"Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions...are again upon you." Abe Lincoln
Published in The Oregonian 5-27-17 & NYT 5-24-17
Trump, who once complained that “Islam hates us,” just this week described Islam instead as “one of the world’s great faiths.” But all faiths are built on ignorance, otherwise they would not be called “faiths." Having faith is admitting a lack of knowledge. So why do we revere the world’s great systems of ignorance? Believers with faith have been killing each other for centuries over matters of varying ignorance. That ignorance (faith) does not merit respect.
Michael Sean Edwards
NYC 15 hours ago
Faith and ignorance are not really the same thing at all, but sadly they're very hard to tell apart sometimes.
MSE, I would be interested in learning in what way faith and ignorance are not the same thing because as I see it faith is needed only when one does not have knowledge. Faith and ignorance may not be synonyms but faith and knowledge are opposites.
If Scalia was such a strict constitutionalist, holding to the original intent, how could he ignore the conditioning clause of the Second Amendment, which cites the need for a standing militia as the reason for bearing arms? The NRA crowd certainly thinks that the U.S. Constitution is a living document that should be updated to include all kinds of firepower for all reasons possible, but I would hardly say a strict advocate of a dead constitution would do so without losing credibility.
Published in The Oregonian 2-16-16
Two topics are being discussed (heavy on the cussed) by amateur critics and professional pundits alike. The first is the cost of raising the minimum wage and the second is Bernie Sanders’ socialism. On the matter of the minimum wage, whatever cost you come up with (millions of dollars) stop for a minute and realize that that amount is equal to the number of dollars that the workers are currently being shorted. On the backs of the workers rests the economy.
About socialism, we all need to take a deep breath and realize Bernie is not talking about Soviet socialism, he is for American socialism such as public works projects for the renewing of our infrastructure, for Social Security, for government health insurance (not government health care). The scare mongers such as Charles Krauthammer speak of socialism's century-long dismal failure, hoping we will forget the success of public water and sewer systems, public schools, health clinics, public safety officers, public fire departments, public libraries and so on, all examples of American socialism. Socialism has succeeded where the economic system has failed. Social Security and Medicaid have been safety nets for millions of Americans.
Critics always refer to taxes as taking “other people’s money” to pay for a needed government program. What they forget is where the rich got the money in the first place: the millions of dollars due workers who are not payed a living wage and so must depend on government to make up the difference. IF the private sector cannot pay a living wage to the workers, then government must tax to provide for needed programs.
Right now in Portland we face a crisis in housing: many have no house to call home, and many with jobs cannot afford rents. The economic system has failed once again and taxes must be raised to pay for solutions. Unless, of course, the private sector comes up with a solution first. Who pays the tax? Those making the money, of course. There would never be a need for socialism if our current system were as successful as the Krauthammers tell us it is.
Why must we be held hostage to the unsubstantiated beliefs? Not knowing has become a virtue by those who ignore science and history. But not to know is to always remain a child. In our reverence for “people of faith” we create a false equivalence between sheer make-believe and real knowledge.
For instance, never in history has a financial panic or depression been remedied with austerity measures. Yet Republicans refuse to allow government spending to take up the slack of the failed free enterprise economy. A study of the historical record shows that government spending has always been needed when unfettered capitalism failed. When the free market fails government has a legitimate role even if those on the top are too far away to see or feel those at the bottom.
Bad ideas are not “the other side” of good ideas. Astrology is not astronomy. Creationism’s superstition is not evolution’s observations. Climate ignorance is not climate science. Prayer does not take the place of medicine even if it makes one feel good.
Published in The Oregonian 9-18-15
Our culture honors those who have faith. Whether a clerk at a Kentucky license bureau or a judge in an Oregon court, the faithless are required to honor the “faith" of those who say that they are getting instructions from God. If those same people said that their faith rested in some local witchdoctor we could easily disprove the belief with a short session at the good witchdoctor’s tent. However, when someone declares a faith in imaginary commands of an imaginary god there is no way to either prove or disprove the claim.
Why should non-believers be forced to honor something that cannot be proved or disproved? Secular government should be based upon what can be shown to be true, as in this instance: “The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the conviction…of an Oregon City couple that relied on faith healing…who died because he did not receive medical care.” (“Faith Healing” The Oregonian October 10, 2015, p. A2). Sad outcomes are sometimes described as “God’s will,” but that is just more make- believe which can neither be proved nor disproved.
The same standard used to judge the faith healing should be applied to claims that God is against abortion or same sex marriage. The advocates are all using the Bible as their authority. Non-falsafilable claims should not be honored any more than claims that are demonstrably false. Christians, Jews and Muslims all have beliefs that cannot be shown to be true and the rest of us should not have to honor those beliefs.
Published in The Oregonian July 29, 2015
The rich are rich at the expense of the workers. Consider the economics of slavery, where wages were not paid but slaves were fed and housed. Today a worker earning less than $10 and hour is not able to clothe and feed a family and is thus a wage slave in reality.
It is in error to talk of “redistribution” of wealth when referring to higher taxes on the rich, since the original redistribution took place before the paycheck was written to a minimum wage earner. The employer is not paying a living wage and is pocketing the difference. We only need welfare because many workers can’t earn enough to support the rich AND raise a family.
What is needed is a “de-distribution” at the payroll so that the rich take less from the workers, who are the wealth creators in the first place. Fewer workers would need welfare and food stamps if wages had kept up with production. A wage of $18 an hour would be in line with increased productivity. A minimum wage earner is already redistributing upwards $10 for every hour worked because of the disparity between wages and productivity.
A liberal is more inclusive while conservatives seek ways to exclude people. A liberal is interested in getting things to work while the conservative is interested in an ideology. For instance, if austerity measures actually helped solve an economic downturn then liberals would be for those measures. But government stimulus efforts are anathama to conservatives so that even when historical evidence shows that to be the only solution that works they are against raising taxes on the rich to pay for government stimulus programs for schools, health facilities, infrastructure, public parks and so on. Ideology, not practicality guides conservatives, they hide behind a false curtain of principle to protect the rich from increased taxes. One hundred dollars in the hands of a poor person is soon spent and the multiplier effect pushes the economic benefit outward in a widening circle. On the other hand, one thousand dollars given to the rich goes into off shore accounts and is never seen helping the economy. Spending tax dollars on schools helps the economy and does not cost as much as it pays back over and over. Spending always works and austerity has never worked to get a stagnant economy going again.
Say "believe" and what you really mean is "make believe." What you think and understand can be discerned with one or more of our six senses. What you make believe is only in your head. Your god does not exist outside of your head. So don't tell me what to do based on what you believe.
Workers are the wealth creators of our economy. Workers are not paid according to the wealth they create.
"The ultra rich around the world are expected to see their wealth grow by over 9% a year between 2012 and 2017, according to the Boston Consulting Group. There are over 3,000 of these $100 million-plus households in the United States alone.
"... households worth less than $100,000 are expected to see their net worth grow just 3.7% a year." Source
The top 1% pays 24% of the taxes but has 40% of the wealth.
The top .01% have 11% of the wealth. (16,000 families possess $6 trillion in assets which is equal to the total wealth of the bottom two-thirds of American families.) Underpaid workers and employees going back to early days of industrial growth and slavery have contributed to the wealth of the upper classes. Fortunes built in all industries relied on cheap and slave labor to gain great profits. Before FDR the workers were on their own after employers were done with them, cast aside. FDR fought the conservatives for worker and unemployed justice. The wealth of the wealthy is not all theirs alone. It was made on the backs of under-paid workers. Progressive tax rates can get some of that wealth back in the hands of workers. Workers are the wealth creators in our economy.
Why anyone who is not in the upper 1% would vote Republican, whether black or white, makes no sense. They are voting to increase taxes and strip services from the middle class while at the same time decreasing taxes on the upper 1%, the only people who have had an INCREASE in wealth and the rest of us have had a decrease in the share of the wealth.
In the early 1840s English settlers migrated to Ireland, bought up the land from the owners and left the renters to shift for themselves. They raised grain crops and animals for export and profit, ignoring the displaced Irish. When a potato blight wiped out the main food source for the Irish over one million starved to death and two million migrated to America. While Irish starved the English were exporting food for profit and the monetarist policy of the British Government known as "Laissez Faire" demanded no political interference with the "free market."
