philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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American Police Racketeering

Whenever there is an opportunity to connect a favorite media of mine and real life, I take it with enthusiasm. Today while talking to my beloved father, he enlightened me to the idea that the Ferguson Police should be indicted not on civil rights violations, but on federal racketeering charges. This blew my head open and made my jaw drop, “But of course!” I replied. This then speed my cerebral neurons firing off, making me think of “Breaking Bad” and the descend of Walter White into the criminal underworld. One of my favorite moments of “Breaking Bad” is when Walter White’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader, is describing Mr. White, or rather his alter-ego Heisenberg, “He runs the biggest meth racket in the Southwest”. This is a feat, an accomplishment for sure because the Southwest is absolutely huge, absolutely wild, and meth is incredibly dangerous.  Hank is irate, irritated, and outraged when he says this. Racketeering from his own brother-in-law enrages him and he must put a stop to it. The show “Breaking Bad” is perhaps one of the best examinations into how taking on the identity and persona of a criminal works, the intricacies and delicacies of dominance that must be displayed in everyday life and applied to one’s work, the secrecy, the orgasms of power, the sheer unadulterated selfishness and point of view that everyone else’s life is expendable. Racketeering is defined as “refers to criminal activity that is performed to benefit an organization such as a crime syndicate. Examples of it include extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery”. Hank and my reaction were similar when we realized the truth about who is capable of racketeering.

In my time on this Earth, I have known several individuals part of crime syndicates. I have known racketeers and other criminals. These are highly intelligent, skilled, fearless, dominant individuals who are always dangerous. They are cunning, and they always tell the truth even when they lie (Scarface said that about himself). If they reach any level of legitimate racketeering, they have looked the eye directly in the eye and pissed in that eye. These are not individuals who fuck around by any means.

The Ferguson Police Department, however, fucks around an awful lot to not be considered a crime syndicate. In fact, their actions line up more with a crime syndicate, and while clearly incredibly guilty of crimes against American civil rights, they are guilty of federal racketeering as defined by “criminal activity to benefit an organization…such as obstruction of justice and bribery”. This definition could consider “bribery” to be more expansive, a bribe by way of skin perhaps. Consider the introductory paragraph the in the New York Times about Ferguson’s police activity: “Ferguson, Mo., is a third white, but the crime statistics compiled in the city over the past two years seemed to suggest that only black people were breaking the law. They accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.”

Perhaps bribery in Ferguson is bribery of skin. Bribery that if a white person is fucking around, it is not as dangerous as a person with black skin fucking around. What harm will be caused by a black person jaywalking, as opposed to a white person? Will a black person’s black skin harm more people while they are jaywalking than a white person’s white skin, while jaywalking? There is literally no logic or reasoning to these statistics, they clearly reflect a bribery of skin color.

There is another significant aspect to police racketeering, which is something called “civil forfeiture”. Civil forfeiture occurs when police find cash on a person and take that cash into custody. The person must prove a legitimate source of where this cash came from within a specified amount of time, otherwise the state claims this money and it goes into the public coffers. Recently, many police departments around the United States have been abusing the authority of civil forfeiture to jam up poor persons, persons of color, and other easily targeted individuals in order to accrue more money for their police departments.

The other part of this is that when civil forfeiture, drug busts (however small or large), and other money generating busts occur, that police department receives more federal money, meaning, that those police officers salaries increase. That is, police are stealing from citizens, legally, under the law. Similiarly, the more rip and runs a drug dealer preforms against his fellow dealers, the more he can expect to make from his theft and subsequent financial transactions from that stolen property. The difference is in how easy it is to get justice from these thefts: it is a lot more dangerous to run up on a cop than a drug dealer.

