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"Do not go gentle into that good night." - Dylan Thomas

This very well could have been what President Obama had going into his 2015 State of the Union address because he sure didn't deliver a speech like a lame duck. Obama spoke like someone who is not only still on the job but with purpose and resolve.  It doesn't sound like he intends to roll over to an opposition controlled Congress regardless if he has no more campaigns to win. He won both of them.

This is a president who spoke of hope in America and of change in moving forward. Wait, that sounds familiar. This Obama sounded like old Obama. This Obama sounds like the candidate that inspired a nation and the world. This is the guy I want running the country. I have no shame in admitting that I was tingly while listening to him speak.

Obama was a leader tonight that painted a possible picture of America that he believes in and is one that led immigrants from around the world to flock to Ellis Island in the previous century. He spoke of an America that could be better than it is and better than it has been. The America Obama described is one that strives to form a more perfect Union. To me these were the words of someone who believes in the idea of America or at least the one that we represent in our marketing.

Obama reaffirmed the commitment to shut down the internationally condemned GTMO prison that he made at the outset of his presidency noting.

"It's not who we are." - Barack Obama
In post 9/11 America we have been a lot of not who we are or more accurately no who we claim to strive to be. We have let fear, greed, and power corrupt the idealistic vision was supposed to set America apart. Of course I'm not naive enough to think every act that violates "who we are" will stop with those words, things in motion take time, but it's good to hear that ideology recognized. It's encouraging to hear Obama try to appeal to common sense, for whatever it's worth. It's good to hear the president address climate change, a move towards less dependency on foreign oil, a shift towards renewables, a need for education for the nation's future, the responsibility to use military action as a last resort, and a commitment to a free and open Internet. I'm still nervous about that last one. Check out this minute by minute engagement distribution of the SOTU on Twitter and the topics being discussed at the time.
"I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference." - Barack Obama
All in all it sounded like an intelligently speaking and thinking adult was in charge of the show even if Obama's State of the Union clocked in at a 10th grade reading level.
I watched not only to hear what the president had to say but also to see the reactions to what he said; as they speak volumes. Who applauds for what says a lot. When Obama was citing all the positive things happening in the country the majority of Republicans offered no applause. Surely an America doing better is something to praise no matter who or what party is at the helm when it happens. As with any politician's speech, fact checking Obama's SOTU is recommended. If who is ushering in the progress is more important to you than the progress itself you have said something very clear to me. When the president spoke of the need for voting rights to not be hindered, noticeably Republicans again didn't join the cheers. That screams something to me. However several of them were overcome with childish and petty energy when President Obama mentioned he had no more campaigns to run. That too is telling and once again shows a small bit of the type of disrespect he has had to put up with during his tie in office. On the flip side, Obama's off the cuff reply, that of course set the media on fire and immediately trended #IWonBothOfThem on social media, shows his ability to deal with that disrespect without letting it shake him.

One of the better moments to me in the SOTU, and one that speaks to the above, was Obama describing "a better politics".

"And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.

Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives. - Barack Obama" - Barack Obama

These representatives of a nation are absolutely there to set a better example. Their position calls for tougher scrutiny, more maturity, greater responsibility, and demand to be above the nonsense. It's further become a game they are too eager to play and one the people who put their hopes and trust in these servants of the nation don't deserve. Hopefully Obama's "better politics" is a message that increases beyond hushed tones between just the President and an individual congress member. If these politicians are tired of it, they should do better.
"That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve." - Barack Obama
That is indeed how you start rebuilding trust Mr. President. The goals and plans Obama spoke on are very ambitious and if his past 6 years in office fighting obstructionism at every turn to get anything done is any indication, it's going to be a UFC style knocked down drag out octagon brawl going forward with this new congress. Glad to see you haven't given up.

Additional:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/...

https://medium.com/...

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/...

http://www.usatoday.com/...

http://twitter.github.io/...

Tag cloud made with Tagxedo.

Crossposted from IndiePundit.com

Discuss

Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 06:15 AM PST

Only Black people riot

by IndiePundit

It's a belief that is most certainly not true yet often believed and repeated.

Mainstream media, social media, talking heads, pundits (indie or otherwise) have been in over drive in the wake of the grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. The accompanying protests and riots fill timelines, news feeds, streams, and airwaves. The ugly sides of some people are on full display in 140-characters or less. In the discussions, people may and will disagree yet no matter how much they try to justify their point, the words they use in that discourse will highlight their inner beliefs and betray their defense.

Some of the comments that are going around tries to push the idea that these riots are par for the course for Black people. Of course it's not true but it's what people believe due to an ongoing fear of Black folks. The way Black people are depicted in the media and entertainment adds fuel to the idea that Black people are all violent criminals and thugs, so of course when something like this happens some will argue against the innocence of the Black victim. To that point, Darren Wilson described Mike Brown as looking like "a demon" in his description of the events. The comments going around perpetuate the idea that Black people are violent; that only Black people riot. Jesse Jess, author, and founder of The Annual Underground Music Awards and The A&R Power Summit, tweeted numerous examples to the contrary showing White people rioting. Others gave similar examples.

I collected the tweets via Storify but it won't embed here. I have crossposted the full thing as usual on IndiePundit.com.

It's a comparison that has been shown before.

"When black people riot, it's because of injustice—and that isn't condoning the rioting that leaves black communities in shambles.

But let's look at events this past weekend in two white communities. Yes, there were riots. No, they were not rioting about injustice. I'm quite sure that some of those who rioted don't even care about the death of black men at the hands of police." theroot.com Black People Riot Over Injustice; White People Riot Over Pumpkins and Football

Of course riots aren't exclusive to black people. Injustice in Europe has been met with riots many times. There were riots over tuition hikes, football matches, and in protest over the deaths of citizens.

