ORANGE MAY BE THE NEW BLACK, BUT CARSON WILL NOT

I just read a story that there is a group headed by John Philip Sousa IV raising money in an effort to back a run for President By Dr, Ben Carson in 2016.  http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/ben-carson-is-raking-in-more-money-than-hillary-clinton-or-rand-paul-for-2016-20140418

Carson, of course, is the retired physician—brilliant in that role—who has demonstrated either total ignorance of history in relation to current political issues or else is a demagogue cynically making unfounded accusations about the Obama administration, especially the Affordable Care Act, to further some illogical agenda.

Not that I think he has a rat’s ass chance in hell to get nominated for many reasons, but if he or his supporters honestly believe he is a viable candidate for the Republican Party’s ticket they are woefully naive and not as smart as any of them think they are.

Carson may have received praise for his statements by many conservatives and FOX NEWS as well as having been the subject of internet memes trotted out to demonstrate how racially blind they are but to expect Republicans to actually desire to have another black man in the White House shows how detached from reality his bloc is.

He’s fine for the right as a symbol of supposed non-bias as a spokesman but there is no way in hell they want to have the most powerful person in the world not share their whiteness.

Hope you have a good retirement package, Ben. And I hope you realize that your calls will no longer be returned once another white person is CINC.

DEATH BE NOT PROUD

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and souls deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more, death thou shalt die!

John Donne c.1610

When Donne penned those lines he was challenging death and asserting that…ultimately…it brought peace, just as do rest and sleep. But I borrow and reinterpret them to bolster my ongoing crusade against the death penalty. For in those cases death is not the end of a criminal act that destroys human life and devalues cultural standards of accepted behavior. Instead capital punishment—death—diminishes our very souls and perpetuates what far too often is injustice, misjustice, maljustice, faux justice, and no justice at all.

See http://umoc193.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/death-kills/

Yet to hear prosecuting attorneys, law enforcement people, and the families and friends of victims speak when a death sentence is imposed, they generally express gladness at or satisfaction with the impending taking of another human life, one snuffed out in pure revenge, a revenge that in the case of multiple victims doesn’t even extract one life in exchange for the innocent life lost in equal proportions.

The hell of it is, the application of the death penalty is at once both utterly random and appallingly, egregiously discriminatory.

Fact: The number of murders in this country committed by blacks and by whites is roughly equal.

Fact: The number of murderers on death row who are white are roughly equal to the number who are black.

Fact: 75% of the victims in the cases that brought the death sentence were white and only 25% black.

It appears that white lives are valued more than black ones.

The proportion of death row occupants as well as the numbers of murder committed by members of other minorities is small enough to be irrelevant to the particular issue at hand. And that issue is the finding that frequently in the cases where the ultimate punishment is sought against blacks, the jury gets rigged to limit the number of or exclude altogether, black jurors.

Barry Scheck, head of The Innocence Project, explains all this in regards to a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court. http://www.salon.com/2014/04/15/barry_scheck_stunning_new_case_highlights_how_race_bias_corrupts_juries/

Basically the case involves three blacks and one Lumbee Indian whose death sentences were overturned when a lower court judge found convincing evidence that discrimination in jury selection was a significant factor in their sentencing. They got relief under a North Carolina law called the Racial Relief Act. This law was repealed after that court ruling.

The four prisoners in the case have uncovered a mountain of evidence of discrimination in their cases and county, including a prosecutor’s handwritten notes in one of their cases. In it, he described prospective jurors differently by race. The white “country boy” who “drank” was “ok,” in contrast to the “black wino” who was excluded. Another African-American juror was “ok” because she was from “a respectable black family.”

The evidence also contained an unprecedented study of race and jury selection in North Carolina. Researchers found across the state, in counties large and small, urban and rural, rampant racial discrimination against African-American jurors by the prosecution was the norm. After their success, the law that allowed their appeals on the basis of discrimination jury selection, the Racial Justice Act, was repealed. Not satisfied, the State of North Carolina is attempting to make the important victories in these four cases disappear.

Scheck provides more background on how jury discrimination taints sentences all over the country. And the same evidence showing jury discrimination also illustrates discrimination in how defendants are charged. Part of the problem with jury discrimination is that there is a proven bias in cross-racial witness identification that is less subject to challenge by jurors made up mostly of whites.

It should go without saying but, since some are willfully ignorant of this it will be said,an execution of a convicted murderer eliminates all possibility of exoneration, while such exonerations are growing more common. Please remember, too, our U.S. Supreme Court has ruled innocence is not sufficient reason for an appeal to be granted if all the legal niceties have been satisfied.

The application of the death penalty and advocacy for its continued use is another example of functional racism even if unintentional or cleverly hidden under the subterfuge of acceptable formality in our justice system.

That is not justice—it is travesty..

EVERETT DIRKSEN WAS RIGHT

Senator Everett Dirksen (R. Ill.) served as Senate Minority Leader in the 1960′s. Distinguished for other reasons as well, his greatest legacy…or the one most cited…was his statement about government spending “A billion here, a billion there and soon you’re talking real money”. Or perhaps not. According to the nonpartisan center developed in his name designed to promote better understanding of Congress, he probably never uttered those words or anything remotely close to them.   http://www.dirksencenter.org/print_emd_billionhere.htm

The lack of a credible basis for that quote has failed to impede billions of pundits from using the quote to focus attention on any other presumed societal excess that is cumulative but has an effect equal to it occurring all at once even, .I suppose, in reference to tooth decay.

Did you hear about 9/11? You recall, the despicable act of al Qaeda terrorists flying four airliners into buildings or the ground, killing nearly three thousand people in the doing.

