Happy Trans Day of Visibility

Human development is a fascinating topic, about which I know little. If you want the science, PZ could tell you infinitely more than I, but from what I do know, the whole process is fantastically complex. At every point in the development of pre-birth development, there are a myriad of things happening simultaneously, most of which could, in theory, go in a number of ways. Eye color is an obvious one, but there’s also hair color, facial features, vocal chords, the development and function of organs, and so on. Then, after someone’s born, there are all sorts of thing that influence how they develop as they grow up. All those experiences they have, the lessons they learn, the people around them – it all shapes the development of their brain, and while the brain may be considered “developed” in the mid 20s, most people keep learning and changing throughout their lives. Given that incredible plasticity and variation, it seems very, very unlikely to me that the one area of human development that is always consistent would be the division of humanity into precisely two sexes, let alone precisely two genders.

Take eyesight, for example. In addition to the array of eye colors, there’s also a wide spread of functionality. It’s not like the options are “can see” and “can’t see”, there are people who lose sight over their lives, and others who could never see to begin with. There are people who can see fine, but only at the very center of their vision, or people who can only see around the periphery. There are people who can’t see the difference between certain colors, but have excellent vision other than that. I admit that this is an argument from incredulity, in some ways, but the reality is that people who fall outside this miraculous gender binary that we’re supposed to have, have always existed, and have always made their presence known. There is ample evidence that trans people are who they say they are, and that they represent no threat, as a group, to anyone.

The problem is that, despite those facts, there is still a hate movement that is attempting to erase trans people from public life, and to that movement, facts do not matter. I’m absolutely certain that many of the people who are pushing this genocide forward are genuinely operating out of hatred and disgust. At the same time, they very demonstrably lie all the time, and it apparently makes no difference. I think it’s fair to say that they are, as fascists have done in the past, using hatred of a politically powerless minority as a way to rally support, justify extremism, and seize power. It’s been pointed out many times by now, but it bears saying again – this is, pretty much word for word, what the Nazis did, and it’s not a coincidence that this movement seems to share a lot of other rhetoric and “enemies” with Hitler’s party.

So, simply stating the facts is not enough. I suppose my “irrepressible complexity” argument is an effort to get some people to open their minds, if only a little, to a different perspective. Unfortunately, that’s also not enough. They’re coming for trans people right now, in some parts of the United States, which means those of us who want to be considered allies need to step up, however we can. Thankfully, some people have been doing just that, which lets me give some examples of how someone could help.

People have been speaking out at school board meetings and other public events. Legislators and activists have worked to speak against legislation targeting trans people, and to amend that legislation to reduce the harm that it can do. Teachers are working to provide a more thorough understanding of the complexity of sex and gender throughout nature, and people are showing up all over the world to oppose the leaders of this hate movement. Local communities are rallying to defend the targets of fascist hate, and to stand in opposition to fascist rallies, and (which is relevant to today) publicly showing support for the trans community.

We all have limits on what we’re able to do. Not everyone is able to be a frontline warrior, and not everyone has the power or ability to affect legislative change. As far as I can tell, while there’s always a strong need for those willing to put their bodies on the line, liberatory movements tend to understand that it takes a village to raise a movement. There’s a need for all sorts of people, with all sorts of skills, doing all sorts of things. I’m a cis guy, so I wouldn’t presume to speak on what people should do, or what counts as “enough”, but the message I’ve seen for this trans day of visibility, including from FTB alum Dr. Jey McCreight, is that the very least we can do is publicly support trans rights, and publicly show our love for the trans people in our lives.

I’m bad at making myself do actual activism these days (it’s something I’m working on), so this is me, doing the bare minimum. As far as I know, there’s zero chance that this will cost me anything, socially. My immediate family and social circle seem to all be pretty cool people, with trans friends and loved ones of their own. They, like me, have seen the joy of trans people being able to just live, without constantly having to perform a lie, and that makes it easy to understand why that’s a right worth fighting for.

An official “Day of X” generally serves to draw attention to an issue that really ought to be on people’s minds all the time. When it comes to this issue, I’m willing to bet my readers think about it at least as much as I do, so while you probably don’t need my two cents, here’s my advice to myself: Look for ways to help, especially where you are. Even if there’s not an active effort to oppress trans people where you live, there are probably still groups working to build and organize support for trans rights. If you find yourself with money to spare, look for activist groups that are fundraising, or even just trans people who need help making ends meet. Keep an eye out for events like the one in Dublin that I missed today. It’s good to show up for events like that, and they’re a way to network with other activists if you’re looking to do so. If you want to be considered an ally, show yourself to be one through your actions.

Video: Pat Robertson’s surprising trans take from 2013

I’ll have a longer post up later for Trans Day of Visibility today, but I wanted to share this video clip. Apparently, back in 2013, notorious Christian fundamentalist and bigot Pat Robertson was asked about trans people, and his response, while far from ideal, underscores just how recent and manufactured the current trans panic actually is. Pat Robertson said that sometimes women are born in men’s bodies, or men in women’s bodies, and that it’s not a Christian’s place to judge. I don’t know that he’d say the same today, and it doesn’t wash away the harm he’s done, but it’s an interesting glimpse into what a pretty extreme person had to say about the issue a decade ago.

Video: No More Presidents

Well, Trump has been indicted, so that’s exciting. I’m still not holding my breath for him being held accountable for the actual harm he did, vs. a campaign finance violation. I’m not sure whether to expect violence, or a bunch of impotent rage that doesn’t really go anywhere. At this point I’m honestly more concerned about violence coming from the ongoing genocide attempt against trans people than I am about violence over the indictment, but it’s hard to predict. I think the best possible outcome would be no violence on either part, and indicting presidents becomes more normal going forward. I doubt I’ll get everything I want on that, but a man can dream, right?

I look forward to the day when we have no more presidents.

Video: Why is RIKERS Still Open? The War on Bail Reform

The cash bail system in the United States is based on the mistaken notion that, without holding someone’s money hostage, they wouldn’t show up for their court date. There’s not much evidence to support this, and ample evidence that, in effect, cash bail serves to allow poor people to be locked up without trial, simply because they are poor. When those people are being held in a place like Rikers – sometimes for years – the nightmarish conditions can drive them to suicide, or to giving a false confession just to be able to return to their lives in some way. Olayemi Olurin is among other things, an attorney and abolitionist who’s made a name for herself recently with her cutting political commentary. She’s been very vocal about the ongoing human rights violation that is the jail on Rikers Island, and this clip from her new show does a good job making the case to shut down Rikers, and end cash bail:

Historic Welsh Village Becomes Investment Opportunity, Residents Become Collateral Damage

Housing prices have been skyrocketing all over the so-called “developed world”, and while various other excuses have been made, the primary problem seems to be rentier capitalism – buying something that other people need, for the sole purpose of denying access to anyone who doesn’t pay. I don’t think there’s much question that we could stand to build more housing, especially in some areas, but owning other people’s homes as a profit-generating investment is, by default, going to increase the cost of housing. Not only do landlords have an incentive to keep raising rents, they also have an incentive to keep buying up more homes, driving up the prices, and moving home ownership ever farther out of the reach of people who work for a living.

And on the subject of work, collecting rent is what’s known as “passive income” – you are paid for doing no work at all, simply because you control access to a necessity, because the government will enforce your claim. Some landlords will also do things like maintenance work, but most hire others to do that, using the money given to them by their tenants. Landlords do not work for the money tenants give them. This is an inherently exploitative business model, and yet another aspect of capitalism that can only exist because the government participates on behalf of the landlord. Absent that power, the landlord would need to take care of their own enforcement, and at that point we’re basically back to feudalism.

When we talk about corporate home ownership, and rising rents, I tend to think about cities, where a single entity can own whole blocks of flats, or one rich asshole can own dozens of multi-family houses, but the reality is that this is happening everywhere, and it seems unlikely that it will stop until nobody owns their own home anymore. Case in point, a Welsh village built in the 1500s, to house workers in a slate quarry.

Sixteen homes in a historic Welsh hamlet built for workers at a 16th century slate mine are up for grabs for £1million after the asking price was slashed by £250,000.

Estate agents have been looking to sell the historic slate mining village of Aberllefenni since 2016, but uncertainty over Brexit meant a deal has never materialised.

