Sunday, January 26, 2014

Subway Partners with Michelle Obama, Sincerely Ignorant Respond with Hate

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."--Martin Luther King Jr.

Conservatives have gone rabid yet again and focused their animus on Michelle Obama. So what has them foaming at the mouth this time?

Last week, the Subway Restaurant chain announced on its Facebook page that it was joining First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, and teaming up with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Nothing shocking in this partnership; Subway has offered healthy alternatives to fries and burgers for years. 

We've been bemoaning the fattening of America for at least the last decade, with a particular focus on the increasing obesity of America's children and adolescents. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. So the addition of Subway's support to an initiative to provide information about eating healthy and to encourage all of us to make healthier food choices seems like a great idea unless you're a mad dog conservative. They're out in full force on Subway's Facebook page, decrying Subway's joining the First Lady's campaign against childhood obesity and vowing to take their business elsewhere. 

It's their right to do so, and I'd be the last person to insist that anyone is obligated to support any business. What I have a problem with is their racist insults directed at the First Lady and the President. The comments comparing Mrs. Obama to cows and apes, the comments denigrating her intelligence, the comments calling her a traitor to her country. Then there's Regine Wilson who calls the First Lady "ghetto trash," and Judy Stewart who can't seem to recall how to spell the First Lady's given name and calls her "Mooshell." (public comments, no expectation of privacy, ladies). Of course, Regine and Judy aren't the only ones using disparaging terms to refer to Mrs. Obama. They are joined by a chorus of the radically hateful. Hate feeds off hate.

I can only assume that the loony bin conservatives who are having conniption fits at the idea of the First Lady advocating for a healthier America felt that the Subway Facebook was too limited a forum, so they created their own page: "I Reject Michelle Obama and Subway." Read at your own risk; it's vile, contemptible, racist, and filled with stupidity.

What truly disgusts and offends me is that these lunatic, ignorant fools who are too worthless to even shine her shoes don't give a damn that they are not only insulting the First Lady but every African-American in this country. I have heard this type of crap my entire life. I'm long past childhood and I'm immune to words of ignorance causing me personal hurt any more, but it still pisses me off that black children in this country are regularly exposed to this type of sh*t. 

I grew up in an era where racial epithets and denigration of black people was common. Those who dared object risked being taught a lesson, from losing a job, to being dragged out of your house and beaten, to being killed. I learned as a child to keep my mouth shut and my eyes down because even a glance at a white person could be interpreted as being insolent.  

I had hoped that this country, my country, was beyond overt racism, but since Obama's election the ignorant have risen and feel free to to insult both the President and the First Lady with the most vile of racial insults and it's as if we have stepped back into an era that should have long been dead and buried. I have no patience for such people and quite frankly they're not worthy to shine my shoes either.

I vent here, using my words as a weapon, so that I can resist the impulse to slap the first white person that pisses me off on any given day with nonsensical talk of how they are victims of reverse racism and how President Obama has divided this country when it comes to race. I try to keep my anger and disgust down to a simmer rather than letting it come to a full, rolling boil. I work hard to ensure that my Aunt Dorothy's prediction fails to come true and my head doesn't explode one day because I think too much.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

About Drone Attacks, Politics, and Joshua Black

Maybe it's something in the water down in Florida. On Monday, while most of us were celebrating the Dr. King holiday, Joshua Black, a candidate for a seat in the Florida House (District 68) tweeted that President Obama should be hanged for treason, "I'm past impeachment. It's time to arrest and hang him high."

Black subsequently tweeted denials that he called for hanging the President, insisting that he merely agreed with a tweet posted by someone else. Of course the tweet with which he agreed advocated arresting and hanging the President. He also addressed how he has been misunderstood on his Facebook page.

Mr. Black is a 31-year-old African-American. On his Twitter account he has reacted with indignation to some suggestions that the tweet in controversy is racist. Upon giving it some thought, I am willing to concede that Mr. Black's attack on President Obama, his agreement with the tweet calling for the arrest and hanging of the President, may not be based on racial animosity. Mr. Black isn't a racist; he's just an idiot.

He appears desperate to curry favor from the Republican party in the belief that he will be the Republican nominee for a seat in the Florida House for District 68. His efforts aren't working. Chris Latvala, a Republican candidate for House District 67, tweeted a response: "You aren't seriously calling for the killing of Obama are you? I know you are crazy but good heavens. U R an embarrassment." On his Facebook page, Black alleges that Florida's governor has contacted him and asked him to withdraw from the race. Black refused, "Having done nothing illegal, I will not be withdrawing from this race. If I lose, I lose, but I will not cower away." 

What elicited Black's agreement with the tweet that President Obama should be hanged? According to Black, the President is guilty of treason, a modern incarnation of Benedict Arnold (Contrary to Black's belief, Arnold was not executed; he died at the age of 60 in his own bed.) He is emphatic that the President should have a trial first, then we should hang him. Black points specifically at two drone attacks in which two American citizens, a father and son were killed, the son was 16-years-old. A sad and nasty affair, in which the father, Anwar al-Awlaki, had taken his son with him to Yemen where the father worked with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Two weeks after the father was killed in a targeted drone strike, his son was also a victim of a drone strike. The administration has stated that the son was not a target and was an unintended victim of the second attack. 

Black seems particularly concerned about what he views as Obama's criminal attacks on American citizens, and calls on Jesus as justification for killing Obama for the crime of treason. There would be a bit of dark humor in the rantings of a novice who has never before held a public office if it weren't for the Tea Party members who are gleefully celebrating Black's attack on the President, offering praise for the black man speaking out against the President and in doing so, somehow prohibiting any characterization of the rabid right's ongoing attack against the president as racist. 