But that is not the purpose of civil forfeiture. The intended purpose is to assert control over how money is used. In the United States of America, a person does not own their money. The Federal Reserve owns the money, and the federal government borrows the money and makes it expendable to the citizens. This is not ownership of the money by way of the government or the citizenry. To put it another way, that dollar in your pocket is not really yours because the government can take it if they have reason to believe that you came about that money in an illegal manner. Maybe you’re a weed dealer. Maybe you’re Walter White. Maybe you’re a dude whose car broke down and you had a couple hundred dollars that you didn’t have the bank receipts for and the cop decided that hey, you’re wearing a Grateful Dead shirt, you’re clearly part of the hippie mafia (yes, the hippie mafia exists. Where do you think the LSD comes from in this country?). That is most certainly racketeering by police against citizens and it should be regarded as a federal crime.

Continued harassment of African-Americans citizens by way of disproportionately arresting, detaining, jailing, fining, and “jamming up” those citizens is more than a civil rights crime. That’s basically what the old school Italian mob did when store owners wouldn’t pay their dues, they would jam them up. Bribery against the mob was paying your fines. Bribery against the Ferguson Police force is having white skin.

I am aware that there are legitimate law enforcement agencies and officers. The Ferguson police department is no different than a street gang, and in fact, any given street gang may or may not have better ethics. It is at least a possibility.

In the words of one of my favorite ridiculous rappers, Riff Raff, the Ferguson police department is trappin’ like a fool. Here’s Riff Raff to proclaim the truth about those brothers in blue:


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When the Law is Ridiculous

The law is not equal to morality. A Texas teenager could go jail for life for selling brownies made with hash oil butter. This is ridiculous. We don’t even send rapists to prison for life. The law has no legitimate authority holding marijuana hostage under the assertion of mandatory prohibition. Colorado has already proven that it is a multi-million dollar industry, something which could feasibly turn many states economies around for the positive. Crimes like rape, which we do not give life sentences for, serve no positive purpose for society. Yet we do not give these crimes life in prison. But in Texas, a teenager, could go to prison for the rest of his life for a brownie made with hash oil. Something should be re-evaluated.


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Consciousness of Segregation

The other morning I was watching Morning Joe sipping my coffee, and he featured a segment discussing which state is the most segregated in modern day America. What do you think it would be, somewhere in the South? Somewhere in the Mid-West?

Wait for it….
It’s New York. My home state, the place I love, where I come from and the place that made me me. I’m from upstate New York, a place of freezing winters (but gorgeous springs, summers, and falls), small towns, rolling hills, and delicious craft beers.  New York City, the worlds greatest city, is a wonderful place to visit and I always have a great time whenever I’m there (Second on Second gay bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn all day holla, even Staten Island shanenigans). I really do love New York. While the culture of New York is rich, but apparently, also, one of unprecedented racial segregation.

I know that downstate New York is a place unlike any other, specifically Long Island, New York. For those of you unfamiliar with the geology of New York, Long Island is basically the conglomerate of rock matter formed from the glaciers that cut through upstate New York to that created my beloved rolling hills. It is basically what happened as the result of the glaciers taking a dump, something us upstaters like to point out to often times self-righteous Long Islanders who think that upstate New York is one great bumblefuck. New York City is very racially segregated, but Long Island is the section of the state that is primarily responsible for the massive segregation. Indeed, it is the pattern in Long Island that one town is white, the other non-white, one town is white, the next town is non-white. The non-whites often work in the white towns, and the people in the white towns usually work in the city.

This pattern of racial segregation has allowed low-income socioeconomic status of non-whites to continue and has created a racial barrier to equal education due to the way the tax-code funds schools. If you even think of trying to have a conversation with a white Long-Islander about redistribution of the tax-code with regards to schools, you will get a long-winded denial to the legitimacy of this idea (I know this from attempting to have the conversation with several Long Island white people during my college years). The idea simply does not hold clout amongst the most segregated part of America.