Having originally put it up for sale for £1.5million, the asking price dropped to £1.25million in November 2019, only to lower it once more in the hope of securing deal.

Estate agent Dafydd Hardy previously said it would be ‘an excellent investment opportunity.’

Work in the nearby slate quarries apparently stopped in 2003, and it seems like the people who live there have never actually owned their homes. There’s no question that the people whose homes this places in danger have done nothing to deserve having their lives turned upside down for someone’s “excellent investment opportunity”, but under capitalism, poverty itself is deemed worthy of punishment. If you get steamrolled by some corporation or an individual rich asshole, that’s your fault for not being rich enough to defend yourself. And yes, in case you were wondering, we have heard from one of the people affected, whose rent has been raised since the village was bought:

Sara Lewis, 55, who has a lung disease, has to use her oxygen bottle on the bench at Aberllefenni, Gwynedd.

Her rent has increased from £435 to £550 after her new landlord bought the property and 15 others in the village.

Walsh Investment Properties said the original rental amount – under a previous landlord – was “not sustainable”.

“My home is my haven,” said Ms Lewis, who has lived in the property, Glanyrafon, for 22 years.

“The furthest I’m going is the bench. If I belong anywhere, it’s Glanyrafon.

Ms Lewis receives £300 as part of her Universal Credit payment towards her monthly rent, and has recently heard that Gwynedd council will provide £100 of discretionary funding, which leaves her to find an extra £150 each month.

“I’m protesting about the [UK] government to begin with for this standard £300 a month rent, which is ridiculous, and against Gwynedd council.

“It’s so stressful. It’s just a horrible situation to be in.”

Ms Lewis, who cannot work because of her emphysema, has spent six hours each day sitting on the bench between last Monday and Friday.

She said that being out in the wind and the rain is affecting her health but she is prepared to continue next week.Walsh Investment Properties director Chris Walsh has previously said that most of the properties had been paying “a low rent for a number of years”, adding that was “not sustainable in the current economy [and] we feel it is fair and reasonable to charge a market rent”.

Fair and reasonable, because profit for the rich is more important than life for the poor.

Oh, did I say earlier that she’d done nothing wrong? I’m so sorry I lied to you about that – she committed the absolutely heinous act of being unable to work due to illness. This, of course, means that she must be turned out of her home, because only people who WORK deserve to live with dignity. You know, like the millionaire couple who bought her home and raised the rent:

Now, a report by the Daily Mail has depicted the lifestyle of the Chris and Lisa Walsh.

It claims that they enjoy a lavish life of travelling across the world, including Mrs Walsh posing for photos outside the five-star Bellagio in Las Vegas in 2019 and her Facebook cover photo backdrop being a stunning view of the Greek island of Santorini, reports NorthWalesLive.

Now, one should not trust the Daily Mail, in general, and maybe this is my bias speaking, but I’m inclined to believe them. Like I said at the top, being a landlord does not involve actual work, It’s just a way to profit off of the fact that an awful lot of us can’t afford to own our own homes, but if we don’t get shelter, we’ll probably die from exposure. To me, this story highlights the lie that anyone can get ahead under capitalism. The village was built, apparently as a sort of company town, in the 1500s, and its most recent owner was a slate company that was established in 1861. It seems unlikely that the people living in that village ever had a real opportunity to build wealth from their own labor, or own their homes. The jobs “created” by the wealthy only ever really benefit the wealthy, or those jobs wouldn’t exist. This is what it looks like when everything is built around money and those who hold the most of it- nobody has a right to live in dignity and security, unless they’re rich enough to profit off the labor and suffering of others.

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Environmental Racism Made Worse by Global Warming: West Coast Edition

One key to understanding the world as it exists today, is understanding that most of it has been shaped by white supremacy for most of the last few hundred years. That’s not the only factor, but it’s one of the biggest ones, and it is still an active ideology, in one form or another, in most of the ruling class of the so-called “West”. This doesn’t just affect non-white people in those countries, though, because the colonial empires – primarily the U.S. these days – still exert a great deal of control over the so-called “Global South”.

