The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

August 20, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for August 20th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for August 20th from 14:39 to 14:44:

August 19, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for August 18th through August 19th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for August 18th through August 19th:

August 18, 2014
by terrance
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Ferguson And The “War On Whites”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R, Alabama) recently accused Democrats of waging a “war on whites.” In Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown — an unarmed, 18-year-old, young black man —  was shot and killed by a police officer, there is no question against whom war is being waged.

If there is a “war” on, whites are winning.

  • Whites earn more. In 2012, the median income for white households was $67,000, compared to about $40,000 for blacks and Latinos.
  • Whites have more wealth. Median net worth for white households is more than $90,000 — ten times that of black and Latino households. The racial wealth gap has grown steadily, nearly tripling between 1984 and 2009. By 2010, whites held about 88 percent of the nation’s wealth. Blacks held just 2.7 percent.
  • Whites fared better in the recession. White household wealth fell 11 percent, between 2007 and 2009, compared to a 31 percent drop for blacks, and a 44 percent drop for Latinos. White household wealth dropped 16 percent in 2011, compared to a 53 percent drop for blacks.
  • More whites are homeowners. Whites are more likely to own homes and live in better neighborhoods. A Brown University study found that affluent blacks and Latinos live in poorer neighborhoods than working-class whites.
  • Whites are less poor.  According to census data, the white poverty rate is 11.6 percent, compared to 26 percent for blacks, and 23 percent for Latinos.
  • Whites have lower unemployment. Whites are about half as likely to be unemployed as blacks, while blacks are “first fired” when business or the economy is weak.
  • Whites are more likely to go to college. Whites are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college than blacks or Latinos. Meanwhile, 74 percent of blacks, and 80 percent of Latinos attend segregated schools; 38 percent of blacks and 43 percent of Latinos attend “intensely segregated” schools — with just up to 10 percent white students. A 10 percent increase of non-white students in any school is associated with a $75 decrease in per student spending.
  • Whites are less likely to go to jail. Black men are seven times more likely to go to jail than white men. Whites use drugs more, but blacks are arrested for drug possession three times more often than whites. Black men also receive prison sentences 19.5 percent longer than white men, for similar crimes.
  • Whites experience less discrimination. Only about 10 percent of whites surveyed said they’d faced racial discrimination. Young white men with criminal records are more likely to be hired than young black men with similar qualifications and clean records. Black job applicants are often turned away by companies for having a “black- sounding name,” or on the assumption that they use drugs.

What white Americans have lost is primacy — a sense of being primary, preeminent, or more important than any other group. In a 2011 interview, anti-racist author Tim Wise said that white Americans are reeling from cultural and economic changes. Taught that they would be rewarded if they worked hard, many are now working harder for less, or finding themselves in the unemployment line with blacks and Latinos.

Economic insecurity is compounded by demographic trends. As the country becomes more diverse, more of its icons — political leaders, celebrities, and sports heroes — are people of color. For whites, America’s face is no longer a reflection of theirs. They no longer define the American identity.

Republicans have appealed to the economic and racial anxieties of their predominately white base to win elections. The recession made that even easier. A recent New York University study shows that economic disparity “enhances discrimination and contributes to racial disparities,” as  it makes people more racially biased.

Ferguson’s 94 percent white police department resembled an occupying force, as it confronted a 67 percent black community with weapons of war. The paramilitary gear came from the Department of Defense’s excess property program, which provides surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies. Since 1992, the program has given $4.3 billion in military equipment — $450 million in 2013 alone — “free of charge,” to law enforcement agencies that say they’re part of a “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,” on a one-age form. The “free” surplus gear is paid for out of a bloated defense budget, funded by taxpayers.

Angela Blackwell Glover has suggested that the businesses partnering with President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, should open their workforces to young black men, with internship and fellowship opportunities that open up career paths, and lead to jog opportunities. Unemployment among black men ages 16 to 19 is over 33 percent, compared to 18.9 percent among white youth.

