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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

As you may have heard, an oil rig has exploded off the Southern Coast of the US, causing a spill almost certain to be the worst in human history, with a potentially devastating impact on the local environment and everything that lives in it (which would be everyone that is alive).

In the news, and in political emails, and among people's conversations, there is talk about what BP did wrong, how they might have prevented it, whether the government response was quick enough, how consumers should react....

But the truth; which almost no one wants to admit is:

This is OUR fault.
If you drive a car, ever, for any reason, you are personally responsible for the spill.

If you don't own a car, but sometimes you borrow one, or get a ride with a friend, or take the bus, or take a long-distance train, if you fly or travel by ship, that oil was being drilled for you.
If you are a hard-core oil abstainer, never travel long distances, do all short trips by bicycle, nearly everything you buy, food, clothes, books, paper, your bicycle, the computer you are reading this on right now, was both produced and transported with the help of oil.

We don't get to blame oil corporations, or government, or BP executives, and the capitalist economy.  It is US.  All of us. 
Instead of writing angry letters or boycotting a particular company, how about taking this opportunity to use a little less oil yourself.  However much that is, make at least a little change, and use a little less.

Buy something used which you would normally have bought new.
Ride public transit, a bicycle, or walk, when you don't have that far to go.
When you do drive, drive a little slower.
And stop accelerating toward red lights - it won't get you where you are going any faster anyway.

Posted By Bakari

Total # of deaths from "swine" flu: 8

Total annual deaths from regular old human flu: between a quarter and a half million.

Turns out this isn't the first panic over "swine flu"

Only 1 person died from swine flu in 1976.  Hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.

Of course it isn't just about ratings and selling papers. Some of it is human nature.  I think we enjoy panicking.
I understand that people have a hard time taking history into account.  If it didn't happen in one's own lifetime it becomes an abstraction, and therefor not something to learn from.  But "bird" flu was only, what, 3 years ago?  The "global pandemic" of bird flu killed a little over 200 people world-wide over the course of about 5 years. 
Before that was y2k.  It was supposed to shut down every computer, crippling all of modern civilization.
The supposed financial "crises" hasn't even wore itself out, and already we are on to our next one.

I stopped watching/reading "news" a long time ago, and yet somehow I keep hearing about this stuff.
I keep imagining to myself that somehow humanity is going to collectively stop being so stupid.
I know how terribly deluded I am.
I think I should just give in.
Anyone know where I can buy one of those masks?

Posted By Bakari

Total number of fatal shootings by Oakland Police in 2008: 5

Of those, number which inspired a wrongful death suit: 2 (both of whom had been resisting arrest, one of whom may have been armed)

Number of potentially unjustified fatal shootings by BART Police: 3.
Ever. Since BART opened in 1972.

Number of homicides (not by police) in Oakland in 2008: 123

Again: One hundred and twenty three.

I'm not saying that police going around shooting people is ok.
I'm not saying being in fist fights on the train is grounds for getting shot.
I'm not saying that cops shouldn't be held to higher standards. We are trusting them with our safety, with our very lives.

If the person Oscar had been fighting had been the one to shoot him, it would have been on the news for one day. There would have been no protests. We wouldn't be thinking about it. But his family still would be.
Young black men shooting young black men is a far larger problem than cops shooting young black men, yet we seem to take it for granted.

Again, this is not to say don't protest in this particular case, which was obviously over the line, obviously unjustified.

When we claim it is a pattern, representative of something larger when in fact it isn't; when we use it as an excuse to condemn all police because we really just have an adolescent resentment of authority, all we are doing is increasing the polarity, increasing the mutual distrust between the police and the community, which in turn increases the likelihood of things like this happening.

When someone starts out hating and distrusting all cops, and he gets detained, he is a lot more likely to be resistive, to fight back, and this, understandably, is going to put the officer on guard. When they have to deal with people like that on a regular basis, they are going to become more likely to be aggressive right from the beginning.

There are larger social and historical issues involved, surrounding the legacy of slavery, poverty is inherited just like wealth is, our education system is deplorable, and as a society we value maximum production of wealth over equitable distribution.

None of these things is in any way an excuse for individual behavior.

Are young black males stopped disproportionately? Of course we are. It might have something to do with committing a disproportionate amount of crime. My advice, if you feel like you are being harassed: Don't get into fist fights. Don't smoke weed or drink alcohol in public. Don't sell drugs. Don't drive like a fucking jack-ass. Don't evade the fare or play amplified music on the train. Don't shoplift. Basically, in general, don't be obnoxious.

Chris Rock explains this very well: How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police