Thursday, December 4, 2014

Call of Duty

Displaying Ideas.jpg
Marketing from Call of Duty:
Advanced Warfare. Art imitates life?
Or the other way around? And if these
games train our youth's minds, for what,
precisely, are they being trained?
Four o'clock in the afternoon is normally a lull in the work day. It's an hour or two before most folks normally walk out of their offices, depending on the organization for which you work, productivity has slowed, and there are minor side bar conversations around happy hours and after work activities.


Yesterday, however, turned all of that on its head.


Three lives in rapid succession have been determined of lesser value than those of uniformed 'law enforcement'. Decisions surrounding the cases of Trayvon Martin, Akai Gurley, Michael Brown, and now Eric Garner are to say the least atrocities, if not something more offensive. The wholesale devaluation of one particular race in our country is one of those frequently untreated conditions of democratic dementia deemed unnecessary to treat. Spin doctors have seen it as a kind of nuisance cough: leave it alone and it will go away.


But this isn't going away. In fact, the metastasis of the invading cancer has so completely infiltrated every corner of our society as to make the host system indistinguishable from the infected one. Selma, The Watts Riots, the original March on Washington, the LA Riots, the recent 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Ferguson, last night in New York City and the nation... this is not going away.

Oppression does seem inherent to the human condition. Jews in the ancient world/during the ReConquest/the Holocaust, Christians in the Roman era, non-Christians during the Crusades and Inquisition, Natives during the period of Exploration, Slavery... the subjugation and obviation of entire races of people is a continual characteristic in human history. It would be impossible to make a case that war is not already being perpetrated. Community members die in the streets every day, collateral damage is a marginal cost in the accounting process, and manipulation is so rampant we can no longer be called a Democracy, nor can we any longer call New York City the last bastion of liberalism. We have inarguably and unequivocally registered our discontent, we have assembled peacefully and it has brought us neither relief, nor a redress of grievances, and inexorably, the body count ticks up.

Displaying Unite for Justice.jpg
"Unite for Justice" From the
Ferguson Decision rally
11-28-2014. Photo Credit:
 David A. Brezler 

Where, then, is Spartacus? Where is that sorely needed paladin who will unite the clans of the oppressed and lead them forward to shake the very foundations of the oppressor state? History is rife with examples of whole systems that evolved only as a result of the collective, a unity of groups who previously might have been - to say the least - uneasy towards each other banding together to throw off the yokes of oppression. Marching in the streets, chanting inciteful slogans, and waving standard bearing banners is not unimportant. However, it is temporary, and the powerful are not apt to decide for change as long as they can count on paid  security and continue to change the channel.

We must create a much stronger movement, a much more strategic answer, something infinitely stronger than just ‘sea change’. The power structure from bottom to top must be entirely disrupted, and disbanded, from how funding is controlled to how politics is controlled, to how housing, food, and health is controlled. The often quoted "a system cannot protect those it was never designed to serve" could not be more true than at this very moment. Any system that presupposes as a base part of its structure inequities, impoverishment, and the devaluation of human life is not a system built on lasting precepts. We know this from studying the last several times empirical enterprises attempted global control. In fact, we should be asking if these are qualities intrinsic to the economic and political structures we have in place. Just how much of an ideal is this Enlightenment Era experiment before we go exporting it about the globe? 

ALL lives matter. More than simply a new political party to languish by the wayside and eventually be co-opted into the current status quo, we need an entirely new system. We require a system where elitism is not bread as an inherited trait into our culture. That ethos reigns whether the elitism expresses itself in Sports, Wall St., Education, or Community Organizing. Shut it down, shut it all down. Those fanaticisms that transform normally thinking, critical individuals into perpetuators of disparateness and exclusivity cannot persist.


Our only way forward is as a singular, cogent, incisive unit with the survival of Humanity as our central, unifying cause. Let us not be so caught up in the demonstration of our discontent that we forget to forge fruitful new pathways, and become the tomorrow we were meant to see.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fight the power.

Today I am thankful.

