Wednesday, May 06, 2015
But making our system fairer and ending the mass incarcerations is not going to be an easy thing to accomplish. Almost immediately, failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke up against Clinton's idea. He said:
We don’t have mass incarcerations in America. Individuals are brought before tribunals, and they have counsel. They’re given certain rights. Are we not going to lock people up who commit crimes?
Romney is either a liar or an idiot, but either way he is wrong. Any honest person that looks at the statistics will be able to see that (see charts below). The United States has by far the largest prison population rate per 100,000 citizens of any country in the world. And it has the largest number of people in prison -- nearly 2.5 million people. No other country is close. China (with a much larger population) is the closest, with about 1.6 million prisoners. The truth is that the United States has about 5% of the world's population, but has 25% of the world's total prison population. That seems to me to be the definition of mass incarceration.
And no Mitt, neither Hillary Clinton nor anyone else is suggesting that we stop locking up criminals -- just that we limit those incarcerations to the criminals that need to be locked up to protect the public. All other countries lock up their criminals. Why do they not have a prison to population rate as high as ours? Are Americans more dishonest or criminal-minded than people in other countries? Of course not.
The sad fact is that while other countries lock up their criminals, the United States decided that was not enough. We decided to use our prisons to solve our social problems. The mass incarceration started with President Nixon's "war on drugs" in 1971. That has been an abysmal failure, but it has been continued by every president since then. They have all failed to realize that drug abuse is a social and medical problem -- not a criminal problem. And while the "war on drugs" has not reduced drug availability, it has filled our state and federal prisons (mostly with low-level and non-violent drug offenders).
That was bad enough, but then the federal government and many states passed new sentencing guidelines that gave judges no leeway in sentencing and vastly increased the length of those sentences. This also had an effect on our prison population -- causing it to balloon (again with many low-level and non-violent offenders).
We like to claim we are a free and democratic country that supports human rights -- but our prison population shows something else. It makes us look like a police state. And it makes us the laughingstock of the world. We need to change our criminal justice system and stop the mass incarceration -- regardless of what Mitt Romney and his right-wing buddies think. You cannot solve social and medical problems by criminalizing them -- and we were foolish to think that could be done.
(Note -- the caricature of Mitt Romney above is by DonkeyHotey.)
Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable, but now poll after poll comes out showing a substantial majority of the American public now believes same-sex marriages should be legal across this country. The latest is the NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll (done between April 26th and 30th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3.1 points).
This new poll shows that 58% of Americans would support a Supreme Court decision that outlawed bans on same-sex marriages, while only 37% say they would oppose it. That's a whopping 21 point margin for equal rights. And it verifies last week's ABC News / Washington Post Poll that showed 61% of Americans supporting same sex-marriages. The two polls say the same thing, since they are within the margin of error of each other.
Right-wingers and evangelical bigots have been howling loudly over the prospect of a Supreme Court decision that seems likely to outlaw the state bans on same-sex marriage. That decision will be announced probably in early summer. Some have even threatened an armed rebellion if such a decision is made. This is nothing more than the death throes of a bigoted battle that has been lost (much like the racist rants after Brown vs. Board of Education). The bigots know that have lost this equal rights battle -- and they can't stand it.
For the rest of us (the substantial majority of Americans), it is a victory -- for equal rights, human rights, and a closer realization of the American Dream.
The GOP clown car, funded by master-clowns Davey and Charlie Koch and their friends, is starting to get full already. Last week there were three candidates -- Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. Now there are three more. Ben Carson jumped in the race on Sunday, Carly Fiorina did it on Monday, and Mike Huckabee did it on Tuesday.
And this is not the end of it. The supposed leaders still have not officially declared their candidacy -- Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie (although Christie's hopes are falling fast thanks to Bridgegate). That would make nine, but there are still others with a dream of getting the GOP nomination. Rick Perry, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Donald Trump, and even Sarah Palin are considering tossing their hat's in the ring (even though none of them has been able to drum up any support so far).
It looks like the proposed Republican debates will resemble a mass gathering of nuts more than it will a debate. Sadly though (or perhaps happily for the Democrats), every one of these candidates (and future candidates) is a political and religious extremist, and most (if not all) scares the hell out of most voters.
