Archive for October, 2015

#TBT Song’O’The Week

Posted: October 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

Today’s tune is in honor of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays of all time.  This song is near and dear to my heart; it’s perfect for a burlesque routine, a dark scary house, or a horror movie.  Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.”  CLASSIC!

Dance around, light your candles, and rock to the sweet tunes.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN

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Punk vs. HipHop: Music for F*ckups

Posted: October 27, 2015 in punk
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It occurred to me this morning, as two songs simultaneously rattled around my head, it occurred to me how differently punk and hip hop treat pre-achievement status.  You know – making mistakes, being unsuccessful.  It seems to me most hip-hop (and of course, I’m generalizing here – my knowledge of hip-hop is mostly surface, so I’m going on what I’ve heard on the radio and from friends) is built to glorify the time after achievement.  For example:

This contrasts with many punk songs, which are focused on the time before success – the fighting, the struggle, the mistakes.  For example:

(and I recommend The Overton Window by Frank White)

Punk rock is the fight song; hip-hop is the afterglow.

I think it might be easier to find a punk song speaking to how you feel at this moment rather than how you wish you were feeling.  As I recall, this is the reason so many people freaked out about Linkin Park after Columbine – a rock band was unapologetically screaming all the angst teenagers usually cover up.

When I listen to hip-hop, I sometimes get depressed because I haven’t yet “made it.”  I’m not at the top yet.  I don’t feel like I can look down at haters, or feel like I can sit back.  How can a teenager relate to a millionaire rapping about his gold chains, or Nikki Minaj shitting on her haters?

Punk speaks to my anger, the fact that every day is still a struggle.  I wonder if it’s changed as I’ve gotten older; do younger people need that affirmation, that understanding that they can (eventually) make it? Is it because hip-hop never minded going for the gold, where punks are embarrassed by success?  Or does “making it” become the end all be all, forgetting that our struggles, mistakes and trials are also important and make us who we are, even as we’re struggling?

We’ll end with 7Seconds, who said it best.  We walk together – why can’t we rock together.

#TBT Song’O’The Week

Posted: October 23, 2015 in #TBT Song'O'The Week

This week’s tune is a classic from Stick To Your Guns, one of my favorite bands of all time.

Listen to that and tell me your heart’s not racing!  Let’s go mosh!

Under Siege

Posted: October 20, 2015 in Police State
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My colleague who shares my office is black.  Most of my co-workers are black.  Detroit is a black majority city (almost 83% at last check).

This morning, my colleague told me about getting pulled over, twice, the day before.  Her son attends a private school in a suburb of Detroit, and each day she provides him transportation.  On the way to the school in the afternoon, she was pulled over for speeding next to a college (where the speed limit inexplicably drops to 20 from a 55).  Fair enough.

Later that day, she was driving home with her son and infant daughter.  She was on the freeway, in the right lane, driving slowly because of the earlier ticket.  She was pulled over, and the police behind her turned on their spotlights and loudspeakers, ordering her to roll down her windows and put her hands outside the vehicle.  Two more state police vehicles pulled up within seconds, and four policemen approached her car with guns drawn; after berating her for not lowering her windows fully (on a 40 degree day with a 10-month old baby in the car), they issued a ticket and told her to come to court for it to be thrown out.

Her crime?  Tinted windows.  Which are completely see-through.  Which were put in by her father, when he owned the vehicle.

Did I mention her father is a police officer?

Police no doubt have an image of who is driving a red Impala with tinted windows.  They have thoughts about who drives from Warren to Detroit, and why that trip is made.

Traffic stops are scary for cops.  There is always the chance someone can be dangerous.  However, most fatalities from traffic stops are from other vehicles on the road; of the 149 officers who died in the line of duty in 2014, 57 were traffic stop related, but only eight were killed by firearms during a traffic stop.*

In 2014, about 1,100 civilians were killed by police.  Most civilian contact with police starts with a traffic stop.

Terror connects police and civilians.  Police worry they will be killed by a dangerous civilian, but know if someone kills a police offer, the full weight of law enforcement will be upon them.  Civilians worry if they put a finger wrong, they will be killed without compunction or punishment.