MikeBrown-10
Photo by Daniel Schaefer
Thankful that my brothers and sisters are still with me. Thankful that during the past years, we have engaged in - admittedly at times, - heated debate, but mostly thoughtful discussion, ardent advocacy, and lifelong learning. Thankful that we have found each other in this journey, and managed to stay connected.
Today I am thankful they were not taken from me by a rogue with government authority and a gun, a rookie, or a racist. When George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the danger of a non-indictment is ‘...not more Trayvon Martins, but more George Zimmermans'. The day after the Ferguson Decision, the same sentence pattern emerged in social media; ‘the danger of a non-indictment is not more Mike Browns, but more Darren Wilsons.’

After the decision of Ferguson’s Grand Jury not to indict, analysis of the documents and the long reaching implications erupted across the internet. Statements and nationwide actions continue in direct conjunction with heartfelt pleas for non-violence.  However, shooting deaths, economic segregation, educational manipulation, brutality against the community, and prisoners of the state...is not war already happening?

There are a number of periods in human history when oppressors were able to act this way towards an entire race. The Crusades, Colonization, Slavery, the Westward Expansion, Genocide, killing of Civil Rights Leaders, killing of Black Community Leaders, killing of young Black men...this seems a repetitive pattern.

Tearing apart cities, however, will prove nothing. Flashes of anger are to be expected, but it is not a means to the necessary end. Only a very generalized reaction in an extremely directed and organized fashion will break the pattern. Black Out Black Friday is a great opening to the 'national dialogue' for which our great thinkers have begun to call. But oppression is systemic and systematic, overt and inter-generational. Descendants of the era of the Conquistadors have been having 'a national dialogue' for more than 500 years. Once the border crossed them it became an international dialogue.

Ask an immigrant from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere that lies South of the political borders of the United States how that dialogue is going. Ask the Native Americans.

Ask Mike Brown's parents. Or Trayvon's, or Kimani's, or Akai's, or Sean's, or Amadou's, or Ramarley's.

Now is an actionable moment and we are, in fact, perfectly positioned as a collective of communities, Black, Latino, Asian, all of us. We manage large swaths of the business sector that are cornerstones of the (inter)national economy. We are professors, we are military, we are elected officials and the staff of elected officials, we are workers, we are men and women, and we matter. We are even in the police force - not in the necessary amounts, but there nonetheless. We need an African American parallel to Univision or Telemundo, with news shows that discuss themes with gravitas and objectivity by educated, well spoken individuals from the community. We have the power and resources to furnish, staff and fund our own candidates, and ensure that sufficient votes carry them into office. We have to take our anger with us through to 2016 and usher in that new wave. Politics is not a spectator sport.

We are no longer the minority. We are the majority, and it is high time we started acting like it. As long as there is unity between our communities, and we have a well codified plan for success we will reach that goal. Amongst the requirements: a newly formed national political party banner under which to march is crucial. Yes, more than a rallying cry to the side of an unresponsive party, but an entirely unique party, not subject to the hegemony of dynastic families and politics as usual traditions. A party that is inclusive, and that will stand primarily to stop the killing and imprisonment of our young people. We have had multiple watershed moments, we have had our Tianamen Square moment. Now we must throw off the colonized mentality, and move boldly forward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Turn out for what?



Photo by Rock The Vote, via Addicting Info
Two weeks after the election cycle we have seen a tremendous amount of public shaming of Democratic loyalists' scapegoats. Candidates hewed too far from the president, campaigners didn't focus enough on the ground game, we were outspent...Perhaps at some point, when more time has passed for closer inspection instead of rank, reactionary, response that can all get sorted out.

There is one particularly super-salient strategy remaining, however, that seems ripe for discussion; that is the party's heavy reliance on the Millenial generation to turn out and overwhelm whatever outsized influence dark money could have bought with sheer force of numbers.

Hashtags and memes flourished, Little Jon parodied himself, and OFA deployed its resources across the US of A with the express purpose of attracting the new key demographic. All for naught, though, since, as with the 2010 midterms, this key demographic's lion's share stayed home, knowing full well that these were equally, and arguably more important than the presidential.

In this sense, Democrats appear identical to dieters: in the early 21st Century, Latinos were the crucial, key demographic to engage (we still are). Before us it was the African American community (just as important now if not more so). After this century's first decade passed, the Millenials became the Democratic darling demographic. Looking at all of this, the Blue Team has the appearance of a multiple identity in crisis.

