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March 23, 2016

Wendy Bell's Legion of Colorblind Racists: the New Jim Crow

A WTAE personality - I can't say Journalist, or Announcer - named Wendy Bell made a Facebook post providing her understanding of both the recent Wilkinsburg shooting and of the current state of America. Her story tells us more about herself than about anybody else.

An insight into Wendy Bell isn't really that interesting, except that it provides a view into the perspective of the Legions of Wendy Bell's: educated, professional, successful people who's racism is so well coded that even they may not see it.

Wendy Bell doesn't think she's racist. She thinks she's a very nice person. She is, however, realistic and Wendy Bell and her Legions are: anti-criminal.

There's an excellent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and I recommend it to you. It explains the Legions of Wendy Bell, and the situation we have today.

The 1980's War on Drugs criminalized drug use, and went further to militarize the police response to drugs. It further incentivized police and local governments to arrest and convict people for drugs. Police budgets are now dependent on the War on Drugs, and we're getting the police behavior we're incentivizing.

A funny thing: the people administering the War on Drugs found it much easier, and more profitable, to exercise their discretion and conduct their War with an emphasis on the black community.

So here's what's so effective: when you lock up a lot of black people, they're not only punished by their sentence - they're tagged as criminals and moved into an under-caste that's largely racially defined. They may serve 6 months or ten years, but their "criminal" label haunts their entire life. They won't get a decent job, they can't vote, own a firearm, or be on a jury. They are relegated to the status of a lower caste, and they'll never get out of it.

And so people like Wendy Bell don't have to judge racially - they can just rant about criminals, and they're not being racist, they're being realistic. Damn criminals. We don't stop to think about our system that makes them criminals, and the incentives and motivations behind that.

But most people are decent people, and they'd catch on to a system that moves all the black people into a lower caste. We've ingeniously been provided with Exceptional Black People that make the White Folks comfortable. Barack Obama, Colin Power, Ben Carson - remarkable brilliant people that tell us we're post-racial. Just like that smiling, rhythmic, dancing, hard-working child in the restaurant that Wendy Bell gave the Manager such good feedback on - you've got a good one, there!

And so we lock them up, and remove them from the economy, and treat them like a lower caste or even a different type of people. But it's because they're criminals, don't you see; it's not that their black. This is the new Jim Crow. First it was Slavery, then it was Segregation, and now it's Mass Incarceration.

Against that backdrop, this one Wendy Bell is insignificant. But the Legion of Wendy Bells needs to be enlighted, educated, corrected, confronted. Especially as the media rep for a company that presents itself as an EEO employer.

 the TL-DR of W.Bell's post:
My Momma told me, If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. But: I've been dragging around this feeling like a cold I can't shake that rattles in my chest each time I breathe and makes my temples throb. I don't want to hurt anymore. I'm tired of hurting. Key points: I come from a good family and traditional values. I am in pain. This is about me.

You needn't be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers. I will tell you they live within 5 miles of Franklin Avenue and Ardmore Blvd. They are young black men. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They've been arrested. They've made the circuit. Key points: The shooters are the black people our parents warned us about: multiple siblings, multiple fathers. They've hardened criminals.

But there is HOPE. A young, African American teen hustling like nobody's business at a restaurant. This child stacked heavy glass glasses 10 high and carried three teetering towers of them in one hand with plates piled high in the other. Got down on his hands and knees to pick up the scraps that had fallen to the floor. And he did all this with a rhythm and a step that gushed positivity. He moved like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. I couldn't take my eyes off him. He's going to Make It. But there is HOPE. I found a young black child who cleans up my scraps, with a rhythm and a step, and a happy smile.

I asked to see the manager. I told him that that young man was the best thing his restaurant had going. The manager beamed and agreed that his young employee was special. I saw the manager put his arm around that child's shoulder and pat him on the back in congratulation. It will be some time before I forget the smile that beamed across that young worker's face -- or the look in his eyes as we caught each other's gaze. I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special. So I went and told his boss, That's a good one. I did a good thing.

There's someone in your life today who could really use that. A hand up. A warm word. We can't change what's already happened, but we can be a part of what's on the way. Speak up. Dare to Care. And then -- just maybe THEN -- I'll start feeling again like there's something nice to say. Let's focus on the good ones, and then maybe I'll feel good again.

February 24, 2016

America doesn't have 'a' gun problem. We have several gun problems.

February 22, 2016

Better Call Saul spoiler: Jimmy & Kim are kin though Chuck; shock results in Saul Goodman

I am generally not a television viewer, but I enjoyed Breaking Bad and I've been enjoying Better Call Saul. I have a prediction: Jimmy's love interest, attorney Kim Wexler, is his sibling. Neither of them know.

Kim Wexler, we've been told several times, was put through school by lawfirm HHM. Law firms don't do that. Why would HHM put Kim Wexler through college and law school?

