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Bjorn Against

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Member since: Mon May 22, 2006, 07:07 PM
Number of posts: 10,844

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Why I am standing by Trevor Noah despite his offensive Tweets

Comedy is often filled with offensive material, I don't know that there is a big name comedian out there who is both funny and consistently inoffensive. People have every right to be offended by certain types of humor and I don't think that we should be telling the people that are offended that they need to learn to take a joke. I am not here to defend Trevor Noah's tweets, some people are clearly offended by them and they have every right to be offended. What I am here to do however is to ask people to consider that we should not judge a comedian on the basis of a few bad jokes that were dug up by the media, instead we should look at that comedian's body of work in context and try to get an understanding of who the person really is.

Like most Americans I am just getting to learn about Trevor Noah, prior to yesterday I had only seen one of his segments on the Daily Show. Once I heard he had been selected as the new host I watched a few YouTube videos from him as well as a one hour stand up show that is currently streaming on Netflix. I watched his stand up before I saw the tweets and I am glad I did so because his stage act is far funnier and more insightful than anything you are going to find on a Twitter feed.

I encourage everyone to watch this video as it gives us a much better understanding of who Noah actually is than those Tweets do. This a man who grew up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa. Interracial relationships were illegal there at the time so he could never be seen with both parents in public, this is a guy who truly understands what it is like to face oppression. While he is able to joke about the horrors he faced living under apartheid it is also clear that behind his laughter is a guy who realizes that bigotry is deadly serious. In many ways that makes him the perfect host for the Daily Show, this is a show that makes jokes out of the worst things that are taking place in our society without trivializing the wrong doing.

It is easy to look at the tweets that have been dug out from Noah's Twitter account and think they represent his viewpoints, but I would caution against leaping to such a judgment without first becoming familiar with his particular brand of humor. Clearly the jokes in his tweets were unfunny and offensive, but every comedian has jokes that fail and those jokes often fail in ways that really get people upset. I know there were a few times in which I thought Jon Stewart really failed in his attempts at humor, but I can't judge him solely on the basis of the failed jokes he told.

I have heard many people say that these Tweets reinforce their opinion that Tina Fey should have gotten the job, and I will be the first to say that Tina Fey would have made a great host despite the fact that she is also facing accusations of bigotry right now. Yes, you read that right, Tina Fey is right now battling accusations of racism herself. There is a new show on Netflix called "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" which was written largely by Tina Fey and it is facing a lot of criticism for the racial stereotypes in the show. I just saw the first couple of episodes of the series and it is an incredibly funny show, but I can definitely see why some people might find it offensive. This is a comedy about a woman who kidnapped at age 13 and held prisoner for fifteen years by a cult leader who repeatedly raped her, when she escapes captivity she goes to live in New York with a flamboyant gay black man and then finds an Asian boyfriend named Dong. Just by reading that premise it should be clear that this show is going to spark some controversy. The show has received a great deal of critical acclaim and I am sure many people from the groups being stereotyped in the show will love it despite those offensive stereotypes, but there have been a number of people who have been very offended by Fey's writing. Those people are not wrong to be offended, but at the same time I am not going to pick out the offensive jokes that Tina Fey has made and pretend those jokes are representative of her work as a whole.

Al Franken has gone far beyond anything that either Trevor Noah or Tina Fey has said, while he was a writer for Saturday Night Live he made a joke about drugging and then raping Leslie Stahl. There was nothing funny about the joke at all, what he said was absolutely sick and disturbing. My mother and sister actually refused to vote for Franken in his first run for Senate because they were so offended by him. I tried to convince them that Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke he told as a comedian, but they are still upset about that bad joke to this day. I believe that they did both vote for Franken the second time around as they are both quite liberal, but they still have not totally forgiven him for his bad joke and I can understand where they are coming from.