Meanwhile, each of the key demographics that became a respective elections cycle's cause celebre decisively distanced themselves from this debacle. Turnout overall was anemic at best, and was prematurely touted as 'a referendum', 'a condemnation of a broken system'. The American electorate, clearly, forgets how the system came to be broken in the first place.

Exercise science and weight loss studies tell us in no uncertain terms that fad diets quite simply don't work. This year's has already failed us spectacularly twice in a row. If you want to reach your overall fitness goals, a singular focus of mind, and dedication to the process is imperative. So too in this arena. The Blue Team never stayed on message: clean air-drinkable water, economic repair and recovery, expiration of Bush era tax cuts, energy alternatives, storm recovery, stay on message. Also, stay on target; don't pull us into another conflict in the Middle East. Follow New York's example and prosecute the bankers that crashed the economy, divestiture from fossil fuels, marriage equality, healthcare... THAT is what attracted all stripes and persuasions of voters to Obama, and those are the concepts that create brand loyalty. Now is the time to return to the hedgehog concept.

So, allow me to recapitulate: we no longer want to be entertained. We want our platform to be spoken about with gravitas. Overpopulating media streams with young hip faces who speak directly to and in the same modalities with the last fad diet that failed us twice does not inspire the voting bloc. If fitness is your goal, you know what you need to do: stop eating so much sugar and bread. Get in the gym and train train train! Train, fund, and resource your candidates, and don't hand out leadership positions to those lacking in experience that outsource their memory and logic skills to the latest iPhone. Leadership demands life experience, it demands years of training and exercise, and it demands laser-like focus and adherence to ideals.

Leadership demands maturity.

Two years Democrats! 2016 is already knocking on our door. Put down the donuts, time to get back in the gym. Otherwise, for what will they turn out?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

People's Climate March Occupies New York City Streets.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez,
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman,
& State Senator Liz Kruger at Sunday's
People's Climate March.
Photo Credit: Office of the AG
Today's multinational People's Climate March was, by all accounts, a raging success. Well attended by both state and local legislators, the crowd was estimated at roughly 400,000. Spurred on by the environmental/climate change organizing nonprofit 350.org, anticipatory signage had been widely visible for weeks in advance in subway cars, on bust stops, and the only place where one of the stylized displays likely belonged but never made it was onto one of the stories tall jumbo screens in Times Square, right along the parade path.

What is uniquely interesting regarding this year's march is the fact that big business, in stark contrast to previous years, seems to be getting directly on board the bandwagon. Indeed, they have funded some of their own weighty brass instruments playing in all their oom-pa-pa glory directly in the face of every single climate science denier - legislative, religious, think tank, or Koch Associate.

Multilingual signage from
The People's Climate March.
Copyright 350.org 2014 
The collective of Keurig, Coca-Cola, and Heinz (along with others) respectively released major statements this year indicating in no uncertain terms that climate change threatens their respective bottom lines. Price Waterhouse Coopers, LLP - the globally known accounting firm - in an historic move released the estimate in its 'Low Carbon Economy Index' report that we are 20 years away from total system collapse. Not to be solely the harbingers of the current power structure's paradigmatic, perfunctory passage into the past, they also laid out clear pathways to a sustainable energy future. All possibilities are entirely functional and market ready now.

It turns out that, in the end, all of the dilettantes and dismissed detectives of the day of our denouement were correct: Viewing the Amazon, the Canadian Boreal Forest, or any other old growth forest as "overburden" to be removed in search of limited resource fuel that is itself a pollutant will inevitably overburden us with unimaginable lasting effects. Not even the entirety of the world's billionaires combined can afford a second planet. Likewise, we ought to have done this conversion long ago.

  The face of the matter is this: we have designs, strategic plans, available funds, space, popular support and acceptance, intellectual capacity, and either readily available or constructible infrastructure to create new world-wide power supplies. What we ought to be doing between now and 2016 is using every tool at our disposal, citizen collectives, micro-grids, vehicle upgrades, alternative fuels, public transportation...to signal market shifts - wholesale - away from fossil fuels. Vote with your dollars and respond with 'the fierce urgency of now.' Even Mayor De Blasio, in a recognition of the imperative of defining survivability in the 21st Century, ordered energy efficiency targets for buildings across the city. We finally arrived at the point where the 'future generations' for whom the resolution of such issues has been deferred is now us. We are the ones for whom we have been waiting, let us not be found wanting.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

A static, in country force

A static, in country force can have a variety of missions: reinforce, rebuild, protect, retrain...the moral quandaries arise when decisions are made whom and how exactly to retrain.