It should also be noted that not everyone is rioting. Rioters only make up a small portion of those protesting the injustice of the grand jury decision. Some of those protesters are even attempting to protecting the neighborhoods from the rioters. It also must be said that it's not only Black men and women out there showing their dissatisfaction with Wilson not being indicted.

As long as you believe that only Black people riot and that Black folks are inherently violent even in the face of contrary evidence you display the true feelings you hold for Black men, women, and children and your belief that you are better. I wonder if there is a word for that.

Discuss

The exposure of killings of black people by law enforcement, or wanna be cops, has shown the world a very ugly side of the United States of America. It's nothing new of course but with a camera in every pocket these incidences see the light of day more often now. Jessie Williams, most known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey's Anatomy, used his platform on Twitter to speak on these realities.

The questions he raises I've often asked myself, even more so lately. What is it about blackness that enrages whiteness? Certainly there are some long-standing emotional connections to generational learning and stereotyping. Even then, as Jessie Williams mentions, black people were never a threat to white people. Why is it when a black person is killed, there is a section of the population who go into a defensive white hooded mode. Why is it that a Darren Wilson defense fund raises six figures before he's even charged with anything. Why was Trayvon Martin's killer exalted and large amounts of funds raised on his behalf? Trayvon's killer wasn't even white, even though he appeared to be, but being that the victim was black that seemed to be enough. The celebrations aren't done in the reverse. Why do some feel it's ok to do so, to mock the victims as if they weren't humans as well?

This is a problem. There is something about black skin that seems to trigger this type of unfeeling hate. Where does it come from? As I mentioned, I've asked myself these same questions many times. I even look to other cultures where the white skin is prized while the dark skin is shunned. You could almost pick any country and see the divide. India, Japan, Latin America all have varying shades of their population but white skin is more coveted. I was recently in the Philippines and it was no different, the faces on the advertisements were dominated by the lighter skin Filipinos. I know this is a bit of a digression but perhaps it's all linked somewhere.

While previously discussing another topic  with a friend in law enforcement he said "the violent culture of black youth" in a statement. This incorrect belief in black youth being violent is part of the problem as well. This painting of an entire people with the same brush as a few allows people to feel this indifference when this atrocities happen. People feel automatically that the killing of a black person was justified because they are all thugs and violent. It is an obviously dangerous stereotype that is pervasive, cultivated, and encouraged.

One thing is for sure, this behavior and mentality doesn't demonstrate a problem concocted by people of color but of those that hold that hate. This isn't Jesse Williams first time speaking on such things. He was outspoken in interviews regarding the trial of Michael Dunn, the killer of 17-year-old Jordan Davis in September, 2012. In that interview he mentions the OJ case but we can go to the Rodney King case as well. There is a gut check that needs to be had.

I collected Jesse Williams tweets via Storify but it won't embed here. I have crossposted the full thing as usually on IndiePundit.com

Discuss

There's been a lot of fuss lately about Apple's move to take themselves out of the encryption loop when it comes to having access to your private data that you store on products you purchase from them. Apple will no longer have access to the private keys that can decrypt the information on your personal devices. Google quickly followed suit. The decision makes them unable to comply with law enforcement's request for your private information. The move was celebrated by users concerned with the privacy of things they save on devices that have become ubiquitous to modern life.  That ubiquity is what gives law enforcement a raging erection at having access to such a detailed cache of personal and private information. They were not amused at no longer having easy access and went into 'the sky is falling' mode led by FBI Director James B. Comey in a session at Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

"...those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us...missing out on violent criminals who target our communities...missing out on a terrorist cell using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack.

Criminals and terrorists would like nothing more than for us to miss out. And the more we as a society rely on these devices, the more important they are to law enforcement and public safety officials. We have seen case after case—from homicides and car crashes to drug trafficking, domestic abuse, and child exploitation—where critical evidence came from smartphones, hard drives, and online communication." - "Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course?" - FBI Director James B. Comey

Comey talks as if he and law enforcement are entitled to our personal data. It's as if he believes that we are wrong for wanting privacy.
"And with sophisticated encryption, there might be no solution, leaving the government at a dead end—all in the name of privacy and network security." - James B. Comey
It seems that Comey doesn't understand how much privacy is important. In this post 9/11 world where law enforcement and government have eroded our liberties, civil rights, and privacy, this statement shows just how little he values it as long as he gets what he wants. This type of thinking doesn't help foster trust. In case he hasn't been paying attention, the people don't trust law enforcement or the government. We aren't being given reason to.

Let's look at what we've been witness to in regards to trust from those that are supposed to protect and serve us: we are over two months in with protests in Ferguson and the shameful police response against civilians there, the killing of civilians by police across the country, the NSA's massive warrantless internet and telephone spying program on everyday United States citizens and even members of Congress, the Edward Snowden revelations, the Project Prism surveillance program, the DEA impersonating Sondra Arquiett on Facebook using her pictures and even those of her children to create a profile to interact with suspects in a drug investigation, the California Highway Patrol ring of officers who have been stealing nude photos of women they stop and share them as a game, and the program of a coalition of several police agencies in Virginia that are stockpiling private phone records put together with little oversight. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means yet it is mentally exhausting to think about.

