This post is by Steven D, and originally appeared at Booman Tribune.
We have the greatest income inequality in our nation's history, but for some strange reason people are incredibly misinformed about who has the most stuff. Take a look at this chart from "a paper called "Building a Better America One Wealth Quintile at a Time" by Dan Ariely and Michael I. Norton."
As you can see, most people, regardless of political ideology or party affiliation or income level, are under the impression that there is a vast middle class (60% of the people) that owns roughly 40% or so of the wealth in America, with the wealthiest 20% owning slightly less than 60%. The truth?
The richest 20 percent, represented by that blue line, has about 85 percent of the wealth. The next richest 20 percent, represented by that red line, has about 10 percent of the wealth. And the remaining three-fifths of America shares a tiny sliver of the country's wealth.
Yet even that doesn't tell the whole story. Because the highest 1% of income earners in America (income, not total assets) received 75% of the income gains from 2002 to 2006. Everybody else, 99% of Americans, received the remaining 25%. Now look at these pie charts on net wealth from"Wealth, Income, and Power" by G. William Domhoff, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz: As you can see, as of 2007, the top 1% had 35% of the Net Worth and 43% of the Financial Wealth in America. The top 10% had 73% of the Net Worth, and a whopping 83% of the Financial Wealth. The bottom 90% had 27% of the net worth (most of it tied up in their home equity) and only 17% of the Financial Wealth. Of course, those figures don't include the results of the Great Recession that began December 2007 with the collapse of the housing market in which the lower 90% of Americans suffered the greatest loss of wealth and income and jobs. So why the misconception by the majority of Americans that the people in the bottom 90% of income and wealth (however you measure that) have a much larger share of our "Ownership Society" than they actually do? I think one has to look squarely at the major news media, many of whom fit within the wealthiest 10% of Americans. They simply don't get out of their encapsulated havens to report on the real, in your face effects of the economic policies of the four presidents who preceded Obama, three of whom were Republicans. It's telling that until very recently, major media figures simply didn't go out in the field and report on the devastation wrought by this economy on the lower 90% of individuals and families who don't share the same level of income, wealth, fame and status as our media mouthpieces:
In the green room before taping Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday, I [Arianna Huffington] had an unexpected conversation with my fellow panelist Joe Klein. He'd just finished a cross-country road trip, getting an up-close look at lives that "have been ripped up by the economic devastation of recent years." He embarked on the trip, he wrote, because "I really don't trust the things I've been seeing on TV and reading in the papers."The trip had been an eye-opener. "The people I met never talked about the things the Washington press does," he told me. The disconnect between the focus of his fellow reporters and the focus of the people he met on his travels was "transformational." "My sense of what's important has changed in a big way," he said. [...] In the final post of his trek, Klein came to this conclusion: "One thing I realized on this trip was how much time I spend immersed in the media back home -- reading newspapers and blogs and books, watching TV -- and how little time I spend immersed in other people."
In truth, this isn't particularly shocking to those of us who follow the mainstream media, whether the newspapers, television news or major blogs like Politico. We know they have been living in their own cloud cuckoo land for some time now. And when you toss in Fox News, a news organization in name only, which every day literally creates its own false reality through propaganda, hate speech and lies of commission and omission in order to divide and polarize our nation and promote conservative and Republican policies that favor the Super Rich and Mega-Corporations at the expense of everyone else, it should come as no shock to anyone that most Americans have no clue how much they have lost in terms of wealth and income over the last three decades. Which is one reason we as a nation have arrived at the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in, both politically and economically. We have been misled by fools and propagandists posing as honest objective journalists and reporters for too long. And the misinformation and outright lies in many cases to which they have been an active party, have allowed the Wealthy and Big Corporations to corrupt our politics and impose a regimes that is driven us to the brink of collapse, all while they lined their pockets from the public purse and from the inaction of government to oversee their activities and prevent their financial shenanigans (and in many cases outright fraud). That the Democratic Party was for too long complicit in this exercise, trolling for the same lobbyist cash that has always fueled the Republicans, is a failure of epic proportions, for it took decades to set the table from which the rich now feast while the rest of us beg for scraps from their table. Much of the failure of Obama to meet the progressive expectations is a result of a political climate and an institutional structure skewed to benefit those who can "pay to play." To a large extent, the fact that Obama has accomplished as much as he has is a minor miracle, but 2 years is not enough time to reverse the appallingly unjust and divisive course that Ronald Reagan first set this nation upon 30 years ago, aided and abetted by a "liberal media" too afraid to challenge his "Morning in America" fantasy, to expose his many lies about the role of government and to confront his use of race and class to achieve his ends. What Reagan began, every other President, to some degree or another has continued. Yes, Clinton raised taxes and balanced the budget, but he also signed into law with the support of the Republicans NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act and the final dismantling of the critical financial reforms put into place by FDR. That these were the culmination of a dream longed for years by Wall Street and the other major industries was not the result of bad luck or random chance. It was accomplished by design. In 1932, FDR took advantage of a new information technology, radio, to reach the broad masses of Americans and speak over the heads of the Wall Street Titans and Big Business interests who opposed him. It is our challenge today, to use the new information technologies of our time, to speak over the heads of all those who oppose economic fairness and justice in America today. Until we accomplish that goal and get politicians truly committed to a progressive program of economic and government reform, our fellow citizens will remain in their current condition of enforced ignorance, and their lives and ours will remain subject to the whims of those who have the money, or as FDR rightly labeled them "Economic Royalists" and "The Money Power."
This post first appeared on Booman Tribune. I guess killing the Union movement, well paying jobs and moving our manufacturing base off shore to "developing countries" (brought to you by the the Reagan Revolution, "Free Market" Proponents and Big Business) isn't just a matter of trickle down economics, income inequality, lost jobs, globalization and the Great Recession. According to testimony before Congress it is also a major threat to our nation's national security. What kind of threat? The kind where we can't produce critical components for the weapons our military uses, for example:
"We have allowed our industrial base to deteriorate for the last two to three decades. As a result, just in national defense terms, our supply lines for strategic parts and materials have been stretched around the world," said Jeff Faux, founding president and distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute. [...]
America's economic policies over the last the decades have been an EPIC FAIL according to the AFL-CIO because our country has lost the manufacturing base to protect our country:
"As you watch globalization move the manufacturing base offshore, in essence you are moving the defense base offshore," said Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO, "This is dangerous."
We don't even have the industrial capacity to build ships or make enough bullets for the troops:
We have already lost our lead in some critical defense-related industries such as semiconductors, printed circuit boards, machine tools, advanced materials and aerospace, Baugh said. The closure of the Avondale and Ingalls shipyards would cripple our ability to make ships.Michael Wessel, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the panel the situation is so bad that we no longer have the domestic capacity to produce enough ammunition to supply our troops and law enforcement. There are waiting lists to fill the police departments here at home, he said.
So who is reaping the benefits of an economic policy that eliminated much of our critical manufacturing base and diminished the ability of America to supply the military? Why our "good friend" China:
The nation's manufacturers are being seduced by China where they can get more for their money due to an undervaluation of their currency, illegal subsidies, and a lack of enforceable laws regarding, worker rights, and environmental and health standards, Baugh told CNN.China's manufacturing sector is on the brink of passing that of the United States, according to a report released in June by the economic research firm IHS Global Insight. The value of goods produced by China's factories reached about $1.6 trillion last year, compared to $1.7 trillion by U.S. manufacturers.
