been bullied into silence because they don’t want to be called racists for raising legitimate concerns about all this unpatriotic activity (anti-war protests) and rapid social change (integration). It is these people in which Richard Nixon asked for support for his candidacy as President of the United States and he won. Everyone at the time as they do now saw it for what it was, dog whistling racism. Donald Trump has revived ‘The Silent Majority’ meme for his presidential campaign but Trump’s silent majority are the people who are anti-immigration who don’t dare say for fear of sounding xenophobic and racist; but there is one difference, the anti-immigration crowd isn’t silent, cowering there in the corner (neither were the original ‘Silent Majority).

Ronald Reagan followed it up with ‘memes’ such as the ‘welfare queen’ – the black single mother who deliberately has a lot of children with the sole purpose of claiming welfare. He busted the air traffic controller’s union and thus began a precipitous increase in general union busting activity by business and corporate elites. He marginalized AIDS sufferers and by extension the LGBTQ community in the 80s by simply refusing to utter the word AIDS or even acknowledge it was a problem. Reagan shut down state operated mental institutions instead of properly funding them and staffing them with qualified mental health professionals, the people this hurt the most are the poor and marginalized.

Bill Clinton enacted criminal justice reform which gave rise to mass incarceration of black and brown people, Hillary Clinton referred to underage offenders as “predatory killers who need to be brought to heel”. People of color, especially black and brown people have been criminalized by the system on the account of their race. Post 9/11 – a new group of people and a whole religion has been added to the list, Muslims and Islam. It became acceptable even encouraged to surveil, spy on, engage in casual snooping on our Muslim citizens. All Muslims, as a foreign policy, in the name of national security, are fair game. Anyone who attends mosque is suspect, especially observant and devout Muslim men. Muslim men and women cannot go anywhere and not draw attention and hatred. Opposition to the invasion of Iraq is considered unpatriotic, in fact any dissenting opinion of the foreign policy of George W. Bush was considered an act of treason. With much of the Middle East and North Africa experiencing conflict and instability, Donald Trump has proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the country, even those who are American citizens traveling abroad may not return to the US if they are Muslim. The Republican Party has not repudiated the platform, they didn’t exactly adopt it, but they didn’t repudiate it.

The election of President Obama, our first black president should have been seen progress, progress in the right direction, but this sent the the right into an existential meltdown. Birther conspiracies started left and right – which was led by Donald Trump at one point. The right wing members of the Republican party convinced themselves that Obama was not a legitimate president, as he wasn’t born in this country so they don’t need to accept his authority. Obama is here to take their guns away. Obama is a socialist, and when that didn’t work Obama now became a ‘Hitler-type’ of dictator – without understanding that one can’t be a socialist or communist and be a fascist at the same time.

The liberals aren’t blameless either. As jobs disappeared and towns fell into disrepair and ruin, the liberal elites on either coasts didn’t help the disenfranchised either. They sat there in their comfortable air conditioned offices and made fun of poor southerners as ignorant and stupid, with missing teeth and talk in funny accents – perhaps best encapsulated with a comment uttered by Obama to a group of donors in 2008 “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Obama specifically was referring to small town Pennsylvania, but that sentiment can be applied across all the disenfranchised people in America. Obama was right about the anti-immigrant bit, the immigrants are the least of the reasons why their jobs are gone, but he’s wrong about the “trade” part. It is because of free trade that these people don’t have jobs and have been economically disenfranchised. Free trade isn’t ‘free’, it’s paid for with the jobs of the American working class.

Politicians cannot contribute poison and toxicity in the political discourse and not expect someone to act on them. The UK is experiencing similar growing pains. They have a big decision to make on June 23 to see if they will Leave or Stay in the EU. The debate for staying or leaving have turned toxic; the debates have broken down to mutual accusation and hatred. Those who propose staying are the business elites with business interests in the EU, they are unpatriotic, anti-Britain, they want EU migrants and refugees to flood their borders and take their jobs and live in Britain indefinitely and sponge off of the generous NHS and welfare system. The Leave campaign are painted as racists, xenophobes, neo-nazis and ignorant people who don’t understand how commerce and business works. Not many have put aside their biases and talk about the real issues which pertain to leaving and staying. There are real and legitimate concerns about unregulated immigration and migration which do not devolve to xenophobia and racism. There is legitimate concern of the disenfranchised British working class and how to bring about gainful employment for them and would leaving or staying contribute or hinder that effort. There is a gain and loss list of leaving and staying and a constructive debate should discuss are the gains really worth the losses, are there unanticipated losses or gains that have been overlooked? These are all legitimate questions that need to be asked, without all the toxic side noise.

As in the United States, we haven’t had a real debate on immigration, on what to do with undocumented immigrants who’ve been in this country for most of their lives, race relations, institutional racism, police brutality and how it relates to institutional racism, the gender gap in pay, LGBTQ rights, the income inequality where the top of 1% have taken all the gains from the ‘recovery’ (very dubious application of this word) from the recession. Why we need a single payer health plan and not this convoluted bureaucracy called Obamacare. Obamacare is fine for the short term but the long term goal should be a single payer health care plan. Jobs lost to NAFTA and other free trade agreements need to be replaced with jobs with similar quality and compensation. Those “bitter people” who cling to their guns and bible have a very good reason to be bitter, dismissing them as a lot of toothless ignorant hicks isn’t going to make the problem go away. The political discourse have not discussed any of these issues in a manner that is inclusive of all perspectives and points of views.

Donald Trump is busy building a wall and deporting Mexicans and banning Muslims from entry into the US to talk about much else. Hillary Clinton is playing the gender identity card in all of her discussions about issues so any disagreement results in a charge of sexism if you are a man, or if you are a woman, then you “don’t support other women” and according to some, there’s a special place in hell for that.

Dad of Stanford Rapist Brock Turner: “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. “

There are many things people shouldn’t do when they are angry: write an angry ranting email to the person you are angry with. Call the person you are angry with and unload on them. Depending on who that person is the consequences will have a sliding scale effect. It’s probably not wise to operate heavy machinery, attempt to cook dinner over a fire stove and handle knives or drive a car when one is angry. We might need to add ‘do not write blog entry when one is angry’ to the list of things to not do when one is angry.

I’ve no idea where this post will take me. It could just be an ambling rambling series of thoughts, incoherent sentences strung together. But one thing is sure. I am angry, very angry at this miscarriage of justice and how a rich white boy Brock Turner got a slap on the wrist for assaulting a woman while she was unconscious.

Brock Turner, a 20 year old sophomore at Stanford University, has just been convicted of sexual assault. The woman he assaulted is a 23 year old woman accompanying her little sister to a college party, she drank too much, blacked out, ended up behind a dumpster outside of the building and was assaulted by Brock Turner. She had no idea how she got there, she could barely walk. She tried looking for her sister and couldn’t find her, she even called her boyfriend and left him a voicemail to say she lost her sister and that she had drunk too much. The voicemail was incoherent, slurring, her boyfriend tried to call her back and couldn’t reach her. She doesn’t remember doing any of these things. She was three times above the legal limit and couldn’t remember a thing. She was rescued by two Swede graduate students who was cycling by and saw Brock Turner on top of a woman who wasn’t moving. They went to yank Turner off of the victim and as Turner (who was also drunk – twice above the legal limit) tried to run away, one of the guys chased him down, beat him and waited there until the police got there so he could be apprehended. One of the Swedes got so upset at the scene that he started crying.

The DA’s office released the victim’s powerful 7000 word victim impact statement in its entirety, in which she describes in horrific detail of what had happened to her, what she had to go through not just with the actual assault itself, but what the criminal justice system put her through to collect evidence so that the DA can try their case, only then to be put on the stand herself and be asked personal, intrusive and invasive questions about her personal life. Please read it. It’s hard to get through but it is exactly what domestic violence and sexual assault victims go through when they report their crimes and choose to press charges. They are violated over and over again. So for those ignoramuses who blame or question victims for not following through or not reporting the crimes committed against them yet have the nerve to complain about rape culture, read this and read it carefully and you will know why.

What the perpetrator’s criminal defense lawyer put her through on the stand was in its own way, violating her all over again. She was asked about her life, her sex life, was she promiscuous (but in a matter of fact, non-judgmental way), what did she eat, what did she drink, what her general ‘habits’ were? Meaning is she prone to just dropping trou at every boy she meets. Never mind the fact that this woman is in a long term relationship. In short, she was legally slut-shamed for the purpose of the perpetrator getting his ‘day in court’ or what they call ‘due process’. The cherry on top is when Brock Turner testified in his own defense that it wasn’t some criminal sexual assault he carried out, they had ‘met’ that night, spoke, talked, danced, even flirted and he got consent for all of those things, never mind the fact that his victim couldn’t remember any of it. She could barely stand up, but he didn’t help her maintain upright and get her to a chair and get her a glass of water or find her sister, no he took her outside behind a dumpster and assaulted her. But it was all a big misunderstanding, he was drunk, she was drunk, he swears she consented. No one can really remember, so who cares?

The case also revealed a disgusting legal loophole, if the victim, as in this case can’t remember what happened to her, her account of events won’t count in court. Since she can only remember what happened before the assault and after assault (on a stretcher going to a local hospital to get herself examined) and not during; the official account of what happened during the assault can only come from the perpetrator, which in this case is Brock Turner. This means he can make up any story that will get him off. Since she can’t remember a thing, he can say she consented even though she wasn’t in a position to consent.

Brock Turner was convicted by a jury on three felony charges. His sentence should have been a maximum of 14 years in state prison, the prosecutor recommended 6-10 years in prison because he was a first time offender. The judge decided to give him a 6 month sentence, 3 years probation and to be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life. With good behavior he could be out in three months. Brock Turner’s father Dan Turner wrote a disgusting defense of his son:

As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th.  He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.  His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression.  You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.  Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself.  I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice.  Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.  These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways.  His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.  That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.  The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.  What I know as his father is that incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock.  He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan. 17th 2015.  Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.  By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.  Probation is the best answer for Brock in this situation and allows him to give back to society in a net positive way.

So much about this case makes me angry. But nothing makes me see red more than a rich middle-aged white man, making excuses for his spoiled entitled son after committing one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Dan Turner reduced the crimes of his son into “20 minutes of action” which will tar him for the rest of his life. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? What about his victim? What about her life?

And this: “He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan. 17th 2015.” So sticking a foreign object into another woman while she’s unconscious is not an act of violence? Then what exactly do you call that?

And the final salvo – “Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” So the problem is sexual promiscuity not that his son is a rapist. One more time, Brock Turner took an incapacitated victim outside of the building, took her behind a dumpster, she was unconscious, he undressed her, inserted foreign objects in her body; she woke up on a stretcher on the way to a hospital. She was confused on how she got pinecones and pine needles and other foreign objects on her and inside of her. Her underwear was missing. The next day, she got to read about herself in the news. An intoxicated unconscious woman was assaulted by a college freshman. She was found half naked from the waist down, curled up in a fetal position, blacked out. If those 2 Swede graduate students didn’t find her, there’s no telling what else could have happened to her. The fact that Brock Turner ran away from the scene because he was being chased by intimidating ‘big’ guys doesn’t point to his guilt according to Turner’s attorney. Turner was being randomly assaulted by big men while having sex and he was running away from that, not that he was raping an unconscious woman.

This is what rape culture looks like. It’s being kept alive by shaming and silencing the victims. It’s a grand conspiracy starting with the institutions which are supposed to protect the victim. In this case, the police, prosecutors and investigators did their jobs and according to the victim, they all treated her with dignity and respect, or as much dignity as the situation would allow. She was still subjected to microscopic scrutiny of her body and personal life. And if the perpetrator is a rich white boy on a swimming scholarship to Stanford University, and the judge in this case, Aaron Persky also went to Stanford University and was the captain of the lacrosse team, to the judge, this type of behavior from student athletes is normal — the perpetrator gets a 6 month sentence plus probation. And boo hoo he needs to registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life which according to his father is unfair.

