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Florida is still Florida.

Florida’s response to coronavirus is just what you’d expect.

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We haven’t talked about Florida in a minute so just in case you forgot they were still Florida:

52% of the workers at Orlando International Airport tested positive for COVID-19. (x)

There were almost 3,000 positive cases yesterday (the highest increase yet), while testing at roughly the same rate as a month ago (so the GOP “more testing means more cases” misdirect doesn’t even apply) and the governor says they’re not shutting down. (x)

Governor Ron DeSantis still looks like the kindergarten bully who didn’t get to help the teacher pass out the juice so he pees on the quiet kid.

 

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money

Fare evasion is none of your business.

Poor people are just doing their best to get by.

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I woke up to this tweet making the rounds.

 

A few hours later it’s already gone, and so is the rest of his account, because some people don’t like being confronted with counter-positions to their terrible opinions.

That’s beside the point though. I just wanted to take a moment to try explaining to this corner of the internet what it’s like to be poor and using transit in a metro area like DC or NYC or SF because a lot of people are just genuinely unaware of what it’s like. I lived it for years (I’m still poor for the record, but not Sleeping on a Mattress on the Floor in a Glorified Closet in a Building Where They Make Crack and Meth in the Basement kind of poor like I was) and a lot of people who get up in arms about fare evasion aren’t thinking about the people who evade fares.

Let’s get this out of the way: people with money jump the turnstiles too, in much fewer numbers, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen groups of white kids on the Upper West Side in (ugly) designer clothes hop over the turnstile to catch the train because they never take the train and they don’t have a Metrocard and can’t be bothered to do it “just this one time” with their friends on an outing somewhere. I’ve seen professionals wearing relatively expensive office gear run to catch the train and hop over the turnstile because if they stopped to refill their card they would miss their train.

I never see tweets about them. I only see tweets from white people in gentrified neighborhoods playing Captain SaveAMetro being “concerned” with a public entity losing $2 because someone didn’t pay their fare. Do I know for sure that’s what Andrew was referring to? No, but I do know that a few years ago, Columbia Heights was named one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in the country(x) and the Black population went from 58% in 2000 to 43% in 2010. (x)

Anyway, most people who jump the turnstiles aren’t doing it because they’re lazy and they’re not doing it for fun. They’re doing it because they have no other choice. Being poor is making calculated decisions with every penny you have. If you live in a metro area where public transit readily available think about the last trip you took to Target or a similar destination.

If you have your own car, you drove. That’s a luxury that the vast majority of poor people in densely populated areas do not have. We can’t afford a car and we definitely can’t afford to park it.

If you have enough disposable income, maybe you took an Uber. That $15 -$40 round trip (or more!) is two packs of toilet paper or a groceries for a week of dinner. Yeah it’s faster and more convenient, but if that’s not money you can afford to spend, you have to take public transit.

If you have a Metrocard you took the train both ways. That’s the cheapest option and that’s what most of us are left with…unless you don’t have enough to pay for both ways. Being poor means being creative and there were many times I figured out ways to avoid paying twice. In NYC, you can transfer from the subway to the bus for free and vice versa if you use your Metrocard within a couple of hours of swiping. This in place for people who don’t live in transit-heavy areas. If you live in Red Hook and work in Manhattan, you might need to take the bus to the train so you don’t have to walk a mile to the station and you shouldn’t have to pay twice for that. It inadvertently benefitted poor people, because cities don’t do anything for the express purpose of making life easier for poor people.  I would take the train to Target, do my shopping as quickly as possible, and then swipe my card again to take a bus home within the 2-hour transfer window. It would sometimes take me an extra hour to get home, but that’s money I could use to buy lunch the next day.

Another NYC hack from back in the day: there’s a free transfer between 59th/Lex and 63rd because the city wanted to make it convenient to go from the F at 63rd to the NQRW/456 at 59th, but the stations are four blocks away. If I could get what I needed from Target at Bed Bath & Beyond instead, I would take the train all the way into Manhattan and get off at 59th, go the Bed Bath & Beyond on 61st and First, shop as quickly as possible, and go back into the system at 63rd/Lex and take the F for free. I didn’t live anywhere near an F train so sometimes the trip home would take an extra half an hour but, again, I saved enough money for lunch.

If you’ve never paid for a McDouble with quarters, you’ve never had to think about saving $2.50 whenever you can.

So why was I buying McDonald’s instead of cooking? A few reasons.

