Clarence Thomas and the Future of America

I was able to borrow Corey Robin’s The Enigma of Clarence Thomas from my local library after thinking about these themes for so long. As I read it in hardcover, I don’t have a set of notes, so I thought I could write a summary from his eyes:

There has been a corruption of the black man in America. It is a corruption led by progressives seeking to atone for America’s long history of slavery and post-slavery racism. The root cause of racism is unknown, therefore we can never hope to defeat it. Heavy racism will always exist, regardless of our best intentions as a society.

The progressive path is a path proven to fail. The reason why is our political systems are systems led by (racist) whites. Improvements suggested by white people, implemented in systems controlled by white people are simply another means of control of black people by white people.

It does not matter whether the intention of a program is honorable or not. The end result is always the same. Programs meant to help the underprivileged simply set up guidelines to help others abuse them.

Programs like affirmative action reinforce who is in control (white people), making a black man’s success dependent on the recognition and charity of the white man. I know, because I have lived it for myself. Even if a black man is lifted through such a program, there will always be a stigma, both to people who view the man, and within the man himself, that this was only possible with whites’ help.

If schools really cared about equity, they wouldn’t use affirmative action to “bestow” opportunity to blacks. Instead, they would look at other ways to evaluate individuals that wouldn’t bias against blacks in the first place. The reason they don’t is simple: elitism. Schools (the white men who control them) have no desire to give up their power. Anyone’s claims for diversity is merely superficial; you want things to look fair not you want things to be fair.

Eminent domain is supposed to provide fair compensation for the use of land. Let’s talk about what it really is: the right for a government to take advantage of poor (usually black) people, giving “fair” price for land that is immediately gentrified or magnified in value once blacks are disposed of. This “protection” simply makes it easier for those who know how to play the game (wealthy whites in power) to once again take advantage of blacks.

It’s futile for blacks to seek political power – they can never change things when they will always be outvoted at large. Instead, the path forward for the black man is through the economy, through capitalism.

The black man must create his own institutions, develop his own wealth, and then use his economic wealth to speak, to breath power into his politics. Talk is cheap, it’s money that proves the real values of a man. Therefore, one’s use of money needs to be freed. One needs to be allowed to use his money in any way he likes, he must have the ability to earn money in any way he likes. If money can help a man’s viewpoint get visibility, he must have the freedom to use his money to get this viewpoint, communicated by intermediaries, across.

He must have access to guns. Yes, this means white people will have the means to hunt him down, but they always did anyway. A right to bear arms means he can now protect his property, his family, his woman.

The police are surely racist. But this racism is what can make the black man strong. Survive and be stronger for it. What progressive rights have done are to make the black man weak. Things like welfare and social services allow the black man to learn dependency. They prevent him from understanding the truth of America and forging him into someone who can overcome hardships and lead a new generation – his own family. Instead, these efforts let him leave his responsibilities as a man. Prisoners are being punished for crimes. Punishment = a different set of rights versus normal citizens. These penalties are critical in making a black man who can survive America.

I’ve been able to live through both types of black men. My father was a liar who left me.  I could never understand why he never felt responsibilities towards his own children. My mother could not raise me. It was left to my grandfather to teach me the values to survive in America, as an entrepreneur who refused to suck on the government’s tit.

The black man can never be dependent on anyone other than other black people. We are on our own. We must be left free to our devices to succeed.

Back to me again: Robin’s book helped me think a lot about racism. In some ways, perhaps Thomas is right. I do agree on his thoughts on diversity and elitism (I am also someone who takes advantage of it) in institutions. What I do not know is if we should just give up. I’ve heard Thomas referred to as a black nationalist and I never understood what that meant until I read the book: to me, it means creating a black nation-like entity within America. Blacks do their thing and be left alone, and whites the same.

The problem I see there is how that extrapolates into the future. I feel that if you want to achieve progress in economy, humanity -> move towards the Star Trek utopia where everyone is united on a common mission, you cannot do it divided. If you’re just thinking about the now, with no aspirations for mankind, then his view is fine. We can be stuck in the middle ages forever. You just live your life in the same place with your “people”, have kids, die. If we are simply animals, that’s the way.

If you want to explore the potential of humankind, however, it has to be different.

Perhaps that goes back into the core roots of conservatism vs progressive thinking, I don’t know. But from a selfish American standpoint, if I want to see the American economy to keep growing, I feel I need to find ways to get everyone to be part of the success. Extracting my wealth from the bottom may make me better off, but doesn’t grow the American pie. I want to see everyone contributing and befitting to maximize what humans can do.

A Spectrum of Feeling

One one end, there’s nothing more delightful than watching my nearly two year old dance to Shakira each morning, enthralled by the recent Super Bowl Half Time show.

On the other, I go to sleep wondering if I will wake up with a hard, dry cough or another of the COVID-19 symptoms. I know that if I do, that will almost surely mean my wife and son have it too. Any time I go outside and can just see another person from a distance, even though no one I’ve encountered “seems” sick, I wonder is this the interaction that proves my gamble foolhardy. If I sneeze or have a slightly runny nose, I wonder if other people see me and freak out. In my mind, I protest “it’s just allergies” and “I have this all the time” but reversing the situation, I understand the feeling – I’m thinking the same thing.

When an Option to Unsubscribe is really a F*ck You. (The Loot Company)

Recently, it looks like The Loot Company has taken over what used to be Loot Crate – I had purchased a crate long ago as a gift. As part of the takeover, they sent me this email highlighting that I could have my personal information removed from the database moving forward:

Loot Company.png

Sounds good right? Here’s where it falls apart:

1) I had to screenshot the email because I could not copy the text.