There is a lot of talk about how “races” “naturally” “want” to live amongst each other. Personally, some of my most favorite moments have been with groups of people where racial diversity was the operating factor within the context of the social interaction. While it is true that it is “easier” to identify people with similar thoughts and beliefs, this does not have to boil down to race. Social phenomenon such as youth culture, sub-cultures, or alternative ways of living can bring people together regardless of previous ways up upbringing. I know this personally from experience, having lived a fringe and alternative lifestyle for many years. My experience was multi-racial and my ability to relate to others transcended my whiteness because I was aware of my privilege, and as a result of willingness to give it up, I was able to take and heed criticism that I believe other white people would not be able to tolerate. A lot of white people accuse people of color of not wanting to interact with us, but my rebuttal to that is that in the majority of white people, there is a willful ignorance while paradoxical embrace of the social workings of white privilege. And who would want to hang out with people who are actively committed to denying your equality while denying that that is their intention? It has been my experience that beecause I am willing to give these social workings up, people of color have remarked to me that it is easier to interact with me than most people of my race. I take this as a huge compliment.

It is a conscious, calculated move to structure a society where inter-racial interactions are limited and depersonalized. Downstate New York has mastered this consciousness, to the detriment of embracing an outlook on life where interactions with others who are not completely like ones self are valued.

While writing this post, I’ve been listening to Reem’s newly dropped ill track titled “Chicago Conscious (Remix” featuring Lil Herb, King Louie, and Spenzo. Like most drill rap, the beat is haunting and invigorating.

The rappers talk about a uniquely Black experience in this country, that of having no other options but to conform to a gangsta lifestyle in order to put food on the table. Reem raps “comin’ from where I’m comin’ from/you’d probably loose it”, “to my niggas is my brothers/and I treat ’em like my brothers/to my brothers is my niggas/so I treat ’em like my brothers”, Lil’ Herb raps “dropped out of school cuz I knew I wouldn’t be shit” and “my niggas either in the streets sellin’ drugs/or they sleepin'”, King Louis raps “don’t talk to the police/no talk” and “touch me you die/no worries/lyin’ niggas no stories”, and finally Spenzo raps “nigga I’ve been self-made since twelfth grade”. These men talk about reliance on your squad, your niggas, your brothers, while remarking “lookin’ in the mirror only nigga that can relate”. The juxtaposition of having close friends, “my niggas”, while remarking the omnipresent feeling of isolation is stark and disarming to the listener. If this song does not illustrate the effects of a social situation engineered and executed to cause isolation of a racial group, I do not know what song possibly could. These rappers come from Chiraq which I have wrote about a few times, a Black neighborhood of Chicago completely segregated as a stronghold for intra-racial violence, murder and mayhem.

The rappers also make it a point to show that they dropped out of school, or simply disregarded it, for lack of personal benefit. This is also a phenemeon shown in New York where only 58% of Black and Latino students graduate from high school in the New York City area. If you click the link, the article is a New York Post piece titled “An Unconscionable Silence”. I very much would like to dispute this. This is a very deliberate and calculated effort on the part of White America, to be silent about the interworking’s to deny equality of opportunity, achievement, and advancement to non-whites.

While towns on Long Island do not have the violence problem that Chiraq has, but there are markedly more economic opportunities for everyone in that area. This does not stop the downstate drug trade, of which has historically ripped Black sections of Brooklyn with gun violence and gang vendettas.

The typical white experience simply does not include the knowledge of illegal activities as a normal way of life to make money. Most white people I know who have gotten into the drug trade have done so out of desire for excitement, though obviously lower income whites do participate in illegal activity for economic gain. However, social phenomenon such as racialized segregation cause these racial disparities in what is considered normative life to continue for lack of active social acceptance of the underpinnings and causes of the criminalization of being Black. It can more than definitely be read that historically and in modern times it is a crime to be Black, and white structures have done and continue to ensure this is a lived truth.

I unfortunately do not see New York changing any time soon. With denial of white privilege and its interworking’s, it will probably only get stronger. In New York, you go hard. I encourage my fellow whites to go hard in the other direction, to embracing racial diversity, and looking at their experience of privilege to the detriment of their fellow New York citizens.