Here is the latest national poll on Republican voter preferences for the nomination -- done by the NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll:
Here is another thought-provoking missive from the Green Party. It was written by Green Party Shadow Cabinet member Ajamu Baraka:
Anti-Black racism, always just beneath the surface of polite racial discourse in the U.S., has exploded in reaction to the resistance of black youth to another brutal murder by the agents of this racist, settler-colonialist state. With the resistance, the focus shifted from the brutal murder of Freddie Gray and the systematic state violence that historically has been deployed to control and contain the black population in the colonized urban zones of North America, to the forms of resistance by African Americans to the trauma of ongoing state violence.
The narrative being advanced by corporate media spokespeople gives the impression that the resistance has no rational basis. The impression being established is that this is just another manifestation of the irrationality of non-European people—in particular, Black people—and how they are prone to violence. This is the classic colonial projection employed by all white supremacist settler states, from the U.S., to South Africa and Israel.
The accompanying narrative is that any kind of resistance that does not fit the narrow definition of “non-violent” resistance is illegitimate violence and, therefore, counter-productive because—“violence doesn’t accomplish anything.” Not only does this position falsely equates resistance to oppression as being morally equivalent to the violence of the oppressor, it also attempts to erase the role of violence as being fundamental to the U.S. colonial project.
The history of colonial conquest saw the U.S. settler state shoot and murdered its way across the land mass of what became the U.S. in the process of stealing indigenous land to expand the racist White republic from “sea to shining sea.” And the marginalization of the role of violence certainly does not reflect the values of the Obama administration that dutifully implements the bi-partisan dictates of the U.S. strategy of full spectrum dominance that privileges military power and oppressive violence to protect and advance U.S. global supremacy. The destruction of Libya; the reinvasion of Iraq; the civil war in Syria; Obama’s continued war in Afghanistan; the pathological assault by Israel on Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S. supported attack on Yemen by the Saudi dictatorship, are just a few of the horrific consequences of this criminal doctrine.
Race and oppressive violence has always been at the center of the racist colonial project that is the U.S. It is only when the oppressed resist—when we decide, like Malcolm X said, that we must fight for our human rights—that we are counseled to be like Dr. King, including by war mongers like Barack Obama. However, resistance to oppression is a right that the oppressed claim for themselves. It does not matter if it is sanctioned by the oppressor state, because that state has no legitimacy.
No rational person exalts violence and the loss of life. But violence is structured into the everyday institutional practices of all oppressive societies. It is the deliberate de-humanization of the person in order to turn them into a ‘thing’— a process Dr. King called “thing-afication.” It is a necessary process for the oppressor in order to more effectively control and exploit. Resistance, informed by the conscious understanding of the equal humanity of all people, reverses this process of de-humanization. Struggle and resistance are the highest expressions of the collective demand for people-centered human rights—human rights defined and in the service of the people and not governments and middle-class lawyers.
That resistance may look chaotic at this point—spontaneous resistance almost always looks like that. But since the internal logic of neoliberal capital is incapable of resolving the contradiction that it created, expect more repression and more resistance that will eventually take a higher form of organization and permanence. In the meantime, we are watching to see who aligns with us or the racist state.
The contradictions of the colonial/capitalist system in its current expression of neoliberalism have obstructed the creation of decent, humane societies in which all people are valued and have democratic and human rights. What we are witnessing in the U.S. is a confirmation that neoliberal capitalism has created what Chris Hedges called “sacrificial zones” in which large numbers of black and Latino people have been confined and written off as disposable by the system. It is in those zones that we find the escalation of repressive violence by the militarized police forces. And it is in those zones where the people are deciding to fight back and take control of their communities and lives.
These are defining times for all those who give verbal support to anti-racist struggles and transformative politics. For many of our young white comrades, people of color and even some black ones who were too young to have lived through the last period of intensified struggle in the 1960s and ‘70s and have not understood the centrality of African American resistance to the historical social struggles in the U.S., it may be a little disconcerting to see the emergence of resistance that is not dependent on and validated by white folks or anyone else.
The repression will continue, and so will the resistance. The fact that the resistance emerged in a so-called black city provides some complications, but those are rich and welcoming because they provide an opportunity to highlight one of the defining elements that will serve as a line of demarcation in the African American community—the issue of class. We are going to see a vicious ideological assault by the black middle class, probably led by their champion—Barack Obama—over the next few days. Yet the events over the last year are making it more difficult for these middle-class forces to distort and confuse the issue of their class collaboration with the white supremacist capitalist/colonialist patriarchy. The battle lines are being drawn; the only question that people must ask themselves is which side they’ll be on.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
In a post below, Robert Reich points out that something needs to be done about the vast (and still growing) gap between the rich and the rest of us in wealth and income. It looks like he's "preaching to the choir". In a new Gallup Poll (done between April 9th and 12th of a random national sample of 1,015 adults, with a 4 point margin of error), we see that 63% of the American people agree (see chart above). In fact, only one group disagrees -- the Republicans.