2) It seems logical that I could click the opt-out email address shown as a link to opt out. That area of the email is clickable but it just sends you to the website. That means you have to remember that email address and type it in manually (because you cannot copy the text) in a new email.

3) They are vague in the information you have to send for the opt-out. Any normal customer database only needs email as a unique identifier, yet they imply you may need to send more – this is an excuse to say they couldn’t remove your information later and blame it on you for not sending enough information. I’m supposed to know how their database works?

4) The most logical way to unsubscribe is to simply use the unsubscribe link at the very bottom of the email, but that unsubscribe turns out to be completely unrelated to this one.

I ended up emailing them, but it went to their support ticketing system – they could have easily set up an auto-unsubscribe process (remove any email address sending to that designated email address). I now have to wait a few days to see if they could figure out how to remove me.

Lawyers Cathy Hershcopf and Sarah Carnes at Cooley LLP claim they “totally respect your privacy so the decision is yours.” Lawyers are very precise in their work. Thus, while “totally” is perfectly fine when I’m emphasizing something to my friends, Cathy and Sarah are not my friends. Imagine a doctor telling you “it’s totally safe to operate.” It is safe or it is not. You respect my privacy or you do not.

The decision is mine, yet only if I can somehow get them the message (that they’ve made as hard as possible to do – physical letter? come on here! They use a digital communication tool to tell me to use a physical one in response. Insane.) I want out in the next 10 days. They ask you to send as much information as possible so they can find a way to remove you from the database. This is their respect for your privacy.

To the lawyers at Cooley LLP and The Loot Company – I hope when your personal information gets leaked through hack or privacy breach, and you wonder why those companies did not remove or protect your information better, you can look back at your own examples at where you “totally” respected others’ privacy.

(Update: As of one week later, October 17th, no confirmation that my information has been removed.)

(Update: As of one month later, November 12th, no confirmation that my information has been removed. I followed up with LootCrate over email and the social media accounts of both the law firm and LootCrate.)

Role of Governments: to Serve the People or to Control the People?

This recent podcast by NPR’s Planet Money reminded me of my own issues with the government, Episode 923: Good Teachers, Bad Deal:

A Department of Education program gives talented, up-and-coming teachers a grant, not a loan, to help them pay for college. The condition: After you graduate, you have to teach in a low-income school.

Thousands of teachers kept their end of that bargain but had their grants turned to loans anyway after sending in a required form a day late or accidentally missing a signature. Some are in crippling debt because of it.

Hearing about these teachers’ struggles reminded me of why people hate governments: governments act like they’re here to control or rule us, not to serve us (through the taxes we pay). It’s not supposed to be this way, at least not in the United States.

Chris Rock made a joke that when it comes to the police, you get what you pay for, and that got me thinking: if police were paid double, would you get more talent into the employee pool? Could we do more with fewer officers? People who would be open to trying new ideas, more efficient ways of keeping community? If job security were no longer a guarantee, as it is for many government employees, would that change how they treat people (who should be recognized as the customers)?

A year ago I received a citation from the City of San Jose about a car that was registered to someone with a similar name. There’s no number to call or person to talk to so you can resolve the issue directly. Instead, you are directed to pay first, and then appeal. I thought that was ridiculous, why should I pay first when this person is not me? There’s no proof it’s me included here either, like a title for the car showing me. I sent the letter below.

Dear City of San Jose,

I am sending this notice for your information. Previously, I was issued a parking violation citation issued under license plate ****.

As I mentioned before, I have no relationship to this vehicle. I have never heard of this vehicle (or owned or leased it) until I received the notice from the City of San Jose. Since then, I have conducted research with the DMV on this matter.

On Friday, February 16, 2018, I visited the Santa Clara DMV and called the DMV office at 1-800-777-0133.

Elvin (ID ****) and Georgett (Rep and Senior Technician) at the 1-800 DMV number helped me with the following information:

  • I have exactly one vehicle (2013 ****) registered under my name and address. This is clearly not the Red Nissan that was cited.
  • You may look up my vehicle information under license plate ****. I have included a DMV report of this vehicle (from February 23 CA DMV Visit in Santa Clara).
  • The release of liability for the Red Nissan lists a “Michael ****” and San Jose without a street address or additional identifying information. There is no information that ties the vehicle to me.
  • In the city of San Jose alone, there are 123 people under the name “Michael ****”. In California, there are 1191 people with my name.

I believe this provides clarity that your citation is a mistake.

Sincerely,

Michael ****

No response from the City. 1 year later, earlier this year, I received notice that San Jose made a claim on my taxes. I called the City to protest this. The person I talked to confirmed that they received my letter a year ago but since I had not paid the fine, they would not review my complaint. I reiterated everything mentioned in the letter and told them, but the employee had this “I don’t care, that’s your problem” attitude and could not give any evidence about why they believed the car was mine. She said there was proof it was mine, but did not go into more detail – her case was it’s your name, why would we be wrong? She said I could write a letter to the City, but in a “yeah right, good luck” way.

I asked her what she would do if she had gone through the process I had to prove that the person in question was not me, and she had nothing to say but to dismiss me.

I wrote the city again after that, and a few months later, I got a check for the amount that had been taken from me in the fine. However, there was no information in the letter, no message saying this had been a mistake, that the fine had been cancelled. My concern is what if I get another notice next year that I have another claim on taxes for an unpaid fine, how am I supposed to provide evidence that the issue has been cleared?

There’s no transparency, no responsibility for the government with its constituents. As a citizen, I’ve been treated like a pain in the ass the government is trying to get rid of, and when you listen to the Planet Money podcast, that’s exactly how it feels.

And this makes me question, why do we pay taxes, what is the government’s relationship with its citizens?