There is no argument that that was horrific on so many levels but yet it is a singular event in American history because of the depth and breadth of its immediate, sudden, and unfathomable occurrence that affected so many real victims in one fell swoop and millions more watching in despair and/or being frightened of a similar doom for themselves. And our government has exploited and perpetuated that fear through ill-conceived laws and two destructive utterly unnecessary wars.

I bet you also vividly recall the bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year perpetrated by two young Russian immigrants who had developed an obsession with Islamic terrorism. There have been other killings attributable to Muslims in the U.S. since that fateful day in 2001 that have drawn enormous media attention while at the same time only served to increase the ill treatment of American Muslims often to the point of violence and very often to craven politicians advocating the violation of the very Constitutional privileges they have vowed to uphold with their oaths of office and which they purport to adhere to in their emotional irrational rhetoric.

But, just as the two wars we instigated killed more Americans in total than the 9/11 crimes as well as many times the number of innocent civilians eradicated on that day, so have home-grown terrorists been more destructive in this country than any alleged Jihadists.

So goes the point of this Op-Ed piece arising from the weekend shootings at a Jewish Center and retirement community in Kansas by a KKKer that brought three needless deaths.

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

http://us.cnn.com/2014/04/14/opinion/bergen-sterman-kansas-shooting/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter

And while we verbally and editorially assail Syria for its use of chemical weapons in its Civil War and fear Iran developing nuclear weapons to be unleashed on Middle America, with some in Congress willing to vote for war, we ignore the folks who have seemed to possess a tendency to employ chemical and biological weapons to kill their fellow American citizens.

From the same op-ed:

Moreover, since 9/11 none of the more than 200 individuals indicted or convicted in the United States of some act of jihadist terrorism have acquired or used chemical or biological weapons or their precursor materials, while 13 individuals motivated by right wing extremist ideology, one individual motivated by left-wing extremist ideology, and two with idiosyncratic beliefs, used or acquired such weapons or their precursors.

In other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, our right wing extremists give us more reason to fear than do Jihadists or left-wing fanatics. And the toll the right wing nuts have taken could have increased several fold if the idiots supporting Cliven Bundy’s illegal grazing had had their way this past weekend, having sent a veritable written and embossed invitation to federal law enforcement officials to attempt to enforce the law and remove Bundy’s cattle so they could respond in a deadly manner.

Not only was that defiance a matter of potential terrorism it would also have been an act of treason.

Not that all far right wingers are so depraved but these folks had a huge rooting section cheering them on across the country. Imagine if a few Muslims had committed a violent act and the fallout against their millions of members here would have been  unjustifiable accusations of complicity if not outright revenge attacks for their “conspiracy”.

While the op-ed particularly addresses the media failure to cover most of these right wing acts with the same emphasis they do Islamic terrorism the American public eats it up largely due to their own preconceived notions, reinforced in various ways, that they need to fear the Muslims, leading to illogical profiling.

Yes these right wing acts of violence add up. A body here, a body there and soon you’re talking real terrorism.

It turns out that the right wingers especially who want to condemn all Muslims and find nothing wrong with profiling them would have better results from profiling potential terrorists if only they would look in the mirror.

GUN CRAZY? OR JUST PLAIN CRAZY? I VOTE FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE

Ok, I admit it, I watch Investigation Discovery far too much. But the less sensationalized stories are often compelling.

I had dozed off and awoke to an episode of “Fear Thy Neighbor”, which I had not previously seen. I missed the first 15 minutes or so but it was pretty easy to pick up the story which was told by the participants with no voiceover narration.

Two families lived on adjacent properties in rural Lenoir, N.C. One couple had two pre-teen daughters and the older man next door had his daughter and her fiance living with him. He also had a semi-vicious dog which fact seemed to trigger the entire absurd but ultimately tragic series of events.

Apparently the young girls had either been directly attacked or seriously threatened by the dog. That instigated a feud that kept escalating. Petty shit like throwing scrap logs onto each other’s property and other minor incidents of vandalism and raised voices and threats, and other childish acts drew the attention of the local sheriff’s office on more than one occasion.

The log throwing battle was particularly egregious because the one father had his two young girls tossing them back onto the other property while he drove his tractor. He happened to have only one leg, though I am not sure why. But he carried a pistol while working in the field. As the neighbors tossed the small logs back and forth he brandished the weapon. The older man picked up a rock and tossed it hitting the younger man in the head slightly injuring him while knocking him off his tractor.

The cops soon arrived and took the older man and his daughter’s boyfriend to jail where they remained for two weeks. Upon their release the daughter and boyfriend moved out. The rage was irreversible, the tension palpable, the climax unavoidable.

The mother of the young girls had a job which required her to travel for the workweek, coming home for the weekends. One night after her departure her husband heard noise on his porch and the old man’s dog was at his door growling viciously. He shot it. The man next door heard the shot and learned his dog was dead. He didn’t take it well.

He loaded up his shotgun and fired toward the neighbor’s house as the man emerged with his daughters. He and one girl were wounded. A 911 call brought two deputies who were immediately fired upon, wounding one severely in his arm. The old man kept them pinned down. Help arrived with more deputies who decided to push the squad car towards the house as a shield to get the injured family members out. The old man was lying in wait and shot again, wounding another deputy. Fire was returned and….you guessed it…the old man was killed.

All the other wounded survived—–physically.

What struck me almost immediately was that none of the adults involved in the feud seemed to have any sense of the stupidity of the whole affair. None took steps to deescalate and cool tempers. Instead they decided to use guns to reinforce their misplaced notions of exercising their Second Amendment absolutism. None utilized that argument but more demonstrative evidence would be difficult to present if the case were in court about those “gun rights”.

