Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Okay, so the case against Officer Darren Wilson is a whitewash. Prosecutor Robert McCulloch achieved what hardly any grand jury hearing ever produces: No indictment. This was to be expected. The cards were stacked. McCulloch was not impartial. Only in name was he a “prosecutor.” A majority of (local) public opinion was stacked. The jury’s composition was suspect.

Then, too, the FACTS were ambiguous. A video showing huge Michael Brown manhandling a small storekeeper went viral and demonstrated that Brown was no saint. Above all, there is a strong possibility of a scuffle inside Officer Wilson’s car, in which Brown was trying to grab Wilson’s gun...

Anyway, this is not to rehash my incomplete knowledge of the case, but to make the following point:

The Michael Brown case is not the best fight to pick for those of us who deplore the plight of African-Americans. It is symbolic and symptomatic of that plight, but it contains enough ambiguities so as to enable naysayers to argue that “there are two sides to the story.”

The issue goes far beyond Michael Brown - as it goes beyond Trayvon Martin, or 12-year old Tamir Rice just killed in Cleveland for brandishing a toy gun, or any one of many other cases. Since the killing of Michael Brown, cops have killed another 14 teenagers, half of them black.

The issue requires a sociological perspective.

1. American policemen kill over 1,000 citizens every year. In Great Britain the number is 0 or 1, as it is in Germany, Japan, Canada, France and other comparable countries.

Whenever I mention this disgraceful difference to my conservative friends, they reply that comparing the US with such countries is unreasonable because America is uniquely diverse, whereas those other countries are more homogeneous. This excuse is less and less valid, as France, the UK, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and the other Western democracies now house millions of Third World immigrants. You want to see diversity, go visit Paris or London!

So what accounts for this terrible discrepancy? It is not necessarily to be blamed on our police alone: US law enforcement faces a heavily armed population. American cops can always expect the worst, even when performing routine traffic stops. The typical Japanese, French, or Scandinavian cop doesn’t have to fear for his life every time he confronts a citizen. He does not live in a constant state of siege, as does the American peace officer. (Some) American cops may be paranoid, but to them, it is reality.

2. At the same time, racism in the criminal justice system remains part of the problem: The chance of a male black teenager being killed by a policeman is 21 times greater than that of his white counterpart (deadly force).

Blacks, who make up 13% of the US population, constitute nearly half of the country’s prisoners. In other words, the chance of a black man going to prison is seven times greater than that of a white male. In Ferguson, MO, 80% of all traffic stops are of African-Americans.

While blacks do commit a disproportionate share of street crime, this does not explain the enormous share of punishment which they receive.

Social class and poverty predict crime, race does not: If you control for income, the black-white discrepancy in crime rates evaporates.

3. So it gets back to basics. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: It’s inequality, stupid. While African-Americans are highly visible among our superstars in popular culture, in sports and in other endeavors, their vast underclass remains as far behind other Americans as ever - in fact more so than it was in the 1960s. Average black wealth is ONE TENTH of per capita white wealth (net worth, of which one’s house is the main component, for most people).

Throwing the book at a few rogue (or innocent) cops may appease public outrage. However, things will not improve until our society addresses its underlying socio-economic conditions, its deep-seated racial schism, its flawed criminal justice and law enforcement systems, and the out-of-control number of firearms in circulation.

 © Tom Kando 2014

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obama's Immigration Reform

On November 20 President Obama made his important immigration speech. To their shame, the major networks refused to broadcast it - a mere 15-minute long address to the nation about a very important matter! A decade or so ago, when President George W. Bush gave a similar speech on the same topic, every major network carried it directly and it was viewed by 40 million Americans. And people still dare to say that the media have a liberal bias? My foot. It’s the opposite. The so-called “mainstream” media are fully participating in the non-stop sniping at this beleaguered president, inflicting a thousand cuts so as to bring him down.

The double standard applied to this president is gross: Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Junior all proposed similar executive actions for illegal immigrants. But when THIS president does the same thing, all hell breaks loose.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What is Important?

We are drowning in politics, in elections, in agendas. The public is incessantly  being told what we should worry about. The powerful (and often corrupt) power structure is supported by the media, it brainwashes  the populace, tells us what the most important problems are, and  how we should devote our energy and our resources. Over the past century or so, Americans have by and large been told to be AFRAID;  to protect themselves against, and to fear,  the following things:

Communism in the past, Muslim terrorism now.
Crime, always.
Alcohol in the past, drugs now.
Various countries: Russia in the past,  China, Iran and Arab countries  now.
Nuclear Armageddon.
Foreigners and immigrants.
Racial miscegenation.
Epidemics: AIDS in the past,  Ebola now.
The government.
Government surveillance (NSA, CIA, FBI, etc.).
Wall Street.
Global Warming.

Monday, November 17, 2014


blackout by Madeleine Kando

I am looking out on my snow-covered back yard, the sun slowly sinking into the horizon, painting the sky a deep purple. The leafless trees, black and motionless are frozen in silence. Nature itself is paralyzed. No birds dare venture to our overflowing birdfeeders. No squirrels peek out of the tunnels they so laboriously dug under the snow. Life has slowed down to a bare subsistence level. Winter is master in this little corner of the world.

Inside the house, the fireplace is ablaze, overflowing with ashes. The cat is purring in his sleep, dreaming of warmer days and outdoor adventures. The smell of firewood and pea soup fills the air. The furnace is humming its reassuring song, keeping the frozen world at bay.

Night has fallen and the weather has turned nasty. Suddenly, a large animal appears out of nowhere in front of the large bay window and through the glass, I see a black and white husky look at me with his beautiful sky-blue eyes. He is magnificent looking, high on his legs, his thick fur making him oblivious to the cold. He seems to be asking if he can come in. Read more...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Greatest Movies of all Times

I have been a movie buff all my life. The thousands of movies I have seen include many of the world’s best. Lately I have been playing with some databases, looking at movie rankings, directors, nationalities, etc.

Perhaps the most popular movie database is IMBd - the Internet Movie Database. It is a trove of over three million titles. Unfortunately, its most popular feature is an unsatisfactory ranking of the top 250 movies, as voted by IMDb users. In other words, a popularity contest.

So I went to another website instead: TSPDT (They Shoot Pictures Don’t They). This is an excellent source, which ranks the 1,000 best movies ever made, as well as the 250 best directors, based on the votes of three and a half thousand critics, film makers and other experts. A caveat is the sample of voters: The vast majority are Americans, with a sprinkling of Frenchmen and other foreigners. Nevertheless, I want to share some of the things I discovered: Read more...

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Cornivore's Dilemma

by Madeleine Kando

In his 1951 post-apocalyptic novel 'The Day of the Triffids', John Wyndham writes about a plague of blindness that befalls the whole world, allowing the rise of an aggressive species of plants. Bioengineered by the USSR, Triffids are carnivorous super plants that can walk and talk and are trying to take over the world.

We have a similar situation happening in real life, where the invasion of the giant tropical grass known as 'corn' is invading our farms, our food supply and our bodies. You might say: 'Well, what's wrong with that? I like corn, it's healthy and it tastes good.' But the corn that we produce in such abundance is not grown for direct consumption; it is grown to feed cattle, to produce ethanol for our cars and as additives to processed foods.

In his book 'The Omnivore's Dilemma', Michael Pollan explains how this real life Triffid has been able to take over our food supply. Modern corn, already having a natural advantage because of its efficiency at using sunlight to grow, has made itself doubly attractive by tolerating many climates. 'The plant gratifies human needs, in exchange for which humans expand the plant’s habitat, moving its genes all over the world and remaking the land, clearing trees, plowing the ground, protecting it from its enemies, so it might thrive.' (from: When Corn Becomes King). Read more...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mandate, My Foot

Is America becoming  the stupid country? The easy-to-brainwash country? A country of lemmings? Other countries have lost their way in the past - Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Argentina, Mexico - is it America’s turn now?
Millennials and other young people made up  13% of all the votes on November 4.  Oh sure, it’s not worth voting, you say, because you are terribly busy, and the system is rigged anyway...Those are some of the excuses. Well, good luck with that! If you keep letting old men decide who is going to rule, you will continue to get screwed by the plutocracy  for the rest of your lives. Better learn to live with that. You make your bed and you’ll have to lie in it.

Reactionary Behavior: Obama saved us out of the Great Recession, the worst thing in eighty years, and Americans are practically ready to lynch him. What is that? Read more...