"I think it’s time to ask: Where are we, as a society? Are we no longer a country governed by the rule of law, where no one is above or beyond that law? Are we so mistrustful of government—and of law enforcement—that we are willing to let bad guys walk away...willing to leave victims in search of justice?" - James B. Comey
Comey is correct. It is past time to ask about where we are as a society given these revelations about those with the type of power that these agencies have. If he is serious about a dialogue about public trust and the organizations that are supposed to be trustworthy he has to start by fixing these issues. You can't ask the people to trust you while at the same time aggressively violating that trust. Those with this responsibility should be held to a higher standard; should hold themselves and each other to a higher standard. Trust is easily broken but hard to get back. He may head the FBI and have no control over the other agencies, government, or local law enforcement but nonetheless he and his agency will be painted with the same brush.

This mistrust is the fault of law enforcement. Every time the line has been crossed, every time the blue wall of silence protects one of their own, every revelation of transgressions upon the citizens you serve that takes place places the fault squarely on the shoulders of those in power. If you have the ability to fight against it and don't then you are allowing it to continue to the detriment of all our sakes. You want a dialogue? Start there.

Don't forget about the position the people are in. Many feel like they are caught in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one hand there are legitimate threats from criminals trying to do harm to them. On the other hand are the people that are supposed to uphold the rights and protect the safety of citizens abusing their authority and power. We've went from "innocent until proven guilty" to "guilty until proven innocent". From collecting information on suspects to collecting everyone's information and treating the population with suspicion.

"I want to get a better handle on your thoughts, because those of us in law enforcement can’t do what we need to do without your trust and your support." - James B. Comey
If trusting law enforcement scares some people more than the threats you describe then you have failed in what you do. There is no debate on whether we need law enforcement agencies, or course we do. The debate is about whether they are out of control and trustworthy.

Crossposted from IndiePundit.com

Additional:
http://www.brookings.edu/...
http://www.fbi.gov/...
http://www.infoworld.com/...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
http://www.theguardian.com/...
http://www.theguardian.com/...
http://thefreethoughtproject.com/...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
http://www.wired.com/...

Discuss

Some topics can't be discussed because emotions run too high. There are certain triggers that shut people's faculties of reason down completely and doesn't allow for further or clear listening. Even if you agree with their fundamental point, there is an absolute, all or nothing, position that gets clung to in those situations. Stephen A. Smith is learning that right now in the wake of his comments within a discussion about NFL player Ray Rice.

This didn't go over well. Many people immediately went into "he's blaming the victim" mode and completely tuned out the real point he was making. I heard no victim blaming. What you can hear when you step back and listen is the reality that some people won't play by the same rules. Prevailing wisdom in our society says that men should never hit women. I don't think there is much debate there. The problem is we can't say there is zero debate there because not everyone agrees with the same rules as the rest of us. In those instances, a woman may find herself in a situation she didn't expect to happen if she believes that 100% of men agree on not hitting women. There are police records and YouTube videos galore showing that this isn't the case. This is a reality. To avoid this possibility people should not put themselves in a situation that may bring about this outcome. To say that isn't blaming the victim, it's advice.

But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen. - Stephen A. Smith
Excellent point. Whether or not the man gets away with beating the woman, the beating already has taken place and the damage is done. Many blogs, news articles, and tweets quickly jumped on the story and pulled reactions from social media like this that I saw on another site.

Yes of course you can provoke your own beating. Let's not be naive. Anyone can. To think there is an invisible bubble of protection at all times around you that stops anyone from hitting you for any reason is a fantasy.  There are long lists of police reports that destroy that imaginary realm. Of course they shouldn't do it but people do things they shouldn't do all the time. It doesn't matter if they know it's wrong, they are in an agitated state, have mental instabilities, or just simply don't care or agree with those rules, they still do it. It happens. Would you poke a pissed off bear? No. No you wouldn't because that would provoke a mauling and it would be the least surprising thing. Sometimes people are in a state that we know we should just let them be. We have all been at that moment and pushed too far. It happens. Yes people need to exercise control of their anger but if we walked away we wouldn't fan those flames either.

If you hit somebody, you cannot be sure you are not going to get hit back! - Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi is correct and, even though she's caught flack for her statements, the audience seems to agree. Yes there is a size and strength difference in most cases between men and women. Yes a stronger person should exercise more control due to their increased strength. At the same time, if you know a person is stronger and more powerful than you, don't attack them. Aside from them being women, I know not going to swing on Laila Ali or Ronda Rousey because that wouldn't end well for me. I especially wouldn't do it if they are already agitated for whatever reason. As professional fighters, they have a greater responsibility to exercise control yet I'm not going to take that chance. In their agitated state they may lose control all over my fantasy bubble of protection.

See that look of surprise on her face? It was all fun and games to the inebriated woman because she thought she had a mutual understanding with that man she didn't know that hitting her wasn't possible. He had a different understanding. She had hit him once already and he wasn't happy with it. Her retort was a mocking "Did it hurt that bad". This was the second hit, that he indeed provoked, so that he could try to make a point. She was clearly out of control and thought it was ok to hit strangers. Let's not pretend we've never seen this before. What he did wasn't right and he should have walked away but the point remains that sometimes people don't agree with how we think they should handle a situation. He clearly didn't.

This guy didn't get the memo that he shouldn't hit her back either.

The fact that these guys are wrong does nothing to lessen the damage that has already been done by their retaliation. This idea to rely on men always maintaining composure and control will wind up with more situations like this. Please read that again. Relying on that idea will get some people into trouble. If a woman attacks a man with this idea that he definitely won't hit her back she may be in for a very harsh "a-ha" moment. It may not be right but it's a very real possibility. To mitigate that outcome, women should keep their hands to themselves. If you hit anyone, no matter who you are, you should always expect that they will hit you back. It's the same advice I would give any woman in my family. You never know how a person will react. This is the point that Stephen A. Smith and Whoopi Goldberg were talking about. Due to the outrage and controversy, Steven A. Smith issued an apology that was no doubt forced by the network. He has also been suspended for a week from his job. Here is the problem, people hear or read Smith's comments and equate it solely with domestic violence and abusive in relationships.  Even the normally level-headed Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks seemed to shut down and pretend to not understand what Smith was saying. They even went so far as to title their response video as "Did ESPN's Stephen A. Smith Justify Violence Against Women? Well, What IS He Saying?" The confusion comes in because Smith's comments were during a discussion of a domestic violence incident. Smith commented on that incident and then switched gears. Smith clearly didn't justify violence against women. Whoopi didn't either, yet it is such an emotional charged issue that many will stop listening past a certain point.

