Archive for July, 2016

Having the Courage to Bring Facts and Reason to Discussions of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by thebluebros

 

It is sad that the issue of police and the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) movement has gone the way of guns in that those on the political right have abandoned any pretense of thought or rationality. Instead, opponents to the Black Lives Matter movement cling to the same handful of silly arguments that get repeated ad nauseum in the media and on social media. Perhaps more aggravating than the stupidity of these arguments is the countenance of those who speak them. When these baseless assertions are repeated, one can hear the pompous and grandiose manner in which they are delivered as if this mindless drivel is impervious to attack. That is far from the case. In fact, if you hear any of the anti-BLM arguments discussed in this piece, you know you are dealing with a person of questionable intellect or a person who has somehow suspended their brain’s ability to engage in critical thinking.

Below is my attempt to identify the most common attacks against the BLM movement, and provide a cogent and thoughtful response to each. 

  1. Black Lives Matters is hypocritical. Why don’t they speak out about the number of blacks killed by other blacks? 

This is perhaps the most widespread and insidious argument against the Black Live Matter movement. It is a completely baseless argument for the following reasons.

First, black-on-black crime has actually gotten much better. Over the past 25 years, the murder of rate of blacks against other blacks has been cut in half. This is part of the larger trend of significantly decreased violence we have seen nationwide since the start of Bill Clinton’s administration. So let’s not pretend that nothing is being done about black-on-black crime.

Second, blacks do care about the issue of black-on-black crime and they do speak out about it. In a Slate article from a year ago, author Jamelle Bouie said the following on the topic:

“[I]t’s easy to find examples of marches and demonstrations against crime. In the last four years, blacks have held community protests against violence in Chicago; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Pittsburgh; Saginaw, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana. Indeed, there’s a whole catalog of movies, albums, and sermons from a generation of directors, musicians, and religious leaders, each urging peace and order. You may not have noticed black protests against crime and violence, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t happened. Black Americans—like everyone else—are concerned with what happens in their communities, and at a certain point, pundits who insist otherwise are either lying or willfully ignorant.” (Emphasis added).

Third, the BLM movement is one that is focused on the treatment of blacks at the hands of police. The fact that the movement does not address every ill in the black community does not in any way undermine its message. Similarly, I give most of my charity dollars to organizations that support abused children, and I give no money to The Humane Society. This does not mean I condone animal abuse or that I am a hypocrite. It simply means I recognize that I have limited resources, and that my charitable donations are best utilized by focusing my efforts.

Fourth, and most important, the fact that criminals exist in the black community has nothing to do with the question of how police treat blacks. Citizens do not waive their right to be treated fairly by police because they live in a neighborhood or community with higher rates of crime. Even if one believed the BLM movement to be hypocritical or inconsistent, so what? Do hypocrites and fools not have the right to be treated fairly and equitably by police regardless of the color of their skin? 

  1. Police kill more whites than blacks. Why don’t Black Lives Matter ever mention that? 

This is true, but for any person who has even the most rudimentary understanding of math and U.S. demographics, it should be very obvious why this fact, while true, is completely meaningless.

In the past 18 months, police have shot and killed 1,502 people—732 of the victims were white and 381 were black (and 382 were of another race or the race of the decedent was not recorded). But as most of you probably know, that is only half of the equation. The other half is population. In the United States, there are about 196.8 million white people (or 64% of the population); and there are about 37.7 million black people (or about 12% of the population). Therefore, when population is accounted for, it demonstrates that black people are 2.5 more likely to be shot by police than white people.

That number goes even higher when you examine the number of people shot and killed by the police when they were unarmed. Police shot the same number—50 unarmed blacks and 50 unarmed whites. When you account for population, you see that unarmed blacks are more than 5 times more likely to be killed by police than whites.

  1. Minority cops are more violent than white cops. 

I have heard this argument before, but I can find no evidence to support it. Even if true, however, the fact would have no relevance to the discussion of the BLM movement. The movement is geared towards equal treatment under the law, and putting systems into place that train police officers to de-escalate situations rather than escalate them. Whether a police officer is white, black, brown, purple, or green has no bearing on this discussion. A person who raises such a point either has a very poor understanding of the purpose of the BLM movement, or he is just a racist asshole looking to poke his fat white finger in the collective eye of the African-American community. I tend to think it’s both. 

  1. 37% of all violent crimes are committed by blacks. Pesky facts. 

The 37% number is problematic for a great many reasons, such as: (1) different organizations come up with widely different numbers of what percentage of violent crimes are committed by blacks; (2) many police agencies do not track the race of violent offenders; (3) the 37% number is arrived at by counting arrests, not convictions; (4) higher arrest rates of blacks could be accounted for by the very problem the BLM movement is seeking to address—racism; and (5) black neighborhoods are patrolled at a greater rate than white neighborhoods. I do not want to split hairs though. We know that while blacks make up 12% of the United States, they are responsible for more than 12% of violent crime.

The larger point though is this: So what? I encourage you to follow this argument to its obvious and unstated conclusion, which is: “Because black people are more likely to be violent, police get to treat all black people differently.” Putting aside the merit of such a law enforcement strategy, this is the very definition of racial profiling, which is unconstitutional as it is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Putting the constitutionality of racial profiling aside, let’s look at a few facts:

  • Even among blacks, the instances of murders and assaults are rare (less than 1 per 1,000 people);
  • When black people do commit violent acts, they are rarely committed against white people or police officers. Rather, the violent acts are usually committed against other blacks. In the case of homicides, 90% of all black homicides were committed by other blacks (and 82% of all white homicides were committed by other whites).
  • Very few police officers are killed in the line-of-duty. There are currently more than 900,000 police officers in the United States. In 2015, 42 officers were murdered (39 by shooting; 3 by assault). While each of these 42 deaths was an unquestionable tragedy for the families of these officers and their communities, 42 deaths out of more than 900,000 officers indicates police officers face a very low chance of being murdered while on the job. In fact, the murder rate of taxi cab drivers is more than double that of police officers, and one’s chances of dying while logging is 10 times greater than dying while policing.

What these facts show is that even if we ignored the constitutionality of racial profiling, it is nearly impossible for police to justify killing black people at a higher rate because the police fear for their lives. These numbers demonstrate that more than 99% of blacks do not commit violent crimes; those blacks who do commit violent crimes are much more likely to hurt other black people than police; and the number of police officers murdered in the line of duty each year is just slightly higher than the number of Americans crushed each year by their own furniture (about 30 people per year).

  1. The most violent cities are run by Democrats. 

Conservatives oftentimes cannot help themselves. If an opportunity arises to attack Democrats, it will not be missed. Here, we see an attack on Democrats that is wholly unrelated to the issue of police brutality or the Black Lives Matters movement. The BLM movement is not affiliated with a political party.

As an aside, it is true that America’s most violent cities are usually governed at the local level by Democrats, and a combination of Democrats and Republicans at the state and federal levels. What exactly are we supposed to extrapolate from this fact? That Democrats cause people to be violent? The fact is, the most violent cities are also the poorest cities. That is no coincidence. Poverty breeds many of the social ills that plague us. Poor minorities tend to vote Democratic because they see Democrats trying to do something about poverty (even if often ineffectual) while Republicans do not even attempt to pay lip service to helping the poor.

If I wanted to match this argument with one of equal logic, I would state that the highest rates of pornography use are in the most Republican states in the country (1. Utah  2. Alaska  3. Mississippi). Therefore, Republicans are responsible for widespread use of pornography.

 

The Black Lives Matter movement is about the simple goal of raising awareness that too many police officers and police forces treat black people differently than white people. This is a complex discussion, and one where reasonable minds can disagree about the scope of the problem and the best solutions. Unfortunately, productive conversations on the topic have largely become impossible due to the right’s oft-repeated practice of latching on to brainless rhetorical devices that allows them to continue putting their collective heads in the sand; avoid listening to anyone who disagrees with them; and not devise any solutions to the problem before us. I suspect the primary purpose of these right-wing “arguments” is to distract people from the issue long enough that we lose interest, and go back to the way things have always been. If you are white, that is fine. If you are black, that is a tragedy.

  • Dylan

Something Rarer Than a Unicorn: An Even-Handed Examination of Hillary Clinton

Posted in Uncategorized on July 7, 2016 by thebluebros

What if you had a neighbor kid who woke you up every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. by playing his drum kit just outside your bedroom window, but by 9:00 a.m., he was over mowing your lawn free-of-charge. Would you love this kid or hate him? Probably neither. I expect you would feel somewhat torn, and understandably so. This neighbor kid is not unlike Hillary Clinton.

While Clinton would unquestionably bring a lot of admirable qualities and an impressive resume to the White House, she also brings with her a lot of baggage that would concern most any voter of any political stripe. For these reasons, when I hear a person extol the near angelic nature of Hillary Clinton or hear someone else yell, “Hillary for Prison,” I think to myself, “These two people have a lot more in common than they think.” Both people are drawn to hyperbole and both struggle mightily with confirmation bias.

When reading articles on Hillary Clinton or listening to pundits, it is difficult to find someone who is not on one of these two extremes—i.e., Hillary is a hybrid of FDR and Mother Teresa, or the “Benghazi Bitch” needs to die or go to prison.

This piece will attempt to briefly lay out some of the key reasons for and against a Hillary presidency in a manner that is based on demonstrable facts and a good-faith effort to educate people who really are looking to cut through the tribalistic crap that makes it so hard to learn anything.

The Case Against Hillary Clinton

  • Hillary has a bit of Richard Nixon in her in that she is drawn towards secrecy. Using an email server in her own home was almost certainly done as a way to avoid disclosing her official email communications to the public. While one can understand Hillary’s reluctance to be open after 25 years of constant attack from the right, understanding her preference for secrecy does not excuse it. And her desire for secrecy is not limited to her emails. This is a politician who appears to believe the American people are on a need-to-know basis.
  • By the FBI’s account, even though Hillary was not indicted for her email practices, they still characterized her actions as “extremely careless” and she oversaw a department that inadequately protected classified information. While her actions may have been largely customary by State Department standards when she arrived, rather than improving a system failing to protect State secrets, she actually made it worse.
  • Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War—an event many people believe to be the greatest foreign policy mistake in our nation’s history.
  • Hillary seems to lack core convictions on many issues, and sometimes her positions seems to change based on political calculations. For example, she was vocally for the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she was against it. Hillary will also sometimes avoid taking a position on key issues until it is clear which way public sentiment is leaning. For example, she may have been the last presidential candidate to take a position on the Keystone pipeline. Hillary was also one of the last leaders of the Democratic Party to support gay marriage. While Hillary has eventually come down on the correct side of these issues (from a Democrat’s perspective), her refusal to stake out a strong position from the beginning demonstrates a lack of leadership and/or convictions.
  • Hillary spends a large amount of time around really rich people, and accepts a tremendous amount of money from the mega-wealthy. I believe Hillary is sincere when she states these things do not influence her decision-making, but she is human. It is unreasonable to believe that the company one chooses to keep will not influence his or her thought-process and decision-making. The rich, powerful, and entrenched power centers unquestionably have Hillary’s ear.

The Case for Hillary Clinton

  • Barack Obama is correct to say that no human being has ever run for president better prepared to be president than Hillary Clinton. Look at this resume: first lady for eight years; secretary of state for four years; U.S. senator for eight years; and a Yale law degree. One of the biggest problems with past presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton is that they arrived on the job with little idea of what they were in for. Hillary would have no such problem.
  • The thing I most respect about Hillary is her work ethic and intelligence. This is a person who clearly takes her job seriously, and studies up to learn everything she can before making a decision. In a time of so many blowhard politicians who have no idea what they are talking about, it is immensely refreshing to hear a politician that can knowledgably speak on any issue. This tells me Hillary respects the position she is running for. In sharp contrast, I look to someone like Jeb Bush whose only job for the past nine years has been to prepare for running for president, and the guy showed up on the scene unable to answer the most basic and predicable questions. That would never happen with Hillary.
  • Hillary has been a leader on some great issues. For example, she has been a champion for expanding health care, especially to children. She played an integral role in passing federal SCHIP legislation (expanding health care to poor children). Hillary has also been a tireless advocate for expanding women’s rights abroad, even in places where such a message was not welcome. As Secretary of State, Hillary played a critical role in getting Osama bin Laden, and implementing tougher sanctions on Iran. Over the past 25 years, Hillary has actually done a lot of things. Most any person could find at least a few they agree with and are grateful for.
  • Hillary is contemplative and steady. I trust Hillary to avoid making rash decisions, and to seek out the counsel of the smartest people on Earth. This is an important quality in a person who will have access to the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
  • Hillary Clinton believes in science. It is sad that this has to be listed as a qualification for president, but those are the times in which we live.
  • By most measures, Hillary is a moderate. As a liberal, this disappoints me, but if looking at this from national perspective rather than my own, Hillary would be an effective representative for the beliefs of most Americans.

After going through this list, I find myself going back to the analogy of the drum-playing, lawn-mowing neighbor kid. It is difficult to understand how a person can consider both sides of the Hillary equation, and conclude she is worthy of either adoration or hate. Hillary is a complex person with much to like and dislike. And because Hillary is such a mixed bag, I chose not to support her in the primaries, but can understand why others did. If you love or hate Hillary Clinton or your neighbor kid, I think it says a lot more about you than it does Ms. Clinton or the neighbor kid.

Finally, I want to make crystal clear that this article should not be mistaken as an attempt by me to demonstrate my personal struggles over who to support in November. I am having no internal struggle when being asked to choose between the mixed-bag of Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump—a volatile, racist, thin-skinned man whose understanding of domestic and world affairs could fit into a thimble, and who has devoted his life solely to the enrichment of himself. Faced with such a choice, there is no choice. Despite it being thought pithy and fashionable these days to say so, I am having no difficulty choosing who to support for president.

Perhaps if this was 2008 or 2012, and voters had the options of thoughtful Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney, the careful weighing of Hillary Clinton’s strengths and weaknesses would be important. But this isn’t 2008 or 2012, and with Trump drooling on the other side, such an exercise is purely academic. Although it would be nice if more people engaged in this kind of thoughtful examination of Hillary Clinton so we could have a meaningful conversation about our next president rather than yelling insults from across the room.

– Dylan