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Disappeared

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock or in the mountains without an internet connection, you know all about the hot fuss (rightly) made about the young girls stolen from their schools in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The #bringourgirlsback hashtag (I know writing out hashtag is redundant, but bear with me for a moment) is a really noble effort to raise awareness about an absolutely grave human rights atrocity by people with limited ability to right a horrible wrong. We should all be horrified that there are men out there who feel  that stealing girls who are in the midst of puberty, or younger, and making them child-brides and find that act disgusting. Absolutely, Boko Harem should be placed on international terrorist watch lists (thanks for coming late to that game, Hilary) and lets all hope the Nigerian government properly allocates the foreign aid it is receiving to fighting Boko Harem.

But those girls aren’t coming back.

Apparently I’m really excited about examining cyber realities, with the last post about how shameful Facebook should find itself over allowing a marine’s suicide photos to stay up, and how birthdays are impacted by social media. This cyber reality, using hashtags on Twitter, Facebook statuses, and other forms of social media to raise awareness about a very serious political issue is an ongoing one with real implications for the real world. On one end of the spectrum, the world witnessed massive social organization with the Arab Spring revolutionary movements aided by the use of cyber networking. On the opposite end of the spectrum is something called “Slactivism” , of which #bringourgirlsback qualifies when used by people like Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton. Usually, Slactivism is something which ordinary people are accused of engaging in. However, I feel Hilary and Michelle’s actions qualify as slactivism in this case.

Did it make you feel warm and fuzzy when Michelle Obama tweeted this photo? MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirls I mean look at her face! She is so super sad about this, that pout and those tragic eyes. Did it move you when Hilary Clinton tweeted untitled
Gee whiz, Hil, really makin’ a statement there.

I’m rolling my eyes while I hold in a silent scream.

How about stop trying to make it look like you care about these girls? How about stop trying to co-opt on the pain of mothers and grandmothers and aunts whose loved young girls are being raped right now by crazy religious nuts? How about you admit that the United States doesn’t really care about certain nations, certain people, and that the only reason you are appearing to care is because you would look like really insensitive jerks if you didn’t (which may be a more accurate reality)? How about you don’t do what Facebookers do by posting a link and feeling like you’ve had a political impact on the world? You both actually have power but it isn’t being used to help these girls. Your power is being used to make it appear as though you care.

Sure, America is giving the Nigerian foreign aid due to this issue. Maybe Boko Harem’s power will lessen and some of them will be imprisoned, and maybe I will be proven wrong and some of these girls will be “brought back”. I’d really like to be wrong on this issue.

It isn’t necessarily “bad” that Slactivism exists, or that Michelle tweeted that photo, or that Hilary commented on a human right’s atrocity via a social media network. But we should recognize the construction of a cyber reality versus the actual attention paid to an issue before it becomes a phenomenon. These politicians with political power issuing by a statement on a social media network are jumping on a popular bandwagon to avoid looking like insensitive jerks. My favorite political scientist, E.E. Schattschneider, essentially proved this point with is publication The Semi-Soverign People. Politicians are suspect and their motivations are rarely pure. In all honesty, I think the average people who commented #bringourbirlsback collectively in the cyber world had more significant political actions than Hilary and Michelle’s questionably sincere tweets. #Bringourgirlsback was started in a desperate effort to get people like Hilary and Michelle to act before it was too late. Those people were sincere, and had very little power. But it probably was too late by the time the United States acted. Instead of trying to save face on social media, maybe be a little more sincere about why Nigeria isn’t a nation that concerns the United States too often.


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Community Standards on Violence

On Wednesday I wrote about the veils of cyber reality and the impact it has on real life interactions through the platform of the popular social media site Facebook. Continuing in that sphere of thought, I’d like to comment on something very disturbing that happened on Facebook earlier this week.

According to Gawker.com , despite numerous requests from friends and family of a suicide victim, images of the victim taken by the victim himself were not removed from his page because they did not violate Facebook’s community standards.

Uh, what?

This man was a marine and the suicide statistics on veterans are extremely disturbing. The fallout from war, readjustment to normal civilian life, lack of understanding from society at large about the experience of war, and overall machismo military culture that historically has not been extremely friendly to the idea of mental health care are contributors that I am guessing cause veterans to fall into the dark hole of suicidal thought. It is extremely sad to see so many men and women who voluntarily committed their bodies and minds to the patriotic mission of the American military not be properly cared for when re-entering American society after completing their missions abroad.