Like all white privileged misogynist pigs, the fact that the victim drank too much became a point of focus. If she drank too much to remember, how can she be so sure she was assaulted? Because 2 other men on bicycles found Turner raping her, called the police, ambulance and it was confirmed she was raped. The defense spent an extraordinary amount of time analyzing just when she became too drunk to remember anything because only then does the criminal culpability of the defendant count. Even if she was semi-upright, slurring her words, making silly faces and was saying “yes” to everything that was being asked of her, she consented and the defendant isn’t responsible.

One of the most often repeated phrases by legal scholars is “the law is dispassionate and colorblind” (the color being green), because of its dispassionate nature, it’s how justice is won in courts. Cases are won by holding dispassionate trials, the facts or evidence presented to the jury  and they will determine the outcome and based upon the outcome, the judge will determine the sentence. Except it’s all bullshit. The law isn’t dispassionate, it certainly isn’t color blind. In rape cases and even murder cases, the victim is often put on trial. For rape cases, the victim may be too traumatized to speak out. For murder cases, the victim is dead and cannot defend itself. OJ Simpson got off murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend because she was put on trial. She was a slut, Ron Goldman just happened to be there, she dared to move on to other relationships after her divorce. The fact that she was a victim of domestic abuse during her marriage and that OJ Simpson continued to stalk her after their divorce, and maybe that’s the reason for her divorce hardly made any difference – OJ was never convicted of domestic abuse and even if he were, most half decent defense attorneys can get prior convictions thrown out and OJ had the best defense team in the country. In the Brock Turner case, it was the victim’s fault too. She drank too much, she can’t handle herself and ‘miscommunicated’ her desires to the opposite sex so she got assaulted. She shouldn’t drink so much if she can’t handle herself. Never mind that Brock Turner admitted that he wanted to “hook up” with someone that night and he admitted to having an erection but it was because it was cold not because he had other nefarious ideas in mind.

Brock Turner and his father Dan Turner epitomizes male white privilege. Brock Turner is attending an elite university on an athlete’s scholarship, he was a star swimmer so says every single news report on this case. His father immediately hired a high dollar defense attorney to defend his son, when it would have been better to plead it out, since the evidence and facts in this case is irrefutable. But it’s also his right to put on a dog and pony show to get his charges and sentence reduced or acquitted, except in this case the jury returned the right verdict they were not persuaded or intimidated by a powerful expensive defense attorney. It was the judge that was dirty.

It does not stray far from people’s minds if the defendant in this case wasn’t a rich white boy but a middle class or even rich black or brown boy, how the results would have been different. A black or brown defendant would get the book thrown at him, as it should be for all rape convicts. That the worst thing which will happen to Brock Turner is being registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life, which is really a minor inconvenience, his parents will find him a job, he’ll finish his degree, if he can’t find anyone to rent an apartment to him, mommy and daddy will step in, but his victim is scarred for life.

Currently, the judge in this case Aaron Persky is facing a recall campaign led Aaron Persky is facing a recall campaign led by a law professor at Stanford University. Now if there’s only a national database where we can put the names of corrupt judges and lawyers on there so that no one will hire them and that their reputations will tarred for life – will there any be real justice for the victims. The judge in this case had the opportunity to carry out justice for the victim, all the other branches of the criminal justice system did their part, but he chose the fraternity instead.

 

The Whitewashing of Muhammad Ali

Since the death of the Greatest One and as tributes pour in from all over the world, one trend is emerging and it’s disturbing. Muhammad Ali’s legacy is being whitewashed. His once anti-establishment politics have been retooled to fit the current narrative. His black separatist politics have all but been airbrushed out and what remains are the innocuous universally accepted place in history of being a ‘Civil Right’s Leader’ in the vein of Dr. Martin Luther King. Platitudes pour in from all over the world and all sides of the political spectrum lauding his ‘bravery’ yet they don’t seem to know exactly which acts of bravery they are talking about. That he’s being lumped together John Lewis, a sellout to Hillary Clinton, is dishonoring Ali’s legacy.

For some in the establishment, the fact that he was a Muslim has been reduced to a footnote, caving into the virulent Islamophobia. Ali, converting to Islam was just one of those things he did when he was young, it didn’t really mean that much in the greater context of his life–no–being Muslim meant everything to him, that was his life. His life changed when he became Muslim, he refused the draft on the basis of conscientious objection because he was Muslim. He changed his name after he became Muslim. And then there is the odd dead-naming of Ali. Upon his conversion to Islam in 1964, he has asked everyone to refer to him by his new name Muhammad Ali and to not refer to him by his “slave name”. Tennessee State Representative wrote in a tweet, which he’s since deleted (another coward):

In this short tweet, he mentioned his “slave name” which is blatant disrespect and that he failed to enlist in the US military. The representative from Tennessee must be confused about the facts. Ali didn’t fail to enlist. He refused to enlist. Ali didn’t dodge the draft, he refused the draft. People who use their money and status as protection to dodge the draft (such as former presidents Bush Jr., Clinton and Donald Trump) suffered no consequences for such cowardly actions. Ali suffered all the consequences for refusing the draft. He had to pay a $10,000 fine, which is a lot of money in 1966, he was sentenced to prison for 5 years but after successful appeals, his conviction was overturned. His world championships were stripped away, his passport was taken away, he was banned from travel, he was banned from competing at the prime of his career. He was routinely ‘bribed‘ by the government to recant and will be given cushy gigs in the army for doing so:

Ali was given every opportunity to recant, to apologize, to sign up on some cushy USO gig boxing for the troops and the cameras, to go back to making money. But he refused. His refusal was gargantuan because of what was bubbling over in US society. You had the black revolution over here and the draft resistance and antiwar struggle over there. And the heavyweight champ with one foot planted in both.

The government wanted the thorn that is Ali out of their sides. If they could get Ali to recant, apologize and serve in the military doing some non-combat cushy job (one where he won’t have to shoot Vietcongs), it would quell the antiwar movement. But again, Ali had no quarrel with the VietCong…no VietCong ever called me N—–.”

For those that dodged the draft – many of them white upper and middle class boys, they usually made up an excuse as to why they couldn’t serve. The Vietnam War draft disproportionately affected black young men, who didn’t have the means and connection to dodge the draft. And Ali repeatedly pointed out, the government was sending black boys to shoot and bomb the Vietnamese all to protect the land they stole from the American Indians.

After his conviction in 1968 and after the death of his dear friend Malcolm X (of which they had a falling out over the Nation of Islam that never healed), the Nation of Islam abandoned him as well, he begun to give lectures on college campuses about resisting the draft and the antiwar movement in general:

I’m expected to go overseas to help free people in South Vietnam and at the same time my people here are being brutalized, hell no! I would like to say to those of you who think I have lost so much, I have gained everything. I have peace of heart; I have a clear, free conscience. And I am proud. I wake up happy, I go to bed happy, and if I go to jail I’ll go to jail happy.

From this short excerpt, Ali was happy to be a one man revolutionary. It didn’t matter if other people organized around him or not. Ali refusing the draft is more than just resisting white supremacy asking him to go kill the Vietnamese, it’s for his conscience as well. He had “peace of heart” which is a rare thing in those turbulent times.

Through FBI snooping and wiretapping, we find out that Muhammad Ali and Dr. King had privately formed a close friendship (to avoid the scrutiny from The Nation of Islam). In 1967, Dr. King came out in opposition of the Vietnam War as well, citing Muhammad Ali as a reason, realizing that the fight for civil rights and freedom for black people cannot be extricated from the morality of the Vietnam War. To fight for freedom for black people in America but then put on a uniform to go and bomb a small and poor nation under the false guise of fighting for their freedom is incongruous and hypocritical, what’s worse, the soldiers are carrying out the crimes of the white government for them.

Ali’s activism isn’t confined to United States. He spoke out against the apartheid government in South Africa, which the United States supported because it’s opposition the ANC (African National Congress) was deemed a communist group. He spoke out against the CIA installed, American puppet dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko. Ali spoke out against Israel in support for Palestinians. He also wanted to spread the message of Islam. His activism and sense of justice came from his religion:

I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.…

For those of us who came of age in his physical decline (which happened before his old age), we see him as a trembling warrior ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease, no doubt from all those blows to the head and body. He first lost his mobility then his ability to speak. When he lit the torch for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, many radicals believed he sold out as the Olympics is a horribly saccharine, commercial and bourgeois event and riddled with corruption. I disagree. Being a sportsman was one of the many manifestations of his life. He was a sportsman before he was an activist. He was also a gold medalist in the 1960 Olympics. Sports along with activism was a huge part of his identity. Being a sportsman, when you strip away all the politics and identities behind it, is a test of your physical and mental strength and how you find out your true self within that context.

The whitewashing of Ali started long before his death. When became a Muslim under the leadership Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, a lot of civil rights activists then denounced the move, many believed that people should rally behind Dr. King as one movement, the Christian based non-violence movement which calls for integration with white people. The Nation of Islam was against integration, they were for black separatism.

Every fight after his name change became incredible morality plays of the black revolution versus the people who opposed it. Floyd Patterson, a black ex-champion wrapped tightly in the American flag, said of his fight with Ali, “This fight is a crusade to reclaim the title from the Black Muslims. As a Catholic I am fighting Clay as a patriotic duty. I am going to return the crown to America.”

But Ali’s public antiwar stance pleased the peace activists which at the time consisted of mostly white people:

“It was a major boost to an antiwar movement that was very white. He was not an academic, or a bohemian or a clergyman. He couldn’t be dismissed as cowardly.”

–Daniel Berrigan

The establishment, instead of admitting that the Vietnam War was an evil and dirty war and its ultimate goal is to expand Western Imperialism in Asia, they accused all who opposed it as cowards, who were afraid of Vietcongs, who didn’t want to fulfill their patriotic duty and fight for their government. When Ali declared his refusal to be drafted, the antiwar movement was still a nascent fringe movement, ran by a few left wing radicals or ‘commie sympathizers’ as the government would all them.

Other black civil rights leaders such as Julian Bond may have their qualms about Nation of Islam but they were proud that Ali was sticking it to the government and called them out on their lies and motivations for the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali dared to say what others daren’t, he had the courage to accept the consequences of his beliefs. If Ali did end up going to jail for resisting the draft, it is my belief that there will be protests and riots like we’ve never seen before.

For those of us who has only seen him as a frail old man, we have dig the history archives to read about his radicalism. His pride in being unapologetically black and Muslim. Those who say in their tributes that he transcended ‘race and religion’ which is code for they didn’t matter is again insulting him. Muhammad Ali was black and he was Muslim. He had no desire to transcend them.

And for the last time, his name is Muhammad Ali.

 

 

The “Greatest One” – RIP Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74, it’s a huge loss for the world, not just for Americans. Muhammad Ali transcended borders and boundaries. Born Cassius Clay Jr., he became Muhammad Ali upon his conversion to Islam and left his “slave name” behind. He took his faith seriously and adhered to the tenets of Islam – specifically to its message of peace and justice, which with our recent ‘wars on terror’; we forget that Islam was originally a religion of peace and justice. It still is a religion of peace, justice and tolerance. But we’d hardly know it as virulent Islamophobia is now the foundation for foreign policies in the West. Islamophobia has been used to justify much bloodshed and killings all in the name of national security. How hard it must have been for Ali to watch this and not be able to speak out about it due to his diminished physical health. This was a man who refused to be drafted into an unjust war on the account of his faith.

He was one of the world’s greatest boxers but that is not what he will be remembered for. He will be remembered as a man of integrity, who freed himself by following his conscience and a man who kept to his principles even at great personal and financial loss to himself. He saw himself as more than just a great boxer, that was just a title. He used his fame and achievements to fight for civil rights of the downtrodden all over the world.