Environmental racism is one effect of white supremacy, both on the global scale, and on the local scale, as the least powerful are routinely forced to live with exposure to mine runoff, industrial chemicals, coal dust, traffic pollution, and more. When it comes to traffic pollution, keep in mind that a combination of segregation, redlining, and malice in designing the interstate highways system, black communities were very deliberately forced, by the government, to live with higher air pollution, on average, than white communities. As with climate change, none of us are safe from air pollution, but it is not a coincidence that in a country built on white supremacy, as the United States was, non-white people have it the worst.

I say “as with climate change”, but the reality is that climate change isn’t really separable from air pollution. Global warming, in a myriad of ways, both causes air pollution, and makes “existing” pollution more dangerous. I suspect one would find similar results around the globe, but for a local example of how this works, and how it relates to race, we can look at this study of how the rising temperature will make existing inequality worse:

“We have known that air pollution disproportionally impacts communities of color, the poor and communities that are already more likely to be impacted by other sources of environmental pollution,” said the study’s lead author Jordan Kern, assistant professor of forestry and environmental resources at NC State. “What we know now is that drought and heat waves makes things worse.”

For the study, researchers estimated emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter from power plants in California across 500 different scenarios for what the weather could look like in future years, which they called “synthetic weather years.” These years simulated conditions that could occur based on historical wind, air, temperature and solar radiation values on the West Coast between 1953 and 2008. Then by using information about the location of power plants in California and how much electricity they would be generating under different weather conditions, they estimated air pollution within individual counties.

They saw the worst air pollution in the hottest, driest years, which Kern said is due to the demand for more air conditioning during hot years. In addition, drought can impact the availability of hydropower. The excess electricity has to come from somewhere else, which is where fossil fuel plants come in.

“One of the things we were interested in was teasing apart the relative roles of drought, which can be chronic, lasting for months or years, versus heat waves, which can happen like a flash in a pan,” Kern said. “We found drought is a driver of chronic pollution exposure, but heat waves are responsible for these incredible spikes in emissions in a short period of time.”

They also saw that counties with a higher existing pollution burden were disproportionately impacted by pollution during drought and heat waves. Counties that were more diverse by race and ethnicity were also far more likely to be impacted by increased emissions from power plants during droughts and heat waves.

“The more diverse your county is by race and ethnicity, the more likely you are to be impacted by air pollution on an annual basis,” Kern said. “During a drought, the relationship is more pronounced.”

Ideally, those power plants will be replaced with nuclear and renewable power sources, but it doesn’t seem like our leaders are in any hurry to get that done, which means we’re still forced to deal with fossil fuel plants. This is also not a problem that can be viably solved by asking people to not use air conditioning, or by rationing power during heat waves, because those heat waves are getting longer, and hotter, and killing more people as the climate warms. We’ve always needed to adapt our surroundings to deal with temperature, but we’re entering the first phase of human history where increasing numbers of people will need access to artificial cooling to survive.

The study authors also explored policy scenarios, and found that taxing companies for pollution produced would help the problem except during heat waves, but you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I find that solution to be inadequate. As with the rail companies, power generation and distribution should be nationalized, as a first step in ending the use of fossil fuels. There may be a place for using taxation to gently guide corporate behavior, but this is not it. Even if I did not believe that electricity should be treated as a public good, these corporations have been continuously demonstrating, for longer than I’ve been alive, that they cannot be trusted to operate responsibly, or with any concern for the public good. Justice demands it, both as a response to the climate crisis, and as one very small step toward dealing with environmental racism.

Video: Life Atop a Glacier

The main reason that I’m convinced that life exists on other planets, is the sheer variety of environments on Earth that shelter life, seemingly against all odds. From the scalding waters of the sharkcano, to lakes entombed in ice, to the corrosive slim of Villa Luz, life finds a way. Today’s edition is similar to the Antarctic lake, but it’s further upstream, on the glaciers that feed such lakes, or that feed into the oceans. Unlike Lake Untersee, these communities are on the surface of the ice, which means a surprisingly diverse community for little puddles in glacial ice:

Cigna executives caught in “legally gray” cash grab

The fight over Obamacare was probably the first time I really came face to face with the corruption and dysfunction of our government, when it came to domestic policy. The Republicans, of course, had launched the scorched-earth obstructionism that has become their default when out of power, and Obama seemed to be looking for excuses to make concessions. Single-payer healthcare was taken off the table before negotiations even began, but of course that didn’t stop the GOP for ranting about how Obama was a Muslim socialist who would set up “death panels” to kill your grandparents (the GOP base). It’s ironic, but not surprising that in the years since, we’ve literally seen Republicans calling for senior citizens to die “for the economy”. Remember, kids, every conservative accusation is actually a confession.

