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September 22, 2016

The Blue Mayor Problem: Bill Peduto and Blue-City Mayors Run the Police Depts Killing Black Men

Red State, Blue City North Carolina state politics have fascinated me for a few years.

North Carolina is a Red State, with a Republican governor and a Republican legislator. The biggest city is Charlotte, NC - a Blue City with a consistently Democratic body of elected officials.

In this - a Republican state with a Republican rural zone and Democratic cities - it represents a lot of American politics, and possibly provides a preview of where American local-state politics is going.

The Charlotte airport is a money-maker, a tax-collector, a source of jobs for people and contracts for businesses. It's a power center which has been operated by the City of Charlotte since 1937. The State of NC wanted to move the power center away from the City/Region and into the State's hands, so the State formed an Airport Commission to take over the airport. Charlotte said: we don't think so.

Major brouhaha. At one time, there were two separate airport commissions (City and State) each claiming Authority over the Airport. City and State looked to the Feds to choose, and the Feds wisely said: This is not my circus, y'all decide.

Then President Obama selected a new Secy. of Transportation - who happened to be the mayor of CLT. Lots of sturm and drang, ending up with: seems like CLT still runs the airport, although the State intends to keep chipping away.

It's an illustration of Red-State, Blue-City politics. Cute sidebar: The Red-State airport panel tried hard to bury a lot of poisonous coal ash under the runway and taxiway projects at the airport. Stuff like that.

Then the City passed an ordinance expanding their LGBT laws to address transgender issues and the use of bathrooms. In response, the State passed a law insisting people go poop in the bathroom consistent with their birth certificate, and also specified that no local ordinance could trump the state ordinance.

This is why the NBA, the NCAA, and a lot of people are avoiding NC. Meanwhile if you are a transgender person flying American Airlines and get diverted into CLT, figuring out where to pee is very stressful. Interestingly, all the boycott action hurts Charlotte more than the State. Funny.

The police departments killing black men are in cities.
City government is often Democratic

Now a Charlotte police officer has shot and killed a black man, who was reading a book in his car, waiting to pick up his kid at school. Doesn't get much more American than that. This is a debacle, a tragedy, both in the instance and in the great multitude of these killings.

The NC Governor has declared a state of emergency in Charlotte, and will send the National Guard and State Police into the City. You have to understand how happy the Red-State is to send armed forces into the Blue-City, for so many reasons. The Red-State was having trouble taking over the airport; now they're going to take over the whole city. #ThrowMeInThatBriarPatch

  • Taking over the city reinforces the Red-State base's opinions about Blue-City politics and government.
  • Demonstrating to the African-American community that they suffer tremendously under the leadership of Blue-City Democratic leadership is a perfect wedge issue for the Republicans.

Because if you look at it, Blue-City politics are a coalition of Black voters, educated Women voters, and young people who cluster around Universities. Demonstrating that Blue-City democrats run the police departments which kill Black Men is a legitimate wedge issue that is easily demonstrated in cities across America.

Blue-City Democrats run the police departments killing black men.
Blue-City Democrats run the cities displacing black people

Even Donald Trump has seen the rhetorical opportunity, saying to black voters: Why do you support these Democratic leaders? Look at how they're treating you! They're killing you!

When urban cops kill a black man, those cops usually report to a Democratic mayor or country executive. Those officials, and the urban Democratic party in general, will not survive or win elections without the Black vote. And yet, Black Americans are being killed by police departments that work for Democratic officials.

Consider Blue-City Pittsburgh's Racial Performance

Each of the recent Mayoral administrations has seen forced economic dislocation of Black Americans out of Pittsburgh. Police-on-Black violence is a Pittsburgh problem.

This is Pittsburgh's problem. This is Bill Peduto's problem. We notice: the Pittsburgh FOP endorsed Trump, and has expressed No-Confidence in Peduto's Chief. Bill Peduto is another Blue-City leader who is not in charge of their police department. I have to imagine Peduto falls asleep at night hoping, Please don't let it happen here.

The question is: who seizes the initiative and defines the moment? Will Blue-City leadership exert control over their police departments, or will continued police killings dissolve the Democratic base?

September 10, 2016

42 Beats 39 Great Game

a really great game if we overlook
the likely brain damage inflicted
on young unpaid interns by
multi-million entertainment franchises
masquerading as schools, perverting education,
operating as tax-free entities in
publicly funded coliseums
which the citizens voted against building.
42 beats 39. great game.
August 24, 2016

Whiten Up, Pittsburgh! And in the interim, use Gentrification Grey paint.

Once upon a time in East Liberty, before money arrived and created East Side (a name with less baggage), there was a mural titled "Lend Me Your Ears". It featured faces of black children.

The developer-owners wanted to repurpose the building as upscale housing - which to them was inconsistent with the mural, so they painted over the mural

Now, the new owners are seeking new artists to create a new artwork that reflects that vision; "a new generation of art for the new East Liberty'. I bet the new mural looks much different.

Once upon a time in Lawrenceville, there was a mural on a place called New Amsterdam. It draws on (perhaps appropriates?) Calavera imagery, used in Mexican culture (see, José Guadalupe Posada, and the Day of the Dead). You know: Mexicans. Gangs. Let's build a wall.

But that mural got painted over. (The observant reader will note the still-present Uneeda Biscuit advertisement painted on the adjacent building).

And on 8.23, an artist is painting a new mural, consistent with the new vision. Title unknown, my nickname is: "Ode to Car Culture, Which is really more threatening than Mexican mysticism".

Arrrggghhhhh. I envision that the East Liberty NextGen mural will feature pictures of Auto-Autos (autonomous Uber Volvos) discharging people from Fox Chapel. I would also like to start calling the type of gray paint used to cover a minority-theme mural, to wait a sufficient period of time, to be eventually painted over with a new image less threatening to commerce and white people: Gentrification Grey.

July 07, 2016

Uber & Black America in a Post-Jobs Economy

2016 is a post-jobs environment. The whole VC-world and business process improvement industry is focused on squeezing employees out of the business model. Manufacturing is gone. Middle-class jobs and unions are gone. It's very hard to find a job that supports a family. So we're in a post-jobs economy. Corporations want consumers but they don't want employees.

What happens to the families of people who were brought here as slave labor, and then worked in steel mills, union jobs, civil service jobs - when all those sectors are shrinking or gone? What happens to the people we forced here and forced to work, when there isn't any more work?

So they work the side-hustle. They sell loosies and CD's. They're doing what they can to support their families. They're breaking rules just like Uber-Lyft-AirBnB breaks rules for considerably less money.

and of course: you're next. Choose well.

June 12, 2016

Regrettable Impulses, the Orlando Pulse Killings, and the Second Amendment

For a long time in my life, I was an air traffic controller. When I'd see a news flash of a fatal crash, my first impulse was to ignore the reported details - because they're so often wrong. Generally my second impulse was (and remains) to think, I hope it wasn't a controller's fault. Let it be weather, or mechanical failure, but please don't let it be a controller's fault.

It's not an enlightened response. I've reflected on it over the years and it doesn't speak well of me, yet it remains my innate response. I'd hate for one of us to have killed people, and I'd hate to be the SOB that has to live with it. For instance, USAir 1493, who a controller cleared to land on top of another airplane that the controller had told to park in position on the runway but never cleared for takeoff, with a loss of 35 lives.

When I heard the news of the Orlando Pulse killings, and heard the body count roll from 20 to 50, my first thought was: what terrible thing to happen during Pride Week

My second impulse was: Oh no, what the idiots are going to do with this to call attention to their own agendas and themselves. And it didn't take long:

There's a lot of regrettable impulses.

There's no need for personal semi-automatic weapons in America. They didn't exist when the 2nd Amendment was written. If we want to scrupulously uphold the 2nd Amendment, we should not pass laws infringing the public's right to bear muzzle-loaded, black-powder, long rifles.

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.