Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Children, Conservative, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Governor Mark Sanford, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Race, Wall Street

Stimulus, Schools and Sanford

A few weeks ago (on February 24, 2009), Obama addressed the nation in front of a joint session of Congress.

It was a moving speech, focusing primarily on the economy, and the challenges faced by America today.

There were a couple of attendees at the event that are not politicians, but rather, people whose personal stories touched the President and First Lady personally.

One was a banker by the name of Leonard Abess Jr.

Located in Miami, Mr. Abess was recognized for his generosity- he received a $60 million bonus from the proceeds of the sale of his bank’s shares- and rather than keep it for himself, he split it up among his 399 current employees- and more than 70 previous ones.

Another guest of the Obamas was Ty’Sheoma Bethea, an 8th grader from South Carolina.

Once President Obama told her story, we all fell in love with her.

Ty’Sheoma is from a tiny town in South Carolina. Her school is dilapidated- in fact it isn’t even up to code. Classes are interrupted several times a day to allow for the noisy trains that roll through the area.

Desperate for a decent school- a building that isn’t falling apart around her- a place where learning can be uninterrupted, Ty’Sheoma wrote to Barack Obama.

She requested some of the stimulus money for her school.

Her letter read, in part, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”

Our President was so moved by her words that he invited Ms. Bethea to attend his speech, sitting with his wife in a place of honor.

We all had warm fuzzies at the close of the speech, knowing there were hundreds of millions of dollars in that stimulus package- set aside just for South Carolina- money that the state’s governor could use for education.

Ty’Sheoma, her fellow students and their teachers can now attend a school that stands on its own and isn’t interrupted by the constant din of passing trains.

Right?

Ha.

Not so much.

Now comes news that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will not accept the more than $700 million in stimulus funding that is available for his state.

Money that will patch holes in the roofs of public school buildings… money that will go to purchase school books and teaching supplies- replacing outdated and inaccurate materials… money that will save teachers’ jobs… money that will pay the salaries for qualified educators to join the ranks of the South Carolina Public School System.

Is Governor Sanford really so arrogant as to think we aren’t watching him? Does he believe that we have forgotten Ty’Sheoma Bethea? Does he assume we don’t care about her, her fellow classmates, her teachers and their administrators?

If so, he is sadly mistaken.

Sanford only wants to accept the stimulus money if he gets to choose how to spend it- and has stated if that were the case, he would focus on paying down South Carolina’s other debts- not on extending unemployment benefits and education.

Oh.

In that case, I’m sure Ty’Sheoma will understand.

I mean, let’s face it.

She wasn’t going to be a doctor, lawyer or anything else, right?

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Race, Science, War on Terror

Beyond War: A New Economy Is Possible- Part III- Militarism

By Andrew Heaslet, guest Author, Coordinator, Peace Economy Project

Militarism

 

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation… I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address, Dec.10 1964

 

 

Out of Iraq and Afghanistan

 

A 16  Month Plan for Iraq is 16 Months Too Long

 

Reuters reported last December, “Obama said a new security pact between Iraq and the United States already put the United States on a “glide path” to pulling out of Iraq. He also noted that a “residual” U.S. force may need to remain in Iraq longer than combat troops.”

 

16 months does not fulfill our demand for “Troops Out Now,” and we will not be satisfied until every American serviceman and woman is back on US soil.  “Residual” forces existing in Iraq is unacceptable.  John McCain mused about being in Iraq for 50 to 100 years – if the American people wanted that, he, not Obama, would have been elected president.

 

End, Don’t Escalate the Occupation of Afghanistan.

There is No “Good War”

 

For all of his flaws, former president Bill Clinton has sagely said, “you cannot kill, occupy or imprison all your actual or potential adversaries… You have to try to build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists.”

 

The spouse of the current secretary of state’s words should be heeded, especially considering Foreign Policy in Focus’s Conn Hallinan words: “As the United States steps up its air war, civilian casualties have climbed steadily over the past two years. Nearly 700 were killed in the first three months of 2008, a major increase over last year. In a recent incident, 47 members of a wedding party were killed in Helmand Province. In a society where clan, tribe, and blood feuds are a part of daily life, that single act sowed a generation of enmity.”

 

Hallinan continues, “According to U.S. counter insurgency doctrine… Afghanistan would require at least 400,000 troops to even have a chance of “winning” the war. Adding another 10,000 [or 30,000] U.S. troops will have virtually no effect.”

 

Furthermore, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, “Britain‘s most senior military commander in [Afghanistan]” has said “We’re not going to win this war,” and, according to the Telegraph.co.uk, “said the goal should be to find a non-violent resolution.”

 

Finally, the FY 2008 supplemental spending bill already pinned the cost of the war in Afghanistan at $173 billion.  At a time when our economy needs a boost to the tune of a trillion dollars, increasing spending on an unwinnable war is not only a strategic mistake, but also a cost we simply cannot afford.

  

Nuclear Weapons

The United States should make nuclear disarmament the leading edge of a global trend towards demilitarization and redirection of military expenditures to meet human and environmental needs. (Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security?)

 

In 1995 testimony before the International Court of Justice, Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka told the Court: “History is written by the victors.  Thus, the heinous massacre that was Hiroshima has been handed down to us as a perfectly justified act of war.  As a result, for over 50 years we have never directly confronted the full implications of this terrifying act for the future of the human race.”

 

The Nuclear Information Project has estimated that there are still more than 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The United States and Russia have by far the largest nuclear arsenals, with thousands of deployed weapons, capable of destroying any country and killing tens of millions.  The United Kingdom, France and China each have hundreds of modern nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of carrying them. All of these countries promised the world, decades ago, when they signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that they would negotiate to get rid of their nuclear arsenals. There are no such negotiations underway. 

 

Remaining outside the NPT are India and Pakistan, believed to have fewer than 100 nuclear weapons each and engaged in an unpredictable new arms race; Israel, the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, believed to have several hundred nuclear weapons that can be delivered by plane or missile; and North Korea, which claims to have conducted a single nuclear test in 2006 and which has not tested successfully any missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States. (Western States Legal Foundation Information Report, Fall 2006)

 

The United States is the only country that has used nuclear weapons in war.  And it is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil. Nuclear weapons continue to play a central role in U.S. “national security” policy. Today the U.S. possesses approximately 9,400 nuclear warheads.  Of these, some 2,200 strategic (long range) warheads are actively deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles and at long range bomber bases.  Another 500 or so tactical (short range) nuclear weapons are actively deployed, about 200 of them in Europe. (Federation of American Scientists, Strategic Security Blog)

 

But it’s not just about the numbers. A September 2008 Department of Defense report on the Air Force’s nuclear mission describes “the importance of nuclear deterrence” this way: “Though our consistent goal has been to avoid actual weapons use, the nuclear deterrence is ‘used’ every day by assuring friends and allies, dissuading opponents from seeking peer capability to the United States, deterring attacks on the United States and its allies from potential adversaries, and providing the potential to defeat adversaries if deterrence fails.”

The Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) expanded the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy, including the possible use of nuclear weapons in “immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies” and called for indefinite retention of a large, modern, and diverse nuclear force.  The NPR has served as the primary justification for each subsequent annual nuclear weapons budget request as well as the current “Complex Transformation” plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and manufacturing plants for decades to come. (Western States Legal Foundation, Information Brief, Spring 2008)

According to a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report entitled, Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities ,in fiscal year 2008, the United States spent $52.4 billion on nuclear weapons programs alone.  This staggering amount is a drop in the bucket compared to overall U.S. military spending ($711 billion), but it exceeds the entire military budgets of nearly every other country. In 2006, the last year for which figures are available, only China ($121.9 billion), Russia ($70 billion), the United Kingdom ($55.4 billion) and France ($54 billion) spent more on their militaries than the U.S. spent on its nuclear weapons. (CACNP)

 

Atomic Audit, a study by the Brookings Institution completed in 1998, found, as a conservative estimate, that the United States spent $5.5 trillion dollars on nuclear weapons from 1940–1996 (in constant 1996 dollars). The Brookings study found that nuclear weapons spending during the 56 year period it examined exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development, including disaster relief; law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

 

 

Foreign Bases

Bring all troops, everywhere, home.  Now.

 

Former Cold War hawk and CIA analyst, Chalmers Johnson, has written: “As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power.  Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class.” Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.”

 

Noting that “official records on these subjects are misleading,” Johnson in 2004 estimated that the Pentagon maintains more than 700 overseas bases in about 130 countries, with an additional 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. “These numbers,” he concluded, “although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally…. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people’s countries, but no one — possibly not even the Pentagon — knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years.”  According to Johnson, “Pentagon bureaucrats calculate that it would require at least $113.2 billion to replace just the foreign bases – surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic product of most countries. . . .”

 

When establishment of the new United States Northern Command was announced in April 2002, the official press release declared: “For the first time, commanders’ areas of operations cover the entire Earth.” (DefenseLink.mil)

 

Military Industrial Complex

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. 

            Dwight D Eisenhower, Jan 17, 1961

 

James Quinn’s article entitled “The Economic Cost of the Military Industrial Complex” summarizes the current status of this nexus well: “The top five U.S. defense contractors generated almost $129 billion in revenues and $8 billion in profits in 2006, double the revenue and profits in 2000 when George Bush became President. The War on Terror has been a windfall for the defense industry and their shareholders. These companies have intertwined themselves into the fabric of our government and defense department. They contribute tremendous amounts of money to Congressional candidates and have thousands of lobbyists pushing for more defense contracts.”  Boeing, for example, reported spending $16.6 million on lobbying in 2008 (opensecrets.org).

 

There is also the issue of the “revolving door,” where politicians cycle between governmental positions and private sector companies posing serious questions about conflict of interest.  Famous examples are Dick Cheney, who went from the government to CEO of Halliburton, back to the government.  In the new administration, Obama’s national security advisor, Gen James Jones (Ret.) sat on the board of major military contractor, Boeing as well as oil giant Chevron (TheHill.com).  Additionally, a former Raytheon senior vice president now sits as the nation’s deputy defense secretary (Bloomberg.com).

 

B.R. Reece recently summarized some of the Economic Conversion guru, Seymour Melman’s arguments against the power of the Military Industrial Complex in a book review for The Peace Economy Project. “The defense industry profits through inefficiency at the expense of the general population,” she writes. “The difference is that consumers are free to purchase vehicles that are price competitive, efficient, have high technical standards and low failure rates, and so the inability of domestic automakers to produce competitive vehicles has resulted in lost sales. No such situation exists in defense contracting: inefficiencies and losses are absorbed by the taxpayer, not by the producer. The contractors thus have an incentive not only to ignore the hemorrhaging created by inefficiencies, but to build in greater inefficiencies in the form of huge bureaucracies, inefficient production and innovation practices, and pricing methods designed to maximize cost to the final purchaser (a practice that would be impossible to sustain if the company had to compete for buyers).”  Melman’s commentary, though 35 years old, still describe the waste we encounter today; a 2005 NY Times article notes, “The Pentagon has more than 80 major new weapons systems under development…  Their combined cost, already $300 billion over budget [emphasis added], is $1.47 trillion and climbing.”