Watching his old fights with my father on grainy videos, I didn’t know a left jab from a right hook or any of the maneuvers he did in the ring. I was bored to tears by boxing. I watched to indulge my father and listened to him enthusiastically comment on the fights. I took his word for it that he really was the greatest boxer in the history of boxing. Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing in his prime because he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War based on conscientious objections on the account of his religion:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

And Ali mopped the floor with the establishment when he said ““I ain’t got no quarrel with the VietCong…no VietCong ever called me N—–.”

With this one sentence, he articulated the racist, hypocritical and genocidal intent of the United States government. The US government was sending black men (and white men) to bomb the Vietnamese Communists, all in the name of freedom, freeing the Vietnamese from the oppression of communism, but black people in America are being “treated like dogs.” After winning his Olympic gold medal, he wanted to grab some food in a ‘whites only’ restaurant, they told him “we don’t serve n—– here.” He tossed his gold medal into the Ohio River.

Muhammad Ali was the worst nightmare for the establishment. While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to work with the establishment (white supremacists) and stage nonviolent protests to end segregation and Jim Crow and kept his message based on the Christian religion of forgiveness and compassion. Ali had no such compunction to speak politically correctly when it came to matters of racism or the Vietnam War. The war was unjust, it’s a phony war, fighting a phoney non-existent enemy, the real enemy is at home. The enemy is white supremacy, not Vietnamese people trying to resist Western Imperialism.

Muhammad Ali’s achievements are many, but his boxing championships don’t feature near the top of what he’ll be remembered for. He was the greatest because he chose peace and freedom over fear of the US government, who stripped his titles and banned him from boxing in his prime boxing years. To Ali, freedom meant following his own conscience. He made his religion, controversial then as it is now as the impetus for his activism. He will not “disgrace” himself or Islam.

Despite all his bravado in and out of the ring, declaring himself to be the greatest baddest (and at times best looking) human being ever, he never lost sight of who the real number one is: “God gave me this illness to remind me that I’m not Number One; He is.” 

Rest In Peace.

 

Calling for the boy’s parents be held accountable in the name of wildlife preservation is racism.

So Harambe died, we all mourned him, the boy that crawled into his enclosure isn’t seriously hurt – we are moving on. This incident hopefully becomes a teachable moment for everyone. Pundits have given their two cents, whether it’s to support of Harambe, the zoo, what this means for wildlife, we were over it. Time to move on to the next non-catastrophe and distract ourselves from the real issues.

People seemed to have moved on from the zoo taking the decision to shoot Harambe; how the enclosure was improperly built and they’ve also moved on from the death of Harambe itself by leaving lovely flowers and notes at all the gorilla statues in various zoos across the country. But there is one area where people will not let go and that is the little boy’s parents, specifically his mother. She has gotten most of the vitriol in the situation because it was her who made the frantic 911 call, but his father was with them at the zoo as well. There is now a change.org petition called Justice for Harambe, which essentially calls for the parents of the little boy to be prosecuted for endangering the gorilla. It’s just around 7000 signatures shy of its 500,000 target. At least half a million people want to see the parents of the boy prosecuted and social services investigate the family on how a tragic accident at the zoo could be a result of something more going on at home. According to the petition it states:

We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death. Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department hold the parents responsible.

The petition starts out by saying that this petition isn’t from the point of view of racial bias and it’s out of genuine concern for the child gorilla, on how such a thing could happen if the parents were doing their jobs properly. And that it’s unfair to blame the Cincinnati Zoo, a most venerated institution which has provided education and entertainment for families for this tragedy. The fact that the enclosure didn’t do its job and ‘enclose’ the area properly is just an insignificant detail.

The creator of this petition Sheila Hurt, presumably, is a white woman, since the mentioned she was hurt by the “vilifying” “race baiting” comments, especially on cable news channels as she had no such intentions. Her sole purpose is to seek justice for Harambe – an ape, and to see just what kind of home that child is raised in for it be allowed to fall into a gorilla pit which caused the ape to be shot and killed.

That white people, especially affluent white people have a strange affinity and love for animals is well known. It’s one of the ‘crazy’ things white people do. Taken at face value, it’s a quirk, a source of amusement to care about one’s dogs, cats, horses or wild animals over that of their human family. The Queen of England is known to prefer her horses and corgis over her human companions, even her family. It’s a nine decade long running joke. When three of her four children’s marriages all blew up in the same year, after each one of them told her that their marriage is kaput, her response was to to take her dogs out for a walk. I can’t quite blame her.

I am a animal lover myself, to the exclusion of humans. It’s also a running joke amongst my family and friends that “I hate people” and I love animals. And after having 2 children, this sentiment still holds true. I still prefer the company of animals over people on most days. The reasons are quite obvious. Humans, simply put, can be deplorable. Animals are just as they are, simple, honest, pure, and for those of us who have experienced trauma at the hands of humans, animals are a great source of comfort.

But – and this is a big but, even for the most deluded animal lover, most of them do not sacrifice the life of a person especially a child for an animal. Loving animals to the exclusion of humans and sacrificing the life of a human child for an animal is not a zero sum situation. The life of an animal is not more important than a human, especially not a child.

The truth of the matter is that this is a black child. There is a certain stereotype in this country about the dysfunction of the black family. How they are usually headed by a single parent, usually the mother, though not the case here. That a black family is usually poor, and poverty causes them to parent differently, they have different ‘standards’ for their children than that of a middle class white family. That their parenting standards are lax because they are more concerned about keeping a roof over their heads and food on their table than to worry about personal conduct or discipline. The description in the change.org petition screams this kind of bias: “We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation.” It is Sheila Hurt’s way of saying black people don’t know how to raise their children, that’s how a four year old wandered off and fell into the gorilla enclosure. It’s the parent’s fault, not the zoo’s fault, she says “it is upsetting that people vilify the Cincinnati Zoo, an institution that has done so much work in trying to turn the tide against extinction in several critically endangered species.”

While many have come out in support of the the little boy’s parents, there are those who just won’t let this drop, like Sheila Hurt. She wants social services to look into this family not out of concern of how a trip to the zoo almost got a child thrashed to death by a 400 lb gorilla and social services to make sure the boy is getting all the medical help and therapy he needs;  but how the parents let this child fall into the enclosure and where and what were they were doing to allow this to happen. Accidents happen all the time, even the most careful of parents, it only takes two seconds or less for something to go horribly wrong. People do not appreciate the one and half to two seconds of error in judgment until a rambunctious child is presented in front of you. Accidents involving children are plenty, the most tragic ones are the times where a toddler or infant was left in a hot car because the parent forgot to drop their child off at daycare or they thought they did, but because they were rushing and wasn’t paying attention. Or that children drown in a backyard pool because the supervising adults turned their back for five seconds.

The emphasis on getting ‘justice’ for Harambe the gorilla, and the little boy saved from Harambe’s aggression happens to be black and the level of harassment his family is getting for the unfortunate accident is starting to make people uncomfortable and hackles are being raised. This an ape we are talking about. A beautiful animal no doubt, an endangered animal, an animal bred and kept in captivity so that it doesn’t go completely extinct, for it to die it its prime is tragic, but it’s an ANIMAL. The excessive outpouring of grief and protest coming mostly from white people and the repeated calls to hold the child’s parents accountable for the animal’s is a passive aggressive way of saying the little boy’s life matters less than that of an endangered gorilla because he’s black.

If this child was white; people, strangers would send flowers to the parents, people would bring food, a casserole maybe. People would check in on the child, to make sure he’s not traumatized or permanently damaged. All their families, friends, neighbors, strangers they just met would go on cable news to pledge their support to the parents and that this was an unfortunate accident. Up until now, very little concern has been shown to the boy but there’s a hysteria about how a gorilla was killed because of his parents’ lack of proper supervision. All the people calling for his parents to be held accountable, including Sheila Hurt, has not once inquired on the condition of the boy, except to say that his general home environment must be unsafe. Is Sheila Hurt so lacking in her imagination that she can’t foresee a scenario where a four year old might wander off and do what he’s not supposed to do? Is this scenario so unimaginable for her? Or anyone else who are calling for the parents to be held accountable?

This is not crazy white people loving their animals more than their own kids, or crazy white people leaving an inheritance to their dog. I am that crazy white person who loves animals more than people never would I waver for one second or have second thoughts after the fact of saving the life of a human over an animal. This level of aggression to a child’s parents and disregard for the boy’s well being in favor of a gorilla is open blatant racism. Sheila Hurt is the same kind of person that would set up Go Fund Me pages for killer cops of black men like Darren Wilson. When Go Fund Me pages and local fundraisers were being set up to assist killer cops, there was no uproar from middle class white people. They were not there to protest this outrage, to shut down the fundraiser or to obstruct it. They took the standard position of ‘everyone has their day in court’ even if it was plain as day that these cops killed their suspects in cold blood.

The boy’s parents doesn’t need white animal lovers to pour boiling scorn on them and shame them at every turn. The boy’s parents are already beating themselves up everyday, for putting their son in danger, for causing a star attraction at a zoo to get killed, for all the fuss made. We as parents are generally mortified when our children make the wrong kind of spectacle in public, when they kick up the wrong kind of fuss is the stuff of parent’s nightmares. The boy’s parents, on top of all the shame and embarrassment need to feel relief that their boy is safe, thanks to the quick action and thinking of the zookeepers.

A Gorilla in a Zoo

Ever since zookeepers had to shoot dead a gorilla holding a 4 year old boy who was able to get into his ‘enclosure’, people are in an outrage over the unfortunate situation.

Animal rights activists, especially that this is an endangered Lowland gorilla and is a silverback male at his prime, they blame the boy’s parents for not keeping a close enough eye on him. Though most don’t go so far to say it, they’d rather the zookeepers takes its chance with the gorilla fondling the boy until he’s (the gorilla) done with him and walk away, tranquilize the gorilla and then safely get boy out than just shooting him (the gorilla) dead. This also means that the life of an endangered animal is more valuable than a human child. How much that this child happens to be black and therefore immediate assumptions are made about his parents’ parenting skills in making this sort judgement is unknown, but judging from some of the articles that are filtering through the press right now, this fact is close to people’s minds. The Daily Mail have already dug up ‘dirt’ on the boy’s father as being a convicted drug dealer and declared them to be the ‘most irresponsible’ of parents. 

Most people believe the boy’s life is more valuable than that of a gorilla, even if he were the last of its kind on earth. It doesn’t matter how the boy got into the enclosure, whether his parents were delinquent in their supervision of him, his life is more important than that of an ape.

I am of the third camp where I find this whole thing outrageous on many levels and the blame is evenly split between the zoo and the parents and of course, you save the boy. Those who waffle on this issue need to re-examine their humanity.

The whole idea of zoos and keeping wild animals which belong in the wild in their own habitat and are now trapped in enclosures for the rest of their natural lives an outrage. A gorilla belongs in the wild, since this is a Lowland Gorilla, he belongs in the African Lowlands. He’s to lead his own family, he’s to hunt and forage for his own food and build nests where it’s comfortable for him to lie in at night. He’s not supposed to be gawked at by curious adults and children (unlike chimpanzees, gorillas are not outgoing and friendly with humans, they are quite shy and prefer to not be around humans), be fed his meals (as opposed him foraging and hunting them himself) and kept in a confined space with no companion. This in and of itself is a cruelty of its own.

That aside, zoos are here to say and that one of the reasons for the existence of zoos is because humans have destroyed wildlife and their habitat for so long that in order for animals to not become extinct, humans have to keep them and breed them in captivity, even if it’s detrimental to their development and totally unnatural to their state of existence. I suppose it’s better than they going extinct. Zoos, besides providing entertainment and education for families, also exists as a conservation program.

