On Saturday, there will be protests against the Monsanto biotech company around the world. Organizers are expecting as many as 300 cities to be involved. Now joining us to discuss all of this is Patrick Bond. Patrick is director of the Centre for Civil Society and the author and editor of the recently released books Politics of Climate Justice and Durban's Climate Gamble.
It's been another week of the insane, inane, and outright offensive. Here's your top ten:
- Pennsylvania governor can't find any Latinos to work for him. Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) told a Spanish-language newspaper this week that he didn't have any Latinos working for him. There are approximately 18,000 Latinos just in the Harrisburg, PA area alone.
- Pennsylvania governor remembers single Latino who works for him. A day after saying he didn't have any Latinos working for him, Corbett suddenly remembered a single Latino appointee working in his administration.
- Conservatives freak out over Boy Scouts decision to admit gays. Here'sthe ten best conservative freak-outs over the group's decision to admit gay scouts while maintaining a ban on gay leaders.
- Tea Party congressman mansplains his anti-abortion views. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), speaking at a hearing about an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20 weeks that House Republicans are championing, told a witness that she should've been forced to wait and give birth rather than have an abortion even though her fetus had no brain function.
- Top Republican called Obama's national security speech "a victory for terrorists." The comments were made by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Chambliss defeated a decorated, triple amputee veteran in 2002 by running an ad juxtaposing his opponent with images of Osama bin Laden.
- Texas GOP continued its obsession with limiting women's rights. The Texas GOP introduced another 24 anti-abortion bills this year, but thankfullynone of them advanced.
- This man could be the next Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Virginia Republicans nominated an extremely anti-gay, anti-abortion minister who has a long history of making insensitive and inflammatory comments. Here's his20 craziest tweets.
- RNC chair melts down. In an effort to attack the president, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus threw out attacks so over the top that the Morning Joe crew called him out.
- GOP senator says implementing Obamacare is just like an illegal coverup. Because of her efforts to implement Obamcare, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) likened Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to convicted criminal Oliver North.
- GOP senator defends Apple's efforts to avoid billions of dollars in U.S. taxes. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in a move reminiscent of Rep. Joe Barton's infamous apology to BP in the wake of its disastrous oil spill, apologized to top Apple officials for being called in front of the Senate to explain how they use complex structures and gimmicks to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Social justice takes no summer vacation. As long as there are un- and under-reported stories, as long as the mainstream media isn't getting it right—we need your pitches. Our contributors have been working hard to cover important issues from re-imagining what mental health advocacy looks like, to the garment industry in Haiti, and we want your ideas to continue our reporting. We will pay two contributors $100 each for news features to be published on The Media Co-op (online). Most articles will also be featured in The Dominion (print magazine).
We prioritize solutions-oriented news pieces with a Canadian angle, including photo essays and video pitches. We accept stories of national interest, including those about Canada’s role in international affairs. Priority will be given to articles of a time-sensitive nature.
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Briarpatch Magazine is celebrating 40 years of radical publishing with a 40-day campaign to step things up. From May 15 to June 23 we're giving away daily prizes culminating in a grand prize draw. We're looking for 40 new Sustainers who will donate $10 or more a month to keep Briarpatch thriving. Every new Sustainer gets the goods...
The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing unarmed teenager Travyon Martin, released dozens of photos and text messages of the 17-year-old murder victim in a seeming effort to portray him as a “gangsta” troublemaker.
It is unclear whether the texts and photos will be permissible in court, though attorneys for Martin’s family claim they represent “irrelevant red herrings.” Zimmerman’s attorneys are expected to use the “evidence” to make insinuations about Martin’s character, as the Zimmerman can be heard in a 911 call accusing the teen of being “up to no good” and “on drugs or something.”
The “evidence,” posted on a website run by Zimmerman’s attorneys, includes text messages from Martin discussing cannabis, a school suspension and a troubled home life, as well as several texts expressing interest in guns. The defense also posted 25 photos of Martin, some previously released on the internet, which include photo of the teen wearing gold teeth and flicking the camera off, as well as a photograph in which he appears to be smoking cannabis.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Martin’s family, noted the irony of Zimmerman’s defense pushing a stereotypical image of Martin in a case already fraught with racial implications.
"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because of the way he looked?" Crump said in a statement obtained by NBC. "If so, this stereotypical and closed-minded thinking is the same mindset that caused George Zimmerman to get out of his car and pursue Trayvon, an unarmed kid who he didn't know. The pretrial release of these irrelevant red herrings is a desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool."
One of many striking example of an apparent “red herring” released by Zimmerman’s defense is text messages referring to Martin’s homelife. In one text, from Nov. 22, 2011, he writes, "My mom just told me i gotta mov wit my dad … She just kickd me out."
Some legal experts say Zimmerman’s defense will have a hard time using the texts and photographs in court, as it resides in the legally murky area of character evidence.
“What does his mom saying he needs to live with his dad for a while say about why he was shot? Nothing,” Jeff Deen, a former state attorney in Florida, told NBC. Generally, reputation evidence is not admissible in court.”Related Stories
Beating the entertainment industry in the message control race, Wikileaks leaked the transcript of the new documentary, “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” one night ahead of its worldwide release. The leaked transcript includes annotations that allege factual errors, misrepresentations and misguided framing in the film, directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney.
An unnamed annotator disputes several over-arching conclusions drawn in Gibney’s film, starting with its title, which implies that Wikileaks “steals secrets.” “In fact, the statement is made by former CIA/NSA director Michael Hayden in relation to the activities of US government spies, not in relation to WikiLeaks,” the annotator writes.
The annotator also addresses Gibney’s characterizations of Bradley Manning, the private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. By focusing on Manning’s alleged sexuality, rather than political motivations, the writer says, “Gibney's portrayal of Manning is as a disempowered individual, rather than as someone courageous and principled.” As a press release from Wikileaks notes, these details are especially relevant now, as Manning’s 12-week-trial continues on Monday. “The premiere of "We Steal Secrets" is opportunistically timed,” the release states. “Manning may face life in prison and could potentially face the death penalty. Charges include espionage and aiding the enemy.”
The annotator also takes issue with suggestions in the film that Manning was in contact with Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange and claims misinformation about the sexual allegations against Assange. Wikileaks not only hit Gibney for the what’s in his documentary, but also its omissions. “Gibney's film could have been an important and timely project,” the release states, “The film barely touches on the US investigation against WikiLeaks, never mentions the words "grand jury", and trivialises the larger issues, perhaps because the film-maker could not secure an interview with Julian Assange.”
According to Reuters, Gibney sought to include Assange in the film, but chose to proceed without him due to difficulties in securing an interview. Media accounts suggest a dispute between Gibney and Assange over framing in the filmmaker’s final product. "He likens himself as the puppet master, the one who's pulling the strings on the media. I think he took some offense at the idea that I was independent," Gibney told Reuters, adding that Assange allegedly asked for money to be interviewed.
Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola, who has extensively covered WikiLeaks and Manning’s trial, wrote a detailed analysis of the film and this annotated transcript. “As someone who has extensively covered the story of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, there are multiple aspects of the film that happen to be misleading, disingenuous or seem to be the product of a director who has an axe to grind,” Gosztola writes.Related Stories
A Texas judge has ordered a lesbian couple to stop living together due a morality clause in one of the women's divorce papers. Judge John Roach of the 296th District Court in Collin County enforced the clause from Carolyn Compton's 2011 divorce decree on May 7, the Dallas Voice reported. Compton has lived for three years with Page Price, who was ordered by Roach to move out within 30 days because Compton's children live with the couple. The clause states that a person who has a "dating or intimate relationship" or is not related "by blood or marriage" must leave after 9 p.m. when the children are present. Shortly after the ruling, Price posted on her Facebook profile that Roach was a "bigot hiding behind a robe." "By his enforcement, being that we cannot marry in this state, I have been ordered to move out of my home," Price said. "Said judge offered further information to our attorneys that if he could throw her in jail for being gay he would. The only reason he didn't incarcerate her was because of a technicality our attorneys found in the original wording." Price accused Compton's ex-husband of hiring a private investigator to bring the matter before the court. "This is the same man who lives just a few miles away yet has taken his children a total of 12 times in three years and not attended ONE school or athletic event," Price said in another Facebook posting. "This request for enforcement was filed 'in the interest and welfare of the children.' If he is so worried about their welfare where is he every 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend?" Price said children that live with the couple are "happy and well adjusted." "We didn't want to be the face for this movement, but it looks like God has bigger plans for us," she added. "We will stand up and fight this for our family and hope that it helps pave the way for marriage equality in Texas." Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2005. Related Stories
As Florida continues to search for their Powerball winner, some people are still fantasizing about what they would do if they won.
Though the jackpot weighs in at $590.5 million dollars, the real prize isn’t exactly this precise amount, but instead the concept that for the winner, money will no longer be an issue.
In capitalist societies, people must work in order to survive. We are tied to our labor, and thus, to money, as we need it to feed ourselves and maintain shelter. We can’t really escape this system, and so it isn’t surprising that when presented with a possibility to break out of it, we rush for the chance, despite our odds. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans believe that the best way to achieve financial security is to play the lottery.
Winning the jackpot means that no longer does someone have to be tied down to the 40-hour workweek our society cruelly created. It means no longer does someone have to go into debt to pursue their interests. It means no longer does someone have to worry about taking a sick day, vacation, spending more time with family, affording children or retiring.
Capitalists, however, argue that winning the Powerball would mean taking the purpose out of your life. They believe that people will just become lazy blobs if they don’t have the financial incentive to do something productive. But here lies the big capitalist myth. In fact, while people struggle to maintain their existence, many are unable to utilize their yearning passions — which are better (not to mention more ethical) incentives of production than the fear of poverty, homelessness and even death.
I recently asked my friends what they would do if they won the Powerball, or essentially, if money were no object. Their answers were remarkably innovative, creative and resourceful. (After paying off their student debt), my friends told me they would pursue their dreams. From opening art centers to building community farms, their ideas were beyond exciting.
Now, of course, there are always some people that can’t even imagine life without financial struggle or concern. After being alienated all their lives, it’s no surprise that some people say that if they won, their only desire would be to relax on an island somewhere or whatever. But their responses indicate just how socialized we are to be controlled. Hopefully, they would eventually be encouraged to embrace the unfamiliar territory of a real sort of freedom that would allow us to produce things because we want to, not because we need to, and produce these things creatively, not mechanically.
When I talk about the concept of winning the Powerball, I’m not promoting greed or any type of pursuit of wealth. Nor am I saying that you can’t be creative or follow your passions with little money or within the confines of this economic system. Instead, I’m pushing for quite the opposite. I’m hoping we fight for a different economic system, where our lives don’t rely on finances. I hope we work toward giving everyone opportunities to follow their passions. I hope we fight for a society that provides us with safety nets and, essentially, allows us to feel like “money is no object.” I hope we change society enough that something like the Powerball wouldn’t be so popular because people wouldn’t desire such financial freedom — they would already have it.
But right now, too many people have all their dreams hanging on a winning Powerball ticket. And the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million.
I think it’s about time to rethink our economic system and make sure it works for us — instead of us working for it.
Then we’ll all hit the jackpot.
The May 14 general election in British Columbia was a setback to progressive political forces in the province and throughout Canada. The incumbent BC Liberals won a fourth straight term, winning 50 seats with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 33 seats and 40 per cent for the opposition New Democratic Party.
Progressive Activism Is Bubbling Up Across the Country -- Here's What's Happening That the Corporate Media Can't Be Bothered to Report
This was a week that exemplified the historic moment in which we live. We will look back at these times and see the seeds of a national revolt against concentrated wealth that puts profits ahead of people and the planet.
Mike Lux, who authored a history of the movements of the 1960s, wrote this week that when he researched his book he “was struck by the fact that so many big things happened so close together.” Comparing that moment to today he writes, “We are living in such a moment in history right now, that organizers and activists are sparking off each other and inspiring each other, that there is something building out there that will bring bigger change down the road.”
That is how we felt as we watched and participated in this week’s unfolding. We began the week prepared to focus our attention on the amazing teacher, student and community actions that were occurring in defense of schools. In Philadelphia, there was a giant walk-out of schools last Friday as students demanded their schools remain open and be adequately funded. The photos of young people fighting for the basic necessity of education were an inspiration.
That was followed by three days of protests in Chicago that were equally inspiring, students organized and communities came together to fight for education. Though corporate-mayor Rahm Emanuel’s carefully selected board voted to close 50 elementary schools and one high school (while the city funds the building of a new basketball stadium), the Chicago activists say they are not done. They are just getting started. It is that kind of persistence that wins transformation. These school battles are part of a national plan to replace community schools with corporatized charter schools. The battles of Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities are all of our battles.
Then there were the college students, who inspired us with their bravery especially because they were not fighting for themselves but for the students who come after them. At Cooper Union, students are in their second week of occupying the school president’s office. As the sit-in grew to more than 100, they garnered increasing community support. The school is about to begin to charge tuition, ending the nearly two century mission of its founder for free higher education. The students protesting will get free tuition; they are protesting for the students who follow. While they are sitting in, they are painting the president’s offices black and will continue to do so until he resigns his $750,000 a year job. Thousands have signed a “no confidence” petition against the president and board chairman.
We believe that a country that really believed in its youth and was building for its future would provide free post-high school education, college or vocational school, to young adults rather than leaving them crippled by massive debt.
As the week went on, more Americans stood up and showed their power. On Monday, people who have lost their homes to foreclosure or are threatened with foreclosure, along with their allies, began an occupation of the Department of Justice. Some of them joined us first as guests on our radio show on We Act Radio. Afterwards, we went to Freedom Plaza where they rallied. The coalition was a great mix of people of different ages, races and regions who were angry, organized and prepared. They marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to the Department of Justice to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute the bankers who collapsed the economy and stole their homes.
They blocked the doors at the Department of Justice and put up tents emblazoned with “Foreclose on Banks Not on People,” put up a home with “Bank Foreclosed” over it and blocked the streets with orange mesh saying “Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone.” As evening came, they moved their tents onto DOJ property, brought in a big couch and prepared to stay the night – and some did. By the third day of protests, they moved to Covington and Burling, the corporate law firm that spawned Eric Holder and where the DOJ official in charge of prosecuting the banks, Lenny Breuer, who did not prosecute a single big bank now gets a $4 million annual salary. In Congress the DOJ could not justify their claim that prosecuting the big banks would hurt the economy.