 

 The Pentagon is NOT a Jobs Engine

Jobs should never be used as a justification to produce instruments of war.

 

31 year veteran of the defense analysis field, Winslow Wheeler has written extensively against the idea that Pentagon should be used as a jobs program: “With its huge overhead costs, glacial payout rates and ultra-high costs of materials, I believe the Pentagon can generate jobs by spending but neither as many nor as soon as is suggested.

 

“…even if Congress appropriated today the USD11 billion needed for [60 new F-22s], the work would not start until 2010: too late for the stimulus everyone agrees is needed now.

 

“…if employment is the aim, it makes more sense to cut defence spending and use the money in programmes that do it better. As for the defence budget, less money offers the opportunity for reform – just what the doctor ordered. Despite high levels of spending, the combat formations of the services are smaller than at any point since 1946. Major equipment is, on average, older, and, according to key measurables, our forces are less ready to fight.”

 

The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a report in mid 2007 noting the following: “It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy… In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”

 

A 2007 University of Massachusetts, Amherst study wrote that dollars invested in alternatives to defense spending such as education, healthcare, mass transit, or even tax cuts “create more jobs and,” potentially, provide “both an overall higher level of compensation… and a better average quality of jobs.”

 

An honest look at the defense industry does show that millions of jobs are related to massive military contracts but it does not have to remain this way.  As the above comments demonstrate, creating jobs in other sectors would be a more effective means of widespread employment.  The workers who design, build, and maintain these elaborate, high priced machines are incredibly skilled workers whom could relatively easily be retrained to produce goods that create and maintain higher levels of capital.

 

Our current military philosophy and actions are unnecessarily dragging our nation to the poorhouse.  If we actively confront the threats of illness, disease, poverty, racism, unemployment, and the environmental crisis, our dollars will create more jobs and capital and will finally honor the words of one of our nation’s greatest heroes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

 

*              It should be noted that increasing reliance on biofuel is controversial.  A Sustainable  Energy Future is Possible Now, a report by Abolition 2000, warns that “unconstrained industrial biofuel production will produce dire consequences for the natural environment.” Concerns range from biofuel feedstock taking priority over food crops due to limited arable land, to use of pesticides, to widespread deforestation.  The report makes the case that solar, wind, and geothermal power, tidal and smaller scale hydro-electric energy, and hydrogen fuel are good choices for the economy, citing a University of California finding that sustainable energy sources provide more jobs “per MW of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar investment than the fossil fuel-based energy sector.” The report concludes that “switching to sustainable energy would have an added benefit of promoting democratic values and the international aspirations embodied in the United Nations.”

 

A “renaissance” in nuclear energy is being promoted as part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  But nuclear power is fraught with problems including the potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons by virtue of the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons materials and technologies; the potential for catastrophic accidents; the unsolved problem of nuclear waste storage and disposition; and the very high financial costs associated with all aspects of nuclear power production.

 

The United States can and should implement energy production, distribution, and use policies that will phase out the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power by the year 2050. A recent book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, by the Institute for Environmnetal and Energy Research and the Nuclear Policy Reseach Institute, provides a detailed analysis that shows that this goal is technically and economically feasible. The Roadmap lays out how we can get from a 4 percent reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy (as of 2005) to none by mid-century. Oil imports would be completely eliminated along the way.

  

Document compiled and organized by:

Andy Heaslet, Coordinator of the St Louis based Peace Economy Project

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Race, Relationships, War on Terror

Beyond War: A New Economy Is Possible- Part II- Racism

 Part II of Andrew Heaslet’s (Coordinator, Peace Economy Project) talking points, dealing with Racism.

 

Racism

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

            Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

 

While the election of Barack Obama represents a giant landmark in overcoming racial barriers, Racism is far from behind us.  The income and healthcare gaps illustrated above show clearly that minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics, are significantly disadvantaged compared to their white counterparts.  The following statistics further show the distance still to be overcome by minority citizens in order to be at a level of prosperity equal to their white peers.

 

 

Criminal Justice System

Racism runs rampant throughout the “justice” system and must be stopped.

 

“At year end 2007 there were 3,138 black male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,259 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 481 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males.”

            (US Dept of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics)

 

Dr Manning Marable, a Columbia University Professor and director of the Center for Contemporary Black History, has written, “In practical terms, by 2001, about one out of every six African-American males had experienced jail or imprisonment. Based on current trends, over one out of three black men will experience imprisonment during their lives.” (Incarceration vs. Education: Reproducing Racism and Poverty in America)

 

An organization called “the Rights Working Group,” explains how immigrants are often targets and victims of profiling by law enforcement officers:The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regularly conducts warrantless and aggressive raids on homes and workplaces to round up hundreds of immigrants, often sweeping up legal residents and citizens. Raid victims are often detained without access to counsel or a phone call to contact family members…

 

“Individuals detained by DHS, including vulnerable populations like the elderly, infirm, refugees and children, are being held in inhumane and overcrowded conditions often without charges for months and even years.”

 

The Washington Post tells us that between 2003 and 2008, “Some 83 [immigrant] detainees have died in, or soon after, custody.”  Conditions are dangerous and inhumane.  The same article quotes a former detention center nurse saying, “Dogs get better care in the dog pound.” In a recent case of blatant disregard for human dignity by law enforcement officials, “more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence” under the orders of Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (NY Times 2/5/09)

 

Since 2001, Arab Americans and Muslims have been victims of racial and religious profiling by local and federal law enforcement, especially via the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Operation Front Line.” The Yale Daily News notes, “’Though Operation Front Line claimed to target terrorist suspects, it was actually targeting people from Muslim majority nations…’ But in looking at a random sampling of hundreds of cases, it became clear that there were no crimes or immigration violations shared by those targeted… In fact, 250 of the 300 random sample cases given to the [Yale] Law School cited no immigration-related violations. The only feature the targeted group shared was that 79 percent of those targeted were from mostly Muslim nations.”

 

Black and Hispanic Poverty

Estimated Median Income 2007: White $52,115 – Black $33,916  – Hispanic $38,679

(2007 Census data, pg 7)

 

“Predatory lending practices and slumping real estate markets threaten hundreds of thousands of American families with the imminent loss of their to foreclosure. Given the disparate number of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority Americans who have been and continue to be targeted by predatory lenders, the foreclosure crisis is certain to be especially severe in communities of color across the nation.” NAACP letter to the Senate, Feb. 22, 2008 (Center for Responsible Lending)

 

“A United for a Fair Economy estimate in January (2008) put the wealth loss for people of color at between $164 billion and $213 billion, roughly half [emphasis added] the nation’s overall loss. “

(The Subprime Swindle – How Banks Stole Black America’s Future, by Kai Wright.)

 

 

Education

Thirty percent of white adults had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2005, while 17 percent of black adults and 12 percent of Hispanic adults had degrees.

(MSNBC: Census report: Broad racial disparities persist)

 

Statistically, African-American youths are two to three times more likely than whites to be suspended, and far more likely to be corporally punished or expelled. Also from the ACLU study, “nationally, African American students comprise 17 percent of the student population, but account for 36 percent of school suspensions and 31 percent of expulsions. (Incarceration vs. Education: Reproducing Racism and Poverty in America)

 

Just because a minority has reached the highest level of power, this nation cannot allow itself to become lazy when it comes to confronting the very ugly reality that racism and disparity between races that exists.  Continuing with Affirmative Action, supporting home-ownership among minorities, investing in education, especially in urban centers, a re-evaluation of policies imprisoning non-violent offenders, and widespread, frank discussions of the realities that exist regarding attitudes towards minorities may represent a path towards overcoming racism and racial inequalities.

 

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, Race, Science, War on Terror

Beyond War: A New Economy Is Possible- Part I- Poverty

Send America to Work, Not War

Someone who I thoroughly respect is a man by the name of Andrew Heaslet. He is the Coordinator for the Peace Economy Project, a non-profit organization that advocates the reduction of military spending in favor of social and infrastructure needs. He has written some very interesting talking points, which I will be presenting over the next three days, in three parts- focusing on poverty, racism and Militarism. Both Andrew and I welcome all comments, provided they are respectful. Enjoy!

In his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr declared, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”  He also warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

 

It is in that spirit that United For Peace and Justice has created a new campaign borrowing part of its title from Dr King’s famous 1967 speech.  We are attempting to fulfill Dr King’s call for “declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism,” noting that these “triplets” do not exist in a vacuum and, indeed, are intrinsically inter-related.

 

This is detailed, paint by numbers, if you will, approach to illustrating how Poverty, Racism, and Militarism are still very prevalent in America today.  In sharing Dr King’s vision of conquering these ills, it may be difficult to draw on all of the data contained within this document.  Feel free to find and use the information that applies best to you and your peers.

 

Poverty

 

Speaking in 1961 to the AFL-CIO, Dr King advocated for economic rights when he said, “[Negro] needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.

 

41 years after his death, millions of Americans still suffer the economic hardships Dr King fought against in his time.

 

The Military Budget is Costing Us All

We should cut military spending and fund human needs.

 

Defense plus Homeland Security expenditures make up 60% of our total discretionary spending. (Federal Budget)

 

United States spends more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined. (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation [CACNP])

 

The United States accounts for 48 percent of the world’s total military spending. (CACNP)

The United States spends on its military 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. (CACNP)

The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total. (CACNP)

 

The preceding figures are astounding and frustrating on their own, but when compared to the needs of American citizens, as described by the following information, they become unconscionable.

 

POVERTY IN THE UNITED STATES (2007 Census data, pg 12)

“Highlights:“

• The official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent

• In 2007, 37.3 million people were in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006.

• Poverty rates in 2007:

         non-Hispanic Whites (8.2 percent)

         Blacks (24.5 percent)

         Asians (10.2 percent)

         Hispanics (21.5 percent in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006).

• The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (18.0 percent in 2007, up from 17.4 percent in 2006)

 

Race and Hispanic Origin

 

“At 8.2 percent, the 2007 poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the rate for Blacks and Asians – 24.5 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively. In 2007, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for 43.0 percent of people in poverty while representing 65.8 percent of the total population.

 

Among Hispanics, 21.5 percent (9.9 million) were in poverty in 2007, higher than the 20.6 percent (9.2 million) in 2006. (2007 Census data, pg 12)

 

Home Foreclosures

Bailout Homeowners, Not Bankers

 

The Tulsa World reports “More than 2.3 million American homeowners faced foreclosure proceedings last year, an 81 percent increase from 2007, with the worst yet to come as consumers grapple with layoffs, shrinking investment portfolios and falling home prices.

 

“Nationwide, more than 860,000 properties were actually repossessed by lenders, more than double the 2007 level, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure listing firm based in Irvine, Calif., which compiled the figures.

 

“Moody’s Economy.com, a research firm, predicts the number of homes lost to foreclosure is likely to rise by another 18 percent this year before tapering off slightly through 2011.”

 

 

Healthcare

Citizens of the United States want healthcare not warfare.