Yes, exercise those gun rights to the extent that an immature dispute results in the blood of five—yes five—people was shed. And three of them had no skin in the game. The deputies were simply doing their duty. And the little girl who was shot? Shot in the back? Her irresponsible father made her a pawn in this wicked game of neighborhood chess. But just as chess pieces are designed to represent the mythical notion of the glory and nobility of war so using this little girl represents the mythical notion of the righteousness of being armed against thy neighbor.

Having the guns available and being all too willing to load, aim, and fire them precluded the possibility of any peaceful resolution of a battle that began as something less worthy of respect than two toddlers fighting over sand box space and then descended into the pits of hell leaving none of the feuders with any dignity or honor.

All for the love of guns…but nothing for the love of god.

RACISM?—WHAT RACISM?

I have white friends, or know of white commenters on web sites, who insist there’s no institutional racism remaining in America despite tons and tons of evidence to the contrary.

Take the case of a young black man, Jordan Miles, in Pittsburgh who was walking home one winter evening when three undercover cops accosted him and beat the crap out of him, alleging he showed signs of having a weapon. Of course he was charged with resisting arrest, though he disputed whether they had identified themselves as cops.

Many Pittsburgh Post-Gazette readers express the view that he should simply have yielded to the cops and further trouble would have been avoided.

But what of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both young black men shot and killed in Florida, Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watch zealot suspicious of Trayvon cutting through yards in the housing development where his father lived, even after his call to 911 produced a response that he should cease his pursuit, real cops were on their way. Jordan Davis had the temerity of playing music in his car that was exceedingly loud, or was deemed so by a white man parked near him at a convenience store.

There are far more incidences of young black men being shot while not discernibly breaking the law and the hell of it is that if the shooters are faced with prosecution at all, they are almost inevitably found to be not guilty.

These cases most often have as  victims young black men acting like a young men of any color who suddenly find that their insouciance has betrayed them. Being abruptly confronted by accusations or suspicions of wrongdoing by someone who has pegged them as “trouble” and who has  aggressively approached them, their instinct in reaction to the interruption of their innocent reverie is to act offended.

No one has made a simple request or treated them like the young adults they are. Rather they are faced with presumptions and assumptions that result in no future consumption of anything….all because of the color of their skin.

Today the story emerged of former major league baseball player Doug Glanville whose right to be where he was while shoveling snow in the driveway of his own home in Hartford, Connecticut this past February was disputed by a police officer out of his own jurisdiction.

Although I knew of Glanville when he played, I’v become somewhat more familiar with him the past few years due to his column on ESPN.com. His writing is intelligent and polished and thoughtful as befits a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who holds an engineering degree. His words are not the usual rah rah one might expect from an ex-jock or biting barbs directed at any and all athletes whom he is now entitled to harshly judge as a sports commentator.

His story appears in the new edition of The Atlantic and I’ll let him describe the essence of what happened.

A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/04/i-was-racially-profiled-in-my-own-driveway/360615/

He had the presence of mind to not let his resentment and offense at this line of questioning cause him to do anything in the least that might prompt the officer to place him in handcuffs or worse.

The officer left but this incident ended up in opening dialogue between Glanville, his wife who is an Ivy League educated lawyer, his next door neighbor, also a lawyer, and various officials of both Hartford and West Hartford. Instead of pursuing recriminations against the particular officer who insulted him, he expressed hope that with age and experience the officer would grow and develop better understanding.

However, it would not be surprising for you or me to make a federal case of this. Of course I am white and probably most of my readers are white so we could get away with a little defiance. Just look at the idiot rancher in Nevada, illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for TWENTY YEARS, who pitched a hissy fit and generated enough publicity to persuade a bunch of fellow gun nuts to join him in his resistance to obeying the law The federal government backed down, not wanting any unnecessary blood to be shed. And shed blood is what these illegal protestors were willing to do and have done to them in defending a plain violation of law. Oh, yeah, they are white.

But let them darken their skin and stroll through a neighbor’s yard after sundown and their ass would be grass, and not the type  cattle graze on.

If a black, educated, unemotional man such as Glanville is accosted like this on his own property what chance does a younger immature black man have?

THE WAR ON POVERTY HAS BECOME THE WAR ON THE POOR

“The same guys who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing”

Leigh Hunt

Recently we observed the 50th anniversary of when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced measures to be taken to mount a war on poverty. Contrary to popular opinion these measures were not limited to providing pure handouts to shiftless blacks and lazy scumbag poor white trash. Indeed aside from common notions of poverty aid, Johnson’s plans were much more comprehensive and included provisions and programs to not only provide direct payments but which were designed to move to eliminate or at least lessen the causes of poverty entailing health, education and other social programs that benefited entire groups rather than individuals.

Such widely accepted programs as Medicare and Medicaid and federal aid to education were large parts of the entire package as was the establishment of the Food Stamp program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Despite some criticisms from both liberal and conservative factions, the actions instituted did decrease poverty levels significantly in the first ten years, according to the prevailing metrics of the time. The poverty rate fell from 17.4% when the initiatives began to 11.1% in 1973, when the rate leveled off.

A good overview of the War on Poverty (not an official name) and related topics can be found here.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty

Also contrary to popular opinion the War on Poverty has continued to be successful, perhaps not so much in reducing the poverty rate itself to miniscule levels but to prevent more people from falling into that defined status.

In observation of this anniversary the New York Times (NYT) offers an analysis of the present state of poverty in America with information gleaned from various sources. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-war-on-poverty-at-50/?_r=1

However, the writer refuses to frame the analysis in terms of winning versus losing.

