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Penn & Teller Bull****: Reparations - 05/15/06

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Penn & Teller Bull****: Reparations - 05/15/06

Old 05-15-06, 12:47 AM
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Penn & Teller Bull****: Reparations - 05/15/06

Showtime 9:00 CDT (Repeated one hour later)

Slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans (and the confiscation of their tribal land) and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II are three tragedies from this nation's past. However, are those who suffered as a result of these government policies, deserving of money - lots of money? They're called "reparations" and like the Indians and the Japanese before them, today many African Americans think the Federal Government (meaning Mr. And Mrs. Tax Payer) owes them money because their ancestors were once slaves. In this episode, BULLSHIT goes inside the reparations movements and uncovers the truths about the internment of Japanese Americans, Indian Casinos and the Federal Government's long history of correcting the historical wrongs associated with its institutional racism.
I do not think people should be "repaid" for wrongs done, not to them, but to their ancestors, nor that they should be "repaid" by those who did not do the wronging. Unfortunately, sometimes things are beyond fixing and life has to move on. Still, it's a sensitive issue and P&T have courage in taking it on. I'm interested in how they will handle this.

Next week: Manners.
Old 05-15-06, 01:01 AM
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Sounds kind of boring, actually.

(Manners could be amusing, though.)
Old 05-16-06, 01:15 AM
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I thought it was one of their better shows and it seemed to me that it hit every issue - blacks, Indians, Japanese - pretty well. As they said, the Japanese-Americans who were actually wronged were still alive and could be identified. I remember being happy for the reparations paid to them when that law was passed although it was certainly not perfect (all of us were taxed to pay for it and certainly not all of us were responsible for the wrongs).

I especially liked John McWhorter, the black fellow from the Manhattan Institute (another one of those libertarianish think tanks).
Old 05-16-06, 01:23 AM
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Wow, didn't know about the reparations law not being made into law until 1988. Better late than never, I guess.
Old 05-16-06, 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
I remember being happy for the reparations paid to them when that law was passed although it was certainly not perfect (all of us were taxed to pay for it and certainly not all of us were responsible for the wrongs).
I haven't watched it yet, but I am hopeful that they brought up how this should have been illegal under the constitution as they were American citizens who were protected under "equal protection" while slaves and Indians technically aren't.

Probably an insignificant point, but one that has always struck me. Especially when people claim that suddenly the Constitution is being trampled on.
Old 05-16-06, 08:20 AM
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My ex mother in law got WWII reparations. She's Japanese and her family was in Hawaii at the time. I think they lost farmland.
Old 05-16-06, 09:39 AM
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movielib

I thought it was one of their better shows and it seemed to me that it hit every issue - blacks, Indians, Japanese - pretty well. As they said, the Japanese-Americans who were actually wronged were still alive and could be identified. I remember being happy for the reparations paid to them when that law was passed although it was certainly not perfect (all of us were taxed to pay for it and certainly not all of us were responsible for the wrongs).

I especially liked John McWhorter, the black fellow from the Manhattan Institute (another one of those libertarianish think tanks).
I was surprised how good it was. I really wasn't expecting much, but they really did a good job with this one. Progressively getting "whiter" was hilarious, and the stuff with "Tonto" at the end was great.

McWhorter has always annoyed me, but he's often right.

das
Old 05-16-06, 03:24 PM
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Are all the current season aired-to-date eps now available on Comcast Sho-VOD?
Old 05-17-06, 02:04 AM
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Okay, finally caught it. Here are two thoughts....I was very happy with how they treated the Japanese deal. Also, the Black guy who was against reparations had one huge head compared to his body.
Old 05-17-06, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Also, the Black guy who was against reparations had one huge head compared to his body.
And tiny shoulders. Or huge hands. Or something. I'm not sure what was up with that guy, but he really freaked me out.

I'm still not any closer to figuring out what I think about reparations. I guess I'm not sure why a right to reparations should extinguish when you die even though almost every other right we have is inheritable. I mean, if I break into your house and steal your DVDs, and then you die, if they catch me, they'll give your DVDs to your heirs. They won't say "They were kvrdave's DVDs, not yours, so JasonF gets to keep them." So that part of the argument rings kind of hollow to me.