This is also where animal and conservation activists raise their strongest objections. The whole idea of keeping the gorilla in a zoo is so that he doesn’t get killed or maimed by poachers or trophy hunters, and what happens to him anyways? He gets killed by a zookeeper because some improperly supervised little boy crawled into his enclosure. I understand their frustration, as an animal lover myself, I understand their passion towards wildlife and the loss of a beautiful wild animal.

Of course, without any argument, the most valuable thing on this earth is the life of a human, especially that of a young child who didn’t understand the ramifications of his actions when he decided to crawl into the gorilla’s enclosure.

The boy’s life is the most important out of this unfortunate situation, regardless of how he ended up there. You don’t sacrifice the life of a child for the life of an animal. Never.

But let’s go back to the zoo and the ‘enclosure’. If someone, even a small child, can crawl in from under the enclosure, then it’s not an enclosure. It has by definition, failed at being an enclosure. An animal enclosure is supposed to ‘enclose’, which means no one can breach it, not the animal, not another human (adult or child). The fact that a child can ‘fall into the moat’ and approach the gorilla, there is something very wrong with the design of the ‘enclosure’.

For those that say ‘why not tranquilize the gorilla and then fetch the boy after its down’ don’t realize that the gorilla is 350 to 400 lbs, and if he is tranquilized while holding the boy and subsequently drops him as he’s passing out from the tranquilizer, the boy can die from falling, or if he doesn’t die from fall, but if the gorilla falls on the boy on his way down, the gorilla can crush the boy to death. There was no choice but to shoot the poor animal. Standing there with baited breath hoping the animal doesn’t harm the child, leaves it and walks away is not an option. Too many uncontrollable variables. So, as a result the parents are blamed and shamed.

On the issue of parental supervision, or lack of in this case, which allowed a 4 year old to get into a gorilla enclosure. Parents and guardians are responsible for their offspring while in public, all the time, every time – no exceptions. Having said that, it’s impossible to control a rambunctious and excited 4 year old every second of every day and despite the best of intention and supervision. Accidents happen when you are looking and when you aren’t. It takes less than two seconds for something to go horribly wrong, it really is that quick. Those who don’t have small children cannot appreciate this often repeated cliche (and fact). Especially when they are headed to places like the zoo or an amusement park, where they are supposed to become excited. To be so harsh and judgmental on the parents of this little boy and to dig up all the dirt one can find on them just prove how ‘irresponsible’ they are and now it’s all their fault that an endangered gorilla is dead due to their negligence is unfair. To imply that the life of a gorilla is more important under some circumstances than the life of their child is callous and cruel. And in this case, I’d argue it’s racist.

This was a bad situation where mistakes were made by the adults and authorities (zoo). The zoo’s mistake is that its enclosure is faulty, it isn’t really an enclosure if a child can get in. The second mistake is the boy’s parents didn’t keep an enough of a watchful eye on their child. Children are naturally curious, they exist to push boundaries, to test their parents’ patience. They don’t know the dangers or the ramifications of their actions. They can’t know at 4 years old. It’s up to the parents to rein their children in. And in places like zoos where there are usually throngs of people and animals caged in improperly designed enclosures, it does not cross the line to ask parents and their children to stay at home if their child does not know how to respond the instructions of parents in public. Parents cannot assume that zoos are inherently safe because it happens to be a place where a lot of children visit. Just like any reasonable parent wouldn’t assume the carnival rides at local fairs are inherently safe.

All the hysteria whipped up over dead animals (remember Cecil the Lion?) is distracting from the real tragedies in the world right now.

Over 500 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea this past week. Rescuers are still retrieving floating bodies in the sea. Most of the dead are Africans and Middle Easterners fleeing war, poverty and political instability – a lot of it caused by the policies and actions of Western nations. This barely registered on all the major news outlets as they are whipped up in a whole other hysteria and the freak show that is the US presidential elections. Syria’s civil war is has gone on for 5 years, half of that country’s population has been displaced, over 250,000 dead. In the year 2016, we are in the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. There is war, political instability, extreme poverty and persecution on almost every continent in this world right now. The United States, EU, Canada, Australia and parts of South America are the only peaceful, secure and wealthy regions left in the world and they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the rest of the world, even as they drown. Instead of trying to help these people, these governments are talking about restricting refugee and migrants.

And we are talking about Harambe the gorilla. Yes, the gorilla had a name too, his name was Harambe.

AIPAC: It is NOT controversial that Bernie Sanders won’t attend.

Bernie Sanders announced he will not be attending the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) shill-a-thon. All the pro-Clintonites have expressed on social media that this proves Sanders isn’t a serious presidential candidate. After all, what presidential candidate of either party doesn’t attend the all important annual AIPAC shill-a-thon, which only exists to promote the interests of the 1% in not one but two countries: The United States of America and Israel.

Of course the implication is that Bernie Sanders being Jewish, the son of a Polish-Jewish immigrant, whose extended family was wiped out in the Holocaust, by choosing to not attend this hallowed event, is somehow betraying his heritage.

At the risk of sounding like I am ranting again, I’d like to set a few facts straight.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have to attend this conference and there is absolutely nothing controversial about that at all. This event is in direct opposition to his current campaign and political revolution. Attending this event would only smack of hypocrisy, since no one in this event will be donating to his campaign or have any desire to have anything to do with him as a politician. The people attending this event do not believe he will be the Democratic Party nominee, therefore there’s nothing he can do for them.

Being Jewish in America or any other country doesn’t mean you automatically have dual-citizenship with Israel. One can be Jewish and be one-hundred percent American without feeling the need to feel any sort of allegiance (besides religious and heritage sentiment) to Israel. Israel is that friend we can’t unfriend because then all the other schoolyard bullies will unleash their fury on them. The ‘friendship’ between the US and Israel is really the thing that keeps Israel ‘safe’. Not their anti-missile iron domes. Not their nuclear arsenal, not even the billions we send them every year. All of this means nothing if the US doesn’t provide Israel with political and diplomatic cover.

AIPAC which is an acronym for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a very influential lobbying group in America with the expressed interest of advocating “pro-Israel policies” to the United States Congress and other parts of government. Think about that folks, there exists a lobbying group for a whole other country on a different continent, whose sole purpose is to lobby the United States legislature for favors. Not only that, anyone who is anybody, or anyone who wishes to become somebody, must attend this bloody thing every year or else you’ll appear to be anti-Israel, which will spell the end of your political career. Many other countries and organizations have powerful lobbying groups, but none require mandatory attendance every year. Republicans who know nothing about the modern history of Israel or even the history of Jews attend this thing professing their undying loyalty and friendship to a country they know very little about.

And while we are on the subject of Israel: I won’t even get into the human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The land theft, the unlawful evictions because someone dug up a spoon King David used in the pathway that leads to someone’s back garden and that land now becomes “Jewish” land. I will make it simpler. This is a country whose prime minister said that the Grand Mufti Haj Al-Husseini was responsible for the Holocaust because he supposedly knew that it was about to happen and did nothing (there is no proof of this only conjecture). Therefore the Palestinians now deserve their plight, because a religious leader (not political leader) of theirs over 70 years ago, allegedly sent the Jews to the gas chambers. This is a country where a member of their parliament said Palestine cannot exist because there is no letter ‘P’ in the Arabic alphabet. Someone with a PhD in criminology said this shit, who was at one time a visiting professor to George Washington University, obviously her PhD isn’t in the history of her land of birth.

Bernie Sanders probably doesn’t want to attend this event because he doesn’t want to waste a day (or two) and be stuck in a room full of one-percenters and fascists of all stripes and persuasions. Bernie Sanders doesn’t need a ‘lecture’ on Israel or the history of the Jewish people. Bernie Sanders has no direct connection to Israel besides that he’s Jewish. He has visited Israel on at least one occasion in his younger days but he didn’t clarify when or why and he doesn’t need to.  If anyone doubts his support for Israel they dare not say it out loud because it would sound incredibly foolish.

Sanders said he will provide a copy of the the speech he would have made at AIPAC if he were to attend. I hope it reads “Get off my jock and fuck off.”

The Non-Legacy of Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan has died today. She passed away at the ripe old age of 94, with dignity, in the comforts of her Bel Air mansion and surrounded by loving family and friends (something denied to many people). An ending that is befitting of a matriarch to a political family. The news of her death should have just been a blip in the news which read something like:

Former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, wife of former president Ronald Reagan, passed away in her Bel Air home today, surrounded by loving family and friends. She was ninety-four years old. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones.

The end. There is nothing much else to say about Nancy Reagan but the above stated.

But oh my gosh. Every cable news channel’s news readers and show hosts all had a sudden leave of their senses and began to blather on and on and on, ad nauseum about the former First Lady. The Reagans’ old friends and political cronies all came out in their Sunday best, on national TV, teary eyed, lamenting the loss of a brilliant lady.

If Nancy Reagan was known for anything is for her unwavering devotion to her husband. Her unwavering adoration, she found little fault with him and even outdoes June Cleaver in the “yes dear” department. She mastered “the gaze”, which is the perpetual doe-eyed adoring stare while her husband is speaking and lying to the American public. He was the center of her universe. She was unabashed about it, unashamed and feminism be damned. She was happy to live in his shadow and be Mrs. Reagan and even went so far to say, “my life really began when I married my husband.” I  must say I am a little jealous. I’ve been with my husband for nearly 12 years, married for 7, most days I feel irritated and contemptuous with myself and my marriage. It would make my life so much easier if I just simply “adored” my husband and worshipped the ground he walked on. I wouldn’t feel so irritated when things don’t go my way and he’d feel less annoyed with me and my constant need to “challenge” him, but I digress.

The Reagans’ are almost more known for their love story than anything he’s done as president. President Reagan was prone to writing toe curling long love notes to his wife while they were in the White House, when she was just two floors up. He’d send flowers to Nancy’s mother on Nancy’s birthday to thank her for giving birth to Nancy so she could be his wife. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. If my husband did such a thing, I’d order a psych eval on him, but, again, I digress.

The fact which she sees her marriage as her life’s best work means she should been seen as just that, a supportive and loving wife. She was no Hillary Clinton or even Barbara Bush who had their own platforms during their time as First Lady, however domestic the agenda may seem. Nancy Reagan’s agenda is Ronald Reagan. I do not consider her “Just Say No” campaign a legitimate platform. She didn’t investigate or research why people were doing drugs. If she did, she would realize that drugs are a byproduct of poverty and deprivation. No one is born and says “yes” to drugs without some outside factors. She didn’t care to look into the uneven and racist sentencing for different drug users, the best thing she can come up with is “Just Say No”, well, no shit – why didn’t I think of that.

As I was browsing through different cable channels, hoping to find something that isn’t Nancy Reagan related (with no luck), I kept hearing over and over just how “smart” she was. Every sentence or point they try to say about her is prefaced or ends with “she was so smart” or “you can’t imagine how smart she was”. I don’t know if she was smart of not. Judging on face value, she is of at least average intelligence. But what I do know is people who are truly smart do not need emphasizing of the point that they are smart. When people talk about Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, the sentence isn’t prefaced or ends with they are so “smart”. That’s given. They’ve proven their intelligence and academic prowess by their life’s work. People know Karl Marx was intelligent and intellectually unmatched, whether one agrees or disagrees with him, the fact remains, his mind was brilliant. There’s no need to mention his intelligence when talking about Marx.

This was a woman who wore $10,000 Valentino dresses when the country was in a deep recession, a recession caused by the Feds manipulating monetary policy, which her husband supported and got upset when someone pointed it out to her. She didn’t understand why people would point out or notice the Reagans’ profligacy when the rest of the country was suffering and unemployment rate was over 10%. This was a woman who consulted astrologers after her husband got shot and she didn’t want him going out in public spaces unless the stars were aligned, driving the White House staff crazy, making the jobs of people who arrange their schedules near impossible. People wonder what else did the Reagans’ consult the astrologers for? Maybe national security or economic policies? This was also a couple who refused to utter the word “AIDS” during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. They pretended it wasn’t happening and if were, it was a result of the gay lifestyle, something they wanted no part of.

Towards the end of her life, because of president Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, she raised a lot of funds for research into that horrific mind-robbing illness. Despite being pro-life and Republican, she approved the use of stem-cells to research Alzheimer’s. If she had a legacy besides being Mrs. Reagan, this could be it.

Lastly, no, she wasn’t a style icon. Her style was garish which was typical of the 1980s. She missed the first lesson in fashion which is “less is more”. Some of her gold chains and pearl necklaces rival that of Mr. T. Those $10,0000 designer dresses she wore? They wore her, she didn’t wear them, which is the second lesson in fashion. You wear the outfit, you don’t let the outfit wear you. Third lesson in fashion, expensive, designer made clothing doesn’t always look ‘expensive’ on the person wearing it. (I made these fashion rules up.)

So, please cable news, before I get back to my late night insomnia viewing and I’ve nothing else left to watch. Please shut up about Nancy Reagan. Let her rest in peace.

 

Generation X (2016)

 

Source: NatGeo

*These views are my own. I am a fellow Generation X. I see myself as a very average person from very average circumstances, therefore my views reflect that.

During casual channel browsing yesterday, I came across a documentary style program on National Geographic channel called Generation X. I recorded on my DVR for my late night insomnia viewing. People of Generation X are now between the ages of 35 and 55 (those born between 1961 and 1981) and we number in about 65 million, roughly half size of Baby Boomers, and for most of us, the narratives of our lives have been determined. They are determined by our social class, our own choices, family situation and how we reacted to what life threw at us. We are the unfortunate generation of people sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. The Baby Boomers were the largest generation created by capita and everyone is obsessed with Millennials now. Everyone wants to know their spending habits, likes and dislikes and generally what makes a Millennial tick so that mass marketers and corporations can sell to them more things they don’t need with money they don’t have. The sales pitch is so insidious that many don’t even realize that they are being worked over.

Generation X are stereotypically described as loners, slackers, social outcasts (usually by choice), electronic and computer geeks (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) and mistrusting of government, authority and establishment institutions (for their propensity to lie to us). Generation X was also the first generation of people blighted by family breakdown and family dysfunction. As divorce lost its stigma in the 70s and 80s, getting divorced right when the going gets tough in a marriage became the norm. People in the 80s specifically were terribly impulsive as the ‘Me Generation’ mentality took over. Everything was about me first and everyone else later. This idea of having obligations in which you must fulfil even if you don’t want to became an anathema to the ‘Me’ anthem of that time. This created a whole generation of children who grew up in single parent homes, blended families and having siblings who don’t share both parents with you. Perhaps because of this, we became a generation of people feeling alienated and full of pent up angst. When the people you look to for guidance gives zero fucks about what they do and who it affects, their offspring gives zero fucks about them too.

It is also the reason why the sitcom ‘Friends’ was such a big hit, our friends became our families. We chose our own families. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I have seen every single episode of Friends at the time it aired. Every Thursday night, I plonked down on my sofa and watched Friends religiously. The story lines made me laugh and I identified with each character’s dysfunctional family. Chandler’s transgender father who has a Vegas showgirl, Monica’s parents favoring Ross over her – always seeing her as the loud fat girl even though she’s no longer fat but still loud, Rachel’s parents’ divorce was so bitter they can’t be in the same room with each other, Phoebe and her twin sister Regina Filange were given away as babies to foster homes, only Joey had some semblance of a ‘normal’ family in the form of a large squabbling Italian-American family.  I don’t want to shit on our parents too much, they had their own struggles. After the heyday of idealism and activism of the 60s and 70s, when the party was over in Haight-Ashbury and other such places, people dusted off their old suits and went back to work. Many were probably permanently impaired from all that drug use. Many were disillusioned. Starting in the 1970s, industry in America began to collapse. Every recession since the 1970s and its subsequent recovery was less robust than the previous. The disastrous economic policies of ‘Reaganomics’ put a lot of American families in a worse position than before. There was no “morning in America again”. It was all a lie.

This program highlighted several events in the 70s and 80s which pierced our collective consciousness. In the 1960s and 70s, the Cold War was still raging. We were told that the evil empire USSR could at any time drop nukes on us and we’d be all obliterated. The ‘duck and hide’ exercises were especially hilarious considering if a nuclear bomb actually dropped on our cities, no amount of hiding or ducking can get you out of that pickle. One look at the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and one can see. Not much was left after the bombs were dropped. I don’t think cockroaches survived that, but I digress. To be told by your president and Commander-In-Chief that there are countries, empires out there so evil we must fight them is really disconcerting. Every single person who resides in USSR or in the influence of USSR is evil or embodies evil? You see where the cynicism comes from.

[Incidentally, my father got go to the USSR right after Gorbachev’s government collapsed. He went in 1992, when he got back I asked how was Russia? He went during winter so he said the weather was appalling, just like the New England winters he endured as a child, but he got first row seats at the Bolshoi Theater to see Swan Lake for $30 and that was the highlight of his whole trip. He mentioned the famed theater was in need of an overhaul, they were still manually pulling up the curtains but aside from that, it was the best ballet you’ll ever see. I asked him if it was ‘scary’ or how the people were? He said, people are people, the same everywhere. You have nice people, you have complete assholes. Conditions were bleak at the time, breadlines were long but it was due to the government collapsing more than anything. It reminded him too much of the cold New Hampshire winters so it put him off.]

If I can single out events which defined the narrative for Generation X they would be ‘Watergate’, ‘The Iran Contra’, ‘The War on Drugs’ Reagan’s version, fall of Berlin Wall and Kurt Cobain.

Watergate scandal is pretty self-explanatory. President Nixon had his ineffective goons break in to Watergate hotel, where Democrats often hold their conferences to bug the place with wiretaps. The break in failed, two nosy Washington Post reporters went digging and brought down a president. If the public was suspicious that our politicians routinely lies to us, this was the proof and Nixon was caught red handed. Who can forget the “your president is not a crook” lecture? While his henchman Henry Kissinger got away scot free, at least the president was punished for it and Nixon’s legacy is forever tarnished by Watergate.

Not so with ‘The Iran Contra’ affair. No one got punished for this double-dealing event which involved the president as well. The Iran Contra affair was when the US government sold weapons to Iran (our sworn enemy who kidnapped Americans and held them in hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran) just one year after they released all the hostages, in order to fund the Nicaraguan Contras (anti-communist, anti-Sandinista militia group). Since the US isn’t allowed to be directly involved with the affairs of another country, they found this back door way to do it. And in exchange for selling illegal weapons to Iran (Iran was barred from buying weapons on the world market), Iran is to help the US release hostages who are being held in Lebanon during their bloody civil war. And the go-between in all this, the middle-man if you will was Israel. They helped the US collect the money, they were the cash register. Again, Iran is also the sworn enemy of Israel, but when it comes to doing some below the table dirty work like this, they are all in. And I am willing to bet the middle-man charged an ‘inconvenience fee’ for his troubles. The US government in all these cases sets up a fall guy and this time it’s Oliver North, he went to testify in Congress in his uniform and full insignia and medals and said it was a “neat idea”. It was a whole dog and pony show was to exonerate Reagan. In the end Reagan kept his job, he summoned his best second rate acting skills and apologized to the American public and he insisted that he didn’t know about trading US hostages in exchange for selling weapons to Iran. Right. Reagan, in some quarters is still one of the most beloved presidents today. This whole incident reeked from beginning to end and watching back the grainy, non-digital footage of Oliver North’s testimony had me breaking out in guffaws.

In the case of Watergate, the lesson was the cover up was greater than the crime and Nixon was duly punished, regardless of all the forces at work behind the scenes. In the Iran-Contra affair, there was no lesson, just a series of putrefying testimonies by rancid people covering up the president’s involvement.

Nothing elicited more laughs from me than seeing Nancy Reagan in her coiffed hair with pearls the size of a person’s eyeballs saying “Just Say No” to drugs. While the crack cocaine epidemic was raging in the inner cities, while black men were being locked up in huge numbers, their white counterparts who snorted powdered cocaine got slaps on the wrist or no punishment at all, all Nancy Reagan can say is “Just Say No”. Towards the end of the second Reagan presidency, they resembled our elderly grandparents who’s got not one clue how the world has changed. Despite the raging AIDS epidemic, Reagan never uttered the words “AIDS” during his presidency. The Reagans’ had become stale and outdated. Nancy Reagan’s constant pearl clutching like she was some ante-bellum southern belle was especially annoying, you wondered if she carried smelling salts. While they still abided by rules of a WASPy country club, the real rules of society had changed.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is always a touching moment to watch. It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet influence in Europe’s Eastern Bloc. But politics aside, to see Germans of East and West reunited is moving. Many have died trying to scale that wall. It is slightly comical in that the soldiers who’s main duty is to guard that wall with their lives didn’t get the memo that the East Germany government have allowed free passage. It was long overdue.

Kurt Cobain and through his band Nirvana unwittingly became the voice of Generation X. Cobain, like many Gen Xs’ came from a broken family. His father remarried, his new stepmother had children from a prior marriage as well, his father had another child with his new wife and he hated it. He got lost in the shuffle and was ignored (though not intentionally), he begun to act out and found his outlet in music. In the movie ‘Montage of Heck’, Kurt Cobain’s parents were interviewed, and they were your typical working class baby boomers, and especially his father, he was very clueless about what plagued his son, in fact, he’s still very clueless. His mother tried helping her son when he was young but his behavior got so bad that she gave up custody of him to his father. She didn’t want to deal with a wayward child. When his father and stepmother didn’t want to deal with him, he would couch surf with any relative who’ll have him. Kurt Cobain died without ever reconciling with his father, he reconciled with his mother and she had intermittent custody of his daughter Frances Bean Cobain after his death when his widow Courtney Love didn’t have all her marbles with her.

Lots of other trends and movements happened between 1961 and 1981, I enjoyed watching The Sex Pistols crashing the Queen’s 25 year jubilee on the river Thames, blaring out their own version of ‘God Save the Queen.’ It reignited that rebel spirit in me which had lay dormant, I remembered how nice it is to give zero-fucks about anyone or anything. The first two episodes of this program is a mash-up of the “best of” reels, they covered political events, social events and pop culture.

Generation X symbolized many ‘lasts’. We are the last people to experience any sort of job security, a job with health benefits and 401K. We are the last generation to attend college at a reasonable cost (especially the older Gen Xs) and our degree was worth something. We are the only generation who still remember what it was like to have a 56K modem, where Internet access at home was a luxury and the PC computer, we straddled the arc of being disconnected all the time to being connected all of the time. If you are a thirty-something Gen X, you still remember your childhood as living in the real world (as opposed to online), where you begun to type your school essays on a bulky PC unit and laser jet printer was a luxury. You still checked books out from the library to do research, Google search wasn’t in wide use yet and everything was not at your fingertips. I got my first flip cell phone when I was 20 years old, an impossibly ancient age by today’s standards.

This generation of loners and social outcasts made a way from no way. One can argue Gen X grew up during a time of unprecedented wealth and technological advancement but material wealth is no replacement for stable relationships with parents. The generational wars are in full force. Baby boomer (our parents) look at us with disdain and the feeling is probably mutual, our grandparents (The Silent Generation) while loving and kind do not understand us or our problems. After all, we didn’t have to live through the Depression like they did, which to them, was the major crisis of their lives. Many Gen Xs such as myself (and many of my peers) forged close bonds with our grandparents because they actually gave a shit about what’s happening to us even if they didn’t understand us. They know that children need to grow up in stable households and safe environments and nothing can take the place of familial affection. The financial planner Ed Slott said half jokingly, the reason why grandparents leave legacies to their grandchildren instead of their children is because there’s a conspiracy between them and their grandkids: they both hate the generation in the middle.

My heart bleeds for the Millennials, who are like my younger brothers and sisters. They are entering the workforce in a most uncertain time. There are no more safety nets, no more buffer between the sheltered life at home and the cruel world. Millennials don’t suffer the sort of alienation their older counterparts did because of smartphones. They can trick themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of friends. Feeling lonely and alienated is part and parcel of growing up in any generation, some are more pronounced than others and to overcome that feeling of alienation is part of  character building and strength one will need to navigate this world. Also, to feel alienated and lonely isn’t that bad, in fact, I think it’s good. To always fit in everywhere all the time means you just go with the trend, with the sole purpose of trying to fit in, without deliberating if fitting in all the time is a good thing. A sense of belonging and validation is one of the most basic needs of human existence but it must be with the right glove. As for Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that the world will get better because we are all connected and we can share our ideas easily, it’s all crock. Silicon Valley cannot save the world from its ills, technology can help but it’s still the people.

Finally, “fuck Andy Rooney”, you know nothing about Kurt Cobain or what he meant to people, so get off your moral high horse and stick to talking about what you know about – boring white people stuff.

A lot of people would like to have the years left that he threw away,” Rooney said. “What’s all this nonsense about how terrible life is?” he asked, adding rhetorically to a young woman who had wept at the suicide, “I’d love to relieve the pain you’re going through by switching my age for yours.” In addition, he asked “What would all these young people be doing if they had real problems like a Depression, World War II or Vietnam?” and commented that “If applied the same brain to his music that he applied to his drug-infested life, it’s reasonable to think that his music may not have made much sense either.”

 

This is a 6 episode series about Generation X on National Geographic Channel. Check local listings for air time.

The Hypocrisy of Funeral Attendance

SCALIA FUNERAL 2
Funeral procession of Justice Antonin Scalia

President Obama has been criticized for not attending Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral, especially by conservatives. While the Obamas aren’t attending the funeral, they did go pay their respects at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court where Scalia’s body was lying in repose. Much of the criticism is coming from the right, probably still smarting at a bad hand that’s been dealt to them politically. They also know the liberals and progressives are trying hard to hold a somber face together at the demise of Justice Scalia, but are secretly dancing inside. Anyway you slice it, regardless if President Obama can get a new Supreme Court Justice on the bench before his term is over, the gods are smiling on the Democratic Party.

Politics aside, what is the proper etiquette for funeral attendance? Besides close friends and family, whose funeral should one attend and why? Just like weddings, people attend funerals for all sorts of reasons, but not always for the right ones. Many feel compelled to attend a funeral not only to show respect for the deceased but also out of obligation. If the CEO of your company dies and one is within a certain rank in management, one might feel compelled to go even if they hardly knew the CEO or thoroughly disliked him, especially if everyone else who hold you rank and higher are going. Most people just grit their teeth and get on with it. You don’t want to be singled out as the guy who didn’t attend the boss’s funeral.

Specifically in the case of Scalia, Obama being in the more senior position on the food chain so the choice to go or not is entirely up to him. He chose to not go and whatever his reasons are, it is wholly appropriate. Obama didn’t appoint Scalia to the Court, while Obama may have respected Scalia and the position he holds, it is unclear if that respect was reciprocated. While the president appoints Supreme Court justice candidates and the Senate confirms them, the president is not their immediate superior. Supreme Court justices do not report directly to the president of the United States. In fact, it’s best for the president of the United States to not be seen as being too chummy with Supreme Court Justices. So all the uproar about Obama not attending Scalia’s funeral is just that, uproar to score political points from the right, an uproar without any substance.

That the former Justice Scalia was not a very likable person outside of his family and immediate legal circle isn’t lost on people either. Political and media pundits are trying to dance around this point but the fact remains, unless you shared Scalia’s views or you were another fellow jurist and can bounce off legal ideas with him, he was not a likable guy. Compare him with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, also very conservative in his views, also a fellow Catholic, but he is generally likable by most people who know him. Just reading back court transcripts when Scalia is doing the questioning makes one cringe, his tone is often confrontational, at times combative and even condescending (comparing health insurance to “broccoli” comes to mind). The majority of the people who turned out for his funeral today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. probably barely knew the guy as it is the case with funerals of prominent persons. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, all the people lamenting the loss of a great jurist didn’t know the justice well, if at all. They heap praises on him because the justice happens to pander to their political view, which is the right of crazy.

Supreme Court Justices aren’t exactly public figures but they are visible to the public more so than any other judges because there are only 9 of them and their names are attached to the decisions they vote on for posterity. Supreme Court Justices aren’t elected officials, they are appointed officials. They do not hold elected public office but they are civil servants to some degree. Some justices such as Sonia Sotomayor do outreach programs in minority communities but they rarely speak about the decisions or their views on sensitive legal subjects until after they’ve left the bench. We only know of them through the legal decisions they write while they are serving on the nation’s highest court and the occasional public speeches. From those decisions we the public judge their character, their political persuasions and integrity. And it is in this area Justice Scalia failed to impress the public. It’s not that he’s a conservative justice, there were lots of those throughout the history of the court, but that he’s ultra-conservative to the point where his decisions instead of preserving people’s rights, he diminished them or took them away. He derided members of the LGBTQ community by saying :“It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections.” In the Fisher vs. University of Texas case, he argued against affirmative action:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” he said. “One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer.”

The courts trying to slowly dismantle affirmative action is relegating minorities to “lesser schools” and instead of seeing this as a problem, Justice Scalia thinks that’s the way it should be, especially if they can’t keep up fast-track schools. It’s not up to higher learning institutions to accommodate the needs of the students but the other way around. Students of color routinely feel ostracized and marginalized in advanced learning institutions so it is very important that every law created to support students of color needs to be preserved and not taken away.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed 9 states, mostly in the South to change voting laws without advance federal approval. Justice Scalia voted with the majority, Chief Justice Roberts decision stated:

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

This states which had voter identification laws blocked as being unconstitutional can have those laws immediately go into effect. Placing additional voting restrictions (with the false premise of stemming voter fraud) always harms minorities and the underprivileged. Creating additional bureaucracy just for people to go to the polls and vote will deter people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly who are physically impaired or infirm, where getting out of the house requires a lot of planning. It will discourage people who do not have the luxury of taking time off work to sort out ‘voting’ paperwork from going to the polls and these are usually minorities and women. The mere fact that voting restriction (poll tax, literacy tests) was created in the South post Civil War with the single purpose of keeping black people from going to the polls should deter all justices from voting to dilute the Voting Rights Act.

It’s not so much that Justice Scalia leans right politically, many justices do, but that he cannot separate his devout Catholic beliefs combined his purist view of the constitution from permeating his decisions (which are final, there are no more appeals after the Supreme Court rules) and how he views the law is a big problem. His comment about “invent”[ing] new minorities just so they can get special protections is indicative of that. He doesn’t feel that members of the LGBTQ community are deserving of special protection under the law when since the dawn of man this group of individuals have been the most marginalized and unprotected. I won’t even get into his appalling record of allowing women’s right to choose or anything to do with a woman that’s outside of her home.

That a man who lived to be 79 but his views are nearly unchanged from since he was 17 is a sign of stunted self-actualization. Most speak of this as a strength or a personality quirk, but it’s not, it shows a deliberate lack of growth. Even devout Catholics change their views on issues that the church is usually implacable about, regardless if the church changed its views or not. The fact that Scalia had the privilege to walk around his whole entire adult life acting as though he’s still the head boy at a Catholic private school without consequences and this same person got to sit on the bench of one of the most hallowed institutions in the country should concern everyone.

Of course he was brilliant jurist, with a sharp mind for legal matters. His chosen profession would dictate that. He is part of a rare and privileged group of men and four women  who had the final say on important matters which determine the history of our country and the lives of ordinary Americans. The people whom belong to this group, along with interpreting the Constitution (which is very vague and can be open to any sort of interpretation on grey areas) should handle that privilege with care and consideration. And this is where Justice Antonin Scalia has failed in his duty.

As for proper funeral etiquette. I wouldn’t want anyone at my funeral who didn’t like me but feel obligated to attend. Obama is still the president and he can do what he damn well pleases. It’s  not as though Obama skipped the funeral of previous presidents or other major heads of state. To attend the funeral of a man you hardly knew and didn’t like smacks of hypocrisy. Besides, the president has more important business to attend to, like appointing Scalia’s successor.

In Memoriam: The Conservative Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia’s body is not yet cold and he’s already been turned into a political pawn. I can’t say I feel sorry about that, I think he might actually enjoy this.

Whilst Democrats and liberals are rejoicing behind closed doors, doing the ‘Chandler jig’ from the sitcom ‘Friends’, Republicans and conservatives are pouring their hearts out on Twitter and other social media and shaming other liberals who have trouble hiding their glee at the death of Scalia.

Along with the tributes for Scalia, Republican leaders also wasted no time stating there should be no new appointment of Scalia’s replacement until a new president is elected. Keep in mind Obama still has another 11 months in office, which is a very long time to keep a seat vacant on the nation’s highest court. The ‘no new appointment’ pledge is a not so subtle way of saying the Republican controlled Senate will not confirm any candidate the president puts forward.

For Democrats and progressives, one can’t but feel God is on their side today. Not that progressives rejoice in the death of another (I hope), but Scalia’s death was unexpected, he was not suffering from any illness that the public was aware of, so it’s fair to say no one wished him a hasty demise. Regardless, here we are, in Obama’s last year in office, he gets another chance to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Even if his appointment doesn’t get confirmed by the time he leaves office, it’s a great opportunity to play political chess, even for the sole pleasure of yanking your opponent’s chain.

This can go a few ways:

1.) To appoint a wildly liberal candidate for the nation’s highest court, knowing full well that it will never pass confirmation, but just seeing the GOP senators filibustering while foaming at the mouth and wildy gesticulating on the hallowed halls of the Senate looking like rabid animals is a great way to get a good laugh and pass your last few months in office.

2.) Obama appoints a moderate candidate to appease moderate Republican senators, which the Republicans will still strongly oppose and filibuster and block the nomination, it will then serve as a tool for the presidential election campaign. It’s a chance to make the Republicans look even more out of touch (if that’s possible) even unstable upstairs to take the job of the president of the United States. The Democratic candidates can also use this event to their own benefit depending on if they agree with Obama’s choice or not.

3.) Obama does nothing, or ‘leaks’ a few names here and there, but ultimately kicks it down the road for the incoming president, whoever it may be. This scenario would suit the Republican playbook too well, it would essentially give them what they want. But Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders can both jump on this issue and start floating around names of who they would appoint and benefit their campaigns.

I am personally not in favor of doing nothing, because it will become another unnecessary talking point in the general election. Instead of focusing on the issues, they will talk about will he or won’t he appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and everyone have to weigh in on their opinion. The option of not giving an opinion regardless of which party you belong to will be near impossible.

About the newly departed Justice Antonin Scalia, he was seen as a stalwart of the Conservative movement in the Court. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan for his conservative views of small government and reverence to the Constitution of the United States. He’s praised for being an exemplary jurist, a brilliant intellect with a strict adherence to the Constitution with the belief that it’s a living document.

I am no legal scholar nor have I recently read the Constitution of the United States cover to cover (I last read it in high school). I can’t speak to the decisions he made with respect to the Constitution. Naturally, he has fierce intellect and a strong passion for the law along with a devotion to constitutional law, any person being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court will need to be an ‘excellent jurist and have a passion for the law’ along with superior intellect. This is not to diminish the talent of Justice Scalia, I am simply saying this is a job requirement for anyone who seeks a place on the Supreme Court. However, anyone who believes that the Constitution is a ‘living document’ when it was written over 250 years ago and the issues which weren’t present 250 years ago, we are to interpret modern day legal quandaries based solely on the words written 250 years ago, not allowing any room to apply the Constitution to modern America (which looks very different from the Founder days) is absurd.

