Can we do anything about gun violence in the U.S.?

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that's not normal or OK.

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that’s not normal or OK.

Once again, Americans are reeling at the sight of another mass shooting. In what’s become all-too-commonplace, we react with horror, sorrow, anger, and discussion, but at the end of the day, we all know this will happen again. President Obama said as much during his remarks addressing the shooting in Oregon, and regardless of your politics, every American probably agrees with Obama when he said it’s likely he’ll have to address another mass shooting before his term is over. However, in our efforts to end the horrific violence caused by guns, we address a few key issues: the ease in which potential shooters access guns, how we handle mental illness in the United States, and whether any reasonable limitations on gun ownership are appropriate if it means preventing another mass shooting like we’ve seen across the country, year after year.

The following piece attempts to address a few key issues. First, we must try to find a way to prevent mass shootings from ripping apart communities across the country and if reasonable gun legislation is off the table (despite overwhelming support in most parts of the country), we need another solution. We simply cannot accept mass shootings as normal, or something that cannot be prevented because the Second Amendment prohibits the adoption of any legislation preventing some individuals from accessing firearms. The piece takes a look at perhaps a key psychological reason why it’s so challenging to pass reasonable legislation aimed at ending the scourge of gun violence affecting Americans every single day. Additionally, we must consider our rhetoric towards guns–especially the paranoid notion that someone is coming for them–which may–or may not–be contributing to gun-related violence in the United States.

What’s laid out here isn’t a series of concrete solutions to gun violence, but perhaps it will provide us with an outlet for deeper discussion–on both sides of the aisle–on what can be done to make sure we can end the evils of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.

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Congress should pass the Iran nuclear deal

“Six in 10 Americans, 60 percent, disapprove of how President Obama is handling relations with Iran, up from 48 percent back in April shortly after a framework agreement with Tehran was unveiled.”

The above statement is from an article on TheHill.com last Thursday. These numbers are understandable, even predictable, given that the vast majority of Americans fail to comprehend much of the framework of the deal and are being inundated by political pundits and media talking heads with scary sound bites and foreboding ads produced by opponents and special interests against it. I don’t pretend to fully understand it either. It is complicated. However, I have taken considerable time to delve into the issue by reading articles for and against it in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other nonpartisan publications. I have come to the conclusion that Congress must support this deal.

I am not alone. Many foreign policy and nuclear nonproliferation experts, nuclear scientists as well as former military leaders feel the same. You need proof? Below are three letters:

29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal in Letter to Obama & PDF of the letter

Statement from Nuclear Nonproliferation Specialists

An open letter from Retired Generals and Admirals

China, Russia, France, the United Kindgom, and Germany also agree – they worked with us on these negotiations.  Should Congress find enough votes to override a presidential veto, the deal is technically broken. The countries working with us will also abandon the deal and we’ll be right back at the status quo where there are no inspections, the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and military force as the only alternative to imposing our demands on a sovereign nation.

These negotiations have taken two years. The deal was hardly thrown together quickly and haphazardly. Yet opponents were lambasting it before they even read it, before it was even released. These are the same, or mostly the same, people who couldn’t get our military into Iraq fast enough. We all know that was an enormous mistake. Now, they once again seem to be intent on seeking a military-only option, which is just wrong-headed. God forbid we actually try to talk to people with whom we have disagreements.

Furthermore, there is so much misinformation swirling about. I’ll briefly address two bits of misinformation that have arisen recently.