On the other hand, a lot of the pro-reparations people just look like they're trying to shake us (the U.S.) down. I know a horrible thing happened to your ancestors, but is it really constructive to spend your entire life demanding compensation for that horrible thing?
Old 05-17-06, 09:20 AM
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I think it is crazy to expect the taxpayers in general to pay, when so many have absolutely no link to slavery.

If it can be proven that an ancestor was a slave to a specific person/family, I can see maybe getting reparations from that specific person/family/estate.

But what about all the people from the North, who fought (and often died) in the Civil War, helping to end slavery? Shouldn't those families then be repaid by the descendents of the slaves they fought to free? Not only did my ancestors not own your ancestors, but my ancestors died fighting to free your ancestors! Who owes who money now?
Old 05-17-06, 01:15 PM
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Aside from the argument about people with no personal link to slavery paying other people with no personal link to slavery, I see a big problem with coming up with a proper amount.

Wealth has been tremendously fluid since 1865. There's a good chance that had reparations been paid at the close of the Civil War, nearly all of that money would be gone now. Though my family didn't have large-scale wealth when they came to the United States in the late 1800s, any family wealth they did have was wiped out in the Depression. And though, Post-World War II, some members of my family were able to recreate some of their wealth, none of it has ever really survived into a second generation (my grandfather built a construction company after the War, he sold it when he was in his 60s, had much of that money wiped out by illness and living expenses to the point where it was all gone and then some by the time my grandmother died thirty years later).

Most people don't have family wealth that dates back to before 1865. So, if the argument for reparations is based on the idea that, if not for slavery, all descendants of slaves would have built family wealth that would survive today, then it probably doesn't hold water.

If the argument is, instead, based on the idea that this is "we're sorry for what happened" payment, then that's a different argument.

A better argument for reparations to me would be based on the systematic denial of civil rights to African-Americans over our more-recent history. That would seem to have a more direct effect on the lack of built-up wealth that would currently survive than slavery (though one could argue that slavery is still connected to the civil rights struggles).
Old 05-17-06, 01:34 PM
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Anyone else remember the "Chappelle Show" segment about reparations -- looking at what actually might happen if the government just dropped a boatload of cash in every black American's pocket? I couldn't get that skit out of my mind during this show

Next week could be interesting. Some manners are just about being considerate to your fellow man, but some are really just ... well, bullshit. I hope they skewer the rule that says you have to tell people "God Bless You" after they sneeze, or else you're rude.
Old 05-17-06, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by brainee
Next week could be interesting. Some manners are just about being considerate to your fellow man, but some are really just ... well, bullshit. I hope they skewer the rule that says you have to tell people "God Bless You" after they sneeze, or else you're rude.
I once told a coworker after they blessed me that they didn't have to do that, since I wasn't too worried about evil spirits entering my body. She took offense and now very conspicuously does not bless me after I sneeze.
Old 05-17-06, 03:51 PM
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The "my ancestors didn't own slaves, so why should I pay" argument has never made sense to me -- and I say that as someone whose ancestors didn't own slaves.

Reparations are being paid by the government, not by the slaveowners (or their decendants). It doesn't matter whether any individual taxpayer is culpable (or descended from culpable parties) because reparation presume that the U.S. government is culpable. If the government decides reparations are warranted, then all of us who are citizens have to pay our fair share, just as all of us who are citizens have to pay our fair share of the Iraq War, or the Interstate Highway System, or any other government expenditure.

And yes, I know there's a libertarian response to that, but it's a separate issue from the question of the role one's history as the descendant of non-slaveholders (or members of the Union Army, or abolitionists, or whatever) should play in having to pay for reparations.
Old 05-17-06, 04:14 PM
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I would have no problem with reparations for people who were slaves. Not so much for distant relatives and people who may not even have had ancestors who were slaves.
Old 05-17-06, 08:52 PM
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What about instead of giving money...they just built some great institutions in the ghetto/projects? One big thing for many blacks (those who live in poverty) is that it's a cycle. And most of it--whether it's people in jail or girls getting pregnant or rampant drug use--is due because of a lack of hope/dreams. And mainly, a lack of education.

Even the schools that are there have awful resources, which help to create an environment that kids become indifferent to and ultimately drop out or don't try hard in. Instead of maybe coming up with a specific dollar amount for reparations, why not build schools, libraries etc where you can at the very least allow black people in need the hope for a better future...?