Who were the biggest supporters of "globalization" "free markets" and outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs overseas? Conservatives and Republicans. Yes they had the willing assistance of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council to pass NAFTA, but the main cause for the loss of our manufacturing base can be laid at the feet of the Reagan Revolution and the policies he and the Conservative Movement promoted:
[W]hile the trend toward concentration of capital ownership and control was already underway prior to Reagan, the economic policies of Reaganomics opened the flood gates instead of strengthening the dam, leading to an even more dramatic rise in capital concentration over the past 30 years than would have otherwise been the case. ... This helped pave the way for the massive off-shoring of American industry in the 1990s, during the time of cheap fuel, cheap borrowing, and institutional investors who were cozy and comfortable with executives but not workers, who pushed executives to take actions that would lead to greater market volatility and short-term gains, both of which were beneficial to "investment" institutions, while they are not particularly healthy for long-term economic stability and growth.... Indeed the system of incentives that emerged from the Reaganomic agenda is one that has driven the country into a downward economic spiral as those driving the economy into the ground benefit from its destruction. One of the biggest economic ironies of the past 30 years has been the belief among conservatives, famously voiced by Reagan, that "government is the problem", and the claim that government spending inhibits economic growth, when in fact two of the technologies that contributed the most to real economic growth in America over the past 30 years were developed by the government: the internet and satellite technologies. [...] The reality is that the demise of the America economy began some 30 years ago. The seeming decent functioning of the economy these past 30 years has been an illusion propped up by public and private debt, and basically by riding on the solid base that was built in this country during the 1940s-1960s. The solid economic base that was built during that time, both in terms of the middle-class itself and in terms of infrastructure and institutions was so strong and so well built that it was able to carry the country for several decades even as it was being weakened. The policies of the Reaganomic agenda reduced investment in the nation's infrastructure, reduced investment in education, reduced investment in long-term research and development, and instead squandered resources on grossly over-funded military spending and on privatization schemes that resulted not in the shrinking of the size of government nor in the improvement of government services, but rather in the development of a private sector with a profit motive to continuously get its hands on more and more tax payer money.
The presidency of George W. Bush, the GOP's dominance of Congress and their corporate friendly policies of lower taxes, promotion of globalization and lax regulation only accelerated the loss of American manufacturing jobs and factories. When we should have been re-investing in our industrial sector and promoting policies to strengthen and increase the dwindling middle class and eliminate income inequality, instead we went on binge that benefited Wall Street's greed at the expense of the manufacturing sector which had created the middle class lifestyle under which so many Americans had prospered prior to Republican and conservative dominance of economic policy after 1980.
Something has gone radically wrong with the American economy. A once-robust system of "traditional engineering" -- the invention, design, and manufacture of products -- has been replaced by financial engineering. Without a vibrant manufacturing sector, Wall Street created money it did not have and Americans spent money they did not have. [...]America's economic elite has long argued that the country does not need an industrial base. The economies in states such as California and Michigan that have lost their industrial base, however, belie that claim. Without an industrial base, an increase in consumer spending, which pulled the country out of past recessions, will not put Americans back to work. Without an industrial base, the nation's trade deficit will continue to grow. Without an industrial base, there will be no economic ladder for a generation of immigrants, stranded in low-paying service-sector jobs. Without an industrial base, the United States will be increasingly dependent on foreign manufacturers even for its key military technology. For American manufacturers, the bad years didn't begin with the banking crisis of 2008. Indeed, the U.S. manufacturing sector never emerged from the 2001 recession, which coincided with China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Since 2001, the country has lost 42,400 factories, including 36 percent of factories that employ more than 1,000 workers (which declined from 1,479 to 947), and 38 percent of factories that employ between 500 and 999 employees (from 3,198 to 1,972). An additional 90,000 manufacturing companies are now at risk of going out of business. Long before the banking collapse of 2008, such important U.S. industries as machine tools, consumer electronics, auto parts, appliances, furniture, telecommunications equipment, and many others that had once dominated the global marketplace suffered their own economic collapse. Manufacturing employment dropped to 11.7 million in October 2009, a loss of 5.5 million or 32 percent of all manufacturing jobs since October 2000. The last time fewer than 12 million people worked in the manufacturing sector was in 1941. In October 2009, more people were officially unemployed (15.7 million) than were working in manufacturing. [...] The U.S. machine-tool industry -- the industry that's the backbone of an industrial economy and the means by which all products are manufactured -- produced $4.2 billion in equipment in 2008, a paltry 5.1 percent of global output. American machine-tool consumption has collapsed in tandem with American manufacturing. Since 1998, U.S. machine-tool consumption has fallen by 23 percent. Chinese consumption has increased by 714 percent, from $2.7 billion in 1998 to $19.3 billion in 2008. U.S. consumption stood at $6.7 billion in 2008. For the eight months ending in August 2009, U.S. machine-tool consumption declined to only $1.04 billion. The evaporation of orders, says Mike Austin, vice president of Atlas Technologies in Fenton, Michigan, "is the last straw for many people in this industry." Machine tools have long been considered essential to maintaining the country's national security. In 1948, Congress passed the National Industrial Reserve Act based on the idea that the "defense of the U.S. requires a national reserve of machine tools for the production of critical items of defense material."
Yet what do Republicans promise us if the regain power? Will they do anything to reverse these trends? Not likely. All they have is empty rhetoric about the evils of government, and the "tyranny" of President Obama and the Democrats. They tout the same tired formula of deregulation of big business, deficit reduction and tax cuts something we know has not worked in the past based on the record of increasing deficits created by the Reagan/Bush I and Bush II administrations: That is the track record of the Republicans when they have been in power: massively increased deficits, Wall Street Bankers out of Control, lost jobs, ever widening income inequality so that the profits from collective efforts of all Americans are funneled increasingly to the richest Americans and the destruction of our manufacturing base and our technological and innovative prowess. That and unnecessary wars that sap our military, spread ill will across the globe, kill thousands. In short, Republican and conservative economic and foreign policies have make us ever more reliant on foreign powers for our energy needs (Saudi Arabia anyone), financing our debt and providing the manufactured goods we buy and, more importantly need to supply our armed forces (e.g., China). So, who is the greatest threat to our national security? I think you know the answer to that question by now: it's the elephant in the room.
This post first appeared on Booman Tribune. I saw something happen in my state last night that beggars belief. And yet it was not a figment of my imagination, not some nightmare that evaporates in the sunshine of a new morning. My state went crazy last night. Rick Lazio is an extremely conservative NY Republican politician. When he ran against Hillary for the Senate he accused her of every political sin you can think of, plus a few more you probably cannot. Yet somehow this nutcase beat him like a drum for the GOP nomination for Governor.
Carl Paladino -- a millionaire developer who has acknowledged forwarding racist and sexist emails, who has proposed turning empty prisons into dormitory space for welfare recipients, and whose state party didn't even want him on the ballot -- has won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in New York. [...]In April, Paladino acknowledged forwarding emails including images of bestiality and derogatory characterizations of President Obama, including one offering a video clip of African tribesmen dancing that characterized the video as "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal." The Tea-Party backed candidate reportedly sent an e-mail depicting a horse having sex with a woman and another that included a pornographic video and the headline "Miss France 2008 F[***]ing." He also reportedly sent out an e-mail depicting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute and one showing an airplane landing near black men with the caption "Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!" Paladino also made headlines for saying last month, as the Associated Press reported, that "he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in 'personal hygiene.'" The program, he said, would be voluntary. He waded into the debate over the proposed Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, going even further than many other Republicans by suggesting he would invoke eminent domain laws to block what he calls a symbol of "conquest." He believes global warming is a "farce." He has what one New York tabloid called a "10-year-old love child." If the state budget is late, he promises to shut down the government. He defended a friend who called New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, "an Antichrist or a Hitler."