I can also understand where Noah's critics are coming from, but just like I felt Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke I don't think Noah should either. All comedians who tackle controversial issues screw up some times and say things that they really should not say, but I think we do need to be somewhat forgiving and understand that we should not judge people on the worst things they have ever said. I know I have said some things that were pretty offensive in the past when I was trying to be funny and I would not want people to judge who I am as a person based on failed jokes that I have made, I think Trevor Noah deserves the opportunity to move on from his bad jokes as well.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Tue Mar 31, 2015, 07:50 PM (11 replies)

Minnesota State Democratic Chair speaks in support of Black Lives Matter Mall of America protesters

Earlier this week ten Minnesotans including influential civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds and nine other organizers with the Black Lives Matter movement were informed that they facing criminal prosecution. Their "crime" was organizing a peaceful protest at the Mall of America, a building that was built with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and just accepted another $250 million in tax breaks to build a major expansion.

Despite the fact that the public paid for a big chunk of the mall a foreign corporation claims private ownership of it and has set very strict rules to ensure that free speech is not exercised there, they are fine with it when people gather in the rotunda to rally for their favorite sports team but speaking in support of black lives is strictly prohibited.

Bloomington Attorney Sandra Johnson says that the protesters created a "tinderbox" that could have erupted at any moment. Never mind the fact that the protest already happened and was peaceful by all accounts with no property damage or injuries, but Sandra Johnson apparently considers too many black people gathered in one spot to create a "tinderbox".

Sandra Johnson does not just want to charge peaceful protesters as criminals for speaking out in support of black people in a place where doing so is strictly prohibited however, she also wants them to pay for the costs of the riot police that were sent to shut down the mall and intimidate the peaceful protesters.

Charging protesters for the cost of the riot police sent to intimidate them would set a very precedent of course and that is why people across the nation are standing in solidarity with the MOA 10 and demanding the charges against them be dropped.

Today we got a major new ally when Ken Martin chair of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party issued a surprisingly strong statement in support of the protesters who have been charged. Here are his words in full....

On this eve of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life I am reminded of some very simple but profound words from Dr. King who said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The recent decision by Bloomington City officials to prosecute organizers of the Mall of America protest is not only unjust – but frankly a threat to the very underpinning of our great democracy – the freedom of speech.

Thousands of Minnesotans from all walks of life gathered in a peaceful protest to bring awareness to the issues of inequity facing the African-American community, both here and around the country. Protests give people hope that in solidarity they can make their voices heard and be a catalyst for change within our communities. By charging the organizers of this protest, the City of Bloomington is, whether intentional or not, setting a very dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on non-violent protests. When you start to strip individuals of their right to be heard, you take away their hope that change is possible.

While the DFL recognizes that all lives matter, the alarming disparities which exist in our state for African-Americans is unacceptable and deserves acute attention by our community as a whole. The DFL strongly believes that black lives matter, and the short shrift that these growing disparities get by elected officials, community leaders, and the business community is not acceptable.

It is not acceptable that we have some of the highest graduation rates and test scores for white children yet some of the lowest graduation rates and test scores for African-American children. It is not acceptable that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation as a whole, but one of the highest percentages of unemployed African-American populations. It is not acceptable that in so many quality of life indicators the white population in this state is faring better than communities of color. And it is certainly not acceptable that we charge people with a crime for trying to bring awareness to the inequities which exist in this country.

Dr. King’s march for justice did not end with an assassin’s bullet 47 years ago. While we have made many strides over that time, the recent events suggest that the issues of racial equality are as important as they ever were. So much work remains to reach that promised land that Dr. King so eloquently spoke of.

Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, “You should not separate the life you lead from the words you speak.” As elected officials, community and business leaders gather this Monday to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I urge them to not just speak of racial equality but to live those words and work deliberatively and thoughtfully to address the growing disparities which exist within our community effecting communities of color and specifically the African-American community. It’s not enough to say that black lives matter, we must see actions that provide opportunity for all.


