The world is full of cheesy theses–those ridiculous theories that are far too often taken as fact, not on their merit, but because of who said them. On this episode of The Axiom Amnesia Theory, Heit & Cheri give you some real-life examples of the excuses and justifications people use to maintain classist and racist systems that target non-whites and the poor.

Topics discussed include the expected 5-month renovation of Chicago’s “L” train displacing tens of thousands of passengers in poor and predominantly Black neighborhoods, cities that criminalize homelessness, Wisconsin labeling certain cheeses as “junk food” when it comes to those receiving food stamps, Harvard students demanding an investigation into a 2009 thesis claiming that Hispanics have lower IQs, Michelle Obama’s thesis on attitudes changes in Black Princeton alumni over time, a segment run on “This American Life” about people receiving disability payments, and more!

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  • Today is Wednesday–“Hump Day!”
  • Discussion about the expected 5-month renovation of Chicago’s “L” train displacing tens of thousands of passengers in poor and predominantly Black neighborhoods.

    Chicago will shut down part of its “L” elevated rail system’s busiest line for five months starting on Sunday, forcing thousands of commuters to seek other routes and creating the biggest such U.S. transit disruption in two decades.
    The nation’s second-largest public transit system after New York will rebuild 10 miles of the “Red Line” on the city’s South Side, which passes through some predominantly poor and African-American neighborhoods.

    It will be the biggest U.S. public transit disruption for construction since the early 1990s, when another Chicago rail line closed for more than a year for repairs, according to Joseph Schwieterman, transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

    “It’s going to be a long slog for people,” said Schwieterman. But he and other transit experts agreed that a total shutdown for five months is better than four years of weekend repairs on the elevated line, which serves 80,000 people a day.
    Source: Reuters

  • Why has the line been neglected to the point that it needs FULL replacement now? It’s no coincidence that the areas serviced include poor and minority areas.
  • Are they going to give the cost savings to the hood? Of course not!
  • What will the train operators do during these five months?
  • There are people who say that their commute times will double as a result of the renovations.
  • Discussion about six cities that criminalize homelessness.

    The solutions to homelessness may not be simple, but that doesn’t mean we have to compound the problems. Yet that’s precisely the route that several of American cities have taken. Rather than finding ways to provide assistance to some of the country’s least fortunate citizens, lawmakers have developed strict regulations to criminalize homeless people’s activities, as if they were sleeping on the sidewalk and panhandling out of malice rather than necessity.

    Here are 6 cities that have tried to eliminate its homeless population – many of whom are either mentally ill, grappling with addiction, or facing financial woes – by declaring them criminals (Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t work):

    1. Los Angeles, California

    Advocacy groups have labeled L.A. the city that is the “meanest” toward homeless people. By prohibiting sleeping on sidewalks, holding belongings in certain public spaces, and asking passersby for change, the city has made life as difficult as possible for its homeless population.

    Perhaps most egregious is LAPD’s notorious “selective enforcement” of minor infractions like loitering and jaywalking. Homeless individuals in particular find themselves a target of these often overlooked crimes, resulting in fines they cannot pay and arrest. In fact, Los Angeles spends more money funding extra officers to monitor Skid Row (the area with the city’s highest concentration of homeless people) than it does on services for the homeless.

    2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Mayor Michael Nutter decided to ban “outdoor feeding of the homeless” to “prevent foodborne illness” and “help charitable agencies reach the homeless more easily.” While the first reason amounted to a lame excuse, the second proved to be just plain false. Hiding these services made them less accessible to those in need, and its real intentions were clear: move homeless individuals indoors so they are out of sight, out of mind to the general public. Church groups, however, have defied the law and continued to serve food outdoors anyway.

    3. Orlando, Florida

    Organizations in Orlando are facing similar problems due to the city’s ban on providing food to groups of people. Despite the law, volunteers at Food Not Bombs have continued offering free food in parks, claiming they won’t cower to an unjust law. This defiance has resulted in multiple arrests. In essence, the city has found a way to not only criminalize homelessness, but also criminalize people who offer aid to the less fortunate.

    4. Nevada City, California

    After the area’s homeless population grew in the past year, Police Chief James Wickham convinced the city council to pass new ordinances that banned people from setting up tents, sleeping in the woods and living in an automobile. While the city grants some exceptions to this law in the form of permits, since they are only offering 6-10 permits to a homeless population of at least 10 times that number, most of Nevada City’s homeless residents are subject to arrest.

    5. Kalamazoo, Michigan

    Though Kalamazoo cites its homeless population for trumped up infractions like the other cities, it also literally criminalizes them by turning something like sleeping on a park bench into a criminal charge, which stays on the individual’s permanent record. As a result, this criminal record prevents homeless people from obtaining housing, thus exacerbating their situation.

    The city also has a history of ticketing/arresting people waiting at bus stops police deemed were not actually waiting for the bus. Even after the citations were found to be discriminatory and dropped, similar citations have continued.

    6. St. Petersburg, Florida

    St. Petersburg has enacted harsh panhandling laws throughout the entire city. Those who are caught begging are fined $500 or sentenced to 90 days in jail. It’s a brutal tactic to drive impoverished people out of the city… or into prison.

    In fact, prison seems to be the city’s go-to approach. After the city banned outdoor sleeping entirely, police who find homeless individuals outside overnight give them an immediate proposition: find a space in a shelter, or come to jail.

  • There are more than six cities for sure.
  • Discussion about the homelessness itself not actually being criminalized, but rather the selective enforcement of minor laws.
  • Heit & Cheri mention seeing more and more signs that say that stealing shopping carts is against federal law. They are targeting poor people and the homeless, because these are the people who might take the carts.
  • Discussion about Wisconsin labeling certain cheeses as “junk food” when it comes to those receiving food stamps.