So, collecting all of these facts, the answer to the question posed above is that it’s the wrong question, in that its inherent win/loss framing precludes a nuanced analysis of the play between many disparate factors.

The momentum to fight the WOP (War on Poverty) lessened considerably after 1973 and ground to a comparative halt in the past thirty years.

President Ronald Reagan notoriously virtually dismissed the entire WOP with his characterizations of the recipients of largesse as leeches looking to game the system at great cost to our country. The epitome of his scorn was the so-called Welfare Queen, traipsing in furs and driving Cadillacs while collecting thousands upon thousands of dollars in funds ideally directed to the neediest of our citizens.

While there was actually some truth to the alleged fraudulent schemes of of his main target, one Linda Taylor, legend has grown over the years that this woman was a myth created out of whole cloth and Reagan’s dementia fed imagination. But there really was such a woman who was convicted of welfare fraud but whose crimes, cons and scams were far more egregious than those petty misdemeanors, possibly even including murder.

(For an examination of Linda Taylor’s actual life—much undocumented—read the fascinating tale presented here. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2013/12/linda_taylor_welfare_queen_ronald_reagan_made_her_a_notorious_american_villain.html)

Unfortunately the image of “Welfare Queen has been iterated and replicated many times over since Reagan’s tenure though he assuredly was not the first person of any stripe or prominent leader to make that erroneous generalization.

Of course the notion that the WOP is an utter failure simply feeds that stereotype and lends  support to arguments propagated by conservatives to seriously slash these social safety net programs because…well…they don’t work anyways.

Senator Marco Rubio has taken up the failure mantra but liberal Michael Tomasky, building on the NYT article, observes that

What’s wrong with thinking is that we have not, of course, been fighting any kind of serious war on poverty for five decades. We fought it with truly adequate funding for about one decade. Less, even. Then the backlash started, and by 1981, Ronald Reagan’s government was fighting a war on the war on poverty. The fate of many anti-poverty programs has ebbed and flowed ever since. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/06/marco-rubio-is-wrong-the-war-on-poverty-worked.html

Arguably  Exhibit 1 of the decrease in willingness to attack poverty is the welfare “reform” enacted in 1996, that drastically altered eligibility requirements for  the primary cash payments to the poor. Morphing from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) the number of families receiving such aid has dropped from about 12.3 million in the throes of the AFDC system to about an average of just under 4.5 million families receiving TANF.

With those reforms came a work requirement and a lifetime limit on benefits.

I do not maintain that these and the other changes did not have logic and a factual basis behind them. Just about any government program, social or otherwise, demands frequent reevaluation and revision to remain effective. I do note, however, that the poverty rate during the intervening years is substantially the same as it was prior to “reform”. That leads to a conclusion that there remains a crying need for assistance on the previously broader scale, even if some revisions assured that only the truly needy received aid and that fraud was minimized.

Indeed there are so many variables at play here that result in our poorest citizens as a class losing pretty much any hope of truly living the American dream——you know, the dream that has individuals living in spacious houses,  replete with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, with cars that are more than “beaters”, designer clothes on themselves and their children, and having said children obtain a good education in our public schools and going on to the college or vocational school of their choice so they can achieve these same goals.

But it ain’t so, Joe.

Our economic system is supposedly based on free enterprise and free markets, though many conservatives insist on portraying government as one big clogging influence that drags down our economics and taxes the “job creators” to death.

This canard is repeated over and over when it can be demonstrated that the government gives far more to these “business titans” than it asks in return. Not only that but income and wealth inequality in the United States has reached epic proportions, far exceeding that of the “Gilded  Age”

I have written on that particular aspect previously such as here.  http://umoc193.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/wealth-redistribution-its-already-a-reality/

The video linked to here is a real eye-opener that provides facts about what people believe the ideal income distribution should be (surprise, it’s not everybody gets the same) what people believe our income distribution is, and further facts revealing that the situation is far worse than many Americans commonly think.      http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact-2?c=wa1

Now is this growing inequality the fault of the “failed” WOP? Absolutely not. I have already mentioned the changes and reductions of help that have characterized the past forty years under Presidents of both parties. Indeed, what seems to be clear is that due to political expediency, philosophical adjustments, and a penchant for favoring guns over butter, we have reached the point where the average person finds it extremely difficult to move up the scale.

If only we had fought the war on poverty with the same fervor, unity of purpose and seemingly limitless expenditure of dollars that we have in attacking hapless nations we would have achieved far greater inroads against poverty.

But not only has the will to fight to end poverty been lost, today we find nefarious forces at work which are thoroughly hostile to the poor. (And since the middle class has been so ravaged I include them as the targets of the oppressors).

A quick glance through any news source finds the poor and middle class under attack as never before. They are being assailed for the lack of contents in their wallets while questioning their character. In other words, blame the victim.

Public school teachers, always underpaid in comparison to others of similar education, are now derisively attacked for the shortcomings of our public education system most especially if they have the gall to be union members.

Other public servants are barraged with allegations of greed, laziness and ineptitude, again more so if they are unionized. In Wisconsin and elsewhere their collective bargaining rights have been unilaterally removed. That is, except for police and firefighters. Ironically the most common instances of overreach of public servants are rooted in law enforcement. Certainly the offending parties are relatively few but annually they cost their cities and counties millions upon millions of dollars for illegal arrests, unjustified beatings and shooting, and outright corruption.

Unions and their members in general apparently are solely responsible for the near total demise of the auto industry recently and the steel industry before that. At least that is what you are fed every day by cowardly politicos and craven business moguls.