  • Iran is given 24 days before outside inspections begin. This is inaccurate. The 24-day inspection rule is explained in detail by Max Fisher of vox.com. He also provides an outline of the inspection process. Summing up, “If inspectors try to get access to sites but at every turn are delayed by Iranian stall tactics, guess what: It will be extremely clear from all this stalling that Iran is not adhering to the deal. Inspections will have worked.” He goes on, “Repeatedly delaying inspectors up to the highest possible limit would effectively prove that Iran was cheating, without the world even having to catch them red-handed.” Furthermore, the U.S. does not have to wait 24 days, tools are built into the process to stop Iran and reinstate sanctions unilaterally at any point in the process.
  • The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Iran would be allowed to self-inspect. That is mostly false. This was an unconfirmed report of a copy of a draft agreement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had drawn up with Iran pertaining to one military facility known as Parchin. Max Fisher, again, of vox.xom offers an excellent analysis of this on August 20 and posted a follow-up piece the next day. If there is reason to be concerned, then absolutely it should be addressed. However, the Parchin site was not, according to Fisher, addressed in the deal negotiated with the U.S. and other world powers; this was an agreement between the IAEA and Iran.

Last week, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Gary Sick of Columbia University. Ms. Goodman introduced him, saying, “He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. He recently wrote an article for Politico headlined “The Danger of a Failed Iran Deal.””

In the article, he writes that during the 2003 to 2005 negotiations with Iran and other European countries (the U.S. was not directly involved but the Bush administration vetoed these talks for the same reason as today’s opponents) Iran was offering to cap their centrifuges at 3,000. The deal was never made. When Iran returned to the negotiating table in 2013, they now had 20,000 centrifuges and a stockpile of enriched uranium. A deal ten years ago may have prevented that extensive build-up. Furthermore, the fear that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon within a few years has not occurred.

Sick says:

“It is easy to dismiss these predictions as fear-mongering about something that obviously never happened. But it is much more instructive to understand that what they were saying had a basis in fact: During this entire period, Iran was steadily increasing its capability to produce a nuclear bomb. The more interesting fact is that Tehran did not follow through. By virtually every estimate, Iran has had the capability to produce a nuclear weapon for at least a decade. The predictions were wrong, not about Iran’s ability but about its willingness to use that capability to produce a weapon. The entire U.S. intelligence community and most of our allies — apparently including Israel — have concluded with high confidence that Iran has not made a decision to build a bomb.”

Democracy Now interview and transcript 

Is this deal perfect? Absolutely not. Nor do I support all of President Obama’s policies and deals, as I’m often accused. I am not a fan of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its current form. I do not approve of the excessive use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other areas of unrest around the world, nor do I approve of the growing surveillance state in the name of security happening in this country, which began rapidly expanding under the George W. Bush administration.

Let me offer some final points. A friend on Facebook recently posted on my feed a quote from the Obama administration that read: “A bad deal is better than no deal.” That is a distortion. The actual quote is: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” What is the difference one may ask? Well, it is a big one.

The incorrect quote implies that President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the other P5+1 negotiators are so desperate for a deal that they would push a bad one onto the world, risking the security of not only the negotiating countries’ interests but those in the Middle East and the larger world just so that they can say they had a nuclear deal with Iran.

The actual quote stated means that if the Administration had felt the deal failed to meet certain standards, then there would be no deal. The fact that there is a deal means that the parties involved believe it is sound and is the best they could achieve. Could they have done better? Perhaps, some seem to think so. However, President Obama would not be lobbying congressional and senate Democrats if he did not believe this deal was in the best interest of the United States and that it was a solid one. On this, I agree with my president.

Those proposing that we should never negotiate with Iran or trust them because some of their leaders are shouting, “Death to America!” is short-sighted. Many Iranians, even some in the top levels of government, see this deal as a chance to escape the crippling sanctions they’ve endured for decades. Iranian citizens do not necessarily hold the same views against the West as the Ayatollah and the hardliners in their government. We Americans certainly don’t agree with our leaders most of the time, why would we believe all Iranians think the same way as their leaders? Many Iranians want their country to be able to participate in the global economy; they are tired of being isolated. Many are hopeful that this deal will improve their economic lot and thus the quality of their every-day lives for themselves and their families. Of course, they want this.

Military force and re-instituting sanctions are all options should Iran cheat. Military force should always be the last option because it costs dearly in lives and treasure. This deal must be given a chance and lest we forget, and many have or don’t even know U.S. history with Iran, the United States (the CIA) helped the United Kingdom overthrow a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953 and installed a dictator. The United States is at least somewhat complicit in the turmoil happening throughout the Middle East today. It’s time to restore some balance, and if possible, to do it through a diplomatic and peaceful process.