It was Obama’s unwillingness to actually fight for a good healthcare system that really infuriated me. After it became obvious that taking single payer off the table won him zero credit or respect, he should have started playing hardball for a public option, as something to give up for a conservative concession if nothing else, but he refused to do that either. It was the same pattern we see today – the Democratic president says he wants to do something, but the right-wing members of his party have sided with the GOP, and won’t allow it, so there’s just nothing to be done. Seeing that same pattern play out again and again, even with a veteran politician like Biden, is part of why I’ve become convinced that the leadership of the Democratic Party has never intended to follow through on its promises to the left.

Even so, the fact remains that the Affordable Care Act really is an improvement over what came before. If you want an overview of that delightful arrangement, check out Michael Moore’s 2017 documentary Sicko. The problem is, while the ACA put limits on the ways that health insurers could scam their customers, it did not come close to solving the inherent problem of for-profit health insurance – it’s a parasitic middleman of an industry, whose profit comes from refusing to pay for healthcare.

Probably the nicest thing about leaving the United States was no longer having to deal with that country’s healthcare “system”. For all the improvements made under Obama, it’s still overpriced, and still riddled with traps and loopholes that force people to pay out of pocket for their own care, despite spending hundreds or thousands per month for insurance to avoid precisely that. The paperwork was also hell, whereas the “terrifying bureaucracy” of the NHS actually took pretty good care of me for a much lower price, with a fraction of the paperwork. Here in Ireland, I have to have private insurance, but because there’s a public system, the cost is a lot lower than anything in the US, for better hospital coverage, and, if I’m willing to wait, I can also get treatment etc. from the public system. It’s not perfect, but it’s so, so much better than what the US has, and I don’t really have to deal with things like surprise bills. Unfortunately, corporations back home are continuing with business as usual, and have been denying coverage for hundreds of thousands of people for basically no reason other than pure greed:

When a stubborn pain in Nick van Terheyden’s bones would not subside, his doctor had a hunch what was wrong.

Without enough vitamin D in the blood, the body will pull that vital nutrient from the bones. Left untreated, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.

A blood test in the fall of 2021 confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis, and van Terheyden expected his company’s insurance plan, managed by Cigna, to cover the cost of the bloodwork. Instead, Cigna sent van Terheyden a letter explaining that it would not pay for the $350 test because it was not “medically necessary.”

The letter was signed by one of Cigna’s medical directors, a doctor employed by the company to review insurance claims.

Something about the denial letter did not sit well with van Terheyden, a 58-year-old Maryland resident. “This was a clinical decision being second-guessed by someone with no knowledge of me,” said van Terheyden, a physician himself and a specialist who had worked in emergency care in the United Kingdom.

The vague wording made van Terheyden suspect that Dr. Cheryl Dopke, the medical director who signed it, had not taken much care with his case.

Van Terheyden was right to be suspicious. His claim was just one of roughly 60,000 that Dopke denied in a single month last year, according to internal Cigna records reviewed by ProPublica and The Capitol Forum.

The rejection of van Terheyden’s claim was typical for Cigna, one of the country’s largest insurers. The company has built a system that allows its doctors to instantly reject a claim on medical grounds without opening the patient file, leaving people with unexpected bills, according to corporate documents and interviews with former Cigna officials. Over a period of two months last year, Cigna doctors denied over 300,000 requests for payments using this method, spending an average of 1.2 seconds on each case, the documents show. The company has reported it covers or administers health care plans for 18 million people.