This is the same political philosophy advocated today by right wing Libertarians and Republicans in the U.S. and by conservatives around the world. There is more than enough money to give everyone enough to live on. Trillions of dollars are in offshore accounts that could be used in government programs to help the needy but free market advocates are against taxes that would do that. Millions are dying today of starvation. Even the U.S. has a go-to-bed hungry rate that is a crime of greed.
The English business men hid behind Laissez Faire just as Libertarians do today to justify their actions. Meanwhile people starve not because there is not enough food to go around, but they starve because they don't have money or the jobs that would give them the money to have a living. The system that glorifies greed is the problem, not the people who would like to be able to work.
Job creation is first the responsibility of the capitalists and if they fail then the government must step in. In The Great Depression Roosevelt established the CCC and put 250,000 men to work and we today see the result of their efforts. In order for the government to do its job when capitalists fail taxes must go up on those making the money instead of letting it get stuffed in off shore banks. One estimate is that there is 21 trillion dollars in those accounts.
God is an idea people use to explain the unknown. For instance, no ordinary person would put bread in a toaster and when it pops up say that God toasted the bread. No, the toaster did, of course. On the other hand take something unknown, such as where the sun and moon and stars came from. For thousands of years humans have said that the gods or God made them, along with the earth because no scientific explanation had been presented to them. And even after science came up with a reasonable explanation many humans rejected it and continued to say God did it. Where did animals come from? God created them. Where do babies come from? The stork, no wait, not the stork, but yes, God makes babies some still think. And so it goes.
The less someone knows, the more is attributed to God. What can't be explained does not have to be attributed to a god. It could just be something we don't know yet.
Let us have no more talk about a minimum wage, that is a red herring. The way to get our economy going again is to be sure every worker has a living wage. The money paid to workers earning a living wage will return to the economy quickly and the multiplier effect will benefit all of us. Workers who cannot now buy all the groceries they need could then spend more money to do so. And so on in every business venue. How can any worker not getting a living wage be expected to pay his or her way? If you do not support a living wage for all then be prepared to support, without complaint, government aid programs using your tax dollars.
I wonder how the idea that the Postal Service had to break even or make a profit got started? Does the U.S. Army have to make a profit? Do libraries have to make a profit? It is a service we pay for, even with our taxes. The same goes for the Forest Service, why does it have to show a profit? Managing a resource on a market basis is insane unless you are trying to get rid of the resource, whether that is trees, scenery, books or minds.
Historically there has never been a recession recovery with austerity measures. Much less a depression. It is the responsibility of the economic system (no matter what "ism" it goes by) to provide employment for all who can work. It is not up to the unemployed workers to provide the jobs. If the private sector fails to meet its obligations to provide jobs then the federal government must step in and help the poor and the unemployed until the economy gets going to full capacity.
If free enterprise and free markets could actually perform as conservatives claim, then there would be no need for government assistance at all. You can't simultaneously pay workers less than a living wage and expect them to live on it. Time has come to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, or support welfare programs that make up for the failure of the economy and for John Boehner to lay off any talk about lazy jobless former employees.
In The Oregonian, September 10, 2014
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have recruited more anti-U.S. fighters than we have been able to kill. We have armed one side only to have those arms turned against us at a later time. Now Obama is getting ready to continue recruiting for the terrorists. Every drone strike, every bomb drop, every death we cause makes the situation worse by creating more enemies. We are seen as foreign invaders and whom we call terrorists see themselves as freedom fighters.
The only way to turn this around is to pour trillions of dollars into no-strings-attached aid for education, hospitals, infrastructure and food production instead of into more killing, which only gets rid of individuals without changing minds.
The amount of money we could save on health care costs by going to a system such as used in France would be enough to eliminate the Federal income tax. France spends 11.7% of its Gross Domestic Product on health care for all. The U.S. spends 17.9% of GDP on health care and not everyone is covered because it is a for-profit system. Going to a system such as France has, where even a visitor gets free care, would save an amount equal to 6% of $17 trillion.
80% of GDP comes from services and less than 20% from industry, so the economy is riding on the backs of underpaid workers for the most part.
We are seeing in the U.S. a degeneration of public services, decay of infrastructure (water mains, schools, bridges, roads), and a general turning away from the stated reasons for our nation as put forward in the preamble to the Constitution.
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The bottom 99 percent of the economic heap has seen buying power decrease while the upper one percent has increased its power.
The Greco-Roman philosopher, Petrarch, warned economic inequality is the worst danger for a republic. Right-wing tax policies which glorify speculation and denigrate social programs will be the downfall of our nation.
We do not have the best health care in the world. Just the most expensive for those who can get it. Even Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate the U.S. (4.76 v. 5.2).
The right wing always says that government does not work, and when they get elected they prove it. The stated goal of Republicans during the Obama administration has been to make sure that no good legislation gets passed. They have shut down all hope of economic recovery.
There has never been an economic recovery under trickle-down economic measures. Why? Because workers on low wages can't afford to buy the things they make. To make up for the low wages, government welfare is needed, thus taking the burden off corporations and shifting it to taxpayers. Taxpayers have been subsidizing corporations from the very start. Yet the right wing goes on and on about the chicken feed lost in food stamps, when food stamps would not even be needed if workers made a living wage. The need for government welfare is a function of low wages.
Under trickle down economics government spending on jobs programs and welfare is reduced, exacerbating unemployment. Create more jobs with government spending and every dollar spent will go back into the community with a multiplier effect because the workers need to live. Give the rich a tax break and every dollar will go offshore because they do not need more money to live.
If trickle-down could be changed to gusher-down then maybe Keynes could be proven wrong. But as long as corporations avoid paying a living wage it is a trickle that won't do any good.
The US Supreme Court sided with religious folks who claim that contraception is the same as abortion, allowing a non-publically traded "Christian" corporation to opt out of giving ACA mandated contraception prescriptions. One has to wonder if now the Christian God will let Christian corporations into heaven, since the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are individuals. Do corporations have to be "saved" before getting into heaven or do they ride in on the owner's obeisance?
Some Americans opposed the war in Vietnam for reasons that later proved to be correct. Some of us opposed the war in Iraq for reasons that have proven correct. Same for the war on Afghanistan. How much longer are American families going to allow the government to send our young people off to fight wars for lies? How many more sons, daughters, husbands and wives must die for the lies? Look at who have been the only ones to profit from the wars.
Discussions begin with "there is no military solution," and then proceed to decide how many bombs can be dropped, how many drones are needed for the killing. The propaganda machine rallies against those who alert us when our government is wrong, even when they are directly involved in the carnage and deceptions, but have a change of heart and mind in the midst of the folly.
Whistleblowers and war objectors are jailed instead of listened to. Later they are proven correct. Robert McNamara apologized for promoting the Vietnam war and Glenn Beck apologies to liberals for his support of the invasion of Iraq. But an apology does not bring back those who died for the lies, those wounded and scarred for doing the government's bidding.
War has been the only sure way to fail whether it is on terrorists, drugs, communists or ignorance.
What I got from discussion with Ralph today and reading the article is that reparations would not take the form of money directly out of your pocket so you can relax, your bank account is safe.
The major gateway to building economic security has been (for white folks) buying a nice house in a nice neighborhood. People of color have been restricted for the most part to poor districts even when they had money. A black earning 100,000 can easily buy a house among whites earning 30,000. Redlining has kept neighborhoods segregated.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 changed that officially, but if you believe redlining no longer takes place, well....
A basketball player making millions can break the barrier, but how to overcome the effect of years of restrictions on ordinary folks is part of the reparations program that does not take direct payments. A tax break for low income workers would be a good place to start. Give poor workers access to home ownership with government subsidized mortgages. (I say "poor workers" here because while we are talking about reparations to former slaves, the underpaid white worker could get in on this one since they too have had to accept low wages as profits took to the top part of what was owed them for their labor.)
States across the former slave South to this day try to limit voting by blacks with various schemes that I am sure you are aware of. The Supreme Court recently ruled against some of the protections, saying they were no longer necessary and N.C. right away passed voter restrictions that affected poor folks the most. Well-to-do whites do not mind passing laws that hurt poor whites as long as the poor whites are still stupid enough to vote for them.
Seven former slave states have opted to not provide citizens with access to Medicaid / ACA because blacks would be the beneficiaries. Reparation could begin by ending that.
Whites from many nations have benefited from hundreds of years of the total access to all economic avenues including the benefits of inheritance. Black folks have been short-changed in that slaves could not leave any inheritance to the kids because they had been sold off. Sharecroppers were almost as bad off since landowners regularly shorted payments to blacks (who had no access to courts for redress). The sharecropper owned no land and died with no funds to leave to children.
Not being able to vote is detrimental to economic health and the Jim Crow laws made sure voting was restricted. It was not until LBJ pushed the Civil Rights bill through that some change took place. That was only in 1968, 100 years after the Civil War ended. This shows how powerful the Southern Way of Life is, forcing compromises on government programs that should have benefited all but in reality excluded blacks. After LBJ the South went Republican in hopes of hanging on to white advantages to the detriment of blacks.
For the early years of Social Security farmworkers and domestic workers were not covered until the law was amended in 1950. Senators and Representatives of Southern states fought against the amendment.
White supremacy has ruled America for hundreds of years and only for a little over 150 years have blacks been free of slavery but not free of every trick in the book to keep them down and out of the competition. Sharecropping, Jim Crow laws, the War on Drugs (Did you know that the CIA ran coke into California? See Whiteout by Cockburn and St. Clair).), stop and frisk policies, profiling, have all worked against and are still working against the poor and people of color. Reparations can begin by addressing these wrongs. Along with a tax credit. For people not making enough money to pay taxes then they are due job training and wage improvements so that they can earn a living wage and then get a tax credit. All money spent on job training and fair wages would come right back into the general economy. Pay workers enough to buy the products. Henry Ford said that.
Education is a vital part of good economics. Reparations should include the finest schools for all, not just the rich.
The rich send their kids to schools with teacher-to-student ratios of less than 1 to 10 (Choate, for example). I know where i want tax dollars to be spent: on first class education for all, starting in early childhood.
Reparations that benefit descendants of former slaves will benefit the economy and the whole population. It is a win-win. The details of who is or is not a descendant can be worked out since for the most part improvements will accrue to all. The South has gone to great extremes to label persons with the minutest portion of African blood as being "Negro." Let us see if that drive persists when it comes to deciding the beneficiaries of reparations.
Rambling thoughts welcome comment. Ancil
The Republicans presented their version of the budget and it is no surprise that in order to pay for 5 trillion dollars worth of deficit reduction the Republicans plan to cut programs that help the poorest Americans and they do not plan to raise taxes on the richest Americans.
This exacerbates the gulf between the rich and the poor. Republican backed laws and rulings now make the rich more free to influence votes with larger sums of money. Corporations are endowed with human rights. States are free to pass laws that adversely affect the poor. Soon everyone will be free to visit the post office run by private enterprise and staffed by untrained clerks. One goal of the Republican war on science is for students to be free to choose between scientific evolution or supernatural creation. Under the guise of freedom of religion, service can be refused to "sinners."
Republicans are changing the meaning of freedom and misusing it to hide their real aims.
The Taliban of Afghanistan and the oligarchs of Russia have doppelgangers in America.
Charles Krauthammer wants the U.S. to "fight with strong foreign policy" (The Oregonian, March 16, 2014) and makes no mention of what the people in that country want. Ukraine citizens are trying to decide for themselves what government they want and any meddling by America would be counterproductive. He offers an example of such a glorious meddling: the U.S. gave arms to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan when they were combating the Russian invaders. He neglects to mention how those same weapons were used against U.S. troops when it came our turn to try to affect the outcome of another internal conflict. History is littered with examples of our interference coming back to hurt us in later years. Here is just one example: our problems with Iran today started when we tried to curtail Russia's influence in Iran back in 1953, and our CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected president. When will neo-imperialists learn that democracy is not exported by force, only by example.
To my way of thinking, when someone wants to make, build, sell, or create something funds have to be raised to do it. Is there a way to do anything that costs money in amounts more than a person has without raising money from others by donation, loans, selling stock?
As I understand it, the countries that have called themselves communist have been capitalistic in some form, even if it was state capitalism. Private capitalism seems to be ubiquitous down through history. There has been capital in the form of slaves and other labor, capital in the form of materials and amassed wealth. Even the lone hunter - gatherer was a capitalist as he made and traded spear points. What we need is an end to unregulated capitalism, so that we are not governed only by the bottom line.
If capitalism wants to short-change labor by not paying enough then government must tax the profits of that capitalism to pay for safety nets for the workers who need enough food, shelter, education, health care, etc. There is enough for all to have enough and it is the right of governments to return wealth to the workers what they were shorted on in wages. Profits made in part by paying low wages is a form of theft that taxing can redress.
There seems to be no end of capitalism... but that doesn't mean it can't be made to serve us all.
So called "socialism" is simply the people authorizing the government to collect taxes and pay for solutions to problems that the free market can't solve. How many hydroelectric dams has free enterprise built? The TVA is an example of socialism that no business group could replace. Same with the BPA.
On a smaller scale:
We have public parks at the city, state and national levels so that all Americans can enjoy the outdoors, not just those rich enough to own enough land on which to recreate, explore, hunt, and so forth. We have public highways so that all Americans can travel, not just those rich enough to make their own roads. We have pubic schools because we know that an educated public is an asset to the nation, not a liability. We maintain Social Security because the free market does not provide all people with jobs and many who have jobs are not earning a living wage. Which one study estimates should be a minimum of $17/hr now if workers had received a fair portion of profits from increased production. Instead, their share was redistributed upwards from the start.
Social Security helps maintain one of America's greatest assets, its old folks. No one has come up with a better plan given the economy we have.
We should do the same for all Americans and their health insurance. Because the free market does not provide all people with jobs and many who have jobs are not earning a living wage many cannot afford decent health insurance or care. This is a drag on the economy and one that forces people with low paying jobs into bankruptcy when a medical disaster strikes.
The bottom line is this. Government programs step up where free enterprise has failed. It is time for more national programs we call safety nets since in recent years free enterprise has moved production overseas, allowing only the owner class access to increased wealth. The working class has lost buying power as the top 1% has grown richer.
2013 will be the year when Congress could not live up to its eponymous name. With just a little nudge away from ideologies 2014 can give Congress another chance to get together to solve America's problems. Doctors and accountants agree that universal health insurance makes sense, and that competing private insurance companies are driving up costs. Just look at the ads they run on TV to tout their plans. The sooner ideology is stripped from the arguments against universal health insurance the sooner we can move ahead with making health care something we all can look forward to without the fear of going bankrupt and losing home, food and health.
Same sex marriage is another issue freighted with ideology. Americans have freedom of religion but that does not mean being free to impose religious views on others. Saying that God is behind an idea is only valid for the speaker, not for all those outside the particular religion. Early settlers came to this new land to escape religious views with which they disagreed. Too often descendants of those religious refugees have turned into religious dictators. Strip away the religious arguments against abortion and stick to the medical facts and it comes down to a choice between a woman and her doctor.
Cold War ideology keeps the defense budget higher than is needed in today's world. Just look at the U.S. and Russia, both being attacked with home-made bombs, against which all the air force bombers are defenseless. It seems we have to examine the war of ideas and find out why we are losing that war even as we have won the arms race.
Ideological thinking keeps the best solutions from being implemented in many other areas, including the distribution of wealth that does not recognize the value of the labor that creates the wealth so that a minimum wage is deemed fair, and low upper tax rates are viewed warmly. Another ideological roadblock keeps Social Security from being fixed. Just look at the numbers involved and raise the withholding cap to fix the problem instead of letting rants against a supposed socialism rule the day. The anti-socialism ideology is the most offensive of all because it never defines socialism, yet it slings the word out as an epithet. Socialist ideas have benefited American life from the very beginning. Public anything is thanks to socialists. That is all socialism really is, the public deciding to work together to provide something that the free market cannot or will not provide. How simple. Capitalists did not give us the eight hour work day, public schools and libraries, or any of the institutions we take for granted.
So get rid of the baggage in 2014 and look for common ground in common sense, unaffected by religious injunctions and political roadblocks which don't make sense when stripped of the ingrained racism.
Social Security is underfunded, not broken. I am not sure it is an "entitlement" along the lines of a retirement program or health insurance. For a long time it was self funding and in fact the excess was borrowed upon and IOUs have stacked up.
