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Archive for the ‘culture of life’ Category

In the aftermath of Trump revealing highly sensitive and classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister, Russia Today oops RT.com has a puff piece with Vladimir Putin playing a piano entitled “Putin trying to decide on song to play for Trump during Trump visit next month.” I have a suggestion.

On a more serious note: It’s no longer a secret that white people are killing themselves at increasingly high rates. Opiate addiction and suicide are cutting short the lives of increasing numbers of white people — especially poor white people.

Yet — this isn’t happening to black people, or to Hispanic people. Just to white people.

Why? Some researchers think they’ve found the answer:

Q: When you looked into inequality and hope, you found some really interesting differences between poor whites, blacks and Hispanics, right?

A:Yes. One of the things we find is that there is really low optimism for the future among poor whites, and desperation and suicide. Even though Hispanics and blacks are equally poor and probably more disadvantaged on many fronts, they maintain much higher levels of optimism about the future, and they’re not suffering from the same levels of suicide and depression.

Now, I don’t know about Hispanics, but I taught plenty of poor whites and poor blacks back during my teaching days. So I think about the poor white people that I taught, and the poor black people that I taught, and what was the biggest difference between them, and what it boils down to is respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Specifically, the black kids damn well respected learning and professionalism. The black boys in particular might put on some attitude, but you go in there wearing a suit and tie and shiny black shoes instead of dressed like some high school kid and you’re strong and professional, and they respect the fuck outta that — and the girls especially responded. As did the parents. Now, there’s problems in the black community, I won’t deny that. But lack of respect for learning isn’t one of them, and neither is lack of respect for professionals. In fact, black women are on track to become the most educated group in America. A larger percentage of black women are in college than is true of any other group. Even Asians, the supposed “model minority”, send a smaller percentage of their population to college.

The poor whites, on the other hand… they didn’t respect learning. That was “egghead stuff”. “Why do I need to learn this?” was the constant plaint of their kids. They had no respect for intellectuals or professionals of any kind, who they viewed as “disrespecting them” by using all them thare big words with, like, more than four letters ‘n’ stuff, y’know. Education was treated with suspicion and professionals were as well.

Needless to say this completely limited their options when things didn’t go well. Meanwhile, blacks know why they haven’t gotten their slice of the American pie — white people been keeping them down. But not out. They have 150 years of survival experience dealing with what white people been dishing out and white people still ain’t managed to knock’em out. And now that their women folk at least are getting educated, and white people seem to be killing themselves off… fuck, why *shouldn’t* they have hope that their future may be better than their past. I mean, 160 years ago they were fucking slaves, and now a black woman is the billionaire owner of a television network! So yeah, things might suck — especially for black men, who have their own issues — but hope ain’t dead for them.

But for the poor white trash class that despises education and “desk jobs”? Whose sole aspiration was to be a truck driver or a factory worker or a miner, and never had any dreams beyond that? Well, their dream jobs are going away — even truck drivers are going to be an extinct species within the next forty years as self-driving trucks become the norm — and shit, what more do they have to hope for? They despise education and “desk jobs”, but that’s all that the economy is producing other than McJobs, so they end up sayin’ “will there be fries with that order sir?” at the local McFood joint and taking the proceeds and shooting up heroin and killing themselves.

So yeah, I ain’t surprised by this study that looked at “hope” showing that poor whites have less hope for their future than blacks and Hispanics. When you’ve systematically shut off all avenues for entering the professional classes by disdaining education and “desk job” people… well fuck. You might as well just go out in the cow pasture and shoot yourself in the head, already. Poor white trash culture is a sick culture, even sicker than black culture (where there is a lot of despair on the part of a large minority of black males, but that’s offset by the fact that black women are pulling above their weight class), and I suspect we’re going to see a lot more dead bodies — and not a helluva lot of good coming out of white trash America, where the politics of spite are still the rule. Where if they’re underneath a highway bridge living in a cardboard box cooking a dead pigeon over a hobo stove, they’ll gladly vote for someone who’ll take their hobo stove away if it means that the black guy the next bridge over don’t even have a cardboard box.

Well thing is, they done this already, and the black guy the next bridge over, he asked his woman for another cardboard box and she gave him one. So now what?

Well, you know the answer to that one. They be killing themselves with opioids and despair. How dare that black man get a free cardboard box from his baby momma!

And so they kill themselves.

– Badtux the Hope Penguin

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Three common criminals were executed for high crimes against the State today. Now, there’s some objections that the punishment these criminals received was far out of proportion to the crimes they committed. But look, these were some bad hombres. Let’s look at one of them:

Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

He had had prior run-ins with local authorities — most notably, an incident of vandalism downtown when he wrecked the places of business of numerous bankers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it.

At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth.

He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food, disruptive public behavior, and participation in farcical aquatic ceremonies.