The image of the welfare queen has not faded but now is supplemented by the anger generated by the mere notion that someone on food stamps can actually buy soft drinks with them. Oh, the nerve!

One of the most successful public programs in history, Social Security, is beset by unthinking budget cutters wanting to curtail or reduce benefits or install new cost of living (COLA) formulas to hold future increases in benefits down. Of course, save for the short-lived SS tax reduction, not one cent from general revenues has ever been put into the SS Trust Fund nor has any benefit for retirees been paid out of general revenues. Also, of course, the current COLA formula already has prevented any increase in two out of the past five years.

I personally have seen my fixed living costs go up less than any increase in benefits I have received, meaning I have less disposable income than I did five years ago.

The evils of “Obamacare” are so horrific that Republicans want to eliminate it though its basic tenets were their original creation. The refusal of the governors in over twenty states (I believe all Republican controlled) to expand their Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act and non-participation in the insurance exchanges will prevent millions from having coverage who live in poverty as well as making it more challenging for their citizens  to procure insurance on their own.

People making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year resent any move to increase the minimum wage to around $10/hour which would enable that earner to pocket $20,000 a year. This is so even with the fact that the current minimum wage is less in real dollars than what that figure was forty years ago.

Somehow these brilliant business folks are completely immune to and ignorant of the reality that putting more money into the hands of the less well off means it will be spent often generating more income for the rich while upping demand for jobs. Then they complain that President Obama isn’t creating enough jobs while out of the other side of their mouths comes the mantra that government does not create jobs, the “job creators” do. That’s them, naturally. So why in the hell have they not created more jobs while they and their business experience record earnings levels?

Every advantage is given to the rich. Their corporations face too high a tax rate, they moan, while paying no taxes at all. They bitch and kvetch about paying welfare mothers while they sit back and collect farm subsidies. (75% of those go to corporations, not family farms.) Some sit in their New York City penthouses and search their mail for their next subsidy payment while their Wyoming hunting camp doesn’t plant the crops that never would be planted in the first place.

While rich guys get billions in subsidies the poor are the targets of overzealous legislators convinced that they are all druggies and need to be tested before receiving benefits.

The unthinking Congress creatures and Fox news hacks decry the present movement to increase the minimum wage, futilely exclaiming that such an action will destroy the fragile economy when history proves otherwise. And, Dr. Watson, it is elementary that more money in the hands of those inclined or necessitated to spend nearly every cent they receive will increase demand for the very goods and services allegedly purveyed by the 1%.

Mitt Romney’s famous declaration that 47% of Americans pay no taxes and therefore must be totally disregarded drew much attention in the 2012 Presidential campaign. His unconscionable contempt for many of the same folks who are more naturally inclined to support conservative causes and ideals…you know, older people, military retirees and the like…may as well have been a major part of his standard stump speech. he never backed down from those remarks and, if you recall the recording, those vile words were spewed from his mouth almost in glee.

We have billionaires expressing the bizarre belief that any criticism of the rich is the equivalent of the Nazi degradation of the Jews and that a rich man’s “holocaust” is imminent. But we’ve recently learned that the 85 richest people in the world have wealth equal to the poorest 3.5 BILLION PEOPLE on this earth. So any extermination should be swift and not drain too many resources.

Of course that entire idea is preposterous and I can offer nothing but sarcasm for this idiocy.

The Affordable Care Act has been under assault from the date of its passage. As I cited earlier much of the resistance to it is an overt way to stick it to the poor or at least would have such an effect as an underlying consequence.

Poor students in one Salt Lake City school had their lunches taken away because their parents were not fully paid up. How thoroughly embarrassing for the kids thought it does seem that those who received totally subsidized lunches were not affected. But elsewhere there have been calls to eliminate any free lunches and substitute a work requirement for the kiddies to “earn ” their way.

I can detail so many examples of the way our lawmakers want to punish the poor for merely being poor, with the support of far too many factions in our society, most disgustingly some “Christian” groups.  But I believe these odious proposals are not only Unchristian but also Unmuslim and Unjewish and probably Unzoroastrian.

Let me say here I do not condemn those who are rich for merely being rich.

I do condemn those who are rich who possess the mistaken assumption that all beneath them are dirt.These reverse Robin Hoods desire to take from the poor so that the troughs of the rich can become ever more bloated with lucre.

I do condemn those who are rich for limning the poor as poor in character, not only in financial resources.

I do condemn those who are rich for their desire to have it all, not just most of it, to bleed every dollar from every transaction to line their own pockets.

I do condemn the rich who portray themselves as victims and under siege. They know very well that farcical that is.

I never advocate violence and mayhem as a solution to a problem, but the sentiments of this song are difficult to ignore and repress.

“Eat The Rich”

Well I woke up this morning
On the wrong side of the bed
And how I got to thinkin’
About all those things you said
About ordinary people
And how they make you sick
And if callin’ names kicks back on you
Then I hope this does the trick’Cause I’m a sick of your complainin’
About how many bills
And I’m sick of all your bitchin’
Bout your poodles and your pills
And I just can’t see no humour
About your way of life
And I think I can do more for you
With this here fork and knife[Chorus:]
Eat the Rich: there’s only one thing they’re good for
Eat the Rich: take one bite now – come back for more
Eat the Rich: I gotta get this off my chest
Eat the Rich: take one bite now, spit out the restSo I called up my head shrinker
And I told him what I’d done
Said you’d best go on a diet
Yeah I hope you have some fun
And a don’t go burst a bubble
On the rich folks who get rude
‘Cause you won’t get in no trouble
When you eats that kinda food
Now their smokin’ up the junk bonds
And then they go get stiff
And they’re dancin’ in the yacht club
With Muff and Uncle Biff
But there’s one good thing that happens
When you toss your pearls to swine
Their attitudes may taste like shit
But go real good with wine
[Chorus]Wake up kid, it’s half past your youth
Ain’t nothin’ really changes but the date
You a grand slammer, but you no Babe Ruth
You gotta learn how to relate
Or you’ll be swingin’ from the pearly gate
Now you got all the answers, low and behold
You got the right key baby but the wrong key ho, yoBelieve in all the good things
That money just can’t buy
Then you won’t get no belly ache
From eatin’ humble pie
I believe in rags to riches
Your inheritence won’t last
So take your Grey Poupon my friend
And shove it up your ass!
[Chorus]Eat the Rich: there’s only one thing they’re good for
Eat the Rich: take one bite now – come back for more
Eat the Rich: don’t stop me now I’m goin’ crazy
Eat the Rich: that’s my idea of a good time baby

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/aerosmith/eattherich.html

Writer’s Notes

Though I have included some citations for quotes and source materials, I drew from many more for my views expressed here. Below is a list of resources utilized here as well as some interesting reading which is related to this topic and will enhance your knowledge. I read each of them in preparing this post.

http://www.salon.com/2013/12/30/the_middle_class_myth_heres_why_wages_are_really_so_low_today/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-scam-wall-street-learned-from-the-mafia-20120620?page=2

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/florida-welfare-drug-tests_n_4525534.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/02/koch-obamacare-ads_n_4533477.html

http://www.wearesc.com/forums/forum/main-category/off-topic/51431-stephens-obama-s-envy-problem

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/02/federal_judge_rules_floridas_welfare_drug_testing_law_unconstitutional/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/03/glenn-grothman-wisconsin_n_4537891.html

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/something-to-behold–2

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/05

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/counter_narrative/2014/01/david_brooks_smoking_pot_should_black_kids_pay_for_his_pothead_sins.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/01/north_carolina_s_assault_on_teachers_has_to_stop.single.html

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-war-on-poverty-at-50/?_r=0

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/06/marco-rubio-is-wrong-the-war-on-poverty-worked.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2013/12/linda_taylor_welfare_queen_ronald_reagan_made_her_a_notorious_american_villain.html

http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/01/07/republicans_will_only_revive_unemployment_benefits_if_they_get_to_keep_more.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/07/health-care-obstruction_n_4556307.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carly-paul/the-slow-grip-of-poverty_b_4516679.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-new-low-in-health-care-rhetoric-20140108

http://www.politicususa.com/2014/01/09/wealthy-gop-candidate-illinois-governor-cut-states-minimum-wage.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-alan-grayson/what-obamacare-really-is-all-about_b_4570052.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/09/noelle-roni-fired_n_4569907.html

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/10/robert_reich_gops_divide_and_conquer_strategy_is_backfiring/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/28/congress-austerity_n_4509179.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/10/krugman_explains_why_the_war_on_poverty_has_failed/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/10/jon-stewart-income-inequality_n_4575409.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/01/social_darwinism_and_class_essentialism_the_rich_think_they_are_superior.single.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/01/marco_rubio_and_paul_ryan_lead_a_republican_campaign_against_poverty.html

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/01/10/snap_should_be_cash_instead.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/01/welfare_works_for_kids_children_whose_parents_get_money_grow_up_healthier.html

http://www.salon.com/2013/12/30/the_middle_class_myth_heres_why_wages_are_really_so_low_today/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/minimum-wage-raise-proof_n_4597721.html

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/17/8_conservative_anti_poverty_ideas_that_will_make_things_so_much_worse_partner/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/red-state-voters_b_4608891.html

http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/statements/2014/jan/12/occupy-democrats/pro-democrat-group-says-9-10-poorest-states-are-re/

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/19/how_the_young_elite_rise_in_washington_d_c/

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/19/what_i_learned_from_a_week_on_food_stamps_paul_ryan_couldnt_be_any_more_wrong/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/01/21/global_inequality_oxfam_report_finds_85_richest_people_s_net_worth_equals.html

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/15/poor_hating_hypocrites_secret_pro_military_loophole_reveals_latest_gop_outrage/

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/kevin-oleary-oxfam-poverty-fantastic

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/american-dream-dead_n_4651337.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/wage-growth-50-year-lows_n_4651882.html?utm_hp_ref=business

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/gilded-age-state-of-the-union_n_4647348.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/its-time-to-end-child-pov_b_4652975.html

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/23/when_companies_break_the_law_and_people_pay_the_scary_lesson_of_the_google_bus/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/24/low-wage-workers-education_n_4653020.html?utm_hp_ref=business

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/22/wall_street%e2%80%99s_lamest_enemies_meet_groups_who_represent_the_poor_%e2%80%93_but_push_deregulation/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/thomas-perkins-doubles-down-holocaust_n_4674266.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/republicans-poverty-gop-inequality_n_4577490.html?utm_hp_ref=business

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20140129/us-wealth-gap-health-overhaul/?utm_hp_ref=homepage&ir=homepage

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/the-daily-show-minimum-wage_n_4688134.html

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57468293-78/lunches-olsen-lunch-district.html.csp

SILENT NIGHT?—FAT CHANCE

Oh my gosh. Poor Phil Robertson has had his 1st Amendment rights quashed… as some of the biggest bloviators and blowhards on the political right would have you believe. Of course that does not mean they are politically right, but most especially they are not factually correct.

As many other commentators have pointed out A&E, on which Robertson’s show, Duck Dynasty, appears has temporarily suspended him. Oh crap, new shows are already taped with him in them and will be aired in January. That suspension must really hurt.