I'm black, 22, and middle class. I don't need reparations. But a lot of the race lives in some truly awful conditions. And I know that kids and young adults growing up in poverty and/or ghetto could most certainly benefit from better educational opportunities.

I know it's a mindset thing--you have to want to learn to benefit from school. You have to want to improve yourself for the future. But I know I'd feel 100 times more interested in learning from a nice, brand new school with new text books, desks, and facilities than one that's broken down and massively outdated.
Old 05-17-06, 10:46 PM
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I remember an episode of "The West Wing" where a man came to visit Josh to talk about reparations. He said they'd take the reparations in block grants and those kinds of investments in the communities. So, I have to assume that sort of idea has been kicked around in the real world, as well.

Of course, I don't understand why some inner city school districts are saddled with such poor facilities and materials. In my state, the Dallas Independent School District is the second most property rich district in the state (behind only Austin), but, for whatever reason, they're constantly pleading poverty while the relatively poorer suburbs are thought to be awash in cash.
Old 05-18-06, 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BigDan
Of course, I don't understand why some inner city school districts are saddled with such poor facilities and materials. In my state, the Dallas Independent School District is the second most property rich district in the state (behind only Austin), but, for whatever reason, they're constantly pleading poverty while the relatively poorer suburbs are thought to be awash in cash.
I would guess that the suburb schools do better on tests, and generally when you don't do well on tests, you blame it on funding.
Old 05-18-06, 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Breakfast with Girls
I once told a coworker after they blessed me that they didn't have to do that, since I wasn't too worried about evil spirits entering my body. She took offense and now very conspicuously does not bless me after I sneeze.
Perhaps she's come to the logical conclusion that it's too late, and you already are possessed by evil spirits?
Old 05-18-06, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
The "my ancestors didn't own slaves, so why should I pay" argument has never made sense to me -- and I say that as someone whose ancestors didn't own slaves.

Reparations are being paid by the government, not by the slaveowners (or their decendants). It doesn't matter whether any individual taxpayer is culpable (or descended from culpable parties) because reparation presume that the U.S. government is culpable. If the government decides reparations are warranted, then all of us who are citizens have to pay our fair share, just as all of us who are citizens have to pay our fair share of the Iraq War, or the Interstate Highway System, or any other government expenditure.

And yes, I know there's a libertarian response to that, but it's a separate issue from the question of the role one's history as the descendant of non-slaveholders (or members of the Union Army, or abolitionists, or whatever) should play in having to pay for reparations.
I guess it would depend on the argument. The gentleman on the show supporting reparations made the point that they deserve them because blacks worked for free for all of those years. But it wouldn't have been the government's responsibility to pay the slaves. That would have fallen on the owners. Therefore if this is some sort of backpay type situation as the proponent seems to contend, the slave owners (or their decendants) would need to pay.

Obviously, for most, reparations goes far beyond whether slaves worked for free or not, but I think he unintentionally set his argument up in a way that would let the government and the vast majority of taxpayers off the hook.

When we get into the past policies and actions of the government itself and not individuals, things change. And to that point, the government has sought to correct wrongs, as was stated on the show, with policies like Affirmative Action.

Great episode, by the way. It was sorely needed after the line of stinkers that they've had.
Old 05-31-06, 08:54 PM
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Very good episode. I know it is good when they have some asshole on like Dr. Worrill that makes me want to throw something at the TV. The difference btwn Japanese-American reparations vs Black-American is so crystal clear, yet people still don't want to acknowledge that difference.

The analysis of who was making money of the Indian casinos was good too. That being said, I for one am glad they were to build them. Unfortunately, why aren't there any Indians in a 100-mile radius around DC that could step up and be recognized?
Old 05-31-06, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
I haven't watched it yet, but I am hopeful that they brought up how this should have been illegal under the constitution as they were American citizens who were protected under "equal protection" while slaves and Indians technically aren't.

Probably an insignificant point, but one that has always struck me. Especially when people claim that suddenly the Constitution is being trampled on.

I wish they had brought that up too. Even though it was a deplorable act, slavery was a legal, constitutional act at the time. The deprivation of due process and illegal seizure of Japanese-Americans was so clearly unconstitutional, despite what the idiot FDR-Court appointees said in 1942 (the worst SCt decision ever).

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