Hard to believe that 13 Years Ago, Barack Obama was fairly obscure

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I found this, on some random right winger’s blog , a post from 2005, where the author appears not to know about Barack Obama. Or maybe he’d heard of him at that point and wouldn’t acknowledge him because he feels he didn’t deserve to be there. I’m guessing it’s the former however, seeing as the conservatives couldn’t stand Obama (mostly for bogus reasons) once they actually had heard of him. That’s when the nonsense about him supposedly having been a Kenyan born Muslim-communist-radical-atheist, or whatever they thought he was, spread around among the wingnuts.

I remember as far back as 2005 people speculating that Obama would “be the next president”. They were right of course. In contrast, I think even many Trump supporters didn’t think he’d win until he actually did. And while he was a household name as far back as 20 years ago, I don’t think even Trump himself had ever envisioned he’d be president today.

So it goes to show you: the next president might be someone you are not currently familiar with…or someone you’d never imagine would be the next president.

 

 

 

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Jarring case of urban gentrification, New York

Ray mentions that there should “be more laws” protecting tenants in the city as the government there tends to favour landlords. Ray’s biggest downfall is being a Puerto Rican living in an Anglospheric society where everything is intimately tied to the idea that ownership should always mean absolute rights and control. But should the dynamics of ownership be absolute when property decisions affect the rights of many others? Should real estate continue to be purely a matter of property or should there be more regulation in certain conditions concerning human rights?

These comments made by (presumably) right wing Youtubers are particularly disgusting. Why is it any time you get these capitalist caused injustices reported on, there are always a few people who defend their purveyors, without even getting their 30 pieces of silver in return?

Ben Shapiro misunderstands a John Lennon song

Conservative idiot doesn’t realize the song isn’t meant to be taken as a manifesto. But I can’t quite say he’s an idiot. Shapiro’s pretty good at using underhanded debate tactics to make the other side look bad (also doesn’t help many who argue against him don’t quite know how to do it). And given his dedicated following of Alt Right millennials who are too young and unwise to know better, it’s pretty clear the approach works.

BUT I GUESS NOBODY TOLD HIM IT’S A JUST SONG

He’s especially distraught with the idea that someone would sing about no countries or possessions. But that makes sense; conservatives are nationalists and free marketeers, even though the strongest application of either one of those ideologies would cancel the other out. Still, Lennon was clearly singing from the standpoint of what he’d like a perfect world to look like, not necessarily what kind of political agenda he’d implement. We only need to have countries and personal possessions because humans don’t trust each other enough (at least for the present time) to be peaceful without them. That’s why it’s called Imagine, and he describes himself as a “dreamer”. It’s not a ringing endorsement of international communism or something…

So maybe he’s not an idiot, but he acted like one in regards to this. Maybe he can analyze Disco Inferno. Maybe he thinks it’s about a literal, burning disco ball.

 

 

 

A word about…privilege.

It came to my attention that Starbucks had this little thingy going, maybe you’ve heard of it, involving training their employees to better confront any racial biases they may harbor when on the job.

If you’ve paid attention to Starbucks news the past few years, you know they’re no stranger to controversy more recently. Some religious fundamentalists erupted into a panic in 2015 when they decided to go minimalist for their Christmas/Holiday cups. Who remembers that? Well, I certainly remember how much I laughed at the hysteria.

Now the same slingers of right wing political correctness are up in arms in their being offended at the idea that a business (not one I’m even all that fond of; I say frequent independent coffee shops) would dare to say that racism is something we should take seriously. Maybe even… confront? The horror.

And if you’re conservative/Republican reading this, as I’m sure not all my readers are liberals, I’m not attacking you. Just those among you who see cause for fear and hate where there not need be.

Here’s a little thing about privilege. If it makes you foam at the mouth with anger, the idea that the group you have an advantage over should receive even a casual acknowledgement of their own disadvantage: yea, that’s a sign of group privilege. No, having a conversation about it, or having businesses and other institutions address this is in no way indicative that someone is trying to take away your rights.