Justice Scalia’s job was to interpret the law, in many of his decisions, especially socially relevant decisions such as gay rights, abortion rights and women’s rights, he still refers to a document that is 250 years old, when slavery was still legal, when women didn’t have the vote and LGBT individuals lived on the margins of society. When he does this, he’s no longer interpreting the law, he’s making new laws based off of old laws. He likes to accuse those that deviate from the Constitution as judicial activists, judicial activism is a concern amongst judges but wasn’t his strict adherence to a document, a document which was written in very vague terms no less, another form of judicial activism, especially when it advances conservative causes and denies people their basic rights? This is the same thing as Christian fundamentalists who take the every word written in the Bible literally and live their lives according to the teachings of Bible, literally. Today we think of those people as being out of touch with reality and many question their judgement. How is Justice Scalia’s purist views of the Constitution not the same? Granted, there’s been many amendments to the constitution, but last amendment ever made to the constitution was made on May 7, 1992, the 27th Amendment, which was has to do with salaries of members of Congress. It was an amendment that was put forth on September 25, 1789, and it was ratified 202 years later.

Like the presidency of the United States, being a Supreme Court Justice, there’s no book to guide you or inform you of your duties.  You take the sum of your experiences, on the bench and off the bench, along with scholastic learning about the law, previous experience prior to joining the bench, along with common sense and you render your best decision based on your application of the Constitution. It’s not a blind and strict adherence to the actual document itself.

Diversification of Bernie Sanders

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was running the risk of being an ‘one issue candidate’, his political rallies are rousing and inspiring. Besides vowing to break up banks who are ‘too big to fail’, enacting a single payer healthcare system, and free public college and university tuition, while are all worthy causes, there was not much else to his platforms. He was at risk of becoming a political ‘one trick pony’. His foreign policy is non-interventionist, seeking to end the role of the US being the world’s policeman and invading Iraq was a mistake. Besides that, there’s not much else to it either. I didn’t watch the early debates because Chris O’Malley bored me and I wrongly assumed all of that was just for show as Hillary Clinton will be the eventual candidate anyways. The nomination was hers to lose (this was before I felt the Bern).

A lot has changed since the Iowa Caucasus and the New Hampshire primary. Clinton barely eked out a win in Iowa and she lost by 20 points to Sanders in New Hampshire. After Sanders’s decisive win in New Hampshire, he raised $5 million dollars from individuals. Hillary Clinton is now on the defensive after a few of her surrogates misspoke. Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright are probably seething at the ungratefulness of the younger generation  of women. The truth is, we (women), don’t like to be told what to do or how to think, or even worse, be told we do certain things to get the attention of boys (which by the way, is fairly easy to get and no need to switch political allegiance to achieve that aim). Not even by the self-appointed high council of feminism, and if there’s a special cold day in hell for us younger feminists for refusing their sage advice (directive), I guess I’ll see a few of them there. I can definitely see a place of the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The last two debates I watched with great interest, especially the direct attacks at Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and big corporations. If the public didn’t know or didn’t know the depth of the ties, we all do now. He’s laid out a successful case on why that’s a big problem, how she’ll  never govern fairly because of it. Like he said in this last debate, Wall Street, big pharma, big insurance companies, fossil fuel companies don’t donate millions of dollars to political campaigns because they are feeling generous and have too much money on their hands (they do, but that’s beside the point), they pay those contributions in hopes of benefitting themselves and he asked Mrs. Clinton to “not insult the intelligence” of the American people. To which, the former Secretary of State has no response to.

The last debate which took place in Milwaukee, each of the candidates fresh off of their wins and losses, was more thorough and measured in their positions. Sanders articulated his foreign policy better, which is less intervention and if intervention is necessary, the United States will no longer take the lead, which by default will make us shoulder the burden. Sanders wants to re-engage NATO, to revamp NATO if you will and make the world part of the peacekeeping and policing duties. Sanders emphasized a more open door immigration policy and bringing 11 million people out of the shadows, especially for unaccompanied minors, Sanders favored granting them asylum. He didn’t speak much about how to secure the borders, and neither did Clinton. It’s an obvious pander for the Hispanic vote.

Sanders campaign and should he win the presidency is to focus on the problems of the United States and retreat from the world. We need to fix our appalling rate of children living in poverty (30%) highest in the industrialized nations. We need to fix our roads, bridges and other infrastructure so tragedies like Flint can be prevented. Sanders wants to de-militarize the police and have police officers be represented in diversity of the community they are serving. Most importantly, he wants to end the mass incarceration which is blighting a generation of black and latino young men.

The priorities of the American public has changed. Gen X, Y and Millennials, especially Gen Y and Millennials no longer care about America as a superpower of the world. We care about America the country with respect to American people and how it takes care of its own first before the president decides and goes to invade a sovereign nation. Sanders has captured this mood, just like Obama did in 2008, unfortunately Obama continued the militaristic policies of the previous administration. Granted, it’s not reasonable to ask any President to immediately withdraw America from the world as a superpower and with it our military presence around the world, but we can decline a leading role in being the police officers of the world and make it a joint effort between all the superpowers.

Hillary Clinton’s claim that “you have to be ready on day one” and implying that she’s the one that’s ready. Well, the presidency of the United States isn’t a job one can prepare for unless one has already been president. And all first term presidents were not ready, they think they are but they are not. And you really don’t need to be ‘ready’, the elections of President Bill Clinton, who was the governor of Arkansas before he became president, and President Obama, who was a first term senator before he became president, prove this point. In fact, they were probably the least ready of all recent presidents, with the exception of Ronald Reagan.

In my view, Hillary Clinton misjudged the mood of her voters and that’s why many of her would be voters are now supporting Sanders. Voters no longer care that she was a former Secretary of State who stared down Middle Eastern dictators or brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Voters want to know what is she going to do to improve the lives of everyday Americans, whose lives and livelihoods have been decimated by the recession. What is she going to do about police brutality, institutionalized racism, income inequality across genders and races, reigning in the excesses and cutting the legs off of Wall Street.

It’s not guaranteed that Bernie Sanders can fix all of the problems of our nation in one term or even two terms, but he has the will and desire to do so. With transformative candidates such as Obama and Sanders, much is expected from them and as a result the disappointment is greater. Theoretically we know one man cannot walk on water or change centuries of an entrenched system, but in our hearts we want them to, we expect them to be miracle workers. Sanders’s sincerity comes across to the voters. Hillary Clinton is only paying lip service. That’s the difference and that is why young voters and women are Feeling The Bern.

 

Denmark has done it. They will take what few possessions refugees have. 

The Danish legislature passed a law allowing authorities to require migrants and refugees to turn over any cash in excess of 10,000 kroner (about US $1455) and hand over any valuables that are not of sentimental value such as watches or computers. Wedding rings, engagement rings, family portraits and badges of honor and other sentimental items are exempt. The purpose of this provide for the upkeep and maintenance of migrant and refugees whom have already entered Denmark, which are about 20,000 people right now. One tidbit which has been overlooked is, legislators in exchange for raising the threshold of cash to be seized (from 3000 to 10,000 kroner), the family reunification period has been increased from one year to three years. This means refugee and asylum seekers must wait a minimum of three years before they can reunify with their families, even if they establish themselves and become gainfully employed and financially independent before three years. Especially for people with young families, this is a punitively long time to be separated by arbitrary circumstances. The seizures of cash and valuables is Denmark’s way of making themselves as unattractive as possible for refugees and migrants so that they go elsewhere to claim asylum. It’s another way of saying ‘not in my backyard’.

The Danish government claim this isn’t discriminatory or racist. They require all Danish welfare applicants to do the same before they claim welfare benefits. They also allege, if their asylum claims are successful, they will become legal Danish citizens and will be entitled to all of the privileges and benefits of all Danes, which are quite generous. Free medical care from cradle to grave, free tuition until college, housing benefit, paid maternity and paternity leave and generous unemployment benefits are guaranteed for Danish citizens, except migrants and refugees didn’t pay into the Danish treasury like native Danes have done all their working lives. Denmark is also known for their eye watering tax rates to pay for all of these benefits. Denmark is socialist democratic country, Danes pay huge sums in taxes in exchange for the government taking care of all the citizens from cradle to grave. It is a mutually beneficial exchange. Law abiding Danes can expect a life of relative comfort and security even in the face of recessions, unemployment, sickness, disability and other unforeseen events because of everyone’s contribution to the purse and because of this taxpayer funded security, the Danish government in turn expect their citizens to be law abiding and peaceful. After all, what is there to complain about, along with with generous benefits, which nearly everyone contributes to, they live in a clean and orderly country, where all the infrastructure is functioning, they also have human rights and freedoms of speech and expression, people can live as they choose. Many people on the political left view countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland as some sort of utopia, where the government takes care of its people and the people return that gratitude by being good and law abiding citizens. What is not explicitly expressed in this mutually beneficial arrangement between the government and its people is that it only works if all the people who contribute to and live with in this system are on the same page as to what’s expected of them.

One of the first lessons we learn as children is “there is no free lunch”, which translates to nothing in life (nothing good and worthwhile at least) is free. The same can be said for the socialist democracies of Scandinavia and to some extent Germany. In order to maintain this very generous social contract with its citizens, along with punitive tax rates, they also need a big tax base, where virtually everyone contributes, not just the rich, upper-class and middle class, even the working class must contribute from their meagre wages. This also means countries like Denmark cannot support a sudden influx of a large immigrant population and while they learn to speak the language, integrate into a very western society and become gainfully employed preferably with a skilled trade and during which they bring over the rest of their families, which are probably larger than an average Danish family all on the Danish dime. Learning the language is hard enough and could take years for some and for others it may be impossible to fully master, as I understand Danish isn’t the easiest of languages to learn. If a refugee knows some English, it can help them in learning German, not so with Danish or Swedish. The second choice would be to master English but it’s not the dominant language in non-English speaking countries. I mentioned in a previous post the generosity of the more welcoming nations to refugees will run out sooner rather than later. And now it’s happening. Migrants and refugees have been entering Europe in large numbers for the last two years or so and enough time has passed where numbers and statistics can be collected. And in light of those numbers and recent events of women being assaulted in public places, night clubs; countries who were once willing to take on refugees and migrants are taking a pause.

  • 38% of migrants and refugees in Europe are from Syria, which technically means, countries can eject 62% percent of their refugee and migrant population.
  • Denmark has accepted 20,000 people in 2015
  • Sweden has accepted 120,000 in 2015
  • Germany has accepted 1.1 million people in 2015
  • Switzerland has received 45,000 refugees but they are not part of the EU and can do what they like.

According to authorities in Austria, Germany is turning back a lot more people. They are holding persons who are not of Syrian, Iraqi or Afghani origin at the Austrian border. There is already some talk in the EU governing body, where they will deport economic migrants from peaceful nations such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The message from the EU is clear. The gravy train is over. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has maintained the “we’ll handle it” message to her detractors, she is slowly caving into the political reality and the actual reality that Germans do not want to “handle” it. No matter how she feels about the “humanitarian imperative”, she is an elected leader who is governing with a coalition and she cannot force her hand and go against the coalition and the people who elected her.

With the recent spate of crimes and social indecencies committed by a small number of migrants, the level of hysteria in the EU has been cranked up. Besides women being assaulted at refugee intake centers, these assaults have spread to the local population. Most prominent being the NYE assaults in Cologne, where women were encircled by marauding gangs of Arab or North African looking men, openly assaulted in public, groped and robbed of their mobile phones and cash. At least one woman was raped. There are reports of women being targeted by migrants and refugees in Hamburg and smaller incidents of inappropriate touching in other parts of Germany.