In the hazy, unprecedented, post-9/11 era, fear became our reigning philosophy. Fear still manages to override the collective of other emotional varietals all too frequently within the policy arena. Few things are as addicting and powerful. But fear had been the weapon of control for countries with far less sophisticated forms of governance than ours, or so we thought. The trend of instilling in a populace blind distrust and abject horror towards an entire other race had previously been the grounds upon which to stand our moral superiority argument (see also the Kurds, Ethnic Serbs, or the Hutu and Tse Tse clash).

We had never done this (in fact untrue) we celebrated our melting pot culture (though truly we didnt). Institutionalized racism and marginalization are hallmarks of this nation since it's earliest times as a republic. From slavery through suffrage, tenement houses to internment camps, to separate but not so equal, to the AIDS epidemic and LGBTQ rights to (the return of) union busting, and now the "War on terror". War in and of itself is a terror. And while we're at it, let's check in on how the "War on drugs" and the "War on poverty" are going.

By only one measure have these wars done phenomenally well and that is to compensate the already well compensated. Obviation of cultural groups is required for this to happen: noone can be at the top unless someone first is at the bottom. But in its current iteration, those at the bottom are consequentially blamed for all of society's ills (be they at fault or no.) Along the arc of human history, this has happened repeatedly, and to satisfy ourselves with the whimsical platitude that the very same arc shall inevitably trend towards justice is a likely fallacy.

Whenever an economically empowered class, weaponizes a militarily empowered class, and these become judge, jury, and executioner of the underclass without the due process of law, that is known as oppression. Ferguson happened. Eric Gardner happened. Kimani Gray happened. Sean Bell happened. Amadou Diallou happened. Rodney King happened. The pattern continues.

This is a watershed moment. We can maintain this culture of fear,  or we can exchange the current cohort of undesirables for people that look, feel, and speak like the fabric of America. We can perpetuate a system of rulership that is predicated on objectifying subjugation, or we can seek to design and implement new systems. But we cannot hope to obtain system-wide remedies from archetypes who refute the facts of system-wide dilemmas.

The issue remains that the system itself is purposefully designed for segregation, submission, and subservience. Democracy is not democracy if it is only democratic for the few. Consequentially, as has been asked many times in Congress, a careful review of our founding document - specifically the part where it clearly states that if our system of government fails, it should be dismantled and reconstructed - is plainly in order. The situation in Ferguson is a symptom of a lingering, untreated, much more nefarious societal sickness. One against which inoculation is no longer possible as it has become a defining characteristic of American society. Before this latest issue falls by the wayside like so many other acts of senseless violence, let us now awaken the sleeping dragon of intercultural might to lead us through to a truer societal evolution. Now is the time for us to envision, embody, and encarnate an entirely new Great Society.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The proof is in the putting (not the pudding.)

During the past week, I have been working steadily on an article expressly focused on the anti-vaxxer argument. I will admit here a predetermined bias, coming from a family deeply enmeshed in the medical field. However, benefiting from the self same type of study that promoted and disseminated the anti-vaxxer argument at the outset, utilizing highly focused search methodology and accessing social media realms where the scientific community directly discusses these topics, the collection which follows of peer reviewed research articles resulted. As they are generated by experts in the field with a pointed presentation of statistical information, it may be important to consult with professionals capable of translating some of the contained language into layman's terms if you should need it. Not everyone is a trained physician, or statistician, or trained researcher, and that, specifically, is the problem with this entire intellectual melee: untrained minds selecting blind belief over bona fide biology is indeed a choice. But not one we can afford to make. This, then, is returning science to its rightful place in the public administration structure, opting for the design of intelligence rather than intelligent design. Opinions are my own, research is from elsewhere.


Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children With Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta: Frank DeStefano, Tanya Karapurkar Bhasin, William W. Thompson, Marshalyn Atlanta Yeargin-Allsopp and Coleen Boyle, Pediatrics 2004;113;259-266 DOI: 10.1542/peds.113.2.259

ABSTRACT: Objective. To compare ages at first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination between children with autism and children who did not have autism in the total population and in selected subgroups, including children with regression in development. Methods. A case-control study was conducted in metropolitan Atlanta. Case children (N   624) were identified from multiple sources and matched to control children (N   1824) on age, gender, and school. Vaccination data were abstracted from immunization forms required for school entry. Records of children who were born in Georgia were linked to Georgia birth certificates for information on maternal and birth factors. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs). Results. The overall distribution of ages at MMR vaccination among children with autism was similar to that of matched control children; most case (70.5%) and control children (67.5%) were vaccinated between 12 and 17 months of age. Similar proportions of case and control children had been vaccinated before 18 or before 24 months. No significant associations for either of these age cutoffs were found for specific case subgroups, including those with evidence of developmental regression. More case (93.4%) than control children (90.6%) were vaccinated before 36 months (OR: 1.49; 95% confidence interval: 1.04–2.14 in the total sample; OR: 1.23; 95% confidence interval: 0.64–2.36 in the birth certificate sample). This association was strongest in the 3- to 5-year age group. Conclusions. Similar proportions of case and control children were vaccinated by the recommended age or shortly after (ie, before 18 months) and before the age by which atypical development is usually recognized in children with autism (ie, 24 months). Vaccination before 36 months was more common among case children than control children, especially among children 3 to 5 years of age, likely reflecting immunization requirements for enrollment in early intervention programs. Pediatrics 2004; 113:259–266; autism, autism spectrum disorders, MMR vaccine, immunizations, epidemiology.

Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study
Mady Hornig, Kimberly Hummel Pickering, W. Ian Lipkin, Thomas Briese, Paul A. Rota, Timothy Buie, William J. Bellini, Margaret L. Bauman, John J. O’Leary, Gregory Lauwers, Orla Sheils, Ulrike Siemetzki, Errol Alden, Larry

Abstract
Background: The presence of measles virus (MV) RNA in bowel tissue from children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances was reported in 1998. Subsequent investigations found no associations between MV exposure and ASD but did not test for the presence of MV RNA in bowel or focus on children with ASD and GI disturbances. Failure to replicate the original study design may contribute to continued public concern with respect to the safety of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Update: vaccine side effects, adverse reactions, contraindications, and precautions—recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 1996;45(No. RR-12):[inclusive page numbers]. [(Please keep in mind this article is from 1996, but its significance is prominent because of the historical basis of rejection of a premise relating to vaccines causing autism)]

This report provides updated information concerning the potential adverse events associated with vaccination for hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This information incorporates findings from a series of recent literature reviews, conducted by an expert committee at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), of all evidence regarding the possible adverse consequences of vaccines administered to children. This report contains modifications to the previously published recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and is based on an ACIP review of the IOM findings and new research on vaccine safety. In addition, this report incorporates information contained in the “Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices: Use of Vaccines and Immune Globulins in Persons with Altered Immunocompetence” (MMWR 1993;42[No. RR-4]) and the “General Recommendations on Immunization: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)” (MMWR 1994;43[No. RR-1]). Major changes to the previous recommendations are highlighted within the text, and specific information concerning the following vaccines and the possible adverse events associated with their administration are included: hepatitis B vaccine and anaphylaxis; measles vaccine and a) thrombocytopenia and b) possible risk for death resulting from anaphylaxis or disseminated disease in immuno-compromised persons; diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis vaccine (DTP) and chronic encephalopathy; and tetanus-toxoid–containing vaccines and a) Guillain-Barré syndrome, b) brachial neuritis, and c) possible risk for death resulting from anaphylaxis. These modifications will be incorporated into more comprehensive ACIP recommendations for each vaccine when such statements are revised. Also included in this report are interim recommendations concerning the use of measles and mumps vaccines in a) persons who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus and b) persons who are allergic to eggs; ACIP is still evaluating these recommendations.

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Additionally, there is an entire page from the CDC's website dedicated to vaccine safety and a potential causal relationship between vaccines and autism. It should be read carefully, and realized that not only does the CDC support the results of the research, the research itself is mostly done by agencies and entities outside of the CDC.