Facebook is a hegemonic force within social media. Like hegemonic powers, the power it exerts over its users is often irrational and unyielding. Specifically, one of the more disturbing phenomenons is the discrepancy of its community standards with regards to sexuality versus violence. Sexuality is a big no-no in Facebook land. Nudity is point blank forbidden and enough of it can get a user kicked off the site. Even non-sexualized nudity is forbidden; I had a friend who posted photos of herself that featured body paint on her abdomen and exposed breasts, and within hours was required to delete the photos despite their beautiful artistic quality. The photos were not sexual, it was simply her body with paint on it. Indeed, if it had been a male abdomen the photos would have been allowed to stay up because everyone knows male chests are not sexy (tongue-in-cheek remark, folks) and only the female body can be sexualized (again, sarcasm). It does not seem that Facebook will ever reverse this stance on nudity.

However, violence, BRING IT ON. But wait, no, just kidding. Well, maybe, we’re not sure. The flippity floppity dippity doppity dance Facebook engaged in with regards to violence was a stark juxtaposition to it’s stance on nudity, declaring beheading videos were okay, then well maybe not, then “‘When we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video,” Facebook said in a statement. ‘Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience,” Facebook said.”

Good fucking god.

Age appropriate audience? Your standards for sharing violence are age appropriate audience? As far as I know, my friend was not sharing photos of her naked torso with anyone underage, and the audience for those photos was all adults, most of whom I’m going to assume have seen at least one topless lady in their lives. Why can’t that apply to nudity?

I have a theory about why our society allows the gratuitous show of violence more than it allows the gratuitous show of sexuality/nudity. When done in a consensual context, sex is the ultimate bonding act between persons. Heterosexual sex results in children, and children are impressionable beings who can be imprinted in whatever way their caregivers so choose. Homosexuality, while not resulting in the begetting of children, is a sexual discourse that has historically been taboo, but in our modern society we are finally coming to terms with gay love and the legitimacy of that, and the idea that gay people can too raise healthy children. Love brings people together in ways that cross man-made social constructions concerning who it is proper for an individual to associate with based on a plethora of identity characteristics. In None of Your Business I explored why it was socially significant that I as a White woman have chosen to date outside my race. If I have mixed race babies, those babies (hopefully) will love me and their father. If there are enough of those babies who grow up to love both of their parents who are of different races, the white privilege system is in jeopardy. To prevent a dominance system from falling, there are codes of conduct that are implemented in everyday life to prevent this. Restricting sexuality is a big code of conduct that is massively policed.

Violence, however, destroys. It destroys people, it destroys relationships between people, and it destroys the spirits and wills of people. The threat of violence, though, builds. It builds power, co-opted by some for benefit which results in the loss of power for others. It builds its power by coercing people into confusion and fear to create and maintain hierarchical systems where some lives are viewed as more valuable. The paradoxical effect of love destroying violence results in ways of life that stand in stark contrast to those previously prevailing dominance and power systems. Systems of dominance remain due to both the experience of and threat of violence. Facebook, as a hegemonic force in our culture, is not going to challenge these systems of power. It is clearly dedicated to perpetrating them.

I do not know what Daniel Ray Wolfe, the marine who posted his suicide on Facebook, experienced in terms of violence, a different kind of violence than the type I wrote about in above paragraphs. Military violence results from the participation of individual soldiers carrying out orders and, as I noted when starting this post, I do not disrespect these men and women for their participation in the military because it is a necessity for our nation. In fact, I do not oppose the use of violence in all instances and I am not a pacifist. But I do know that we as a society do not explore the intrinsic nature of violence enough and we most definitely do not explore how it effects our identities. It does seem apparent that Daniel Ray Wolfe’s experience with military violence it had a disturbing effect on his psyche. His mind was clearly occupying a dark space and engaging in suicide is the ultimate expression of self-hate. One of his final posts read “Im serious I want a viking funneral (sic) push me out on a wooden raft soaked in gasand (sic) oil in a pond or lake once I’m a good distance out shoot a flaming arrow and torch my raft…”. I think these words speak for themselves about the despair this man felt.