Glover’s point underscores that our government has neglected to invest in jobs and education in communities of color. Young blacks and Latinos will play an important role in our economic future. Yet most contend with segregated, poorly funded schools, while America spends $4.3 billion on “surplus” paramilitary gear, and then gives it away. If we had invested even a fraction of that $4.3 billion in education, job training, etc., how great a difference might it have made by now?

Instead, police officers suit up for war, disproportionately treat black citizens as the enemy. Last year in Ferguson, 92 percent of searches, 80 percent of car stops, and 94 percent of arrests following car stops were of blacks; even though police only found contraband on 22 percent of blacks they stopped, compared to 34 percent of whites. Confronted with the same police force in riot gear, black protestors erupted in anger, and Ferguson’s police put their share of $4.3 billion in paramilitary gear to use.

No wonder Rep. John Lewis (D, Georgia), who has seen racist police violence up close, compared the violence in Ferguson to the violence he and others faced during the Civil Rights era. The same fears, anxieties, and resentments that drove violence generations ago are still with us today. The evidence is in our streets.

August 18, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for August 14th through August 18th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for August 14th through August 18th:

August 15, 2014
by terrance
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Wingnut Week In Review: Speaking Ill Of the Dead

Two tragic events this week gave right wingers an opportunity to show some humanity and decency. As usual, wingnuts did not exactly cover themselves in glory. Instead of rising to the occasion, they sank to new lows.

Most Americans were sad to learn that beloved comedian and Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams took his own life earlier this week. Within minutes of the news, the web was full of tributes. Williams’ fans and colleagues alike remembered his talent and kindness — even as the world learned that Williams’ had struggled with severe depression of late.

Not everyone was so kind. It’s been considered socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead sinceChilon of Sparta admonished “Demortuis nilnidi bonus” (“Of the dead say nothing but good”) around 600 BC. That didn’t stop wingnuts from chiming in less than 24 hours after Williams Death.

If we tallied up who brought the most joy to the most people in his life — Rush Limbaugh or Robin Williams — it’s safe to say Williams would win hands down. As for Limbaugh? Well, comedian Lewis Black said it best.

The country was rocked midweek by the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a police office in Ferguson, Missouri — where the population is 67 percent black and the police force is 94 percent white. Brown’s death came less than a month after Eric Garner — another unarmed black man — was allegedly killed by an NYPD officer’s use of an illegal chokehold. Brown was the second unarmed black man killed by police this week, after Ezell Ford was allegedly shot by LAPD officers  while he was lying on the ground.

Brown’s death set off angry protests in Ferguson, which police met with paramilitary force, and constitutionally questionable treatment of protestors and journalists. Naturally, that set wingnuts off.

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowrey, in a CNN interview after his release, invited Scarborough to put down his latte and come down to Ferguson and do some actual reporting.

Here’s the rest of the best of the worse in wingnuttery this week:

August 14, 2014
by terrance
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Blink, And You’ll Miss The Latest “Libertarian Moment”

The latest “Libertarian Moment” is upon us, and will expire once it runs headlong into its own inherent shortcomings and the reality of a populist majority. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

Robert Draper, in the New York Times, asks “Has the Libertarian Moment Arrived?”, and answers by asserting that “the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms” is poised to become a political “wild card.” Turned off by the Iraq war, “reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles,” and appalled by NSA-style invasions of privacy, Draper claims that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 — also known as Millennials —  are uncommitted to either major party, and thus are ripe to be lured into libertarianism. Continue Reading →

August 12, 2014
by terrance
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Re-post: Coming Down Fast: The Manson Murders’ 40 Year Aftermath, Pt. 2

Editor’s note: This weekend was the 45th anniversary of the Manson Family murders. Five years ago, reflected on the 40th anniversary, how the story of the murders ignited a lifelong interest in “true crime” and criminal psychology, and how my own experience changed my view of the events, the victims, and the killers. I am re-posting the two-part series I wrote on the 40th anniversary of the crimes.

iii

Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer…

“Helter Skelter,” The Beatles

His name was Jason. I didn’t remember that right away, but I remembered him. As I closed the book on Dennis Rader and asked myself how people could sit right next to a murderer like him — or like any of the others whose deeds I’d been reading about — and not now it … I thought about Jason. I hadn’t for a long time.