And yes, I’m going to go out on a limb for a moment and “be that guy”, those of us who are progressives are often part of the problem too. Most of my readers, and I love you guys to death, are probably privileged in one way or another; this is after all, a blog that deals mostly with art and travel. It doesn’t mean we’re without hardships, but it also doesn’t mean we need to don’t have social responsibilities to help make our world better.

So perhaps next time you’re in a coffee shop, maybe reach out to someone different from yourself, let them know you’re out to make someone’s day, rather than break it. We all have to share this blue ball they call Earth and we’re only on it a very very short time. And it will probably be up sooner than you think.

The media is finally catching up on discussing social class

New York Times & the Atlantic have recently covered a previously less discussed aspect of American social class; that in the country’s attempt to equalize society and spread opportunity, we’ve inadvertently worsened equality, creating a new class of people who used their talents and intelligence to “make it” in the world…and then proceeded to enact policy and societal changes making it harder for others not born into their privilege to do the same. This has been summed up in Matthew Stewart’s statement in the Atlantic:

“The meritocracy has become an aristocracy.”

Stewart et al. point out, justifiably, that the more classless a society claims to become, the more gilded and insulated the upper classes become. As the country more and more avidly clings to the notion that you can be anything you want to be if you just put your mind to it, the gap between the richest and poorest citizens is and has been since 1980, rapidly widening. And because of these changes, we are reaching the economic metrics of a second world country.

With college degrees becoming more common, getting into the “right” colleges is ever more important to career success. Just having a degree doesn’t cut it, and students not using their degrees for the fields they studied in is too commonplace. Yet the data consistently shows us that getting into a good school hinges on factors that are often out of the control of the applicant, such as being from the “right” part of the country or being a legacy of the school of choice. If you want to go to one of the best schools in the world, such as something in the Ivy League, you either have to be stellar in your abilities (and the first qualification is as it should be; these schools are for the brightest) or be able to get the good graces of the admissions boards through connections.

You may be asking why this is such a big deal considering that for most of the West’s history, we’ve had an aristocracy with jarring class differences. Well, this is where it gets tricky. For the first time in the West’s history, we have a class of people, roughly 9.9% of the population, according to Stewart, who have unprecedented privilege while simultaneously denying any role other than individual achievement for it. How many times have you heard someone quip something along the lines of “I worked hard for it.”

And hard work is great, incentive to achieve things individually has helped people do and invent wonderful things we’d have otherwise not heard of. But there’s a dark side to individual performance. If you believe your good fortune has mostly been the result of your own choices, you’re far more likely to harbor ill attitudes toward those who don’t share your experiences. The homeless guy you saw on the street as you sip your $8 cup of coffee…oh it has to be his own fault, right? This is America after all; if someone can’t bag their own slice of the ever expanding pie they must not really want it that bad. This is a dangerous way to think, and the more success you achieve, the easier it is to do.

The dangers and ill effects of such self-righteousness are manifestly present in today’s United States. Income inequality has soared, social mobility has decreased, and these changes most ironically accelerated in the early 1980’s, at the onset of the rule of a Republican president who encouraged the chase of meritocratic largess, but not so much the sense of responsibility that must come with power and privilege.

There are a few things we can do to mitigate the situation, but because of the current leadership in the U.S. it will be more than an uphill battle. Firstly, it should be basic common sense that the very rich must be more highly taxed. In fact, rack up the inheritance taxes, hard. They only apply in significant percentage to the very richest of families and not keeping them around encourages dynasties. Heavy progressive taxation is used in almost every other Western nation on earth and the results have for decades been beneficial; the distribution of wealth is more leveled but not to the point where there’s no incentive make money. But as rotten luck would have it, our current “president” has had great success in taking us in the other direction. Expect to see the fallout of this if we can’t reverse it via Democrats retaking Congress.

The next thing we need to do is further diversify the pool of admitted students to the Ivy League and other prestigious schools in ways that affirmative action and federal non-discrimination laws don’t sufficiently address. We need to curb legacy admissions, take in more students that can demonstrate very high intelligence yet may have made mistakes that impacted their grades or other records. A lot of smart people have enormous potential but just didn’t have their heads in the right place during the turbulent teen years. The current academic system punishes people such as this, and we should instead be helping them reach the maximum of what they’re capable of.