For anyone not understanding, let me ask you this, do you lock your home? Do you secure your purse and other valuables when you go somewhere? Why? The majority of us can agree that stealing is wrong and shouldn't be done. Even still, we don't rely on the idea that everyone understands stealing to be wrong. We take steps to limit that possibility. Stephen A. Smith has said many questionable things in the past I'm sure but what he said here wasn't wrong. He didn't endorse or justify violence against women. He didn't blame the victim.  He clearly stated multiple times that he was against men hitting women. I will say, in the middle of a conversation about domestic violence, he may have chosen the wrong time to make these statements. It doesn't make them any less true; just ill-timed.

Crossposted from IndiePundit.com

Additional:
http://www.slate.com/...
 http://www.nytimes.com/...
http://www.theroot.com/...

Discuss

Far Rockaway rappers Sean Blaise, Stacks the MenACE, and TrisNev are no fans of the gentrification going on in Far Rockaway, Queens in New York and have no problem telling those imposing on their neighborhood to get the "Fuck Out the Rock". This joint definitely reminds me of the 90's with the uptempo break beat and the faster flows. It vibes nice while delivering a message that many who live in neighborhoods they are slowing being forced out of share.

Anyone who has ever been to Far Rockaway could easily see that it would be a target for gentrification. You've got housing projects full of poor people on beach front property. You know developers are itching to get rid of them so they can have a Hamptons closer to Manhattan. And with the hospital closings a blind man could peep the game. It's good to see local rappers speaking out for their neighborhood, although I don't think lines like "where the drugs are on point" help their argument. The high crime rate and weekly shootings is what drives down the prices that helps outsiders move residents out. Hurricane Sandy didn't help at all. If anything it sped up the process. Stacks the MenACE sums up these community relocation efforts with:

"...bout they green like Rondo
say, get out pronto, we trying to build some condos
so grab your shit and walk off like you struck out
gentrification really means....get the fuck out
but in a nice way, isn't this a nice day
for rich kids to come through and move in where I stay?"
Stacks is not wrong. In neighborhood take overs, those that are transplanting residents don't care where the former occupants go just as long as they leave. Of course on the surface gentrification can look like it's making the neighborhood better. Sure, the safer streets, economic development, and the attention the communities have been calling for seem like a God send. That is until the neighborhood is no longer affordable for the people who lived there.

Crossposted from OneTwoOneTwo.com

Additional:
http://www.dnainfo.com/...
http://observer.com/...
http://www.onetwoonetwo.com/...

Discuss

I posted the following tweets to Twitter conversation regarding the telcos wanting to prioritize access on the Internet and the FCC's deliberation. I got a response from FCC Chief Information Officer David A. Bray. I thought the discourse made for an interesting read for those interested.

Of course this isn't an end all be all conversation on the issue and neither I nor David Bray have the power to decide. Ideally, together we all have that power by letting the FCC know what side of the issue we stand on. Senator Al Franken called this fight "the free-speech issue of our time". He's not the only one weighing in either, Netflix, Amazon.com, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian among others.

It may even be a moot point because unless the ISP's are classified as common carriers the FCC may not be able to do anything at all because the courts already ruled in favor of the telcos.

"Sure, the proposal may ask if so-called fast lanes should be banned outright, but Wheeler is already well aware of the answer: Unless ISPs start being classified as common carriers (i.e. services that are legally required to cater to all), the FCC doesn't have the legal authority to do so even if they wanted to. It's like asking if we should have world peace; the answer's obvious, and there's absolutely nothing he can do about it." - gizmodo.com The FCC Thinks We're All Idiots
It still doesn't sit well with me that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was a lobbyist for the cable companies previously. Even worse, he was appointed by President Obama to head the FCC even though Candidate Obama promised to protect Net Neutrality. Hopefully, letters, comments, and phone calls to the FCC directly and even creative protest methods will get the word to them that Net Neutrality needs to be protected.

Our conversation went like this.

I collected the chat via Storify but it won't embed here. I have crossposted the full thing as usually on IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss

Businessman and investor, Kevin O'Leary, mostly known for starring in Shark Tank in America and Dragon's Den in his home country of Canada, was interviewed on CNN by Erin Burnett's Out Front. This appearance took place towards the end of February but this video clip of Kevin advocating for less government regulation and against the minimum wage increase has experienced a resurgence on the Internet lately.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. I was going to let this pass without a comment but it just kept popping up. There are many faults with Kevin's logic here. I'm surprised Erin Burnett didn't push back a bit harder, especially on misleading ideas like the 1% paying taxes at a 38% tax rate while the middle class only pay 12% on average. Most of us who were paying attention during all the presidential campaigning for the 2008 and 2012 elections are familiar with this misleading bit of lip service. More than likely those reading this pay a higher tax percentage than Mr. Wonderful does; ask Mr. Warren "There's only three people on the planet richer than me" Buffet and Politifact. So there's no need to go into that.