That's some nasty crapola on anyone's resume, much less a potential governor of one of the most populated states in the country. In normal times he would have gotten maybe 10% of the votes cast in the GOP primary at best. However, these are obviously not normal times. At one point he trailed Lazio by 40 percentage points. Yet, Paladino's had 62% of the votes cast to Lazio's 38% last night. Here's the Grey Lady's take on his victory:
Mr. Paladino’s platform calls for cutting taxes by 10 percent in six months, eliminating cherished public pensions for legislators, and using eminent domain to prevent the construction of a mosque and community center near ground zero. Those proposals could make Mr. Cuomo’s farthest-reaching reform ideas seem meek by comparison.The sweeping agenda caught fire with Republicans, especially those far from New York City and distrustful of the party’s moderate wing. [...] A businessman who made millions in real estate in the Buffalo area, Mr. Paladino entered the race in April and mustered only 8 percent of the party’s support at its convention in May, after reports of his e-mails drew condemnation from Republican and Democratic leaders alike. But with Roger J. Stone Jr., the flamboyant former Nixon operative, advising him, he circumvented the party leadership, petitioned his way onto the primary ballot by collecting 30,000 signatures and quietly cobbled together a coalition of disaffected groups. In Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, Darryl Radt, who described himself as a regular primary voter, said he had come to the American Legion post to vote for Mr. Paladino “because he’s mad as hell and so am I.” Ron Wojcik, 67, a retiree, said he was frustrated with Albany and Washington and wanted someone different. “I want somebody who’s honest and hasn’t been sucked into the system already,” Mr. Wojcik said. “The system always seems to change people.”
Chris Matthews said last night on Rachel Maddow's show that Paladino has a chance to defeat the very popular NY Attorney General and democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo on election night this November. I don't think that's possible, but then I never though Lazio would lose so easily to Paladino, either. My record on political forecasting is not good. The mere fact that Paladino won at all is astonishing. But somehow he garnered 62% of the votes cast by Republicans voting in New York's GOP primary with the record he had as a bigot, racist and overall loose cannon, and despite the NY Republican party's official endorsement and support of Lazio. I find that result this morning unbelievable (and that's an understatement). If Democrats and moderates stay home and don't vote this Fall, and only "angry as hell white" voters turn out at the polls, I can imagine a Paladino victory. I don't expect that to happen, but then I never expected Paladino had a snow ball's chance in hell of beating Lazio, either, especially after watching Paladino's campaign up close and personal here in Western NY. And if progressives don't turn out across the country to support Democrats, we are likely to see a lot of crazy people walking the halls of Congress next year. I don't agree with Booman on every issue but right now even a Blue Dog Democrat looks a lot better to me than the Sharron Angles, Rand Pauls and Christine O'Donnells of the Tea Party universe. It's beginning to look like the Tea Party is the Republican Party with Glenn Beck as its guiding spirit and Sarah Palin as its king-making Mama Bear. That's a very toxic combination. In effect, even very conservative Republicans like Lisa Murkowski are considered "too liberal" to the new GOP base, who likes their candidates raw and unfiltered. When the GOP establishment and corporate lobbyists used Dick Armey's Freedomworks to begin manufacturing all this white rage against Obama last year, I doubt the GOP leadership ever expected that the Hate Train they started rolling down would roll over them, too. However, as more and more "Tea Party Appproved" candidates defeat candidates chosen by the Republican establishment it would appear that their grip on power over their own party is tenuous at best. Like the rest of us they are riding the whirlwind they created, that Fox News nurtured and that is now spreading wildfires of anger, bigottry and disruption throughout the American political landscape. I suspect the Republican Establishment already rues the day that they conceived of this "Monster of Irrational Ire" that now threatens to consume our politics in vitriol and mindless scapegoating of anyone who does not share their core beliefs. The only question is who they hate the the most: Obama? Muslims? Blacks? Gays? Hispanics? Liberals? "Big Guvment" and its bureaucrats? Teachers? Scientists? The Republican Establishment? All of the above? We are now far outside the bounds of any political movement this country has seen since the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850's or the apex of the Klu Klux Klan's influence and power in the 1920's. Those groups arose by appealing to racist and anti-immigrant sentiments and they are the only comparable movements to which I can compare the modern day Tea Party movement. For at its heart, the Tea Party feeds on the anger and blind rage of its self-identified members against anyone who is not like them. The beliefs they hold are often inconsistent and contradictory, but the hate they share for "people not like me" is what binds the movement together. And hate is never a good basis for a political movement in any country. Hate defies reason and rejects the legitimacy of those who are despised and thus designated the enemy. For that is what hatred brings to the table: one's political opponents are not merely wrong they are evil. They are conspiring to do you and your family and friends harm. Hate thus justifies any tactic, any strategy, any rhetoric and any action which harms one's enemies. Hate ignores the rule of law and respect for the dignity of other human beings. Hate is literally blinding. Hate after 9/11 led many during the Bush era to approve of torture and violations of our Constitutional rights. And today that same hatred feeds the growth and influence of the amoeba like Tea Party Movement. In hard times radical movements thrive and may even gain control of entire nations. It happened in Russia in 1917, in Italy in the twenties, Germany and Spain in the thirties, China and Argentina in the late forties. It appears to be happening in America today. The only questions are how far will the "Tea Party" go, how much impact it will have on our politics and whether it is the precursor to something even worse in our future? The Tea Party is the most radical major political movement I have seen in my lifetime. Considering the times in which we live and the economic condition in which we find ourselves, we ignore it and its extremist message of unmitigated rage against a rational and reasoned political discourse at our peril.
This post first appeared on Booman Tribune. A mentally ill man diagnosed with a bipolar disorder was tasered by two Minneapolis Police officers at a YMCA on Friday. The man was not armed but was struggling with police who had been called to the scene. The taser caused his heart to go into cardiac arrest. He is now in a Minneapolis hospital in critical condition after his heart stopped and he had to resuscitated at least twice:
A Minneapolis man shot by police with a Taser last week during an altercation at the downtown Minneapolis YMCA is on life support and is not expected to survive, a family member said Saturday.David Cornelius Smith, 28, suffered from mental illness, said his uncle, Larry Smith, an attorney from Oak Park, Ill. He remained hospitalized Saturday at Hennepin County Medical Center. Family members believe that police mishandled Thursday's Tasering incident, Larry Smith said. [...] "I'm sure the police are trained to handle individuals with mental health issues," he said. "There are a lot of people with mental health issues in this country, and they don't get Tased by the police." Police were called to the YMCA at 30 S. 9th St. at 3:45 p.m. Thursday on a report of a man who was disturbing patrons and were directed to the sixth-floor gym. When officers Timothy Gorman and Timothy Callahan tried to physically remove Smith from the Y, he fought with them for several minutes, injuring one of them slightly before he was shot with a Taser. [...] Larry Smith said the initial jolt from the Taser caused David Smith to go into cardiac arrest. "It didn't stop his heart; it killed him," he said. "Paramedics restarted his heart on scene." Since he arrived at the hospital Thursday, Smith's heart has stopped again and once again he was revived, his uncle said. [...] David Smith, a native of Peoria, moved to Minneapolis about eight years ago for a Job Corps position and decided to stay in the city, his uncle said. He lived on his own and was taking college courses, though Larry Smith wasn't sure where. When the two last spoke in June, Larry Smith said his nephew talked about getting into a finance job and taking classes to become an investment banker. David Smith was a "charismatic young man" who was an accomplished cello player in high school, Larry Smith said.