    Just when you think they’ve hit rock bottom in their hatred of poor people and stupidity comes this gem:

    Members of the state affairs committee are approving a bill that limits the amount of junk food that can be purchased with food stamp benefits
    “This bill does not allow for Wisconsinites who are utilizing the FoodShare program to purchase sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, shredded cheese or reduced sodium cheeses,” said State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee. (an opponent of the measure) “And I just want to indicate again how that hurts not just those individuals, those Wisconsinites using the FoodShare program…..but it hurts our dairy farmers.”
    (information in italics is my addition)
    Note that what we call “fake cheese” around here, like Velveeta and other “processed cheese products”, isn’t mentioned.

    Did they forget that Wisconsin is the nations Dairy State and that cheese is a dairy product? Did they forget that cheese has so much nutritional value it’s one of the primary foods on the WIC program that serves pregnant women and children? Did they forget that we love cheese so much that we wear plastic replicas of Swiss Cheese wedges on our heads at sporting events?

    No, they didn’t forget. They just hate poor people and put this in a bill that seriously limits what people can buy with food stamps. They’re sticking it to poor people again and likely catering to those makers of the real junk food “processed cheese product” cheese like Kraft.
    Source: Daily Kos

  • The irony here is that the junk cheese is the cheese that they approve for purchase with food stamps. The basically just don’t want poor people to be able to buy specialty cheese.
  • Discussion about Harvard students demanding an investigation into a 2009 thesis claiming that Hispanics have lower IQs.

    Over 1,000 Harvard students delivered a petition to Harvard University’s JFK School on Saturday, demanding an investigation into how and why the school approved a 2009 doctoral thesis arguing that Hispanics have lower IQs. The thesis was written by Jason Richwine, a co-author of a paper by the conservative Heritage Foundation that argued immigration reform would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion. The discovery of Richwine’s paper by the Washington Post sparked a firestorm around the Heritage study, and several days later Richwine resigned from the think tank.

    Now Harvard students want to know how a thesis built on those views and assumptions was able to make it through the approval process in the first place. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,’’ the petition read. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”

    Several days ago, 24 student groups at Harvard wrote a letter condeming the university’s approval of Richwine’s dissertation, saying it “debases” all their degrees.

    Richwine himself hit back at the students on Friday, suggesting their demands were an attack on free speech and academic inquiry. David Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy School, defended the committee that accepted Richwine’s thesis as “highly respected and discerning.” George Borjas, one of the members of that committee, characterized Richwine’s work as “sound.” Borjas himself previously lent his pen to arguments against immigration on economic grounds.
    Source: Think Progress

  • There are probably plenty of theses with this kind of B.S. in it. In this case, the writer probably supported the claim with lots of facts and figures. Of course, the thing they always overlook is that we are in a white capitalist system that puts non-whites at a disadvantage.
  • The implication that Hispanics are not as smart as white people is a lie. the claim is illegitimate.
  • Why did the committee approve this?
  • What f he was saying this about Blacks–which we have heard people say before? Cheri would be pissed off with the school because they would let this B.S. move forward.
  • Discussion about the writer of the thesis using the IQ claim as an argument against immigration.
  • Discussion about the politics of having a thesis approved.
  • Discussion about Michelle Obama’s thesis.

    Obama, who concentrated in sociology and received a certificate in African-American studies, examined how the attitudes of black alumni have changed over the course of their time at the University. “Will they become more or less motivated to benefit the Black community?” Obama wrote in her thesis.

    After surveying 89 black graduates, Obama concluded that attending the University as an undergraduate decreased the extent to which black alumni identified with the black community as a whole.

    Obama drew on her personal experiences as an example.

    “As I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates — acceptance to a prestigious graduate school or a high-paying position in a successful corporation,” she wrote, citing the University’s conservative values as a likely cause.

    “Predominately White universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the White students comprising the bulk of their enrollments,” she said, noting the small size of the African-American studies department and that there were only five black tenured professors at the University across all departments.

    Obama studied the attitudes of black Princeton alumni to determine what effect their time at Princeton had on their identification with the black community. “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before,” she wrote in her introduction. “I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong.”

    Much scrutiny and discussion has been focused on a single phrase contained within the thesis, the statement that “blacks must join in solidarity to combat a white oppressor.” This phrase has repeatedly been quoted out of context and presented as if it reflected Michelle Obama’s own philosophy, but in its full context it is clearly her speculation about what she thought some of the respondents she surveyed for her thesis (i.e., students who had attended Princeton in earlier years) might have been feeling:

    As discussed earlier, most respondents were attending Princeton during the 70’s, at a time when the Black Power Movement was still influencing the attitudes of many Blacks.

    It is possible that Black individuals either chose to or felt pressure to come together with other Blacks on campus because of the belief that Blacks must join in solidarity to combat a White oppressor. As the few blacks in a white environment it is understandable that respondents might have felt a need to look out for one another.

    Source: Snopes

  • The subject of the Obama’s thesis came up during the 2008 election, but it wasn’t released until after.
  • Discussion about Black elites are less motivated to benefit the Black community.
  • Discussion about people who feel like outsiders at home when they return home after college–friends who feel like you don’t fit in anymore.
  • Heit & Cheri discuss what it is like when they interact with their childhood friends.
  • Would you blame your childhood friends for not making better decisions?
  • You can’t set out to do that which you never imagined was a possibility.
  • Discussion about a segment run on “This American Life” about people receiving disability payments.

    The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money’s Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we’ve been hearing.
    Source: This American Life

  • Discussion about the things we were forced to learn in school that we have no use for and the things we find most valuable.

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