What’s come under barrages of scrutiny is now being defended in the soundest way we have ever seen. The argument against the “1%” has always been a major issue every since the exposure of activists years ago. Rarely has a person of the “1%” ever gone to great lengths to defend their side and what they believe. - conservativepost.com After His Response, CNN Immediately Regretted Asking Kevin O’Leary The ‘1%’ Question
Yup, it sure does sound good at times. Kevin speaks well and he's confident in what he delivers, which is why some people believe these cons. It's how politicians get us to vote for them even though they continue to show us that they will lie during the campaign just to get in office. "Confidence" is where "con" comes from in this sense; a "con man" is literally a "confidence man". I'm not suggesting that the grinning Canadian is a pulling a con, I think he actually believes what he's saying. It's how you get a better deal.

A few things bug me though that people like O'Leary keep trying to push on people. He remarks early on about the "vilification of the 1%"; that misnomer really grinds my gears. People using this line of talk are trying to further this idea of a war on the rich for being rich. Kevin O'Leary is an entrepreneur investor who worked his way up to the about $300 million net worth he has today. I don't demonize him for that achievement, nor do I think most American's hate him or other monetarily successful people for their net worth specifically. It's not necessarily the fact that the 1% have astronomical bank accounts that have people calling them out, it's what they are doing with it, how they are taking advantage of others and the system, and how they are stepping on people to increase that wealth. This is America, we love people to be successful. Being successful is apart of our tagline. "Live the American Dream" is right up there with "I'm Lovin' It", "Built Ford Tough", and "Just Do It" for most influential slogans. The 1% aren't being vilified for being successful they are being criticized for being dicks. The wealth gap has always been here, sure, but it's never been this wide. It's not just a massive disparity by accident either, it's taken a constant sustained effort of an impressive amount of greed and entitlement to get it to these levels. We're talking about super human levels of douchebaggery here. It's hard work.

The Job Creators. These guys love this. It's like their preferred weapon. Again though, it's misleading. And again, we heard a crap ton about this during the debates about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. They needed those cuts to create jobs even though they had those cuts all along yet hadn't created them. The problem with O'Leary's attempt at putting the job creation ideology in a solitary box is that it tries to make people believe that a job alone is the cure-all. He doesn't say "living wage job creators". Just jobs. I can be a job creator right now if I offered 100 people $1 a month to do something for me. Boom, I just created one hundred jobs. But, those workers can't live on that, they can't even buy a candy bar these days from that wage in America. I just created jobs though, so you're logic means nothing here peasant!

The response will be, "The market won't allow it because someone will pay them higher for the same thing and take your workers." That would always be true if there were more jobs than people and those jobs paid living wages. The number of people far exceed the number of available jobs the Kevin O'Leary's of the world create. So in terms that O'Leary would understand, supply is less than demand. This will never change so the market correction idea is bogus and they know it. Supply is always going to be a premium commodity when the product is jobs. So in my extremely ludicrous $1 a month wage scenario the market won't step in to force my price higher because even if every single job available was filled, there would still be people looking for work. If someone gets desperate enough they will take that price. And I could sit there knowing I could pay $2 a month and it wouldn't affect me at all but never you mind, I need all the extra I can get; I don't have enough cars yet.

People don't get a job just for the sake of having a job. People get jobs to make an income, to provide for themselves and their families. I'm sure I can come up with any number of jobs to be done around the house but no one will want them if I'm not paying. This steadfast delivery of the talking point "we can create more jobs" also carries with it an unsaid "and you should be happy to get what we give you" with it. Listen again when people start saying it. The idea sounds great on the surface and the defenders pit the middle class, small business owners, liberals, conservatives, and everyone against one another while they laugh all the way to the bank.

Now I'm not saying a minimum wage increase will solve all the problems either; even though as Burnett pointed out it will raise many out of poverty. I'm also not diminishing the importance of business or the jobs they create. I am challenging the ideas that O'Leary and those that think like him put forth in regards to how they use "job creator" as a multi-pass as a reason to allow them to operate with impunity. I suspect that business will just pass along the minimum wage increase to the customers and eventually the spread will be the same as it is now prompting a need for another increase. It's like how the cost of living keeps going up. Or they'll see it as the customers now having more income so they can increase their prices to get that extra 1ooth percent of profit they missed, because business operates like it's never seen a bell curve or taken a basic economics class. O'Leary said we have a "growth" problem. We aren't growing as fast as we should. Should is a wishful term. Nothing grows forever except maybe stupidity. Limited resources, limited currency, limited customers does not equal unlimited growth. Sustainability is what lasts forever. Look "sustain" is right there in the word. You can fake continued growth by cutting costs, shipping jobs overseas, reducing benefits, streamlining production, or firing workers which will allow you to operate at the same high profit margin and pay out those inflated large salaries and bonuses but you can't get infinity out of the finite.

It isn't robbing the rich to give to the poor when you are correcting injustices that you've been committing just because you have been committing them so long it feels like it's normal and how it's supposed to be. But it is robbing the poor to use your power, money, and influence to make sure the poor stay poor. You're company looks after a handful of people, while the government has to look after the welfare of hundreds of millions. You alone are not before them. Let's not forget that the reason regulations came about in the first place is because the industries were taking advantage of the workers. The abuses of power, control, and influence is what put the yolk on the necks of business. Ironically, it's the abuses committed by the 1% that brought about the regulations that make it more difficult for the small business that the 1% keep trying to stand behind as a reason to have regulatory rules loosened. And people are buying it lock, stock, and barrel. Of course, too much regulation can make it impossible for those wishing for a fair share to do anything but too little makes it possible for those wishing for everyone's share to do everything.

Shhh, use your inside voice Kevin.

Additional:
http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/...
http://conservativepost.com/...
http://www.nytimes.com/...
http://www.politifact.com/...

