The GOP can never pass up an opportunity to make themselves look like complete buffoons, and a protest following the funeral for Freddy Gray, who died from a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody, is no exception. Why display compassion, understanding, and leadership when you can jump on the opportunity to display disdain, contempt, and bigotry?
As soon as the protests broke out in Baltimore, FOX and presidential wannabes took to the airwaves to show their viewers and their base exactly what they stood for.
On FOX, Shepard Smith, the last vestige of reason on the network, fielded questions from "The Five" on Monday while he was covering the riots. Shepard was visibly frustrated by the idiotic questions the tools on the couch were slinging.
Eric Bolling, who has recently been whining on FOX about Jon Stewart calling him "the dumb guy," asked Smith, "I haven't heard anything from any civil rights leaders. Have you?"
Smith answered Bolling's dog whistle, saying that he had, in fact, heard from at least one civil rights leader calling for peace.
"But it seems like in the middle of all of this," Smith said, "to start picking on people for civil rights and what they're saying and what they're not saying, we could spend our time watching this and reporting on it--"
At this point Eric "the dumb guy" Bolling, not hearing what he wanted to, broke in and said that it would be "nice timing" for civil rights leaders to call for peaceful protesting. Because repeating what the smart guy just said makes it sound like you said it first.
Co-host Greg Gutfeld, feeling he had to chime in and out-dumb "the dumb guy," asked, "Where are the parents?"
Smith, apparently adept at dealing with inane questions, responded slightly sarcastically, saying:
Well, you know, I've not been on the phone with them. But if we want to sit here and indict the civil rights community and indict the parents for what we're watching right now, instead of for now, just covering what happens and then later talk about whose fault it is, because we don't know whose fault it is.
To which Bolling feigned offense and claimed to be asking a legitimate question. Watch the video in its entirety here. Smith stays unbelievably calm while being skillfully sarcastic.
Where are the parents indeed?
Presidential hopeful, Ayn Rand fan, and self-proclaimed libertarian Rand Paul actually answered that question on Tuesday during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingram. "There are so many things we can talk about," Paul said. "The breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society." So there you have it: It's not about jobs, police harassment, poverty, racism, or anything else that actually causes people to become so angry and desperate that they riot. It's because of absent fathers and a lack of moral code. Paul didn't exactly go into what should be done about this issue or what steps should be taken to rectify the situation, but he did mention that he was running for president.
That said, Facebook blew up when a video of a mother scolding and slapping her son after having recognized him on TV has made the rounds over the last few days.
A recent study, "The Poor Get Prison," illustrates the incredible and startling extent to which the country's municipalities are fining and jailing the country's most vulnerable for being poor. And not only punishing them for being poor but driving them further and deeper into poverty.
"In the last ten years," New York Times bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich writes in the introduction, "it has become apparent that being poor is, in itself, a crime in many cities and counties, and that it is a crime punished by further impoverishment."
The Ferguson report clearly shows how the city targeted its large minority population with traffic tickets and other infractions to support its coffers.
Ferguson isn't alone and far from an anomaly. In New York City, putting your feet up on the subway and sitting on the sidewalk has recently become a citable offense. It's doubtful that the high rollers on Wall Street are getting ticketed for either of those actions, and since it seems that crashing the economy and rigging the market is not a citable offense, they won't have much to worry about. The indiscriminate overpunishment of minor offenses is one more way for the rich to get richer, and as the report says, the "poor get prison." They also get poorer in larger numbers. The Southern Educational Foundation reports that 51 percent of America's public schoolchildren are living in poverty.
The report addresses a number of examples of people who can't pay fees being jailed, seizing property through asset forfeiture, the criminalization of petty infractions, fining the homeless for being homeless. From Alternet:
If you are homeless in America and have nowhere to go and are down on your luck, it is increasingly difficult to find a safe space in which to exist without being fined for loitering. According to the report, an estimated 600,000 people are homeless on any given night. Though nearly 13 percent of the nation's low-income housing has been lost since 2001, and many people simply cannot afford housing, 34 percent of cities ban public camping, 18 percent prohibit sleeping in public and 43 percent prevent people from sleeping in vehicles, according to a study the report cited.
Often, homeless people who are fined for violating these laws have no way to pay the fine. Jailtime is on the table for many who can't pay up.
And since many prisons are privatized and owned by private companies, the more cells they fill up, the more state and municipal subsidies they get.
To convolute matters even more, the poor, according to the report, are subsidizing city budgets and enriching the private companies that are contracted by local governments to do the work that those same governments used to provide.
In Detroit, up to 3,000 Detroit households per week had their water shut off for owing as little as $150 or two months in bills. One woman, Charity Hicks, stood up to a contractor who wouldn't stand to wait an hour for her pregnant neighbor to fill up some jugs. Activists in Detroit estimate this could impact nearly half of Detroit's mostly poor and black population -- between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
That's the result of privatizing government services. Privatizing public water, incidentally, is on the agenda for another supposed presidential contender. Chris Christie recently sold New Jersey's public water system. What could possibly go wrong?
No racially charged protest or incident would be complete without hearing from FOX's most hateful talking head, and he did not disappoint. On Monday, Sean Hannity interviewed Adam J. Jackson, CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and a nonviolent protester in Baltimore. As Joanna Rothkopf from Salon aptly puts it, "Hannity placates his elderly, close-minded viewers by letting them live vicariously through him as he scolds a black protester."
"Is this the type of protest you want to be a part of?" Hannity asked.
"First and foremost, I'm not going to talk about the violence that people are talking about," Jackson replied. "This is a response to the violence of the Baltimore City Police Department. People talking about fires burning in Baltimore, there's been fires burning of mass incarceration, racist policing practices, so this is an outgrowth of that."
Jackson is referring to the protests that have plagued Baltimore for the past few days in response to the unexplained death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while he was in police custody.
"Isn't this a minority-run city in terms of its politics?" Hannity responded. "You said racism but this is a majority minority police department and you're calling the black officers in Baltimore racist?"
"We're not talking about individual people who are racist," Jackson said. "I'm talking about the elite class and politicians in Baltimore. More people like Martin O'Malley who have legally arrested 757,000 black people--"
As usual, the interview ends with the guest speaking calmly and making sense, sending Hannity into a rage and childishly ending the interview.
Hannity is not the only one getting pushback to his ignorance. Wolf Blitzer, master of the hologram, was browbeaten by a Baltimore activist on CNN; another protester schooled an MSNBC reporter, saying, "My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us"; the great mustached Geraldo got an earful from a Maryland Democratic legislator; and also on CNN Baltimore City Council member Carl Stokes took down CNN's Erin Burnett on Tuesday when she argued in favor of calling rioters in the city "thugs." During the smack down Stokes, frustrated and infuriated, said, ""Come on? Just call them n*ggers. Just call them n*ggers. No, we don't have to call them by names such as ['thugs']. We don't have to do that. That is exactly what we've sent them to."
Follow the links. It's worth seeing just how a biased and sensationalist media get their butts handed to them by people who are more concerned with reality than they are with cameras and microphones.
President Obama addressed the issue on Tuesday in one of his more forceful and impassioned statements to the press, saying:
This is not new. This has been going on for decades. And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, we also know if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty, they've got parents, often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education, and themselves can't do right by their kids, if it's more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than that they go to college, and communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men, communities where there's no investment, and manufacturing's been stripped away, and drugs have flooded the community and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a lot of folks, in those environments, if we think that we're just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without, as a nation, and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not going to solve this problem, and we'll go through this same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities, and the occasional riots in the streets and everybody will feign concern until it goes away and we just go about our business as usual.
The mistreatment and death of Freddy Gray wasn't an isolated incident. These tragedies happen all of the time across the country. Since 2010, in Baltimore alone there have been 111 police killings, according to what Jesse Jackson told Chris Matthews on Hardball Tuesday night, while addressing poverty, urban blight, and the subprime mortgage crisis, was the result of banks targeting poor communities with explosive loans.
"You can't break your [own] spine," Jackson said. "He was killed by the police.
The number of people living in poverty in America is embarrassing, and the number of people heading there is staggering. The Republican Party continues to give huge tax breaks to the rich while moving money from the poor to the wealthiest in the country. They continue to cut desperately needed programs like Social Security, welfare, and food stamps. They've refused to vote on or present anything that even looks like a jobs bill and refused to raise the minimum wage, all while demonizing the poor -- most of whom work full-time. Ironically, Republicans vilify the poor who work, while sucking up to the rich who don't. In a recent essay on HuffPost, Robert Reich writes:
In reality, a large and growing share of the nation's poor work full time -- sometimes sixty or more hours a week -- yet still don't earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
It's also commonly believed, especially among Republicans, that the rich deserve their wealth because they work harder than others.
In reality, a large and growing portion of the super-rich have never broken a sweat. Their wealth has been handed to them.
Speaking of entitled, delusional rich people, Donald Trump took to Twitter, along with a host of ignorant FOX talking heads, to blame Obama for what happened in Baltimore. Who else could possibly be to blame for a handful of rioters and looters? Because that's really all it was -- a handful. But most of the media chose to turn their focus on "thugs and looters" rather than the throngs of peaceful protesters, or as Bob Cesca from the Daily Banter points out, "Neighbors helping neighbors to clear and repair property damage; community leaders joining citizens to stand with the police against the mob; brass bands giving residents the gift of music instead of the blight of fear and chaos; or a little boy delivering bottled water to police officers."
There's a good collection of tweets in the article from angry rich conservative mouthpieces that Cesca collected, and then he goes on to say this:
Remember, this is the same crowd that's quick to remind us how Obama has nothing to do with job creation whenever a new jobs report drops. They also insist that Obama has nothing to do with the economic recovery, the record-high stock market, precipitous unemployment numbers or the hunting and capturing of Bin Laden. Yet he's somehow a major instigator when it comes to what amounts to a statistically minuscule fraction of the African-American population of Baltimore looting and rioting. It can't possibly have anything to do with decades of racial tensions or the brutal death of Freddie Gray or, simply put, a gaggle of opportunistic young people piggy-backing their lack of judgment onto more noble causes in order to hork some free crap from a corner store. No, no -- it's none of that. It's all Obama's fault.
FOX and an increasingly complicit media, for their part, perpetuate the meme to an addled and angry audience all too eager to hear the chant of "We're number one, we're number one," while being told that the poor, and blacks in particular, are the ones holding the country back and the reason for the country's ills.
Ferguson and Baltimore are symptomatic of a society that doesn't care about you if you're not a millionaire donating to the campaigns of other millionaires.
It's only a matter of time before one of those millionaires is asked what they think should be done about the poor and answers, "Let them eat cake."
Read more at nowitcounts.com
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