Reich says the first thing that must be done is political -- we must change the system that allows corporate interests to control our government (through lobbying and massive campaign contributions). I agree. Until that happens, nothing can be done to address the wealth and income gap. But once we have fixed that, how do we go about making the wealth (and income) distribution in this country fair?
This same poll asked respondents about one thing that could be done -- levying a heavy tax on the rich. While the numbers aren't as high as those who consider the wealth distribution unfair, a majority of Americans (52%) thought that should be done while 45% disagreed (see bottom chart). I'm not sure how "heavy" that tax should be (we need a national discussion on that), but I do agree that the rich should pay more in income taxes than they currently do -- and I think that extra money should be used to help the most disadvantaged among us.
One thing that should happen is to get rid of the capital gains tax, which lets the rich pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes that many in the middle class must pay. This is ridiculous. All income should be taxed at the earned income rate (which most people already pay).
But there are other things that should be also done. There are a couple of things that have huge support among the population -- raise the minimum wage to a livable wage (somewhere between $10 and $15 an hour), and stop the constant offshoring of good American jobs. No one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and American workers shouldn't have to compete with low-wage and desperate workers in third world countries.
Then we need to strengthen unions in this country, and make it easier for workers in every industry to unionize. This would allow workers to negotiate for a fair wage, and allow them to share in the rising productivity they create. Workers need a voice in their workplace, and the best way to provide that is through a strong union.
And finally, we need to re-regulate Wall Street and the giant financial institutions. The Republicans have deregulated this industry, giving those giant institutions an advantage over the common person (resulting in many people getting ripped off -- both in the market and thru their banks on things like credit cards). We could start by reinstitution the Glass-Steagall Act (which made it illegal for those banks to gamble in the market with consumers money), and by putting a cap on the interest that could be charged on credit instruments.
There are probably other reasonable actions that could be taken, but these would be a good start. The problem is that the Republicans (and their masters on Wall Street) oppose them all. It has become clear that the Republicans are the party of Wall Street and the corporations -- and they must be voted out of power. We cannot return to fair and sane economic policies until that happens.
I found this map (from the University of Virginia Center for Politics) interesting, and I thought you might also. The states in blue are Democratic states and the states in red are Republican states -- and it is likely that these states will vote that way in the 2016 election.
Things could always change, since politics is a tough and unpredictable "sport" -- but the way it sits right now, the Democrats will go into the nest election with a 41 electoral vote lead. That means only 23 more electoral votes are needed to keep a Democrat in the White House, while 64 more electoral votes are required to elect a Republican. Those votes will have to come from the six states that are true swing states -- Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa Colorado, and Nevada.
Florida is particularly important for the Republicans, because even if the Republicans win the other five states Florida alone (with its 29 electoral votes) could give Democrats the win.
If you live in a dark blue or dark red state, don't expect to see the candidates visiting you in the general election. They'll be spending most of their time in those six swing states.
Fundamental Economic Change Is Needed To Cure The Vast And Growing Inequality Of Wealth And Income In The U.S.
It was the root cause of both the Great Depression and the Great Recession (Bush's recession), and the problem just continues to grow worse with each passing day. Unless it is addressed soon it will lead to more economic problems -- and eventually turn this country into a "banana republic" composed of "haves" and "have-nots, with no vibrant middle class.
One of the men who understands this problem, including what caused it and what must be done to fix it, is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (pictured). He has written an excellent article on the problem that is posted over at his own blog, and I urge all of you to read the whole thing. I have posted below only the last part of that article:
Monday, May 04, 2015
Since the election of Barack Obama, the racists in this country have grown bolder, and made it obvious that racism is still a big problem in the United States. And the numerous killings by police of Black men (without any punishment being given to the police) show that racism seems to be rampant in our criminal justice system ( not to mention the racist quotas of Whites to Blacks in our penitentiaries).