He was, when I knew him, a fairly ordinary guy. I didn’t know him well, and we weren’t close friends. He was part of my social circle in college, for a while. Most of the time, I’d see him in the dining hall, where some of us who had a break in classes at the same time would gather for lunch. Or I’d see him when roughly the same group got together for dinner in the dining hall.

I don’t remember how he came to be a part of the group, which was randomly assembled. He may have been someone’s roommate. Perhaps he had a class with someone in the group, or attended the same high school, or came from the same hometown.

He was average height or maybe a little shorter, kinda skinny, brown hair, blue eyes. He had a nice smile, and a somewhat deep voice. I might even have briefly thought he was somewhat cute, before moving on to crush on some other guy.

Anyway, he was straight, so I likely dismissed the notion quickly. He dated one young woman in our group, for a while. They eventually broke up, but I don’t remember any drama about it. He still hung out with the group afterwards.

Most of all, I don’t remember anything that stood out about him. He wasn’t violent, as far as I remember. He was mild-mannered and quiet, but friendly. I don’t remember anything about him that suggested he would ever be likely to murder anyone.

Like I said, at first I couldn’t even remember his name. But I remembered him. More than that, I remembered his victim’s name.

Continue Reading →

August 11, 2014
by terrance
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Re-post: Coming Down Fast: The Manson Murders’ 40 Year Aftermath, Pt. 1

Editor’s note: This weekend was the 45th anniversary of the Manson Family murders. Five years ago, reflected on the 40th anniversary, how the story of the murders ignited a lifelong interest in “true crime” and criminal psychology, and how my own experience changed my view of the events, the victims, and the killers. I am re-posting the two-part series I wrote on the 40th anniversary of the crimes.

Not every evening, but several times a week — after the kids have gone to bed — there comes a moment when my husband reaches for the television remote and declares that we we will now “watch something in which no one is  murdered.” I chuckle, but I don’t object, because by then he has already indulged my penchant for the “True Crime” television genre.

On any given night, there will be at least one viewing of Dateline, 48 Hours, Deranged, Most Evil, Cold Case Files, Crime 360, The First 48, True Crime, American Justice, Dominick Dunne: Power, Privilege and Justice, Crime Stories, City Confidential, The Interrogators, Notorious, or Forensic Files. Maybe any two of the above. Then my hubby commandeers the remote and it’s either HGTV, DIY, The Food Network, or Logo.

Can’t say that I blame him. But it wasn’t until the first time he made that announcement that I realized I’d had a longstanding fascination — more than half my life at this point. —with crime stories. It was something I took so much for granted that I didn’t notice how much I watched the shows above or others like them. It wasn’t until just recently that I thought about where, when and how it got started.

Continue Reading →

August 8, 2014
by terrance
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Wingnut Week In Review: Rand On The Run

Sen. Rand Paul turned tail and ran away when confronted by undocumented DREAMers. But the GOP has a “Latino problem” it can’t run from, and right-wingers seem determined to make it worse.

Sen. Paul was with fellow-Republican Rep. Steve King in Iowa when undocumented DREAMers Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas confronted King on his immigration stance. King stood his ground, but Paul dropped his burger and scampered away. Sen. Paul later explained to Fox News that he wasn’t running away. He just suddenly had somewhere else to be. Right away, obviously.

Continue Reading →

August 6, 2014
by terrance
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The “Perfect Storm” Behind Toledo’s Toxic Tap Water

On Saturday morning, 500,000 Toledo, Ohio, residents woke to an urgent warning that their tap water could make them very, very sick. Toledo’s water crisis is over, for now, but the “perfect storm” that created it rages on.

Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted the tap water ban on Monday, but that doesn’t mean Toledo residents — or the other 11 million Americans get their drinking water from Lake Erie, or the 25 million who live near Great Lakes — can rest easy. The factors that caused the crisis remain unaddressed.

Why couldn’t Toledo residents trust their tap water? The culprit is a toxin called microcystin, released by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.

Microcystin is pretty nasty stuff.

  • It causes stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, and fever if ingested.
  • It can cause severe liver damage.
  • It causes rashes, hives, and blisters on skin.
  • It’s been known to kill dogs and other animals.

Boiling water doesn’t kill microsystin. It just concentrates the toxin.

Blue-green algae has been around for 3.5 billion years. Why is it suddenly a problem? Actually, there’s nothing sudden about it. Toxic blue-green algae has been a growing problem for 10 years. The algal bloom troubling Toledo isn’t even very big. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released satellite images of algae blooms on Lake Erie stretching all the way from Toledo to Cleveland, and beyond.

Pollution, conservatism, corporate lobbying and climate change created a “perfect storm” for the algae that poisoned Toledo’s water.

Pollution: Like the classic horror movie mutants of the 1970s, the big green monster that poisoned Toledo’s water is a product of pollution. Scientists blame an overload of phosphorus, caused by runoff from agricultural pollution.

Farming operations have grown, along with the use of manure and new chemical fertilizers containing water-soluble phosphorus. A rise in no-till farming, leaves more fertilizer on top of untilled soil, where it can easily runoff into Lake Erie and other Great Lakes.

About 63 percent of Erie’s watershed is used for agriculture. An Ohio state government task force found that Erie received more phosphorus than any of the Great Lakes — 44 percent of the total for all the Great Lakes. Two-thirds of that phosphorus came from farmland.

Conservatism: In the 1960s, Lake Erie was so polluted with industrial waste and sewage runoff  that it was considered “dead.” Local officials were embarrassed into cleaning up their act, Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, and by the late 1990s Lake Erie showed signs of returning to health.

Current problems underscore the Clean Water Act’s limitations. The Act was designed to regulate pollution from fixed points, like industrial outflows and sewer pipes. Today’s agricultural pollution is spread out over thousands of miles. Addressing agricultural pollution the Clean Water Act doesn’t cover has fallen to the states.

On the federal level, conservatives have limited the government’s ability to regulate agricultural pollution. The Supreme Court questioned the scope of the Clean Water Act. In a 2006 ruling, the Court limited regulators’ ability to protect wetlands — which filter out phosphorus before it reaches lakes — and other waterways not directly connected to streams covered by the Act. Republicans in Congress have blocked an effort to expand the Clean Water Act’s authority, claiming it infringes on private property rights and threatens farmers.

Republican-led state and local governments have done little or nothing to regulate agricultural pollution. Ohio governor John Kasich signed legislation to certify farmers who use phosphorus fertilizers. The voluntary program doesn’t start until 2017, and stops far short of mandating restrictions on phosphorus fertilizers.

Corporate Lobbying: Corporate money is now an invasive species in our politics. Agriculture and fertilizer are big businesses, involving big profits. Some those profits are spent on lobbying against federal legislation, and campaign contributions to lawmakers who can be counted on to oppose federal regulate of the industry. Monsanto, one of the largest fertilizer manufacturers, has spent  $6,940,000 on lobbying, and $542,218 on contributions in this election cycle. Koch Industries, which includes Koch Fertilizer has spent  $10,430,000 on lobbying, and $2,217,643 in campaign contributions.

Monsanto is a major client of the Fertilizer Institute, the lobbying arm of the fertilizer industry and agricultural interests that oppose efforts to restore some of the Clean Water Act’s authority. The industry has also fought against limits on fertilizers on the state level; including lawn fertilizers in Florida, and overall pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. In Missouri, the agriculture and fertilizer lobby is advocating a “right to farm” initiative that serve as a legal tool for states to block new regulations.