Crossposted from: IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss

Well it seems good conscience and public outrage may have won out over Capitalism. The so-called "celebrity boxing" match between the killer from Florida and rapper DMX has been cancelled. Is this a precedent? I think this might be a precedent. Maybe, just maybe, if we try we could make this part of the culture. I'm a dreamer. Anyway, in these few and far between moments we should rejoice. The promoter Damon Feldman tweeted the news.

 
That's good to hear. Feldman has been fielding questions and comments like crazy on his Twitter account since the announcement of the match. Unfortunately he's right, it would have been a big payday for him. That's part of the problem. No matter how many finger waggers are out there, or how disgusting it would be to put Zimmerman on TV in any capacity that doesn't involve him going to jail, people would still pay to watch. Those that don't find the faux-watchman a slug while still holding on to the false comforting notion that the young man he killed was a thug would no doubt be sitting in front of the television waiting for the round one bell. Even some of those that find the event distasteful would be glued to their set to see degrading train wreck unfold. Then, following the fight, the cable news talk shows would be out in full force replaying clips while commentating. That's not Feldman's fault.
Entertainment. What is it? Can we commodify everything as entertainment? From the Roman coliseums to broadcasting the vitriolic dogma of political agendas, entertainment has always been a go to excuse to avoid taking responsibility for what is being put on display. It's not Feldman's fault that people want to see it but the responsibility is on him and those involved regarding it's promotion and profit from it. Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. Science, I'm also looking at you!

We should all do a bit of a gut check. When the first news of potential fight broke there were all kinds of people entertaining the idea of seeing the bad guy get his comeuppance. I saw the news feeds, message board posts, Twitter responses, and Facebook shares.

Thankfully it seems public pressure won out over potential profit. It doesn't happen often. Whether or not it was stopped because of pressure, or people came to their senses, or because Damon Feldman realized that this much controversy may net him a big payday now but hurt his business and brand in the long run, let's be happy it has been stopped.

George Zimmerman is not a celebrity and should never be regarded as one nor associated with an event that has celebrity in the title. This guy has become infamous for killing a teenage boy and threatening lady friends with firearms. So he is ready for the ring and has been trained in MMA yet his excuse for shooting Trayvon Martin was self-defense because he was in fear for his life? This doesn't belong on television and he doesn't belong in any spotlight that isn't coming from a police helicopter or a prison guard tower.

So let's give a slow-clap for public push back against the fight and for the decision to end this fiasco.

Just don't clap to enthusiastically. Remember, at one point this was a thing. A real thing. And you were probably, briefly, interested.

Additional:
http://www.nydailynews.com/...
http://www.xxlmag.com/...

Crossposted from: IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss

It has come to light that the NSA, via a secret court order, is being handed the information on the calls of millions of people on the Verizon network.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".

The order directs Verizon to "continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order". It specifies that the records to be produced include "session identifying information", such as "originating and terminating number", the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and "comprehensive communication routing information".

The Obama Administration is defending it's right to do so. I don't know if this constitutes a "warrantless wiretap" since it's by way of a court order but it's still unnerving to say the least. This order is for an ongoing basis and includes local calls, so this clearly is the government listening in on everyday Americans. According to the court order, the request satisfies the requirements to do so as laid out in 50 USC § 1861.  (Read the court order here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/...) It appears, from the court order, that the ongoing basis lasts until July 13, 2013. Parts of the order specifically states that this information is to be kept secret. Whoops. Also, this is a curious line, "This Order does not require Verizon to produce telephony metadata for communications wholly originating and terminating in foreign countries." If you aren't interested in those calls then it says to me that they are specifically looking at us. What do I know...I"m no lawyer.

Mr. President, I am disappoint. If I'm reading the flow of events correctly, in regards to the NSA and Verizon, then this isn't an "illegal wiretapping of American citizens" however it's still a very uncomfortable violation into one of the aspects of what is supposed to be good about life in America and the American way of life. This is not supposed to be who we are.

The Verizon records aren't the only one's passing through government hands. Other major information and tech companies have been implicated in such activity. The government allegedly has direct access to the servers of at least 9 power processors of American's personal information and habits through it's PRISM program.

The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: €œCollection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.€ - washingtonpost.com U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

Those companies cover pretty much everything most people do online. Of course several of those heads of the companies in that list of nine have come out saying that it isn't true. Even, Zuckerberg himself said the government doesn't have direct access to Facebook's servers. Others have said if this were happening they weren't aware and have denied knowing about any program such as PRISM. I'm sorry but we don't believe you. It's bad enough that those companies are keeping massive database records on user's activities on and off their sites but the U.S. Government and Britain are peeking in as well. This isn't anything new either. PRISM started back in 2007. Wired.com wrote about the massive NSA data center in 2012. The majority of it all goes back to that dreaded Patriot Act. For the curious, propublica.org posted an unofficial timeline that brings us up to present day in an article titled "Mass Surveillance in America: A Timeline of Loosening Laws and Practices".  George Orwell says "Hi".

Now before the partisan battles start happening, this is a methodology that started with George Dubya Bush and Obama is now a continuing sponsor of those tactics. So there is fault to go around, however we Hoped for Obama to Change the course we were headed towards, not continue some of it. Again, Mr. President, I am disappoint.