Police may feel they are under siege, against a groundswell of public opposition.  People of color, in the wrong neighborhoods, driving the wrong cars, have felt under siege for decades.

Civilians are killed at about 21.5% the rate of police.  So far this year, about 922 civilians were killed by the police.  About 100 police officers were killed in the same period.  You’re almost 10 times a likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than vice versa.

And it’s likely the numbers are far greater; statistics about police violence are notoriously unreliable.

Any number of deaths is likely too many.  I’m sure some of these deaths are justifiable homicide.  And it’s horrendous that people die in the line of duty, many of whom are likely good cops doing the right things.

But the numbers don’t lie.  Police approaching normal, routine events as if they are life-or-death situations leads to unnecessary killing, increases civilian anger with law enforcement, and actually makes cops less safe; as people get angrier, the violence against the police will grow.

Both sides need to stand down.  But the ones with the legally sanctioned right to kill need to start.

*(In 2012, over 4,000 officers were wounded/assaulted during traffic stops)

TBT Song’O’The Week

Posted: October 17, 2015 in #TBT Song'O'The Week

Ok…a bit late, but this week’s song:

“Stormy Monday” by Lee Michaels

Absolutely incredible! I grew up listening to this song, and though it’s often covered, this is the best version of it.  No wonder Lee Michaels went deaf young!

A 70 year old man in Oklahoma is making headlines.

So is an 11 year old boy.

The first has been imprisoned since age 16, when he murdered a police officer.

The second murdered his 12 year old neighbor after she refused to show him her puppy.  Prosecutors are apparently considering charging this child as an adult.

The US Supreme Court ruled that children who commit crimes must have their circumstances considered.  In 2005, it ruled the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment.  In 2012, life sentencing was limited.  However, many young people are still locked up for life, over 3000 in the US alone.  This is absurd!  Here’s why.

The Biological Argument

The American Bar Association recognizes differences between adults and adolescents, based on new information coming from scientific advances in understanding brain development and function.

A brief explanation of brains.  Most of what we consider “common sense” and “adult choices” come from the frontal lobe; this is where our organization, planning, and impulse control are centered.  Juvenile brains are different; let’s get that out of the way right now.  Frontal lobe development doesn’t stop until the mid-twenties; to expect a teenager to make decisions as an adult isn’t accurate.  While the abstract reasoning in teenagers is likely the same as adults, the emotional maturity is much different.Hormones also differ as we age.  Adolescent boys have an enormous amount of testosterone to deal with, which is associated with increased aggression.  Behavioral changes, like hating your parents and demanding more privacy, also start around this time.

The biology of teenagers may serve to diminish their capacity/responsibility for crimes committed, but is still being debated.

The Behavioral/Environmental Argument

Children are products of their environments; few are bullies without violence at home, or delinquents without poor parental supervision.  Over 30% of juvenile offenders on death row had experienced 6 or more traumatic events in childhood.  Adult offenders are far more likely to come from traumatic backgrounds than normative samples.

Witnessing or being the victim of violence in the home can spark violent behavior in children and adolescents; what teachers or adults read as a “bad seed” is likely the result of a bad environment.

Labeling behaviors as criminal also serves to mask other underlying concerns, such as low IQ, mental health issues, and social struggles (i.e. living in poverty, having a parent in prison, living in a violence-prone neighborhood etc).

Criminalizing children through the school-to-prison pipeline reinforces structural inequality, especially for children of color; it makes it more likely people with mental illness will not seek treatment, that trust in authority is reduced, and that violence festers in neighborhoods.

When we put children in jail, we also put them at risk of further victimization. A traumatic history increases vulnerability for future trauma, and prison itself can be traumatizing.  Many children are assaulted by jail/prison staff and other inmates; over 13% suffer sexual abuse while incarcerated (mostly from staff members).  We are making it more likely these children will have future problems, or even stay in prison longer, in the name of punishment and protection.

The Rehabilitation Argument

At its heart, juvenile justice needs to focus on changing and improving a mind that is still malleable and developing.  Juvenile courts have an excellent qualitative track record of success, though recidivism data is gathered by individual states and is difficult to analyze.  We do know that the more times someone is incarcerated, the lower the chances of rehabilitation.  There are a number of alternatives to incarceration that have shown promise, are based on research and data, and show promise to improve outcomes for incarcerated youth as well as the communities they live in.

(Plus, incarceration is EXPENSIVE.  We shouldn’t forget the dollar dollar bills)

Nationally, our recidivism rates are abysmal.  Over 67% of people who are released from prison are re-arrested within three years; the number rises to over 75% after five years.  Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t changing minds, changing lives, or changing attitudes.  We shouldn’t subject children to broken systems that aren’t even effective for adults.

None of these arguments are meant to excuse those who commit crimes – we have to consider our response.  If a teen can choose to do wrong, they need to pay the consequences, but it’s our responsibility to ensure the consequences are appropriate to the crime.  With the new information at our disposal, it’s now up to us to create sane and humane punishments that will help protect society by rehabilitating these children, rather than locking them up without hope of redemption.

Children can do horrible things.  This doesn’t mean we should also do horrible things to them.

#TBT Song’O’The Week

Posted: October 8, 2015 in #TBT Song'O'The Week
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Starting a new feature – each Thursday, I’ll post a song that you might have liked back in the day, a nostalgia song, or a song I forgot about and discovered again.  Because this is the Shame Dynamic, and that’s what we do here,  it will definitely center around old punk, metal, electronic or underground rock songs.

yep, and this.

If you’ve got an idea for a song to feature, please shoot me an email – otherwise, enjoy.

Today’s Throwback Thursday song:

Disregard the Runner-Up, by Kicked in the Head.

This is one of those tunes you can only find on a Warped Tour comp (remember when those used to be good?!).  Back in two thousand aught three, this was my jam; it’s the best tune to be blasted with windows down, rolling fast down the street.  Too bad very little of Kicked in the Head’s other music was decent.

Party down!  Happy Thursday!

Back from hiatus, and already there is another tragedy to discuss.  To paraphrase On the Media’s Bob Garfield, last Thursday, an American exercising his constitutionally protected right to protect himself from tyranny and crime, decided instead to kill some college students and himself.

As after every tragedy, every event, the news and internet and blogosphere are full of think pieces, commentary, and cries for change.  Obama appealed to the media to list deaths from terrorism and gun violence side by side; they obliged.

via Business Insider

via the Washington Post

Much has been made of the importance of gun ownership by both the GOP and the NRA, for years.  They tell us we have to have guns to stop home invasions, that we need guns so the police trained professionals government overlords aren’t the only ones with guns, that women need guns to not get raped, that domestic violence victims need guns to protect themselves, that teachers need guns to stop school shootings, that retail workers need guns to not get robbed, that drivers need guns to not get carjacked.

(For those interested, these arguments are not ever supported by data.  Intimate partner violence is deadlier for victims when guns are introduced.  Rapes generally turn into murders when the victim has a gun – the perpetrator tends to use it on the victim.  Carjacking can turn deadly when an [untrained] hero rushes in.  Having a gun in your home increases the risk to your family while only six crimes are stopped each year, on average, by homeowners with guns.  Not to mention fear + lack of training + gun = accidental murder.)

On the Media had Tom Teves, of NoNotoriety, on to discuss media responsibility in reporting on these shootings; he emphasized how little a man’s name mattered, and pointed out that infamy and celebrity are almost interchangeable – to make a killer famous is to inspire future killers.

He ended by stating “when the ‘who’ starts becoming the ‘why’ you have a problem.”  These shootings cannot be simply about the people doing the shooting – there is something driving them, something making our president have to express condolences for the twentieth time since he gained office.

It doesn’t matter if this shooter was “mentally ill”, or “unstable”, or “awkward”, or “unpopular.”  It matters that we created the conditions in which he can take his anger and rage and kill people, and then get famous.

If you want to protect yourself from tyranny, get yourself a hunting rifle.  But get it through your head – handguns and assault weapons are killing Americans daily.  They are not helpful.  They are deadly.  If you want to protect America, start by caring about Americans.