Two things: this man apparently had no weapon or the police would have mentioned it in their report. So, though he may have been trying to fight off the officers who came to remove him from the YMCA, a taser was not an absolute necessity. Other options were available such as calling for more police officers or mental health professionals with experience dealing with agitated people. Second, can there be any doubt that tasers are lethal weapons that can kill even apparently healthy individuals? David Smith was supposedly in good physical condition according to his family. Yet the taser stopped his heart immediately. Clearly in this situation the officers would not have been justified to use a gun since the disturbed man had at most "slightly injured" one of the officers after several minutes of resisting arrest. Wouldn't the better course have been to call for more back up and try to calm Mr. Smith down rather than using a taser? I'm sure the police felt justified in their actions because supposedly tasers are non-lethal, but that's the problem: they aren't, and you cannot predict when they will kill someone.
A 2008 report (PDF) from Amnesty International found 351 Taser-related deaths in the US between June, 2001 and August, 2008, a rate of just slightly above four deaths per month.A database of Taser-related deaths maintained at the African-American issues blog Electronic Village counts 96 deaths related to the use of Tasers since January, 2009. Assuming the statistics are correct, that indicates the death rate has increased to an average of five per month. Electronic Village counts the 96th Taser-linked death as being that of Adam Colliers, a 25-year-old resident of Snohomish County, Washington, who was reportedly "running up and down" a street and causing a disturbance when he was Tased by two officers. He stopped breathing shortly afterwards, and was pronounced dead in hospital a short while later.
Unfortunately police departments often use tasers as a means to take people into custody when other, less lethal means are still available. Two other men died last week in a strikingly similar situations after being tasered by police in western Washington:
Everett Police Sgt. Robert Goetz says officers were called to the scene of an early morning disturbance. The 25-year-old man reportedly charged a deputy, who used the Taser on him.After the man was hit, the deputies found he wasn't breathing. They began CPR and called for medical aid. The man was taken to a hospital but could not be revived. This is the second time in a week that a man has died in Western Washington after being shocked by a Taser. A 27-year-old stopped breathing in Spanaway on Tuesday during an encounter with Pierce County authorities.
Here are the details of the man who was tasered and died in Spanaway, Washington:
Deputies were called about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to a Spanaway apartment where the 27-year-old man had been staying but refused to leave. He had thrown a propane tank from a barbecue through a window and was hiding behind a couch when deputies arrived.When he struggled, deputies used the Taser stun gun, put him in handcuffs and bound his feet. Paramedics were on their way when he lost consciousness. He could not be revived and was pronounced dead at St. Claire Hospital in Lakewood.
Police are "investigating" whether drugs or alcohol" played a role ion his death. Well, one thing I can tell them for certain is that the taser played the greatest role in these individuals dying, yet somehow our meida reports the story as if we should assume that a person on drugs and alcohol, or who suffers from mental illness, is responsible for their own death, rather than the use of a taser by law enforcement. Isn't it time to treat tasers as the equivalent of guns? Not every person shot by the police dies from their wounds but we wouldn't authorize police to use their firearms to take shoot someone in order to take them into custody for resisting arrest, so why is a taser any different at this point? How many more deaths do we need to prove the point? Here are some other recent examples of what I would consider inappropriate taser use by the police:
Police used a Taser stun gun to subdue a man after he jumped off a bridge connecting Iowa and Illinois on Monday.The man jumped Monday morning about 100 feet off the Interstate 74 Bridge into the Mississippi River and survived. KWQC-TV in Davenport reports a call came in around 10 a.m. that a man had crashed his vehicle on the bridge. He was seen walking around, then jumped into the river and managed to swim to a nearby small island. Capt. Greg Trudell with the Bettendorf Police Department said the man "appeared to be quite disturbed." Officers said when they reached the man, he wouldn't talk or listen to officers, forcing them to use a Taser.
Note the language used by the reporters: "Officers said when they reached the man, he wouldn't talk or listen to officers, forcing them to use a Taser." Again we see a case of a taser being employed because the individual "wouldn't talk or listen" to officers" so they were "forced" to use their taser. When did simple failure to follow police instructions justify being shocked with 50,000 to 75,000 volts of electricity? Did we simply allow law enforcement officials to shoot these people in the past if they "appeared to be quite disturbed" and "refused to listen or talk to the police?" I don't think so? But use a taser that might kill them also? That's not a problem, apparently. Or how about this case of a woman tasered while lying on a hospital gurney?
Pamela Borton believes a Dothan police officer used an electric stun device on her to punish her for being belligerent toward them during a 2006 incident, even though she says she was suffering from bipolar disorder and was restrained face down on a hospital gurney at the time. [...]The incident in question occurred on the afternoon of Aug. 15, 2006, at Southeast Alabama Medical Center. Earlier, paramedics and Midland City Police had responded to Borton's residence after Borton's mother called 911 after Borton went into what she called a "manic state." Borton testified that the paramedics and officers were forced to handcuff and tie her face down on the gurney before placing her in an ambulance to take her to SAMC. Borton said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager and has been confined on numerous occasions. [...] That's where the stories of the two parties in this lawsuit begin to diverge. Borton claims Schulmerich used a Taser on her almost immediately after she arrived at SAMC, applying it to her right calf before she was wheeled into the hospital's emergency room. Borton claims the device was used on her at least two more times while she was still restrained. She said two male officers, two male paramedics and a male nurse were present in the room. [...] Borton's attorney, Gary Hudgins, asked Bissette if using the Taser was the most reasonable response to subdue a 100-pound female with multiple officers and male paramedics present. "If there are two options, wait or use a Taser and either one will result in the desired outcome, why use the Taser?" Hudgins asked. "I can't speak for the officers. I wasn't there. If the individual was combative, or causing harm to themselves or others, then the use of the Taser is appropriate," Bissette responded.
Let me be clear. I have no issue with police using a taser when confronted by an armed individual who poses a serious threat to them or when they have committed a violent assault and refuse to submit to arrest. But that does not appear to be the case in the examples I've cited. It's clear tasers are weapons that employ potential "lethal force" and they should be treated as such by law enforcement agencies. In other words, using a taser should be a matter of last resort by the police, not a means to achieve submission of unruly or disturbed individuals. Until they are, however, we will continue to see people killed and maimed by taser abuse.
There is so much that is just so wrong with this story I don't know where to begin:
The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band's concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up. [...]Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army's Transportation Corps. "My whole issue was I don't need to be preached at," Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. "That's not what I signed up for." {...] Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the "Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts." Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said. "Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down," Smith said. "It seemed very much like a punishment."
Banished for refusing to attend a Christian concert? What is happening to our military? When did it morph into you must be a Christian to serve or else? And what the hell does being a Christian, or following any other religion, have to do with being a soldier? What the F is "Spiritual Fitness?" What it is is using the military to coerce soldiers to become Christians whether they want to or not, and to make them feel unwanted and punished if they refuse to "get with the program."
Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said. Smith said he went up the chain of command and traced the concert edict to a captain, who said he simply wanted to "show support for those kind of events that bring soldiers together." While not accepting blame, the officer apologized to the soldiers who refused to attend the concert and said it was not his intent to proselytize, he said. "But once you get in there, you realize it's evangelization," Smith said.