I don’t know the exact demographics of my readers, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that most of you know from experience what it’s like to be poor enough that an unexpected $300 bill is a nightmare. Cigna argues that they’re in the clear, morally speaking, because nobody was denied a service, but for a lot of people, forcing them to pay for that service, when they’re already paying you premiums every month, means they can’t afford something else that they needed. Or they just… don’t pay, and instead get harassed over it for years to come. If you think this “review” system seems illegal, you’re right – it does seem illegal. Cigna executives decided it was a legal grey zone, and their lawyers agreed, so they decided to grab the money (from their customers), and see if they could get away with it.

Within Cigna, some executives questioned whether rendering such speedy denials satisfied the law, according to one former executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because he still works with insurers.

“We thought it might fall into a legal gray zone,” said the former Cigna official, who helped conceive the program. “We sent the idea to legal, and they sent it back saying it was OK.”

Cigna adopted its review system more than a decade ago, but insurance executives say similar systems have existed in various forms throughout the industry.

In a written response, Cigna said the reporting by ProPublica and The Capitol Forum was “biased and incomplete.”

Cigna said its review system was created to “accelerate payment of claims for certain routine screenings,” Cigna wrote. “This allows us to automatically approve claims when they are submitted with correct diagnosis codes.”

Yes, I’m sure this was about providing better service, and not the estimated millions in savings from denied claims. Snark aside, I absolutely am sure that similar systems exist throughout the industry. Like I said, every for-profit health insurance corporation is a parasitic middleman. As a group, they have forced themselves into everyone’s lives, and because capitalism requires ever-increasing profits, they will never stop looking for ways to avoid paying for healthcare. They have also, while insisting ProPublica’s reporting is wrong, refused to answer questions or provide more information. The article digs much deeper into the issue that I’m going to here, but I wanted to highlight one bit:

Howrigon, the former Cigna executive, said that although he was not involved in developing PXDX, he can understand the economics behind it.

“Put yourself in the shoes of the insurer,” Howrigon said. “Why not just deny them all and see which ones come back on appeal? From a cost perspective, it makes sense.”

Cigna knows that many patients will pay such bills rather than deal with the hassle of appealing a rejection, according to Howrigon and other former employees of the company. The PXDX list is focused on tests and treatments that typically cost a few hundred dollars each, said former Cigna employees.

“Insurers are very good at knowing when they can deny a claim and patients will grumble but still write a check,” Howrigon said.

This is what capitalist “innovation” looks like, and it’s happening at every level of our society. You know how every customer service line is always experiencing higher call volumes than usual? Yeah, they’re lying to your face, and they know that you know they’re doing it. There is zero downside to under-staffing their customer service department. The long waits will make some people give up without even having to spend money discouraging them! And if it means customers are dissatisfied, what are they going to do, turn to a competitor? Everyone knows that this is just what the world is like now. They’re betting that we’ll go along because we don’t have the time or energy to fight, and most of the time, they win that bet. The same is true with banks and their myriad of fees. The basic model of banking, where you take deposited money and invest it to make a profit, never stopped being profitable. It never stopped being profitable enough that banks could give people interest back on the money held there. They don’t care how much money they have. They don’t care how little money you have. The only thing that matters to them is that they get more money, no matter the harm it does.

In 2014, Cigna considered adding a new procedure to the PXDX list to be flagged for automatic denials.

Autonomic nervous system testing can help tell if an ailing patient is suffering from nerve damage caused by diabetes or a variety of autoimmune diseases. It’s not a very involved procedure — taking about an hour — and it costs a few hundred dollars per test.

The test is versatile and noninvasive, requiring no needles. The patient goes through a handful of checks of heart rate, sweat response, equilibrium and other basic body functions.

At the time, Cigna was paying for every claim for the nerve test without bothering to look at the patient file, according to a corporate presentation. Cigna officials were weighing the cost and benefits of adding the procedure to the list. “What is happening now?” the presentation asked. “Pay for all conditions without review.”

By adding the nerve test to the PXDX list, Cigna officials estimated, the insurer would turn down more than 17,800 claims a year that it had once covered. It would pay for the test for certain conditions, but deny payment for others.

These denials would “create a negative customer experience” and a “potential for increased out of pocket costs,” the company presentation acknowledged.

But they would save roughly $2.4 million a year in medical costs, the presentation said.

Cigna added the test to the list.