How to bring SS up to date? According to one economist:
"Social Security needs an immediate and permanent 29 percent hike in its payroll tax rate to pay its bills over time. The Social Security payroll tax rate is 12.4 percent. Increasing that rate by 29 percent requires raising the payroll tax rate, starting today, by 3.6 percentage points and keeping the rate at 16.0 percent forever. The alternative to raising Social Security's tax rate is cutting its benefits. Achieving long-term solvency via benefit cuts requires immediately and permanently cutting benefits by 22 percent." Larry Kotlikoff
This seems like a non-ideological solution. Fix it by paying for it. The problem in America is not a lack of money but instead it is a matter of distribution. Increased profits due to low wages acts to skim money right off the top and push it to the upper brackets, leaving underpaid workers unable to finance an ordinary life style. Wealth is immediately redistributed upwards when low wages are paid. Progressive income tax on all wealth, including investment bets, helps re-redistribute the wealth back down to the source.
Tax those who have increased earnings over the past ten years to help pay for the unemployment caused by the bubbles that burst. Sure, speculators get caught when the bubble breaks, but non-speculators are also punished by the bursting bubbles. So speculation does have a detrimental effect on all of us when it is seen that there is no "there" there.
The stock market has recovered but the employment rate is still low, which says to me that the stocks are inflated, there is no new production behind the higher stock prices, just as in the days of house "flipping" when there was no new value added in material content to the houses whose prices had doubled.
Here's an idea or two for the New Year to help Republicans and Democrats get things rolling again. If the solutions for our problems can be undiluted with ideology and if we can stick to the facts then there is a common meeting ground.
Examples: A belief that there should be no increased taxes gets in the way of real world solutions that just might require more funds from those who are making gains in this economy. A belief in created species gets in the way of seeing the fossilized evidence showing gradual change over the millions of years of Earth's history. A belief in the value of a college education blinds some to the possibility of learning a specific job related skill and so some graduates still are unemployable.
A belief that something called "socialism" is always bad will blind us to the fact that we are a society and at times must do things together through our government and if fact have done many good things with government aegis. In many states the issue of abortion has not been decided on medical grounds but on religious belief being forced on non-believers. There is no place in legislation for religious beliefs because beliefs are various and not subject to verification.
A belief that whites are superior to people of color has hindered progress for centuries around the world and for over 200 years in America. Now especially so among some who have stood in the way of allowing President Obama to have any success and who have worked to sabotage legislation with filibusters and restrict voting with Gerrymandering. It is time to decide issues based on evidence instead of beliefs.
In The Oregonian Dec. 15, 2013
Why is a stigma attached to government assistance? Historically the government has been the main supporter of our economic system. Our government assisted in the building of railroads, dams, highways, airlines. Because of government assistance National Parks are there for all of us, not just a rich few.
In recent years the government bailed out General Motors and others. The TARP loans have been repaid with a profit overall to the taxpayers. Billions or maybe even trillions of dollars went to the Wall Street safety net and many banks were saved. Yet we have those in Congress who would try to balance the budget by cutting food stamps to families with children who would otherwise go hungry.
Ideology is a roadblock to sensible solutions. Government assistance and "safety nets" is We the People helping each other in time of need. If we can afford to help the rich then we can afford to help the poor.
Attempts to cut food stamps, cut unemployment insurance and diminish Social Security are all short sighted, as though we were not all in the same boat. The top one percent enjoys an ever increasing share of economic wealth at the expense of the rest of us. There are many times more job seekers than there are jobs available, so the problem is not one created by workers.
It is a problem created by an economic system that transfers wealth in disproportion to the upper classes while trying to impose austerity on the lower economic classes. Creating more jobs should be a high priority. Instead, the Republicans have a stated goal of blocking anything Obama wants to do to help get America going again.
In The Oregonian 12/3/13 Letters
Those having discussions about cutting Social Security payments, and about holding the minimum wage down to a minimum, should keep in mind that underpaid workers have fattened the accounts of the rich by accepting low wages in the first place.
If the private sector cannot meet the basic needs of the people, then government programs must be increased, not cut.
Arguments against government safety nets for the un- and under-employed usually focus on income redistribution and the evil of taxing the rich to pay for better aid to the poor. These arguments ignore the fact that the rich are so much more wealthy than the poor simply because the transfer of wealth upward takes place right at the beginning: low wages allow high profits. This transfer of wealth shifts the burden to taxpayers.
For instance, the average Wal-Mart worker requires $730 in taxpayer-funded healthcare and $1,222 in other forms of assistance, such as food stamps and subsidized housing, to get by.
Taxpayers are subsidizing corporations. There is enough money in the system to ensure that everyone has enough but it is not distributed fairly. The rich are more than rich and the poor really do not have enough only because low wages have already shifted wealth to the upper economic classes. Wealth being created by market speculation is taxed at a lower rate than wages earned by a day laborer.
If wages do not increase, or if a minimum guaranteed income is not established, then taxes on the upper incomes must re-transfer the wealth back downwards to ensure that everyone has enough. Some people will always have more than enough, no matter how high the tax rate. There is no excuse not to shift the wealth back to those who helped create it.
A Repy: Ancil: I took a look at your latest "quackabout" entries, and you hit one of my hot buttons. As I may have told you, I have some family relationships that extend into the super-wealthy realm. That has given me a good perspective of life-styles over the entire economic range.
What we are seeing today in the US and also at an International level is the creation of a super-wealthy segment. They are folks who have basically unlimited resources (several hundred million on up). They can and do purchase luxury items and life styles that have no sensible financial limits. What we used to know as the upper middle class is disappearing. I have done pretty well in my career, and can live quite comfortably. But there are fewer of us as the wealth disparity has increased over the last few decades. It's interesting to see that just today I read that the new Pope (of all people) has come out with a statement that trickle-down economics does not work and never has. The wonderful concept of "job creators" has always been a nice sounding fantasy. (That is unless you want to work as a gardener or house-keeper for one of these "job creators"). I think we are beginning to see some serious push back from folks that are living in near poverty. There seems to be a growing resentment that the wealthy want to make sure that the rest of us don't impose on their on-going quest to accumulate even more. It will be interesting to see how this evolves, but I don't think the current situation is a stable one. On a personal level, I suppose I resent that the wealthy have been able to push up prices on some of the items that I might have otherwise been able to afford. I've never been a sports fan but when I see Super Bowl tickets going for many thousands of dollars that just doesn't seem right -- except to those for whom money is plentiful
Ideological baggage magic makes solutions to problems disappear before we even get to try them.
Viewed only as an accounting and budget problem single-payer government sponsored healthcare insurance costs less than any other system. Instead of shoveling wheelbarrow loads of cash to private insurers we could begin saving at least 10% on administrative overhead, enough to pay for the additional people being insured who are too poor to afford any premium. Medicare is working for old folks, why not for all folks?
Ideology magic makes that option disappear. But wait, there is more.
Social Security provides millions of citizens with a bit of help each month, but there are those who want to reform SS, saying that it is going broke. Reformation is not needed, all that is needed is a very small boost in the upper limit of taxable income and a needs test. A person with a government or company pension is not as needy as someone who worked as a day laborer for 40 years and retired without a pension. SS is based on a good idea that has been working since its inception and has been opposed by Republicans for just as long.
Two magic phrases are used to make simple solutions disappear: "No Tax Increase" and "Balance the Budget." The phrases make no sense because single pay insurance saves money and Social Security saves lives, but unclaimed baggage prevents the no-tax advocates from yielding to logic and fiscal common sense. The unclaimed baggage is this: the magic phrases are a cover for unstated and impolite reasons against helping the poor and helping people of color. That is it in plain terms; it is ideology, not common sense.
Over one-hundred years ago slave holders tried to destroy the United States rather than give up their slaves to freedom. Now the Tea Party wing of the Republican party would rather destroy the United States than accept the results of the democratic process. The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and approved by the Supreme Court and is now the law of the land. Over forty votes have been taken and they have lost each time, now they want to go outside of the legislative process, holding all of America hostage unless they get what they could not muster the votes for. What constitution are they reading, these people who have been so strong on the Constitution in the past?
It is time for Americans to take back their government from those who would destroy it with lies... lies about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that many uninformed voters believe. The right wing news programs can be seen telling untruths over and over again in a desperate attempt to defund the law. And it is a law, not a bill. It is the law of the land and must be obeyed or changed. It is time for the news to stop treating Tea Party views as "the other point of view." To do so is like equating sayings of Abe Lincoln with those of John Wilkes Booth.
Einstein said that he did not believe in a personal god. And the god he believed in was not a supernatural god either. "To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp (yet) and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious."
"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion.
"I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
"The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive." When he said he believed in God it was not the same definition of God as is the anthropomorphic personal god of Christianity. It was God defined as the laws of Nature, laws that must be studied to grasp even a small part of the total.
Carl Sagan put it: "...if by 'God' one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity."
I think this means there is no personal god with a design for the universe. The universe and all that we can "see" is just there, following physical laws of nature, not some big magic invisible white guy in the sky with a finger in every pie.
One of the laws of nature was observed by Darwin, and at the time it was so new it was deemed a theory. Now natural selection has enough evidence so that like the theory of gravity, it is a proven fact and there is now Evolution just as there is Gravity. Darwinism is the theory of evolution by natural selection: "Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species--perhaps a self-replicating molecule--that live more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection."
Evolution means species change genetically over time. Darwin observed this happening in his studies. Since Darwin many other scientists have also observed this. For instance, because changes are preserved in the fossil record it is possible to predict where in the geologic record one can expect to find a species that is between a fish and a land animal. And this is what happened. A fish-like animal (Tiktaalik) with legs was found in layers of rock that were younger than the era of fish fossils but older than amphibians.
The change was predicted and found to be in the geologic record where expected. (See Neil Shubin's Tiktaalik, the fish with hands, in Your Inner Fish). Over and over this sort of discovery has occurred. What has NEVER happened is the finding of a more recently evolved animal fossil in the geologic record before an earlier animal. In other words, there has never been a rabbit or wolf fossil found lower down in the geologic record of rocks than a fish fossil. Fossils of animals that evolved earlier are always found lower than fossils of later evolved animals.
Evolution works this way: over time natural selection changes genetic makeup so that when looking at the parents of an animal one can see similarities and differences with the offspring. What started out as a light sensitive patch on a simple cell organism has evolved in 3 billion years to what we call the eye today. It is hard to see the similarity between the two extremes, the sensitive patch and the whole eye, but if you study the fossil record forward or backward it is easy to see the changes occur bit by bit. Without studying the fossil record (for any characteristic of function) it is impossible to have a valid opinion. Supernatural events are recorded in stories, myths and fables, but not one is recorded in Nature.
More information on these subjects can be read in Jerry A. Coyne's Why Evolution is True, and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.
Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish is a journey into the 3.5 billion-year history of the human body. A wonderful book.
Hearing people criticize evolution when they do not even know what it is or what it means is like hearing a dog bark after Miles Davis is done playing.
That is why I have read these books, to find out as much as I can about the subject from the experts in the field, not the dogs barking from the back yard.
This economics lesson is short and simple. Taxes pay for the schools, services, roads, government functions such as water and sewer and so forth. As one source of tax income dries up the burden must be shifted to sources that are doing well and growing. As jobs shift from manufacturing to minimum wage and service area jobs the income base decreases. Tax rates on wealth created in investment and the stock market must increase and the old formulas must be rewritten. Over the past 20 years the lower and middle income groups have lost buying power and wealth while the upper income class has accelerated its share of the pie. But their tax rate has not kept up with their growth rate. On the other hand, tax rates for the middle class have not gone down in proportion to the decreased share of the wealth.
The "No new taxes" mantra further exacerbates the problem. John Galbraith spoke of the "countervailing power" of workers unions back in the 1960s. That power has faded as jobs shifted from manufacturing to low paying jobs in the service sectors. No new taxes on this group of workers is a good idea, but new tax codes to put a higher rate on those who are now reaping stock market and investing profits are needed.
Holding the country hostage to get their demands met, the Republicans have shown themselves to be unfit leaders who cannot compromise in the political arena. They want to withhold funding Obamacare. What next, hide the Social Security funds? They have their government run single payer health insurance and if the rest of us could have the same plan it would solve most of the problems and get rid of 30,000 pages of rules. What is wrong with going with government funded health insurance for all? Their arguments are nonsense, claiming on one hand that the Affordable Care Act is bad for the people, and then saying that once it is allowed to function the people won't want to give it up. They can't have it both ways. We know they don't want to give up their health plan, so they must know something about how debilitating it is to be taken care of when sick. The rest of us are one major illness away from the poor house. The only thing Obama is guilty of is being PWB (president while black). The Rs spew nonsense to hide their racism.
A few weeks ago it was President Obama who said "all options" are being considered to keep Iran from building an atomic weapon. This presumably meant even the use of atomic weapons. If that isn't enough of a contradiction we now have President Obama wanting to "fire a shot over the bow" of Assad's ship of state because Assad has gassed his enemies. A man willing to use atomic weapons on an enemy has no moral clout over one who uses chemical weapons.
For over a decade the United States has been tracking and killing members of al Qaeda, our enemy in the "war on terror." Now we stand with boggled minds as Obama gets ready to join the forces of al Qaeda as they fight the Assad government in Syria. Boggled is too tame a word. The short-siighted actions of our government always go against our best interests in the long-run. We gave weapons to the Mujahideen fighting the Russians in Afghanistan and when Russia pulled out in the late 1980s those weapons, in the hands of the Taliban, were used against us. If we help defeat Assad, whom will we be supporting, besides al Qaeda?
What does it matter how Syrians kill each other? Gassing is dramatic but no more deadly than bombing. There are twenty million Syrians and when they want to stop killing each other they will stop. 100,000 are said to have been killed in the Syrian civil war. If killing solved problems then we should see some signs of progress by now. Why should the U.S. join in a failed tactic? Killing just delays the day when talks begin.
In The Oregonian August 31, 2013
"Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions ... are again upon you."
The overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 did not solve the long-term problem of access to oil in Iran. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not reduced the threat of terrorist attacks around the world. The drone attacks will kill people, but "the identical old questions" about why we have terrorism are still with us.
Wars and drone attacks do not solve problems; they only make matters worse.
Instead, let us find out what the problems are, and until then, let us help build schools and hospitals and work for justice for all people in all countries.
In The Oregonian August 23, 2013
Over the years the role of the CIA in the overthrow of the elected government of Iran in 1953 has been mentioned and now newspapers can finally print the story as the CIA document on the matter became declassified. The overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh is one example of a bad decision made to solve a short range problem but which created long range adverse consequences. Iranians know the U.S. interfered with their affairs and today we have only ourselves to thank for the resulting conflicts. Too often U.S. policy aims at attacking the results of a problem rather than the reasons for the problem. We spend trillions on killing our enemies and not one cent to seek compromise and solutions.
Instead of finding out why terrorists attack and working to solve the issues, we exacerbate the issues with armed might that only kicks the problem down the road, solving nothing. Our economy depends upon military spending and there is an economic impetus to war instead of peace. Has the war in Iraq made us safer? Has the war in Afghanistan made us safer? No, and as proof look at how the war on terror expands each year, now with drones doing remote killing. If we took a tenth of the budget now spent on fighting and instead built schools and hospitals we would make friends instead of the enemies that are created when we kill. Our government is creating problems, not solving problems and the 1953 interference is a prime example.
For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public
Jonathan Swift (1729) speaks to today's right-wing leaders.
Underpaid minimum wage earners are protesting across the nation and for good reason. A full time job earning only $9.00 an hour is not a living wage. It does not allow the earner enough to save for medical insurance or emergencies. There is no way that dental problems can be paid for out of that wage. There is no money left over for a retirement account. And on and on. An economic system that underpays its workers is doomed, especially if the so=called "safety nets" of Social Security and government funded health care and food stamp allotments are cut. The capitalists can't have it both ways. Either pay the workers enough for them to cover all living costs or pay for government programs to catch the slack. And provide enough jobs for all who are willing and able to work. If we are stuck with the present system that favors speculation over manufacturing and jobs then the holes in the safety net must be plugged. Or let us hear from those who oppose plugging the holes come right out and say that as far as they are concerned the poor, the underemployed can just go ahead and starve, suffer and die.