Some say that this Communist muck-raker’s brutal punishment at the hands of the state for what was basically a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record. But that’s ridiculous. After all, he was no angel.

(From the Jerusalem Times, approximately 2025 years ago).

— Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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A 14 year old boy is dead in Oregon. We’ll learn details in the next 48 hours. But the litany of senseless shootings goes on. And we all know what will happen as a result of this shooting: Nothing.

Meanwhile, have some cats, courtesy of my first real camera which came in today — a Pentax K-50 DSLR (the Costco bundle with two kit lenses).

– Badtux the Disquieted Penguin

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One of the interesting things that I learned while teaching is that you can’t teach intelligence. Of the kids in my classes (which were untracked, i.e., all levels of students), roughly 20% really didn’t need me there — they could just flip through the book and “get it” without me. Another 50% could “get it”, with enough hard work and enough help from me and others. And then there was the bottom 30%….

Oh my, the bottom 30%. They were, by and large, dumber than a box of rocks, and no more capable of learning Algebra (or any other advanced subject) than my idiot cats. Okay, so this isn’t politically correct to say that 30% of Americans are dumber than a box of rocks. But fuck political correctness. Reality simply is, and doesn’t give a shit about political correctness.

Now, in this great new economy we’ve built, that 30% is basically relegated to low-paid manual labor in the service industry. Think Wal-Mart. You don’t have to be a fucking genius to work at Wal-Mart. In fact, if you have half a brain you won’t work at Wal-Mart for long, because they’re the scummiest of the scum, doing illegal shit like making employees work off the clock and so on and so forth. (Yes, they were sued for it. Yes, they agreed they wouldn’t do it again. Yeah, right, maybe they wouldn’t do that scummy thing again, but if they do one scummy thing you know they’re doing other scummy things). In fact, if you have half a brain Wal-Mart probably isn’t interested in hiring you, unless you’re wanting to be a manager. So: there’s a bunch of people who are stupid out there, so Wal-Mart has no shortage of hiring pool. They can hire all the dumbasses they need to run their stores — and not one more — without budging the pay rate off minimum wage. In fact, the “natural” pay rate that they could get away with paying would probably be around $10 per day, because there’s a surplus of stupid people and a shortage of places for stupid people to work.

Now, back in 1968 the minimum wage was set at what would be $10.75/hour today. So, how many people would Wal-Mart hire if the minimum wage was $10.75/hour today?

Hint: The exact same number. Because they already cut their payroll to the bone. They’re not a charity. They’re a business. They’re in business to make money, and you do that by cutting costs as much as you can. That’s just reality, you aren’t going to hire one more person than you need, regardless of whether that person is $1 per hour or $10 per hour. If they could operate their stores with fewer people, they would. They can’t. Or they would. So all that happens if you raise the minimum wage to the $10.75/hour that it was in 1968 and then inflation-index it so that it rises with inflation is that you allow people making minimum wage to make a decent living on two incomes, at the cost of people like me having to pay a bit more for cheap shit from China that we don’t need. Big fucking deal.

So what’s the right-wing Bible say about the minimum wage? “It’s evil”. Of course. They would let the minimum wage lower itself to its “natural” level, the level that the market sets. Which, as I noted, is around $1 per hour for people who are stupid. Because they’re stupid. They can’t do much. They can’t learn much. It’s just reality, some people are too stupid to be much in our current economy. You can’t make a rocket scientist out of someone who’s dumber than a box of rocks. It just ain’t happenin’.

So I point out that $1/hour won’t be enough to pay for food and housing. “Well they should learn some advanced skills then!” “But there’s a significant percentage who can’t learn advanced skills”, I point out. “Well… it’s not my problem.” “But then they’ll just die.” “Not my problem.”

At which point I point out that Hitler did the same thing — he condemned all the “morons and cretins” to death. Sent’em to the gas chambers. Except he did it fast, instead of the slow way of starving and shivering to death that right wingers are proposing.

“Quit playing the Hitler card!” they cry.

“I will when you quit proposing the policies of Hitler,” I reply.

At which point they start ranting about how it is morally offensive that they have to pay to keep cretins alive yada yada yada, at which point I tune out. Because if your entire argument is now about defending the policies of Hitler when it comes to the untermenschen (i.e., that they should all be exterminated or at least allowed to die slowly), you’re wrong. I’m sorry. It’s just that simple. There is no more argument to be had at that point, once you start defending the policies of Hitler.

And that’s today’s argument with a right-wing zealot.

– Badtux the Not-Hitler-Channeling Penguin

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Guess I’ll link him, but here goes with the pertinent bits:

…the United States still lurks near the bottom of the life expectancy scale among industrial nations, despite the fact we spend more for personal health care. Removing bayonet lugs will not solve that problem.

We suffer tobacco-related death, aggressive and oblivious drivers, alcohol-related death and the myriad of death by stupidity but what do we do? We focus on 10-round magazines and military look-alike rifles. Perhaps this is because eliminating the stupid is a lot harder than regulating weapons.

He has a point. The primary cause of gun deaths is handguns. Handguns are easily concealable by criminals — it’s a lot easier to haul a handgun along on a burglary than to haul a rifle. So when criminals use a weapon in the commission of a crime, it is far more likely a handgun than anything else, simply because he can get it from point A to point B in broad daylight without a half dozen people calling the cops. Furthermore, too many otherwise law-abiding gun owners believe in security by obscurity — i.e., if they can’t see the gun, a toddler can’t see the gun either. Furthermore, gun handling skills are negligible. Two simple rules — 1) Always assume a gun is loaded, and 2) Never point a gun’s barrel in the direction of someone unless you intend to kill that person — would probably solve a large number of gun deaths in and of themselves, but the NRA and friends are too busy saying guns should be handed out like candy to anybody who has never been in an insane asylum or prison to recommend that, duh, we require training before you get a gun. This despite the fact that the NRA has some very good gun safety courses — or at least used to, before they left the ranch and started roaming the Wild West.

But even there, poor health care kills more people than guns do. And “Obamacare” (actually Romneycare with the serial numbers filed off) is not going to solve that, because all “Obamacare” does is patch up the funding side of the health care system. It does nothing to patch up the provider side, where the private hospitals have an incentive to provide as little care as they can for the highest price possible and specialists in life-threatening diseases literally say to people “your money or your life” and rape people for every asset they own and every asset they ever own in exchange for half-assed healthcare that kills people more often than it cures them. Crap, for cancer the number of people actually cured is almost zero — pretty much everybody who gets treated for any kind of aggressive cancer (as vs. benign tumors) ends up dead within five years. But hey, the doctors get mighty rich while making their patients miserable with cancer treatments that at best add six months or so to the typical patient’s life… and let’s not talk about the heart surgeons who’d rather cut open people’s chests than advise people “quit eating burgers and pizza for every meal and eat healthy!”, and so forth.

In case you’re wondering about how U.S. cancer care compares to that eeeevil soshalist medicine: About the same percentage of 60 year old white men in the U.S. die of prostate cancer as in Britain. But we diagnose four times as many prostate cancers and charge enormous sums of money to basically cut people’s balls off (not literally, but the prostate is what produces the semen that carries the sperm, so if you cut out the prostate, ain’t no ejaculatin’ goin’ on) for, get this, NO GAIN in mortality rate compared to Britain. But TEN TIMES the price. And creating a lot of misery in the meantime. (Yes, lack of sex IS misery for a man, in case you women out there don’t understand!).

But hey, as the gun owner above mentioned, it’s easy to remove bayonet lugs, but stupid — and our health care system *is* stupid — is a lot harder to solve. So it goes. Alrighty, then!

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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Meet Kai. Kai is home-free (his term). Racist Jesus, around 300 pounds, tried to kill a black PG&E worker and then tried to strangle a woman who came to the PG&E worker’s aid. Kai took out his hatchet and whacked Racist Jesus over the head with the blunt side several times, probably saving both her life and that of the PG&E worker.

I’ve met Kai before. Oh not this Kai. But others like him. He is a fundamentally gentle soul who due to circumstances of birth finds himself adrift in a vicious land he can’t really understand, making his way as best he can. If someone gave him money, he’d give it away to people he felt needed it more. If someone gave him a house, he’d sell it and give it all away. And when a woman needed help, he didn’t think about the danger to himself of intervening, he just did it. Because what is there to lose? Other than his own life, but he already knows just how much value society places upon him (i.e., none) and he has no family to value his life (someone on Reddit claims Kai bounced around foster homes for years before heading out on the jam band circuit), so…

I won’t say Kai is my hero, because his life is not an easy one and it’s not likely that he’ll ever live long enough to dream of anything beyond his next meal. I will say that he’s worth more than every Wall Street bank CEO combined. He would no more defraud a pension fund by selling it a bogus “good as gold” mortgage-backed security than he’d kick a cat. The whole thought of doing something so bogus would appall him. Which is why Kai is a home-free drifter, and Wall Street bank CEO’s are Wall Street bank CEO’s. Because that’s just the kind of society we live in.

– Badtux the Ruminating Penguin

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Typical NRA member

Typical NRA member

This is a tale of two nations that ban (most) personal ownership of guns: Mexico, and Japan. Mexico is the murder capital of the world, managing to surpass South Africa on that scale. Japan is probably the safest nation on the planet, with a level of violent crime that barely manages to be recordable it’s so low.

So what is the difference between these nations?

1) Culture. Japanese culture values social cohesion. Japan has a cultural tradition of warrior machismo — bushido — but that tradition also emphasizes loyalty and social responsibility. A samurai who acted to enhance his own reputation at the expense of his master or of society would be ostracized and viewed as less than dirt. Submission or self-humiliation in order to increase the welfare of your master or of society is viewed as the mark of a true samurai. By comparison, machismo in Mexican culture is an individual attribute. If someone attacks your manhood, the only possible action is to retaliate immediately, regardless of whether that is good for your family or for society as a whole. Otherwise you are viewed as less than a man, a worm, someone who is less than fully human. (Hint: NRA members tend to feel this way too). Finally, Japanese society views itself as a unified whole. CEO’s may have higher status and salary than the typical salaryman, but not outrageously so. Mexican society, on the other hand, is socially stratified. The “blancos” who run the country and monopolize most of the wealth view the “indios” who are the majority in Mexico as less than human, while the small middle class views itself as having little in common with any of the other social classes.

2) That level of social cohesion also allows Japan to have an effective government where government employees are paid a good wage and corruption is relatively low. This allows enforcement of the gun laws to take place effectively, whereas in Mexico policemen are often paid to look the other way and policemen who refuse to do so may even be shot by their own peers for messing up the flow of bribe money.

3) Geography. Japan is an island nation and has a rugged terrain where there are (relatively) few good places to land a boat. For those familiar with the geography of coastal Northern California, Japan is much the same in that respect. Smuggling does occur in Japan but not on the scale that, e.g., drugs come across the southern border of the USA. Meanwhile, Mexico borders the largest manufacturer of guns on the planet.

4) Drug money and the War on Drugs. This has flooded Mexico with a lot of bad actors with guns who get into shootouts to try to monopolize the very lucrative drug trade. While Japan also has a War on Drugs, the higher level of social cohesion means that abuse of drugs is shameful and thus sale and use of illegal drugs is much less common. Furthermore the penalties for gun possession and use are so high and enforced so consistently that even the criminal classes prefer to use non-gun weapons.

So let’s say that we instituted a gun ban in the United States. Would the outcome be closer to Japan or to Mexico?

1) Culture — American culture, especially American gun culture, is far close to Mexico than to Japan. Machismo is a defining trait of American gun culture. See picture above :). Fetishization of guns is rampant amongst certain classes of Americans, whether we’re talking about black gangsta culture or NRA gun culture. Both of these subcultures emphasize the individual over society, indeed, view their fellow Americans as inherently oppressive, and view other classes of Americans as sub-humans that it’s okay to exterminate like cockroaches. There is no social cohesion here that would lead to compliance with a gun ban as happened in Japan after MacArthur wrote the ban into their new Constitution in 1946.

2) Government — U.S. government is far more effective than Mexican government. However, this is starting to crumble as pay and benefits of police officers is cut. America’s police state has been unable to “win” the War on Drugs, and likely would be similarly unable to win the War on Guns. Call this a tossup.

3) Geography — we can’t stop tons of drugs from coming in. Gun smuggling would be trivial. So we’re more like Mexico here.

4) Drug money — Definitely Mexico. While not as bad as it used to be, there are still areas of major American cities that are basically a war zone. There are so many gunshots in Oakland each night that the police could not respond to all reports of gunfire even if they cared (which by and large they don’t because Officer Safety is more important than the fate of the residents of those neighborhoods that are “too dangerous to enter”).

In short, given what I know about American culture, geography, and the amount of money involved in drugs, the chances of ending gun violence via a gun ban in the United States are pretty slim. The only real difference between the U.S. and Mexico is that we have a very effective national security police state… but it is one that has already shown supreme indifference to the fate of people in the places where gun violence is most severe.

Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Well, making certain classes of gun harder to obtain would certainly have changed the outcome at Sandy Hook. The .223 carbine used there with its 30-round magazines allowed putting multiple holes into a multitude of people ridiculously easy. A .357 revolver is even more deadly at close quarters than a .223 carbine, but you can fire only six shots before you have to stop to reload — and even with speedloaders it takes several seconds to reload, giving surrounding people time to rush you. Would the administrative staff of Sandy Hook have been mowed down so easily if the shooter had needed to stop to reload after ventilating the first one or two people rushing him? It seems unlikely.

That said, spree shootings of this sort are extremely rare. Most gun violence in America is related to the drug war, domestic violence, or suicide, not spree shootings. Outlawing large magazines and the guns capable of accepting them would eliminate most spree killings of this sort, but make only a slight dent in gun violence as a whole. For gun violence as a whole to cease to be a problem in American society would require a different society — one less violent, less mean-spirited, with greater social cohesion, that places social responsibility ahead of machismo. And in that regard, I’m not seeing much “there” there…

– Badtux the Sociology Penguin

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