How many other commanding officers are using their positions of power over the lives of our young men and women in the service to impose their religious views on them? How extensive is this type of "evangelization" within the officer corps? We already know the Air Force Academy is practically a wholly owned subsidiary of the Fundamentalist Christian Right.
Reporting from Denver — The Air Force Academy, stung several years ago by accusations of Christian bias, has built a new outdoor worship area for pagans and other practitioners of Earth-based religions.But its opening, heralded as a sign of a more tolerant religious climate at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was marred by the discovery two weeks ago of a large wooden cross placed there.
I'm not a Wiccan but they have as much right to worship and practice their faith as Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians of whatever sect. And athesists have just as much right to not practice any faith. Joining the muilitary doesn't mean you give up your first amendment protections against the government imposing anyone's religious values upon you. It shouldn't mean that your Christian superiors can force you to attend events where they proselytize you to accept their faith or elese face punishment. Any officer, no matter how high or how low should be drummed out of the military for such behavior. Court martials should be held and officers who violated these d=soldiers fundamental constitutional rights should be stripped of their commands and given dishonorable discharges. The people who fought an American revolution did not fight so that any member of the government, much less a military commander could use his position of authority to coerce anyone to accept his or her religious beliefs. Quite the contrary. They came to America to escape religious persecution, not create a new means by which their faiths would rule supreme over everyone who believed differently than them. This is just one of many dangerous signs over the last few years that our military is being corrupted by these Fundamentalist Christians. We know that their goal is to Christianize the government and the military and use that political and military power to impose their version of "Biblical Law" on the rest of us.
In the process of introducing powerful men to Jesus, the Family has managed to effect a number of behind-the-scenes acts of diplomacy. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and more recently, in 2001, it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. Such benign acts appear to be the exception to the rule. During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand “Communists” killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. “We work with power where we can,” the Family's leader, Doug Coe, says, “build new power where we can't.” [...]Two weeks into my stay, David Coe, Doug's son and the presumptive heir to leadership of the Family, dropped by the house. My brothers and I assembled in the living room, where David had draped his tall frame over a burgundy leather recliner like a frat boy, one leg hanging over a padded arm. “You guys,” David said, “are here to learn how to rule the world.”
Obviously one place they have been building up their power to "rule the world" is in the US Military. And that is a very dangerous sign for our future as a free nation.
The most effective wedge for the insertion of evangelicals into every rung of military life was the NAE and its influential chaplain-endorsing agency, the Commission on Chaplains, which worked tirelessly as a liaison for a wide array of fundamentalist denominations, from the Assemblies of God to the Southern Baptist Convention to the full index of offshoot and splinter congregations. Notwithstanding the military's policy of allotting chaplaincies on a quota system designed to roughly reflect the religious affiliations of society as a whole, by the late '60s evangelical denominations were regularly exceeding their allotments.The phenomenon mirrored, in part, the explosive growth of fundamentalist Christianity in America and, in part, the assiduous efforts of the NAE and its Commission on Chaplains to fill posts left empty by the Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, and others who were regularly failing to meet their allocations. In what Loveland terms a "quota juggling act," the NAE and others aggressively lobbied to fill chaplaincies left vacant by other denominations, resulting in a marked shift in the selection process weighted more and more to religious demographics within the military itself, where evangelical numbers continued to swell. This consolidation of power would result, by the late eighties, in the NAE Chaplains Commission's acting as the endorsing agent not only for established denominations but for hundreds of nonaligned individual churches. [...] It was inevitable, considering the concerted effort by evangelicals to penetrate every echelon of the service, from the lowliest barracks to the loftiest policy-making aerie, that there would eventually emerge a cadre of Christian officers emboldened to openly profess their faith and use the full influence of their rank to bolster the cause. [...] It is a convergence that would, in turn, reach its apotheosis in You the Warrior Leader, a gung ho handbook for "applying military strategy in victorious spiritual leadership," published at the same time Weinstein was beginning to gird himself for a different kind of battle. Written by former Green Beret and current Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch, You the Warrior Leader is as unequivocal a statement of evangelical militarism as could be imagined, an unabashed tactical manual on storming the barricades of unbelief with rousing rhetoric that evokes a kind of holy bloodlust for the trophies of triumphalism. [...] In the chapter "Attack! Attack! Attack!" Welch asks, "Remember the Warrior Leader's Mission-Vision?" as he hammers home with steely-eyed determination his grand strategy for winning souls: "To develop victorious spiritual-war fighters who form a force-multiplying army that accomplishes the Great Commission."
And yes, Sharon Angle and other fundamentalist Christian Republican candidates for National office do approve a Christian takeover of the Country:
When Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle told a Christian news interviewer this year that “entitlement programs (are) built to make government our God,” she voiced a central tenet of Christian Reconstructionism, according to academics who study the movement. [...]Many of Angle’s religious and political beliefs appear to align with the tenets of Christian Reconstructionism. She’s supported eliminating Social Security and Medicare, is a home schooling champion, sees the separation of church and state as an unconstitutional doctrine that was never meant to protect the state from religious belief, and believes public policy should support the traditional family structure as defined in the Bible. She also helped resurrect the Nevada affiliate of a national party founded by a prominent Christian Reconstructionist and has raised campaign money from reconstructionists. But Ingersoll said Angle’s comments on government as a false idol come directly from the movement’s founder, R.J. Rushdoony, an orthodox Presbyterian minister.
Do we really want politicians who will support the continued Fundamentalist Christianization of our government and especially our military? Do we really want people with the most powerful weapons on earth trained to believe that only the Christian faith is truly American? That their duty to a Christian God supersedes their duty to the Constitution? I think you know the answer to that.We need to eradicate this infestation of religious intolerance and infiltration before it leads our country down a dark path in which our armed forces become a pawn of religious zealots determined to make our country as "free" religiously as Iran or Saudi Arabia are today.
This post originally appeared on Booman Tribune. Unemployment numbers keep getting worse, not better according to this report from McClatchy:
First-time filings for unemployment benefits rose last week by 12,000, reaching 500,000 for the week, the highest level since last November. Economists had expected the claims to drop. [...]Obama proposes making the Bush tax cuts permanent for individuals who earn less than $200,000 a year and couples who make less than $250,000. He'd let the tax reductions expire for those who earn more than that. Republicans — and some Democrats — want to make all the tax cuts permanent or at least to extend them as long as the economy remains fragile. They fear that a tax increase would hurt recovery. Indeed, the CBO said the economy and jobs outlook would be helped under one scenario, in which most tax reductions_ except the lower rates for the wealthy — were extended and federal spending restrained.
Well, we all know that neither of those is going to happen. Republicans won't abandon their wealthiest donors to help out everyone else. The GOP will continue to block extension of tax cuts for the middle class unless the rich get theirs too. So either all the Bush tax cuts will expire unless the Democrats cave and extend all of them. Of course extending tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans (those with incomes in excess of $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families) will only increase future deficits more, but that won't stop Republicans from claiming the deficit is all the fault of Democrats and "entitlement programs" (you know, Social Security and Medicare which are subject to a separate, regressive tax). As for spending, thanks in large part to the costs of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, deficits will remain high (and no, our involvement in Iraq isn't over when you still have 50,000 US troops there). The companies that make bullets, bombs and drones and electrocute soldier in showers (Hi KBR!) will continue to do well, but everyone else will suffer from lack of spending. As this chart from Gallup shows consumer spending is down from last year at this time. Without some easing of credit for small business or government investment in rebuilding and modernizing our infrastructure (updating the electrical grid so that it loses less electricity, spending on or tax credits for new green technologies like wind and solar, fixing bridges and roads, investing in education, transportation, etc.) new jobs will be hard to come by. If I were running the Democratic campaigns for the Fall I would be emphasizing that we are falling behind other developed nations because we refuse to INVEST in the infrastructure and new technologies that will secure more jobs now and better paying jobs in the future. However, it seems the Dems are falling into the GOP trap of having the debate over the Bush tax cuts for the rich and corporate welfare that allows jobs to be outsourced overseas which we know failed to generate job growth in the past according to that commie rag The Wall Street Journal.