The problem is that the greed of the capitalist class is insatiable and without conscience. They deny payments because they can. They create new fees because they can. They push the responsibility for making sure they do their jobs onto their customers, because what are you gonna do? Ask the government for help?

Well, sometimes. Several state officials have indicated that they’re going to look into this Cigna story, and that’s nice. I hope they do, and I hope this system is ended, and Cigna is forced to actually hire enough people to do the work they’re supposed to be doing. The problem is, I can almost guarantee that if they’re forced to pay a fine, it’ll be less than the profits they made from this, and they might fight even that, just to avoid setting the precedent that they can be held accountable for stealing from their customers.

Because that’s what this is. They are stealing from people to whom they absolutely owe money, and they are betting that the government – run by two parties that explicitly support capitalism – will claim that the law isn’t clear enough, so they can either continue doing it, or they simply have to stop doing it going forward. The game is rigged by the very nature of how our system is set up. If you steal a few hundred dollars from Cigna, you’ll get locked up, but if they do it to millions of people, not a single executive who made that decision will lose an ounce of freedom. At worst they’ll go from being obscenely rich to very, very slightly less obscenely rich. They don’t even risk becoming a normal person like the rest of us, so why wouldn’t they steal?

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Cops botch raid, sue homeowner for being mean

Still sick, but I think the congestion is clearing up. Not in a way that makes my head any less filled with sludge, but in a way that I’m not leaking as much.

On an unrelated note, a funny-not-funny story came across my twitter feed, and I figured I’d share it with you, my adoring readers. I’m generally pretty out of touch when it comes to pop culture, but I do remember the song Because I Got High coming around when I was in high school. Until today, that song (the version played on radio anyway) was all I really knew about the artist. I didn’t even know he went by “Afroman”.

Well, as it turns out, his home got raided last year by a whole bunch of cops apparently looking for narcotics and kidnapping victims. Like I said, I don’t know much about the guy. I think the odds are good that he had cannabis somewhere, which the U.S. government erroneously calls a “narcotic”, but I think it’s much more likely that someone lied in the process of getting the warrant. The thing is, Afroman had security cameras in his home, and so got footage of the cops breaking his gate, breaking down his door, going through all of his stuff, and taking at least some of the cash they found in the process. They also messed with his security cameras.

Now, my non-USian readers may not be aware of this, but in addition to the problem of white supremacy in law enforcement, cops also have a habit of raiding homes based on flimsy evidence (or just raiding the wrong homes), destroying property, traumatizing and sometimes assaulting or killing people, and leaving without an apology or any compensation for the destruction. I don’t know about you, but that would piss me off, and if I had video of someone breaking into my home and stealing my money – yeah, I’d probably post the footage and write about it. What I wouldn’t do is make a music video, because I am not a musician.

Afroman, on the other hand, is.

Now, if cops were halfway decent people, were at all secure in themselves, or had a sense of humor, they’d see the funny in this, and move on. They fucked up and it made them look bad. Unfortunately, it seems that all cops are, well… They’re suing him for emotional distress and violation of privacy because he filmed them breaking into his home on a bullshit warrant, and made a music video or two with the footage:

Seven members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office who raided Joseph Foreman’s home last year are now suing him claiming, among other things, that he invaded their privacy.

Four deputies, two sergeants and a detective are claiming Foreman (a.k.a. “Afroman”) took footage of their faces obtained during the raid and used it in music videos and social media posts without their consent, a misdemeanor violation under Ohio Revised Code.

They’re also suing on civil grounds, saying Foreman’s use of their faces (i.e. personas) in the videos and social media posts resulted in their “emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, loss of reputation and humiliation.”

The plaintiffs say they’re entitled to all of Foreman’s profits from his use of their personas. That includes, according to the complaint, proceeds from the songs, music videos and live event tickets as well as the promotion of Foreman’s “Afroman” brand, under which he sells beer, marijuana, t-shirts and other merchandise.

Oh yeah, that’s right – they broke into his home, traumatized his kids, broke the home itself, and stole money from him, knowing that there’s basically no way for them to be held accountable for damage or rights violations, but they are the victims here. I’m willing to bet that this lawsuit is both amplifying their humiliation far, far beyond what it otherwise would have been, and it’s probably also increasing Afroman’s profits from the whole affair. Maybe this whole thing would have gone better for them if they’d apologized and offered to help him repair his door.