Congress, pass the deal.

Related articles:

What the Iran-Deal Debate is Like in Iran

There is a Path to a Better Deal with Iran

Iran deal opponents now have their “death panels” lie, and it’s a whopper

The AP’s controversial and badly flawed Iran inspections story, explained

Who Wrote This?

Many of you may not know this, but one of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome.  After many years of trying to force public schools to meet his needs, my husband and I decided to school him from home.  Public schools, and how they educate pupils with special needs, deserves a post of its own.  Wait for it, it is coming.  But that is not what I want to discuss today.

Virginia utilizes a “Virginia Studies” course for fourth grade students.  The curriculum mandates instruction and retention of information about the state’s history, ranging from Jamestown to the Civil War.  Naturally, there is no way to not include the plight of the Native peoples and Africans.  My child noticed right away how the language used, in an official textbook, didn’t describe events, as they truly happened.

(Him)  Wow!  This book is really not accurate, Mom. 

(Me)  Well, no, son.  It does not tell the whole story.

He saw right through the book’s attempt to force the Natives into the role of aggressors.

(Him)  How can the English really be called pioneers?  Pioneers settle land that hasn’t been settled before.  This land was settled.  And how come my book calls them savages?  And why weren’t they (the settlers) nicer to the tribes that taught them how to survive?  This book is not good!  Who wrote this thing?

He laughed at how the enslaved Africans were portrayed.

(Him)  Everybody knows that the slaves wouldn’t be laughing and dancing after all the work was done.  Slavery was not fun!  This book is stupid.

He is nine years old.

In all fairness, Aspies tend to have highly focused interests in certain topics.  The Powhatan tribes are one of his “things”.  But what of those children who trust what is written in their textbooks?  What message are we sending when Native peoples are seen as wild things who just needed to be tamed?  And the atrocity that is slavery is made out to be just a job, with singing and dancing at night?

Then, I was reminded of the fight in Texas.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a block of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

And this, in Louisiana.

Really?  Dinosaurs and humans?  The KKK a decent organization?  Slave masters and the Great Depression were not so bad.  Really?  Because math is too hard and we have good reason to doubt climate change.  No use fighting the rapture, ..excuse me..,  globalization.

Is it really a surprise that our children are falling through the cracks?

Look.  I get it.  We are Americans.  We want our children to be proud of their country.  We want them to recognize that America is one hell of a great place to live.  We, Americans, feel exceptional.

Recently, we were reminded of the dangers of exceptionalism.  Our newest BFF, Vladimir Putin, had this to say:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Many of us are leaping to the defense of our new friend.  But keep in mind, he has also said this:

We will not allow someone to impose their will on us, because we have our own will! It has helped us to conquer! We are a victorious people! It is in our genes, in our genetic code!

This is all to remind you that every country feels it is exceptional.  History and facts are not ours to change, shape, and mold.  Our children deserve to know what happened, as it actually happened.  They deserve to hear many sides of the same story.  What we have been giving them, and seemingly want to continue to give to them, is propaganda.

Adam did not ride the back of Brontosaurus.  Slavery was not a club.  Natives were not savages.  The KKK and the Great Depression were horrible.  There is a separation between church and state.  Climate change is real.

Our children truly are our future.  Pride in our country is all fine and dandy.  I just don’t want to hear my grandchildren asking, about their textbooks, …Who wrote this thing?

Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

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This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

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Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

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Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

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Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Birtherism Lives On

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution sets forth the eligibility requirements for serving as president of the United States:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Guess who just released his birth certificate? Canadian-born Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). He did this as a proactive step should he decide to run for president in 2016, which looks more likely by the day. However, because his mother was an American citizen, he automatically received American citizenship status as well as Canadian. I don’t know. I’m not convinced. I think we need much more proof, especially since Mr. Cruz was born in Canada. (Of course, I’m joking.)

220px-Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_Congress

However, it does point to the fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and his mother was an American citizen, so even if he weren’t born in the country, which he was, because his mother was a citizen (like Mr. Cruz’s mama) he has always been an American citizen. President Obama has released the short and long-form versions of his birth certificate. (FYI – My birth certificate is less detailed than the President’s short-form one.)

There is further proof of Barack Obama’s American citizenship in Honolulu newspapers published in 1961: his birth announcement. Yes, there is a public record. Still, it is highly annoying that even today there are those who just won’t let up and see his election as some vast conspiracy orchestrated fifty years ago. Where do people come up with these ideas?

Interestingly, “natural-born citizen” was not defined in the Constitution written in 1787, though its meaning has been debated over the centuries.  From Wikipedia: The Naturalization Act of 1790 stated that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens”. (Act to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, 1st Congress, 2nd session, March 26, 1790, 1 Stat.L. 103 at 104, 2 Laws of the U.S., ed. Bioren & Duane (1815) 82 at 83.) This act was superseded by the Naturalization Act of 1795, which did not mention the phrase natural born citizen.

If one were to adhere strictly to the Constitution, utilizing the term “natural born citizen” in its most basic form meaning to be born in this country, Mr. Cruz is disqualified from the presidential electoral process and stands no chance of becoming president.  If he were to run in 2016, this could be a huge barrier for him to overcome. Yes, that previous statement is a joke because in reality, we know there will be no push back regarding his citizenship unless his Tea Party pals scrutinize him the way they have Barack Obama, which is highly unlikely. Furthermore, Democrats won’t have the stomach for that fight, knowing it is an inane path to pursue anyway.

I thought that after the 2012 election this nonsense would disappear, and it seemed to for a while. However, recently the question of President Obama’s validity as the leader of our country has arisen again from the fringe right. Protestors in Florida held birther signs greeting the president during a recent visit to that state, and the ever classy, erudite Ted Nugent is back spewing his anti-Obama attacks as well.

For some real fun, visit Birther Report.  I had some laughs. Sadly, these people are dead serious. Oh, well, this is what makes America, America: we have freedom of speech and because of that, we can espouse views and publish information as facts no matter how outlandish or untrue.

Oh, and by the way, last night, Ted Cruz announced he would be renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Oh, the pressure…

Related articles

Internet memes: love them, hate them

Oh, social media, you entertain us on myriad levels. As a frequent Facebook user I am subjected to Internet memes on a daily basis. Sometimes they are inspiring and funny, other times they are annoying and infuriating. I rarely comment on the ones I find offensive or misleading, but two memes I recently saw compelled me to respond.

The first:

992818_417971588319625_366082048_n

This image was posted by ClashDaily.com with Doug Giles with the following hash tags: #‎irs ‪#‎nsa ‪#‎benghazi ‪#‎doj ‪#‎fastnfurious ‪#‎scandals

If the guy who posted this and all the hateful commenters had done a minimal amount of research, they would know the “scandals”—IRS, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, and Solyndra—were overblown, in particular with regard to allegations of direct White House involvement or malfeasance. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be investigations or at least assessments about what went wrong in these situations.  Darrell Issa, however, in his zealousness, has made repeated attempts to connect the White House (e.g. – President Obama) to these incidences, with little success. On the other hand, the NSA surveillance issue has major privacy implications and should be investigated thoroughly.

Still, conservative calls for Obama to resign are hypocritical. We heard nary a peep from these same quarters when George W: lied about weapons of mass destruction, started a war of choice that was a major disaster on so many levels—both financial and in American and Iraqi lives; allowed the torture (illegal) of suspected terrorists; and surveilled Americans without warrants through telecom companies.

The Obama bashing in the comments section was disgusting to say the least. Liberals are good at bashing the other side too, so I do not expect a different standard of online conduct from conservatives, though reasoned disagreement instead of slinging insults would be nice from everyone. Yeah, I know, I’m living in a fantasy world.

