Nel's New Day

May 9, 2014

Campus Rape a Serious Problem

Three University of Oregon basketball players–Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, and Brandon Austin—won’t be charged for alleged sexual assaults in March, because ”the crimes cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Patty Perlow in Lane County. The victim said that the three males raped her repeatedly.  Dotson had been suspended from a game earlier this season after trying to use a fake ID to get into a bar, and Artis was out of  the first nine games of the season for selling team-issued shoes in violation of NCAA rules. Austin transferred to UO from Providence College (Rhode Island) after suspension following allegations of sexual assault.

This is another ugly chapter in sexual assault on college campuses across the country. U.S. politicians promote a culture of rape through their laws that concern themselves with a definition of “forcible rape” or refer to a pregnancy caused by rape as a “gift from God” or biologically impossible from “legitimate rape.”

UO officials haven’t explained why they didn’t immediately begin investigation into the March 9 assault when they were alerted, as mandated by federal law. The campus was not notified about the assault, as UO has done in cases not related to athletes, and the report does not appear on the UO police crime log. Eugene police notified UO of its completed investigation on April 8, but university officials did nothing until April 24, well after the three accused basketball players were able to play in the NCAA tournament. The vice-president of student affairs is now blaming criticism from the UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence’s for deterring the students from coming forward.

This is part of a pattern across the country, but students are starting to fight back, filing Title IX, Title II, and Clery complaints against a number of universities. The Clery Act, named for Jeanne Clery who was raped and murdered in her dorm room by a fellow student, requires higher institutions of learning to report crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, and use of a date rape drug.

The federal government has released the names of  55 colleges and universities that they are investigating for  mishandling of sexual abuse complaints. One of these is the University of Southern California that classifies sexual assaults on campus as “injury response” so that they don’t have to report attacks to the LA Police Department. A year ago, USC campus police told Ariella Mostov, who filed a sexual assault report, that she had not been raped because her attacker did not orgasm. They explained, “Even though his penis penetrated your vagina, because he stopped, it was not a crime.”

Two Republican and 10 Democratic members of Congress have requested that the US News & World Report college ranking report include a rating for the handling of sexual assault on campus. Critics claim that such action would further underreporting of this crime and shaming of victims to keep them quiet. Twenty percent of women experience sexual assault while in college, and six percent of men have the same experience. The victims know 90 percent of their rape perpetrators. One study, however, found that 95 percent of college sexual assaults are unreported. Only 20 to 25 percent of men found guilty of sexual assault are expelled from college. Their punishment might be writing a research paper.

Studies indicate that colleges reporting a low level of campus rape are those that discourage victims from reporting. These campuses are likely to have rapists continuing to offend. In contrast, victims are taken more seriously and rapists face real consequences at schools with relatively high numbers of reported rapes. A study by Safer and V-Day found that almost one-third of schools surveyed don’t meet even the minimum reporting standards of the Clery Act such as anonymous reporting, transparent and just judicial hearings, prevention programs, and definitions of “sexual misconduct” requiring students to practice affirmative consent.

A reason for concealing sexual assault at colleges is the search for funding. Higher education relies on private money, and institutions count on good public perception to make money. Private donors and businesses have less interest in funding schools with problems of violence. Much of the money comes through the jock culture that encourages sexism and violence, and college sports programs frequently use women to attract athletes.

At the same time that a group of women are suing the University of Connecticut because of their failure to follow Title IX, the state legislature has passed a bill against campus sexual assault. Requirements for all state colleges and universities:

  • Immediately provide concise, written notification to each sexual assault victim regarding their rights and options under the school’s policies following an assault.
  • Accept anonymous reporting of sexual assaults.
  • Enter into a “memorandum of understanding” with at least one community-based sexual assault crisis center and one community-based domestic violence agency to make sure sexual assault victims can access free and confidential counseling and services on or off-campus.
  • Create a campus resource team to review school policies to make recommendations for services to students and employees who report being sexually assaulted.
  • Provide more prevention programs, with an emphasis on encouraging bystanders to intervene.

Gov. Daniel P. Malloy has not yet said if he will sign the bill, but it passed unanimously in the state Senate.

Testifying against a rapist is a horrifying experience for the victim of sexual assault. A common attitude in the country was demonstrated by a contractor’s tweet on “Sexual assault is always avoidable.” Criticism caused Gov. Deval Patrick to call the tweet a “dumb mistake” and have it taken down. The sentiment, however, remains: a victim of sexual assault should be sober, dressed conservatively, and stay out of “dangerous” places. Society advises women to protect themselves from rape by not drinking, but nothing is ever said about men avoiding alcohol so that they don’t rape others.

Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University junior, was raped by another student, but the man, accused by two other students of sexual assault, avoided any sanction. Harvard officials failed to act after a male student raped a young woman living in the same dormitory. Kimberly Theidon, an anthropology professor at Harvard, claims that she was denied tenure because she spoke out against sexual violence on campus and supported women who came forward with allegations.

Wagatwe Wanjuki filed a complaint at Tufts University in 2008 after two years of rape and abuse by an ex-partner, also a Tufts student, but the only action that the university was to expel her. She and another victim of sexual assault at Tufts had published a telephone number with this information: “We think rape is bad. We will help you. Call these numbers if you’re raped.” Expulsion for rape victims who insist on justice is not uncommon.

Wanjuki was awarded some justice six years later when the Education Department found Tufts to be in violation of Title IX, writing that the school has mishandled complaints of sexual assault and harassment. It has the option to terminate federal funding for the school, yet Tufts refuses to follow Title IX law. Wanjuki is now an organizer with Know Your IX, a group to educate students about their rights under Title IX.

At the end of April, the White House released a report from its Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The goals are identification of the scope of the problem, prevention, and improvement of responses of universities and the federal government. Instead of using statistics about occurrences, the report suggests a “climate survey” to find students’ awareness of and attitudes toward sexual assault on campus. The problem with this approach is how to detach it from the college’s profit motives.

Title IX can be a useful tool to combat the prevalence of sexual assault on campus. provides information about protections for students under this federal law. A 52-page document from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights provides additional information. Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand and some of her colleagues propose a database of all Title IX and Clery Act violations. Other ideas to increase students’ protection from sexual assault:

  • Colleges themselves must be held responsible for changing their culture of rape.
  • Students found guilty of sexual assault must, at the least, be expelled.
  • Students must have access to mental healthcare, safe housing, and rape kits that are actually processed.
  • The Education Department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn’t comply with the law.

The University of Oregon is just one of many campuses that can be part of the problem or part of the solution. The university’s president said today that the three accused players will never play for the Ducks again.  University President Michael Gottfredson also said the university is appointing an independent panel to take a closer look at sexual violence and harassment on campus as well as recruiting practices at the university.

On another note, Oregon men’s basketball head coach Dana Altman said, “I am very disappointed in the three young men.” Just “disappointed”?

May 8, 2014

Is Rick Perry Smarter Wearing Glasses?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is worried about me. I found that out when he talked on Sunday’s Meet the Press about his “family … the “90 million people that are out of work.” What he doesn’t know, however, is that in April the United States had 9.8 million unemployed people—a horrifying statistic but 80.2 fewer people than Perry cited.

Rick Perry

The Bureau of Labor Services did show 92.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 15 who were “not in the labor force.” I’m one of those because I retired several years ago. And I don’t plan to look for a job. Perry doesn’t need to worry about me.

I’m in good company: 36 million other people are 65 or older. Another 11 million teenagers, age 16 to 19, are unemployed—not looking for jobs. In the 20- to 24-year-old catgory, 6.8 million people, many of them still in college, aren’t looking for jobs. The rest are stay-at-home parents and/or spouses, early retirees, people who may have inherited money, and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be officially “unemployed,” someone without a job had to make an effort to get one within the four weeks before the BLS survey. Right now the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, evenly divided among those who haven’t looked for employment in the past year and those who have searched for work in the past year but not in the past four weeks.

Of those 9.8 million people, 6 million are actively searching for jobs, and 2.2 million are “marginally attached” to the labor force, those who looked for work within the past year and not the past four weeks. Others are “discouraged workers” who quit looking for jobs because they think there’s nothing available.

Perry leftPerry is also worried because “there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history, that’s just not right.” He’s correct: it’s not right. It’s the lowest rate since 1988, but the women’s labor force participation is almost twice as much as it was in 1948. Just like the overall labor force participation rate, the percentage of working women peaked in early 2000 and declined after that because the country’s population is aging. The decline is expected to continue because of that reason.

If Perry wants to worry, he should consider employment in his home state of Texas. Although he boasted about 95 percent of Texas workers earning above the minimum wage, the state was tied for first with Mississippi in 2010 for the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage. At that time, 9.5 percent of people in Texas earned at or below minimum wage. By 2013, Texas got better, moving to fifth worst among 50 states with the percentage dropping to 6.4. States with higher percentages are Tennessee (7.4 percent), Idaho, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Perry, however, is worried only about the “maximum wage,” not the minimum wage.

The appearance on Meet the Press—and the new glasses—are just part of the governor’s attempt to reinvent himself for the 2016 election after the gaffes of 2012. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel, traveled out of the country, and appealed to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He even spent some time at MSNBC with Joe Scarborough.

The “oops” times of cuddling a bottle of maple syrup in Vermont and the inability to remember three items—a traditional check for Alzheimers—might disappear if he had figured out how many people in the country are unemployed. That’s not likely to happen with comedians like Jon Stewart tracking such moments like the ones on last night’s The Daily Show. About Perry’s transition to a wiser man, Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant, said, “The margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12.”  Last night he did.

His current problems may not be as serious as those for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who closed an important bridge and failed to spend a large percentage of funds for Superstorm Sandy after over a year, but he’s still being investigated by a grand jury. He wanted to unseat Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and thought that he could succeed after her arrest for drunk driving. She refused to quit, and, as punishment, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public-integrity unit that traces fraud and corruption.

The Texas GOP has put the dismantling of the Public Integrity Unit into its platform for over three decades. One of its cases was the criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay for money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. Getting rid of Lehmberg would also mean that Perry could have named her replacement.

Lehmberg’s office was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, a pet project of Perry’s, when he decided that she had to go. Eighteen scientists, including the Nobel laureate director, had resigned in protest from the multibillion-dollar agency, claiming that investment decisions were made without scientific review with tens of millions of dollars going to Perry supporters and donors for their business ventures. A pending case concerns the indictment of an agency executive for an improperly awarded $11 million grant.

Prosecutors only need to show that Perry offered considerations in return for actions by District Attorney Lehmberg for him to be determined guilty of breaking a state law. A Travis County judge said that Lehmberg was told that funding would be restored, even after the veto, if she resigned. Grand jurors could easily see this behavior as bribery or coercion. Last year Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint for alleged abuse of power. That grand jury’s term expired, and a new one has been seated.

Technically, a guilty charge would put Perry in a worse position than Christie because obstructing justice is determined worse than blocking a thoroughfare. Unless, of course, the federal government discovers that Christie offered favors in exchange for Superstorm Sandy funds.

perry 1

Perry’s latest move is to pay Toyota $40 million to move from California to Texas. That’s $10,000 for each job, the highest rate of corporate welfare in a decade. The last time Texas was in fiscal trouble, Perry used billions of dollars in federal money for a bailout. His refusal to take Medicaid, however, stops him from using that solution again.

Humorist Andy Borowitz wrote, “With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters.” Perry forgot the second suggestion.

Decisions for both Christie and Perry may decide the fate of Jeb Bush. With them out of the way, the GOP might be forced to consider a third Bush for a presidential candidate.  But then Rick Perry can stop worry about me.

May 7, 2014

Climate Change Naysayers Won’t Face Facts

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:51 PM
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The release of a scientific report on climate change yesterday has brought out the naysayers, who are working hard to keep people from being educated.  Bill Nye, who debated Kenneth Ham about a variety of issues including climate change, went on CNN Crossfire to talk about the existence of global warming. Ham may be remembered as the founder of a state-supported museum in Kentucky that purports people and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

Although the debate was supposed to be with conservative Nicholas Loris, host S.E. Cupp joined Loris in bashing global warming. She accused Nye, co-host Van Jones, and President Obama’s administration of using “scare tactics” against the public regarding climate change. Both Loris and Cupp used the tired argument that only 97 percent of scientists agree that human driven global climate change is real.

Bill Nye is a scientist; Cupp and Loris aren’t. Loris works for the Heritage Foundation, leader of the climate change denying that is funded by the Koch brothers. Among the wealthiest people in the world, the Kochs oppose any belief in human-caused climate changed to keep adding to their vast wealth. Their money comes from polluting industries that plunder the earth’s resources. Heritage Foundation would lose substantial donations if they didn’t present Nye as an alarmist with the goal of destroying Big Business.

Loris tried to take the middle ground by saying:

“I’m not a denier, I’m not a skeptic. What I’m saying is, climate is changing—yes, man-made emission are in some part to that—but we haven’t seen these extreme weather event trends. The observed data doesn’t prove that.”

He ignores the extreme high temperatures, droughts, floods, and super storms across the United States within the past few years. The following map shows a frightening increase in temperature.

temperature increase


Paying attention to the facts of climate change, however, detracts from his bottom line that he thinks regulations would hurt the nation’s economy. He may have missed the following paragraph from the NCA report:

“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York and native peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”

Other changes identified in the NCA for just the Northeast:

Sea levels are eight inches higher on average–in the Northeast, a foot higher—changing the frequency of coastal flooding. This compromises the aging infrastructure along the Northeast coast such as I-95, railroads, electrical substations, and wastewater treatment plants.

Downpours from intense storms have a 70-percent increase since the middle of the last century.


About 40 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than before the Industrial Revolution warms the planet, changing the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and causing the expanding oceans to rise.

In response, New York City is considering such possibilities as elevating the critical infrastructure, raising homes, expanding wetland areas, planting more trees, and putting in cooling centers for times of heat waves. Maine is expanding the size of drainage pipes to accommodate heavier rainstorms.

At one point, Cupp argues that only 36 percent of people in the United States think that climate change demonstrates a negative impact. Nye answered:

“How do you want to get public consensus? By saying that it is not happening? That is not serious? That shorelines aren’t flooding?”

He asked Cupp and Loris what would change their minds about the threat posed by climate change. Loris answered better science—which can be found in the NCA. Nye pointed out that he and Cupp didn’t agree on the facts, but she interrupted him to blame the “science guys [who] attempt to bully other people. Nick here had to say, ‘I’m not a denier.’ He had to get it out: ‘I’m not a denier.’ Because really, the science group has tried to shame anyone who dares question this, and the point I’m trying to make is, it’s not working with the public.”

By “public,” Cupp means Republicans. Last fall, only 50 percent, probably because of the misinformation from CNN and Fox,  said there was solid evidence of rising temperatures on earth. At least that’s down from 59 percent in 2006.   Jon Huntsman, GOP presidential candidate in 2012, wrote for The New York Times:

“If Republicans can get to a place where science drives our thinking and actions, then we will be able to make progress. Republicans need to get back to our foundational roots as catalysts for innovation and problem solving.”

The public may start worry when they run out of water. The following maps don’t even consider the loss of water to the ever present fracking.

water stress use this oneThe public response to climate change most likely comes from the ignorance that is spewed on conservative networks. George Will said on Fox network that is no evidence for the increase in extreme weather.

Always looking for a conspiracy, Fox network suggested that the climate report, a legally-mandated document, might be intended “to distract Americans” from the “multiple scandals swirling around the administration.” Another co-host of the program repeated Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) claim that the climate change report is “part of the game the president is playing” to distract Americans from “his unchecked regulatory agenda.” Fox always attributes any news other than the conservative-manufactured scandals to a cover-up. Other presidential “distractions,” according to Fox, are efforts to reduce  income inequality, reform filibuster, and change immigration policies.

Like human rights, climate change comes down to a vote. Limiting human rights may not be constitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that a vote of the people in Michigan is good enough to eliminate affirmative action. If enough people don’t agree that something should be done about climate change, then the United States should just let the planet disintegrate, according to conservatives.

One small victory for slowing down climate change came from a recent Supreme Court decision. Much to the amazement of most people in the nation, six justices supported an EPA policy to regulate power-plant pollution cross state lines. According to SCOTUS, states such as Connecticut and New York can be protected from Rust Belt and Appalachian states blowing soot, smog, and other toxins in the west-to-east winds. Justice Antonin Scalia said the regulation was Marxist, but he was one of only two voting against the decision, the other—of course—being Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself.

May 6, 2014

White House Releases Climate Change Report

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:39 PM
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Loss of food and water, oceans pouring over cities, increased violence—these were some of the issues that the most recent United Nations report on climate change and the disasters that it will cause if people don’t do something to mitigate this disaster. Most people didn’t pay attention, and conservative media pooh-poohed any problems. Today, however, the White House has released a report on climate change in the United States in 2014—right now! Fox network will undoubtedly ridicule it, but this is what’s happening in our own backyard. That may make people a bit more nervous.

At 840 pages, the National Climate Assessment compiled by over leading scientists and experts—academics, businesses, and non-profit organizations, etc.,–shows that climate change is a present-day danger. A coalition of 13 federal agencies prepared the report detailing consequences of climate change on human lives such as health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture, and weather.

The biggest threats are drought and wildfires in the Southwest; heavy downpours and flooding in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains; and sea-level rise, especially in Miami, are the biggest threats in the United States. People living near the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska, as well as on inland rivers in those areas, will see more storm surges. In Alaska, the rapid thawing of permafrost is wreaking havoc with the state’s infrastructure.

The average temperature in the country has increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 with more than 80 percent of that rise since 1980. The last decade was the hottest on record in the nation, and temperatures are projected to rise another 2 degrees in the next few decades with an even greater increase in northern latitudes such as Alaska. The increase in temperature has been slowed because the oceans have absorbed the increase in heat, but it cannot do so forever.

The report divides climate impacts into 10 geographical regions: Northeast, Southeast and the Caribbean, Midwest, Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest, Alaska, Hawai’i and Pacific Islands, Oceans, Coasts.


  •  The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Some of the increases in the extreme weather and climate events in recent decades are related to human activities.
  • Human-induced climate change will continue and significantly accelerate if global emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase.
  • Impacts related to climate change, already evident in many sectors, will become increasingly disruptive across the U.S. throughout this century and beyond.
  • Climate change threatens human health and well-being, caused by more extreme weather events and wildfire, decreased air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water. It can also increase mental health problems.
  • Infrastructure is damaged by sea level rise, heavy downpours, and extreme heat and will only increase.
  • Water quality and water supply reliability are jeopardized in ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods.
  • Increasing climate disruptions to agriculture will become more severe throughout this century.
  • Climate change poses particular threats to Indigenous Peoples’ health, well- being, and ways of life.
  • Ecosystems and the benefits are being overwhelmed by extreme events such fires, floods, and severe storms.
  • Warmer, more acidic ocean waters adversely affect ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems, and marine life.
  • Current implementation efforts to plan for adaptation are insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and economic consequences.

Federal law requires the publishing of such a document, and this is the third time that it has happened.  The other reports were in 2000 and 2009. This is the first time, however, that the conclusions have been this dire.

Longer and hotter summers with shorter and warmer winters are causing more severe seasonal allergies, a change in thriving plants, and the types of birds that are seen. If global warming continues, water may not pour out of taps when they’re turned on, the lights won’t always go on when the switch is flipped, transportation will be more of a problem with transit outages, and food will be harder to find.

Today President Obama held interviews with eight TV meteorologists about the report. A 2012 Pew Research poll found that 89 percent of Americans rely on local television for their weather news and that 62 percent of them trust weather reporters on climate change far more than they do climate scientists. Unfortunately, in 2010 only 19 percent of these “weather people” believed that climate change is human caused. Charles Homans at the Columbia Journalism Review said, “Meteorologists live in the short term, the day-to-day forecast”—making them less prone to buy into long-term models.

On the Fox network, Dana Perino, now chief scientist and former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush, distilled the conservative attitude:

“Tomorrow, President Obama is going to do interviews with meteorologists all across the country about a new climate change report. I hope they ask him about Benghazi. Like, the weatherman from Montana should ask him about Benghazi. That would be great. I dare you.”

At the interviews, ABC News’ Ginger Zee asked the president about the Nigerian terrorist group that claims to have kidnapped 270 girls, Megan Glaros of CBS This Morning brought up the Keystone XL Pipeline, and several played with the White House’s two dogs. In contrast, Jim Gandy, a South Carolina CBS local weatherman, said, “The science has spoken, our world is warming.”  We need more Gandys!

The complete report is available here.

May 5, 2014

Piketty Highlights U.S. Oligarchy

A study released almost a month ago officially proclaimed the United States as an oligarchy, replete with fraud and wealthy people controlling the country. Since then, Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the 21st Century, has sent shock waves throughout the country, continuing to pit conservatives against progressives.

Piketty has studied income equality since 1991 in both the U.S. and at least 30 other countries. His research shows how the climbing income share of richest U.S. households led to the top one percent taking 22.5 percent of total income, the highest figure since 1928. To Piketty, capital is anything that generates monetary return from real estate to patents and stocks.

In the 1950s, the average CEO salary was 20 times as  much as the typical employee. Last year CEOs made an average of 331 times as their workers. Apple’s Tim Cook made 6,258 times as much the wage of an average Apple employee in 2011.  The next year, Walmart’s CEO made 1,000 times the average Walmart worker. In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world,” Piketty writes.