Why is this? How can racism still be a big problem in the 21st Century in a country that claims to value equal rights? That charts above give us a big clue as to why. Too many Whites are in denial. They don't want to admit, either through ignorance or a desire to preserve "White privilege", that the problem exists. But it does exist -- whether they want to admit it or not.
Many have said we need to have a national discussion of race and racism. I agree. But we can't have that discussion until Whites are ready to admit we have a problem in the first place.
These charts were made from information in a new YouGov Poll -- done between April 28th and 30th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 4.1 points.
The first state to legalize same-sex marriages was Massachusetts, and that happened in 2003 -- just 11 years ago. At that time, only one religious group had a majority supporting that legalization -- those with no religious affiliation. Only 28% of the religiously affiliated supported it.
But a lot has changed in that short 11 year period. Now a plurality of the religiously affiliated (47%) support it -- and every single group has shown a remarkable shift in attitude. White mainline protestants (by a 26 point margin) and catholics (by a 25 point margin) have shown the most growth of support for legalization -- and currently both groups now have a significant majority in favor.
But growth has been seen in every group. Both the Black protestants (with 15 point growth) and White evangelicals (with 16 point growth) showed a remarkable increase -- even though both groups still have a minority approving. Young evangelicals now have a 45% approval. Those are some pretty amazing numbers, and they show why a majority now believe same-sex marriage bans should be scrapped.
These numbers are from Public Religion Research Institute surveys -- the most recent being done in 2014. That most recent survey put general public support at 54%. But a 2015 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post shows that support has climbed to about 61% now. This is the fastest growth and change I can remember on any single issue -- and the support is continuing to grow
This is a battle that has been won. A bad Supreme Court decision might delay legalization in a few states, but I don't see how it can be stopped now. Too many Americans are now casting their lot with equality.
Since Hillary Clinton's declaration that she is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, a small segment of Democrats (and other leftists) seem to be going out of their way to find some reason to dislike her. That is their right, but I disagree with them.
I have pointed out several times that we need to support Clinton because she is our best hope for keeping an extremist Republican out of the White House. I believe that to be true, and it's an important consideration, but that's far from being the only reason I think Clinton should be our next president.
I don't agree with Hillary Clinton on every single issue, but I've never found any politician I agree with on everything (including my political heroes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren). But I do believe Clinton is a smart, caring, and tough individual who is on the right side of most issues, and I believe a Clinton presidency will contribute to making a better country and a better world for all of us. And not the least of those issues is that of protecting and increasing the equal rights and opportunities for all people.
On that subject, I bring you part of the introduction of Hillary Clinton by Meryl Streep at the 2012 Women in the World conference:
. . .Anabella De Leon of Guatemala pointed to Hillary Clinton, who was sitting right in the front row, and said, “I met her and my life changed.” And all weekend long, women from all over the world said the same thing:
"I’m alive because she came to my village, put her arm around me, and had a photograph taken together."
"I’m alive because she went on our local TV and talked about my work, and now they’re afraid to kill me."
"I’m alive because she came to my country and she talked to our leaders, because I heard her speak, because I read about her."
I’m here today because of that, because of those stories. I didn’t know about this. I never knew any of it. And I think everybody should know. This hidden history Hillary has, the story of her parallel agenda, the shadow diplomacy unheralded, uncelebrated — careful, constant work on behalf of women and girls that she has always conducted alongside everything else a First Lady, a Senator, and now Secretary of State is obliged to do.
And it deserves to be amplified. This willingness to take it, to lead a revolution – and revelation, beginning in Beijing in 1995, when she first raised her voice to say the words you’ve heard many times throughout this conference: “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.”
When Hillary Clinton stood up in Beijing to speak that truth, her hosts were not the only ones who didn’t necessarily want to hear it. Some of her husband’s advisors also were nervous about the speech, fearful of upsetting relations with China. But she faced down the opposition at home and abroad, and her words continue to hearten women around the world and have reverberated down the decades. . .
She’s just been busy working, doing it, making those words “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” into something every leader in every country now knows is a linchpin of American policy. It’s just so much more than a rhetorical triumph. We’re talking about what happened in the real world, the institutional change that was a result of that stand she took. . .
Now we know that the higher the education and the involvement of women in a culture and economy, the more secure the nation. It’s a metric we use throughout our foreign policy, and in fact, it’s at the core of our development policy. It is a big, important shift in thinking. Horrifying practices like female genital cutting were not at the top of the agenda because they were part of the culture and we didn’t want to be accused of imposing our own cultural values.
