Friday, August 28, 2015

The Problem With Black Lives Matter...

[Editor's Note: So yeah, this post is gonna surely piss off a lot of people. I don't care.]

For months, I've watched the whole Black Lives Matter movement grow and expand. The whole thing seemed to originate around the same time as the Ferguson protests, and has always sorta rubbed me the wrong way with its one-message mission of preventing police from killing innocent people. While the marches themselves have been impressive for their sheer size and frequency, there still doesn't seem to be a coherent message or a well stated agenda to all of this. What's the endgame? Is there one? Beyond millenial catchphrases like "microaggressions" and "transformative justice", it's hard to say. When confronted, self-proclaimed "leaders" of the movement can't even clearly articulate what they actually want.

"But hey, we've got new cameras following us, so let's do something just for the sake of attention, why don't we?"

This has lead to the movement hijacking presidential campaign speeches with no purpose other than hijacking them, and demanding time of other candidates, then doing jack sh*t when given the requested time other than posing a few awkward questions and subsequently leaking unauthorized video of said meeting online.

In between, we've seen countless protests in the wake of police-involved shootings even when said shootings were somewhat justified. Other times, we've seen protesters demand action in the wake of other incidents, when the full scope of said incidents wasn't even known yet. In short, any time where's an incident where the victim is black and the perpetrator is non-black, BLM swarms like a hive of misinformed bees, quickly jumping to the defense of the victim, details be damned. And other times, BLM simply shows up and raises a ruckus when some action involving cops is merely being proposed, regardless of why.

This odd tendency was typified in the most obnoxious of manners yesterday, as BLM activists showed up at press conference being held by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. For those unaware, DC homicides are in the midst of a startling uptick, especially in mostly black Ward 8 where the murder rate is up 95% since last year. Earlier this week, a bunch of ignorant MFers literally jacked a Metro bus, which lead to Metro temporarily suspending bus routes out of fear of more violence against drivers (someone also shot at a bus recently). With routes disrupted, people are having to walk as much as 30 minutes to catch an alternate bus, through these very same crime ridden areas. So yeah, that's not good thing, if you're merely a law abiding citizen who wants to get to work, like my in-laws, who live adjacent to this section of the city.

Common sense would dictate that shifting a few cops over to the effected area would be a good idea, and that's what Mayor Bowser was holding a press conference to announce (among other immediate common sense actions to get crime under control). But to the BLM "activists", this was merely another example of "police oppression", and they essentially showed their asses, disrupting a very important press conference for no good reason.
Chanting “police are not the answer,” dozens of protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement on Thursday prevented the mayor of Washington, D.C. from completing her announcement of a new police program plan to curb a sharply rising murder rate in the nation’s capital, local news reports said.

The chants disrupted Mayor Muriel Bowser’s speech and the first-term Democratic mayor, who is black, left the stage as the crowd both jeered and cheered, according to The Washington Post. Bowser, who was elected in 2013, spoke to reporters after she left the stage.

The new program would put hundreds more officers on the streets and ease restrictions on searching homes of some offenders, along with other changes. Instead of an increase in police powers, activists say they want to combat violent crime with an approach that involves members of the communities afflicted by the killings.

She was trying to announce her plan in Ward 8, a largely African-American area in the city’s southeast quadrant. Neighboring Ward 7 has experienced a 95 percent increase in murders this year. Citywide, there have been 103 killings so far in 2015, compared to 72 at this point last year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Bowser’s plan includes adding about 200 more police officers to the streets, the Post reported, and easing restrictions on searches of the homes of violent offenders. Some officers will be shifted from administrative duties to the streets.

The new measures let police detain for 72 hours violent offenders who violate restraining orders. Another part of the plan allows police to search for guns in the homes of violent offenders on parole, as the mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Police Department say that parolees are mostly responsible for the rise in murders.