I lived in an apartment with three other strangers, and nobody had pots and pans. I was working for barely more than minimum wage so I wasn’t able to actually save enough money to buy anything. I used my paychecks on bologna and ramen and made that stretch for a week because that equivalent cost in nutritious food would last for one meal, maybe two.

And I didn’t have time to cook. I worked three crappy jobs to make ends meet, so my day regularly started with waking up at 5am so I could be on the train by 530am and at my job before 7. I’d work from 7 to Noon at the first job (all shifts were less than 5.5 hours because any more than that and the job would have to pay you for an extra break or — god forbid — bump you up to fulltime and give you health benefits) and then hoof it to the next job. I’ve had jobs that were technically close enough to walk, so I would walk the twenty blocks to the next job if the weather was nice enough. If it wasn’t, I’d have to pay money (that I hadn’t budgeted for) to get to my next job, but more on that later. Let’s say the weather was nice. My shift started at 12:30 so I had thirty minutes to walk a mile and eat something. What was I going to eat that wasn’t crap? I can’t afford a $12 salad. I don’t have leftovers from the dinner I couldn’t afford to cook. Lunch was hitting up Wendy’s or McDonald’s for something cheap that I could buy with extra laundry quarters and then I’d clock in for my next 5 hour shift. Clock out at 5:30 and hoof it over to my 3rd job before 6. Same food situation. Same walking or train situation. Another five hours and then I’m on the train home around Midnight. I get home at 1am and, even if I had enough money for a fridge full of groceries, when would I have time to cook them?

I just want to paint the picture for people who’ve never been poor that this is what daily life is like when you are barely scraping by. If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck, but your day is an 8 hour shift in an office Monday – Friday, you don’t actually know how exhausting it is to truly live paycheck to paycheck. You probably haven’t actually lived paycheck to paycheck if you’ve never worked in a place where half the employees got these out of the vending machine on their break:

If your job doesn’t have these in the vending machine because they know their workforce is underpaid and stressed for time, you don’t need to be commenting about fare evasion.

So let’s get back to why someone would evade the fare.

If I just left my job in Soho and I need to get to my job in Chelsea, I could walk for 20-30 minutes, but it just started pouring rain. If I pay for the train, I can’t afford my 4 for $4 to power me through this next shift. I can’t call out because I need those hours on my next check in order to afford my rent, and that’s assuming I wouldn’t be fired for calling out anyway. So I jump the turnstile.

If I’m at home on my day off but one of my jobs calls me to come in, I could decline because I don’t have the subway fare, but that would mean missing out on an extra $50 in my check a couple of weeks from now. I could use some of the lunch money I allotted for the next few days, but what will I eat? Maybe I’ll just pay for a trip to work and then plan to walk back (something I did regularly back in the day — walk home for 3 hours after a shift because I couldn’t afford the fare and the weather was nice) but if work was exhausting or the weather was bad, I might hop the turnstile to come home.

If I’m out of a job but I get a job interview, I don’t want to walk there because I’ll be sweaty, but I need to go, because I need a job. I’m hopping the turnstile.

So maybe we should be more concerned about the reasons people hop the gate than whether the metro is getting their $2? And let’s be clear — they’re not out any money when someone evades the fare. If they didn’t have the money anyway, then no money was missed, because their options were riding for free or not riding at all. In both scenarios, the metro makes no money. And the cost of running a train is exactly the same whether it’s full or empty. So when you get upset about fare evasion, what are you really upset about? That poor people are getting something for free that you had to pay for? Take a beat and think about why that bothers you and then mind your business.

 

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Politics

GOP lawmakers don’t want metal detectors at the Capitol.

People broke into your job with weapons, but you don’t want metal detectors?

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Republican lawmakers are upset they have to wait in line to go through metal detectors at the Capitol.
 
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX): “You can’t stop me; I’m on my way to a vote.”
 
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ): “For members of Congress to enter the floor of the U.S. House, we now have to go through intense security measures, on top of the security we already go through. These new provisions include searches and being wanded like criminals. We now live in Pelosi’s communist America!”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA): It “impedes the ability of members to come and vote. This is our job.”
 
Non-Rep Rafi D’Angelo (D-Sitting On My Bed Right Now): “Are you fucking kidding me?”
 
I have to take my shoes off to get on an airplane because 20 years ago one guy on one plane tried to set off a shoe bomb.
 
Hundreds of terrorists were trying to beat y’all ass LAST WEEK at your job. What’s not clicking?
 
Where’s all this outrage over metal detectors when we want to get rid of guns so our CHILDREN don’t have to go through what you went through last week? Kids all over the country stand in line to go through a metal detector every single day just to get an education and y’all say that’s wonderful because you want zero restrictions on firearms.
 
Where’s all this outrage over standing in line to vote when people all over the country have to wait 7 or 8 hours to cast their ballot? Y’all put those obstacles there by design so you can win elections, but an “obstacle” that delays you 15 minutes and could save your life is a reach too far?
 
I hate them. Hate is such a strong word that I was taught not to use, but it’s really not strong enough at this point. I can’t muster up any other reaction toward people who consistently put this overinflated sense of faux-liberty above all else because it’s on brand for the message they’ve pumped into their followers. This is about their complete and total resistance to being told what to do by people they feel they have the right to boss around.  There’s a very clear thread between Karen yelling at Wal-Mart about being told to wear a mask and a Republican Representative yelling in the Capitol being told to go through a metal detector. Whether it’s because you make minimum wage at the register, you’re a security guard with a high school education, you’re a soyboy liberal whose unmasculine fear of dying makes you unpatriotic, or you’re a person of color asserting authority to enforce a rule, regulation, or mandate, Republicans think you are beneath them and refuse to be told what to do by someone they deem inferior for any reason.
Those metal detectors went up for their own protection, but they were put there by people inferior to them who did not ask their permission, and therefore, the metal detectors are evil and they will yell and stomp and walk around them and refuse to comply.
So…
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Crime

Cash bail is about privilege, not community safety.

Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and is walking around getting sponsorships.

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In 2010, Kalief Browder was arrested and eventually sent to Rikers Island for grand larceny. Robert Bautista called 911 and reported a robbery — two Black males had stolen his backpack that contained cash, a camera, and an iPod. Police said Browder fit the description and Bautista said Kalief was the robber, but police frisked Browder and he had nothing on him. Bautista said he was robbed two weeks ago (the date kept changing) and at one point said he wasn’t actually robbed, that it was just an attempted robbery. There were enough inconsistencies coupled with a lack of evidence that Browder most certainly would have been found not guilty at trial, but the police (in theory) can’t serve as judge and jury, so they arrested him, booked him, and threw him in jail.

The year before, Browder had pled guilty in a case where he was accused of stealing a bakery truck and crashing it into a vehicle. Browder said he was just a bystander, but took a plea deal to be sentenced as a minor as he had originally been charged as an adult. This charge meant Browder was on probation, so even though his family came up with the bail money to release him from Rikers while he awaited trial, the probation office blocked the request.

We have a kid who was afraid of going to trial as an adult and pled to a sentence as a minor for a non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit. Now he’s been accused of another non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit, and he’s being kept in jail, away from the public, because he’s a repeat offender who is a danger to society.

Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people on video. He loaded up his gun and had his mom drive him across state lines so he could get in on the action during a protest and intimidate strangers with his illegal weapon. He ultimately shot three of those people after a confrontation and two of them died.

Which one of them is a danger to society? Someone who allegedly crashed a van and allegedly stole a backpack, or someone who is on video shooting three people as the result of a confrontation he initiated by not minding his business?

According to the justice system, Kalief Browder is the danger because Kyle Rittenhouse is walking around free as a bird.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with killing two men during the Jacob Blake protests in Wisconsin this summer, made bail on Friday and walked out of jail, officials said.

MyPillow Inc. founder Mike Lindell and former “Silver Spoons” child actor Ricky Schroder played key roles in “putting us over the top” in coming up with $2 million for bail, according to Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Lin Wood.

(cont. NBC News)

Legally, bail is supposed to be determined by seriousness of the crime, ties to the community, the flight risk posed by the defendant, and the danger posed by the defendant to his or her community. Kyle Rittenhouse’s bail was $2 million as opposed to $10,000 because he murdered two people. However, in reality, the amount of bail set means nothing if it’s not pegged to the accused’s ability to raise that money. Bail for possession of a controlled substance is usually around $2,500 for a first offense. If you have no way to actually raise that money, it might as well be $2 million. There are no celebrities looking to donate to your cause when you’re in jail for carrying around cocaine you’d plan to take to a party. If you commit a murder for Amerikkka, people will raise money for you. If you get caught with cocaine on a night out, you may be stuck in jail for years.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “What I’ve Learned as a Black Man” about some of the ways being Black in America has altered my path from that of a white person in this country. I want to pull a little piece out for this.

—————————————————————

I was walking along 125th Street one night when four policemen came out of nowhere and told me to put my hands up because I fit the description of a robbery suspect in the area. This was around the time Kalief Browder had committed suicide after being released from Rikers because he had been locked up for three years for the crime of fitting a description. I thought that would be me. One of the cops slammed me up against a wall face first, which is what saved me. I had been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like this.

When he pushed my face into the wall, the cap was knocked off and my hair came tumbling out. I have a lot of hair.

The frisking stopped and one cop put their hands in my head to see if it was a wig that could be taken off. They were looking for a bald Black man and clearly that wasn’t me.

—————————————————————

I’ve been stopped and frisked by the NYPD five times over the past decade living here, but that was the first time I feared for my safety because there was nothing I personally could do to avoid being arrested. I could plead my innocence, but it wasn’t up to the cops to decide. I would be sent to jail, and as an underemployed Black man without a family living paycheck to paycheck in those days, I would have no way to raise any amount of bail.

I knew I was innocent, so I knew I wasn’t a threat to the community. I had no money, so I knew I wasn’t a flight risk. I knew that I was more afraid of the consequences of not showing up for my trial date than I was afraid of potentially being found guilty of something I didn’t do. But the system didn’t know that. The system would assign an arbitrary number as the price of my freedom, a number that I wouldn’t have been able to meet. I would have been sitting in jail, waiting for my case to go to trial. I would have lost my job because I couldn’t show up. I would have lost my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. After hopefully being found not-guilty, I would be sent back into the world homeless with no possessions, trying to start over, because I didn’t have the money to get me out of jail for a crime I didn’t commit.

And that’s the best case scenario with no money. If I was arrested today, there’s a decent chance I could die in jail, awaiting trial, after contracting coronavirus. Texas has more incarcerated coronavirus deaths than anywhere else in the country, and in the county jails, 80% of those deaths were people who haven’t been convicted of anything.

Over 230 people have died from Covid-19 in Texas’s correctional facilities — and in county jails, nearly 80 percent of them were in pretrial detention and hadn’t even been convicted of a crime, according to a new report.

The 231 figure is likely to be a conservative count. As the researchers note, TDCJ and county jails update death reports after autopsies are conducted, sometimes months after the fact. Additionally, many people have “died without ever having been tested for COVID,” and others died due to a preexisting conditioned worsened by the virus and are not counted in this figure.

(cont. VOX)

After homelessness or death, there is a third outcome, another extended consequence of being denied bail and incarcerated based on an accusation.

Kalief Browder sat in jail for three years while the prosecution delayed his trial. He was bullied, abused, and beaten by inmates and guards, spending a cumulative two years in solitary confinement. He attempted suicide three times while he was locked up, and a few months after his release (because Bautista went back to Mexico and the prosecution no longer had a witness), his tried again and was sent to a psychiatric facility. After two more stints at the facility, Kalief succeeded in taking his own life because he couldn’t move past the injustice that had happened to him. The City of New York paid his family $3.3 million last year in a civil suit, but no one has been held individually responsible for delaying his trial for three years and keeping him behind bars where he was tortured and abused and broken.

We don’t actually know how many people are in jail because they’re too poor to bail themselves out because there’s no standardized method set up for reporting that. An oft-reported figure of 450,000 people sitting in jail without having been convicted of a crime also includes people the justice system has deemed unbailable, which would have applied to Kalief Browder because he was denied bail due to his probation. There is a study that says 9 out of 10 felony defendants are too poor to meet the bail that has been set for them, so even without a specific number, we know that thousands and thousands and thousands of people can’t make bail. We also know from prison records that almost half of our prison population is behind bars due to drug offenses, meaning these are non-violent criminals who aren’t a high risk threat to the community. If 90% of people awaiting trial can’t afford bail and half the people passing through our legal system have drug charges, then 200,000 non-violent criminals are sitting in jails across the country, losing their jobs and their homes, contracting illnesses, and watching their mental health deteriorate sometimes past the point of no return, because they simply don’t have enough money to buy their freedom.

I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t have any hair, if I had been arrested and charged and given a bail amount that I couldn’t make, but I do know I wouldn’t be walking the streets of my community with sponsorships from coffeebrands.

 

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