Climate Change: Conservatives say it doesn’t exist, but climate change is an important factor. Longer, hotter summers combine with phosphorus levels to create ideal conditions for algae growth. Increased water temperatures cause more blooms to grow, and helps them last longer.

Climate change is predicted to increase in rainfall. The midwest has seen a 37% increase in rainfall since the 1950s. Heavy rainfall is expected to increase along Lake Erie’s shores in the next century, becoming four to five times more common by 2100. That means more phosphorus pouring into the lake.

The storms stir up the water, bringing more algae to the surface, and moving it around. The bloom that troubled Toledo wasn’t one of the biggest, but winds and waves pushed it closer to shore, and right into water system intakes, instead of pushing it to the middle of the lake.

Invasive Species: This is good news for zebra and quagga mussels, two invasive species that were introduced into North America in the late 1980s, when they were picked in the ballast water of ocean-going ships, and introduced into the Great Lakes. They’ve spread to 29 states by hitching rides on riverboats moving between the Great Lakes.

Both zebra and quagga mussels on algae, but neither can digest microcystin. So they expel the toxin, thus increasing its concentration.

Toxic tap water will continue to plague Toledo and other cities until we reduce pollution, by reviving the kind of clean water rules that brought Lake Erie back from the brink before. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency joined state water authorities in issuing “An Urgent Call To Action,” to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie. So far little action has been taken.

At the Monday press conference announcing the end of Toledo’s tap water ban, Mayor Collins drank a glass of tap water, to emphasize its safety. It made for nice “optics,” but until our elected official place a higher priority on public health and safety than satisfying corporate donors, Americans can’t even trust the tap water in our own homes.

August 5, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for July 31st through August 5th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for July 31st through August 5th:

  • Why I’m for the Brady Bill – The current level of gun violence must be stopped. Sarah and Jim Brady are working hard to do that, and I say more power to them.
  • Did the NRA Know About Robert Dowlut’s Reversed Murder Conviction? – For all its bluster, the National Rifle Association also knows how to maintain a disciplined silence in the face of uncomfortable questions. Most notably, it went to ground in the wake of the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, resurfacing after a few days with bland talking points, followed by Wayne LaPierre's assertion that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that in the week since I published an investigation into the complicated past of the NRA's top lawyer, the gun lobby has not responded.
  • 4 groups of people conservative “compassion” is hurting – Paul Ryan's idea of "help" is doing irreparable harm to immigrant children, women who want abortions and more
  • Robert Reich: The Ivy Leagues are a ludicrous waste of resources – The former secretary of labor on the myth of "paid-what-you're-worth" and how our money can be better spent
  • Fox News Quiet After Congressional Report Finds No Benghazi Scandal – Fox News has gone silent on Benghazi amid reports that the House Intelligence Committee concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Tea Party Hatred Of Obama Has Always Been About Race. ‘War on Whites’ Philosophy Confirms This. – The recent comment by Republican Congressman Mo Brooks about "the war on whites that's being launched by the Democratic Party" is the latest example of such racially charged hyperbole and highlights a political platform within the Tea Party. The Tea Party and staunch GOP conservatives have overtly proclaimed, in many instances, that President Obama's heritage should be verified and his motives questioned. Most importantly, the first African-American president has been painted as opposing the interests of white people, and while Glenn Beck has stated this verbatim, this sentiment has been a cornerstone of Tea Party politics.
  • This is what happens when you elect a Republican. Don’t elect a Republican. by @DavidOAtkins – San Diego recently had a hard-fought mayoral election after Mayor Filner resigned in disgrace. The Republican won, though the city's demographics are slowly shifting in the other direction.

    This is the result.