The second meme was posted and shared several times on Facebook: “You tell me…what’s the difference?”

meme

Let me tell you the difference.

The difference is that while both killings are tragedies, the police in Charleston did their job and arrested the killers of this white teenager and conducted a solid investigation. However, the same cannot be said in the case of Trayvon Martin. In fact, the Florida police in that community gave a collective yawn over the killing of an unarmed black teenager, basically slapping Zimmerman on the wrist and sending him home that same night, and only further investigating the murder after a national outcry.

The difference is not that a black child received national attention while a white child was ignored. If that is the argument some are trying to make, then one could refute it by pointing out that when girls/young women go missing in the United States and receive national media attention, they are mostly white. Missing white woman syndrome (MWWS) is a phrase coined by social scientists and media commentators to describe the “wall-to-wall coverage” given in media reporting, especially television, to missing person cases involving young, white, upper-middle class women or girls. Examples are here, here, here, and here.

When I researched this meme further, I discovered that the woman who created it did so because it hit close to home, not because of the racial component and media attention that many people have been suggesting. Still, the fact that she created it and asked the question about the “difference” makes one question her motive; it does seem to suggest a racial bias message.

Memes, political ones in particular, create quick impressions by fusing images with words and phrases that incite the emotions, causing us to respond very quickly to a post without taking a moment to pause about why it resonates so strongly with us, be it positively or negatively. The two memes I discuss in this post, are relatively tame; many others are not. Use  caution on social media and understand what it is you are “liking” and/or sharing before doing so. Remember, it’s your reputation out there in cyberspace.

Read both stories here:

Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal

Not Far Enough

This past weekend, my family made our umpteenth trek through the nation’s capital.

dc2

We picked quite a day for it.  It was nearly 100 degrees.  And the humidity!  Let’s just say it was the type of heat that would make Satan knock on your door to ask for a glass of iced water!

Our plan was simple.  The children would see each and every thing they wanted to see.  If time allowed, I could do the same.  Which was a good thing, since the only thing I hadn’t seen a million times was the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

We spent many hours walking and talking.  We spoke of the American spirit and discussed inventions that changed the world.  We debated which famous American was best, in his/her respective field.  I had to referee the occasional brotherly skirmish.  In other words, it was your typical garden variety family day-trip.

It never dawned on me that I would learn anything .. from my children.

Let me remind you:  It. Was. Hot. My asthma was trying to take center stage.  I had four (somewhat spoiled and over-indulged) boys in tow.  By the time the kids were satisfied that they had seen all they wanted to see, I was exhausted.  And, sure, trying to ensure the satisfaction of four boys can make me a little cranky.  My overall mood was not great.

The more we walked, the less oxygen I seemed to take in.  I was stopping every ten feet to catch my breath.  I wanted to give up on the journey.  I was urged to give up and “just see it next time”.  But I have lived long enough to know that there may be no next time.  And to be perfectly honest, that stubborn Mommy part of me was determined that if I had been walking through an inferno for 7 hours, I would damn well see that exhibit.  Or pass out trying.

Not understanding, my oldest son remarked: “Mom, I know you want to see this thing, but it’s hot and you can’t breathe.  Maybe we should forget it.  Is it really worth all that?”

[Enter visions of cotton fields, torched houses, protests, jail cells]

To which, I responded: “That is why I must keep going.  Men and women, like King, got sick.  They kept going.  People told them it wasn’t worth it, but they kept going.  Heat wasn’t the only thing beating at them, but.. They. Kept. Going.”

So…we kept going.  I was dizzy, light-headed, and wheezing.  But I kept going.

dc3

Finally!!  We were there!  At that moment, my fatigue vanished.  My initial joy was not in seeing the monument.  It was in pride that I made it without collapsing.  It was all about me.

Once I realized that, I took a step back.  I removed myself from the equation.  I remembered how grateful I am for those –  like Dr. King –  who removed themselves from the equation, daily, so that we all might have a better quality of life.  I read his words on the Inscription Wall, and I felt humbled.  And small and petty.  My small accomplishment of “making it” paled in comparison to the type of endurance he needed.  Every day of his life.

After having splashed my face and arms with water from the waterfall, I turned to the faces of my children.  Observing me.. and my humility.

Initially, I was a little embarrassed.  They, then, did something I will never forget.  They, too, splashed their faces and arms.

At that moment, a lesson was driven home.  Children need to observe humility.  They need to see adults continually fighting for what is right, fighting for a more perfect union.

Sadly, it isn’t  hard for me to imagine Dr. King’s America.

An America of fear, prejudice, and hatred.  An America where equality is privilege.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.     MLK 1963

An America of poverty.  An America that excuses bad behavior and ignorance.  An America where workers are treated poorly.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.     MLK 1964

An America at war.

It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.”  It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.  We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.     MLK 1967

I can imagine it, because that is MY America, to a lesser degree.  We, as a society, have become complacent and selfish.  We rationalize this by saying we have come pretty far from King’s America.  Well, I say we haven’t come far enough.  I say there is always work to be done.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Related articles:

Darrell Issa’s Folly

English: , member of the United States House o...

English: , member of the United States House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congressman Darrell Issa’s folly is becoming clearer every day, especially related to the IRS investigation. It is ironic that someone with Issa’s questionable past, who is no stranger to scandal himself, is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and spearheading this and other investigations. Mr. Issa’s rabid obsession of trying to tie the IRS ‘scandal’ to the Obama administration has spawned allegations of wrongdoing by the President without actual evidence to back them up. So how has Issa been dishonest you may ask?

Now that this is looking less like a scandal and more like IRS leadership incompetence, Senator Issa is being criticized for his handling of the investigation, so he is walking back his allegations that Obama is directly connected, saying he never said that about the President. He did. “Washington” equals “Obama” in Issaspeak. He and some of his fellow Republicans have been accusing the President of having an “enemies list” to target his political opponents via the IRS. These partisans feel that if they repeat this accusation enough times, even if they are proven wrong, the assertion will stick in people’s minds.

We have discovered that the Inspector General’s report only focused on Tea Party and conservative groups because that was what Issa asked them to focus on. Guess what? Progressive groups were on the BOLO (be-on-the-lookout) lists too. Granted there were far less of them, but then again most progressive groups aren’t belligerently anti-tax. It makes sense that conservative organizations might be scrutinized mroe closely. That being said, all new 501(c)(4)s applying for tax exemption should’ve been scrutinized, regardless of political affiliation.

Interestingly, these groups aren’t even required to have IRS approval to operate as tax-exempt entities, as are 501(c)(3) organizations. One can only assume these groups wanted to make their secretive donors feel more confident about their contributions by having the tax-exempt status set in writing. Furthermore, the only group denied tax-exempt status was a liberal group, Emerge America.

Congressman Issa has also been cherry-picking information from the IG report and leaking testimony with the media that supports his narrative implying White House malfeasance. Congressman Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Committee, threatened to release all the transcripts because he believed that Issa was manipulating evidence. Mr. Issa refused, only releasing small portions of testimony at a time, and claimed that opening the transcripts to public scrutiny would allow others testifying to prepare their answers in advance and jeopardize the investigation. However, on June 18, Cummings succeeded in releasing the full transcript of the Cincinnati IRS manager’s testimony. 

Cummings

Cummings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The IRS investigation should continue because it remains unclear what really transpired, but the members of the House Oversight Comittee are so partisan that getting to the truth may be impossible. Christopher Bergin at Tax Analysts is correct that it needs to be an independent investigation:

“We need a deliberate, independent investigation of the IRS. Last I checked conclusion-jumping is still not an Olympic sport, and it’s not an investigation either. American taxpayers need to know they can trust the IRS, and they are owed an explanation of what is going on—what is really going on.”

