The Long Climb Out of Homelessness


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On any given night in New York City, there are roughly 63,000 people in shelters, including approximately 23,000 homeless children. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of people currently sleeping in shelters is 82% higher than it was during the collapse of the housing market ten years ago. The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that more homeless people live in New York City than in any other city in the United States.

When we think of the homeless, we typically think of those commonly referred to as “street homeless”; that is, individuals sleeping on subway trains, alcoves of buildings, or anywhere else that might offer some semblance of shelter. But street homeless are only the most visible manifestation of this crisis. Recent estimates place the number of street homeless in New York City at just under 4,000; by contrast, in fiscal year 2017, nearly 130,000 men, women and children slept in the New York City shelter system. That means that for every homeless person finding some form of shelter on the street, there are thirty-three others without some form of stable housing.

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The Homeless Opioid Epidemic


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This post originally appeared at back in April; since the site folded, I’m reposting it here.

More than 115 Americans die every day as a result of opioid overdoses. But as is often the case, the attention paid to the opioid epidemic most often focuses on abuses of prescription pain medication by otherwise stable middle- or upper-class individuals. Less visible in this narrative are marginalized populations like the homeless, for whom opioid addiction is not a new phenomenon, but an ongoing crisis.

New York City is no exception. In 2016, overdose deaths — primarily from opioids — rose 46% from the previous year, prompting Mayor Bill De Blasio to increase spending to $36 million to address opioid addiction through the city’s Healing NYC program. The New York Times recently reported that city officials are cautiously optimistic about the program’s success, citing a “leveling off” in opioid-related deaths following a sharp increase in 2016.

This optimism is certainly well-founded. However, it overlooks data which suggests that opioid overdoses among the city’s homeless population are not falling. Quite the opposite, in fact: opioid overdoses among the homeless are rising at an alarming rate. The New York Daily News recently reported that there have been 81 opioid overdoses in the first four months of fiscal year 2018; compared to the same time period last year, when the shelter system reported just 12 overdoses, that represents a 575% increase.

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Abolish The Cash Bail System

This post originally appeared at WeStandUp back in March; since the site has folded, I’m reposting it here. 

Kalief Browder spent three years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

By now, his story is known to many: arrested in 2010 and charged with robbery, grand larceny and assault, the then-16-year-old Browder spent the next three years of his life imprisoned at Rikers Island. During his incarceration, Browder developed severe depression; his family attributes Browder’s depression — and multiple suicide attempts, both at Rikers and after his release — to the time Browder spent in solitary confinement. Following his release in 2013, Browder’s mental health continued to deteriorate. On June 6, 2015, one week after his 22nd birthday, Browder hanged himself from an air conditioning unit outside his bedroom window.

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4chan Is Trying To Get #NoMenMidterms Trending


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If you count yourself among the ranks of the Terminally Online, you may have seen a hashtag called “#NoMenMidterms” making the rounds over the past week or so. #NoMenMidterms is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a call for men or anyone who identifies as male to not vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Or, as a number of memes bearing the hashtag put it: “Sit this one out.”

Historically speaking, the Republican Party’s position on women’s rights ranges anywhere from indifference to complete disregard. As such, the strategy of achieving female empowerment by providing the GOP a clear path to victory in the midterms would seem a tad ill-advised. And with so much riding on the outcome of the 2018 midterms, who in the world would think forfeiting the elections to strike a blow against The Patriarchy™ is a good idea? More to the point, how does encouraging women to vote for a slate of largely-male candidates even achieve that goal?

To normal people, this suggestion is incomprehensible. But to the aggrieved trolls of 4chan’s /pol/, it’s the perfect ruse to prevent Democrats from regaining control of the House and Senate.

A Google search of “NoMenMidterms” yields relatively few (for Google) results, but what does show up is telling. The first mention of it occurred on July 17th /pol/, when a user posted a blank meme template and urged others to “Create these and spread them over Twitter under the tag #NoMenMidTerms.” The plan soon migrated to Reddit, finding a home at r/The_Donald, Reddit’s one-stop shop for racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.

A Twitter account called @NMidterms, was also recently created, seemingly for the purpose of propagating use of #NoMenMidterms. The account’s bio identifies the user as a “Proud Latinx de Mexico” and uses the hashtags #Democrats, #NoMenMidterms and #DemocraticSocialism. That someone would identify with both the Democrats and the DSA, given the latter’s unbridled disdain for the former is curious; even more eyebrow-raising, however, are the accounts with whom @NMidterms interacts.

The most recent activity on the @NMidterms page is a retweet of a user called @AntifaBranson:

The @AntifaBranson account was created in 2009, and until late last month, most of the account’s tweets were bog-standard conservative “humor”:

A day after /pol/ unveiled its grand plan, however, the tone shifted from thinly-veiled mockery to earnest cosplaying as a leftist. But, because the folks on r/The_Donald and /pol/ would rather spend their time constructing the perfect leftist straw man than actually trying to understand leftists, the result is a mishmash of incompatible ideologies. For example, it is highly unlikely that a self-proclaimed member of Antifa would list “#TheResistance” in their bio, considering Antifa hold just as much disdain for establishment/centrist Democrats as they do for Republicans.

Meanwhile, on @NMidterms’ page, the account’s tweets have garnered likes from people who don’t normally support progressive or leftist politics: there’s a flat-earth truther, multiple accounts railing against George Soros and the Deep State, the aforementioned @AntifaBranson, and at least one account with a Kekistan avatar. (Kekistan is the fictional country adopted by alt-right trolls.)

On its face, the plan and its execution leave something to be desired; anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the difference between, say, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton would be able to sniff out a fraud. But /pol/ isn’t trying to pass the smell test with leftists. Instead, they’re banking on the inevitability of Poe’s Law: the idea that unless satire is explicitly labeled as such, there will always be those who believe it to be true.

The larger question is, what is the point of this?  The answer varies from person to person. For some, the purpose is political: they despise the left and want progressive policies to fail. If those policies fail because Democrats can’t retake Congress, great; if they fail because the general public believes that supporting Democratic candidates is a losing proposition, so much the better. For others, the politics of it all are beside the point; they merely want to stir up some shit and make people angry. The act of trolling is its own justification.

Thus far, the #NoMenMidterms hashtag hasn’t taken off, and analytics show its use has declined since the initial spike. Considering that r/The_Donald and /pol/ are pushing this strategy, it’s possible that the hashtag will see a resurgence will in the near future. And, as more than one 4chan poster pointed out, the hashtag could theoretically catch on with an unlikely crowd: #Resistance Twitter.

So named for their unyielding commitment to “resisting” Donald Trump’s policies, #Resistance Twitter is in the business of pretending that every problem in America magically appeared on January 20, 2017. Of course, these problems have existed for decades — the only difference is under Trump, it’s a lot more difficult to ignore them. Members of #Resistance Twitter firmly believe that the investigative work of lunatics like Eric Garland and Louise Mensch will be the undoing of the Trump administration. They’re the kind of people who believe Robert Mueller will fix everything, instead of acknowledging that American political discourse has become at once frighteningly toxic and profoundly stupid. They say things like “At least George W. Bush was a good man!” They teared up when Kate McKinnon dressed up as Hillary Clinton and sang “Hallelujah” on SNL.

These people, more than any other group, are the most likely to fall for 4chan’s ruse. #Resistance Twitter is bursting at the seams with people who attended the Women’s March (or totally would have, but traffic was just TERRIBLE) and spent the whole time taking Instagram shots to demonstrate off their nascent — and trendy — political awareness. These people can afford to act in half-measures because their economic and/or racial status inoculates them against the Trump administration’s most harmful policies. They’re insulated enough from reality that an expression of performative wokeness is worth two more years of a GOP-led Congress.

Even if it doesn’t catch on with the #StillWithHer set, the idea is just clever enough to trick the dumbest — and loudest — among us. Once that happens, it will become one of those pernicious myths that bounces around the internet. Conservatives will dredge it up whenever they need evidence of PC culture run amok or of liberalism as a mental disorder. Nobody on the right will bother to investigate the origin of the hashtag; why spoil a perfectly good talking point?

If this one doesn’t stick, they’ll just keep trying until they find one that does, because ultimately, the goal isn’t to actually convince left-leaning male voters to stay home. The goal is to sow confusion, to stoke anti-progressive sentiment, and to paint anyone left of Newt Gingrich as a hyper-PC reactionary. For the apolitical members of /pol/ (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one), pissing people off is reward enough.

The lesson, as always: don’t feed the trolls.

Conservatives Want A Right-Wing Version of ‘SNL,’ Which…Sure, Okay


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Saturday Night Live has been a staple of American television for nearly a half-century. Which is kind of a weird thing to write, because hardly anybody seems to actually enjoy the show. Even when the show is firing on all cylinders (and I honestly can’t recall the last time that happened), the general praise is that it reminded the viewer of the show’s golden years.

It’s usually not a good sign when the most fervent praise you can offer a show is “A reasonable facsimile of the heights already achieved by the show in seasons past.” Nevertheless, despite perpetually being two or three years removed from when it was good, SNL somehow remains on the air.

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The Overlooked Savagery of “The Story of Adidon”


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Drake Blackface.jpg

Technically speaking, the beef between Pusha T and Drake is really a proxy war. In 2002, the duo Clipse (comprised of Pusha and his brother, then known as Malice) guest-starred on the track “What Happened To That Boy” by Birdman, the head of Cash Money Records and Drake’s boss.

The track was produced by Pharrell, who had discovered and signed Clipse to his own record label; according to Pusha, Birdman never paid Pharrell for his production work. So, out of a sense of loyalty to Pharrell – who is too easygoing to engage in this kind of dispute – Pusha adopted the beef as his own. (The Washington Post put together a nice timeline if you want to follow along.)

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Kanye West Is An Empty Vessel


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I’m standing up and I’m telling you, I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare, in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google…

-Kanye West, Creator of the Yeezy, 2013

The last time we heard from Kanye West, he was unleashing a tirade at a show in November 2016, during which he called out Jay Z and Beyoncé, proudly proclaimed he would have voted for Donald Trump (West didn’t vote), then abruptly ended the show after four songs.

At the time, it was the latest in an ongoing string of very public meltdowns, and a few weeks after that show, West was hospitalized for mental health issues. West receded from the public eye for a while, and given the news about his mental breakdown, the public was willing to attribute his previous crack-ups to a manifestation of untreated mental illness.

Last week, however, Kanye West resurfaced, and as the kids say, he’s on one.

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Why Trump’s Plan To Arm Teachers Is So Goddamned Dumb


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This post originally appeared on News Cult; since they apparently didn’t pay their hosting fees, I’m reposting it here.

Last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has left the country searching for answers.

Thus far, however, no acceptable solutions have been presented. (Except, of course, for the obvious ones, which inevitably prompt Second Amendment acolytes to say No no, not that answer, another one, one that doesn’t require people to relinquish their God-given right to play Bang-Bang Cowboy in the woods.)

Fortunately, our country is led by a shit-for-brains whose extensive experience as the father of two trophy-hunting scumbags (three if you count Ivanka, heyoooo). And our dumb as hell president has just the ticket to solve all these pesky school shootings: Arm the teachers.

Needless to say, it won’t work. Here’s why.

It’s A Dumb Tactical Move

From a purely strategic standpoint, giving teachers guns is a piss-poor idea.

Trump has attempted to buttress this idea by saying that “only 20%” of teachers would actually have concealed weapons. In Trump’s mind, I assume, that element of surprise would further deter would-be school shooters from carrying out their plans.

First of all: no it wouldn’t. It would simply mean that school shooters would be sure to arm themselves with an even larger arsenal and/or wear protective gear. Because what school shootings really need is not just a maniac wielding an AR-15 — it’s a maniac wielding an AR-15 and wearing this.

Plus, what happens when an actual school shooting starts? Are we really expecting a teacher armed with a pistol to confront someone toting a literal weapon of war? Some cops feel overmatched against an AR-15; in fact, police officers in South Carolina have started bringing their own AR-15s to work, because they’re so concerned that their department-issued shotguns won’t be enough to stop someone with an AR-15.

Finally, if a school shooting did occur, how would the police know that the teacher blindly a pistol is actually a teacher?

Armed Guards Don’t Deter Anyone

If the Columbine school shooting in 1999 should have taught us anything, it’s that most mass shooters carry out their plans fully expecting not to live through them.

Pulse Nightclub, the site of the 2016 mass shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others, had armed security. The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, where Stephen Paddock set up his arsenal to gun down 58 concertgoers, has, to quote Ocean’s Eleven, enough armed personnel to occupy Paris. Fort Hood, the site of two mass shootings — one in 2009, which killed 13 people, and one in 2014, which killed three people — is an Army base.

Arming teachers only sounds like an effective deterrent for would-be murderers if you believe that someone willing to shoot up a school full of innocent children is rational enough to perform a cost-benefit analysis. In other words, it only sounds effective if you’re an idiot.

Teachers Aren’t Qualified To Carry Weapons

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed deputy on campus; the deputy did not act when the shooting started. Nobody can say for sure why, although Trump seems to think it’s because the deputy “didn’t have the courage” and “doesn’t love the children.” (This has been your periodic reminder that Donald Trump is a thoroughly detestable human being.) The exact reason for the deputy’s inaction will probably remain a mystery to everyone except the deputy, but it’s entirely feasible that the deputy either felt overmatched or simply froze when it happened.

If a person with extensive training specifically for such situations wasn’t able to act, whatever the reason, from where are we drawing the conclusion that a teacher would perform much better in a similar situation? More to the point…

Schools Aren’t Fucking Prisons

Many of the politicians supporting this argument do so by using some form of the argument that our precious children should be able to learn in peace. What these politicians — whose own children are either grown, attend private schools, or have some form of personal security — haven’t once acknowledged is that schools with armed guards, bars on the windows, and a local police force with itchy trigger fingers just a few minutes away aren’t schools at all. They’re prisons.

Writer Rob Whisman summed it up best:

And last but not least:

This Solution Only Addresses School Shootings

School shootings capture the most media attention because the victims — children — are universally sympathetic figures.

It’s a bizarre line to draw in the sand, because it implicitly argues that adult victims of mass shootings are somehow less innocent than children; moreover, it argues that shitty adults deserve to die by a random stranger’s hail of gunfire.

Even as just a solution for school shootings, Trump’s proposal is breathtakingly empty-headed. What makes it worse is that it does absolutely nothing to address the mass shooting epidemic in America writ large; in fact, Trump’s proposal reframes the debate, casting school shootings as bad and every other kind of violent massacre as “Eh, that’s America for ya. POBODY’S NERFECT.”

Innocent people are being gunned down across the country: in nightclubs, at outdoor concerts, on military bases, at church, you name it. No mass shooting should be acceptable, regardless of the setting in which it takes place.

A natural outgrowth of Trump’s proposal for schools will be that everyone has to carry guns at all times, and if they don’t, it’s their own damn fault. I don’t want to live my day-to-day life like a character in a fucking John Woo film, waiting for a gun battle to break out at any moment.

Do you?

Is Healthcare a Privilege or a Right?


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Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the GOP has spent the majority of its legislative efforts on one thing: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Thus far, their efforts have been for naught; the ACA has remained the law of the land, though not for lack of trying on the part of congressional Republicans.

I’ve written extensively on this topic in the past, so a rehash of the various arguments seems fruitless; moreover, these arguments are primarily focused on the legislative ins and outs of the bills introduced by the GOP thus far. And though it is worthwhile to discuss the nitty-gritty elements of how these bills might work in practice, the underlying question is more important: should healthcare be considered a privilege or a right?

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