August 4, 2014
by terrance
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“Equal By Comparison” Is Not Equality

Jessica Valenti makes an excellent point about a common right-wing tactic for arguing against equality:

I’m wary of broadly painting Western women as universally less oppressed than others – there are actually many ways the US lags behind other countries on women’s rights, like political representation, corporate power and parental leave – but it is true that American women have more legal rights than women in some other countries. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women aren’t allowed to drive. In Afghanistan, a woman can go to jail for leaving her abusive husband. Brazilian women can’t access abortions, nor can women in Ireland. According to a 2011 UN report, 127 countries don’t explicitly outlaw marital rape.

But is that really the standard by which people want to judge equality? So long as we have the right to vote, drive, go to school and work, American women should shut our mouths and be grateful to American men for allowing us to have that much?

The righteous fight for bare minimums doesn’t have much of a ring to it. The goal of feminism is justice – not to just be better off than other oppressed women. There’s no such thing as equal by comparison.

All out uganda infographic v4 9

This is very similar to a common argument against LGBT equality in this country. I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone, usually a conservative opposed to LGBT equality in the US, say “You should go to so-and-so country, where those people are ‘really oppressed.’ Then you’d appreciate how good you have it here already.”

Mind you, now we know that this is often said by people who are involved in movements that export to other countries the kind of oppression they’d LIKE to impose on us back home. The draconian anti-gay laws in Russia and Uganada are prime examples of the role of the extreme religious right in the US directly influencing extreme anti-LGBT laws. So, they have a direct hand in creating the oppressive. (Uganda’s laws was recently struck down by the courts on technical grounds, leaving the door open for the country’s parliament to pass it again.)

Like Jessica Valenti said, righteous fight for bare minimums doesn’t have much of a ring to it. We’re not fighting just to be better off than people who are oppressed elsewhere. There is no such thing as equal-by-comparison.

It’s a common right-wing tactic to try and change the subject, by asking “Why aren’t you talking about this instead?” Usually “this” is something going on in another country. But I think with the laws in Russia and Uganda, we’ve see that fighting for equality isn’t an either/or question — as in either here at home, or some other country. 

(Via The Guardian World News)

August 1, 2014
by terrance
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Wingnut Week in Review: Nutso?

Image via DonkeyHotey @ Flickr.

Image via DonkeyHotey @ Flickr.

House Speaker John Boehner called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s idea for passing immigration reform “Nutso.” Maybe Boehner hasn’t taken a good look at his own party. Then again, who can blame him?

No doubt Boehner was stinging from his latest humiliating defeat. House GOP leadership had to pull their border crisis bill, after conservative media came out against it, and kowtowing to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the tea party failed to win enough votes to pass it. Reid tweaked Republicans earlier this week, when he suggested that the Senate could pass immigration reform by tacking it on to whatever the House passed on the border crisis. So it had to hurt when Reid rubbed salt in the wound by teasing the GOP for urging the president to act on his own on the border crisis.

Still, if Boehner really wants to see “nutso,” he only need look at his own party — and its base — for the best of the worst in wingnuttery this week.

Continue Reading →

July 31, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for July 25th through July 31st

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for July 25th through July 31st:

July 25, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for July 18th through July 25th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for July 18th through July 25th:

  • Paul Ryan’s Faux Populism Isn’t Going to End Poverty or Reduce Inequality – Paul Ryan’s fellow Republicans are quick to dismiss Elizabeth Warren as too radical, too progressive, too populist.

    But Ryan is trying—a bit clumsily, but trying all the same—to borrow a page from the Massachusetts senator as he seeks to remake himself in anticipation of a potential 2016 run for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s talking about poverty, about inequality, about shifting the focus away from meeting the demands of corporations and toward meeting the needs of Americans.

  • The Politics of Parenting: How Our Society Criminalizes Poor Mothers of Color – When 46-year-old Debra Harrell was arrested July 1 for leaving her daughter unattended at a public park, she joined the ever-increasing ranks of poor mothers of color who are criminalized.
  • U.S. Weighs Refugee Status For Honduran Youth Displaced By Armed Conflict – The Obama administration is weighing giving refugee status to young people from Honduras as part of a plan to slow the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, White House officials said Thursday.
  • Ryan “Opportunity Grant” Proposal Would Likely Increase Poverty and Shrink Resources for Poverty Programs Over Time – A centerpiece of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new poverty plan would consolidate 11 safety-net and related programs — from food stamps to housing vouchers, child care, and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) — into a single block grant to states. This new “Opportunity Grant” would operate initially in an unspecified number of states. While some other elements of the Ryan poverty plan deserve serious consideration, such as those relating to the Earned Income Tax Credit and criminal justice reform, his “Opportunity Grant” would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised, for several reasons:
  • The Crisis in Black Homeownership – In 2005, three years before the Great Recession, the median black household had a net worth of $12,124. Yes, this was far behind the median white household—which had a net worth of $134,992—but it was a huge improvement from previous decades, in which housing discrimination made wealth accumulation difficult (if not impossible) for the large majority of African-American families.
  • The Christian right’s obscene, defining hypocrisy – Evangelicals urge children to "convert or go to hell" and still accuse *liberals* of indoctrinating America's youth
  • How Did the GOP Turn Into Such a Bunch of Clowns? – For a lot of reasons, the current era will probably be seen as unusually consequential in the history of the two parties, particularly the GOP. For Republicans, it has been a time of ideological hardening and bitter infighting. But one aspect of the Republican dilemma hasn't gotten as much attention as those: This is a time of unusual, even stunning, Republican political incompetence.
  • Editorial: Pope Francis and the Bishops Who Hid Pedophile Priests – Pope Francis needs to hold accountable the bishops who covered up sexual abuse by priests, and a good place to start is the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese.
  • 9 sinister things the Christian right does in the name of God – Hobby Lobby isn't alone. Evangelicals routinely manipulate the Bible's teachings to serve their political agenda
  • Must-see morning clip: Colbert slams Fox News for pretending to care about child refugees – "It's a tough love…or a very soft hate"

July 22, 2014
by terrance
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What I Learned From My Minimum Wage Job

Sen. Rand Paul mocked President and Mrs. Obama for wanting their daughters to experience working for minimum wage. My own experience taught me “the value of work,” and to value the workers for whom earning a paycheck isn’t always fun, stimulating, or fair.

In a Parade magazine interview last month, President and Mrs. Obama said they wanted their daughters to experience working for minimum wage, to  “get a taste of what it’s like to do that real hard work.” President Obama added that there is value in learning that “[G]oing to work and getting a paycheck is not always fun, not always stimulating, not always fair. But that’s what most folks go through every single day.”

Continue Reading →

July 21, 2014
by terrance
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America’s Border Crisis of Conscience

Sixty bodies lie in a heap on the floor of a morgue that receives the corpses of children under 10 and as young as 2. It’s the body count for just one day, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. How can we in good conscience send children back there?

We just did. The first planeload of mothers and children has returned to San Pedro Sula — the most violent city in the world, in the most violent country in the world. The murder rate in Honduras is the highest of any country in the world, at 90.4 per 100,000 people. In San Pedro Sula, the murder rate is 169 per 100,000 people – nine times the murder rate of Chicago. Every day, more children are among the dead.

Continue Reading →

July 17, 2014
by terrance
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Arrested for Being Too Poor To Afford Child Care

Debra Harrell was trying to do the best she could. Harrell lives in North Augusta, South Carolina, and has a nine-year-old daughter. She works at McDonald’s. During that the school year, Harrell’s daughter has some place to go during the day. Harrell can go to work, assured that her daughter in a safe place.

Harrell can’t afford to put her daughter in daycare during the summer. So she started taking her daughter to work with her. It wasn’t an ideal solution for either of them. For a 9-year-old, sitting in McDonald’s for hours is mind-numbingly boring. Harrell couldn’t leave her daughter home alone without  constantly worrying about the child’s safety. Besides, it’s illegal

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July 14, 2014
by terrance
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Digest for July 7th through July 14th

Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for July 7th through July 14th: