Category: Culture

Ferguson: Black Town, White Power


Click to enlargeScott Olson/Getty

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

By contrast, consider the city: After decades of methodically building political power, blacks in St. Louis City elected a black mayor in 1993 and black aldermen or alderwomen in nearly half the city’s wards, and hold two of three seats on the powerful Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which must approve all city contracts. Well-established churches, Democratic ward organizations and other civic institutions mobilize voters in black wards. But because blacks have reached the suburbs in significant numbers only over the past 15 years or so, fewer suburban black communities have deeply ingrained civic organizations.

That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.

Jeff Smith begins and ends the article as published pushing for consolidation of these artificial suburbs. He believes this will benefits residents economically as well as politically. White power over Black workingclass transforms into Green Power for everyone.

I lived through that whole discussion middling days in the civil rights movement and all it produced was a few Black bureaucrats, damned little Green for everyone else.

Meanwhile, Mike suggested the Washington POST analysis of the same topic – where a troika of authors found the realpolitik included unintended consequences in a tag team with racism. A solid piece of research, sound data.

Neither article explained the perceived role of the Democratic Party, differences between St, Louis City and North County suburbs like Ferguson – but, since Smith’s article points out the racist history of municipal and local craft unions, continued exclusion of Black workers, white-dominated political campaigns they sponsor, it seems as likely to me that outside of the city of St. Louis the Democrat Party functions like Reagan populists. Perfectly willing to accept the racist status quo.

Voters in Ferguson have two alternatives. They can go the route apparently embraced by Black voters in St. Louis and fight for a decade or so for a grassroots effort which ends up with a Democratic Party organization mirroring the population – or they can organize an independent party that reaches out to Progressives to unite in bringing grassroots representation to Ferguson.

Both highways have the same tough obstacles to overcome – starting with the inevitable unsophisticated American voters. Both strategies risk demagogues who never can pass up a populist chance to be The Leader. But, over these past fifteen years, ain’t anyone else getting off their rusty dusty to change the white power structure in Ferguson. At least, not so’s you’d notice.

Thanks, Mike

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Anti-vaccination nutballs now refusing Vitamin K for their children, as well

Over a single 8-month period, seven infants were admitted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for treatment of either cranial or intestinal hemorrhaging due to vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)…

That report prompted researchers in Canada to investigate local vitamin K refusal rates and predictors.

Of the 214,061 children born in Alberta, Canada, from 2006 to 2011, 0.3% had parents who declined the vitamin K injection after birth, Shannon E. MacDonald, PhD…and colleagues wrote in Pediatrics.

In 2006, the vitamin K refusal rate was 0.21%, but by 2012, that rate increased to 0.39% (P<0.001) of live births.

The highest rates of vitamin K refusal occurred in parents who also refused recommended vaccines throughout the first 15 months of life…

The vitamin K refusal rate for parents who delivered in a hospital was very low, 0.2%, compared with parents who had planned home deliveries, 14.5%…and parents who delivered at a birthing center, 10.7%…

The study authors suggested parental decisions to refuse vitamin K were linked to lack of education and misinformation based on two studies from the 1990s (Golding et al.), which suggested vitamin K injections could increase the chances of developing childhood cancer. Those study results, the Canadians said, were since found to be inaccurate…

Refusal rates have increased in Texas, too. At Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Tiffany McKee-Garrett said that when parents refuse, they team up with the parents’ primary care provider to counsel the family extensively and provide the parents with written materials to educate them about vitamin K.

RTFA for details of other regional studies.

I know I get too cranky for some folks; but, what kind of parent is so dedicated to 14th Century dogma that they’re ready and willing to accept the prattle from long-discredited studies – generally from some 3rd or 4th-hand source – instead of taking the time to read a little science about disease prevention, proven health maintenance.

Rather, they risk the lives of their newborn in pursuit of purity of their soul. No sense or balance IMHO.

Is your local government ready for a dragon attack?

How a council might protect a town from a dragon attack is among the most unusual requests for information received by England and Wales councils.

One council was asked how many children were micro-chipped, while another was quizzed on whether it had paid for exorcisms on possessed pets.

They are among the Local Government Association’s top 10 most unusual Freedom of Information requests…

The top 10 include:

What plans are in place to protect the town from a dragon attack? (Wigan Council)…

How many times has the council paid for the services of an exorcist, psychic or religious healer? Were the services performed on an adult, child, pet or building? (Rossendale Council)…

What precautions, preparations, planning and costings have been undertaken in the case an asteroid crashes into Worthing, a meteorite landing in Worthing or solar activity disrupting electromagnetic fields? (Worthing Borough Council)…

How many requests were made to council-run historic public-access buildings (e.g. museums) requesting to bring a team of “ghost investigators” into the building? (Birmingham Council)

How many children in the care of the council have been micro-chipped? (Southend Council)

No doubt the majority of requests are more mainstream than defending against dragons. At least I hope so.

There is a longstanding tradition in the UK investing casual time in tongue-in-cheek inquiries…and answers. I recall a leading census answer from some first responders one year being that their church membership was Jedi.

Art rises from blitzkrieg


Click to enlarge

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The images of so many houses destroyed, so many bomb blasts, even so many bodies wrapped in burial shrouds can begin to blur together, indistinguishable. But Belal Khaled, a young photojournalist and painter in this southern Gaza town, saw symbols and stories in the smoke all around him.

First, in a black cloud staining the bright blue sky above a beach, he saw hints of a prominent nose, thick mustache and wild hair, “like an old man contemplating the situation of Gaza,” Mr. Khaled said. Then, in a friend’s photograph of a taller, thinner plume, he saw a fist with the index finger extended, a gesture Muslims make when saying, “No God but Allah.” Using Photoshop, Mr. Khaled added a few simple lines to emphasize these hidden icons, and uploaded the artwork to Facebook, where it was shared and “liked” thousands of times.

Artists may see things others can’t see,” said Mr. Khaled, 23, who works for a Turkish news agency. “Even at the very tense times and very hard moments, we still draw…”

Mr. Khaled said he learned Arabic calligraphy in the seventh grade and painted Quranic verses on the walls of his family home. He started taking photographs at 18 and dropped out of college, where he was studying interior design, to take a job at Anadolu, a Turkish news agency. Three years ago, he began painting — haunting portraits, mostly, of the forlorn old men and impoverished youths in his neighborhood. At the office one night, he used the coffee left in his cup to paint a child screaming.

RTFA. Details and description of work by other artists in Gaza. Yes, even simple things like paints and other graphic materials are limited and regulated by the Israeli government. As you would expect.

Hemp homecoming in Kentucky

Kentucky Hemp Field

Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.

Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.

The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.

Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.

The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department sued the federal government, but dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeds into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.

Since then, test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing – and a potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of traditional uses including clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.

“What we’ve learned is it will grow well in Kentucky,” Comer said. “It yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted.”

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to be grown. But commercial uses are also emerging.

Which goes to prove for the umpteenth time, our government is managed by cowards, fools and idjits.

RTFA for the measured sign of progress back from a half-century of stupid regulation. All based on fear and an absolute rejection of scientific knowledge.

Cripes, people wonder why I’m so “intolerant”. Why should anyone with a modicum of sense and education have to put up with the range of incompetence – from bigotry and racism to abusive laws regulating vegetables – embraced so thoroughly by the lawgivers of this supposed Land of Liberty.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge — AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Newspapers, other media, even galleries displaying the work of photographers stick to the protocol of detailing not only every technical jot of taking the photo; but, they persist in describing the context and incidence of the photo. This is one of those photos where I think it doesn’t matter in the least.

It’s an interesting picture. Use your imagination.

If you really need to know what’s going on – click over here.