Because she's the undeclared, unaware love child of Chuck McGill, who uses HHM as a facility to tie up his loose ends.

Jimmy and Kim find happiness together. They consummated their relationship last week. They're going to develop a bit of depth together.

Maybe they're going to get engaged. Maybe Chuck finds out about their affair and says, Hey you can't do that. Somehow, Kim becomes aware of the reason for HHM's support and her lineage and then eewwwwww - the happiness between Jimmy and Kim has been incestuous.

Jimmy's happiness has once again been turned to ashes in his mouth by Chuck's machinations. This is what turns him from James McHill to Saul Goodman.

You heard it here first.

February 21, 2016

Mitigation Strategies for Four Factors in Preventable American Deaths

Deaths as a function of Guns, Cars, Rage/Depression, and Procedures:
So there's four spheres that interact and result in preventable deaths. We don't have to prevent them all - just preventing a lot of them would have a significant benefit. So how to address the Four Factors {guns, cars, rage, procedures}?
  • Address Procedures by:
    • Require training in weapons handling
    • Retesting - both Q-and-A and handling - a portion of guns/cars users every X years.
    • Change the posture from car-culture and gun-culture "accidents" to safety-culture "events", and publish results of event investigations.
    • Conduct public awareness campaigns identifying common themes in gun and car procedural failures.
  • Address Rage by:
    • waiting period for gun purchases.
    • background checks for gun owners.
  • Address Cars by:
    • reducing speeds by enforcing speed limits
    • Adopting Vision Zero philosophy of: there are no cost-justified car deaths
    • provide public transit as an essential public service.
    • implementing autonomous vehicles
  • Address Guns by:
    • CDC gun-violence studies from a public health perspective.
    • reduce easy availability of guns
    • remove access to assault weapons
(I was tempted to simply write Emotions where I ended up placing Rage, but I'm told that I'm not right about the emo-spectrum so I drilled down)
February 16, 2016

March 18th: Encylopedia, Pimple, Hairball

February 13, 2016

Diversity has a Pittsburgh problem, and it's not the hills

The Central Outreach Wellness Center has an admirable mission:
We offer PrEP and free STD testing in Pittsburgh and SouthWestern Pennsylvania.

Central Outreach Wellness Center is a holistic multicultural, LGBTQIA, and HIV & Hep C health organization. We strive to be the leading provider of culturally competent care in Allegheny County.

I don't know anything about COWC, or how well they deliver on their promise. But I'm pretty sure they're on the positive side of the Evil-Good spectrum. If we didn't have a resource like COWC, we'd need to invent it. Yesterday staff found this bit of hate-paint on their logo:

 Homosexual as % of Pop.

How well is Pittsburgh doing about accepting homosexual people? There's a 2015 list of US Metro areas ranked by percentage of gay population. Pittsburgh isn't at the absolute bottom of the list, thanks to Birmingham Alabama - but we're next to the bottom.

This week, poor (mostly minority) tenants are being displaced in East Liberty to make room for new residents who will pay more. Pittsburgh: keeping the gentry in gentrification.

Last week, at least 8 armed police officers in Wilkinsburg killed a black man with a pocketknife, after he stabbed the police dog they'd set upon him. The policy say the scenario started because he was drinking beer from an open container. The container has not been introduced as evidence. Similarly, Jordan Miles was beaten by three police for a MountainDew can in his jacket pocket; the soda can was never introduced as evidence.

In the last two few months, Hispanic businesses (in Brookline & Beechview) have had racial-hate paint on their locations and a rock in a window. Not surprisingly, another 2015 report shows Pittsburgh near the bottom of racial diversity measurements. In fact, Pittsburgh's diversity was 227 out of 230 cities studied.

But if you talk to people, you'll find out: Pittsburgh doesn't have a diversity problem. The Irish and the Italians get along. We've got a lot of Asian students at CMU. No way: Pittsburgh is great, welcoming, very Places-Rated. Most people see Pittsburgh as tolerant.

Diversity, on the other hand, has a Pittsburgh problem. The cops, the government, the market, the housing, the transit, the hiring, the slurs, the beatings: Pittsburgh is not generally a friendly place to be non-white, non-CIS, non-Het, non-monied. Read Clare Polke (formerly of the P-G) about why she's leaving.

To be sure, there's a spectrum of hostile outcomes. Spray-paint on a logo, rocks through windows, eviction, being shot 12 times - they're not equivalent events. But to me, a white-cis-het-guy, they're an indication of the swirl of ugliness and intolerance that's continually in play, and I only see hints of it from my privileged persepective.

Why does Pittsburgh have statistically outlying, low measurements of gay and minority people? Here's a hint: it's not that those folks don't like hills. It's that Pittsburgh doesn't like those folks.

One last data-set, for those who respond to quantification and research: