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Archive for the ‘class warfare’ Category

The War on Terror

In Afghanistan, Children and Youth, civil, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Disaster Relief, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Environment, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, Housing, Immigration, International politics, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Misc., New York City, Progressive Politics, Terrorism, US Politics on March 21, 2013 at 11:36 am

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Growing up in Virginia, I have fond memories of the shooting range.  My father even gave me a turn with his .44 magnum which did in fact kick like a mule.  The violence followed me to New York with 9/11, and where I was fortunate to try to give blood and wait things out in my dorm, many others who I’d grown up with or befriended back in VA were suiting up to go and fight, first in Afghanistan, then to Iraq.  A couple days ago, I caught this letter on a friend’s Facebook Feed – which is starting to make the rounds – and at first, I couldn’t read it.  It had been comforting in a way to forget about Bush and the Axis of Evil, of all the squandered potential we poured into the sand.  But as we’re reminded so often in this endless war, we must never forget.  We cannot hide unpleasant things in the shadows.

And yet, for two years after the attack and ten more after our invasion – the two defining moments of our time – we seem content to do just that.  My relationship to guns came into focus in Millbrook, NY where – eating lunch with my band after playing our first funeral – we saw the horrors of gun violence laid bare on the diner’s TV screen.  CNN’s coverage of Sandy Hook still fresh,  our waitress remarking, “That’s a half-hour from here.”  A member of the jazz community in NYC lost their daughter and even Joe Biden says nothing will be the same.

Except it is.  Exactly the same.  After hearings and meetings and press conferences and statements, there will be no assault weapons ban, no reduction in the capacity of magazines, no new safegaurds against the armed-and-mentally ill.  21 children are dead for absolutely no reason, and for all our wails of grief and shock, no one is willing to really do anything about it.  The 1.4% of us who are NRA members must be fairly satisfied by this.

Immigration is looking a little more hopeful, with real-ish players talking about real-ish solutions – path to citizenship, guest worker visas, living wages?? – but if the current legislative process holds true, which it will, we can expect exactly none of these to make it to any real legislation, no leadership or dialogue will take place.  Just as we have come to expect, as we have chosen to remember.  So on we go with stopping people for their papers, exploiting them with unscrupulous employers and siphoning resources away from the state without putting any tax revenue into – or getting any real value from – the community they’re living in.

The current tally on this War on Terror is coming in to around $6 trillion, with about $4 trillion of that going towards the Iraq war, which I think is over at this point.    No further attacks have been made on the home front, and aside from a few pesky revolutions throughout the region, we haven’t had World War III yet, so, mission accomplished.  But this war isn’t being fought by “America,” it’s being fought by less than 1% of America.  The backlash and destruction caused by what we want is being felt by them, not by us, which makes it easier to saber rattle as the threats continue to pop up in far-flung places all over this hostile world.  It is easy to hide the unpleasantness of war, and that much better to remember all the glory and victory, when only a few have to bleed.

We were lied to.  We were lied to and believed in it so much that we lied to the world.  We remember the attack, the victimization we felt at that moment, but we choose to forget – every day – the reaction that has set us on this path.  Something horrible happens, but the real cause is too scary, too political, too much to bear, so we lie to each other, we lie to ourselves, and talk really loud about something else.  Something that makes us feel good, or empowered and that lasts just long enough for the next crisis to come, and the next cycle to start, and nothing, nothing, nothing is ever really done.

But this is politics, this is Washington, this is Gridlock and Sequester and Special Interests and this is out of our control.  It is also quite uncanny to a nervous breakdown.  As a country, we first experienced trauma then threw ourselves into deeper and deeper trauma’s with no discernible solution or responsibility, which eventually lead us to unearth, then ignore, all the skeletons we’ve amassed inside our closet.  Guns, war, immigrants, health care, economy, housing, the list goes on.

But you can’t make guns safer by talking by talking about “freedom.”  Nor can you keep healthcare prices low by invoking “liberty” or create jobs by claiming to be the victims of “class warfare.”  We can’t claim to be a “nation of immigrants” while installing xenophobic laws, nor can we claim to be “pro-life” and fight against affordable health care.  These are things both the right and left have been guilty of doing – or are at the very least both complicit in – and the apathy/isolation of the electorate has enabled these madmen to hijack trillions of dollars every year and immense power around the globe with little accountability.  We are lied to every day and believe the lie so much, we lie to each other, we lie to ourselves.

During the campaign in 2008, I was reading The Argument by Matt Bai and the quote I wrote with then still rings true now:

The story of modern politics was the story of popular movements molding their candidates, not the other way around. Roosevelt didn’t create progressive government; the progressives of the early twentieth century created him. Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy, while they despised eachother, both derived their essential arguments about social justice from the equality movements of the late fifties and early sixties. Ronald Regan would not have existed without the movement conservatives who offered him a philosophical anchor. These were great and preternaturally talented leaders, men who had the charisma and the intellect to synthesize the arguments that each of these movements had made, to persuade voters of their urgency, and to adapt them to the realm of policy making. But they were merely conduits for change, and they would never have emerged as public visionaries had others not laid the intellectual foundations for their arguments.

There is no magical elected official or working group someplace that will be able to fix all of this shit, but this does not divorce government – federal, state and local – from their responsibility in implementing solutions.  We have to decide, all of us, what the fuck we want, what the alternative is going to be.  We have to build it, prove it works, then demand, in no uncertain terms, that it be given to us better, faster and cheaper by those with the money and resources – e.g. government, business, that guy you know – to do so.  Occupy Wall Street accomplished exactly none of it’s goals, BECAUSE IT HAD NONE – and no, press coverage/raising awareness isn’t enough on the world stage.  We have to be able to confront all of those demons on that list, turn the lights on and get right with everything in honesty before we can expect respect from the dilettantes we’ve been ruled by.

Until then, the government will have no problem treating us the way in which we’ve grown accustomed, and we’ll have no problem taking it.  Never forget what we’ve been through.  Never forget that we deserved – and still deserve – so much better.

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New Politics

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Criminal Justice / Prison Reform, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Misc., Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, Terrorism, The War On Drugs, US Politics on March 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

People usually can’t tell what I am by looking at me. My skin is white, like my mom’s, but some tints of my dad’s Filipino heritage peek through, making me look equally Cuban, Puerto Rican, Italian, anything but Asian. I’m lucky enough to have never really had any allegiance to a certain race or identified with any specific notions of it. I often joke with my friends about these things, usually bringing up all kinds of offensive, inappropriate comments about certain groups to get a cheap laugh, most probably because it’s more complicated for me to get the same treatment. But being a man without a team – a free-lance race(er), if you will – I have few preconceived notions about them myself, allowing me to find a lot of humor and joy in the differences we have and how they effect our interactions and shape our perceptions. I kid because I love. I love diversity, I love that my children will have roots on 3 different continents and I love this country for giving me, my family and countless others like them a place in the sun. Obama’s speech last Tuesday was given from this perspective, which is probably why it inspired and impressed me more than anything I’ve seen in politics. That something has finally spoken to me in this way has also engendered quite a bit of resentment towards the reaction to it.

He is a politician, one trying to contain a damaging scandal that speaks to the very heart of his campaign, a scandal so grievous that it caused Hillary Clinton to overtake him in national polling for the first time in months. He is a candidate who often gets by on looks and charm, his silver tongue paving the way through a rather charmed candidacy. The allegiance to Wright and Trinity were undeniably instrumental in Obama’s acceptance in the black community of Chicago and subsequently by the national black community – a voting block that has been crucial in many of his primary victories over a white woman. These are all things we knew before he stepped to that podium and it was impossible to forget while listening to his words. Perhaps it is because I support him, because I am a racial mutt same as he, because I have been seduced by that aforementioned silver tongue, but I didn’t care about any of it.

If my Catholic upbringing has taught me anything, it’s that if you look hard enough at anyone, you will see faults, you will see sin – they even make you apologize for it first thing Sunday morning. All any of us can do is mitigate these as best we can through good works and faith in eachother, neither of which come easy or without failure. Barack didn’t hide behind his press secretary or some other surrogate, he didn’t throw out some half-baked sound-byte of appeasement in hopes things would blow over by the next news cycle, he stood there for 30 minutes and talked to us like adults. He told us things we all know, but never hear. He made no accusations, but rather placed responsibility equally among all of us, himself included. He asked us to stop raising our voices and start listening to eachother. If you don’t believe me, watch the speech or read the transcript in its entirety. The motivations behind these words are unimportant to me. Sure, he could’ve been trying to divert our attention to save his own ass, but I don’t care. I don’t care why he said what he said, just that someone finally did so.

A black man running for President put his campaign on the line, stepped up to the plate and spoke about race in a way no other politician has ever done, but you would have never guessed by reading about it. A great deal of reaction and coverage was spent haggling over details. He didn’t go far enough to denounce a man who baptized his children, he didn’t explain how many times he heard these statements or the ways in which he tried to stop a preacher from preaching, he made us feel guilty for slavery and that was mean. It is as if we are at a beautiful restaurant in front of a gourmet meal but no one is eating because they don’t like the fold of the napkins. Obama’s mistake wasn’t that he stood by his preacher, it was that he assumed people would actually pay attention.

Politics is a dangerous game, not just for the candidate but for those who support them. We pin our hopes and dreams on certain people every couple of years and when they fall by the wayside, so does our resolve. We allow these candidates to paint themselves as the magic bullet, as the only answer to our problems; and so in their defeat lies ours. The one thing that really made me jump into this campaign was that Obama asked us, the people, to work for what we wanted, to help him reach our goals. Part of this is obviously tactical. You can’t fight the Clintons with the establishment, they are the establishment. The most powerful political machine cannot be undone from within, so he was forced to look elsewhere for his support. His relative inexperience and lack of accomplishments give him less to run on by himself, so he needs more help and faith from the outside. He has no record, so he forgoes specific policy items in favor of meta-themes. It is also, though, an undeniable return to history.

In his incredible book, The Argument, Matt Bai put much of the focus on the Democrat’s search for a post-Clinton identity. But he also provided amazing insight into political movements at large:

The story of modern politics was the story of popular movements molding their candidates, not the other way around. Roosevelt didn’t create progressive government; the progressives of the early twentieth century created him. Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy, while they despised eachother, both derived their essential arguments about social justice from the equality movements of the late fifties and early sixties. Ronald Regan would not have existed without the movement conservatives who offered him a philosophical anchor. These were great and preternaturally talented leaders, men who had the charisma and the intellect to synthesize the arguments that each of these movements had made, to persuade voters of their urgency, and to adapt them to the realm of policy making. But they were merely conduits for change, and they would never have emerged as public visionaries had others not laid the intellectual foundations for their arguments.

Barack has often been chastised for a lack of clarity, rhetoric instead of results. But perhaps this is because his movement, his base, has not yet codified their beliefs or their goals. Regardless of why, Obama has caused a progressive awakening in a generation that faces monumental challenges, my generation. One who has grown to see the prosperity of the 90’s – our formative years – become destroyed by forces outside our control: fanatical terrorism, global warming, economic instability. Those in power attempting to fix these problems are not the ones who live with the consequences. It is my friends who are getting laid off, who go to the emergency room for physicals, who are sent off to fight in the desert. We are the most diverse, best educated and technologically advanced generation this nation has ever seen and we must begin to take ownership of it. We can’t afford to be distracted by the horse race, but rather be enlightened by the message. Say what you want about Barack, but you cannot deny that his calls for a recognition of shared responsibility speaks to the best in us, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If it takes inflammatory remarks by a preacher for us to take stock of our treatment of one another, so be it. If an opportunistic, ambitious politician can dupe us all into working for eachother instead of against, we are the better for it.

But we cannot expect one man to do it all. Elections are not the realization of change, they are the beginning of it. If he loses the nomination, if he loses the general election, we cannot retreat into the background in defeat. If he becomes our President, it is our responsibility to hold him accountable and help to fulfill the promises of his potential and our own. Obama has outed us. The success of his platform and the goals he has set will only be met through the efforts we make. The themes he has brought to bear since his introduction of Senator Kerry in 2004 cannot be ignored, especially as we descend into an ever bloodier campaign season. Hillary – an impressive public servant in her own right – has undoubtedly inspired many young women to pursue ambitious careers. John McCain has given credence to sacrifice and centrism in a party that has been known for anything but. Obama’s message challenges us to recognize the nobility in our foes, to respect differences and approach challenges with optimistic pragmatism instead of cynical ideology. His candidacy might fade, but these ideas must not.

Many have belittled the thinking man in these times, but the consequences of looking tough and acting stupid are keeping us from what we can become. Harsh crime legislation and unyielding drug policy have stopped neither and added non-violent, first time offenders to the ranks of the incarcerated, now accounting for 1 out of every 100 of our citizens. Elliot Spitzer’s demise at the hands of a call girl might have been cheered by the Wall Street firms he savaged as Attorney General, but considering the greed and deception they perpetuated to bring down our economy – with no jail time in sight – one wonders who really got off and who got screwed. If we could have seen the facts in Iraq for what they were, free from agenda, fear or spin, we would have $1.3 Trillion more in our pockets, we would be without 29,000 wounds and be able to hold over 4,000 of our sons and daughters that have been lost to ignorance. We are waging war against an ideology instead of a nation, so it must be considered that our ideas and culture can and must fight as effectively as our military. If we continue to distill these complex issues down to sound bytes and slogans, deny the due process of debate and discussion and pigeon-hole the myriad points of view into mere black and white we run the risk of turning into the same fanatics that seek to destroy us. If we cannot decide the proper course of action through argument, we must find a way to do so through conversation. Obama or Hillary, Democratic or Republican, we all share the same fate. If there is one thing I hope this Presidential race will teach us, it is that there are more important things than winning elections.

A 7 Mile March to the Polls in Texas (2008)

In Children and Youth, civil, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Direct action, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Freedom of Speech, Laws & Regulation, New York City, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, US Politics on February 20, 2008 at 4:05 pm

An incredible story popped up on Crooks and Liars today describing a beautiful answer to a disgusting act in an escalating primary battle:

Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.

Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas’ historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed.

1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today. According to the piece I saw on the news (there’s no video up, so I can’t link to it), the students plan to all vote today. There are only 2 machines available at the courthouse for early voting, so they hope to tie them up all day and into the night.

Yes, we’re talking about this election – 2008 – where black students are forced to these lengths to exercise their rights and draw attention to these abuses. This is early voting in a primary, mind you, I can’t wait to see what these kids will do for the general election. By the way, don’t think Yankees are invulnerable to this, either. A little publicized story in the New York Times has uncovered a drastic underreporting of Obama votes in several counties in New York’s primary – in some cases, not registering a single ballot cast in his favor. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an Obama man, but these are problems that have persisted since the clusterfuck of the 2000 election. No matter who you’re voting for, your vote deserves to be counted and no one – not Obama, not Clinton, not McCain and certainly not appointees to local election boards – should be allowed to destroy or steal them. Federalism has its place, but shouldn’t there be some sort of standard in national voting and election oversight? Shouldn’t we at least use the same machines and meet the same requirements to use them? How can the world’s most successful democracy tolerate these kinds of problems? If there are aspects I am ignoring, please, educate me.

Bill O’Reilly’s Blissfull Ignorance

In class warfare, Culture jamming, Media Criticism, Misc., New York City, Race, US Politics on September 26, 2007 at 12:33 pm

In one of the funnier stories of the last few months, the fair and balanced people at the Village Voice recently reported that after visiting the famous Harlem soul food eatery, Syliva’s, the pugnacious pundit, Bill O’Reilly, remarked at the amazing similarities between blacks and other people:

“I ‘couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same,’ O’Reilly said on September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program...

everybody was—it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

I mean, come ON. He’s almost making it too easy for us. I wonder, with the first mention of the word “Harlem”, what exactly popped into that tiny, narrow mind of his? Was he expecting watermelon hanging from every iced-out grill, people shooting their “gats” up in the air like they just don’t care, booming voices alternating chants of “black power” and profanity-laced rants against “crackah-ass whitey”?

Obviously, Bill has a long way to go to make it into this century, and he has a looooooong list of making an ass out of himself in regards to race in general, but if I may, I’d like to propose something that will probably get me crucified by all seven people who read this blog. Though this statement is obviously as offensive as it is hilarious, I can’t help but think it’s just a little inspiring. Listening to the full excerpt helped give some perspective.