Until the German police and authorities can get a handle on the situation, migrants have been banned from certain nightclubs, because female patrons don’t feel safe. In Denmark, there’s been an ad hoc nationwide ban on migrants from night clubs because they don’t “know the rules” of nightclub etiquette (keep your hands to yourself unless invited). A public pool in Germany near a migrant intake center has temporarily banned migrants because they were harassing the women and were seen urinating in the pool and masterbating until, well, the desired results of such an action in the pool. Cartoon drawings have been made showing the migrants of appropriate social etiquette, such as not groping women in public, not staring at homosexuals holding hands in the streets and oddly, no shouting or abusing children in public. The bans on public pools and bathhouses are meant to be temporary. German authorities have dispatched social workers to speak to these migrants on what is appropriate public decorum and etiquette. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the social worker is trying to explain to migrants how jerking off in public especially in a pool especially where others are present is considered poor form. I pity the person that has to impart this message.

Many on the left have spoken out about these exclusionary measures. Hysterically calling it an apartheid, instead of trying to integrate migrants into mainstream German society, they are being deliberately excluded. This notion is extraordinary, if people don’t know where they should use the toilet and handle their private biological urges in private, they should be banned until they learn the rules. I think what Germans and the Danes are doing is sensible. Their first duty is protect the rights and leisure of their own citizens. Nobody wants people urinating or jerking off in public pools or spaces. It’s disgusting and unsanitary. Women do not deserve to be groped on a Friday night out with friends at a nightclub. And if migrants don’t understand this or cannot abide by this, then they should be banned from places of leisure until at a such time they do understand. Banning migrants from bathhouses, public pools or nightclubs is not violating their basic human rights. They are not being tossed out in the street or deprived meals or basic necessities.

The tragic case of the murder of Alexandra Mezher, a case worker at a migrant intake center in Sweden for unaccompanied minors ages 15 to 19. She was stabbed to death by a 15 year old Syrian migrant. The circumstances of her murder are not clear except that a fight broke out and she was stabbed, she died of her injuries later in the hospital. In this case, the fear is justice for the Mezher family will be insufficient. The perpetrator is a minor, he cannot be deported back to Syria because of human rights laws which govern EU countries, at best he’ll serve a sentence for juvenile offenders and he’ll resume his freedom, all on the Swedish taxpayer. Alexandra Mezher’s family is from Lebanon, it is presumed that she chose to work at migrant shelter so she can help people from the Middle East adjust to Sweden, especially with her Arabic language skills and cultural familiarity. Her family said she was an “angel” who loved to help people.

Let’s look at another set of numbers. Presumably, there are 1.3-1.4 million or more migrants and refugees from North Africa, sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East in Europe right now, and out of those numbers let’s say 14,000 have committed crimes or behaved inappropriately, that is only 1% of the migrants who’ve committed crimes. The way they committed some of these crime in mobs such as NYE in Cologne makes it seem like all of them are marauding gangs preying on vulnerable women, but if you breakdown the numbers, they are in the small minority. The level of hysteria whipped up about the migration crisis doesn’t commensurate with the actual numbers. The next hysteria is the diseases these people from third world countries are bringing. According to Danish health officials, migrants have brought diseases to Denmark which they haven’t seen in the last 20 years such as diphtheria, malaria and tuberculosis. Keep in mind Denmark has just 20,000 migrants compared to 1.1 million in Germany and 120,000 in Sweden. On top of their routine medical exam, it may be wise to give them a sleuth of vaccinations to prevent such hysteria. These people are from third world countries where health infrastructure is shoddy or nonexistent, of course they will bring third world country diseases. This is to be expected.

Another number, the total number of migrants in Europe right now is about 1-2% of the whole population of the European Union. For the purposes of comparison, the United States has about 11.1 million undocumented immigrants, most of whom are from Mexico or Central America, which accounts for 10% of the whole Latino population in the US. The Latino population in the US is between 10-15% of the total US population, which is about 50 million people, and more than one-fifth of the 50 million people are undocumented immigrants. What the EU is dealing with is peanuts.

I am no leftist apologist when it comes to immigration and crimes committed by immigrants. I do not apologize for or minimize violent crime against women or murder. I also believe that immigrants need to respect the laws, rules and customs of the country that is hosting them. Leering and groping at women in public is unacceptable, so is jerking off or urinating in a public pool. Telling migrants to not do these things isn’t imposing western ways on them, or ‘cultural imperialism’ – another wrong application of a very complicated and totally unrelated concept. If westerners did what migrants did in their home countries, we’d be arrested and jailed, perhaps in some extreme cases executed. So, let’s get a grip on all fronts here.

Between the hysteria of the political right and human rights violation bleatings from the political left, it’s up to sensible people in the middle to state the facts as they are, not what people wish them to be based on where they stand on the issues.

There is an underbelly of society in every country, even pretty places like Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and and the pristine shores of Lake Geneva. There are jerk-offs (literal and metaphorical), public urinators, rapists, abusers and murderers in every country. The difference is, in the west, especially wealthy countries in Europe, U.K. and America, people with means can segregate themselves from these unsavory sides of society. People living in pretty middle class neighborhoods have the luxury of not seeing what we don’t want to see, which are the disenfranchised members of society. People whom mainstream and polite society have cast out as being unwanted and they’ve been left to rot in their crumbling neighborhoods. No one cares, no one takes a second look at the members of the underclass. The migrants who are popping up in European cities, most of whom are indigent, traumatized, perhaps lost many family members along the way, their backgrounds unknown or sketchy, perhaps they really are sociopaths – no one really knows, many perhaps are barely literate in their own language have landed in Europe are being shoved in the faces of traditionally civilized, orderly and clean cities. Where the rules and decorum of such societies are unspoken, unwritten but strictly observed. The poor and disenfranchised of the first world are hidden inner cities, ghettos and towns which people have forgotten. The disenfranchised of Germany, Denmark or elsewhere will not go to public pools, bathhouses or fancy nightclubs to embarrass themselves. They know better than that and unless they clean up or move up the social ladder, they aren’t welcome. Migrants and refugees don’t know that. The disenfranchised people of the first world is how a majority of the people in the third world live. The five Giant Evils of society as identified by Sir William Beveridge, the creator of the modern welfare state in the UK: ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’. These five Giant Evils are staring at Europe in the face and they don’t like what they see.

Taking what little they have and flogging it to pay for their upkeep and maintenance is adding insult and injury to their current existence. The computer they want to take to pay for their one month’s rent for their bed at the refugee shelter could be a computer which helps them learn the language or find a job. The phone they want to take way could be his or her only way to contact their families. The jewelry and mementos which are deemed not of sentimental value could be their father or mother’s watch or jewelry, maybe the only thing they’ve left of their family. Taking the cash which exceeds a certain amount, did it ever occur to them that if they take their extra cash upfront and they run of money and they are ineligible to work yet, it’s the government who has to give them more cash? Taking from people who have the least is one of the most despicable things and the EU, as they proclaim themselves to be a bastion of human rights, they ought to know and do better. The argument which they are only enforcing the same rules on Danish citizens is false comparison because native Danes are clearly in the advantage in terms of finding new employment:

The Danish government has claimed they are just applying similar rules they do to Danish citizens on welfare benefits. But refugees are not in the same situation as Danish nationals. They don’t speak the language or have the same connections or social networks and they’re entering an unfamiliar country with different customs or ways of working – all of which affect their ability to find work and provide for their families. – Tania Cheung

Not to unfairly focus on Denmark; Switzerland, arguably the wealthiest nation in the world, also has ‘rules’ in place to ensure migrants pay their fair share by seizing their assets as well:

[Switzerland is] acting to seize financial assets over 1,000 Swiss Francs (£690) from refugees. The money will be returned to refugees, but only if they leave voluntarily within seven months. On top of that, refugees who are given the right to stay and work in Switzerland will have 10 per cent of their pay taken away from them until they “repay” 15,000 Swiss francs for the costs of processing asylum seeker applications and social assistance. – Tania Cheung

But Switzerland insists, of the 45,000 refugees they’ve received so far, this rule only applied to 112 people. So, not so bad then? Switzerland isn’t part of the EU or EEA (Europe Economic Area) but is part of the single market, which allows Swiss citizens to live and work anywhere in the Eurozone. Since they aren’t part of the EU or EEA and do not need to answer to Brussels, they are free to make their own rules and policies.

It also serves to remember, prior to migrants coming from Africa and Middle East, the last major ‘migration crisis’ were the Romanians and Bulgarians, specifically the Roma Gypsies in those countries. When on January 1, 2014, restrictions on the movements of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens were lifted and they were allowed to travel to any country in the Eurozone to work or live. The major concern was the Roma Gypsy populations in these countries would overrun countries with generous welfare benefits like France, Germany and the U.K. and these people could freely travel without having to slip through the Calais borders. They can jump on a bus, train or airplane and legally get to their destinations. Roma Gypsies were the nomadic peoples of Europe who didn’t conform to mainstream European society. Many aspersions and prejudices were cast on them, they were and to some extent still are marginalized members of European society. No country claims them as they don’t belong to any country, the are ethnically Roma. To survive and exist on the margins, some have turned to petty thieving, financial fraud and gang activities and enterprises, though many Romas have tried integrate into mainstream society with varying degrees of success. In the second half of 2013 and early 2014, newspaper upon newspaper article, especially from the UK hysterically reported on how Romas will ruin their towns and cities with their constant begging and loitering. They only come to UK to claim benefits because even people in their own countries don’t want them. Roma Gypsy camps in France, similar to The Jungle in Calais now but at a smaller scale were constantly being raided and razed by the police, forcing people living in the camps to scatter or go into hiding. Even Germany was exasperated with them as they turn to begging in every street corner. The same things being said about the migrants today are the same accusations being levied at Roma Gypsies. They are ill suited for modern society, their values are incompatible with European values, they beg and steal as a way of earning a living. They all live in caravans and live in filth. They have large families and they do not send their children to school. Their own standards for living and personal hygiene is low so they can live, sleep anywhere, in squalor and filth, even in the Marble Arch in London where any passerby can see you. These people have no pride because if they did, they’d sort themselves out and fast. Germany’s Der Spiegel sympathetically calls them “The Unwanted People of Europe”. They routinely suffer from discrimination and racism and the direct result of that discrimination is poverty and squalor. Roma Gypsies are excluded from legitimate employment, even menial and manual labor so they turn to selling scrap metals (often stolen), begging or pickpocketing to survive. This type of reporting went on and on until the new ‘migrant crisis’ emerged and that’s people from the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa began to arrive in Europe in large numbers. Now the Roma Gypsy ‘crisis’ is barely a blip on the radar, a non-issue. In fact, the European leaders probably wished they could have the Roma Gypsy crisis back.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
~ Mahatma Ghandi

The most troublesome members of society are often the weakest members of society. Those with the least. The least education, the least access to education, least resources and employment opportunities, the least support from family and community and of course the most tangible, the least money. It’s very easy to toss these people aside with scorn and say they are unwilling to help themselves or they are beyond help. After all, do you have to tell grown men it’s unacceptable to grope and rape women or urinate or masterbate in public? Didn’t their parents tell them this? Many social pundits say ‘to cure crime first need to cure poverty’ as if ‘curing’ poverty is so easy.

The migrants and refugees in Europe stand out like sore thumb right now, just like the Roma Gypsies did in early 2014. These people are easy targets for what’s wrong with a country or how they are bringing a country down the tubes with them, when in fact, the same things refugees and migrants are being accused of already exist in said countries, but are out of sight.

Cleanliness is Godliness as the old saying goes. No it’s not. Cleanliness is a sign of wealth, luxury and stability or in religious terms, a blessing. A blessing most in the world can ill afford.

***Correction: The suspect in the stabbing of Alexandra Mezher is not a 15 year old Syrian migrant, but a 15 year old Somali migrant, who has made his first appearance in court.