What is most telling about these conservative complaints is that they are so hypocritical. Dixie Chicks anyone? That singing trio lost all kinds of money when in 2003 one of them, Natalie Maines, spoke up against the looming war in Iraq and told a European audience that not all Americans backed this action.

Without keeping a list and checking it twice many of the naughty and not so nice members of the conservative right threw a hissy fit then and the Chicks were excoriated thoroughly as their patriotism was called into question.

More recently Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin of MSNBC have each lost their programs there due to some objectionable language they used. Bashir said what could be interpreted as a very crude comment on Sarah Palin (though goodness knows she does far more damage to herself every time she opens her yap). Baldwin simply made homophobic remarks about a celebrity photographer whose conduct he took issue with, but that comment occurred during a private confrontation in a public place, not on the air on his show.

Now I have rarely watched Bashir’s TV performance and am familiar with Baldwin only from his appearances in movies and TV shows. I am no great fan of Bashir and I appreciate Baldwin as an actor . Both are ostensibly liberal but that has no influence on me.

But these recent dustups, or the one concerning the Dixie Chicks, or the numerous “gotcha” moments where various of our well known (or possibly not so well known) citizens are caught not on their best behavior seem to generally draw a lot of comment by those we seem to have anointed to form our opinions for us.

However, these critical commentaries pretty much serve no one but the commentators themselves. Their targets, having misspoken, suffer consequences ranging from the faux suspension delivered to Robertson to the actual loss of jobs by Baldwin and Bashir or lost income for the Dixie Chicks to absolutely no consequence whatsoever (Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann).

Yet I am uncomfortable with all this noise, superfluous and hypocritical as it may be coming form all quarters.in protest of ugly stupid words. Yes, Brad Paisley had his song “Accidental Racist” knocked, and yes Steve Martin apparently tweeted a racist joke (his main sin being that the joke simply was not funny). And the PR lady going to Africa tweeted about how she was safe from AIDS since she was white.

Ultimately I don’t give a shit.

Whether I have done so in the past or not, before I get my shorts in a knot about something someone has said somewhere that may offend a particular group or type of other human being, I am going to ask myself this question. “is the person speaking these words in a position to affect public policy or to effect change in our policies or society?” If not, leave them alone. If so, then by all means go after them. Such an attitude could prove harmful to our nation. Bachmann and Cruz serve in Congress and should be more responsible.

At the same time there are some racist, low-minded, folks who do not inhabit a seat of power but who still wield immense influence over the opinions of their listeners, viewers, or readers. (Yes, Rush, you know who you are) And I suppose that where some nonentity has taken the opportunity to not only speak intolerant words but has combined them with negative actions that impact others they deserve our scorn.

But, folks such as I who reach a limited audience or even most MSNBC hosts who reach substantially fewer viewers than their Fox counterparts, or those who speak only in some private capacity but have somehow been placed in the spotlight, let us not waste our precious time getting all upset about them.

Phil Robertson is on a very popular TV program but it would not surprise me to know that the vast majority of the show’s fans already share most of his retrograde opinions so his ability to change minds is limited.

My Facebook friends are fond of posting news items about this nonsense. While I may share a philosophy (or not) with them I think I’ll pass in joining their crusades from now on.

But if you want to duck a dynasty, more power to you.

TRIBUTE OR LAMENT?

Today is November 11, Veterans’ Day. What began as the marking of the armistice to end World War I on 11-11-1918 at 11 a.m. evolved into Armistice Day to commemorate that occasion. Later the observance was changed to Veterans’ Day to honor all who have served in the armed forces of the United States,

Today you probably have viewed on TV or read in local papers any number of tributes to those veterans, thanking them for their service and offering encomiums to them in appreciation of their hard fight to preserve the American way of life and our precious freedoms. 

However, what is wrong with this picture is that, since the end of World War II, not one American military person has been sent overseas and performed any act to “preserve our freedom”. We have dispatched millions to Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and who knows how many lands operating openly but often in secret. Not one has protected me and mine or you and yours no matter what blather is spread about their missions and accomplishments.

Not one has sacrificed  life or limb for his or her country to spare us from invading hordes.

Whose fault is that? Well it most certainly is not the fault of those very veterans upon whom praise is heaped. It is the fault of the craven political leaders, Presidents and Congress alike, who have seen fit to deploy our uniformed services where they are not needed and generally not wanted and falsely justified their actions by invoking some nebulous threat to democracy.

There is no doubt that in some instances our armies forestalled other aggressors who had designs on those relatively primitive nations, but at what cost?

Korea (South of course) has managed quite well even though that police action resulted in a stalemate at the price of over 38.000 American lives, despite the succession of pint sized despots inhabiting and ruling north of the 38th Parallel.

Vietnam is a pretty thriving nation at present, a highly desirable tourist destination, reunited after our humiliating departure, having shed blood from over 58,000 dead during our presence. The inevitability of our defeat was foreshadowed by the words of the North Vietnamese Regular Army officer at the end of the Movie We Were Soldiers whose observation was that the American victory at Ia Drang would make not a whit of difference in the long run.

Our recent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have added several thousand more names to the honor roles of our esteemed dead and many times more patients needing enough long term care to support battalions of doctors treating their wounds.

All of these wars have arisen from dubious rationales. The past two are notable in addition because they involved all volunteer armies…not draftees…making it far easier for politicians to promote these invasions without possible blowback from charges they escaped duty by evading the draft, however legal.

Now it is difficult to turn around without seeing another group of blowhards speak of their pride in our veterans and  acting high and mighty patriotically. But these blowhards didn’t have to serve and remained comfortably at home while our troops served, often with multiple deployments.