Firstly, he went up to Sylvia’s to take Al Sharpton out to dinner – could you imagine seeing those two walk in, sit down, and share some corn bread? And in the man’s defense, it was probably the first time he’d ever come to Harlem and actually gotten out the car. I doubt he’s ever experienced regular black folk up close and personal, just sittin around having dinner instead of in some music video, BET, or battling with him on his show or some other forum. I bet all he knows about these Americans is what he heard/read/saw in the conservative media he helps create. It doesn’t make it right that he says shit like this, obviously, but in the absence of experience and knowledge, is it surprising that ignorant, cliched and racist assumptions have been allowed to fester? No.

Behind the “culture wars” and the media machine that perpetuates it exist communities of regular people and I’m glad Billy got to get himself some meatloaf, chill the fuck out for an hour and hear Al tell some James Brown stories. For him to come away feeling good about Harlem, to be able to relate Sylvia’s to his own experiences in his most-likely gated community, that is a powerful thing.  Granted, this won’t bring him to Abyssinian Baptist chruch or the NAACP anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right directin.  If you’re never exposed to other people, you’ll inevitably harbor misconceptions about them. They obviously won’t be as wacked-out and crazy as O’Reilly’s, but one look at how most America has been treating racial issues of late – profiling of Muslims/anyone who looks like Muslims, immigration, etc. – it’s pretty obvious that eating dinner together every once in a while can’t hurt. O’Reilly has definitely been an enormous jackass as long as I can remember, but I’ll cut him some slack on this one, eventhough I doubt he’d do the same for us.

Dime Bags of Viagra

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Consumerism, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Misc., The War On Drugs on March 1, 2007 at 1:43 pm

It looks as though there has been a paradigm shift in drug use. According to the United Nations Drug Control Board, abuse of prescription drugs will surpass use of street drugs for the first time in history. An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette brings it home:

“Prescription drug abuse already has outstripped traditional illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy in parts of Europe, Africa and South Asia, the board said in its annual report for 2006.

In the United States alone, abuse of painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers and other prescription medications has gone beyond ‘practically all illicit drugs with the exception of cannabis,’ with users increasingly turning to them first, said the group, based in Vienna, Austria.”

For many, many years, we’ve been told that weed is the quintessential “gateway drug”. It has been the pillar of our narcotic education since the 80’s, but it looks like the herb’s gonna have to move over:

“The prescription and heroin addictions are often linked, Dr. Capretto noted, because abuse of OxyContin has led many addicts to heroin for economic reasons. While an 80-milligram OxyContin pill can sell for up to $80 on the street, a stamp bag of heroin has dropped to $10, even as purity levels have reached 90 percent.

‘Someone spending hundreds of dollars a day on OxyContin can buy heroin for one-third, one-fourth that amount now,’ he said. ‘You have suburban kids who never thought they’d stick a needle in their arm shooting up.’

Richard Goldberg, Allegheny County deputy district attorney in charge of the narcotics unit, agreed that OxyContin users are turning to heroin because dealers of both drugs are reacting to market forces of ‘supply and demand’ in a price war.”

It should be no surprise that “good” drugs and “bad” drugs are being dealt by the same people. Chemically speaking, Heroin and Oxy are both Opioids containing essentially the same active ingredients, though prescriptions are derived synthetically instead of from the evil Poppy plant. Prescriptions are far more potent than street drugs as well, so the risk of harm is usually much higher. This kind of frank discussion about drugs, though, has never and probably will never occur in this country, this “drug free” America where I can be locked up for 15 years for a bag of weed but can easily write away for a free sample of pills to enhance my genitals – not that they need enhancing, necessarily, but Pfizer wants me to know that it’s on the table. My father was an Anesthesiologist for decades, doling out the Dolodit and other high powered medications to needy patients, so I am well aware that they’re both needed and helpful. Drug companies – like gun makers – can’t really be held responsible for the misuse of their products. While watching TV the other weekend, though, my Dad was incensed by the countless advertisements for drugs clogging up the nightly news. “People shouldn’t be diagnosing themselves,” he said. And, as he likes to say, he was absolutely right.

It’s not that advertisements like these promote drug abuse, but they do soften the seriousness of drug use. It seems drug companies can no longer make back the hundreds of millions they pump into R&D by simply selling things people need, they have to cater to what they want: Getting to sleep, staying awake, paying attention, the aforementioned genital enhancement and a wide array of sexual assistance are just a few examples of unnecessary medication being pushed on us at every turn. The ambiguous ads are my favorite: “What is Xenoxoprol? Take it and find out!”. Because they don’t actually describe what the hell the thing does, they don’t have list the many ugly side-effects – “Gaseous Oily Discharge” – that you’ll most likely experience. Is this any different from getting your fix from a dude in the alley? No. But it’s more profitable to keep us all thinking that it is. It affords us billions of dollars for a misguided War on Drugs and keeps many English majors in the green by writing copy for Xanax.  These inequalities underline class issues as well.  Crack and cocaine are basically the same substance, but since one is bought by poor minorities and the other by rich socialites, we treat them differently.  Working poor don’t have the money to buy Vicodin, let alone the healthcare to get the prescriptions.  Lets see how often we see Anti-Drug campaigns for designer pills.

Drug abuse and addiction is a serious problem, but it won’t get better through legislation or prosecution. Until we change our perception of drugs that are “good” and “bad” by realligning them to reality, regulation in any form will fail. Interestingly, this story was not picked up by the NY Times or CNN, despite the fact that it affects the lives of millions of Americans. It looks like denial is still our opiate of choice.

Nationwide Katrina Clap

In class warfare, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Labor, US Politics on February 28, 2007 at 3:38 pm

A lot of the images America saw in the aftermath ofHurricane Katrina have faded away from the public consciousness, BUT the underlying problem is still very much present  The article below, originally published by the Independent UK,  is a good description of the poverty situation in America.  If you didn’t already know, this is real serious.

The number of Americans living in severe poverty has expanded dramatically under the Bush administration, with nearly 16 million people now living on an individual income of less than $5,000 (£2,500) a year or a family income of less than $10,000, according to an analysis of 2005 official census data.

The analysis, by the McClatchy group of newspapers, showed that the number of people living in extreme poverty had grown by 26 per cent since 2000. Poverty as a whole has worsened, too, but the number of severe poor is growing 56 per cent faster than the overall segment of the population characterised as poor – about 37 million people in all according to the census data. That represents more than 10 per cent of the US population, which recently surpassed the 300 million mark.

The widening of the income gap between haves and have-nots is nothing new in America – it has been going on steadily since the late 1970s. What is new, though, is the rapid increase in numbers at the bottom of the socio-economic pile. The numbers of severely poor have increased faster than any other segment of the population.

“That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began,” one of the McClatchy study’s co-authors, Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said. “We’re not seeing as much moderate poverty as a proportion of the population. What we’re seeing is a dramatic growth of severe poverty.”

The causes of the problem are no mystery to sociologists and political scientists. The share of national income going to corporate profits has far outstripped the share going to wages and salaries. Manufacturing jobs with benefits and union protection have vanished and been supplanted by low-wage, low-security service-sector work. The richest fifth of US households enjoys more than 50 per cent of the national income, while the poorest fifth gets by on an estimated 3.5 per cent.

The average after-tax income of the top 1 per cent is 63 times larger than the average for the bottom 20 per cent – both because the rich have grown richer and also because the poor have grown poorer; about 19 per cent poorer since the late 1970s. The middle class, too, has been squeezed ever tighter. Every income group except for the top 20 per cent has lost ground in the past 30 years, regardless of whether the economy has boomed or tanked.

These figures are rarely discussed in political forums in America in part because the economy has, in large part, ceased to be regarded as a political issue – John Edwards’ “two Americas” theme in his presidential campaign being a rare exception – and because the right-wing think-tanks that have sprouted and thrived since the Reagan administration have done a good job of minimising the importance of the trends.

They have argued, in fact, that the poverty statistics are misleading because of the mobility of US society. A small number of left-wing think-tanks, such as the Economic Policy Institute, meanwhile, argue that the census figures are almost certainly lower than the real picture because many people living in extreme poverty do not answer census questionnaires.

United States poverty league: States with the most people in severe poverty

California 1.9m

Texas 1.6m

New York 1.2m

Florida 943,670

Illinois 681,786

Ohio 657,415

Pennsylvania 618,229

Michigan 576,428

Georgia 562,014

North Carolina 523,511

Source: US Census Bureau

Income Inequality: Income of 1.2m on top = Income of 45.5m on bottom

In class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Laws & Regulation, Progressive Politics, US Politics on February 28, 2007 at 10:39 am

In case you need a good pick-me-up with your cup o’ joe, here are some tid-bits the Wall Street Journal pulled out from a recent CBO report. Nothing too new, but good to stay motivated:

…Before taxes, the bottom 40% of U.S. households got 13% of the nation’s income in 2004; after federal taxes of all sorts they got about 15%, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimates. Because of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a cash bonus the government offers low-wage workers, many Americans at the bottom get money from the government, rather than having to pay income taxes; they still face payroll taxes on their wages.

Before taxes, the top 1% got about 16% of income; after taxes they ended up with 14%. (Yes, you read that right: The 1.2 million best-off households got about as much income, even after taxes, as the 45.5 million worst-off.) That top 1%, by the way, pays about a quarter of all federal taxes.

…The Treasury benefits more when CEOs get bigger raises than when ordinary workers gain, and that, along with the buoyant economy, is a big reason for today’s surge in federal revenue.

Today’s Cartoon

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Economic Justice, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, Immigration, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Policing, political cartoons, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, Sexuality, Terrorism, The War On Drugs, US Politics on February 15, 2007 at 10:45 am

Picture the Homeless, Longest Night of the Year

In class warfare, Direct action, Economic Justice, Land rights, Misc., Music, New York City, Progressive Politics, Race, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on December 20, 2006 at 6:16 pm

NYC’s Picture the Homeless will be hosting a great event tomorrow night.

We wanted to remind you that tomorrow, on the longest night of the year, we will be holding our annual Homeless Memorial Service, to come together to remember homeless New Yorkers who passed away in 2006–and stand together to promote justice for homeless New Yorkers still living! This is a powerful, deeply moving event, and we encourage all friends and allies to come join us!
Thursday, December 21 at 6 p.m.

Judson Memorial Church

55 Washington Square South (SW corner of Washington Sq Park)

After this amazing event readers are welcome to join two of LiftWhileClimbing’s moderators and many of our allies at downtown’s M1-5 for a party, which will be collecting food for NYC’s City Harvest.

Selling Candy: The Urban Job Market of Tomorrow

In Blogs we like, class warfare, Economic Justice, International Trade, Labor, New York City, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on December 8, 2006 at 4:36 pm

From Working Life:

More than a month ago, I posted a short item about the mad scrum that erupted in Times Square when a few thousands people lined up for 65 jobs–at M&M’s new store. Well, actually, it turns out I underestimated the insanity. According to the Daily News yesterday, 12,800 people filled out applications for the 198 jobs (beats me why the difference in numbers on the jobs…I’ll chalk it up to bad reporting but I also didn’t check up on this independently so bad on me, too).

Anyway, these jobs pay $10.75 an hour “plus health and other benefits,” according to the article–but there’s no description of the health benefits. Mark me down as skeptical that the benefits are anything more than a bare-bones plan with high deductibles and skimpy coverage. As for the store:

M&M’s World offers themed clothing, dishware, piggy banks, watches and of course, chocolate. New York’s largest candy store has a two-story wall of M&M’s with 22 different color choices.

Hey, I have a real bad sweet tooth so I’m not dissing the great societal benefit that M&M represents. But, these are the jobs that thousands of people are going bonkers to grab.  This is the great economic miracle we can look forward to.

More madness surrounds the shooting of Sean Bell

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, New York City, Policing, Race, The War On Drugs on December 1, 2006 at 12:16 pm

The Daily News ran an article today describing the Police force’s apparent desperation in trying to find more excuses for the shooting incident that took place in Queens this weekend. Luckily for us, they are only making themselves look more foolish.

Black and targeted by NYPD
Raids terrorize friends of victims
in deadly Kalua Cabaret fusillade

Around 6 a.m. Wednesday, LaToya Smith, 26, was playing in her bed in southeastern Queens with her 7-month-old son Jalyn. Just then, she heard a strange noise in her family’s darkened house. Her locked bedroom door suddenly burst open, and several uniformed cops burst into the room with flashlights and guns drawn.

According to Smith, the cops ordered her to lie facedown on the floor.

“My baby, my baby. Where’s my baby?” she recalls pleading to them as they hustled her into the living room. There, they gathered her brothers Timothy Smith, 19, and Stanley Smith, 23; her mother, Laura; the baby and Christopher Keys, 18, a friend who was staying in the apartment. Meanwhile, a dozen officers searched the entire place.

Police officials said they found a loaded 9-mm. pistol in the apartment and a small bag of marijuana, whereupon they hauled the young woman and the three men to the 103rd Precinct stationhouse. They charged the men with gun possession, but released LaToya Smith.

Police also are saying the apartment was a known drug-dealing location.

But the real purpose of the raid was not to find guns or pot.

All the cops’ questions at the stationhouse were about last weekend’s police shooting of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield outside the Kalua Cabaret, Smith said.

They kept asking if she knew the whereabouts of certain friends of the three men shooting victims.

“If you don’t tell us what we want to hear, you know, you can get five years,” she says one cop told her.

Thus, in a bizarre twist almost as inexplicable as the original 50-shot fusillade, the NYPD is raiding homes and picking up young blacks in southeastern Queens in an all-out effort to locate an alleged “fourth man,” a man investigators say was at the scene of the shooting and fled.

Then at 6 a.m. yesterday, cops raided a second apartment in the Smith building and arrested Erskine Willliams Jr. and Jameek Bentson.

Williams was hauled away for an unpaid $25 ticket from last year. But the real reason was his friendship with Benefield, whom he visited several times at the hospital this week. Williams said cops only wanted to know what he talked to Benefield about.

Erskine Williams Sr., his father, is furious. The father is the unofficial spokesman for the Benefield family. He is also a local minister and the uncle of Smith and her brothers.

“That’s a lie,” Williams Sr. said about the police drug allegations against the Smiths. “I live two doors down from there. I know what goes on there. The police will say anything.”

Black leaders who learned of the raids in recent days say police would never use such heavy-handed tactics in a white neighborhood.

“They can arrest every black person in Queens,” said Michael Hardy, one of the lawyers for the wounded men, “but none of those people were at the party or in the car with my clients.”

“The NYPD is involved in character assassination so they can justify last weekend’s shooting in the court of public opinion,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said. “They are trying to make the victims into suspects.”

But there is one big difference, Sharpton said, between last weekend’s shooting and the infamous killing of Amadou Diallo.

“With Diallo, we only had the testimony of the policemen in the foyer. This time, we have seven or eight people who witnessed this shooting.”

It was, after all, a bachelor party for Sean Bell that night. There were several friends of the dead man who left the club when it closed just before the shooting.

Sharpton and lawyers close to Bell’s family are now saying some of those witnesses have yet to come forward.

The facts of what happened outside the Kalua Cabaret are not yet fully known. But one thing is clear: The NYPD will not encourage any witnesses to come forward by breaking down doors in the black community.

Originally published on December 1, 2006

Repost: If It’s a Police Beating, I’d Rather Trust My Eyes

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Immigration, Policing, Race on December 1, 2006 at 11:18 am

Continuing this week’s unplanned theme of police brutality, I found the following article. Although it strays away from the current situation in Queens, it gives a moving look into the writer’s personal experiences as well as a broad look at the topic in general……From Capital Times (Wisconsin) via Common Dreams:

If It’s a Police Beating, I’d Rather Trust My Eyes

by Roberto Rodriguez

The young man is already down, but the blows to William Cardenas’ face from a Los Angeles police officer keep coming. The video is disturbing.

And the flashbacks return. Alicia Sotero, 1996. Rodney King, 1991. And then my mind returns to 1979 and the streets of East Los Angeles. There, a young Mexican man is being pummeled mercilessly. My first instincts are to flee, but the beating by the 10 to 12 deputies is so vicious that I can’t. I take photographs instead and then, shortly, the batons turn on me.

After a barrage of blows, I lay on the cold street in a pool of blood, from a cracked skull, handcuffed and charged with attempting to kill four police officers with a deadly weapon a camera. In the end, I win not one but two trials, but justice is slow as they take seven years.

In the end, there is no end. The memories do go away, but they return every time a new videotaped beating surfaces. I recall the riot sticks, the death threats and the dozens of subsequent arrests. But most of all, what I remember is that for years, nobody pays any attention to me.

More than a generation has passed and the trauma I live with is not strictly about my stirred memories but about why young people (usually of color) continue to be brutalized on U.S. streets. Only on the rare occasion that a videotape surfaces does even the word “justice” enter the conversation. Normally, young victims are beaten, arrested and do time. Many plea-bargain their way out of prison, which forfeits their date in court. This is considered a victory. Most remain anonymous and traumatized for life, without justice.

What society is left with separate from false imprisonments is lots of untreated trauma, resentment and pent-up anger on the streets … with lots of hidden costs, including youngsters who are prone to violence, homicide, suicide and domestic violence. And this is due not strictly to the beatings. It is in the knowledge that the life of a person of color often matters little on the streets and in the courtroom. Our nation’s leaders are reluctant to say this. But that’s the truth and root of the problem.

This is not a new phenomenon. In 2006, society is still carrying on the infamous Bartolomo de las Casas/Juan Gines de Sepulveda religious debates of the late early 1500s: Are they human? That’s what Europeans asked about indigenous peoples upon arrival to this continent. And yes, in a subliminal way, that same question is still being asked with similar results.

The victims are primarily red-brown-black (similar to the U.S. prison population) and there is always a presumption of guilt.

In this case, the police admit that the blows are disturbing, but we are informed that Cardenas is a gang member … therefore, the public is being primed to believe that he must be guilty or at least got what he deserved this before the investigation.

No one deserves to be beaten. Beating someone senseless is always illegal especially if the force is unrelated to a lawful arrest.

But even when we witness a brutal beating, we are told not to believe our eyes. That may explain why it is rare that the victim of police brutality ever sees justice. (Once in a great while family members of dead victims are compensated.)

In the recent video, we are told that we are not seeing the whole incident. That’s what we were told about King and Sotero. Yet, to this day, I still believe my eyes. I trust them. What I don’t trust are public officials who justify horrific beatings and the media that have conditioned the public to find it acceptable.

This situation is virtually a pandemic, but how is the public to know in an era when human rights are meaningless and when the media are preoccupied with fluff? At the root of all this is perhaps what UCLA professor Otto Santa Ana has noted in “Brown Tide Rising” that in this society, human rights seemingly correspond only to human beings. Nothing short of congressional hearings are necessary to finally put an end to this travesty. But what will it take to settle the 500-year-plus debate?

Roberto Rodriguez, who is finishing his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the author of “Justice: A Question of Race.”

And below is the video that the writer is referring to:

Happy Thanksgiving – No thanks to Ratner

In class warfare, Economic Justice, Housing, Land rights, New York City, Urban Planning / Space on November 25, 2006 at 1:31 pm

 

For Thanksgiving Day, the folks over at NoLandGrab made up a list of things to be thankful for.  The one that caught my the most was the last on their list – Bruce Ratner being listed as the #1 most loathsome New Yorker on the New York Press’ list of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers.  That most definitely is something to be thankful for!  Here is what the NYPress had to say:

1 Bruce Ratner

Nets Owner & Developer

Where’s Jackie O. when you need her? The Atlantic Yards project and the rest of the properties this comb-over-mini-Donald’s got his greenbacked mitts around aren’t exactly Grand Central Terminal, but bear with us. Think of all the upper-middle-class homeowners who will be displaced after long, hard years of work carving a viable neighborhood out of a once-desolate area of Brooklyn. Then there are the many working-class people living in Prospect Heights, and the small businesspersons in the area. Aren’t their homes and businesses worth saving? The Empire State Development Board, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz don’t think so. The centerpiece of the proposed development is a 19,000-seat arena that will house the Brooklyn (née New Jersey) Nets, in which Ratner has a major stake. Also on the table are 17 high rises, which will be as high as 55 stories, 628,000 square feet of commercial space and residences. The housing bit is a ruse to assuage the masses. The “affordable” residential buildings will, however, remain out of reach for a single mom of four surviving on a sub-poverty-line paycheck. Ratner’s attempts to evade official processes for major real estate projects and the use of Supreme Court-endorsed eminent domain have been met with challenges from underfunded groups like Develop Don’t Destroy. What really pisses us off is the imminent razing of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, which is in the 22-acre footprint. With the Freddy’s gone, where will we get our $4 beers when that’s all we have in our wallet? Oh, and don’t look for criticism in the Newspaper of Record: Ratner’s building the Times’ gleaming new headquarters building west of Times Square.

 

Support Press Freedom, Demand Justice

In Brad Will, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Economic Justice, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City on November 21, 2006 at 6:33 pm

I’ve posted a few things about the murder of Brad Will in Oaxaca, Mexico in late October. Here is something straight-forward that I implore readers to consider regarding both Brad’s murder and the way it was used by Mexico’s federal forces…

Sign on to the letter discussed below. I did and encourage you to do the same.

Keep plugged into NYC Indymedia, Zapagringo, and El Enimigo Comun to stay up-to-date with actions in Oaxaca and solidarity actions taking place up here. Also, be sure to stay on top of the heated developments in Atenco, Mexico.

Thanks again to Josh Breitbart for being one of the many taking the lead on this and laying out a solid argument on why to sign the letter. Below are excerpts from his post…

Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”

This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”

Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.

[…]

Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:

All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…

Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

I’ve revised it and posted it to the Friends of Brad Will site to allow more people and organizations to sign on.

Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).

The letter ends:

The undersigned implore the United States government to:

  1. Give full governmental protection throughout the world, in word and deed, to community-based journalists from the United States.
  2. Ask the Mexican Government to make a formal, federal inquiry into the killing of journalist Bradley Roland Will in Oaxaca on October 27, 2006.
  3. Ask that the Mexican Government bring his killer(s) to justice.
  4. Ask that the Mexican Government state clearly that it will not tolerate the targeting of journalists covering conflicts, no matter what their affiliations or nationalities.