President George W. Bush entered office in 2001 just as a recession was starting, and is preparing to leave in the middle of a long one. That’s almost 22 months of recession during his 96 months in office.His job-creation record won’t look much better. The Bush administration created about three million jobs (net) over its eight years, a fraction of the 23 million jobs created under President Bill Clinton’s administration and only slightly better than President George H.W. Bush did in his four years in office. [...] Because the size of the economy and labor force varies, we also calculate in percentage terms how much the total payroll count expanded under each president. The current President Bush, once taking account how long he’s been in office, shows the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records.
Three million piddling jobs created in 8 years? Remember, this came during a time when Bush increased government spending to private companies and to pay for our massive wars in the Middle East. It was the worst job creation during an economic recovery (from the recession created after the Tech stock bubble burst in 2000) ever. So why on God's Green Earth would any Democrat talk about tax cuts as being the panacea to our nation's job woes? Every time a Republican says tax cuts create jobs a Democrat should be waving that Wall Street Journal article in his or her face. Every time they say we need to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans we should be saying that isn't going to create jobs for the unemployed because the record proves it. Bush's job creation didn't even keep up with the rise in the workforce population.
When George W. Bush came into office in 2001, there were 215 million Americans who might want work. By the end of his administration, in 2008, the population had grown again, and there were 234 million Americans suitable for America’s labor force. The number of people who might want jobs had grown by another 19 million people.Unfortunately, 19 million jobs were not created during the Bush years. Instead, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a net gain of only 2 million jobs were created. This means that during the eight years of the Bush administration, only a year’s worth of new jobs were created. And that means that by the time George W. Bush left office, the United States was seven years behind in the number of jobs it needed to keep its citizens working.
In addition, during the halcycon years of the Bush tax cuts, 8.3 MILLION more people fell below the poverty line during his eight years. Median incomes fell from $52,500 at the end of 2000 (Clinton's last year)to an inflation adjusted $50,303 in 2008 That's a drop of 4.2 per cent. As Ronald Brownstein, the political director of Atlantic Media, commented on the 2009 Census Bureau report:
On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.
So who benefited from the tax cuts? Not people who needed jobs, not most workers, not poor people. No, the people who most benefited from the tax cuts were MILLIONAIRES and BILLIONAIRES:
Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.The study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also shows that tax rates for middle-income earners edged up in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available, while rates for people at the very top continued to decline. Based on an exhaustive analysis of tax records and census data, the study reinforced the sense that while Mr. Bush’s tax cuts reduced rates for people at every income level, they offered the biggest benefits by far to people at the very top — especially the top 1 percent of income earners.
So why are Democrats still talking about tax cuts? Eight years of tax cuts and Republican mismanagement cost us jobs, made health care more expensive or unavailable for more Americans, substantially increased poverty and lowered incomes for most Americans. That's the message Democrats should be speaking out about loudly and clearly at every campaign stop and in every speech and in every ad they run this year. But will they?
Take a look at this sign (via Think Progress) which was produced and displayed publicly by NOM (National Organization For Marriage) supporter Larry Adams at a recent rally in Indianapolis as part NOM's Summer for Marriage Tour 2010, and tell me this isn't one of the worst examples of hate speech we've seen this year (and that's saying a lot): How often have we heard that extreme right wing Christian groups love gay people. It's only the "sin" of gay sex that they hate. Yet there is recent visual evidence of a supporter of the National Organization For Marriage (NOM), the ant-gay marriage group that produced the infamous (and fact free) video "There's a Storm Coming" about the danger same sex marriage posed to marriage ... ... that demonstrates at least some NOM supporters don't love gay people so much as they would like to implement a "final solution" to the gay problem based on their version of "Biblical Law." And, what is worse, that visual evidence evokes the worst abuses of the Jim Crow era in our own history: the lynching of African Americans in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The sign speaks for itself. Not only is this offensive to gay people, it is no doubt offensive to many African Americans, especially those of Shirley Sherrod's generation who can still remember when their relatives, friends and neighbors were routinely murdered by mobs of bigots, killed by the KKK or simply beaten to death by white law enforcement officials. It is also reminiscent of one of the least publicized aspects of the Nazi Holocaust. The Nazis didn't just slaughter European Jews. Gays were also targeted for torture, slave labor and mass murder by that horrific regime. And lest we forget, Adam's ugly, violence inciting sign calls for the same punishment of homosexual men and women that extremist fundamentalist Islamic states such as Iran impose against gay people today: Death by hanging. Iran, one of the countries former President Bush's included in his original "Axis of Evil" is ruled by a theocratic religious regime where homosexuality is a crime based on that regime's interpretation of Islamic law. Is that the kind of America NOM and other anti-gay groups really want? Oh, we know that they claim they are only out to protect their (heterosexual) marriages, their children, and their first amendment rights from the dangers of Gay Marriage (though to date I;ve yet to hear a valid argument about the danger same sex marriage poses to my heterosexual marriage), but I for one do not trust them. Why don't I trust their "good intentions?" Why don't I take them at their word when they state that they love the gay "sinner" and merely hate the "sin" of homosexuality?" Well, it's hard to trust radical right wing Conservative Christians on any topic related to the civil rights of homosexual men and women at this moment in time. Not when people like Larry Admas appear at NOM rallies carrying signs that advocate for the lynching of members of the LGBT community and are not told to leave or denounced by NOM's leadership. And I certainly lack faith in the words of conservative Christians and their leaders after evidence came to light recently that evangelical fundamentalist American Christians were active supporters, promoters, defenders and and architects of the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that would institute death by hanging for those who engage in homosexual acts:
KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family. [...] One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals ... The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill. [...] [T]he Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” [...] Human rights advocates in Uganda say the visit by the three Americans helped set in motion what could be a very dangerous cycle. Gay Ugandans already describe a world of beatings, blackmail, death threats like “Die Sodomite!” scrawled on their homes, constant harassment and even so-called correctional rape. [...] Uganda has also become a magnet for American evangelical groups. Some of the best known Christian personalities have recently passed through here, often bringing with them anti-homosexuality messages, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who visited in 2008 and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia. {...]