On the question of “why was kidnapping on the warrant?”, I’m inclined to think that it was to justify a no-knock raid where they broke his door off its frame and went in with guns drawn. “Kidnapping” seems to be the go-to justification for violent raids. To me, that says they wanted an excuse to kill him, either “accidentally” or on purpose. I’m sort of dismissing the idea that they honestly had reason to believe there was a kidnapping victim there, not just because they didn’t find any evidence of it, but also because, as I’ve said before, cops lie all the time, get warrants for this shit far too easily, and suffer zero consequences for destroying homes and lives. At this point there’s far more reason to doubt cops than to believe anything they say.

Afroman’s response to the lawsuit sums things up well, I think:

“They can tear my door off the hinges, steal my money, disconnect my camera, and now in their lawsuit they’re saying I’m humiliating them,” Foreman tells Rolling Stone. “They humiliated me! So I guess I won the humiliation contest.”

Foreman was in Chicago when the cops raided his home on Aug. 21, 2022. His now ex-wife was there, however, and took several videos to accompany all the footage from the security cameras. Foreman says she also FaceTimed him so he could speak with one of the officers. He remembers asking the officer if they’d found anything, or if he was under arrest. He claims the officer replied “No” to both questions.

Foreman says he then asked, “Will you help me put my door back on the hinges?” The artist says the officer “cracked this grin, started waddling his head, and said, ‘I’m not required to do that.’”

That interaction provided the primary fodder for “Will You Help Me Repair My Door?,” with the song offering a comprehensive beat-by-beat breakdown of the raid. Foreman croons about — and shares actual video of — the cops searching his suit pockets and CD collection, disconnecting his security system, breaking down his front door, and allegedly taking his “legal, work-hard-everyday, pay-taxes money.” (The aforementioned money issue involved the Adams County Sheriff’s Office coming up $400 short when they returned the confiscated cash to Foreman last November; the issue was finally resolved in February after an independent investigation.)


Whatever money Foreman has made off the situation now appears to be in the crosshairs of the seven plaintiffs from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. The officers are seeking damages in excess of $25,000 on four of the counts listed in the suit, as well as attorneys fees, and a court order that would prohibit Foreman from publishing any other content related to the raid. (A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.)

Foreman, however, hardly seems phased. On Wednesday, March 22, he shared a statement from his lawyer, Anna Castellini, on Instagram, who said they’re awaiting the results of a public records request from Adams County and are “planning to counter sue for the unlawful raid, money being stolen, and for the undeniable damage this had on [Foreman’s] family, career and property.”

Because of the raid, and especially the issue over the confiscated cash, Foreman believes it’s important to “identify” the officers involved. “The public needs to know,” he says. “Because when they keep stuff quiet in little rooms, it might take a crazy turn. But when the public is aware, they go to do something that makes sense.”

These people are supposed to be public servants. We’re told every day that they protect and serve the people, even as it becomes more obvious every day that they serve the wealthy capitalist class, and the white supremacist hierarchy of the United States. In that interview, Afroman talks about how the stuff mentioned in Because I Got High, like missing court dates and having cars impounded, isn’t funny at all, but turning it into humor can be a way to process and cope with hard times. Likewise, having your kids and spouse held at gunpoint isn’t funny, but the songs that he made out of it absolutely are. I’m going to conclude with that, and leave you with what I would call the most angry of the songs I’ve heard about this (which is still an incredibly goofy music video). I think I would have just been angry, but he took something horrific, and made it funny.

Video: Gender Criticals Don’t Understand Female-Only Spaces

Every cavity in my skull is filled with gunk right now, so I’m doing the bare minimum and focusing on healing. I recently planted that pollinator garden I was totally gonna set up last spring (can’t imagine why anyone would think I had ADHD), and I’ll post pictures as soon as I figure out why my phone’s camera stopped working right after my last software update. The location gets limited sun, so I over-planted the seed mix, and I’ll thin things out if some plants clearly can’t handle the light conditions. That’s about as much consciousness as I’ve got to stream for you, so here’s Mica from Ponderful discussing the topic of female-only spaces: