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Humanity has always had a problem with reality. We have a problem with seeing things the way we want to see them, rather than how they actually are. Case in point -- Iraq, where right-wingers and "liberal" humanitarian interventionists believed that the Iraqi people would greet us with flowers and open arms because that's what they wanted to believe. Or Judith Miller not developing skeptical sources who could have countered and debunked assertions that Iraq was developing massive WMD's.

On December 12th, Science Magazine published a piece claiming that personal contact from gay messengers was essential in changing minds on gay rights in California, as opposed to straight messengers. That should have triggered something called the "smell test." For those of us familiar with the ugliest aspects of racism and right-wing politics, we know that encountering Blacks or other minorities has frequently triggered a hostile reaction in people -- for instance, the "white flight" starting in the 1960's. So, while it is possible that personal contact from gay messengers can change minds, it could also cause people to dig their heels in. After all, a lot of right-wingers are a stubborn bunch -- very difficult to persuade to your point of view.

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Today's paper reports on the massive transportation funding crisis in New Jersey. This is just one more example of how austerity kills in this country.

I drove the streets in New Jersey a few years ago (I have family there), and some of the streets there were almost as bad as the ones in rural America, where I live. Obviously, the problem has only gotten worse. Not only is the transportation funding crisis getting worse, the paper reports that for the last several months, Governor Chris Christie is sticking his head in the sand as his popularity is plummeting.

Bridges across the state are falling apart. Roads are rife with potholes. Frustrated New Jersey Transit riders are facing another fare increase.

As many commuters bemoan the mounting delays and disruptions, state officials say New Jersey is confronting a transportation funding crisis with no easy way out. Voters are so fed up, support is growing for a revenue option long viewed as politically untenable: raising the state’s gas tax, which is the second lowest in the country.

This is all part of the Bipartisan Consensus (TM) that Thou Shalt Not Oppose Austerity. After all, it would simply create Gridlock, and we can't have that.
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In the UK elections, there were two big winners -- the Tories and the Scottish Nationalists. The losers were the pollsters, who believed that there would be another hung parliament, along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. For their part, the pollsters claimed that the reason they were so far off was because voters told them one thing when being polled and voted another way at the ballot box.

We can't blame this one on lazy voters unwilling to get to the polls -- turnout in the UK was higher this time around. But we can look at the human factor for what went wrong. Throughout the campaign, Labour leader Ed Miliband took a stand in support of the austerity program of the Tory government. Quotes below the fold.

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Today, the New York Times editorial board lauded Hillary Clinton's stances on immigration, saying that they were much more progressive than Obama's, who deported millions of immigrants. While the NYT editorial board rightly says that Hillary is taking the lead on this issue and her stances are better than the status quo, an article from their own paper shows the shortcomings of her plan. "The Price of Nice Nails" shows the failure of our immigration policies to either control the flow of illegal immigration or to allow people who come here to work for a living wage. Their first piece published today. They plan to publish another piece tomorrow.

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A new report released today shows that the Patriots "more likely than not" deflated footballs on purpose in order to get an advantage in their playoff game with Indianapolis last year. These findings show that the Patriots organization is one which values the "win at all costs" mentality that is detrimental to society given previous instances in which the organization has been in trouble with the NFL.

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Tomorrow, Mike Huckabee is planning to announce his second Presidential run. Cillizza notes that his strength is that he can articulate why an average person would be a Republican -- "I'm a Republican because I don't want to wait for the government to help me." His other strength noted by Cillizza is that he can argue, as former governor of Arkansas, that he took on the Clinton machine and won.

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Today, Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. The fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is, does the law mean something, or is it just a piece of paper? No officer is above the law; otherwise, the end result will be tyranny. In that regard, Ms. Mosby's actions are a welcome first step. Even if Freddie Gray had an extensive police record, he is still entitled to the protection of the law, along with Eric Garner and Mike Brown.

However, we have merely scratched the surface regarding the Constitutionality of our officers' actions. The fact remains that we are continuing to heavily militarize our police officers through the 1033 program in a misguided effort to stop the flow of drugs. While drugs are a serious problem in our society, that does not justify blatantly disregarding the Constitution and blurring the line between our military and our police forces.

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James Risen reports today that the American Psychological Association secretly bolstered the Bush Administration's torture program at a time when it was in serious trouble. This secret involvement is now part of an independent investigation which will bring about more revelations when it is complete.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
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A Washington Post story alleging that Freddie Gray tried to injure himself based on the testimony of another prisoner leaves a lot of room for skepticism. The story is based on the testimony of an anonymous prisoner, who says that Mr. Gray inflicted his own injuries. But the case for skepticism starts in the second paragraph:

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.
So, if the prisoner could not see Mr. Gray, on what basis does this prisoner conclude that Mr. Gray was inflicting his own injuries?
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Protests against the death of Freddie Gray have spread to New York City, where hundreds of people have gathered in solidarity with the Baltimore protesters.

Umaara Elliott, one of the New York rally organizers, said she encouraged the message protesters in Baltimore were trying to send. "Anger can be justified. I don't think that public property should be more important than bodies, than the fact that 80 percent of Freddie Gray's was severed. I don't think that a CVS should be more important than his spine and the fact that his family won't be able to see him again," she said.
All of the 400 years of racism and exploitation of minorities by this country are coming home to roost, along with the decades of neglect of poor neighborhoods in our cities.
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One of the questions asked is, if the Baltimore riots are a result of 400 years of oppression, then why are the youth rioting? I submit that the reason lies in the hopelessness that many of them feel as a result of what they see and hear on a daily basis. It is not enough to consider the tragic death of Freddie Gray in a vacuum. This is part of a systematic pattern of police violence against their own people.

If the authorities are serious about stopping the youth from rioting, then they need to address the problem of high school dropouts. Around 21% of youth in Baltimore as of 2012 drop out of high school compared to 13% for the country and 11% for the state. The total crime risk for Baltimore is almost 1.5 times the national average. Quality of life is similar to the national average. Baltimore is one of the leaders in the US in dealing with the lead pollution problem, which has been linked to crime; they are better than the national average overall in pollution.

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400 years of disenfranchisement is coming to a head in Ferguson, New York City, and now Baltimore. This is the logical consequence of our actions ever since we began colonizing the New World. When you disenfranchise people and push them to their breaking point, the logical result is voter apathy and anarchy. If it continues, the end result, as we have seen in Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, is a failed state and anarchy.

A perfect example of what can happen when people are disenfranchised is Iraq. That country had elections to reelect its president recently. He won with an overwhelming majority. It was hailed at the time as a vindication of our policies there. However, it turned out that the Sunnis, disenfranchised from participating in the political process, went off and joined ISIS. Shortly afterwards, Mosul and many other chunks of Iraq fell to the Islamic State.

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