But what Hillary Clinton has said over and over again is, “A crime is a crime, and criminal behavior cannot be tolerated.” Everywhere she goes, she meets with the head of state and she meets with the women leaders of grassroots organizations in each country. This goes automatically on her schedule. As you’ve seen, when she went to Burma – our first government trip there in 40 years. She met with its dictator and then she met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman he kept under detention for 15 years, the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement.
This isn’t just symbolism. It’s how you change the world. These are the words of Dr. Gao Yaojie of China: “I will never forget our first meeting. She said I reminded her of her mother. And she noticed my small bound feet. I didn’t need to explain too much, and she understood completely. I could tell how much she wanted to understand what I, an 80-something year old lady, went through in China – the Cultural Revolution, uncovering the largest tainted blood scandal in China, house arrest, forced family separation. I talked about it like nothing and I joked about it, but she understood me as a person, a mother, a doctor. She knew what I really went through.”
When Vera Stremkovskaya, a lawyer and human rights activist from Belarus met Hillary Clinton a few years ago, they took a photograph together. And she said to one of the Secretary’s colleagues, “I want that picture.” And the colleague said, “I will get you that picture as soon as possible.” And Stremkovskaya said, “I need that picture.” And the colleague said, “I promise you.” And Stremkovskaya said, “You don’t understand. That picture will be my bullet-proof vest.”
Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up. That is what Hillary Clinton embodies.
Sunday, May 03, 2015
If nothing else, they did try to address some needs for the team -- drafting a linebacker in the fourth round, a defensive end in the fifth round, and a linebacker, an offensive tackle, and a tight end in the seventh round. The tight end choice was somewhat a surprise for me, since they are pretty well set at that position. I expect he will mainly be used as a blocker. Here are those picks:
4 (127th overall) -- Damien Wilson of University of Minnesota, inside linebacker (6'2", 240 lbs)
5 (163rd overall) -- Ryan Russell of Purdue University, defensive end (6'4", 269 lbs)
7 (236th overall) -- Mark Nzeocha of University of Wyoming, outside linebacker (6'2", 232 lbs)
7 (243rd overall) -- Laurence Gibson of Virginia Tech University, Offensive tackle (6'6", 305 lbs)
7 (246th overall) -- Geoff Swaim of University of Texas, tight end (6'4", 245 lbs)
It will be interesting to watch these players, and to see if they can make the team and contribute.
The chart above was made from information provided by the Pew Research Center. That information was garnered from 12 surveys done during 2014 of 26,010 randomly chosen adults, and has a margin of error of only 0.7 points.
If you have been wondering why the Republicans would try to limit who can vote in our elections, and did some serious gerrymandering in 2010, this chart should answer that question for you. They are not only outnumbered by Democrats, but each generation is seeming to be more Democratic than the last. The only generation that has more Republicans than Democrats is the Silent generation (those between the ages of 69 and 86). The Baby Boomers (50 to 68), the Gen-Xers (34 to 49), and the Millennials (18 to 33) all have more Democrats than Republicans.
Those Millennials should especially worry the Republicans. They have a 16 point gap favoring the Democrats, and as political scientists have shown, voters tend to stay with the party they first voted for all their lives.
The Republicans could start to remedy this by moderating their rather hateful views, but they don't seem to be interested in doing that -- and that forecasts a bleak view for their party.
Evangelicals and other right-wing christians (and muslims) like to hide their bigotry behind their religion. It's the only excuse they can think of to oppose the equal rights guaranteed by our secular constitution. That's why this chart didn't surprise me very much. It shows that those who want to ban same-sex marriage are those who attend their religious services the most. That makes sense -- since it would be very hard to use religion as an excuse if you never, rarely, or only intermittently attended those services (which would make it too obvious that religion is just being used as an excuse for personal bigotry).
The chart was made from a recently released Gallup Poll. That poll was done between 2012 and 2014 of a random national sample of more than 4,000 adults. The numbers are the averages of the polls taken during that time period.
This survey determined that 54% of the total population supported legal same-sex marriage. That has since climbed to about 6 out of 10 Americans. Only one group had a significant majority (69%) opposing same-sex marriage -- those who attend religious services every week. The group that attends nearly every week aren't nearly as convinced same-sex marriage is bad. They are split right down the middle (48%-49%). All other groups showed a significant majority supporting legalization -- attending once a month (58%), seldom attending (65%), and those never attending (75%).