Stop trying to justify the killings of unarmed black men

Here’s what happens: A black teenager or young adult is killed, sometimes it’s by law enforcement and sometimes it’s just some guy with a gun who’s pretending to be law enforcement, and a faction of white people feel it is their duty to justify the killing.

Regardless of whether it’s politically or racially driven,  it’s certainly disturbing.

First, they’ll dig up as much dirt on the young victim as they can, and then use it to defend the cold-blooded killing.

“See, he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt or stealing cigars or, gasp, walking down the street in broad daylight!”

Then they’ll start circulating photos of the victim that may paint him negatively. Because only black teens take photos of themselves flipping the bird and trying to look bad-ass.

Once this inevitably fails – because even most white people know an unarmed black teen shouldn’t face the death penalty for acting like a teenager – they move on to the strategy of finding as many possible instances of white people being killed by black people.

“See, it happens to white people, too. Why doesn’t the media cover those stories?”

And then, when they stop pretending to care about facts or justice, they start raising money or having rallies for the guy who killed the unarmed teen. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown, may just be able to retire early after all the donations he’s received – nearly half a million smackers – since gunning down Brown with six bullets.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

To my fellow whiteys: stop.

The stats are alarming, and they overwhelmingly contradict the argument that this isn’t about race.

African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people, and one third of black males will see prison time in their lives (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Black and white people use drugs at similar rates, yet black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for drugs (Human Rights Watch). African Americans serve about as much time in prison for a drug offense as white people do for a violent offense (Sentencing Project). For black men ages 20-24, the top cause of death is gun violence; they are four times more likely to be shot and killed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

And, in this month alone, five unarmed black men, including Michael Brown, have been killed by a police officer. One of those men was killed for the terrible offense of picking up a toy gun at a Walmart.

Just imagine if these numbers were reversed. Good God, if that were the case we might actually try to change them.

But, we continue to live in two different Americas when it comes to law enforcement, and instead of wanting to change this reality, a sizable number of white people either deny the disparities or try to justify them.

Yes, white people are unnecessarily killed too, and sometimes those killings don’t get as much national media attention. But that’s because, by and large, justice is served in those cases. Kill an unarmed white teenager, especially if you’re black, and you’re probably going to prison. There are hardly ever two sides to those stories. Heck, people actually mourn the victim instead of rationalize the killing.

But when someone like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown is killed, the goal of too many white people is not to seek justice, but instead to find justification.

And that is something we need to change if we want to call ourselves the United States of America.

A letter to the mayor of #Ferguson, Mo.

To the mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, an American city:

I plan on keeping this short, but I wanted to make sure I chimed in on this issue, as so many Americans – black, white, Asian, etc. – have been doing over the past few days.

An unarmed, 18-year-old boy, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by one of your police officers, while he was walking to his grandmothers house this past Saturday. Witnesses say Brown had his arms raised in the air before he was shot multiple times and left dead in the street for hours.

The citizens of your city – American citizens protected by the U.S. Constitution – decided to speak out since their representatives, you included, have done nothing to address their concerns. In response, the police department (although it resembles the military of a country like Iran or North Korea) has decided its most important concern is to smother any type of dissent that might shed light on what happened.

The police in your city have used tear gas, rubber/wooden bullets, and other violent methods to prevent people from exercising their rights. Reporters have been arrested and shot at for trying to shed light on this national disgrace, and police officers have arrested people for trying to take videos of the disgusting spectacle – a right that we all have.

Just now, I heard you say that you couldn’t possibly second guess those police officers. The American people see what is happening and ask, “why not?”

The people of Ferguson need to be allowed to voice their concerns, the police department needs to answer for what it did to an unarmed boy, and you need to step down. Only someone of complete and utter incompetence could let their city turn into the likes of a middle eastern war zone.

What you have allowed to happen in Ferguson has pushed us further toward a dark past that no American wants to experience again, and you should be thoroughly ashamed.

With much disappointment,

Sean Colarossi
American Citizen

The mayor of Ferguson, MO, James Knowles, can be contacted at jknowles@fergusoncity.com or 314-521-1043.

GOP senators to college students: Screw you

This is fairly simple: when a person takes out a loan, whether it’s for college tuition or a car, they have to pay an interest rate on that loan. Ideally, the borrower will find a reasonably low interest rate for paying back the borrowed money.

In the case of college tuition loans, millions of current or former students who have borrowed money are currently stuck with high interest rates, making it even more difficult to pay back this money. Many have been stuck with this debt for years and have interest rates higher than 7 percent.

So while we all agree that college tuition costs are absurdly high and need to be reined in, it’s important that, in the meantime, we try to ease the burden of these costs in other ways. After all, student loan debt in the U.S. weighs in at $1.2 trillion, the second largest source of consumer debt in the country. debt-2

This is where a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, comes into the fold.

Warren’s proposal is pretty straightforward: borrowers with student loans and higher interest rates would be able to refinance at a rate below 4 percent. The plan would have helped 25 million people save thousands over the length of their loan.

Sounds pretty sensible, right? And, if we had a more open-minded and practical political environment, it might not have even mattered if President Obama and a Democratic senator from Massachusetts were advocating for the proposal. But open-minded and practical are bad words to Republicans who are allergic to anything that the president supports.

As was the fate of so many Senate proposals, from background checks on gun purchases to health benefits for veterans, the bill will not advance. All “no” votes, as is usually the case, came from Republicans senators.

If you’re wondering why politics is so awful and such common-sense proposals keep dying in the Senate, just go onto Google and type, “Senate Republicans block…” The results are astounding: equal pay, jobs for veterans, tax breaks, minimum wage increase, etc.

Sadly, today’s vote to block another logical proposal is simply par for the GOP’s course.

A side note: three GOP senators exercised some bipartisanship and voted in favor of the student loan proposal – Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They deserve some praise.

Time to drop the ‘pro-life’ label

The issue of abortion rights has long been a source of heated debates in this country, from kitchen tables to congressional hearings. Many devoutly religious Americans, most of whom vote for Republican candidates in any given election, will not budge on this issue. They proudly claim, “I’m pro-life,” as if it’s a badge they’ve earned fighting in some noble war. But this issue hardly has to do with life, especially since there isn’t much science to support the idea that life begins at conception.prolife11

Still, these people will plaster bumper stickers all over their cars as a way to show how much more compassionate they are than the rest of us, simply because they oppose a medical procedure that some women in dire circumstances opt to receive.

But in instances that involve the actual protection of life, the Republican party and it’s self-righteous, pro-life supporters are nowhere to be found.

If you mention the death penalty in a room full of these folks, you’ll hear applause. Okay, so killing people is morally acceptable if you’re using it as a punishment for killing people. It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re now using questionable methods to carry out these executions, as long as these terrible people are killed. Heck, it doesn’t even matter that a percentage of those put to death actually end up being innocent. Oh well, I suppose, that’s a price worth paying.

How about health care? Jesus was a pretty big fan of providing free health care and healing the sick, was he not? So, anyone who wears the pro-life badge would love the idea of implementing health reforms that expand access to health care for millions more Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions and financial status, right?  Nope. President Obama signed it into law, so they’ll call it socialism, create a bunch of misinformation surrounding it, and do whatever they can to obstruct it. Opposition to the president trumps saving lives any day of the week.

Okay, but what about gun violence and mass shootings? Just today there was another shooting at a high school in Oregon, and that’s just one of at least 74 school shootings that have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Any group that calls itself pro-life couldn’t possibly support expanded access to weapons that are increasingly being used to kill American children, could they? Think again. In states where pro-life governors or legislators are in charge, gun laws have actually been weakened since the shooting in Newtown. Protecting life sounds good, but the NRA lining the pockets of these lawmakers is just a little bit better.

Food stamps to help families have a healthy meal? Nope, they want to cut funding for that. A strategy to combat climate change for future generations? Nah, they don’t even believe that the change in our climate is taking place.

Overall, these folks have done a pretty terrible job living up to the pro-life label they’ve so proudly given themselves.

So, to my Republican friends: I am not asking you to change your views; I know that’s simply not possible. Instead, I’m kindly asking you to drop the disingenuous “pro-life” moniker. It’s a catchy slogan, sure, but there is simply no evidence to support the idea that you care about saving a single life.

Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline

Over the last two years there has been a lot of talk about the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is a $5.4 billion project that would transport oil from Canada to the gulf coast. I’ve never professed my support or opposition to the project, but I did agree with the Obama administration’s decision to look into the consequences such a pipeline would have.

Two things about this debate are very clear:

  1. Republicans are vastly overhyping the impact that the construction of this pipeline would have on job creation and gas prices; it will result in few permanent jobs over the long term and won’t make a dent in the price we pay at the pump.
  2. Democrats are vastly overhyping the impact that the pipeline would have on the environment; it would not substantially increase carbon emissions or greenhouse gases.proposed-keystone-xl-pipeline

A report released by the State Department underscores each of these two points. The report not only found that a scant 35 permanent jobs would be created, but it also confirmed that carbon emissions would not dramatically increase either.

Regardless of the government’s ultimate decision regarding this pipeline, it’s clear that both sides are exaggerating the benefits or drawbacks of such a project – so I call it a wash on those points.

Ultimately, though, this oil is still going to be developed, with or without the government’s approval of the project. But I’d much rather see that energy transported through a pipeline that was built by American workers. Sure, the vast majority of those workers will be temporary, but I still consider temporary jobs better than no jobs at all.

If Keystone XL is constructed and maintained in a way that won’t harm the surrounding environment – which the State Department’s report says is possible – then I believe the Obama administration should approve it.

My letter to Congressman David Joyce (R-OH): Raise the minimum wage

Dear Congressman Joyce,

I am writing to implore you to be a leader within your party and vote in favor of legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

David Joyce

Not only would this legislation lift nearly a million fellow Americans out of poverty, but it would, as a result, reduce the amount of government spending that goes toward welfare benefits, food stamps, etc. Isn’t that a staple in the Republican platform – reducing the amount of people who depend on welfare checks?

Not only would it positively impact minimum wage workers, but it would have a positive ripple effect on those workers who make slightly more than minimum wage, resulting in higher wages for them, too.

A letter signed by over 600 economists outlines the guaranteed benefits of such a wage increase and explains how there is no evidence to suggest that it will negatively impact employment.

I voted for you in 2012, along with President Obama, thinking that you were qualified for the job and would do what’s best for middle- and low-income Americans. Unfortunately, you seemed to have been swallowed by the far-right faction of your party that now controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

Please consider leading your party away from their hyper-partisan, obstructionist agenda and vote in favor of a minimum wage increase that nearly three out of every four Americans support.

Thank you,

Sean Colarossi

David Joyce represents Ohio’s 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. You can contact him here: http://joyce.house.gov/contact/

Thoughts on Ukraine/Russia/Putin/GOP

  1. I’m sick and tired of Republican politicians in the United States actually praising Vladimir Putin as some figure of strength, simply because he’s in opposition to President Obama. He’s a thug who broke international law, and he shouldn’t be trusted. It’s amazing how far the GOP will go in order to oppose or attack the president. 
  2. To Fox News: I get that your purpose as a propaganda machine is to blame every ill in the world on our allegedly Kenyan president, but stop making it so obvious. For some reason, your network and your mindless viewers like to blame things like terrorist attacks or preemptive Russian invasions on Barack Obama. Have you ever tried blaming terrorists or dictators for their wrongdoings?
  3. Why do you think Putin isn’t taking the United States seriously when we tell him to deescalate? Do the morons who twice-elected George W. Bush seriously wonder why Putin isn’t listening to the country who created the debacle in Iraq? It turns out that when you start a war based on false pretenses, it takes some time before countries take you seriously again.
  4. If we listened to some people in the GOP – see Arizona Sen. John McCain – the United States would be balls deep in military conflicts with Syria, Iran, Libya and Russia by now. Most Americans support a foreign policy of thinking first and shooting later – especially after the last decade. It is not weakness to resist military action and pursue diplomatic solutions.
  5. Do you guys remember when the fools who supported George W. Bush called it treasonous to question their commander-in-chief during times of foreign conflict (see video above)? Keep in mind: this is the guy who oversaw the most deadly terrorist attack in our country’s history, waged a preemptive war in Iraq that was based on concocted “intelligence,” and strained some of our most important international alliances. Now these people are wondering, after over a decade of questionable American military involvement, why a thug like Vladimir Putin isn’t taking the United States seriously?

Sigh.