Facebook did a violence against this man, his family, and his friends by not removing these posts at the request of the people who knew this man personally. Facebook’s “community standards” do not reflect the standards of any kind of functional community that is committed to the health of it’s people. Indeed, by allowing these disturbing posts Facebook is diminishing this man’s intrinsic value as a human and instead letting the darkest moments of his life prevail over the kind words family and friends are likely to share on his post-mortem page. Facebook pages of the dead are often used as a cyber memorial to remember the value of that person amongst the living. What Facebook is doing by not taking these posts of a mind in true and utter despair is disrespectful and shameful.

Facebook, I really wish you could make love and not war.


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It is an obvious statement that the situation in the Ukraine is disturbing. There are many things to react to; Putin’s defiance of proper international leadership as demonstrated by his action to annex another sovereign nation’s land, the first move of its kind since 1938, the alarming number of neo-Nazi and other White supremacy groups in the region, and the general threat of international discord. However, within the past day we have seen an even more alarming situation arise: leaflets disturbed instructing Jewish peoples to “register” or face consequences such as loss of property.

Some in the media have noted that this is a “hoax” because this is not backed by an official government stance, ““I was shocked and horrified by the news of this and then relieved when I heard it was just a hoax,” said Rabbi Jason Miller of Farmington Hills, director of Kosher Michigan. “I’ve visited Ukraine twice in recent years and I found a Jewish community with tremendous potential. Even a hoax such as this is very scary for the Ukrainian Jewish community.” (http://www.freep.com/article/20140417/NEWS07/304170111/Ukraine-Jews-Russia-leaflet). Other media outlets, such as Snopes.com, have taken the stance that this is not threatening because it is not backed by official government action. There seems to be a lot of effort put into reassuring Americans that this is not an action to become terribly worried about, that while vicious it is the equivalent to angry teenagers egging their teacher’s house because they received failing grades in her class; racist groups who are angry at the very existence of Jewish peoples are being aggressive and acting out in socially inappropriate ways that those of us who are civilized can easily condemn. Move on with your lives, guys, its not like the Nazis or anything.

I would very much like to disagree with the mainstream media on this issue. This is not a hoax. A hoax is defined as ” to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous”. The outlets wanting audiences to believe that this is disingenuous is a dangerous line of thinking. The person or persons behind these leaflets very much are anti-Semitic, and from my understanding of Neo-Nazis and White supremacist groups, believe violence against those they do not like is an acceptable action of recourse. Violence can mean a lot of things, it does not have to be a slap across the face, a stabbing, or a rape. Violence of words to assault a persons identity and feelings of safety are psychically and emotionally damaging. The issue of whether or not what is implied in the leaflets will come to fruition, the confiscation of property if failure to comply with registering one’s Jewishness with the State, is irrelevant. The campaign to terrorize Jewish peoples has started and it is a violence, not a hoax, and it is worrying.

Why is it worrying and how is it relevant to us, Americans? As Americans we are supposed to value a persons right to freedom of religion, a constitutional right, and liberty to practice one’s religion. Wholesale, as a nation, we failed to act against Hitler’s regime when actions of atrocity were taken against Jewish peoples and other minority groups because we did not view it as relevant to our national cause. I am not advocating war action within Ukraine over this issue, at this point that would be inappropriate when sanctions and diplomatic means have not been fully implemented. However, to deny that the leaflets are not “real” or a “hoax” is perpetrating the violence done against the Jewish peoples of Crimea. They have a real reason to fear violence against themselves, their families, their community, culture, and identity. We as Americans must not stand for that. We should regard these actions as equivalent to state actions against Jewish peoples because the people perpetrating these actions have a very real possibility of assuming positions of power in Crimea under Putin’s control. It would be a violence to not recognize the signs of contempt, and to ignore and dismiss it as a prank.