The last one, perhaps being more counter-intuitive, is that it’s high time we acknowledge that the US is not a pure meritocracy, nor is it a utopia where anyone can be anything should they just labour hard enough on their dreams. There is a reason it’s called “The American Dream” and not The American Realization. And the dream is getting ever more elusive while we continue to pretend we’re awake. Today’s privileged have largely forgotten about noblisse oblige, as well as the realization that nobody gets ahead in the world without the help of others and without, frankly, good luck. You really “didn’t build that”, at least not entirely on your own. If reality is something that deals with you when you don’t deal with it, accepting this harsh truth would go a long way in developing policies see to it nobody is left behind, especially if they simply can’t help themselves for whatever reason.

The bootstraps people once pulled themselves up by are worn out. In a rapidly changing economy where the job security of many is uncertain and automation will eventually usurp most of the workforce, we need more than ever, to address the issues of social class and see that no one is punished for being in the wrong position in life, be it from being born into a poor family or being born without superb talent. If the US could do that, it truly would merit the title of “the land of opportunity”.

Wrong color/class in a gentrifying neighborhood? You may get arrested for that

I came across an interesting read last night in the Atlantic, it addresses how local police handle neighborhoods in transition from their being distasteful refuges of the poor to their blissful transcendence into enclaves of the affluent. In most developed countries, the disparity caused by such “urban renewal” remains somewhat genteel, since other affluent nations have broad social safety nets to see that class disparity never becomes so crass. But in the United States? Well, you get this:

When low-income neighborhoods see an influx of higher-income residents, social dynamics and expectations change. One of those expectations has to do with the perception of safety and public order, and the role of the state in providing it. The theory goes that as demographics shift, activity that was previously considered normal becomes suspicious, and newcomers—many of whom are white—are more inclined to get law enforcement involved. Loitering, people hanging out in the street, and noise violations often get reported, especially in racially diverse neighborhoods.


 

Ahh, “suspicious activity”, the catch-all phrase we use in today’s culture-of-fear(™) to micromanage the behavior of those least convenient to modern real estate marketing.

Before we go further, this is that time of explanation some knee-jerk conservative may demand mid-reading: Yes, some behavior is truly suspicious and warrants reporting; yes, it’s basic common sense that if you witness someone breaking into a house or stealing a purse, the best thing to do would be to call the police (and never, I must stress, confront the perpetrator yourself). But with the increasing paranoia in present day white America, anything and everything people of colour do in animated urban centres can be construed as suspicious by somebody. This is including but not limited to, being black in a neighborhood of white residents whose enthusiasm for diversity stops at having that one black friend they use to clear their name of racism. Dinner at fusion restaurants or their occasional dabbling in the local jazz scene constitutes the right and proper interest the culture of the other. Tolerating too many people on the block whose hue deviates a little too much from the pre-approved resident code? Well, can’t have that!

That the police purport to protect & serve in these communities is by no means indicative this principle is equitably applied. They’re protecting and serving somebody, but it’s a given that it’s likely not those being profiled. 

The modus operandi in gentrifying, urban areas is that law enforcement and their impressive apparatus of structural power are ramping up the platform prescribed by Plato’s Republic; the “guardians” of civilization protect first and foremost, the fiscally indispensable from the societally expendable. In the less advanced stages of ongoing “urban renewal”, higher value residents, that is to say, those who can cough up reliable tax monies, often live in immediate proximity to lower valued residents. And I hate to break it to those of you who think contemporary America is an equitable society, the latter group means poor people with no tax dollars to extract.

Are you a normal person with some sense of demand for justice, seeing this as at least marginally unfair? Then you recognize bad policy. You’re admirably humanistic. Unfortunate, it seems, that humanists aren’t cut out for policy making from the perspective of real estate profiteering, because if you’re seeing the big picture from the eyes of a cold, pragmatically calculated labyrinth of brutalist architecture bound government offices, and the development titans they enable, the top down approach to neighborhood policing reported on in the Atlantic, simply makes real sense. 