And these weren't just merely random coincidences. "The Family" a secretive conservative Christian organization based in Washington DC, with ties to many socially conservative politicians, was actively involved in Uganda's "gay eradication" legislation from early on as this interview of Jeff Sharlet by Terri Gross of NPR explains:
The Family is also connected to proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda that could sentence, quote, repeat offenders to the death penalty. That family connection is revealed in new reporting by my guest, Jeff Sharlet. Sharlet is the author of the bestseller "The Family" and is a contributing editor for Harper's. He's been investigating The Family for years. [...]GROSS: Now, you mentioned that The Family thinks it's important to have their people and their concerns represented in both the Republican and the Democratic Party. Is there an active strategy to actually have Family-affiliated politicians in the Democratic Party? Mr. SHARLET: Yeah, I think it's always been very important to The Family, going back to the beginning of the group's roots in the 1930s, when they actually formed with the idea that democracy wasn't going to work. Remember, this was in the 1930s, and they're looking around the world, and they see communism as this incredibly powerful world force, and fascism is, of course, too. Well, they certainly don't want to be communism. Fascism they are a little more sympathetic to, and there were a lot of sort of early-American fascists in the group, but it's still a problem because it's a cult of personality. They put Hitler and Mussolini where Jesus is. So they come up with this idea of a third way, that they later start calling totalitarianism for Christ. And they predict that the United States will pretty quickly embrace this and will get rid of political parties because democracy doesn't work. People arguing and debating doesn't work. They don't want a Republican Party, a Democratic Party. They want one big party - theirs. [...] GROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do? Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison. And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end. [...] Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.
Jesus said "Love thy neighbor." Too many anti-gay bigots who call themselves Christians would rather ignore those words by excluding gay people from the definition of "neighbor" altogether. Indeed, they seem very eager not only to deny LGBT people the same civil rights that other Americans enjoy, but also to create an atmosphere of fear and loathing of gay people, a fear so great that it encourages hatred and violence against our fellow Americans who simply choose to love members of the same gender as themselves. And clearly they have succeeded with individuals like Larry Adams and the many, many criminals who have attacked, assaulted and murdered LGBT people solely based on hatred. A hatred fueled by good Christians like those who belong to NOM.
This originally appeared at Booman Tribune. What do all the income taxes collected (as opposed to FICA, etc.) get spent on? One organization has a handy pie chart which summarizes it nicely for the last Fuiscal Year, 2009: pieFY09
Current military” includes Dept. of Defense ($653 billion), the military portion from other departments ($150 billion), and an additional $162 billion to supplement the Budget’s misleading and vast underestimate of only $38 billion for the “war on terror.” “Past military” represents veterans’ benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.* These figures are from an analysis of detailed tables in the “Analytical Perspectives” book of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009. The figures are federal funds, which do not include trust funds — such as Social Security — that are raised and spent separately from income taxes. What you pay (or don’t pay) by April 15, 2008, goes to the federal funds portion of the budget. The government practice of combining trust and federal funds began during the Vietnam War, thus making the human needs portion of the budget seem larger and the military portion smaller.*Analysts differ on how much of the debt stems from the military; other groups estimate 50% to 60%. We use 80% because we believe if there had been no military spending most (if not all) of the national debt would have been eliminated.
However you slice it, your income taxes fund more defense spending than the next 15 countries in the world combined (and yes, that includes China and Russia). Which means of course that as a Responsible Republican you can only propose that we must extend the Bush tax cutscut off unemployment benefits and raise the the retirement age to 70 for Social Security. A few of them also want to repeal Health Care Reform. What would be the effect on the deficit if the Republicans get their way on repealing the Bush tax cuts? Well we know that in 2005 alone those tax cuts helped add add $539 BILLION to the deficit. Here's what the CBO said at the time regarding the Bush tax cuts:
In 2005, the cost of tax cuts enacted over the past four years will be over three times the cost of all domestic program increases enacted over this period.The new CBO data show that changes in law enacted since January 2001 increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005. In the absence of such legislation, the nation would have a surplus this year. Tax cuts account for nearly half — 48 percent — of this $539 billion in increased costs. [1] Increases in program spending make up the other 52 percent and have been primarily concentrated in defense, homeland security, and international affairs.
Got that? By 2005, Bush's tax cuts and uncreased defense spending (much of it for his unnecessary war in Iraq) was responsible for turning what would have been a Federal Budget surplus into a $539 Billion deficit. Now the Republicans want to make those tax cuts which are about to expire permanent. And here's what the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget are saying about the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts. Between the years 2011 and 2018, extending the the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 would add $3.28 TRILLION DOLLARS to the Federal deficit. That is simply a staggering amount of money that republicans are willing to forego while voting for more Defense spending and refusing to extend unemployment benefits. Yet, Republican Senator John Kyl said that deficits be damned, these tax cuts are too important to not extend them regardless of their effect on the deficit. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) backed Kyl up by making the statement that cutting taxes increases tax revenues, despite all the evidence in the Bush years that they had no such effect. Rachel Maddow last night pointed out that even George Bush's economic team never made the claim that tax cuts increase tax revenues. Indeed, here is what Greg Mankiw, Chair of the Bush Administration's Council on Economic Advisers recently stated regarding the revenue generating fantasy of the Bush tax cuts:
How about George W. Bush's CEA chair, Greg Mankiw, who used the term "charlatans and cranks" for people who believed that "broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue." He continued: "I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't."
Again, Professor Mankiw is a conservative economist, not some "leftist Obama worshiper" (as those who read his blog well know). Yet even he acknowledges that to claim Large tax cuts are the way to increase Federal revenue and reduce the deficit are, in his own words, "charlatans and cranks." In franker terms he is calling these tax cut favoring Republicans either liars or crazy people, depending on whether they really believe what they claim they believe. The claims that tax cuts are beneficial and the more tax cuts the better, especially for the wealthiest among us, have always been based on the belief that decreasing tax cuts for wealthy people will create job growth. The theory goes that rich people and corporations with extra cash in their pockets will invest in industries that fuel job growth in America. Unfortunately, the record does not support that theory or their ideological (or selfish) fervor in promoting such policies: Well over the eight years of the Bush Presidency, when the largest tax cuts in modern times were passed by Congress because Bush demanded them, 3 million jobs were created, not enough to keep up with the growth of the US work force during those years. Even the Wall Street Journal, hardly a Socialist hotbed of Obamabots, found this to be, as the title to this article states rather bluntly: "Bush On Jobs: The Worst Track Record On Record"
The Bush administration created about three million jobs (net) over its eight years, a fraction of the 23 million jobs created under President Bill Clinton’s administration and only slightly better than President George H.W. Bush did in his four years in office.Here's how they arrive at those figures: Here’s a look at job creation under each president since the Labor Department started keeping payroll records in 1939. The counts are based on total payrolls between the start of the month the president took office (using the final payroll count for the end of the prior December) and his final December in office. Because the size of the economy and labor force varies, we also calculate in percentage terms how much the total payroll count expanded under each president. The current President Bush, once taking account how long he’s been in office, shows the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records.
Yet this is what the Republicans are running on in their bid to retake control of Congress: More Tax Cuts fro the rich and corporations, more Defense spending (even for items the Pentagon doesn't want), and more sacrifice for everyone else, i.e., anyone who doesn't make over $200,000 per year, and major corporations who can evade taxes. Oh and cutting the deficit, of course. Just don;t ask them how they plan to do that if you want a serious answer.
A philosophical question for you. If no reporter is ever allowed to speak or meet with any of the many oil spill clean-up workers about the medical treatment they may or may not be receiving at a Federal Clinic, much less visit said clinic, do they really exist? And by that I mean oil spill clean-up workers in general, sick or not:
The latest chapter in the media's ongoing struggle to cover the Gulf Oil Spill comes courtesy of PBS Newshour's Bridget Desimone, who has been working with her colleague, Betty Ann Bowser, in "reporting the health impact of the oil spill in Plaquemines Parish." Desimone reports that on the ground, officials are generally doing a better job answering inquiries and granting access to the clean-up efforts.But Desimone and Bowser have encountered one "roadblock" that they've struggled to overcome: access to a "federal mobile medical unit" in Venice, Louisiana: "The glorified double-wide trailer sits on a spit of newly graveled land known to some as the "BP compound." Ringed with barbed wire-topped chain link fencing, it's tightly restricted by police and private security guards."