Eugene Puryear, an activist and Green Party politician who represents the BLM-affiliated group Stop Police Terror D.C., said the mayor’s approach was deeply flawed and would result in more police oppression in African-American communities.

“More cops with more weapons and tougher laws and expanding police powers — that got us the era of mass incarceration, but it didn’t stop crime,” Puryear told Al Jazeera. “Instead of a police surge, there needs to be a community surge.”

He said that successful ways of reducing police violence require the participation of community members who have returned from jail, or who have “walked in the shoes” of young people at risk of committing or falling victim to violent crime. Bowser’s bill would put such people under stricter scrutiny by law enforcement.

Bowser’s plan does include the opening of a new community center to help residents get access to social services. Puryear, however, said this represents a mere nod to community involvement, and doesn’t make it a centerpiece of the program.
With all due respect to BLM, building more community centers has jack sh*t to do with people shooting at city buses. But once again, their one argument fits all approach to activism undermines immediate, concrete plans that the mayor is taking to curb a very serious issue that's literally killing people. Sometimes, cops can actually be effective, ya' know. This would be one such time.

I don't have an issue with BLM in theory. Social justice has always been an impetus of civil rights protesting, and on that note, BLM is serving a much needed purpose. Police and other government entities do indeed prey on those in minority communities, often with devastating ramifications. Those things need to be pointed out, and BLM has been consistent, loud, and diligent in doing so. I do believe that these actions will lead to smarter policing, better public policy, and if nothing else, awareness and empathy from the rest of the American public that's willing to see things with open eyes. On that note, I applaud them heartily.

That said, if they want to be taken seriously (which should not be confused with "getting on the news consistently") they're gonna need to expand their scope a bit. I'd love to see BLM put the same amount of energy, effort, and attention into things that are more proactive in nature like mentoring, tutoring, coaching, cleaning up communities, giving financial awareness seminars, classes on parenting, etc. You know, things that actually improve the communities they say they want to protect from the inside out. Reality is, cops could stop shooting unarmed citizens tomorrow, and those communities would still be pockmarked with the very same dysfunction that BLM's trying to eradicate from the outside-in. Why not harness that energy and put it towards efforts that can simultaneously fix both sides of the problem?

Like it or not, black on black crime is a real thing, and it does need to be addressed. There are scores of organizations that work, often with little funding and worse, few volunteers, to address all of the issues I just spoke of. From teen pregnancy, to adult literacy, to financial awareness, to the achievement gap, to urban crime, to bad role models, to absentee fathers. Addressing the cops only is treating one of the symptoms, not the actual illness itself. I'd love to see those protesters mobilize an sign up in large numbers to help the organizations that do such things.

Imagine all of these BLM protesters volunteering to provide consistent, ongoing Sylan Learning Center style math and early reading tutoring at an inner city school. Or BLM protesters committing to be a Big Brother/Big Sister and mentor at-risk tweens. Or putting their collective education and savvy together to teach courses at a local community center on how to balance a budget, invest in the stock market, or plan for retirement. If all of that stuff sounds pie-in-the-sky, it shouldn't. I, as a 20 something single participated in all of those activities as a volunteer at some point. It's not impossible, because such programs already exist, but simply need more hands on deck to be really effective. Throw a few dozen protesters into each of these programs for a year, and you're gonna begin to see substantial inside-out changes in these communities.

Of course, the TV cameras probably wouldn't come along for the ride, and there'd be actual time and effort and sacrifice and delayed gratification involved, sooo...

Movements die when there's no clearly articulated goal or agenda. We saw this with Occupy Wall Street, whose net net was just a bunch of trampled urban parks and more attention for Elizabeth Warren, but little else. Ditto for the Tea Party, which managed to slow down President Obama's agenda, but has done little else beyond get a bunch of phony politicians who have since fallen in lockstep with the GOP establishment. Both of those movements were better funded and both were taken more seriously by the media and politicians. And yet, both have essentially fizzled, with not much to show for the grunt work of the regular people who spend days yelling and holding signs.

