August rambling #2: artificial – flowers and televangelists

A Marvin Gaye/Ramones mashup.


How a ’50s-Era New York Knife Law Landed Thousands in Jail.

Jeff Sharlet interviews Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King.

No matter how sincerely we think we get it, we don’t really get it. “A personal epiphany about race and gender, to my fellow white males.” And Please Stop Being a Good White Person (TM).

Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny. “Win or lose, Trump’s campaign threatens to unleash the Great American Stupid.”

About Josh Duggar’s Ashley Madison Account. Am I the only person who had never HEARD of Ashley Madison until this summer?

USA network postpones ‘Mr. Robot’ finale due to parallels to Virginia murders, in which two people were murdered on live television, a reporter and cameraman. Postponed a whole week, to September 2!

Apocalypse Now – Washington state’s climate change.

How to Be Polite.

The difference between Latino and Hispanic, in one mini comic strip.

Dustbury notes men who are boobs.

Stop the Jared Fogle “footlong” jokes: Why do we still find prison rape acceptable, let alone funny?

John Oliver Exposes Shady Televangelists Fleecing Americans For Millions. Or watch here. And he sets up his OWN church Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. So, will the IRS respond? Over 30 years ago, Frank Zappa sang about this.

Ken Burns, on the Civil War: It’s about ‘slavery slavery slavery’.

Julius Rosenwald is The Philanthropist Who Built Over 5,000 Schools for Black Students in the Jim Crow South.

Arthur wonders: expat or immigrant?

In Defense of Saggy Pants by Miriam Axel-Lute.

After first treatment, Jimmy Carter and family returned home to see the streets lined with support.

Chuck Miller’s son turns 30. Plus he links to some fine posts, plus one of mine.

The English language, we all know, is in decline. “‘The average schoolchild can hardly write’… said William Langland, author of ‘Piers Plowman’… who died in 1386.”

Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’ in England: It’s a Strange World, After All.

Amy Biancolli explains How to cross the street in Albany.

Jaquandor gets interviewed by Jon Stewart, kinda, sorta.

Rebecca Jade sings the National Anthem at Petco Park on August 8, 2015. Also featuring #1 niece: Under New Management from Tom Antl and Team Groovy, MATURE audience, Winner Best Film – San Diego 48 Hour Film Project 2015.

Born to Run and the Decline of the American Dream.

A Marvin Gaye/Ramones mashup.

Artificial Flowers by Bobby Darin, an unlikely hit, given its subject matter. An interpretation by New York stage performer Ciro Barbaro more in keeping with the lyrics.

The Rolling Stones for Rice Krispies.

This actually came up in conversation at church last week: I Love To Singa- Owl.

Dean Martin Knocks the Beatles out of the #1 Spot on the Charts.

One Toke Over The Line – The Lawrence Welk Show (1971).

Fillyjonk: Lorde have mercy.

Now I Know: Making Sense of Dollar Signs.

The Spiedie Is A Perfect And Important Sandwich: It is high time this nation recognized Binghamton, New York’s beloved culinary mascot as the God-Level Foodstuff that it truly is.


Chuck Miller and I had an idea for some Times Union bloggers to get together. I jokingly suggested having it at Ken Screven’s place. Chuck actually pursued it, and it was so.

Absurd Flag Flapping, New Zealand style, and When the ‘good guys’ are wrong.

TWCQT #4: The Nine-Panel Grid.


Lubbock (TX) ISD baseball field home to district’s llamas. “Tina has been here the longest,” Monterey Agriculture teacher Roger Green said.

Mass incarceration

“[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” [H.R.] Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote, “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

newjimcrow2Arthur, the Yankee Kiwi dandy, in response to my July 4 post, notes:

Yep, and now we have people like Bobby Jindal [Republican governor of Louisiana] — who always follows his party’s rightwing, never leads it—declaring that an armed rebellion by rightwing “Christians” is in the offing. It just keeps getting better, eh?

I’d be quite keen to see a post about government overreach. We hear that all the time from the right—the far, FAR right in particular—but I can’t recall ever seeing anyone from our side of the Great Divide talking about it.

Do you want an example of government outreach? OK, and it was massive, and it continues. Per The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, and other sources, there have three major enslaving periods of black people in the United States. A July 4, 2014 talk by Alice Green addressed this phenomenon.

The first period, of course, was chattel slavery, It was, in most ways, the easiest to define. When Frederick Douglas gave his ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ address in 1852, everyone was on the same page as to what was happening, even as they vigorously disagreed about what to do about it.

(Note that in 2014, an Arizona charter school teaches from a book arguing slavery wasn’t so bad.)

This period ended with the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865, which reads:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

In fact, it is that section between the commas that have been the problem for the next two phases.

After the brief Reconstruction, which ended by 1877, there is the rise of the Ku Klux Klan (and they are STILL around), Jim Crow laws, the 1896 separate but [ostensibly] equal Supreme Court ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson, and Slavery by Another Name, picking up blacks for minor crimes and renting out their services to industry.

Following World War II, indeed, in part as a result of the war, the US experienced a major pushback against racism, with Truman desegregating the army, the Supreme Court’s Board v. Board of Education (1954) and other cases, the Montgomery bus boycott (1955-1956), Freedom Riders, the 1963 March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and various other activities that suggested that equality was right around the corner.

Enter President Richard Nixon and the War on Drugs. Early on, circa 1971, “the majority of funding goes towards treatment, rather than law enforcement.” In a test market the year before, a methadone program in Washington D.C. “reduced burglaries by 41%.” So there were early signs that treatment could work.

For reasons too complicated to go into here – read this The Atlantic piece – Nixon wanted to employ an electoral “southern strategy.” “In Nixon’s eyes, drug use was rampant in 1971 not because of grand social pressures that society had a duty to correct, but because drug users were law-breaking hedonists who deserved only discipline and punishment.”

But there were also more cynical motives:

Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue…that we couldn’t resist it.

– John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Nixon on the rationale of the War on Drugs.

“[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” [H.R.] Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote, “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

Did you ever wonder how this country went from a prison population of about 300,000 in 1973 to 500,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million people in 2008, the most imprisoned population in the world, and still over two million today? Is this a result of a sudden lack of moral character? No, this was a function of a decision to criminalize more actions.

States went along with this policy. New York State had the draconian Rockefeller drug laws “that put even low-level criminals behind bars for decades.” It had harsher prison terms for people who took crack cocaine (primarily blacks) than those who snorted powdered cocaine (primarily whites).
Once you have put people in prison, though, they never get out. Not really. Recidivism rates are generally high. Turning one’s life around is difficult with a criminal record and no job skills.

Did I mention that “African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population”?

Now this an oversimplification, but I think a lot of the problems with police overreaction with criminals, and with citizens who aren’t necessarily committing a crime, are linked to creating a criminal class. The excessive militarization of American policing is the result. A group of people is demonized, again. See, for instance, a woman beaten by a California Highway Patrol cop or the death of Eric Garner.

You may have heard about a new epidemic of heroin use in Vermont, upstate New York, and elsewhere. Most of the addicts are white, and most of the time, you see stories of their parents saying, “He’s not a bad kid, he just needs help.” While I agree with this, I wish the hearts and minds of people were so considerate towards black and Hispanic people with the same problem. White kids need help/black kids need jail codifies the mass incarceration scenario.

Not that white people don’t get caught up in the dragnet of excessive use of jail time. An impoverished mother dies in a jail cell over unpaid fines for her kids missing school. The Pennsylvania jail became a debtor’s prison.

I’ve noted recently how important it is to let people who had been in jail and served their time to be able to vote. (Note: I wrote that before you asked the question, but didn’t post until after.)

Also, this is why I tend to be in favor of legalized marijuana use, which is happening in Colorado and Washington state recreationally. I never “got” pot; the few times I tried it, it just made me sleepy. But the decriminalization of cannabis almost HAS to be better than Drug Enforcement raids.

The problem with the government’s overreach of mass incarceration is that it was so broad that it has become systemic. Now there are other factors, including education and poverty, but too many people in prison certainly affect these as well.

Since I started writing this, there was a stellar piece about prison on This Week Tonight with John Oliver. Also, How Race And Class Drive The Justice System:

Why are African-American youth 4.5 times more likely to end up in jail than white kids who commit identical offenses? According to Nell Bernstein, the answer is simple: Race and class determine who gets locked up in this country.

In her shocking new book, Burning Down The House, Bernstein examines America’s broken juvenile justice system and the toll that it takes on those who go through it. Bernstein explains why minorities are treated so much more harshly than their white peers, why the government won’t shut down the most abusive prisons, and how difficult it is for teens to rebuild their lives after spending time on the inside.

Finally, you should read Miriam Axel-Lute’s article on making reparations. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea, mostly because I don’t know what the mechanics of doing that look like at this point. She cites Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic, about which she says, correctly, “Coates ties together a number of disparate historical facts into a compelling, cohesive narrative about how this country didn’t just happen to have slavery until we finally got rid of it, but that our wealth, our economy, even our democracy, is the way it is because of slavery, and the racial violence that allowed it and outlasted it.” Four years ago, Coates opposed reparations.
And speaking of education: Ronald Reagan stuck it to millennials: A college debt history lesson no one tells.

And actual slavery is not dead in America.

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