Henry Ford knew that he had to pay his workers enough so that they would be able to buy his cars. That is something today's capitalists have forgotten.
Ancil: I took a look at your latest post. This is another one of those worrisome situations that cannot be sustained in the long run. Here in the Seattle area the city of Seatac (that includes the airport within its boundary) has proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. What I didn't know is that so many jobs at the airport like baggage handlers only pay minimum wage. So it would affect some airlines and of course retail merchants. The response has been that this would actually hurt employees and businesses because they wouldn't be able to afford to hire help. So we would rather see people starve on sub-minimum wages than raise prices a few percent to cover the increased expenses. I suppose this is along the same lines as the Republicans touting "job creators" as needing more tax breaks. I know some of these wealthy folks quite well and the few jobs they create are for immigrants from Mexico to work in their yards and homes for cash i.e. no record of the transaction. That means no taxes, no benefits, and of course a whole second culture that has to rely on emergency rooms for health care. When we get together I'll tell you some more interesting stories about "job creators" that I didn't appreciate until I experiences living with it. In this world currently there seems to be no concern for the longer term. It's strictly grab what you can and don't worry about the consequences. A. 8/8/13
A. I looked into some stats and found that 5 percent of the wage earning workforce is at min wage or lower. That amounts to about 3.8 million (Bur. of Labor site) people who work but do not get paid enough to live on the wage. Add that to 11 million unemployed and we have an impressive problem that won't go away easily. A.
I was a kid when it was fought but for the longest time it was never clear to me why North Korea and South Korea were not getting along. In the 1950s every conflict was explained in terms of the Red Menace or the Communist threat, but how that deserved a war that killed a million humans, in and out of uniform, was not clear. The ambiguity is due in part to not going back in history far enough to get an adequate understanding of what was bugging the Koreans. Here it is is simple form: during WW II North Korea was fighting with our ally China and South Korea was fighting on the side of Japan, our enemy. The southerners supported the take over of Korea by Japan and the northerners resisted it.
Aha, bet you haven't heard that before! It is true, and it is easy to see why we were never told that in the run-up to the war. Of course by 1950 Japan was now our ally and China had morphed into the enemy. This switch was not easily swallowed by the North Koreans who viewed themselves as true patriotic Koreans and viewed South Koreans as traitors. This helps explain the animosity, but does not explain why we jumped in the war in the first place, and, given the rise of China as the exponent of state capitalism, it does seem like a waste of time, men and money. We send our soldiers off to die in wars that have the same outcome: trade and capital expansion with the former enemies, except for one: those odd North Koreans, still fighting the Second World War against the South.
The Conservative/Libertarian philosophy that everyone must pay their own way, including their own health care, ignores the fact that the system that they advocate does not provide everyone with jobs. People who do not have jobs do not have health care. The right wing has never explained what a person who is outside of the free enterprise system is supposed to do when sick. Many people are unemployed as a result of decisions beyond their control.
Franklin Roosevelt recognized that capitalism had failed to provide for all of our citizens and he initiated programs to shift wealth from those who were well benefited by the economic system to those who were not even a part of the economy. Social Security and jobs programs grew and helped many Americans survive the Great Depression. Sure, those programs were paid for by taxes on workers and investors, tax revenues that some call "other people's money." In the present economy there is no alternative other than just letting people die of disease and starvation.
As long as Americans stay committed to the capitalist system they will have to either make sure everyone has a good job or else be ready to support government programs that help those outside the system. As the nature of the economy changes, with manufacturing jobs decreasing and low paying services jobs the only alternatives, then the taxes on capital gains will have to be raised. Wealth created by speculation now far outstrips that paid to wage earners.
It is hypocritical for government apologists to castigate leaker Edward Snowden, claiming he is putting our forces at risk. More soldiers have been killed and wounded as the result of lies told by the government than can be attributed to all the truths that leakers have published. The war on Iraq killed thousands and it was based on lies promulgated, not leaked, by Bush and all his underlings. The wounded that returned include many who cannot forget what they see as the evil they took part in.
Soldiers were sent to Vietnam and over 50,000 did not return, and that war was based on lies also. Robert McNamara said it was a mistake, and he was one of the main cheer leaders. So it is more than disingenuous for Obama to claim that he is worried about Snowden's leaks putting our people in danger. Government lies have been putting people in danger for many years and we accept that. To get upset over someone exposing those lies is typical of the non-thinking public.
The one safety net that pays for itself and funds other programs is being dismanteled by those who should be protecting it. There is a cap on the amount of income subject to Social Security withholding and the trillions of dollars over that cap are not subject to SS withholding. Raise the cap just a little bit, leave trillions untaxed and Social Security will still be able to meet its obligations well into the future and the fund will continue to loan money in exchange for U.S. Bonds. Why this simple solution is not the choice of our elected officials is beyond comprehension. Convoluted assessments of the "Social Security problem" are pages long and never even mention this simple way out.
The Oregonian published an important news item ("U.S. hauls in billions hidden in taxpayer's foreign accounts" on April 27, 2013). We often hear excoriations of "the welfare state" by members of society who do not need any help but are getting it none-the-less. We have been promised cuts in Social Security benefits by those elected officials who think that they owe more to corporations than to their constituents.
But here, in this news story we have proof that the amount lost to the U.S. Treasury in untaxed offshore accounts could more than make up for budget shortfalls. Social Security need not be touched. Thousands of tax cheats have been found and thousands more are out there, according to the GAO. What we have is a "welfare state" consisting of banks, corporations and millionaires who avoid paying taxes on income by stashing it in offshore accounts. Wage earners have never been paid enough to have adequate savings for retirement, health insurance and other basics. Low wage rates help distribute the wealth upwards. Progressive income tax rates redistribute the wealth back to those whose labor created it.
A gun advocate wrote a letter to syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts (The Oregonian, April 25, 2013, "Even after Boston Marathon bombings, U.S is a nation divided...") advocating for a civil war against "LIBERAL DEMACRAT SCUM" and I as liberal Democrat would like to explore what a liberal is and how we can be scum. Liberals have advocated for women's rights, child labor laws, clean air and water laws, the end to slavery, establishing National Parks, National Forests, clean food laws, the eight hour work day, care for the sick and elderly, public schools and libraries and on and on. So how is it that we are scum? What can the letter writer say he has advocated for besides the right to own guns and use them in a war? He has the right to shoot off his mouth, thanks to liberals.
On page A1 of The Oregonian for Monday April 15, 2013 there is the headline "I'm unwilling to be a victim." Then, on page A5 we see: "9-year-old girl dies in apparent gun accident" and the problems facing us about gun control are brought into focus. Those with guns cannot guarantee that there will be no innocent victims, not even themselves. Their solution is part of the problem.
"An American military airstrike in eastern Afghanistan was reported to have killed 18 people, including at least one senior Taliban commander but also women and children, raising the thorny issue of civilian casualties for the third time in roughly a week. The attack occurred Saturday during a joint mission of Afghan and American Special Operations forces targeting a high-profile Taliban commander in Kunar Province, Afghan officials said."
in New York Times April 8, 3013
Some Americans object to abortions and object to tax dollars being used to allow abortions. They say that killing children is wrong. If that is so, if that is a concern of their's then let us hear their voice of protest against the US military killing children in a dubious war on the Taliban. I object to my tax dollars being used to kill kids in Afghanistan in clumsy attempts to kill Taliban leaders.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us 6 trillion dollars. Dollars wasted, lives wasted and ruined in battle against people who are not attacking the United States. We borrowed money from China to fight a war based on lies. Sure, the Taliban is killing American soldiers in their country, but that is what an invader should expect and I am sure that is what Americans would do to anyone invading and landing on our territory. But Iraq and Afghanistan do not belong to us and we do not belong there.
How many people saw the news item about the leaked files of offshore accounts? From the new information it is estimated that the rich have 21 trillion dollars stashed away. Just sitting there. While children starve and taxes get raised on all but the rich. Filthy rich is a term that comes to mind. To get more info about this go to http://www.guardian.co.uk and hope that your local news source will cover the story.
I have heard some argue that the money belongs to them and they should be able to do as they please. When wage earners get paid a living wage, one that supports them through old age and covers education and health expenses, then I might see to agree. But until then the wealth is the result of theft via under-payment for services and work performed.