While I always vote Democratic I have often found myself frustrated by the silence of the party leaders when it comes to showing support for those who engage in peaceful protest. Today I am not feeling that frustration however, today I am proud of my state party chair for standing up for free speech and racial equality.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Fri Jan 16, 2015, 07:35 PM (1 replies)

We need to start recognizing the rights of the victims of "self defense" shootings.

Most people believe that we have a right to self defense, but rarely do we talk about the rights of those who are killed by a person who claims self defense.

While it is true that a person who is dead is unable to exercise their rights, I believe that any just legal system would treat them as if they did have rights. If I were ever killed by a person who claimed self defense I know that I would like to be treated as innocent until proven guilty after my death, I certainly would not want the courts to just take the shooter at his or her word when they claim I was a threat.

Looking at the killings of people like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and numerous other cases it is clear that all of these people were treated as if they have no rights what so ever. They were all treated as guilty until proven innocent and the right to "self defense" of their killers was placed above every last one of the victim's rights.

I think most of us can agree that there are certain cases in which self defense is justifiable, but I wish we could also agree that a person who was killed by someone who claims self defense should also have rights. Proof of their guilt should have to be provided, no one should be able to just gun a person down without being able to firmly establish that they posed a real threat. While people have the right to self defense that right should not outweigh every last one of the rights of the person they claim to have defended themself against.

We need laws in place which firmly establish rights for those who are killed by people who claim self defense, until we start respecting the rights of shooting victims we will keep seeing more Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sun Jan 11, 2015, 12:18 PM (8 replies)

Those who defend the murder of black people do not deserve respect, they deserve to be shunned

I hear a lot of people say that we should respect all opinions, but I don't believe that all opinions are worthy of respect. There is nothing respectable about racist opinions, nor is there anything respectable about promoting policies that harm others.

Those who come to this site to defend the murder of unarmed black men are not in the least bit worthy of respect, they are promoting a violent and racist ideology and there is no reason we should have to pretend that this dangerous ideology is a mere "difference of opinion".

I am sick of hearing racists scream about the "right to self defense" of those who murder unarmed black men, yet express absolutely zero concern for the rights of the black men who were shot.

I am sick of hearing the racists scream about an admitted killer like George Zimmerman being innocent until proven guilty while at the same time treating Trayvon Martin as guilty until proven innocent.

I am sick of seeing people being lectured about "not understanding the law" because they oppose a racist criminal justice system that punishes blacks far worse than it punishes whites.

I am sick of being told that we should not talk about race while racism continues to harm millions upon millions of Americans.

I am sick of being told that we are being uncivil for calling a racist a racist while those who express racist beliefs are not called out on their incivility.

The idea that we should respect all opinions may be good advice when it comes to opinions on matters such as musical tastes or other areas in which nobody is being harmed by another person's opinion, but it is not good advice when it comes to discussions of racism. There is no reason that we should respect racist opinions, and there is no reason that we should pretend the obviously racist opinion of someone who tries to justify gunning unarmed black men down in the streets is not actually racist.

Those who advocate for people like George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson are no better than those who advocated for lynchings in generations past. They are promoting a violent and racist ideology and it should not be tolerated by anyone.

It is an absolute shame that it is tolerated by DU.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sun Jan 4, 2015, 11:56 AM (62 replies)

I bet someone will be around shortly to demand we provide proof that this is racism

I am seeing more racism now than I have at any other time in my life, and I am also seeing more people denying racism exists than ever before. Racism is not limited to the south, it is a problem even in progressive Berkley and on DU as well.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sat Dec 13, 2014, 06:03 PM (1 replies)

They don't want small government, they want a government that kills black people and tortures

Looking at the news of the last couple of weeks I think it is important we notice that the people who scream the loudest insisting that we can't trust the government tend to be the same group of people who insist we trust the government completely when they torture people and shoot unarmed black men down in the streets. Let us be clear, these people do not actually want a small government, they want a repressive government in which the police are able to gun down civilians who pose them no threat, a government that bombs other countries and tortures their people, a government that restricts a woman's right to control her own body, a government that restricts marriage rights to those they deem worthy, a government that busts up unions, a government that pushes religion on its citizens, they want a government that protects the corporations and uses its heavy hand to keep citizens in line.