This is a pattern that has been slowly building in our society to the point where people are becoming more and more comfortable and apathetic towards this type of privacy intrusion and erosion. Even the latest cool, comfort, or convenience feature for your smartphone plays a part into people being more at ease with corporations and the government knowing our every move. Looking at you Google Now. How'd we get here? How'd we let it happen? 9/11 birthed the fear that set this all in motion. It's because we are scared and fear makes us comply. Scared of the shadows, scared by the media, scared of each other, scared of opposing views, scared of red or blue in addition to brown, black, yellow, and red. We've become quivering masses of  easily entertained in-fighting anxiety sufferers. Not quiet the nation of which Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! spoke about after the Pearl Harbor attacks by saying, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

In what should have set the Internet on fire, the Verizon and NSA revelation, seemed to have been shrugged off to some degree; at least according to the Huffington Post. Remember how the Internet went after the politicians when the SOPA came out and how bunched up the collective cyber-panties were at Instagram's proposed TOS change? Nothing seems to have happened. The usual suspects are protesting like Freepress.net with their "Dear President Obama: Stop Spying on Me" petition. (I signed. You should too.) But, I haven't seen a major online uproar. Maybe I missed it but where's Reddit or Anonymous even? Are we at the point where we've given up? Are we more comfortable with the government having that information than companies? Maybe we just don't know what we could possibly do about it.

I posted the Verizon/NSA article to Facebook (yea they recorded that I suppose) and one response was, "What can be done?" Good question. The government won't listen to the people directly so pressure has to be put on the parts. Any elected official that voted in favor of this should never see an office again. Likewise any of these major corporations should immediately see a drop in their customer base and by extension their bottom line. That will force the corporations with the deep pockets, connections and high powered lawyers to lobby the government. The people need to be vocal about these movements so the powers that be know that this is exactly why people are doing these things. It's not enough to just cut off your Verizon phone but you need to send them a letter telling them why. Granted they were under court order but some companies just hand the information over. Plus if a major corporation gets a million letters stating that they just lost as many customers because they don't trust them then the company will put up a fight with the government. Don't get that new iPhone and tell Apple why. Tell Microsoft where to shove the Xbox One and why they are shoving it. This list supposedly shows which companies have publicly fought the government in order to protect your private data and who hasn't. Although, with the secret PRISM program coming to light it may all be for show while your information is handed off in secret.

The point is, the people are the power but that power needs to be strategically applied. The people need to act cohesively. Fox and Friends are now against the wiretap even though they were for it when Bush proposed it. After you've briefly shook your head open the doors for them to join in. The government bows to big corporations and big corporations are bowing to the government and we the people are fodder in the middle. That being said, I still believe in the power of the people in mass. Mike Lupica at the New York Daily News says we are losing the war on privacy. It's true, we do have our backs against the ground and a boot on our necks. I don't think this is a fight that will be won with a single march or a petition or two. I encourage those as well but as I said in regards to fighting Monsanto our greatest weapon is the Capitalism that we are under. Make people's cash flow shake and things start to happen.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Additional:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
http://projects.propublica.org/...
http://www.wired.com/...

Crossposted from: IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss

May 25th, 2013 saw a worldwide coordinated protest against GMO tyrant Monsanto. According to the schedule there were at least 430 planned marches. I've seen news reports claiming the protests happened in anywhere between 250-400+ cities with estimates of about 2 million people in attendance worldwide.

"Protesters in more than 50 countries mobilized on Saturday for a series of demonstrations against agricultural business titan Monsanto, far surpassing the organizer€™s expectations, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

€œIf I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,€ activist Tami Canal told the newspaper. Instead, she said the €œMarch Against Monsanto,€ which originated as a call to action via Facebook on Feb. 28, drew about two million people to demonstrations in 436 cities in 52 countries." - rawstory.com €˜March Against Monsanto€™ protests attract millions worldwide

It's an impressive display to be sure. One that you would think would be taken seriously. But is it? Sure Monsanto is seeing great resistance but they are still going strong. Even several countries have banned Monsanto and many of their Frankenfoods. The United States however isn't really seeing such action. Attempts to get legislation passed to simply require GMO's be labeled are being shot down. Let's not forget the "Monsanto Protection Act"that allowed seeds to be planted even before they are deemed safe by the USDA. The powers that be don't seem to be listening or care. Monsanto says it's not their responsibility to make sure the food is safe, it's the FDA's job. The FDA says it's the food producers job. A letter on file with the FDA from July 2000 from Illinois resident Gail Thompson highlights this lack of accountability. It doesn't help the cause when former Monsanto executive, Michael Taylor, is a high-level FDA decision maker. Monsanto seems to have people in their pocket while others are scared. In one case a whole state seems to be nervous of incurring the wrath of the corporate behemoth. Vermont recently voted in favor of a bill that would require GMO labeling but would only go into effect if certain conditions were met that probably won't be anytime soon.
The most frequent point of opposition voiced on the floor concerned a likely lawsuit from the biotech or food industries that the Attorney General€™s Office estimates could cost the state more than $5 million. - thegrist.org Vermont House passes GMO-labeling law
You can tax your brain trying to figure out why requiring people be told what they are eating would result in a credible lawsuit and how come not telling people the truth about what is in their food apparently does not. Weird? No...capitalism, corporatocracy, sell-out leaders and those with no integrity or a good solid pair.

The worldwide protests are a great way to show opposition and should continue. These types of activities bring like-minded people together, serve to alert the uninformed, and potentially fire up the apathetic. What else can be done though? It's not like we can protest everyday or can we? Of course we can. In a capitalistic system the protest that is paid attention to the most is the one done with dollars. A protest is great for the reasons previously mentioned but if it doesn't do anything to the bottom line of the corporations then they'll scratch the annoying itch and move on with their day. This isn't just a social issue where just showing up with millions of people will make things happen. This fight heavily relies on the rules of economics and that is its Achilles' heal.

In order to carry out an ongoing protest in between these massive events we have to become more diligent with our dollars. We have to stop buying what we are protesting against and buy examples of what we what to be offered. It's not a one day, part-time protest. It has to be a lifestyle course change. We do have the power of numbers and the connectivity of social media to our advantage. This blog at Care2 gives 10 Ways to Take Action Against Monsanto. There are also two smartphone apps that are out at the forefront of making informed purchases that will aim to aid in that fight. Fooducate and Buycott help by allowing you to scan barcodes of food items and gives you information with which you can make decisions. Is that food GMO? Is this product affiliated with the mean old Koch brothers? Fooducate has been around in obscurity for several years while Buycott is a more recent offering.

Information is power. They are using the control of information against us why not return the favor? Imagine if those 2 million global protestors used those apps or followed those tips. Or both. Imagine if those 2 million people said we aren't going to buy this specific product anymore. That's a direct action that will get serious attention, that's an itch they can't ignore because doing so makes them lose money and that is their weakness. The people are the power. We just have to always remember that fact and focus that power in a way that maximizes our strength.

March on.

Additional:
http://www.rawstory.com/...
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
http://grist.org/...
http://www.fooducate.com/
http://www.buycott.com/...
http://www.forbes.com/...
http://www.naturalnews.com/...

Crossposted from: IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss

Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 11:26 AM PDT

Police Quotas Should Never Exist

by IndiePundit

The class action lawsuit against NYPD's criminal stop and frisk policy is under way. Two of the officers testifying in the case, Officers Adhyl Polanco and Pedro Serrano, have indicated that the NYPD has a set quota for how many of these constitutional violations must be carried out per officer per month.

The Department has conducted more than 5 million stops since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, more than 85 percent of which targeted blacks or Latinos and only 12 percent of which resulted in criminal charges. Both Serrano and Polanco testified that supervisors required at least 20 summonses and one arrest each month, and that they were pressured to stop individuals — regardless of the grounds for doing so —  under threat of punishment. Polanco also said police later added a stop-and-frisk quota of five per month. - thinkprogress.com Officers Say NYPD Sets Quotas For Stop-And-Frisks And Arrests
I'm sure it's evident at this point that I don't condone this practice. Not only is it a violation of an individuals rights but it also is a form or tyranny that leaves residents in a constant state of paranoia. The lack of results and the lopsided number of Black and Latino victims indicates that not only is the practice ineffective but also that there is something more going on. The topic for today, though, are the quotas.

It's long been a not very well kept secret that police are operating on a quota system. I don't believe there has ever been any official admission of that fact but everyone is aware that it is happening. NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly danced around a jury finding in 2006 that quotas were used by saying that the NYPD has "productivity goals" no different than any other job. Herein lies the problem, law enforcement isn't the same as other jobs.

What NYPD, policy makers, and all other branches of law enforcement need to understand is that protecting and serving the public doesn't work by setting arrest marks to hit or by shooting for certain citation goals in order to bring in revenue. Capitalistic ideals don't fit here. Quotas should never be used. They turn police into hunters and the public into prey.

Officer Adhyl Polanco, who was initially responsible for calling attention to the quotas via a series of secret recordings made back in 2009, told the court he'd been required to make five stop-and-frisks a month by union delegates and police supervisors. Polanco, who said fellow cops called him a rat after he went public with the recordings, testified officers often felt pressured to make unconstitutional stops in order to meet those quotas. "We were handcuffing kids for no reason," he said. "I don’t want my kids to get shot by a cop who’s chasing them to write a ‘250.'" - http://gothamist.com
Hunters. Prey. This is contrary to the cops being so called "Peace officers". The very existence of arrest and citation quotas corrupts the environment. It also puts people into the system that otherwise wouldn't or shouldn't have been. It forces police to not protect citizens but to treat them all as suspects. Anti-bullying campaigns are all the rage these days but here we have a case where bullying is a mandated policy. And it's not working. These policies have long left the realm of protecting the public and just exist simply to justify budgets by giving the illusion that their tactics are needed. Those without he purse strings are just as much at fault here as well. The more incidences recorded, the deeper the stack of paperwork to use as evidence to ask for more money when budget time comes around. And all this for the low low cost of tainted futures, victimization, dehumanization, tyranny, and rights violations. What a deal. Whatever happened to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" or the mentality that "it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer?"

Quotas not only harm the public but do a disservice to the police officers that are held to such a practice. Officers are more effective when there is a symbiotic relationship with the communities and neighborhoods they are supposed to protect. What is it that we tell children? "You can trust the police." Quotas don't allow for officers to learn their areas and form relationships with those in their districts. "We're here to help," isn't heard nor believed when it's communicated as "We're here to protect the living hell out of you for your own good!" Officers and their superiors need to check that mentality and the ego that's fed by it. All police departments have some form of community outreach programs but we're a little suspicious of your sincerity due to the presence of your boot on the collective necks of the community. These practices are fostering and promoting the very attitudes and mentalities that lessen the effectiveness of that outreach.

Law enforcement and public protection isn't a "bottom line" or "hit the numbers" situation. This isn't something to be judged by a quarterly earnings report. We're talking about nurturing communities here not sales of the latest widget.There is an enormous responsibility in keeping the peace in society. Along with that responsibility is an even greater serving of trust on the plate. It's also dangerous, indisputably dangerous. I don't believe anyone has ever argued that it wasn't but it makes it even more so when you are mandated to treat everyone as a combatant in a war zone. There are many ways to execute the "enforcement" part of the law. Get the criminals, please do, but you don't take out the gunman by shooting the hostage first.

Additional:

http://thinkprogress.org/...

http://gothamist.com/...

http://gothamist.com/...

Crossposted from: IndiePundit.com http://www.indiepundit.com/...

Discuss
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