Agencies warn Africans over bogus Ebola cures

Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.

Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims…

Earlier this week, a W.H.O. expert panel ruled it ethical to try some experimental drugs to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top W.H.O. official emphasized that it did not.

The hustlers who specialize in the class of medical alternatives guaranteed to be nothing more than a hustle – take this as an invitation to flood the market of fear with so-called wonder cures.

While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not F.D.A.-approved for systemic use against viruses…

ZMapp is a set of antibodies made by the Mapp company of San Diego. Only a few doses exist, and the first two were given to American health workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia and are now hospitalized in Atlanta.

NanoSilver is for sale on the foundation’s website alongside hemp oil, ear candles, chocolate and “mental clarity packs.”

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the W.H.O., said that testing promising treatments “doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have — things that have barely been tested in anything — will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question…”

Since the outbreak started, many rumored cures have swept West Africa. A popular Nigerian rumor is that bathing in or drinking saltwater is protective. Bags of “blessed Ebola cure salt” are for sale.

While bathing in saltwater is harmless, drinking large amounts of it is not. The W.H.O. said two Nigerians have died of it.

Medical hustles abound in every culture in direct proportion to the segment of the public still stuck into religion and superstition. Poverty is another quality creating an open door to snake oil salesmen. If your nation has a significant number of politicians afraid of science and education it’s all the more likely that 14th Century solutions will take hold of the hopes and prayers of ignorant folk.

The placebo effect is next to useless on a virus as deadly as Ebola. So, miracle cures, amazing remissions, aren’t likely. Just more dead – after being drained of every penny they could come up with.

Not enough cholesterol, fats, in your diet? – Try a bacon-powered motorcycle!

It’s a well-known fact: bacon makes everything better. From martinis and ice cream to filet mignon and asparagus, there’s pretty much nothing you can include this gift of the swine to that it doesn’t improve. Being that this is an automotive enthusiast site, you may be wondering: How does bacon improve transportation? Clearly it must, if the axiom quoted at the beginning is correct (and we’ve established that it is), but how?

For the answer, we turn to the crew from Hormel, which is a name you might recognize from the chilled meats section of your favorite grocery store. The Austin-based food empire has assembled a motorcycle that runs on bacon grease that would otherwise have been discarded, with the goal in mind of traveling from Austin, MN, to San Diego, CA, in time for the International Bacon Film Festival, which we didn’t know existed, but in retrospect, of course exists.

The machine started life as an EVA Track T800CDI diesel-powered motorcycle, hailing from The Netherlands, and a bacon-grease conversion was performed by the crew from CSE Engineering, who are accompanying the procession as it crosses the western half of the United States as part of a 12-person team that is filming and documenting the adventure…And rest easy this evening with the knowledge that bacon does indeed make the world of transportation a better place to be.

The best thing about diesel engines is that you can run them on just about anything greasy enough.

Dumb crook of the day

Ryan Mullins

A North Carolina man was arrested after he allegedly stole a safe from a pharmacy and then dragged it behind his car. The suspect, Ryan Mullins, may have gotten away with it too, except he passed an officer while he was driving.

The 22-year-old allegedly swiped the safe from Family Care Pharmacy and dragged it for more than two miles before the officer saw him.

Individuals near the pharmacy reportedly saw Mullins’ vehicle parked outside with the safe nearby.

“You could just tell he was messing with something and having a struggle,” witness Carmen Fickling told WCTI12. “A lot of things crossed through my mind as to what could possibly be going on and none of them were good. But I never expected to see him pull a safe with the rope. It was strange.”

Mullins is charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny, possession of stolen goods, two felony counts of trafficking opium or heroin, one count of safe cracking and misdemeanor DWI.

The 100-pound safe reportedly contained prescription drugs.

Here in New Mexico we take a somewhat warped pride in being the home of some of the dumbest crooks in America. I think we should make Ryan Mullins an honorary New Mexican.