If the tragic killing of Bradley Roland Will results in the strengthening of protections for independent journalists, then his death will not have been in vain. More importantly, we will have stood together as a nation against an attack on our free press and the many freedoms which are built upon it.

I encourage you to sign it. Encourage friends and allies to do the same.

Bring that Draft Back?

In Children and Youth, class warfare, Economic Justice, Global War On Terror, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Misc. on November 20, 2006 at 8:23 pm

I don’t know how I feel about this, from the Gothamist. I can see Rangels point, but… Any counterpoints?

 

Rangel Is All About The Draft

2006_11_rangeldraft.jpgCongressman Charles Rangel is in the news again, but this time he’s not upsetting Southern states – he’s scaring the bejesus out of young Americans! He told CBS’s Face the Nation that he will will propose legislation to bring back the draft. Why? Because it might act as a war-deterrent, as well as fulfill the need for more troops.

There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way. If we’re going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can’t do that without a draft.

Additionally, when speaking to Baruch College, Congressman Rangel said, “If the country’s in danger, everyone should share in the sacrifice.” Naturally, there is little support for bringing back the draft, though many agree that U.S. policy in Iraq has been unsuccessful. Rangel would be introducing the legislation in January, but even if it passed the House, it would need to be passed by the Senate and approved by President Bush.

The asses are asses too

In class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War on November 15, 2006 at 11:21 pm

I was IMing with my friend Breanne last night, and she expressed shock about the new bill passed by the house, which “makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent protests that result in businesses losing money.” Apparently, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (HR 4239, S3880) was stealthily added, on friday, to the House calendar for Monday. Thus, it would have no debate, just an up/down vote.

9:22 PM Breanne: i can’t believe that…

what a sneaky move

I replied that I knew not to celebrate too soon. House Dems have been “compromising” for 6 years. It doesn’t take the slickest serpent to get them to bite the apple (put the word “terrorism” in a bill, and it gets passed; put the word “patriot” in a bill, and it gets passed).

today, Breanne sent me an email entitled “affirmation for point you made last night.” It reads:

again from democracynow.org

Reid Elected Democratic Senate Leader
Here in the United States, Democratic Senator Harry Reid was elected new Senate Majority leader on Tuesday. In an interview with the Washington Post, Reid said one of Democrats’ first priorities will be to increase the US military budget by $75 billion.

Something you should all care about

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror on November 14, 2006 at 11:31 pm

This was emailed to me by my friend Breanne:

Non-violent protest now a felony (could be charged with terrorism,
even) if it causes a business to lose profits.  although it is aimed
toward animal rights activists, i don’t see what would stop them from
trying to apply the law to other activists.  only in a capitalist
society would it be considered a felony to contribute to profit loss.

transcript today from www.democracynow.org:

House Passes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The House has passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act despite
opposition from dozens of organizations including the National Lawyers
Guild, Humane Society and Natural Resources Defense Council. The bill
makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent
protests that result in businesses losing money. Legal experts say a
protester could be charged with terrorism if they engaged in a sit-in
that caused a business to lose profits. Congressman Dennis Kucinich
said the law would have a chilling effect on non-violent protest.
Kucinich said the country has to be very careful of painting everyone
with a broad brush of terrorism.

Daniel McGowan Refuses to Cooporate, Enters Guilty Plea

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture jamming, Direct action, Economic Justice, Environment, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, Progressive Politics, US Politics on November 9, 2006 at 11:28 pm

Whew. This has been a long battle and Daniel today pled guilty in order to protect others involved. His comment to the Judge read, in part:

This plea agreement is very important to me, because it allows me to accept full responsibility for my actions and at the same time remain true to my strongly held beliefs.  I hope that you will see that my actions were not those of terrorist but of a concerned young person who was deeply troubled by the destruction of Oregon’s beautiful old-growth forests and the dangers of genetically modified trees...

To read more about Daniel’s story, goto www.SupportDaniel.org. Also check out Green Scare and what is a formidable resource: GreenIsTheNewRed. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the basics as such:

Four people intend to plead guilty to causing $20 million in damages from firebombings around the Northwest, according to lawyers in the case… The Oregon indictments covered arsons from 1996 to 2001 that were claimed by the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Colorado.

Killed for the Truth, Paid for the Lies, and Impunity for the Murderers

In Blogs we like, Brad Will, class warfare, Culture jamming, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City, Progressive Politics, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on November 2, 2006 at 12:57 pm

LiftWhileClimbing ally Josh Breitbart has just posted a quality boil-down of the situation.  Below is the first bit of it.

Here are two small but important details about Brad’s death:

He was wearing an Indymedia t-shirt when he was shot. One bullet must have gone right through the (((i))). Maybe that shouldn’t matter to me but it does. I have that t-shirt, as do many people I love.

Second, Brad lived for nearly an hour after he was shot. The initial photos made it seem like he died on the spot. Other reports suggest he died minutes later on the way to a hospital. In fact, protesters carried his body for a long distance, drove a car until it ran out of gas, unsuccessfully tried to wave down a couple of trucks – it started to rain – and then, about five blocks from the Red Cross station, he died. I don’t know if this should matter either, but it does.

Brad’s Friends Shut Down the Embassy

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture jamming, Direct action, Economic Justice, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Trade, Misc., Netroots, New York City, Progressive Politics, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on November 1, 2006 at 1:11 am

Sorry for the single-mindedness of my posts this week, but it’s what’s on my mind. Also apologies for the delay in posting on this action. Please watch the linked video, and read www.FriendsOfBradWill.org for actions and updates.

And above and beyond all else, be sure to follow what is going on down in Oaxaca.