The Home Defenders League/Occupy Our Homes actions broke through in the media as you can see at the end of this photo essay. We particularly enjoyed the coverage in Forbes – someone claiming to be Jamie Dimon was arrested in DC – reporting on protesters who gave the name of banksters when they were arrested. The police responded aggressively, which often attracts media coverage, including the tasering non-violent protesters. And, we were pleased to see local groups, like Occupy Colorado, highlighting the efforts of their colleagues who came to DC.
But, action in the nation’s capital did not end there. There was also a massive walkout of food service workers across the city. The strike began at the building named for the famed union-destroying president, the Ronald Reagan Building, and then moved on, with a particular focus on Obama – the largest employer of low-wage workers. Obama could end poverty federal wages with a stroke of the pen. Will he?
DC is the sixth city to see low-wage workers striking, New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, came before the Capital. Communities have stood with the workers when employers threatened their jobs and people now need to do the same for the DC workers who are being threatened with job loss, please take action to support them. And, coming up is the Wal-Mart workers’ “Ride for Respect” to the annual shareholders meeting on June 7 which emulates the Freedom Riders.
Actions are happening throughout the country. In Illinois, so far two people have been arrested at a sit-in in the capitol building to support a ban hydro-fracking. And, the reaction to the call for a fearless summer by front-line environmental groups has been very strong. They are working together to plan major actions throughout the summer escalating resistance against extreme energy extraction. Pressure is building in the environmental movement which now recognizes Obama is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Groups like 350.org that avoided protesting Obama, are now protesting his “grass roots” group, Organizing for America.
And, more is coming. At the end of the week people who have been marching to Washington, DC from Philadelphia as part of “Operation Green Jobs” will arrive to protest at the corporate bully of the capital – the US Chamber of Commerce – uniting the masses in opposition to the corporate lobbyists. Their long walk to DC echoes a walk last week by people from Baltimore seeking jobs and justice.This Saturday will be the worldwide March Against Monsanto in 41 countries and nearly 300 cities. We published an article in Truthout that explains why we should all protest Monsanto on May 25. This is a great example of non-hierarchical organizing as this protest was called by young grass roots activists and supported by Occupy Monsanto.
One of the things that let us know the popular revolt is more powerful than we realize is the reaction of the power structure. The Center for Media and Democracy issued a report this week that examined thousands of pages of documents which showed how the national security apparatus against terrorism combined with corporate America to attack the occupy movement. And, in Chicago one of the undercover police involved in the NATO 5 case, is still spying, now on students and teachers protesting school closures. If they did not fear the people, would the power structure be behaving this way?
But, when you read reports about police acting in this undemocratic way, don’t forget that many of them do not like doing what they are ordered to do and that pulling them to join the popular revolt is part of our job. A mass movement needs people from the power structure to join it in order to achieve success. We highlight one this week, Officer Pedro Serrano of New York who took the great personal risk of taping his superiors as part of an effort to end the racist ‘stop and frisk’ program of the NYPD.
And, it is great to see people planning ahead. We got notice this week from activists in Maine planning for an October Drone Walk. The anti-drone movement and Guantanamo protests have had very positive effects. This week, President Obama had to admit that he killed four Americans with drones, mostly by accident – even though the DoD claims drones are accurate. Also this week, activists filed a war crimes complaint against Obama, Brennan and other officials seeking their prosecution. And Thursday, Obama was forced to make a public speech at the National Defense University about both the drone program and Guantanamo Bay Prison. Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, interrupted the speech several times such that the President had to acknowledge her and she asked powerful questions as she was escorted out by security. [See video and transcript.] Guantanamo activists responded to the president saying “no more excuses” and vowed to keep the pressure on!So, just as author Mike Lux saw in the 60s, there is a lot going on, lots of issues coming to a head at the same time and people taking action to confront them. How do we get to the next phase of popular resistance?
Long time writer on movements and transformational change, Sam Smith, the editor of Progressive Review wrote “The Great American Repair Manual in 1997,” we reprinted a portion of it this week: A Movement Manual. The essence: movements are “propelled by large numbers of highly autonomous small groups linked not by a bureaucracy or a master organization but by the mutuality of their thought, their faith and their determination.” He recommends: organize from the bottom up, create a subculture, create symbols, develop an agenda and make the movement’s values clear. He also recommends becoming what you want to be – become an existentialist – writing “existence precedes essence. We are what we do.” As far as building community power, we recommend this video from “The Democracy School” on how to use local governance to challenge corporate power.”Do not despair when the media says there is no popular resistance. We have been covering the actions of the movement with weekly reports since 2011 and even before the occupy movement began, we saw Americans beginning to stand up. We knew it was the right time for occupy and we now see it is the right time for a mass popular resistance. We will be announcing a new project in mid-June to help bring the movement to a new level. Sign up here to hear about it and how you can help. To create the transformative change we want to see, we need people to get involved.
We agree with Mike Lux who writes: “just as it took several years for the seeds planted in those 18 months in the early '60s to take root and begin to bring about the changes of the years to come in terms of civil rights, women's rights, and the environment, it will take several years for the seeds being planted now to fully take root. But I believe more and more that it will happen.”The government responds with police force and ignores the demands of the people. Super majorities of Americans agree with the views of the popular resistance, even if they are not yet acting. This is a recipe for a mass eruption of movement activity. We are in the midst of the pre-history of historic transformational change: a transformation, which will end the power of money to ensure that the people and planet come before profits.
This article is produced in partnership with AlterNet and is based on a weekly newsletter for October2011/Occupy Washington, DC. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here. If you have actions you want to promote or report on write us at email@example.com.
Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC, co-direct Its Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Read other articles by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.Related Stories
Four years ago, President Obama gave a seminal counterterrorism speech in front of the Constitution arguing we “uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe.” Today, amid controversies over his Administration’s killing of American citizens in drone strikes, efforts to break hunger strikes by Guantanamo Bay detainees who have long been cleared for transfer, and seizures of the call records of national security journalists, Obama tried to reclaim those cherished values in his fight against terror.
In a speech at the National Defense University, Obama tried to redefine that fight and at least rhetorically end the war. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’”
In the speech, Obama proposed a number of policies that would return us closer to the values. He directed his aides to consider proposals—like a drone court or an additional Executive Branch review—to add oversight to targeted killing. He instructed Eric Holder to review Department of Justice guidelines “governing investigations that involve reporters” by July 12 (the only deadline in the speech). He even argued for the use of more foreign assistance rather than just military force in combating terrorism, though suggested people in both parties opposed such assistance.
Obama also promised to “engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing“ and threatened to veto any proposal that expanded this war. Obama has failed to make good on such veto threats in the past, and he made no mention of the Iraq AUMF, which remains in force two and a half years after the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq. So it remains to be seen whether his stated commitment to rework the AUMF will survive the political difficulties it has not in the past.
Obama’s most substantive proposals recommitted to closing Guantanamo Bay, a commitment that seemed to arise out of a focus on his own legacy. “[H]istory will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it,” he reflected. The President laid out the following plan:
I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system.
All of these proposals have been possible for the last four years (indeed, the State Department only got rid of its existing envoy to close Gitmo in January). Yet the constant concerns of the 102 Gitmo detainees hunger striking and a concern about legacy appears to have given Obama renewed urgency.
With this plan, Obama received applause from the audience.
The speech was weakest in its promise to reform the use of drones and other targeted killing. Obama announced he was sending new guidelines to Congress to govern “our use of force against terrorists” (while he was speaking about drones, he didn’t limit these guidelines to drones). His speech and the White House guidelines on it insists on a standard of “near-certainty” that the terrorist is present and that that no civilians will be killed” in the strike. That is an improvement off past practice, and those more rigorous standards may explain why there have been vastly fewer drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen this year (even while some of the strikes seem to violate Obama’s recommitment to capture targets whenever possible, rather than kill them).
But the guidelines include a good deal of wiggle room, such as on whether they apply only to Al Qaeda and associated forces or to terrorists more generally. It includes a significant reservation, asserting “these new standards and procedures do not limit the President’s authority to take action in extraordinary circumstances when doing so is both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.” And it commits to notifying Congress only when “a counterterrorism operation covered by these standards and procedures has been conducted.” Given that Senator Ron Wyden (D-WA) has asked for over a year for a list of all the countries we’ve used lethal force, it seems there may be lethal operations outside these guidelines.
The rollout of new guidelines suggests the Administration has answers (though a report today from the Daily Beast suggests the Administration doesn’t even know whether it will end strikes targeted at patterns, rather than individuals).
But in spite of all the lip service to new transparency, neither the President or his aides had answers for CodePink’s Medea Benjamin, who interrupted the President’s speech calling to remember Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year old American citizen son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed two weeks after his father in October 2011.
In Eric Holder’s letter yesterday declassifying the names of the four Americans we’ve killed with drones, he explained only that Abdulrahman and two others were “not specifically targeted.” In a briefing prior to the speech, a senior Administration official hemmed and hawed when asked about Abdulrahman, refusing to explain why he was killed. “I don’t want to get into the details of each of those instances. What I will say generally is that there are times when there are individuals who are present at al Qaeda and associated forces facilities, and in that regard they are subject to the lethal action that we take. There are other instances when there are tragic cases of civilian casualties and people that the United States does not in any way intend to target — because, again, as in any war, there are tragic consequences that come with the decision to use force, including civilian casualties.”
Obama, though, just paused while Benjamin cried out about the younger Awlaki.
Ultimately, he turned her ability to raise concerns about the teenager killed by a drone strike as another form of strength.
I’m going off script as you might expect here. The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. [Applause] Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said. And obviously she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.
Later, he even hailed Benjamin as he recited a list of Americans who represent resilience. “A citizen shouting her questions at the President.”
She may be resilient, but we still don’t have answers.
For all the answers Obama did offer today—some convincing, others not so much—ultimately some of the big questions remain.Related Stories
Whenever one of our cities gets a star turn as host of some super-sparkly event, such as a national political gathering or the Super Bowl, its first move is to tidy up — by having the police sweep homeless people into jail, out of town, or under some rug.
But Houston’s tidy-uppers aren’t waiting for a world-class event to rationalize going after homeless down-and-outers. They’ve preemptively outlawed the “crime” of dumpster diving in the Texan city.
“I was just basically looking for something to eat,” he told the Houston Chronicle. But, unbeknownst to both this indigent tourist and the great majority of Houston’s generally generous citizens, an ordinance dating way back to 1942 says that “molesting garbage containers” is illegal. In March, James Kelly, a 44-year-old Navy veteran, was passing through Houston on his way to connect with family in California. Homeless, destitute, and hungry, he chose to check out the dining delicacies in a trash bin near City Hall. Spotted by police, Kelly was promptly charged with “disturbing the contents of a garbage can in the [central] business district.” Seriously.
Also, in 2012, city officials made it a crime for any group to hand out food to the needy in the downtown area without first getting a permit. It’s a cold use of legal authority to chase the homeless away to…well, anywhere else.
Such laws are part of an effort throughout the country to criminalize what some call “homeless behavior.” And, sure enough, when hungry, the behavioral tendency of a homeless human is to seek a bite of nourishment, often in such dining spots as dumpsters. The homeless behavior that Houston has outlawed, then, is eating.
The good news is that when Houstonians learned of Kelly’s situation, many reached out to help him get through his hard times. Now they need to reach out to local politicos and get the city to stop cracking down on this abuse of homeless people.Related Stories
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The European Union is facing an increasingly severe crisis. The EuroMemorandum 2013 critically analyses recent economic developments in Europe and emphasises the need for an alternative economic policy. Neoliberal policies adopted by European and national authorities in response to the crisis have exacerbated unemployment and social hardship across much of Europe.
During Obama's speech on Thursday, CODEPINK's co-founder Medea Benjamin stood up to the president, demanding the closure of the prison at Guantanamo and the end of his killer drone program.
Benjamin shouted, as she was escorted out of the news conference:
"Can you tell the Muslim people that their lives are as precious as our lives?Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer."
After Benjamin was removed from the room, Obama said that he would go "off script," and address Benjamin, saying, "I'm willing to cut that young lady interrupting me some slack, because it's worth being passionate about ... The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to."
National CODEPINK coordinator Alli McCracken said, "We're glad he acknowledged [CODEPINK], but we want him to walk the walk. He's been talking the talk ... saying he appreciates nuances of these issues and that they're complex." But in the end, she said, CODEPINK wants the president to take action.McCracken said the organization had about 50 people protesting outside of the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., where Obama was speaking. Asked about the secret of getting Benjamin into these events, she said, "It's CODEPINK magic." Below is a video clip from Huffngton Post's political reporter Ryan J. Reilly of Benjamin being escorted out of the room. Related Stories
Do you want to know how cold it can get in Antarctica in midwinter? Go to a city council meeting in Greeley, Colorado, any time regulation of the oil and gas industry is on the agenda. You’ll get an idea. Last week, the room temperature felt near absolute zero from the iciness of the council’s reaction to citizen petitions to rein in industry designs on their neighborhood, a place called Fox Run.
What was up for debate was a proposal to approve permits for 16 horizontally fracked oil wells on a small parcel of undeveloped land, itself about 16 acres within the city. The 16 wells would be only 350 feet from the back door of some residences. These wells, according to the oil company, would be fracked four at a time, meaning the citizens of these neighborhoods could expect heavy industrial activity out their back door for up to three or four months a year, 24/7, over half a decade, perhaps. We’re talking literally tens of thousands of truck trips to deliver water, chemicals, steel pipe and a variety of heavy industrial machinery via a single point of ingress.
Envision, if you will, the Saturday afternoon barbeque, with the excited voices of children at play competing with the drone and earth rattle of drilling next door as unknown quantities of who-knows-what are spewed onto the festivities. This scene could be played out over and over again as money is made for the few and public health and social wellbeing are sacrificed by the many. That was the argument most often made by the homeowners.
Add to this that some local businesses would actually be only 200 feet from the wells. It happens that the man who owns the 16 acres for the drilling site also owns the street-front buildings in which these businesses are housed. They had all voluntarily agreed to the reduced setback, and no one suspected collusion in these robust economic times. As the owner said--employing small town, Daddy Warbucks logic--these people couldn’t tell him what to do with his land. That would be a takings, and he would have to be compensated, royally. In his mind, his individual rights were superior to the public’s.
His understanding is almost certainly wrong, for the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed over and over again that the protection of the public’s health and well-being is superior to property rights, but no use to talk to this scion of private-property-rights-uber-alles. The only thing keeping the takings assertion alive for the oil boys and rent-seeking land owners is that government refuses to look at the health implications of fracking systematically, even though a host of scientific and public policy leaders at all levels of government and academia are asking for them. The EPA is studying the impacts on water. A draft of this study is to be released in 2014, but the agency has scrubbed any analysis of air impacts as a result of oil industry pressure.
In the end, despite roughly 45 people speaking in opposition to the permit, and only about 7 in favor--four of them owners of the permits and the property involved--in an audience of about 150 people, the city council voted 7-0 in favor of the oil company and private enrichment over repeated calls for caution and deferral until the health impacts of fracking are better understood.
Of the opposition, many are homeowners in Fox Run, some are tearfully concerned about their children, all are concerned about the air impacts. A doctor, head of the pulmonary unit at the Greeley Hospital, tried to appeal to the council’s better angels. Another woman explained that Fox Run is home to two city-chartered apartments for the disabled, 40 units in all. These units were built with $4 million in public money from HUD. Ranging in age from 20 to 70, many of these citizens are wheel chair bound, and the majority use oxygen, in the newer unit all but one. The impacts on them might prove frightful she reasoned.
One person said she had heard the vote was rigged, it had already been decided, but she had come to the meeting anyway just to find out. Her intelligence would prove out.
Leading the charge for adoption was Mayor Tom Norton. Of stentorian voice, and coifed in surprisingly vivid auburn hair, he was in control, for, after all, he was used to a much larger stage. He had been president of the Colorado Senate during the heyday of former Governor Bill Owens. Owens fancied himself a Texas oilman and had the pickup and plates to prove it, though perhaps not the chin, but that too has been altered to fit his rough and ready oil patch persona.
Norton, himself an engineer, had risen to become Owen’s Director of the Department of Transportation, before retiring to Greeley, his longtime residence, and running for mayor. A family affair, Governor Owens appointed Tom’s wife, Kay, President of Northern Colorado University. It too is in Greeley. She still heads this university of over 12,000 students. Previously, she was a staff lawyer for Monfort Meat Packing.
This “private sector” experience she recently wrote caused her to take the lead in leasing 246 acres of mineral rights under the university to Mineral Resources, Inc., the same family oil company that was seeking approval for 16 oil wells that would run under Fox Run.
In glowing terms she described the Richardson family owners as our neighbors, much in the same fashion they had described themselves at the hearing. She went on to fancifully describe their oil business as “boutique”. She reasoned, too, that since city records showed the Richardsons already had leases to the mineral rights under most of the city, both public and private, a little more land couldn’t hurt and might foster orderly development.
She also wrote that the university considered student public health issues and, in her opinion, there was nothing to worry about. In fact, she effused, the state’s regulations would only get stronger and more protective of the students.
The idea of stricter regulation to protect public health was not what husband Tom argued last winter when the state was considering greater setbacks. The proposal, eventually adopted, increased the setbacks from 350 feet to 500 feet. But as Matt Lepore, the head of the state’s oil regulatory agency, the COGCC, said to the press, these regulations were not to protect public health, but to reduce noise and dust near homes, or more concisely, the anger factor in neighborhoods invaded by the industry. Lepore added that the state hadn’t really gotten its head around the health issues. This fiscally wasteful and cynically driven form of decision-making was recognized as dangerously flawed by COGCC Commissioner Holton who said in these debates:
“I just felt like we should wait until we get some good data, in order to make a decision. If it’s 100 feet, fine, if it’s 1000 feet, whatever. Basically it looked to me like we were just changing the rules because we could, and I don’t think that is a good idea.”
Norton speaking for the city council, felt none of these compunctions, he was worried about reduced revenues to the city if some areas were no longer available to the industry because of a 500-foot setback rule. After all he said, the city already has over 400 operative wells and with the potential for many more, new setbacks might “affect the $3.2 million in annual city revenue from oil and gas, and the $900 million of royalties projected over 25 years to Greeley…”.
Clearly, the Nortons see Greeley as a classic company town where public services are paid out of monopoly oil and gas revenues. Moreover, Mayor Tom and the council need not have worried because the COGCC and the Department of Public Health approved a setback of only 200 feet for businesses in the case at hand. The Richardsons, father and son, did admit under friendly questioning that the council needed to act quickly because the new setback rules, which become effective on August 1, would make their well oiled plans more difficult, perhaps requiring even more official variances.
Unknown to most in the audience was that Mayor Tom, only weeks earlier, dressed all in black, with resplendent auburn mane, had come to Denver to testify against HR 1275, the only significant piece of fracking legislation before the 2013 state legislature. It would have funded a one-year effort to survey reported health impacts from people living near fracking. Mayor Tom said it was unnecessary, that everyone was happy with fracking in Greeley, for revenues from fracking helped pay for public services. His testimony was seconded by the boldly feckless Dr. Chris Urbina, Governor Hickenlooper’s choice to head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. Urbina spoke against the bill because of the dangers of collecting medical data too hurriedly, as opposed to the dangers of collecting none at all, apparently. These two presumed representatives of the public provided the cover needed to allow state representative from Greeley, Dave Young (D), to vote against the measure, thus ensuring its defeat. Company town, indeed!
Greeley has suffered greatly from oil and gas development. Its attempt to deny drilling within the city boundaries back in the 1980s was met with one of those great, dunderheaded decisions that only courts can make. The Colorado Supreme Court, uninformed about geography, reasoned that oil and gas development was so important to the state that any attempt to deny the industry access to the city proper would pose a threat to maximum development. Colorado is 104,000 square miles in size. Greeley is 47. Couldn’t they do the math?
Consider, too, that most of Colorado is underlain by shale deposits, the ancient sea floor that is giving up its treasure to the industry through the “magic” of horizontal fracking. All the incorporated cities and towns in the state comprise about 1900 square miles, less than 2 percent of the state. Yet, it is this wrongheaded 1980s court decision that is allowing the oil and gas industry to invade cities at will across the state.
The testimony of the city planner, parrying the comments of the young attorney, Matt Sura, who had been hired to represent the homeowners, was straight out of Charles Dickens. Sura was masterful in pointing out the numerous holes and unanswered questions in the city’s evaluation of the 16 drilling permits. Chief among them was the unanswered question of the impacts of these wells on public health, particularly for those people living in close proximity to the wells. The city manager, with obsequiousness one might expect of a Uriah Heep before his betters, told the council that he thought the city had done a stellar job of answering all questions except the questions concerning public health. But said he, that shouldn’t concern the council since the public’s health was a matter of state and federal concern. It was not their responsibility.
Surely there can be no truth in the old notion that we deserve the government we get.
Crossposted on Tikkun Daily
From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the "drug war" and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):
This stark rise in private prison populations is partially due to increased contracts granted at the state and federal levels to behemoth prison companies such as Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These companies claim - against available data - that they can run corrections facilities at lower costs.
However, whether such companies can save governments money is not the central issue. What's at issue here is the corrupt, immoral dynamic that fuels such contracts: the concept of treating inmates as commodities that must be grown for profit.
Take, for example, the offer CCA made in 2012 to 48 states:
We'll purchase and manage your jails, and in return you [the state] must promise to keep the jails at least 90 percent full.
Such contracts provide incentives for local law enforcement to increase incarceration rates, rather than decrease them. In some instances, private prisons are grown not because crime increases, but because police harvest criminals as though they are a crop that must be stocked on the local shelves.
Additionally, for-profit prison companies engage in intense lobbying efforts that have been tied to many of our nation's most stringent sentencing guidelines, and lobby hard against the decriminalization of things such as marijuana.
The financial motive to engage in such lobbying was clearly detailed in CCA's 2010 Annual Report (as prepared by The Sentencing Project):
Such financial incentives to stock corrections facilities naturally leads to widespread corruption. Evidence of such corruption surfaced when two Pennsylvania judges were found guilty of selling juveniles to private detention facilities for millions of dollars. The "kids for cash" scandal, in which innocent children who should not have been locked up were sold for set amounts to the detention facilities, is shocking and harrowing.
However, even more shocking and harrowing is the fact that we have allowed free market pursuits to infiltrate our system of justice, making such scandals possible. When prisoners become products, we no longer have a justice system. We have an illicit marketplace. We have a corral.
America has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. And the private prison industry is a central driving force behind this. Add to this the staggering number of African-Americans locked up, and the private prison industry has essentially created a modern-day slave trade.
A trade that should never have been allowed to enter our criminal justice system in the first place.
Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG
When 20-year-old Sarah Smith got into an accident with a motorcyclist in 2008, it was nothing but bad news—she was driving with a suspended license. It got worse. When police showed up, officer Adam Skweres took Smith aside and implied that he could either make it look like the accident was her fault or give the other party a ticket. It depended on whether she’d agree to perform unspecified sexual favors. Skweres also threatened that if she told anyone, he’d “make sure you never walk, talk, or speak again,” and looked at his gun. That scared her enough that she immediately reported what he’d done to the police, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Another four years passed before the department arrested Skweres and suspended him without pay, and then only because he tried to rape a woman while on duty. By that time, Smith had moved out of the city for fear of running into him again. Three other women told stories similar to Smith’s, and on March 11 Skewers pleaded guilty to bribery, indecent assault, and other charges.
Stories of cops propositioning, harassing, and sexually assaulting women turn up every week around the country. February 18 saw the arrest of Houston officer Victor Chris for allegedly telling two women he would tear up their traffic tickets in exchange for sexual favors, according to the Houston Chronicle. Police chargedSergio Alvarez, an officer from West Sacramento, California, on February 25 with allegedly kidnapping and raping six women while on duty. On March 1, Denver cop Hector Paez got eight years in prison for driving a woman he’d arrested to a secluded spot and forcing her to perform oral sex.
“Police sexual misconduct is common, and anyone who maintains it isn’t doesn’t get it,” says retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, author of the book Breaking Rank.
Since no one is investing resources in learning how many victims are out there, we’re left with estimates and news accounts. As part of a 2008 study, former police officer Tim Maher, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, asked 20 police chiefs whether police sexual misconduct was a problem; 18 responded in the affirmative. The 13 chiefs willing to offer estimates thought an average of 19 percent of cops were involved—if correct, that translates to more than 150,000 police officers nationwide. An informal effort by the Cato Institute in 2010 to track the number of police sexual-misconduct cases just in news stories counted 618 complaints nationwide that year, 354 of which involved forcible nonconsensual sexual activity like sexual assault or sexual battery.
The news steadily filtering in from around the country has forced police leaders nationally to take notice. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women funded the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to develop a guide for police chiefs, issued in 2011, that encourages them to adopt specific policies in their departments to prevent police sexual misconduct. The DOJ funded the report after noting “recurring accusations of sexual offenses implicating law enforcement officers.”
Two years later, the IACP can’t tell whether its recommendations are making any difference.
No one keeps data on the number of victims of police sexual abuse, and the IACP says it can’t track the number of police departments that have adopted its recommendations. “We think there’s a good-faith effort by police departments out there to be more accountable,” says the IACP’s John Firman. But how would the IACP know, given that there’s no data on the number of victims or departments with such policies? Replies Firman, “Well, we could say the opposite—we don’t see a groundswell from people who are protesting their police departments for this kind of activity.”
If there’s no pushback, one reason may be that the victims fear retaliation. “Women are terrified and won’t come forward,” says Diane Wetendorf, an author and advocate who has worked with victims for many years. Even in cases that don’t involve cops, only about a third of rapes and less than half of sexual assaults are ever reported, according to a 2004 DOJ study. The number of women reporting sex crimes involving cops likely is far lower. “Can you imagine how much harder it is to report abuse by a police officer?” asks New York City civil-rights attorney Andrea Ritchie, co-coordinator of Streetwise and Safe, a program trying to change the city’s policing practices toward LGBTQ youth of color. One tactic of abusive cops makes that especially true—extorting sexual favors from women who fear they could be charged with a crime, in exchange for leniency. Victims think that if they report what happened, their favorable treatment will disappear.
Advocates say only a radical shift—stronger federal laws that force better oversight of local police departments—will prevent more cases like Sarah Smith’s. Ritchie, for example, wants to see the federal 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act—which established “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by prison and jail staff—expanded to apply to anyone in police custody, not just those in lockups.
States also need to communicate with each other about cops who have been fired or allowed to resign for sexual misconduct. That’s not happening now—only 34 states contribute to the National Decertification Index, first implemented in 2000. That database holds the names of officers who have lost their certification for any type of misbehavior, including sexual misconduct, which allows police departments that are hiring to screen out bad-apple candidates. But without a national database to which all states contribute, the decertification system nationally will never work as it should. “It’s just nuts that we haven’t come together as a society on this,” says Roger Goldman, a law professor at the Saint Louis School University School of Law who’s an expert on police-licensing laws and has worked for 30 years to convince states to contribute to the database.
Maher thinks it’s time to create a mandatory federal database. In 1996, in fact, Senator Ben Nelson and Representative Harry Johnston, both Democrats, introduced bills to create a national registry of officers whose certification had been revoked. Both bills died in committee, in part because opponents said there was a lack of evidence that unfit officers were moving between states, notes Goldman in a 2001 paper in the St. Louis University Law Journal. That was the last attempt of its kind.
Advocates like Wetendorf think the only way to change the boys-will-be-boys police culture is to hire more women cops. Today women represent about 13 percent of the force, and that figure is growing at less than half a percent per year, according to the IACP. A report last year from the Rand Corporation said police departments appear to be doing too little to recruit women into the force. It also found that police hiring tests may be biased against women and that police culture may be marginalizing and discriminating against woman officers. Meanwhile, female officers continue to file discrimination and sexual-harassment lawsuits and are winning the majority of them, according to the IACP.
Activists have tried to draw attention to the issue in international forums, says Ritchie. In December 2007, 38 organizations submitted a report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination documenting ongoing incidents of police sexual assault and harassment. They made the case that the federal government’s failure to address the issue violates its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The groups submitted similar reports to two other U.N. committees.
Local grassroots groups also continue to organize. After a woman accused two Chicago officers of sexually assaulting her in March 2011, the group Campaign Against Police Sexual Assault held demonstrations in support of her during the subsequent court hearings. In Oregon, the group Portland Copwatch monitors and documents incidents of local cops involved in sexual harassment and assault. And Ritchie says that after years of talking to New York City’s police department about the issue, the department has finally told her it’s open to a conversation about developing a specific sexual misconduct policy—which is particularly important in a city where young women are summarily stopped and frisked by male cops.
Without those efforts and more, what Stamper says is needed—“a profound, radical change in policing”—isn’t likely. And thousands of abusive cops will continue to intimidate and take advantage of women they’re supposed to protect.Related Stories
If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Especially if it involves math, the Treasury Department, and two disparate political camps championing two different economic doctrines that came of age decades ago.
So went the telling of the deficit story last week. Most of the media bought the notion that somehow the deficit had magically halved to $682 billion from around $1.1 trillion last year, based on not even examining the Treasury Department's own reports before promoting that gleeful and surreal conclusion.
When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that the deficit underwent some kind of Fastest Loser diet, Keynesian types were thrilled that their philosophy was validated. The magic number proved that government fiscal stimulus will ultimately boost the economy. (Leave aside that John Maynard Keynes was actually an asset manager and successful speculator.) Thus, budgetary cuts are not necessary.
Where there is truth to this (austerity never helped anyone but those not affected by it), ignoring the fact that certain federal fiscal stimulus plans were used as reasons to increase overall debt in the form of treasury securities that banks use as reserve to buoy the banking system—and thus the stock market—and not the general economy, does economics and more importantly, the country, a disservice.
On the other hand, the free-market types also considered this a triumph of their philosophy. By not overly regulating the market (score another one for watering down the already tepid Frank-Dodd Act), the economy is marching back to normal.
Again, this does their notion a disservice because a true free-marketer would be against the Federal Reserve propping up the treasury (and thus debt) market by buying lots of treasuries, and allowing banks to park more treasuries on their books to the tune of $1.5 trillion worth) and toxic assets (in the form of buying $85 billion of them from banks who had them rotting on their books allowing banks to free up space to speculate in other ways).
Those debates, in all their generalities, will continue on. Meanwhile, there’s the matter of what sparked the latest phase of debates over big vs. small (rather than Wall Street-coddling vs. population-stimulating). -the deficit figure, that number that measures what the government takes in vs. what it spends, and what it shows, is that neither bank stimulus nor populace stimulus has changed very much in the past three years.
First, a hat tip to Karl Denninger at Market Ticker for boldly going where much of the media seemed too complacent or clueless to go. According to Denninger, since September 28, 2012, “there has been a net $762.6 billion of new debt added to the federal balance sheet, not the $488 billion the Treasury Department claims.” In addition, Social Security and Medicare are almost $90 billion in the hole this year already.
He writes that Treasury’s own cash statement indicates that, “At the current run rate over the four calendar months … the deficit on a cash basis this year is $1.188 trillion” compared to $1.210 trillion last year, which is about the same. If you include figures through the end of April, that same run rate produced a deficit of about $1.307 trillion.
I was truly puzzled by the new figure and more so by how much of the media and various Krugmanites tend to lump all fiscal stimulus into a population helping category, without noting that certain forms help the banking system more than the population. To be sure, stimuli like extended unemployment programs help families make ends meet while seeking better opportunities, but programs like HAMP barely make a dent in peoples’ foreclosure-related problems, while enabling banks to benefit from more aggregate support.
What seemed odder is that the deficit has always been reported as the total of those debts/expenditures relative to revenues, and simple logic says that those debts/expenditures haven't dropped, and revenues haven't increased by what is reported near a $500 billion shift....
One is tempted (if one cared to probe for a nanosecond) to ask what the Treasury Department didn’t include, but its math doesn't work even if it didn't exclude anything. Take its own report, the Monthly Treasury Statement which compiles activity from the start of the current fiscal year (October 2012) through April 2013.
A very cursory look at this report clearly reveals some items that don’t actively support the report’s optimistic subtitle.
Take Table 1. The numbers show that there have been $1.603 trillion in budget receipts so far for fiscal year 2013 vs. $2.090 trillion in outlays. This indeed produces a value for a current deficit (outlays minus receipts) of -$487 billion.
The same table also shows there were $1.383 trillion in receipts for the same period in 2012 and $2.1 trillion (about the same as this year) in outlays. Combining those figures, we do get a comparative deficit this time last year of -$719 billion. Okay, so far, it's on point with the headline's cheer.
However, just below Table 1 comes some small print. The Treasury Department appears to have changed some accounting methods. The small print reads: "The deficit figure differs by $2.23 billion due mainly to revisions in the data following the release of the Final Monthly Treasury Statement." There’s no clarity about how those revisions changed numbers, and the changes are small in the scheme of things, so let’s raise an eyebrow and move on for now—to the good part.
Even if we pretend those changes don’t matter and even if the rest of this year's receipts come in 16 percent greater than they did last year (which on average is what this table is indicating so far), we'd still get a total of $1.603 trillion receipts plus an expected $1.234 trillion. That equals $2.614 trillion in total receipts for 2013. Remember that number for a moment.
Now, consider that even if the rest of this year's expenditures remain flat to last year's (like the first part of the year indicated), there would be $3.5 trillion in outlays for 2013. If we subtract that $3.5 trillion in outlays from $2.614 trillion in receipts, we get a total deficit of approximately $886 billion; certainly not the $642 billion the CBO recently announced.
But there’s more. There’s Table 2.
According to Table 2, those expenditures actually won't be flat, instead they will be higher, by about $184 billion, to reach $3.684 trillion.
Subtracting $3.684 trillion from $2.614 trillion, we get a total expected deficit of approximately $1.069 trillion—or about the same as it has been over the last couple of years—and again not the $642 billion that the media spread, and that Krugmanites consider reflective of fiscal stimulus working for the overall economy.
There’s a danger in working with numbers. They can be massaged and bent and faked and shrouded with suppositions. But, that’s not the case here. This is a case of simple addition and subtraction using Treasury’s own report. Doing so reveals a discrepancy between the recent headline deficit number and the one in the report. The issue here isn’t whether government stimulus works or not (nor how it was designed and who it really helps most beneath associated political rhetoric), but about why people can be so eager to be right about the nature of the forest, they ignore the fact that they are running smack into a tree right in front of them. Let’s at least agree about the tree, and move on from there.Related Stories
Modern conservative Christianity is obsessed with marriage, relationships, and sexuality to the point where these concerns crowd pretty much everything else out. Much of their obsession is directed towards trying to get the government to force you to live by their rules, but they also spend a great deal of time offering advice on these issues to each other. Unfortunately, most of their advice is utter garbage that puts prudery, unfair expectations, and strict gender policing over actual advice that can make your life better. Here are ten examples of evangelical advice that show how far adrift the Christian right advice industry is from the real world:
1) Be a better housekeeper to prevent cheating. Recently, Pat Robertson addressed a question that haunts many a woman who has a husband with a wandering eye: How to get past his cheating? Robertson all but told women not to worry their pretty little heads about their husband’s infidelities, suggesting that male infidelity in nigh-inevitable. He did, however, make some suggestions on how to minimize the straying: “What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.” On top of implying that clean floors and the smell of baking bread can prevent men from looking for strange women, Robertson asked women to sympathize with how hard it is for men, saying that they are “captured” by their sexual desires and it’s up to women to “get him free”. In general, Robertson takes the line that all problems in marriage are the fault of wives and never husbands. While most Christian advice-givers rarely go that far, most do adhere generally to the belief that keeping a marriage together is mostly a wife’s job.
2) Women need to submit to their husbands. Throughout fundamentalist Christianity, one piece of advice rings out above all others, which is that marriage only works if wives submit to their husbands. When speaking to outsiders, they often play it off like “submission” is just a bit of Biblical-language goofiness isn’t to be meant in the secular sense, but in practice “submit to your husbands” means exactly what it sounds like. Richard Strauss from Bible.org made it clear that women are to obey their husbands at all times, even when he’s being cruel. “Obedience is not to be practiced only when you feel like it, or when you wholeheartedly agree with your husband, or when he is treating you with Christ-like love, but in everything!” Michelle Duggar, right wing Christian icon and reality TV star, summarized some of the points of practicing wifely submission. She specifically singled out financial independence as something women should never have, saying, “Love is killed by self-sufficiency.” Sheryl Sandberg’s loving husband would be surprised to hear that!
3) How to make sex interesting in a Christian marriage. Conservative Christians are expected to abstain from sex until marriage, but for evangelicals, at least, as soon as you get married, you’re supposed to immediately drop years of prudish sexual avoidance and throw yourself completely into your intimate relationship. (Indeed, many proponents of wifely submission come down hard on women who are reluctant to have sex as often as their husbands want to.) In an attempt to overcome the obvious problems with these expectations, some Christians have created sex advice websites like Christian Nymphos, to get their readers in touch with those sexual desires they spent years repressing. Sadly, despite their best intentions, their advice is often the opposite of erotic. “Wake up each day, look in the mirror and ask Jesus to tell you what is beautiful about you,” they advise. Despite the winking permission to let yourself have some fun now that you’re married, Christian Nymphos can’t quite let go of the constant sex policing, either, particularly coming down hard on sexual fantasy, because it’s rarely “about a married couple enjoying each other exclusively, in a loving manner”.
4) If you’re gay, marry someone of the opposite sex and try not to think about it too much. While most people are familiar with the “ex-gay” movement that encourages people to try to turn straight, the new strategy is a bit more subtle: Encourage gay Christians to just live like they’re straight and ignore their real desires. Josh Weed, a gay Mormon married to a woman, is one of the most straightforward examples. He claims his marriage is better than ones where there’s sexual attraction, claiming that their sex life is “about more than just visual attraction and lust”, insinuating that a marriage without lust in it might even be better. Even the head of the infamous ex-gay organization Exodus International has embraced the “gay but not acting on it” line, having his wife write on their website that she doesn’t even want a heterosexual husband, because his lack of attraction to other women means “I am the only person he chooses to direct his attraction toward.” Marry a gay man and rest assured he won’t sleep with other women! It’s more foolproof than Pat Robertson’s advice to keep him at home with good housekeeping.
5) Men, do not masturbate. Women, either, I suppose, but most anti-masturbation materials on the Christian right focus on men and casually assume women don’t have the same urge towards hearty self-loving. To prevent themselves from masturbating, young men are encouraged to start “accountability groups” where they try to de-lust themselves, mostly by telling each other to think of Jesus when they’d rather think of boobs. (Unlike the Christian Nymphos, these groups understand that thinking of Jesus is not sexy.) But while there’s some small attempt to make men responsible for their own behavior, most of the attention on preventing male lust is given to young women, who are mostly told to wear more clothes.
6) If husbands want more sex, women should do everything they can to give it to them. Focus on the Family’s marriage counselor Juli Slattery is blunt about: Married men need sex, and so wives who aren’t providing enough need to step up. While she claims she isn’t trying to guilt trip women into having more sex, she argues that sex is a physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational need men have. (Though apparently not when they’re single and can’t even fill this need on their own time.) “You cannot love him as a husband but reject him sexually,” she says, suggesting that regardless of the hold-up, women whose husbands want sex more need to find a way to provide it.
7) However, if wives want more sex, they should learn to go without. Slattery has very different advice for wives whose problem is that they want to get laid more, but have unwilling husbands. While you should move heaven and earth to drum up more desire for a husband who wants more sex, if you’re the undersexed one, you’re instructed to tell yourself “friendship, seasoned love, and shared history are often enough to maintain a marriage in which sex is no longer possible”. Men who want more sex are entitled to wives who try to provide it, women who aren’t getting any are told to be happy with “forms of physical affection that don't involve the pressure of sexual intercourse, such as back rubs, holding hands, playful touching, and hugging”.
8) Men should not believe their partners who say they want abortions. While the Christian right doesn’t like to talk about it, plenty of Christian women want abortions, at about the same rate as other women. Anti-abortion activists then turn to men in an effort to prevent these abortions. Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center encourages men to disbelieve women who tell them they want abortions, instead saying the women were secretly “waiting for their boyfriends/husbands to stop them”, even if that means “rush through the door to rescue me and take me away somewhere safe”. Luckily for women who, generally, aren’t playing mind games by choosing abortion, most clinics have enough security to stop men who have crazed Christian right-induced white knight fantasies.
9) Handy tips to keep from screwing. The Christian right loves to chastise and scold the unmarried for having sex, but beyond a purity ring and encouragement to just say no, there’s surprisingly little advice to those who want to be abstinent on how to do it. What little advice there is out there is vague and useless. These ten tips on purity by Ron Hutchcraft at Christianity Today are typical. “You do not own the person you're dating,” he says, as if a feeling of ownership is necessary to feel desire. “That person belongs to God.” Knowing that kind of abstraction may not be that helpful, he also suggests not spending time alone with your dates, and “avoid French kissing and petting—anything that is sure to ignite the fires of passion”. Wait until you’re married, at what point you are expected to go from 0 to 60 in one night.
10) Be extremely paranoid about your teenager’s sexuality. Needless to say, parenting advice from conservative Christians is obsessed with the haunting fear that your kids are interested in sex, and no amount of guilt-tripping and shaming them for it will keep them away from it forever. Today’s Christian Woman recommends a Big Brother approach when teens bring dates home: “[T]here should never be a moment when they are alone without an adult in the house.” Turn your back for one second, and that’s the second penis slips into vagina! What Christians Want To Know recommends adding some thought policing duties to the pile. “What are you allowing your teen to watch on the TV or at the movie theatre?”, they ask. “Anything that has a rating now-a-days above “G” has sexual content.” History has long demonstrated that rebellion cannot be prevented by telling your teenager they can’t watch anything that’s not a cartoon produced by Disney. The frequency with which this useless tactic is recommended by Christians, however, suggests that playing censorship cops with your teen is its own reward.
The wide, weird world of Christian advice, when taken together, paints a grim view of what they expect out of love and sex. Mainly, it’s a world where men have very little responsibility in relationships, and women are given the job of doing most of the sacrificing and emotional work. The wedding ring is given almost magical qualities that are expected to turn nearly-asexual beings into hump monsters that nonetheless have no non-monogamous urges at all. One gets the impression that setting their followers up to fail---and therefore to turn to the church’s power for forgiveness and absolution---is the point behind all these impossible rules.Related Stories