The truth will continue to elude Americans as long as partisans from both sides are involved in shaping the conclusion of the investigation to their liking. Darrell Issa has repeatedly tried to tie the Obama administration to one scandal after another—Fast & Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi, and now the IRS investigation, among others—and each time, there have been no nefarious connections found. Mr. Issa is doing himself no favors by continuing this folly. If he wants to uncover the truth and redeem his already tarnished reputation (at least in some circles), he should appoint an independent investigator.

Cross-Posted at The Feisty Liberal

We’re #1 ..er..

America.

Wealthiest nation in the world.

It’s no wonder our middle class is number one in the world!

middle class

As the chart above clearly shows, America’s median income is the best in the…

Wait…WHAT??

We are not number one?  Or two, ten, or twenty?

According to this, America is #27.  Our middle class is being beaten by the likes of Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.  Topping the list is Australia.

But how can this be?  Our economy produces hedge fund managers that earn more per hour than the average family earns in two decades!

Surely, that kind of wealth is trickling down!!

So, why aren’t we drenched?  Hell, at least misted?

  • Healthcare:  We continue to pay more while becoming no more healthy.  And becoming seriously ill lands many in bankruptcy court.
  • Minimum Wage:  Our wage is indecent in comparison to the likes of Canada ($9.75), New Zealand ($11.18), and Australia ($16.45).  So much for claiming the top spot, again, right?  Not to mention that many other developed nations provide a month of guaranteed paid vacation time on top of paid sick days.
  • Wall Street:  Has gone wild.  Enough said.
  • Tax Structure:  Our code favors the wealthy with loopholes, tax havens, ridiculously low capital gains taxes, etc.
  • Higher Education:  The more you know, the more you owe.  In America.  Our counterparts are offering higher education practically tuition-free.

So, yeah.  No drenching, no mists, no trickles.

I think we were… PUNK’D!

deregulation

Financialization.  (Note when the two began to split.)

Financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies.   – Economist, Gerald Epstein

Financialization was labeled the most important factor in our stagnant middle class.  Deregulation of the 80’s has given rise to a whole host of problems.

  • It “made shareholder value the ultimate goal.”
  • Hedge fund growth began destroying the “productive wealth” in the economy.
  • “Too big to fail” institutions were created, and basically granted license to gamble with the economy.
  • Barely regulated world markets became responsible for financing globalization.

Why don’t we know how throughly we were played? Good question.

Wealth dominates the mediaThe idea of conservative media or main stream media is foolish.  There is but one media.  Corporate media.  And do we honestly believe that the guys ripping us off will tell us that they are doing so?  Pfft.  Just go back to fake scandals and Hollywood hook-ups, if you please.

Here’s another good question.  Why aren’t we working, with due diligence, to reverse this?

Wealth dominates our politics, it is true.  Corporate lobbyists are boldly buying representatives and co-authoring legislation.  They are using their extreme wealth to their advantage.  Who needs or wants a level playing field when pulling in the kind of dough they do?

They are buying the team, the field, the equipment, the concession stand, and referees.  But that is not all they are buying.  It seems they have also purchased quite a few fans.

There are actually those among us who don’t realize or acknowledge that they have been, are being, and will continue to be fleeced in this economy.  They believe more corporate freedom is an appropriate action.  They believe, and loudly regurgitate, policy that will only serve to keep them from ever seeing the trickle they so patiently await.  To do anything else would make you a “taker”.    They have difficulty separating who built that from who purchased that.

Looks like there is nothing left to do, but sit in the stands and clap.

Uhm, .. no.

The first thing we can do is recognize this for what it is.  Class warfare.

Next, we need to forget about changing the minds of the purchased fans.  If the past few years haven’t demonstrated the damage deregulation causes, nothing will.  The information about corporate greed destroying the economy is out there, and it is plentiful.

Protest what is being done.  You don’t necessarily have to stand in a picket line.  Petition.  Support local businesses over big box chains.  Start a garden.  Use the services of a local credit union in lieu of a banking institution.

Most importantly, instruct and supervise your elected officials, while keeping an eye out for their replacement.

  • Republicans:  we will not tolerate your policies of carrying the rich on the backs of the poor.
  • Tea Party/Libertarians:  Atlas Shrugged is fiction.
  • Democrats:  the pretty words are nice, but the time has come to try on a backbone, thank you very much!
  • Progressives:  Come out, come out..wherever you are.

They need to know this is our game, too.  Comply or face ejection.  Period.

Because… We’re #27… is  pathetic!  As a standing and a chant!

This Civilian

Anybody who has been reading the last few weeks knows that my focus has been on the military.  During the course of my 16 year relationship with a U.S. Marine, I have learned a great deal about military culture.  The issues our service members face hold a special place in my heart.

Okay.  So this morning I am having my (required) second cup of coffee, and I run across a discussion on this.

After cleaning off my keyboard and fighting my gag reflex, I got angry.  Violently angry.

angry

That is to be expected, right?  Who wouldn’t be angry about this type of dehumanization and abuse as a weapon of war?

It is now known, Cienfuegos wrote in May 2004, that hundreds of these photographs had been in circulation among the troops in Iraq. The graphic photos were being swapped between the soldiers like baseball cards.

Baseball cards?!?  <Seething>

Look.  For the past few months, I have been exposed to all manner of military activists hellbent on convincing me that our government is headed towards tyranny.  I have been reminded, countless times, that they have fought for our freedom only to see it now being incrementally snatched away by a despotic government.

Yet, they defend the organization for which they fought tooth and nail.  They tell me I just don’t understand.  Because I am a civilian.

By all means, help me understand.

The government is a highly secretive organization, marked by cronyism and wasteful spending.  The security of any given “mission” often trumps individual rights.  Human rights violations are rampant because decisions are often made by those with no experience in a particular issue.  Scandals are often times covered up and justified because the organization’s primary focus is on protecting the institution.

The military is a highly secretive organization, marked by cronyism and wasteful spending.  The security of any given “mission” often trumps individual rights.  Human rights violations are rampant because decisions are often made by those with no experience in a particular issue.  Scandals are often times covered up and justified because the organization’s primary focus is on protecting the institution.

So….what’s the difference, again?

Look, I am not pointing fingers here.  I am simply pointing out that the Military Industrial Complex is just as, if not more, corrupt than government.

Baseball cards?

No one can tell me the government is violating our human rights, while photographs of abuse are passed around like friggin’ baseball cards.

No one can expect me to believe that turning in a fellow brother is “cowardly snitching”, while turning in a government official is “patriotic whistleblowing”.

A person can’t advocate protesting against the government, while decrying protesting against war.

Nobody can convince me that citizens are sheep, while service members are “just following orders”.

That, my friends, is hypocrisy.

I have always supported the idea of listening, with both ears, to our military members.  After all, they are the ones who are called upon to sacrifice their lives in defense of our freedom.

I listen, with both ears, to both the angry and proud rantings of our service members.

I am confused how having no real rights to speak of can be funny… if you wear a uniform.  I have listened to the “sandwich” jokes in reference to women.  I have seen the LOLs following some ridiculous order handed down by commanders.  (Excluding the CIC, of course)  I have heard the justifications for mistreatment of Middle Eastern natives.  I have read the rants against drones, and pats on the back for special forces-styled assassinations.

And today, much to the dismay of my gag reflex, I have witnessed the originals of those passed around baseball cards.  I have been aware, for many years, that this type of thing occurred, but it is sickening to see the evidence of it.

This civilian has great respect for military personnel, but was sickened.

This civilian is angry for you, and angry with you.  I will have your back when you’re right and tell you when you’re wrong.

This civilian does not see service as super citizenship.  I will listen, attentively, to your thoughts, as long as you remember that your service does not give you the right to tell me when mine have been infringed upon.

This civilian does not chuckle at the corruption of one organization, and rally against the corruption of the other.  I am an equal opportunity criticizer.

The government has its fair share of problems, and I will be the first to admit that.

But, the military needs to get its own house in order, don’t you think?