I don't want to see BLM suffer the same fate. At some point, very soon, the media's fascination with police shooting unarmed minorities is going to subside, if it hasn't already (I suspect it is). The camera will stop showing up, and when camera stop showing up, so do people. And then what? The movement will die, cops will probably have a few more pieces of equipment, and the communities they police will still be rotting from the inside.

Maybe I'm wrong. Tell me how wrong I am below.

Question: Does BLM have staying power? Should the movement be more proactive and building communities, as opposed to getting police to stop shooting unarmed people in these communities?

Online Casino Games and Your Chances of Winning

For any gambler, it’s always important to consider which casino games will offer you the best odds and where you’ve got a chance to build up a decent bankroll. We’re not advocating gambling my any means but if you’re going to play at online casinos then this information should help you make a more informed decision. Before you decide on your strategy and sign up to any given online casino, check out the best 2015 no deposit casino bonuses available right now so that you've got more cash in the bank to play with! Once you've done that, let's take a look at which games offer the best odds for players.

Blackjack tends to be a relatively easier game to play, and your chances are pretty much on par with the chances of the casino. Most players tend to hit slots, unknowing that table games have much better odds for players. I think it all comes down to the psychology of each player and the thought process involved. Machine or algorithm based games allow players to deem a legitimate randomness to the game and equal chances where this is not even close in reality. On the other hand, playing table games can be quite intimidating for players who feel they have not built up enough experience when playing against other human players. There is an element of skill involved in tables games hence why the chances of winning are much greater, due to the inclusion of skill.

Blackjack tends to offer the best odds for winning, with a house edge of 1% at most online casinos. You’re also only playing against another dealer and not a range of players, which has the potential to add further complexity into the mix.

Blackjack doesn’t require much learning; it’s really quite simple and easy to understand. Craps also has some great odds at 50/50, it can be an overwhelming concept at first although the fact is that you’re just gambling on the roll of the dice and it could go either way.

Following on from that is Roulette. Now roulette is actually dependent on how you play the game, if you stick between red and black, then you’ve almost got a 50/50 chance of winning, bar the 0 and 00 position, which gives the house a slight edge. Betting between colours will give you the best chances of winning, whereas betting on specific numbers, although payouts are potentially much greater, the outcome is far less likely. We’ll leave the gamble for you to decide!

So what’s the deal with one of the most popular online casino games out there right now – online slots! Slots machines tend to feed off money and the more you pump in the more you’re eligible to cash out. Your odds will invariably increase with the more money you put into it, although with that is also the risk of losing all that money.

Penny slots actually tend to generate the lowest odds, so we’d recommend playing with the higher value slots. Remember that first and foremost it’s important to always gamble responsibly and don’t throw your money away! Do your research, due diligence and practice the games you want to play with pretend money first, before you gamble your own hard earned cash.

There’s a lot of scepticism about certain online casinos where you’ve got better chances on all the games mentioned above, although in our experience the differences are extremely minimal as all online casinos need to adhere to a standard level of fairness across the board.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wait, Is It Already Football Season?!?

We arw currently in the midst of what most sports fans refer to as "The Dead Period". The NBA's Summer League is over, and most of the free agents of consequence are signed. Baseball is in the dog days of summer, despite a flurry of trades in recent days. Because let's keep it one hunned... nobody cares about baseball at all until October. Thankfully, football will be back before you know it, saving us the indignity of pretending to actually be interested in our kids watching WNBA and classic college games on ESPN2.

Next-next Sunday (August 9th) the annual Hall Of Fame Game between Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota takes place in Canton. America's leading sports betting site, has odds on this matchup, but as you're well aware, most HoF games are a couple of series with the starters and by the end of the 3rd you're looking at a bunch of guys destined for long careers at UPS fighting it out for the 53rd roster spot. Whatever, anything beats more DeflateGate™ talk. Has there ever been a more overblown (reserve pun not intended.. or maybe intended) and boring sports "controversy"?