 

In 2007, there were 45.7million uninsured citizens in the US. In 2007, the uninsured rate for non-hispanic whites was 10.4% whereas the uninsured rate for Blacks was 19.5%, Hispanics, 32.1%. (2007 Census data, pg 19-21)

 

The Massachusetts Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care website summarizes our nation’s health insurance woes very succinctly:

“The way we currently organize health insurance:

– “Is Expensive: The United States spends more per person than any other country on health care.

– “Is Financially Ruinous for Many Households, Businesses, and Government Budgets:  These catastrophic costs are paid disproportionately by low-income people and small businesses.

– “Leads to Very Poor Health Outcomes: Under this system we actually live shorter lives, and receive much less of the care we need.

– “Is Highly Discriminatory: Health Care disparities along lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and age are unmatched in the developed world.”

 

 

Green Jobs and the right to join the Union

            In short, we should Send America to Work, Not to War

 

Americans Need Quality Jobs Now

“The Labor Department said that almost 600,000 jobs disappeared in January and that a total of 3.6 million jobs had been lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose to 7.6 percent, from 7.2 percent a month earlier.” (2/7/09, NYTimes)

 

Employee Free Choice Act

Supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress and millions of workers around the country, the Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field and put the power to choose a union back where it belongs—in the hands of workers. It will restore workers’ power to bargain for a better life, rebuilding the middle class and strengthening the economy for the long term. (AFL-CIO)

 

Get Rid of Ineffective “Trickle Down” Economics

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said, “that ‘trickle-down’ economics does not work and has never worked.” He has gone further, “stating that markets alone produce neither efficient nor socially desirable outcomes but instead provoke periodic crises that erase the gains of growth and hit the poor the hardest.”(Upside Down World)

 

The Gravity of Climate Crisis

According to the BBC, former president Bill Clinton “said that the most profound threat to the way of life in the UK and US was not terrorism but global warming.”

 

Why then are we spending more than half of our discretionary federal funds preparing for cold war era theoretical attacks while avoiding and ignoring the very real and present threat that climate change represents?

 

 

We Should Invest in Green

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst recently released a report on the benefits of a proposed, government-initiated $100 billion, two-year “green economic recovery program.” This price tag seems staggering at first glance, but when compared to the cost of corporate bailouts, Congress’ springtime economic stimulus package and the Iraq war spending bills, the numbers do not seem so outrageous — especially considering the value that would be generated by such an investment and the longer-term costs of not investing immediately in environmental sustainability.

 

The study recommends investments in:

— Retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.

— Expanding mass transit and freight rail.

— Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems.

— Wind power.

— Solar power.

— Next-generation biofuels.*

 

These investments would create some 2 million new jobs, stabilize oil costs by reducing overall demand, reduce energy costs for homeowners, increase energy security and provide a sustainable boost to our nation’s economy and infrastructure.

 

In addition to human, environmental and community benefits, there’s also a lot of profit potential in going green. In 2008, the research firm Clean Edge projected revenue growth in wind, solar, biofuels* and fuel cells of “$55.4 billion in 2006 and expanded 40 percent to $77.3 billion in 2007 to grow to $254.5 billion within a decade.” *[There are some concerns with biofuels and please note the absence of recommendations for nuclear power in the preceding comments – for further details about these issues, see the addendum at the bottom of this document.]

 

Some of the skilled professionals required to make this ambitious program work are electricians, welders, machinists, sheet metal workers and mechanics — not to mention civil, environmental, electrical, and chemical engineers.  Many of these skilled professionals are prevalent in the ailing labor sector.

Posted in C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Evolution, News, Religion, Science

Darwin, Evolution and the Battle of the Bible

Charles Darwin- the evolution guy- has a birthday comin’ up.

He’ll be 200.

In light of this fact, Gallup has done a survey of American adults, trying to determine just how many of us buy into Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

The results were depressing.

Currently, only 4 out of 10 Americans believe in evolution.

Forget depressing.

This shit is downright scary.

Gallup polled just over a thousand adults, and the strongest correlation between answers is education level.

Those with a high school education or less are much less likely to believe in evolution…

… while a whopping 74 percent of those with graduate and post-graduate degrees strongly believe in it.

That’s pretty telling.

I don’t know if I have any readers that do not believe in evolution, but if I do, I would love to hear their thoughts on this topic.

We see things evolve- in some cases, drastically- in our own lifetime… what makes people think even bigger changes haven’t occured over thousands, or millions of years?

Eggs evolve into full-fledged babies… babies evolve into grown men and women… tiny seeds evolve into huge trees… itty bitty buds evolve into beautiful flowers…

These changes occur quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, weeks, or a few short years.

We can see all this… some forms of evolution occur almost in front of our very eyes… leaves seem to change to their fall colors over night…

… And yet something this simple is still the subject of major controversy.

Beyond what we can physically see, the evidence for evolution grows stronger and stronger as we advance scientifically.

Is it a coincidence that we, as humans, share more than 96% of our DNA with chimps?

Is it a coincidence that alligators and crocodiles can be traced back millions of years… giving credence to Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory?

Those nasty creatures are ferocious!

I guess the question on the minds of many is whether science trumps religion.

I personally don’t understand why we have to choose one over the other.

The Bible, if not taken literally, if instead read for its interpretive value, can certainly be used in conjunction with Science.

Certainly one can be a devout Christian and still believe in Evolution, survival of the fittest, and even the Big Bang Theory.

The understanding that my species, as well as all others, evolved over time, culminating in the universe as we now know it, does not make me the slightest bit uncomfortable, nor does it counter my personal spiritual beliefs in any way.

God has a plan…

… an ever-changing, ever evolving, absolutely magnificent plan.

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, News, Policy, Politics, President, Wall Street

Stock Options, Politics and Bully Pulpits

Alright, we need to talk about this bailout stuff.

Again.

In speaking to someone whose political views I greatly respect (ok, ok- it was my daddy), I learned that perhaps President Obama knew exactly what he was doing  when he recently announced that the regulations he plans to put in place on what’s left of the $700 billion bailout funds would not apply to executive salaries.

When I originally heard that Obama had no plans to restrict the irresponsible spending of the executive recipients of the bailout money, I blew a gasket, as evidenced here.

Now I’m beginning to wonder… things are not always as they seem, right?

Perhaps Obama knew exactly what he was doing… maybe it’s all part of  a plan, something entirely different than what I originally assumed.

The more I think about this situation (and keep in mind that I am no financial analyst), the more I wonder if it would even be possible to truly restrict- through legislation- the reckless spending on Wall Street.

On its surface, it seems that yes, this would be more than possible… simple, even… to accomplish…

… But then I look back on all those finance and accounting classes from college and begin to wonder if doing so would actually be downright impossible.

Yes, one can legislate things like salary increases and salary caps- say, for example, that no employee of any recipient of government bailouts can make more than (fill in the blank) dollars per year.

Unfortunately, however, that would only restrict a tiny portion of what actually goes into these folks’ pockets. How do you legislate such things as stock options, warrants (similar to stock options, warrants give a person the option- but does not obligate them- to buy an underlying security at a certain price and quantity at a future time), and countless other perks?

A good accountant- any CPA worth their salt- could easily find loopholes around the legislation… therefore allowing these bigwigs to continue taking home millions upon millions of dollars- while never once breaking the law.

I am reminded of the Big 3 auto makers, and their offer to congress last year to accept a salary of $1 per year in exchange for bailout funds for their companies. What they didn’t tell us was that they would still make 90% of the money they always made because stock options and bonuses are not part of one’s flat salary… but they do often comprise the bulk of an executive’s take-home pay.

Next, I began thinking about Missouri Representative Claire McCaskill, and her recent- very public- comments, directed at the irresponsible jackasses on Wall Street.

For those who don’t recall, McCaskill went on record calling them all a bunch of idiots.

Were those comments merely the spur-of-the-moment rantings of a politician losing her temper?

Or were they very orchestrated comments, planned meticulously by the Obama administration, as a means to fully utilize the bully pulpit?

A bully pulpit, for those unaware, was originally perfected by Theodore Roosevelt, and simply means that high-ranking officials can use the platform of the White House as a means to advance one’s agenda. Simply put, politicians make use of a bully pulpit to put a bug in the public’s ear… it’s a great way to put an idea in the general public’s mind without having to go through a bunch of b.s. redtape in the process.

The way I see it, Obama knows he cannot successfully reign in the spending of Wall Street bigwigs by simply using a political platform. He can’t sign an executive order, or pass a bill in Congress to accomplish this goal because there are too many loopholes that people would be able use to continue their fatcat ways.

So he is instead turning the entire issue over to the court of public opinion- the little people like you and me- knowing full well that as the reality of the financial sector’s shenanigans begin to really sink in, we are going to get PISSED.

I know I got mad as hell… as did millions of others…

It was all part of the plan.

We, as consumers, as regular ol’ citizens of this country, possess way more power in this situation than Congress ever had.

Not only can we take such action as boycotting Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, CitiGroup and all the others… but we can make it known to these CEOs that we are watching them, and we are not happy about what we’re seeing.

With that in mind, these bigwig jerks, knowing we are paying extremely close attention to their every move, will have no choice but to watch their step and curb their behavior… if they want to stay in business, that is.

Obama, I have learned, does nothing by accident.

I believe he knows damn good and well what he’s doing here, and quite frankly, the more I think about it, the more I realize…

This man is a genius.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Current Events, Economy, Elections, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, President, Wall Street

Barack Obama, Executive Pay and a Whole Lot of B.S.

President Obama said in his recent weekly radio address that he will be presenting a new bailout spending plan soon.

Sounds good to me, though I was never really one to support these ridiculous bailouts to begin with.

What I am shocked- and quite frankly, a little pissed- to hear is that this new spending plan contains no added restrictions on executive pay.

Apparently officials are concerned that new restrictions on executive salaries could discourage other companies from asking for government aid in the future.

What the hell?

I didn’t realize the point of the bailout package was to encourage anybody to put their hands out and beg for money. And even if that was part of the point of this bullshit package to begin with, so what? How the heck is it a bad thing to require executives looking for our assistance to first commit to cutting spending- including their own astronomically sized salary packages?

Otherwise, by my estimation, they shouldn’t be getting a damn dime from us or anybody else for that matter.

Can we please back up and review for a moment?

In recent months we have AIG taking employees on luxury spa trips after receiving funds from the government bailout… we have CitiGroup attempting to purchase a new $50 million luxury corporate jet… we have some schmuck CEO over at Bank of America spending over a million bucks to redecorate his damn office… we learn that more than $18 billion of the original bailout went to executive bonuses…

… And no one seems to think we need to add a few provisions to this new proposal?

Seriously.

Obviously we’ve learned absolutely nothing from our past mistakes.

These asshole bigwigs are living high on the hog on taxpayer dollars- OUR money- while the rest of us are scraping by.

Actually, if we’re lucky we’re scraping by… and luck these days, unfortunately, is hard as hell to come by.

People are losing their jobs, their cars and their homes, dammit, in record numbers.

The few little pennies we do make seem to be going to help the rich get richer… and from way down here where I’m sitting, isn’t going to help me or my fellow middle-class Americans at all.

The stock market is still in the shitter, wall street is still acting like a bunch of complete and total retards where fiscal responsibility is concerned… Congress is either steadfastly refusing to pass the one stinkin’ package that could actually help our broke asses to survive- or are insisting on beefing the damn thing up with so much pork that it’s becoming a useless peice of legislation altogether.

These punk ass politicians need to get this shit together and get to the responsibility of actually standing up for the people they were sworn into office to represent…

… Or they need to get the hell off the stage.

Cuz I’m sick of it.

Posted in C-Haze, Change, Conservative, Hope, News, Policy, Politics, Religion

Our Forefathers, Faith and State Troopers

I was talking to Pastor Jon the other day (he’s my daddy), and he told me he recently testified in front of a house sub-committee regarding whether State Trooper Chaplains have the right to pray publicly according to their faith.

My dad, in good liberal fashion (he makes me proud), was testifying against the bill… with members of the Jewish community and the ACLU on his side. The bill was up for vote as a result of the fact that recently, the superintendent of state troopers in Virginia stopped all chaplains who were employed by the state police from public prayer in Jesus’ name…  instead requesting that all prayers remain non-denominational.

This resulted in 6 of 17 chaplains resigning their positions in protest. 

The issue was therefore put to a vote, and the bill passed despite the efforts of my father and others like him.

I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of separation of church and state, and what, exactly, it means.

I am reminded of my junior year of high school, when some officials were desperately attempting to gain support for “bringing God back into our schools”. Naturally, with my father being a minister, people were counting on his support.

However my dad, I’m proud to say, disappointed each and every one of them.

Prayer has no place in public school districts or public government activities… especially when the prayer is exclusive to one single religion.

Period.

I, like all Americans, have the right to enjoy the freedom to practice my religion… and I have the right to do so without interference or discrimination from my government-  so says the First Amendment of my Constitution.

Anyone who honestly believes that mixing Christianity- or any faith, for that matter- with government functions equals freedom of religion is delusional- and likely a cocky evangelical Christian.

By my estimation, our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing.

Having narrowly escaped religious persecution themselves, they made it clear in our Constitution that absolute religious liberty was a fundamental right for all U.S. Citizens.

How is it that a Jew, a Hindu or a Muslim can enjoy that sort of freedom if Jesus Christ is constantly being shoved down their throats?

Ours is a nation that was supposed to have been built on tolerance and freedom.

The United States of America was created on the principle that no one- regardless of their religious beliefs- would ever be made to feel unwelcome.

It saddens me, this unrelenting push from the Evangelical right, to include their God in each and every function of our government.

Certain Christians will claim that they are the ones being persecuted… that the current drive to take religion out of our schools is an act of discrimination in and of itself.

To those people, I say spend a day as a Muslim, or a Jew.

Attend your child’s “Christmas Concert” as a non-Christian… where they sing nothing but “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Silent Night”, and “O’ Holy Night”…

… Then tell me that you feel as if you and your faith have been respected and included.

Many people- friends of mine- who disagree with me, back their arguments up by saying if they were to attend a public function in a Middle-Eastern country, where religion is part of the every day government and public activities, they would not feel offended by prayers to Allah… they would expect such a thing to occur, and would understand that this is the way business is conducted there…

… Therefore, they claim, non-Christians shouldn’t feel offended to hear prayers to Jesus Christ in the U.S.

To those people, I remind them that we are a secular country. Our nation was founded on non-religious principles… our founding fathers fought and died so that people of all faiths could come together as one, being equal partners- citizens- enjoying equal rights- within the same great country.

As Americans, we are not given the task of merely tolerating those of different faiths…

… We are to embrace them.

Posted in C-Haze, Change, Conservative, Homosexuality, Hope, Marriage, News, Policy, Politics, Relationships, Religion

Haggard, Hatred and Homos

Ted Haggard, unfortunately is doing no favors for the gay community.

The embattled (and quite conflicted) man has lost his post as the president of National Association of Evangelicals, as well as his position as head pastor of the New Life Church.

His story made headlines and plunged him head-first into a nation-wide scandal when it was revealed that he paid a male prostitute- numerous times- for sex and methamphetamine… all while supposedly handling his business as Man of God Extraordinaire, devoted husband and father.

In recent days Haggard has admitted to another sexual liaison. He says it was during his tenure with New Life Church- this time with a 20 year old male volunteer. He claims this is further evidence of the “compulsive behavior” that ruled him during “that time” of his life.

Ted Haggard is- at least in part- a victim. 

I truly feel sorry for him.

That being said, I am terribly disappointed that he has chosen not to use his personal experiences as an opportunity to explain the truth about homosexuality.

Instead he prefers to perpetuate a climate of shame and self-hate.

He has been on numerous television shows granting interviews, and even has an HBO documentary airing soon. The emerging theme is the life of a man whose soul hasn’t grown an inch… a man who loves himself no more than he did when he was hiding his true identity from the world, his wife, and his children.

This is a man who truly despises himself for his inherant homosexuality… a trait that he knows all too well can never be fixed, changed or prayed away.

Yet he still pretends to believe otherwise… if he just prays a little harder, reads scripture a little more often… Ricky Martin will suddenly become less attractive to him than Cindy Crawford.

He  claims a therapist told him that he is “heterosexual with complications”.

Dude- You’re gay.

Just stand up and say it.

What a sad, sad existence he has instead created.

He put himself in a virtual prison… and rather than use this massive national forum he has garnered for himself to break out of jail, to finally be free… not to mention freeing thousands of other conflicted homosexuals in the process…

… He has instead chosen to continue living behind bars.

How truly sad.

I realize Haggard has his faults… massive ones… not the least of which has been his being anything BUT a loving, committed spouse. His wife has the right to be absolutely livid with this man… though she claims she knew about his “struggles”- struggles directly related to his attraction to men- for years. She chose to marry him in spite of this knowledge… but he chose to make life-long vows to this woman.

He should suffer the consequences of the damage he has done to his marriage and his family.

However, he has been handed the perfect opportunity to explain to the world- especially to right-wing evangelical Christians- that in spite of all his efforts, all his praying and soul searching…

… He is still gay.

He didn’t choose to be this way.

He simply is.

Ted Haggard has spent the majority of his life struggling with himself, his God, his church, his culture, his country… because the man who he really is… the REAL Ted Haggard… is homosexual…

… And that reality doesn’t play out well in the world he has created for himself- a world full of judgmental hateful bigots.

The resulting damage is catastrophic.

All one needs to do is watch him… I recommend viewing his recent interview with Larry King… to know that this man hates himself as much as he ever has.

He still hopes he can get on his knees and pray his way out of his attraction to men.

Why has he not figured it out, after all these years, that it isn’t going to happen? Why is he not on a quest to learn how to love himself?

Denial is indeed a powerful animal.

If Ted Haggard lived in a world where he was accepted for who he really is… a world in which he could both love and serve his God without fear that his personal understanding of himself as a gay man would sentence him to eternal damnation in hell… a world in which he did not have to hate himself for that which he cannot change…

… Perhaps things would have been a little different… a little better…

I will pray for Mr. Haggard.

I will pray that he stops apologizing for who his is, for who God created him to be… and start living and loving himself.

He deserves that much, if nothing else.

Posted in Barack Obama, C-Haze, Change, Elections, News, Policy, Politics, President, Presidential Campaign, Race, Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris

Roland Burris Claims Responsibility for the Wrong Thing

Until now I have stayed away from all the arguments surrounding the impeachment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and his controversial choice in naming Roland Burris to replace President Barack Obama in the Senate.

Today, however, I have something to say.

I came across an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about Senator Burris, and his recent appearance at a Martin Luther King breakfast (part of the Rainbow PUSH coalition).

It was at this event that Burris claims it was he who made it possible for Barack Obama to become president.

I had hoped, with the historic election of our first black president, that we would not be bombarded with a bunch of idiotic people claiming that had it not been for them and their tireless efforts, this election never would have been possible.

It seems my prayers are going to go unanswered… in this instance at least.

Now don’t misunderstand.

I’m not saying there wasn’t a huge effort, an effort that dates back more than a century, that went into making Obama’s election possible.

Many people- men and women, black and white- have worked tirelessly, sacrificing their very lives, so that a man like Barack Obama- a man just like any of the rest of us- could acheive the honor of holding the highest office in this land.

All of them are heroes, and all of them have my undying respect and gratitude.

Roland Burris, however, is an asshole.

I’m surprised that Burris, in his never-ending quest to take credit for the results of this most historic election (glory that is not his), has not gone on to take credit for ending the death penalty in the state of Illinois.

He was responsible for it, after all.

Unfortunately, the story behind the now-infamous moratorium on Illinois’ executions is more of a black mark on Burris’ record than anything else… maybe that’s why we don’t hear him talking about it too often.

Allow me to explain.

As many people know, Roland Burris served as the state of Illinois’ Attorney General from 1991-1995. He was only the second African-American to hold this position.

In 1992, the case of two men- one of which had been sentenced to death in 1985 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of  a 10-year old child- erupted in controversy, and was back on the docket, up for appeal.

Burris assigned Assistant Attorney General Mary Brigid Kenney to fight the appeal. Right away, she developed some serious concerns regarding the legitimacy of the original investigation against the men.  She immediately sent her boss (Burris) a memo stating that she believed the state had convicted two innocent men, refusing to take part in fighting to uphold what she felt was a wrongful conviction.

Burris ignored the memo altogether, resulting in Kenney’s resignation.

Her letter of resignation reads, in part:

 I was being asked to help execute an innocent man… Unfortunately, you have seen fit to ignore the evidence in this case.

In 1995, DNA tests confirmed that neither of the men had committed the crimes they had been charged with and sentenced to die for.

Kenney, it seems, had been right all along.

A.G Burris, on the other hand, defended his fight to keep the men in prison, claiming that it is not his job to judge the actions of the jurors who originally convicted them.

In 2002, then-Governor Jim Ryan issued a full pardon to both defendents.

It was this case that resulted in Governor Ryan’s state-wide moratorium on all executions.

Burris was never taken to task for his tireless fight to execute an innocent man, nor was he ever forced to accept responsibility for causing the moratorium on all executions in Illinois.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not a fan of the death penalty myself.

Burris, however, fucked up.

While definitely one of his bigger mistakes, the death penalty fiasco is but one example of the true character of this jackass.

Like too many politicians, he has led a professional life that is fraught with hypocrisy.

In 1993, for example, while still Attorney General, he organized a national handgun ban. He even helped organize Chicago’s first Gun Turn-In Day.

The problem?

It was later revealed that Burris himself not only owned a handgun and a shotgun, but had refused to turn either of them in, like he was pushing so hard for everyone else to do.

His excuse?

He “forgot”.

Right.

He organizes a nationwide hand gun ban, pushes for heavy gun control (not something I’m opposed to, mind you), organizes the city’s first Gun Turn-In Day…

… And then “forgets” that he owns two weapons himself?

Alrighty then.

Senator Roland Burris, unfortunately, is just another politician…

… Full of his own self-importance… and laced with a whole heapin’ gob of bullshit.

A man who thinks the rules apply to everyone but him.

Wonderful.

This is just what we need.