The right-wing does not want small government, they want a corporate oligarchy. I can't say I want a small government either because there are certain areas in which I want government to expand. I want a government in which all citizens are guaranteed access to health care and a quality education. I want a government that ensures that the wealthy are not able to exploit their workers or rip off consumers. I want a government that ensures that corporations are not allowed to destroy our environment. I want a government that serves the people rather than shoots the people, it is not about big government or small government it is about having a government that works to give its citizens a better life rather than a government that uses violence against its people.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Thu Dec 11, 2014, 09:12 PM (8 replies)

We don't need to reach out to the "center", we need to reach out to the common people

We are told after every election that we need to reach out to the "center" to win elections, but the "center" they define for us never represents the common person instead it represents the corporate interests.

The common person does not worry about whether or not the CEO of the company they work for has to pay a higher rate of taxes, they worry about whether or not they can make wages that provide their family with a decent quality of life.

The common person does not spend their time demanding spending cuts to poor people, the common person wants to live in a society where they don't have to see people suffering from poverty or other forms of hardship.

The common person does not run around demanding we allow industry to pollute more, the common person wants to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

The common person does not demand we bust up teacher's unions, the common person wants good schools for their children to attend.

The common person does not sit around cheering the money the CEOs of the health insurance companies pull in every year, the common person wants to be able to see a doctor without making an enormous financial sacrifice.

We don't need to reach out to the "center" that the media likes to pretend represent the common people, we need to reach out to the people who actually do represent the common people. It just so happens that the common people have a hell of a lot in common with progressives and we need to show them how progressive values will benefit them, once the common people see those benefits the Republicans will no longer be able to compete with us.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Wed Nov 5, 2014, 09:11 PM (21 replies)

I became a union member today along with 28,000 others in the biggest labor victory in MN history

We have heard far too many stories about unions coming under attack and suffering losses in recent years, it is about time that we get some really good labor news and I am very happy to report that today is a day that unions can celebrate.

Today the votes were counted in the largest union election in Minnesota history, and now there are 28,000 new SEIU members in Minnesota including myself. To put in perspective just how big of a victory this is, 28,000 workers represents a 10% increase in total union membership across Minnesota. At least in terms of numbers this is the biggest labor victory in Minnesota history and it happened with overwhelming support with 60% of Home Health Care workers voting to join the union.

As a Home Health Care worker I can tell you that this union badly needed. I work as a Personal Care Assistant for a four year old with cerebral palsy, I only work this job a very limited number of hours as I have another full time job that pays my bills. If I did have to survive on my income as a PCA however I don't think I could do it. The job only pays $11.00 an hour with no benefits what so ever and we are required to drive our clients to appointments but do not get reimbursed for gas money. We don't get any health insurance and receive no sick pay or vacation time. PCAs work with some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and yet without sick pay they are unable to take time off when they are sick and thus put their clients at risk of getting sick as well.

Now with a strong union victory and 28,000 workers behind us we can negotiate to change these conditions, and with the overwhelming mandate we received we will improve the working conditions for all Home Health Care workers and be able to provide better care for the people who receive our services as well.

Today is a great day for Minnesota and for the labor movement across the nation, the corporate powers can try all they want to destroy unions but if we can keep having victories like this one they will not be able to hold us back.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Tue Aug 26, 2014, 09:27 PM (82 replies)

We don't need to wait for any more facts to know that gunning down unarmed black men is wrong

People are trying to tell us we need to “wait for the facts”.

Well I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that it is wrong to shoot an unarmed man six times in the street.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that it is wrong to leave that unarmed man’s body lying in the street for four hours without even bothering to call an ambulance.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that it is wrong for the police to shoot peaceful protesters speaking out against the murder with tear gas and rubber bullets.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that it is wrong to arrest journalists who were trying to report on the murder.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that when the prosecutor comes out and defends the police who were arresting journalists and attacking protesters that prosecutor is not a neutral source that can be trusted to conduct a fair investigation.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that when the police refuse to release even the most basic information about the shooting yet will leak information that reflects Michael Brown in a negative light they are not conducting themselves in a trustworthy manner.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that we have a long history of racism in this country.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that many of the people defending the Ferguson Police Department are obvious racists.

I don’t need to wait for any more facts to know that I am sick and tired of people insisting that gunning down unarmed black men in the streets is in any way justifiable.

Yes, I realize that there are many facts that we don’t know and I want to learn those facts, but I am not about to pretend that we don’t know enough to be able to tell right from wrong. No matter what additional facts come out it will not justify shooting an unarmed person six times.

You won’t see the “wait for the facts” crowd in any thread about James Holmes or Dzokhar Tsarnaev telling us to wait for the facts on them despite the fact that they have yet to go to trial either, the “wait for the facts” crowd is very selective on which crimes they apply their logic to.

You certainly won’t see them telling us to wait for the facts in the next “self-defense” shooting either, many of them are among the same group of people who post celebratory threads in the gungeon whenever there is a news article about a person using a gun to defend themselves. The shooting victim in these cases did not face trial, but they are so certain of their guilt that they cheer their death based on a few words in a newspaper article.

Let us be clear: Darren Wilson has a right to a fair trial but he does not have the right to be free of criticism for his actions. The evidence is clear that he is a murderer and I am not going to feel any shame in calling him a murderer, nor am I going to feel any shame in stating plainly that I do not trust the police department and am not going to automatically accept the so-called “facts” that they are telling me to wait for.

The “wait for the facts” crowd wants to insist we wait patiently while journalists are being arrested when they try to get the facts to us. They want us to wait while the police incident report is being kept secret but the police are leaking details to smear Michael Brown. They want us to wait while the people who are speaking out are being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Well I for one have waited long enough, I want to see justice and I want to see it now.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Wed Aug 20, 2014, 06:47 PM (2 replies)

Racists are trying to portray Michael Brown as an animal just like they did to Trayvon Martin

So let me get this straight.

We are supposed to believe that Michael Brown first attacked Derek Wilson and tried to reach for his gun, but then he started to run away. After Brown gets a short distance away we are being told he changed his mind and decided to turn around and go back.


Are we really supposed to be so stupid to think Brown would change his mind and decide to run back towards the guy with a gun pointed at him? Unfortunately that is not even the only stupid thing we are being told to believe by Wilson's defenders, the next part of their story is even dumber.

Not only are we supposed to believe Brown decided to turn back after he already started running, but we are also supposed to believe he bent over and tried to charge the officer like he was some kind of animal. It is probably only a matter of time before the people arguing in Wilson's defense claim that Brown bared his teeth and growled like a rabid dog before he charged.

People actually expect us to "wait for the facts" on such an obvious piece of shit excuse like this? Sorry but I don't have to wait for any more facts to know that this is a bullshit story. The story has about as much plausibility as a claim that Brown was really killed by space aliens. It is absurd bullshit and I don't need to wait several months for a trial to tell me it is absurd bullshit. I fully support Officer Wilson's right to a fair trial, but when his defense is so damn stupid I am not going to pretend that I think there is a possibility that the murder of Michael Brown was justified in any way.

This story is just as absurd as George Zimmerman's story that Trayvon Martin jumped out of the bushes and repeatedly banged his head into the concrete. Again this is the sort of attack that sounds more like something an animal would do than a human would do, but racists consider black people to be animals so they embraced the accusation that Martin slammed Zimmerman's head into the concrete repeatedly no matter how absurd the accusation was.

Let's be clear; neither Brown nor Martin were animals and we should not be expected to believe they would attack people like animals. I don't need racists telling me to wait several months for the "facts" before I reject their racist bullshit.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Tue Aug 19, 2014, 11:12 PM (4 replies)
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