It is so easy to hide behind the American flag or the playing of God Bless America and pretend you have done your part to demonstrate appreciation for the hard sacrifices our troops have made. It is also obscene and scandalous to do so while proclaiming your “support” for those same troops, who far too often have come home from war with physical and mental injuries, often unseen, and who suffer disproportionate rates of joblessness and homelessness and alcohol and drug abuse and even episodes of violence when none of these consequences of war would have occurred if they weren’t sent off to fucking useless wars initially.

To me, true support of our troops, past and present, is best manifested by refusing to force them to be placed in harm’s way save under the most extraordinary of circumstances.

I do applaud the members of our armed forces for their service as they are not the ones who make the idiot decisions putting them in danger. Even if never in battle, since WW II untold numbers of them have faced having to uproot their families multiple times during their careers while operating under that Sword of Damocles which could drop and send them into danger at any time, supposedly no questions asked.

I respect those troops and obviously will never fully understand what they have faced. I despise the hypocrites who prefer to endlessly involve those troops in battle utilizing the flimsiest of guises.

I offer my tribute to our veterans while lamenting the fact their nation has devised so many false premises that create veterans.

Tribute or lament?

The empiness of many tributes appalls me and the necessary lamentations deeply sadden me.

I would prefer none of the above.

PROFITS, NON-PROFITS AND PROPHETS

Two exceptional pieces entered my line of vision earlier today that are extraordinarily on point.

The first is the regular weekly column of one Reg Henry that appears in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He addresses non-profit organizations sometimes generating enormous profits, particulary the the Pittsburgh health care behemoths; Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield/Allegheny Health Systems and UPMC, which is the medical arm of the University of Pittsburgh that has its own health insurance. http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/reg-henry/2013/10/23/Nonprofit-world-seems-enticingly-lucrative/stories/201310230056

These combatants have been in the news for awhile now as they scheme and plan to steal patients from one another. (The new Pittsburgh Stealers?). UPMC has existed for some time while the Highmark/Allegheny alliance is of more recent vintage.

While this would ostensibly be a local Pittsburgh issue, it is indeed  indicative of larger problems nationwide.

Both these entities produce enormous profits on paper, but both manage to largely, if not completely, escape the taxman.

Remarkably UPMC, now engaged in a battle with the city over paying taxes (about $1 billion profit—high paid execs—no taxes paid on its enormous real estate holdings within city limits) in a court hearing represented with a straight face that the 55,000 doctors, nurses, housekeepers, technicians, clerks, etc. working in its various hospitals and clinics are not employed by it but by a number of separate companies.

Reg Henry laughs at this assertion, noting accurately that in its current ad campaign to sway public opinion in its favor in its fight with Highmark UPMC emphasizes the number of jobs it provides in the region.

Contrast this with the op-ed writings of Amia Srinivasan  who explores the morality of free market advocates vis a vis profits for profits sake in a dog eat dog world where the rich have no responsibility to those who have not achieved or cannot achieve the same level of financial success http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/questions-for-free-market-moralists/?_r=0

Truly Reg Henry in his column foreshadows the companion piece with this bit of wisdom.

Readers not from Pittsburgh may wonder what this local dispute has to do with them. I would say consider the context. This health care Armageddon is being fought according to the capitalist virtues we know and love — ruthlessness, greed, misinformation, monopolistic thinking, etc. — in the supposed era of government health care. Hey, somebody forgot to tell the government.

Srinivas expounds on the oppositional books published in the 1970′s by John Rawls and Robert Nozick.

Rawls, wrote A Theory of Justice in 1971. As explained by Srinivas

Rawls proposed that the structure of a just society was the one that a group of rational actors would come up with if they were operating behind a “veil of ignorance” — that is, provided they had no prior knowledge what their gender, age, wealth, talents, ethnicity and education would be in the imagined society. Since no one would know in advance where in society they would end up, rational agents would select a society in which everyone was guaranteed basic rights, including equality of opportunity. Since genuine (rather than “on paper”) equality of opportunity requires substantial access to resources — shelter, medical care, education — Rawls’s rational actors would also make their society a redistributive one, ensuring a decent standard of life for everyone.

On the other hand Nozick, in Anarchy, State, and Utopia

…argued that a just society was simply one that resulted from an unfettered free market — and that the only legitimate function of the state was to ensure the workings of the free market by enforcing contracts and protecting citizens against violence, theft and fraud. (The seemingly redistributive policy of making people pay for such a “night watchman” state, Nozick argued, was in fact non-redistributive, since such a state would arise naturally through free bargaining.)

Recent political developments suggest that Nozick was quite the prophet when propounding on profit. After all reports are that Democrats in Congress, and possibly even President Obama himself, are considering some types of cuts in Social Security, our most basic, popular, and successful safety net program.

Such cuts would dovetail into the Novick philosophy though, in truth, Social Security is minimally redistributive, if at all so. To the contrary,  Social Security is regressive instead of progressive in that the taxes assessed to support it are placed on only earned income and then with a cap on it.

What concerns me is the morality displayed in Novick’s world and in the world of UPMC. There is absiolutely nothing wrong with earning a profit from one’s endeavors. What is wrong is, as UPMC is doing, is achieving such success by taking advantage of its position as a nominal non-profit which entitles it to freedom from most taxes other businesses are subject to.

In Nozick’s world there is no place for anything but a voluntary effort to see to the less fortunate. Anything else is an unacceptable intrusion into the hallowed free market.

We seem to have far too many people in power who are trying to move us in that direction.

It’s time for a detour.

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