It is often said evil shouldn’t be invoked to explain situations that could better be deciphered by revealing ineptitude. When do we ask ourselves how many times this saying should be applied in reverse?

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe will be rewarded for his brutal regime

 

“I didn’t do it!!”

 

As it turns out, there may have been a very strategic reason the bastard held out for a few days in his refusal to resign from the presidency. While the parliament came together to bring forth impeachment proceedings with even members of the ZANU-PF joining in, Mr. Mugabe was negotiating the terms for his departure from the office he’d occupied since 1987. These negotiations will prove fruitful for him. Turns out Mr. Mugabe will receiving full immunity for his family members, the assurances that his business dealings in the country will remain active, and a payout of nothing less than $10 million USD in a country where millions of Zimbabwean dollars only buy a few food items from shops that have infamously been near empty for more than a decade.

In the world in which the average citizen has to live, the intimidation tactics and outright widescale theft employed by this psychopath would warrant prison time. In the world of nation leadership, it’s reciprocated in payouts the Zimbabwean people couldn’t possibly dream of themselves receiving (and I don’t say that lightly; these people have had the dreams summarily beaten out of them by the baton).

Is there any glimmer of hope for the country that Mnangagwa enact liberalization that will take the country in a direction towards healing? There may be. But rewarding the past administration for misdeeds the new boss pretends to condemn is not change for the people. It’s business as usual.

Trump uses the North Korean crisis to advance his pro-military bile

As per the ongoing comments by the White House, seen right this moment on CBS, it would seem our excuse for a president is throwing a temper tantrum over Schumer’s resistance to an unjust and regressive proposed budget while the other megalomaniac across the Pacific may have launched an ICBM that could theoretically reach the continental United States. Further, the excuse of a president is using the crisis to call for a significantly expanded military while also saying he wants lower taxes.

So how does that work, all you fiscal conservative number whizzes? Supply side economics and the unfair tax burden it invariably places on the middle and lower classes has consistently shown itself not to work.

We know Trump didn’t get in to the White House by putting forth a traditional Bush/Reagan style Republican platform to voters, and nationalist Trump voters aren’t thrilled with the idea of multinational corporations making a killing in tax breaks while they still continue to ship jobs overseas. So why then is Trump aggressively clinging to a fiscal model that will alienate most voters if passed? The answer is because he’s more afraid of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan than he wants his Twitters minions to think, especially with 2018 elections coming.

Some military expert should also inform Trump that we could blow North Korea into the Stone Age without increasing military spending, much of which will just go to big defense business contracts.

What would it take to get enough people to vote this guy out in 2020?

If Trump really cares about monopolies…

The latest from Kapitalist Kitty

Kapitalist Kitty

…why is he doing absolutely nothing about his FCC appointee, Ajit Pai, planning on getting rid of the internet as we know it and giving unprecedented power to telecom giants?

The answer of course is that he doesn’t share any concern with a prospective ATT/Time Warner merger for the reason that he opposes monopolies; he opposes it because he is vindictive and was made out a fool by nearly every non-conservative (and some conservative news outlets as well, such as the National Review)news source in the country.

What a crybaby we have for a “president”.

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Robert Mugabe is NO MORE

The latest from Kapitalist Kitty

Kapitalist Kitty

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/21/africa/robert-mugabe-resigns-zimbabwe-president/index.html

At the very least, the Zimbabwean president turned long term dictator will no longer be in power of one of Southern Africa’s poorest nations. Mugabe, the man who came to known for practicing the very oppression he once rose against the Rhodesian regime to fight, has resigned as president after the Zimbabwean military placed him under house arrest.

I’ve followed the goings on in this nation very closely for many years, and it always struck me the way in which the Zanu PF took the southern continent’s epicentre of natural resources and turned it into one of the worst economies on the planet. The strife, hyperinflation, and chaos didn’t begin immediately; here’s a clip from 1994 of Dan Rather reporting on the Mugabe regime, which he at the time said had helped put “neither white fears nor black hopes” into realization:

Ahh, but this was some years still prior to the…

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