I find it fascinating how there is so much outrage at the use of drones by this administration and how little outrage has been expressed in the past when the U.S. has engaged in creative methods of killing that have resulted in substantial deaths of men, women, and children. 

I don't like war, whether declared by Congress or entered into based on a lie at worst or at best, massive misinformation about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction or some other imagined threat.  People die in wars because everyone involved uses weapons to kill each other. War is about killing. Amazing how outraged people who had no problems with previous administrations killing people, including civilians, are willing to go so far as to call for the hanging of the president of the United States for alleged war crimes. Of course he is the first black president. But wait, I'm just imagining that his race has anything to do with it. 

After all, there has never been another U.S. president who ordered the military to take military action against our perceived enemy. Oops, I'm wrong. There was Truman and I'm certain that Obama's critics would also want Truman lynched. Under Truman's orders, on August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. Three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki. This was the big bang but the U.S. had been bombing cities in Japan for some time wiping out cities of 100,000 with conventional bombs. Rumor has it that subsequent Presidents ordered military actions that killed civilians in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. Then there were the wars prior to WWII.

War is a nasty, evil thing and by its very definition it results in deaths, hundreds of thousands of deaths. Obama didn't start this trend and he won't be the last president to order strikes that result in the deaths of civilians, the young and the old, and even American citizens who give aid to countries that are waging terrorists attacks against the U.S.

I don't like the U.S. use of military might and I believe that we have failed to devote sufficient effort to using diplomatic channels to resolve differences among nations. I support a stronger UN with the authority to resolve disputes among disagreeing countries. 

I reiterate: I don't like war. But what I like even less are hypocrites who look for any excuse to declare that President Obama is evil personified, the anti-Christ president, all under the pretext of being appalled at his exercise of the same powers as every commander-in-chief that has preceded him. Such hypocrites aren't anti-war; they're anti-Obama. They are so shallow that they cannot bring themselves to confront their own animus toward his position as President of the United States. They get hyperactive about his use of military force as if he invented the concept. Frankly, I have more respect for the blatant racists who don't hide their beliefs. At least they're honest and I know not to waste my time on attempting to communicate with them.

As for Joshua Black, he's seeking his 15 minutes of fame. Let's hope that his moment in the spotlight is over.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Is Net Neutrality and Why Should You Care?

On Tuesday, January 14, 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit said, "No, no, no," to the FCC's Net neutrality rules passed in late 2010. The story managed to give Gov. Christy and his bridge a bit of a nudge out of the limelight but I found most of the coverage to be inadequate at clearly defining the issues and what is at stake. 

First, it's important to know who the players are. There are (1) Internet broadband providers such as Verizon and (2) content providers such as Netflix and Facebook, and (3) consumers (those of us who use the Internet). The court's decision impacts content providers directly, not consumers, but the impact of the court's ruling is likely to ultimately affect consumers.

Second, it's useful to understand that prior to this federal appeals court decision, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Net neutrality rules required Internet service providers [aka broadband providers] to provide consumers with equal access to all lawful content without restrictions or tiered charges, treating all web traffic equally.

Verizon Communications, Inc., a broadband provider challenged the FCC's rules asserting that the FCC had no authority to impose anti-discrimination rules  (Net neutrality rules) on broadband providers. This is a victory for Verizon and other broadband providers. (Think of who you purchase Internet service from like Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, AT&T etc., these are all Internet service providers/ broadband providers).

Internet content providers are all of the websites that we visit or join like Netflix, Facebook, Blogger, Word Press, state, federal, and local government sites, etc. This ruling has the potential to interfere with the ability of content providers to provide their content at higher speeds unless they pay a higher cost for access to the Net to the broadband providers.

The FCC continues to have authority to regulate broadband access which means that if can regulate content providers but under this ruling, the FCC cannot regulate broadband providers. The concern is that the broadband providers, which are much larger than content providers, will levy higher costs on the content providers for providing higher speed Internet connections. 

Increases in costs for higher speed Internet connections would likely put some content providers out of business, and prevent smaller content providers from ever setting up their Internet site. Content providers who can pay increased fees for higher connection speeds will have an unfair advantage over sites with slower connection speeds and Net neutrality will be a thing of the past.

The court's decision is unlikely to result in any costs for use to be passed along to the consumer as the FCC continues, under this ruling, to have authority to regulate broadband access. However, this ruling, if it stands on appeal, will impact consumer access to a broad variety of content providers and have a chilling effect on the development of new content on the Internet.

This is purely speculation on my part, but I do think that if this decision survives appeal, it's reasonable to believe that content providers will be chomping at the bit to get the FCC to lessen its control of content providers and allow them to pass on some of their increased cost for high speed access to consumers.

In addition, the only guarantee that we have that Internet broadband providers will provide equal access to all consumers is their pledge to do so. The lawyers for the broadband providers insist that nothing will change for consumers and we will continue to be able to roam merrily about the Internet. However, consumer advocacy groups fear that the broadband providers will begin charging content providers for higher Internet speeds, causing some sites to shut down and others to curtail their offerings or restrict access to some areas of their sites to fee paying consumers. In other words, no one is clear as to exactly what repercussions there will be as a result of this ruling.

The President sums up the administration's position in support of continued Net neutrality. According to the administration, "The President remains committed to an open Internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use, and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products."

The simplest solution would be for Congress to redefine the FCC's authority to make it clear that it includes setting rules that govern the broadband providers, a step which the Democrats have offered to take. However, the Republicans are advocating a hands off position, agreeing with the Internet providers that the FCC rules "inhibit investments and are not necessary to ensure unrestricted access to Internet content."

This is the short version of a somewhat complex decision. There's a decent article on the federal court's decision here.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbus Circuit is also available online.