Just play some games already.

Question: Are you tired of hearing about DeflateGate™? What do you usually do to survive this dead sports period?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Did Sandra Bland Cause Her Own Death?!?

[Editor's Note: You will probably not like this post. I'm cool with that. Before proceeding, note that I don't see this arrest and what happened to Bland in jail as necessarily being related either. They could very well have been, but we don't know that and will not until more information about that incident is released. And I'm not blaming her for her own death. If you walk away from this with that assumption, then either my writing has badly missed its mark or you didn't read it with an open mind. I'm talking about the arrest itself, not whatever might have happened (or not happened) in jail.]

My Pops always told me that in life, there are 5 cent issues and there are 5 dollar issues. How you respond to a given situation is, or rather should be, directly attributable to how great your offense was with the given situation.

People die every day over 5 cent issues. A stepped on shoe. Being cut off in traffic. A wayward stare at a woman. Perceived disrespect. Things that don't take food off of your table or money out of your pocket. Things that, in the grand scheme, simply aren't that important.

I thought about this last night when I watched the video of the roadside incident involving Sandra Bland and a police officer, which lead to her being jailed, and subsequently being found dead in her cell.

[Editor's Note: Before commenting on this post, try watching the video in its entirety (or at least to the 30 minute mark) with an open mind. If you can't do that, please just don't comment.]

A few things immediately stick out. The video begins (perhaps intentionally) with the cop completing a routine stop with another woman. He seems cordial, gives her a warning for what appears to be a missing insurance card or something of the sort, asks her if she's in college, etc. It seems like a fairly pleasant exchange to me. I have no idea whether the woman in the car is black, but given the location of this incident (Prairie View, TX) and the fact that there's only one college there, I think it's fair to assume she might be black.

A few minutes later, the very same cop gets back in his car, sees a silver car make a right turn at a stop in front of him, then makes a U-Turn, follows this motorist, and pulls her over after she changes lanes without signalling. I have no idea why he followed this woman, then pulled her over when she probably just did what 90% of us do when a cop's suddenly behind us (move over and pray they keep driving past). The cop clearly was either preying on her because she was black, or because he had a quota of bullsh*t stops he needed to meet. I can't call it either way.

Eventually, the cop engages the motorist, runs a check, and comes back to the car. It seems like he is going to give her the same treatment as the prior driver: a warning. But this driver (Bland) appears to engage the cop far differently than the prior driver. We don't know what that prior driver was initially pulled over for, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the cop pulled that very same "follow and pull over for some random bullsh*t" tactic.

So here's where the "Is this a 5 cent or 5 dollar issue?" question comes into play.

To me, this is a 5 cent issue. The cop's clearly in the wrong for pulling her over. She's got every right to be upset about this. But how she responds is literally the difference between life and death.

Bland could have noted that this cop was being a jerk, made note of his badge number, and filed a formal complaint when she got home. A person randomly pulling people over for nothing is clearly not someone you're going to win a philosophical debate on the merits of community policing with. You will not win a debate with a man who has a gun and a badge.

Being combative with a cop over what's essentially a moving violation isn't the way to handle something this trivial. You certainly have a right to be angry at being singled out for nothing. But you use the proper channels to express this anger. Resisting arrest is not such a channel.

None of this absolves the cop of his wrongdoing. He doesn't deescalate the issue. He acts petty, asking Bland if she has a problem, to put out her cigarette, to not press record on her phone (something you should do as you're being pulled over, or while the cop is running your tags). He's a terrible policeman and a terrible person.

You will not win an argument with a terrible person with a gun and badge. I repeat. You will not win. Take the "L". Get out your feelings, note the man's badge number and name, and file a report. If the department disregards the report (which is entirely likely) the net-net is still the same on that side of the equation: an asshole cop.

But you'd have one less felony.

Question: If you were put in this very same situation, would you have handled it exactly as Bland did? Be honest.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

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