Ever hear of an American medical treatment facility masquerading as Stalag 17 before (I mean other than the one in the movie "Shutter Island")? Of course, in Shutter Island the facility was an asylum for the criminally insane. I don't think that's the excuse the Feds and BP can use for the Venice, La. facility unless the toxic chemicals to which the workers have been exposed have turned them into raving zombies or serial killers.So, what gives? Bridgett and Betty would like to know why they can;t get a look see inside this medical facility staffed bv "a medical team from the HHS National Disaster Medical System -- a doctor, two nurses, two emergency medical technician paramedics (EMT-P) and a pharmacist." But someone in our government doesn't want them poking around asking all those standard journalmalistic questions that journalists ask when the mood strikes them (i.e., when they aren't covering important politicians to whom they want to preserve their access):
For over two weeks, my NewsHour colleagues and I reached out to media contacts at HHS, the U.S. Coast Guard and everyone listed as a possible media contact for BP, in an attempt to visit the unit and get a general sense of how many people were being treated there , who they were and what illnesses they had. We got nowhere. It was either "access denied," or no response at all. It was something that none of us had ever encountered while covering a disaster. We're usually at some point provided access to the health services being offered by the federal government.
You know, this is the kind of thing, not that I'm suggesting this is true, but ...this is the kind of thing that makes people wonder if BP or the government have something to hide. Something they don't want the people they are employing to work on these clean-up efforts or anyone else to know. Like the fact that maybe the oil spill and the chemicals used in cleaning it up just might have deleterious effects on human health for people, workers or not, in the region, and that a number of medical experts have been calling for public health monitoring of the health risks to which these people are being exposed on a daily basis:
Charged with advising decision-makers and the general public on health issues related to the spill, the Institute of Medicine corralled public officials, medical experts and academic researchers from the Gulf Coast region and across the country this week to discuss what is known about the potential health impacts of the spill and what information is needed to improve treatment and public education.Their observations during two days of meetings seemed to converge on two key conclusions: Data gathered from previous oil spills is grossly inadequate in depth and chronological scope; and a massive, multilateral effort will be required to effectively treat, research and monitor affected populations along the Gulf Coast this time around. "The science definitely needs to get better at getting the answers," said Louisiana state health officer Jimmy Guidry. "People don't want to be seen as guinea pigs," he warned.
Let me fix that last bolded quote. It should have read "People don't want to be guinea pigs ever" for the toxic effects of human caused ecological disasters. Of course, BP has a vested interest in no one studying the health risks that resulted from its gross negligence and reckless indifference for the safety of its workers and the people of the Gulf Coast. I can understand that. BP may be a person with constitutionally protected rights, but it sure isn't an individual human being capable of feeling empathy, shame or guilt. For them the health concern of Gulf area residents citizens is merely a potential liability on their balance sheet, one they'd just as soon ignore and avoid if at all possible.
One of the first things BP did after oil started gushing into the Gulf was to spray more than 1.1 million gallons of a dispersant with the optimistic name "Corexit" onto the oil. Then BP hired Louisiana fishermen and others to help with cleanup and containment operations. About two weeks later, over seventy workers fell sick, complaining of irritated throats, coughing, shortness of breath and nausea. Seven workers were hospitalized on May 26. Workers were engaged in a variety of different tasks in different places when they got sick: breaking up oil sheen, doing offshore work, burning oil and deploying boom. BP officials speculated that their illnesses were due to food poisoning or other, unrelated reasons, but others pointed out how unlikely these other causes were, since the sick workers were assigned to different locations. [...]The illnesses they have experienced have led workers to ask for better equipment to use for cleanup, including respirators, but BP says air quality monitoring doesn't show a need for breathing equipment, according to OSHA standards. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) says BP is refusing to acknowledge any liability for health problems, and that the only thing chemical dispersants have accomplished is to make some of the oil less visible on the ocean's surface by driving it into underwater plumes, which BP denies exist. He likened the spraying of Corexit on the ocean to the U.S.'s spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam, a defoliant that by some accounts resulted in as many as 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. Nadler expressed concern that the situation with BP and Corexit reminds him of the World Trade Center where the government said the air was safe for workers and told them there was no need for concern and no need for respirators, and thousands fell ill with chronic health problems.
BP is a soulless, heartless corporate person whose sole objective is making money, i.e., profits. So their attitude toward the people their activities are making sick is, if not morally or legally acceptable, at least understandable. What I can't understand, however, is why these PBS reporters are being given the runaround by the Government, which is managed by the individual human beings we duly elected to protect and serve the general welfare of "We, the people."
When Desimone finally got to speak with Ron Burger, the "Medical Unit Operations Chief for HHS's National Disaster Medical System," she was told that the facility had been treating responders and could not or would not confirm or deny that any area residents had been treated there or turned away. [...]Burger also told Desimone that the facility was being run under the auspices of the "national contingency plan." I'll remind you for the eleventy billionth time that National Incident Commander Thad Allen specifically directed officials on the ground to grant access to the media, in what appears to be the most widely unheard or ignored set of orders in the world.
Dear Mr. President, since your employees can't seem to get the message that transparency is the order of the day, maybe you should take a direct hand in seeing that journalists and reporters are given the access to these clean-up sites, including the medical facility in Venice, La., that for some reason they keep being told is off limits to their eyes and ears and cameras. And the sooner the better.
This post originally appeared on Booman Tribune. What PCs and Macs Have in Common Profiting from the worst war on the planet that no one in America knows anything about by purchasing "conflicts minerals" from the Congo for their products: From Nicholas Kristoff in February:
[S]o far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation ... “Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing here,” Dr. Mukwege said despairingly. “There is no medical solution.” The paramount need, he says, is not for more humanitarian aid for Congo, but for a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself. That means putting pressure on neighboring Rwanda, a country so widely admired for its good governance at home that it tends to get a pass for its possible role in war crimes next door. We also need pressure on the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, to arrest Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. And, as recommended by an advocacy organization called the Enough Project, we need a U.S.-brokered effort to monitor the minerals trade from Congo so that warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.
And you thought Goldman Sachs and BP were evil corporations. Who knew that Intell, Blackbery, Dell, IBM, Gateway, HP, Sony, AT&T, Motorola, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Nintendo, etc., including Steve Jobs and Apple, are providing the funds these barbaric militias and warlords need to continue to fuel the slaughter and rape of thousands of Africans. More from Kristoff yesterday:
I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”
Our computers, cellphones, iPods, Wiis, Playstations, and god knows what other electronic devices are the end product of unimaginable human suffering. 6.9 million deaths. Countless lives destroyed. Misery beyond our ability to fathom. Guess that's why you never see this story reported upon by the Network and Cable News Channels. No TV cameras documenting massacres. No documentaries exposing the horrid and deadly trade in the minerals that come out of the Congo through Rwanda, scene of another epic mass murder. After all, those commercials for every new electronic device that comes down the pipeline every few months helps keep the media companies in business. Can't piss off your advertisers by showing them to be aiders and abettors of crimes against humanity, can you? Best not to speak of it. Wouldn't be good for business. And yes I'm typing this from a PC with an Intel CORE processor that no doubt used materials for which others sacrificed their lives so Dell (in my case) could sell it to me. Excuse me while I go and get sick to my stomach.