Based on recent news stories in The Oregonian it seems that a conservative is someone who wants the government to tell us who can be married but who does not want the government to help the less fortunate with any kind of safety net, whether it is Social Security, health insurance or Medicare. How strange.
The Oregonian stories inform us that conservatives want their religious beliefs enacted into law but do not want to limit the right of citizens to shoot any weapon that can be bought. Conservatives want taxes raised on the lower and middle classes but reduced on the upper class. According to the paper, conservatives think that wage earners should be taxed at a higher rate than those who bet on the stock market. There are other examples but this certainly shows the trend.
Opponents of gay marriage openly claim that the authority for their view comes from God via the Bible. This religious belief has no place as official government policy. Same sex marriages should be up to the participants in the marriage. If it is against someone's religious beliefs then that person is free to eschew, but no authority should be granted for the religious belief to be forced on non believers. Keep religion out of government.
Christians tend to forget that their bible and their beliefs are not everyone's and they do not have the right to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.
It is ironic or maybe hypocritical for the U.S. to be against Iran going ahead with its nuclear program when it was the U.S. that helped Iran get started back in the 1970s. We gave them nuclear power plants to get them going. And then in the '80s the Reagan administration began shipping arms to Iran via Israel. Israel? Yes, and for those with short memories everything we are saying now about the danger of Iran getting nuclear weapons we also said, at one time or another, about Pakistan, China, Russia and other countries that now have the bomb.
All the dire predictions did not come true when those countries got their bombs. And which country has been the only one use the bomb and to threaten enemies with nuclear annihilation? The U.S. threatened Russia with massive attacks as well as Vietnam and many other "enemies."
Some of these former enemies are now our trading partners. I am wearing a shirt made in Vietnam, which had more tons of bombs dropped on it than were dropped in all previous wars. So I find it hard to believe the dire warnings that some are giving about Iran. We made Iran into a country that is afraid of us.
We are the main reason other countries want the atomic bomb, for protection from our threats.
Pope Benedict has resigned and now there is an opportunity to simplify Christianity. Make the Golden Rule the only rule and then everything else will fall into place. There is no need for a pope or a cardinal, a bishop or a pastor. Explanations of dogma will be a thing of the past because "love thy neighbor as thyself" or "do unto others as you would be done by" says it all.
Secularists can accept the Golden Rule because it rises above beliefs. One does not need God, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha or Marx to accept the common sense of treating others as one wishes to be treated. It is the sum of all laws and the rest is commentary.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself," a variation of the Golden Rule, is recognized by all major religions. It unites all of us. However, dogmas creates chasms that keep us apart: A Gresham, Oregon Christian baker seeks purity by refusing to make a cake for a lesbian couple; A Taliban Muslim shoots Malala Yousafzai to keep her from promoting education for girls in Pakistan; Christian parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington in Oregon City, refused medical treatment for their child because of a religious belief.
These are examples of grotesque hair-splitting that take believers away from the central truth of their beliefs. Instead of finding ways to see how we are all alike, religious dogmas find ways to make us different.
Religions have failed as moral guides because of their plunge into the minutia of dogmas. Instead of promoting kindness to all, self-rightous believers promote rejection. The Golden Rule is inclusive while religious dogmas are exclusive.
Secularists can accept the Golden Rule because it rises above beliefs. One does not need God, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha or Marx to accept the common sense of treating others as one wishes to be treated. It is the sum of all laws and the rest is commentary.
False equivalency in modern discourse puts weak or even bogus ideas on the same footing as evidence-based theories and scientific findings. The most popular false equivalence is one that presents, as an explanation of life on earth, creationism as a competing explanation with Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
With Darwinism we have a theory backed by years of observation around the world. Whereas creationism is backed by no testable evidence at all. We are asked to believe that a supernatural event occurred when each of millions of species appeared on the planet, a creation by God at a moment in time, perhaps even within the last 10,000 years. Anyone can go to the geologic record and view evidence of Darwin's theory. No where is there evidence of instantaneous creation.
It is science versus superstition. This is worse than comparing apples and oranges, at least those are both fruits with verifiable physical characteristics. There is no way to verify of falsify the superstitious claims of creationism. Looking at the fossil record only confirms the gradual change of plant and animal life as described by Darwin. Yet many high school biology teachers teach creationism as an alternate scientific theory and some even do so to the disadvantage of scientific theories. Magical and supernatural explanations for how plants and animals came about are taught in some schools as the preferred explanation.
“There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.”
Just in time for New Year resolutions, here is a simple solution to the health care crisis: stop sucking sugar drinks, stop eating fat-laden meals, start eating more real food in the form of fruits and vegetables. Illnesses are preventable to a large degree with healthy eating habits. Pay attention to the health tips that are given every Wednesday in The Oregonian.
Do we need to go broke funding the care of people who get sick because of what they eat and smoke? It is time to take personal responsibility for our bodies. Smokers increase health care costs even as they die faster than cigarette companies can hook them. 60% of Americans are overweight or even obese and that is a personal problem that is pushing national health care costs up.
Good choices don't have to start with abstinence but can at least begin with cutting back. Cut back on sugar, fat, red meat, white flour, alcohol, drugs and tobacco to the extent that you are serious about being healthy and illness free.
And then get out there and daily walk, bike ride, run, ski, or any other exercise that will help you keep the layers of toxic fat from building around your internal organs. Start 2013 with goals you can attain as you become responsible for your own health care.
The Second Amendment says "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
That was true at the time of the writing but today we have a professional army and do not need citizens to bring their guns to any war. A well regulated militia is provided by the government. The rational for the right to bear arms has been obviated by our standing armies.
I know that this is not the interpretation given by courts down through history, but just looking at the words this is the common sense interpretation uninfluenced by the gun owners and political forces.
Because religious and theological speculations are not verifiable they should be kept out of civic matters. Speculation and superstition have no place in governance.
The wealth of the ownership/inheriting class is equal to the wages owed to the workers who did not get a living wage which would have allowed them to have a savings account, pay for college, have a retirement fund, afford free-enterprise health insurance. Note that this says nothing about a fine car, a yacht or 5 mansions and vacations whenever needed.
There are people who believe in Creationism and reject the evolutionary process as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. There is not a shred of evidence for an act of creation by a supernatural being but the geological evidence is stacked, showing a change over time of life forms on Earth. But believers have faith in their ignorance of the evidence and they reject even the newer discoveries of embryology and DNA tracing. Thus: faith based ignorance.
Send this to appropriate correspondents.
What happened to the champions of freedom of religion? They now are telling us that whatever happens is the will of their god, even rape, so just lay back or bend over and think of Jesus.
Listen to the discussion about rape and abortion and women's rights and it is easy to see that the Republicans are in favor of the government enforcing their religious-right ideas. If Romney and Ryan win we will have representatives of two of the most repressive religions in our highest offices. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religious dogma in government. That is not what Republicans believe. Republicans always call on God to support their views, especially when science does not.
February 28, 2012
What used to be a health issue, the drug problem, was turned into a crime issue with the start of the War on Drugs. Instead of solving the problem we have exacerbated it, throwing billions of dollars into arming American local police SWAT teams with military equipment and sending hundreds of thousands of newly made criminals to Federal prisons for non-violent actions: consensual drug deals. Normally when a crime is committed the victim calls the police. Now, with the so-called drug crimes, it is the police who come calling, smashing down doors with great zeal.
In 1980 when Reagan began the War on Drugs there were less than a half million prisoners behind Federal bars. Now there are two million, and most of them are not "king pin" drug pushers. Most are ordinary drug users, whom we have turned into criminals with the new laws. Most are also people of color. Statistics show that most drug users and sellers are white, that the percentage of white and black populations that use drugs is the same, yet 25 times more people of color are behind bars for drug violations, including drug use as a parole violation, than white people. The War on Drugs is being enforced differentially against people of color.
The solution is to recognize drug use as a health issue, and stop making criminals out of people who get caught doing what is essentially a consensual transaction. Then we can tax the sales of drugs rather than pour more money down the drain in an unending and discriminatory war and use the tax revenues for drug education and rehab.
February 22, 2012
What do you hear when a Republican blows his dog whistle? Dog whistle politics is another name for the code-words used to cover racist goals. Early vagrancy laws were used to get black men off the streets and roads in the South. When Nixon spoke of getting rid of "crime in the streets," when Reagan spoke of "welfare queens," when laws were passed to fight the "War on Crime," and the "Drug War," what was really being said was "no more support for black and brown people." Both Nixon and Reagan were elected with the support of scared white people who heard the whistles.
