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“The Killing Of America”: This Country Was Born In The Fires Of Violence, And Will Die In The Flames Of Viciousness

Our country is dying on the streets of Baltimore.

I have argued before that we will never have racial reconciliation in this country, so long as some whites embrace the “They had it coming!” argument to justify police violence against people of color. Now, I’m convinced that America will end in race war. I no longer believe Americans can live together in harmony. We are coming apart.

Two decades ago, in the fall of 1995, I also wondered if America was on its way to race war. In the two weeks between O. J. Simpson’s acquittal and the Million Man March, I feared that it would only be a matter of time before white men and black men took up arms against each other, determined to slaughter as many members of “the other side” as possible.

Those fears subsided, but two decades later, those concerns are stronger than ever. Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore are the battles in the race war of our time.

I have always considered myself an integrationist. I always had faith that our society would atone for its original sin of slavery, would move from hatred to healing, would grow from the past and walk together towards a beautiful future. I believed that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream would one day be reality.

Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore prove that dreams only happen when you’re asleep.

I understand now why Richard Wright and Josephine Baker decided to leave the United States. I understand now why so many despair about the future of American race relations. I understand now why there’s no hope.

Our race problems cannot be fixed. Barack Obama cannot fix them. Bernie Sanders cannot fix them. Hillary Clinton cannot fix them. Our society is doomed, poisoned by a virus injected into our veins when the slave ships first hit American shores.

Remember Michael Moore’s great cartoon from the film Bowling for Columbine about America’s history of racist violence?

If your children are old enough to understand, require them to watch this video. Compel them to comprehend why our cities are filled with anger. Teach them to recognize that the sins of the Founding Fathers have been visited upon successive generations.

America is dying. America is over. It cannot survive. It is dying from within. This country was born in the fires of violence, and it will die in the flames of viciousness. There is no hope, no change–only hatred and pain.

UPDATE: From 2013, Michael Moore and Michael Eric Dyson on the Molotov cocktail of racism, fear and violence in America.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | American History, Baltimore, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Failure Of Austerity”: This Upcoming Traffic Apocalypse Will Be The End Of Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) is infamous as the guy whose underlings caused an epic traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as part of some weird political punishment. In time, though, he will be known as the guy who caused the worst transportation snarl in the history of New York City.

I can’t see how this traffic disaster will mean anything but the end of Christie’s 2016 aspirations. The question for New Yorkers looking down the barrel of this sucker is whether it will be bad enough to break the hegemony of austerity in Congress.

So, what is happening? Let’s wind the tape back to 2010. The Recovery Act was in full swing, and all manner of stuff was being built across the country with stimulus money. The biggest project of all was called Access to the Region’s Core, a plan for a desperately needed new tunnel under the Hudson River and a new train station in Manhattan. There are only two other tunnels under the Hudson, both single-track and over 100 years old, both stuffed to capacity during rush hour, with demand only projected to grow.

The cost was projected at around $8 billion to $10 billion, with the federal government and the Port Authority picking up roughly three-quarters of the tab. Construction started in 2009, and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on rights-of-way and initial work.

Then Christie unilaterally canceled the project, charging that costs were skyrocketing, that New Jersey would thus have to pay 70 percent of the bill, and that the feds were going to stick the state with any cost overruns.

He was lying through his teeth. A Government Accountability Office report later detailed that cost estimates had not increased, that New Jersey was only paying 14.4 percent, and the feds had offered to share the burden of any overruns. Instead, Christie swiped the money earmarked for the project and spent a bunch of it on New Jersey’s highway fund, so he wouldn’t have to raise the gas tax. (He’s under investigation by the SEC and the Manhattan DA for that, among other things.)

It was an infuriatingly stupid decision. But Hurricane Sandy changed it from stupid to disastrous. During the storm surge both the tunnels under the Hudson were flooded with ocean water, and the deposited salts are eating away the 100-year-old metal and concrete. Therefore, according to a recent study, both tunnels will need a total top-to-bottom overhaul in the next few years. Shutting even one of them down would basically be traffic apocalypse:

…shutting one of the two tracks in the tunnel under the Hudson River would cut service by about 75 percent because trains headed into New York would have to share the remaining track with trains headed west from the city, he said.

All told, more than 400,000 passengers ride trains through the two tunnels on a typical weekday, an Amtrak spokesman said. At peak commuting times, 24 trains an hour pass through the Hudson River tunnel, which is the only direct rail link between Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan and all points west. [New York Times]

In a blackly comedic coincidence, the canceled ARC tunnel would have come online in 2018, maybe just barely in time to take up the slack from one of the old ones being closed. Now those 300,000 or so displaced commuters are going to have to swim across the Hudson.

Anyway, according to the Times, Amtrak is going to work on the tunnels under the East River first, with no firm plans as to when they’re going to have to shut down the Hudson tunnels. They have a plan for another tunnel called the Gateway, but no way to pay for it as of yet.

And that brings us to Congress. The prospects for action at the federal level are nearly hopeless, but it’s worth noting that if they wanted to, Congress could solve this problem — just by appropriating some money for a new tunnel. Probably the best chance of that will be after the old tunnels are shut down and there’s a massive traffic jam from Newark to Long Island.

But in any case, Christie’s boneheaded posturing is at least yet another demonstration of the failure of austerity. Turns out not spending money doesn’t make crippling infrastructure needs disappear. It just postpones the day of reckoning, and raises the chances of expensive catastrophic failure.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, October 3, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Infrastructure | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Most Likely To Exceed”: The Supreme Court’s Cash Gift To Republican Candidates

The instant the Supreme Court demolished overall donation limits in April, the money burst forth from the dam. As The Washington Post reported this morning, more than 300 donors immediately wrote checks beyond the old limit of $123,200, adding $11.6 million to the political system that would not have been allowed earlier.

And unsurprisingly, twice as much of that money went to Republican candidates and their committees than to Democrats.

Before the court’s McCutcheon decision, in a two-year election cycle donors could not give more than $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to parties and political committees. The original idea of the limit was to make sure that donors could not spread so much cash around to a party and its candidates as to become indispensible to an entire wing of American politics.

The court’s ruling, continuing in its absurd line of reasoning that such limits violate the First Amendment, effectively raised the overall limits to $3.6 million per election cycle, and many donors seem determined to approach that ugly new milestone.

One donor told The Post that he has given to 39 political action committees, 25 Senate candidates and 16 House candidates just this year.

Another, in an admission of charming if depressing naïveté, explained why he has given $177,000 to Republican congressional candidates in the last few months. “You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said the donor, Andrew Sabin of New York, who owns a precious-metals refining business. “They know that I’m a big supporter.” Already, he boasted, he has received personal visits from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

The candidates know which donors are most likely to exceed the old limits — some of them have familiar names like Adelson, Koch, and Soros — and are hitting them up hard, undoubtedly listening in earnest to whatever interests the donors have in Washington.

Small donors have no place in this intimate relationship. And yet, as an article in The Times this morning pointed out, they could have a much larger role if only they weren’t drowned out by the big guys. Last year’s New York City mayoral election, the first since 1997 without a self-financed billionaire on the ticket, was “the most wide-open” city election since the public financing system began 25 years ago. The system provides a matching incentive for candidates to raise small donations, which significantly increased the level of competition in city races last year.

Similar systems have been rejected in Albany and in Washington, largely by Republicans. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why.

 

By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, September 2, 2014

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Politics, Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Peek-A-Boo”: The Police Can’t Wait To Get Their Hands On Augmented Reality

Now that New York City is under the rule of a socialist dictator, the “stop and frisk” method of policing, in which hundreds of thousands of citizens who brazenly walked the streets while in a state of non-whiteness were subjected to questioning, delay, and some unfriendly touching, has come to an end. But what if the cops didn’t even need to stop you to give you a virtual pat down?

Imagine this: You walk by a police officer and notice that he’s wearing a pair of odd-looking glasses, which he points in your direction. Almost instantly, a facial recognition program visible in those glasses identifies you, pulls up your file, and informs him that though you have a parking ticket you haven’t yet paid, there are no arrest warrants outstanding for you. A combination of infrared and hopefully non-cancer-causing scanning sensors tells him that you’ve got keys and change in your pockets, but nothing that looks like a gun or a knife, so he lets you pass. That may have all happened without you even noticing.

We’ve seen these kinds of things in science fiction for a while, but they’re getting very close to becoming a reality, like within-the-next decade close. Which is why it isn’t too surprising that the New York Police Department is exploring what it can do with Google Glass, to bring augmented reality to the cop on the beat. “We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” said one NYPD official.

There isn’t anything to be afraid of—yet. The capabilities of augmented reality for law enforcement are, at the moment, very limited. But they won’t be for long. There are no real large leaps in technology necessary to get from where we are now to where the cops would like to go—basically all you need is some steady and inevitable improvements in the sensors, the software they rely on, and the databases that integrate and process the information.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind as this technology matures. First, law enforcement agencies are going to want them, and bad. Just imagine how much easier it would make their jobs if they could identify every person they come across as either a civilian with a clean record or a potentially dangerous criminal who needs a second look. Second, when privacy advocates raise objections, they’re going to make persuasive arguments for why they should be allowed to use the technology. One scenario they like to bring up is a cop chasing a suspect into an abandoned warehouse, whereupon she immediately sees the blueprint of the warehouse to identify possible exits, then switches to infrared to locate the suspect hiding behind a cabinet. Got him! Or, they’ll say, what about if they get a call about a suspect wielding a knife in a parking lot, they get there, scan and identify him, and learn his entire history of mental illness; then they can call in their colleagues who are trained to deal with that kind of suspect, instead of shooting him.

There are going to be controversies and lawsuits about the details, sorting out what kinds of sensors cops will be allowed to use and when. But law enforcement is almost certainly going to win the argument, first because people usually opt for safety at the expense of privacy, and second because at least parts of what the law enforcement officials claim will have genuine merit. It really will make some kinds of policing more efficient and effective. It really will catch some criminals. Getting scanned by a cop wearing augmented reality glasses as you walk by him is certainly preferable to getting slammed against a wall and frisked. And by the time we’ve fully considered whether the privacy invasion is too high a price to pay, it’ll be firmly in place and there’ll be no going back.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 7, 2014

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Law Enforcement | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To Stop Heroin Deaths”: Up To 85 Percent Of Users Overdose In The Presence Of Others

Philip Seymour Hoffman who died of an apparent heroin overdose on Sunday, was just one of hundreds of New Yorkers who fall victim to this drug each year. Heroin-related deaths increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012 in New York City and occur at a higher rate — 52 percent — than overdose deaths involving any other substance.

I am an emergency physician at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, but I rarely see victims die of heroin overdose because most fatalities occur before patients get to the hospital. Overdoses often take place over one to three hours. People just slowly stop breathing; often they are assumed to be sleeping deeply, or they are alone.

The most frustrating part is that each of these deaths is preventable, because there is an antidote to heroin overdose that is nearly universally effective. Naloxone, an opioid antidote, is a simple compound that has been in clinical use for more than 30 years. It can be administered via needle or as a nasal spray, and it works by displacing heroin from its receptors in the brain and rapidly restoring the overdose victim to consciousness and normal breathing.

An analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year suggested that up to 85 percent of users overdose in the presence of others. This provides an opportunity for friends, family and other non-health care providers to intervene. In New York State, it has been legal to distribute naloxone to ordinary citizens since 2006. But the distribution has to be done with medical supervision. Naloxone is purchased by the city and state health departments, which then distribute the antidote through hospitals, harm-reduction programs and other outlets at no cost to patients.

Some New York City hospitals are now distributing kits containing naloxone to users and their friends and families. For the past three years, the New York City Department of Homeless Services has administered naloxone in shelters. And a new pilot program on Staten Island — which has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in New York City — is supplying the antidote through the Police Department’s 120th Precinct there.

The city’s health department is conducting a large study following people who get naloxone to assess how frequently the antidote is used to reverse overdose. In 2012, the health department filed a public letter to the Food and Drug Administration recommending that the F.D.A. approve naloxone for over-the-counter use. The letter stated that more than 20,000 kits had been distributed in New York City. It also noted that more than 500 overdose reversals had been reported by civilians who had administered the antidote.

Some people might argue that the widespread distribution of a safe, effective and inexpensive antidote might actually encourage drug use. But that’s like suggesting that air bags and seatbelts encourage unsafe driving. Naloxone is a public-health method of intervening when a life is in the balance. Its distribution is endorsed by the American Medical Association.

A new bill that would make it easier for users to obtain naloxone was introduced in the New York State Legislature just last week, and on Tuesday it passed the State Senate Health Committee. It would increase access to the antidote by allowing doctors and nurses to write standing orders — prescriptions that can be used for anyone — and issue them to community-based drug treatment programs. The programs would then train people on the signs of overdose and provide them with the naloxone kits. This means that the programs would not have to have a doctor present to distribute the antidote, overcoming one major hurdle that impedes widespread distribution.

This bill empowers a community to protect itself and others. If the bill becomes law, it would be one step closer to making naloxone available over the counter — as it already is in Italy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the United States, ahead of motor-vehicle collisions and firearms accidents. We make cars safer by having speed limits, seatbelts, crumple zones and D.W.I. laws. We make it harder to buy a firearm with background checks and waiting periods, and we teach gun safety and sometimes mandate trigger locks. We can make heroin safer, too, by supplying methadone or buprenorphine as medications to treat physical dependence, providing clean needles to help prevent the spread of hepatitis and H.I.V., and facilitating the wide availability of naloxone to counteract overdoses.

While Mr. Hoffman’s death was without a doubt a tragedy, it is also emblematic of a societal need to take action to prevent the hundreds of deaths that otherwise go largely unnoticed. We can’t control heroin — that’s the job of law enforcement — but we can make it safer.

By: Robert S, Hoffman, Emergency Physician, NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital; Director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at New York University School of Medicine, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 6, 2014

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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