Why will a poor white person vote lockstep with a Wall Street banker? Because they both hear their master's dog whistle promising no more welfare for black and brown folks. Even if it hurts them, poor whites will vote for a politician who blows the "'war on drugs" tone, knowing that it means more black youth will end up in prison. That is the appeal of the Republican party to an underemployed white. Republicans promote the view that immigrants are stealing jobs from white Americans.
The most recent dog whistle tone is the "balanced budget". What this means is cut back all welfare spending, cut back funding for public schools. To the unlearned ear a balanced budget sounds good. But to a trained ear it means cut programs that help unemployed black youth.
Libertarians proudly whistle their small government tune, knowing that it sounds righteous in most ears, but it is just a cover tune for racism. Of course everyone has "plausible denial." That is the beauty of the dog whistle, it gets the have-nots to vote with the haves. Republicans are using religious and racist "dog whistles" to get their voters to heel.
February 21, 2012
Why did the American economy go down the tubes in 2008? Advocates of small government would have us believe it was because too many poor people bought houses backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That is part of the picture, but such a tiny part as to be insignificant.
The biggest share of the blame goes to the banks that gambled trillions, yes trillions, of dollars on repackaged mortgage loans, knowing that they were subprime but repackaged as AAA and sold as such to investors. The banks sold these mortgages to retirement funds, charities, and widows, knowing they were crap, and they bought insurance for when the mortgages failed.
The banks were leveraged as much as 60 to one, so there was no way they would have enough capital to cover the losses when the bubble burst. The insurance did not cover the loss. It was up to the taxpayers to cover the trillions of dollars lost when the bubble broke.
What is to keep this from happening again? This is the same question asked after the Great Crash of 1929. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed then to prevent a recurrence of leveraged gambling with bank depositors' funds.
In 1999 a key provision of the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed and gambling with bank money began again, leading to the 2008 disaster. In 2010 the Dodd-Frank Act was passed to rectify the repeal of Glass-Steagall, but Wall Street will not rest until even this minor fix of the problem is canceled.
So the Wall Street bankers are at it again, there is nothing to keep the gambling investment bubble from growing and bursting again. When that happens the rich will survive, but the poor will get poorer.
February 21, 2012
The war on drugs, so called, has been a failure by any measure. Instead of gaining tax revenues on the most popular leaf in the world we are spending billions trying to persuade Americans not to smoke it, buy it or sell it. We don't even have the sense to learn the lessons of the Prohibition Era. We criminalize the use of some drugs when instead we should be treating drug use as a health problem, not a police problem. Why?
Let's put the drug war in perspective to find the answer to why we continue a policy that is obviously failing in its publicly stated goals. Ever since the founding of this nation the white power structure has sought ways to control the poor, both black and white. Bacon's Rebellion in 1675 shook the system when poor whites and blacks united to protest the economic oppression by the planters around Jamestown. The ruling class solved the crisis by force, hanging some rebels and they began using fewer bonded servants and imported more slaves from Africa. The new nation then adopted a Constitution that perpetuated slavery. High sounding words were used to cover the shame and contradictions in that document.
After the Civil War Negroes were briefly free and this again stuck fear in the hearts of the white ruling class. But Jim Crow laws were passed that restricted black economic freedom, mobility and voting.
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution gave more rights to Negroes and the power structure again had to figure a way to keep the Negro suppressed. Physical violence and economic and political restrictions were again used, not just by the KKK, but by elected white officials. Once more black people were intimidated out of economic and political rights. Residence and employment laws were used against blacks to fill chain gangs across the South, with Parchman Farm being a prime example of the new slavery. The hypocrisy of a "Christian" nation continuing to subjugate Negroes as an inferior race showed the power of faith over science. The Bible was used to justify racism.
As America moved into the Post World War II era the gains made for democracy overseas by the fighting efforts of black soldiers who could not vote at home was seen as an embarrassment. By this time if was not couth to say directly that your goal was the subjugation of black people so new circumlocutions were invented. To combat the gains made in the Civil Rights Acts of the '60s, the War on Crime was started with its not-so-hidden agenda of putting black men in prison. The arrest and incarceration rates prove it: crime rates by race are pretty similar yet incarceration rates by race are 6 times higher for blacks.
Then came the War on Drugs, another "dog whistle" phrase for war on black people. How do we know this? Drug use by races as a percentage of the population is almost the same yet arrests of black drug users is much higher. The War on Drugs is being used as a new Jim Crow law to keep black men in prison. The statistics prove that. It is just one more in a long line of euphemistic terms used to cover the real aims of the law makers.
A whole industry has grown up around the arrest and incarceration of drug users. This has been the most successful means of control since slavery was abolished. That is why the drug war will not end. Billions of dollars are being made by those profiting on the drug war.
February 14, 2012 Published in The Oregonian
In light of what is being said today about Iran's nuclear program this quote from LIFE magazine, March 31, 1947 in a photo caption shows what little progress we have made and draws into question the conclusion that we have to go to war with Iran.
"U-235 PLANT at Oak Ridge, Tenn., where uranium, the material for atomic bombs, is refined, is only one of its kind known to exist in the world today. This gives the U.S. a temporary monopoly in atomic weapons, which we will soon lose... unless we use force to maintain it."
Similar statements have been made whenever some nation not our friend comes close to getting the bomb. Propaganda is being used today to soften up the American public to accept another stupid decision to start another stupid war. Before every war the enemy is made to be more horrible and more threatening than in reality so that our actions to begin the killing will appear justified.
February 7, 2012
Holding irrational points of view is everyone's right; that is what freedom of religion is all about. But for an elected official to expect his or her irrational view to become secular law is not what the Second Amendment is about. Newt Gingrich's Catholicism influences his rants. The Mormon church's tenets determine Mitt Romney's goals. Obama's Protestantism seems to have less influence against his rational side.
Religious beliefs about evolution, abortion, marriage and so forth are not guaranteed a place in American law. Only what can be shown with evidence to be true can be accepted as basis for law and that is why governments should not make laws that support religious views on marriage, abortion and the teaching of descent with change (evolution).
There is no evidence that marriage between heterosexuals is harmed when homosexuals marry. There is no evidence that God said anything about abortion. In fact there is no evidence that there is a God outside of people's idea of God. So to base laws upon this irrational belief is prima facie irrational.
It is time for those who have irrational beliefs to keep them to themselves and let laws that are supported by empirical evidence take precedence.
February 2, 2012
Capitalism in America is supported by socialism. Defenders of unregulated capitalism don't have a leg to stand on now that we all know that it was the commercial banks and investment banks gambling with trillions in deposits and knowingly selling crap to investors (because they made money when the investment failed, from the insurance payment). The bailout of these banks and investment houses was paid for by taxpayers. So it is socialism for the banks and free enterprise for your schools, libraries and health insurance.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act helped this to happen because it allowed regular banks to start betting with savings deposits of millions of Americans. Sometimes the banks' bets were leveraged at 20:1. When the bets failed, the financial system was in free-fall.
So why do poor people (now most of the middle class) still vote against their own interests? Why vote against bank regulation in light of the evidence? Anti-regulation Conservatives want to dump even the modest attempt at regulation, the Dodd-Frank Act, and if they win that move, nothing separates the gamblers from what little money we have left, once again.
The documentary film, Inside Job, explains what happened in detail.
"Inside Job is a 2010 documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis, and was directed by Charles H. Ferguson. The film is described by Ferguson as being about "the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption." In five parts, the film explores how changes in the policy environment and banking practices helped create the financial crisis. Inside Job was well received by film critics who praised its pacing, research, and exposition of complex material."
January 16, 2012 Published in The Oregonian
Too late the Republicans are waking up to what is happening as their candidates debate each other. It is almost as if the Democrats hired this group of office seekers to go on tour to show their weaknesses. Like a bunch of stand up comedians, they show us why none of them should be elected. RNS leaders meeting in New Orleans are saying it is time to bash Obama. Too late. When Romney begins his campaign against Obama we just need to recall the words of Newt Gingrich and the others to see why the Mitt will not fit.
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