In the 1950s, the rise of the income tax for the wealthiest to 90 percent and estate taxes to more than 70 percent on the largest land holdings meshed with minimum wages and encouragement of trade unions to produce far less wealth inequality. Spending heavily on infrastructure boosted GDP growth, and firms kept senior executive pay in check. Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan cut government expenditures, decimated the unions, and slashed tax rates on the wealthy. Now the bottom 40 percent is in debt while the top one percent owns more than 35 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Piketty’s solutions anger conservatives. He recommends a tax of over 80 percent on the wealthiest, those with annual incomes over $1 million. This tax would limit the destructive activities of Wall Street traders and investment bankers. He also suggests a one-percent levy on households worth between $1 million and $5 million, increasing the levy to over two percent for greater net worth.

GOP leader Rush Limbaugh referred to the author as “some French socialist, Marxist, communist economist.” Limbaugh missed the part in which Piketty, as a reasonable scholar, pointed out the fallacies of Marxist analysis.  Piketty argues that capitalism does not necessarily reduce inequality, as other economists and even the Pope have already said. The few accumulate capital when growth is slower than the rate of return on capital. The opposite movement results in “dis-accumulating.” Companies can replace workers with machines in times of slower growth, meaning that the owners will acquire a greater share of the income with unequal distribution of that capital.

Conservatives claim that a social safety net compensating workers with tragically low wages allotted by “markets” bolsters their income. This “transfer” system is much less in the United States than in other developed nations. Another conservative response is that redistribution in the U.S. is more difficult because of lower government revenues. If they believe that a better transfer system would help inequality, they need to put more money into the safety net. Nobody on the right, however, is arguing for this solution.

Another conservative argument is that consumption is equal between the bottom and the top fifths of households in the United States. It’s part of the “but they have cellphones” complaint from the right. The spending from the bottom fifth comes from debt, proving that wealth inequality is increasing: the poor go farther into debt, and the rich acquire more wealth. The recent increase in credit car debit comes from unemployment, children, declining home value, and lack of health insurance. The bottom 90 percent can’t save their incomes to establish a net worth.

saving rates comp. wealthy poor

Conservative economists such as Milton Friedman could afford to regard capitalism as an effective way to maintain income equality. Born in 1912, he did much of his work in the Golden Age of income and lived in the top 10 percent of income. The Reagan era built the coffin for a prosperous society. The following chart on shows the shifts in income inequality throughout the last century.


In the 1990s, President Clinton dropped the regulations on Wall Street, setting in motion the economic disaster excerbated by George W. Bush when he spent like a drunken sailor on wars and drastically reduced taxes for the rich. With almost no control on investment banks or regulations on borrowing, the country lacked resources to save itself from the Great Recession of 2008. The conservatives took over in 2010 and used their philosophy of not spending money to further reduce GDP growth. The solution to Bush’s disaster was increase spending and demand, but conservatives, especially the 2010 crop of Tea Party congressional legislators, depressed demand and thus depressed the recovery.

When the U.S. Supreme Court protects businesses against the rest of the population, they may be following the Constitution. In the early 1900s, historian Charles Beard wrote that the document’s authors wanted to favor wealthy merchants and plantation owners against laborers and small farmers. A primary author of the Constitution, James Madison, believed that government’s main goal is “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” With a philosophy that “the property of landed proprietors would be insecure if elections were open to all classes of people,” he controlled the number of voters to six percent of the U.S. population. The first chief justice of the US Supreme Court, John Jay, believed that “those who own the country ought to govern it.”

The current Roberts court has sided with business 71 percent of the time compared to the 43 percent during the time under former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger between 1981 and 1986 and in 56 percent of cases decided during William Rehnquist’s tenure as chief. Carefully managed elections give voters a choice of candidates chosen by the corporations and the billionaires. Nomi Prins, a former managing partner at Goldman Sachs writes:

“With so much power in the hands of an elite few, America operates more as a plutocracy on behalf of the upper caste than a democracy or a republic. Voters are caught in the crossfire of two political parties vying to run Washington in a manner that benefits the banking caste, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is sitting in the Oval.”

The result is the Trans Pacific Partnership, a secretly negotiated trade agreement written by 600 corporate advisers; the attempt to do away with net neutrality and free transmission of data on the internet; and lack of criminal prosecutions for Wall Street regulation violations. Corporations like Monsanto defraud farmers and damage the health of people who suffer from their pesticides and GMOs. The Affordable Care Act, while helping many people, still enriches the insurance industry. The Keystone XL Pipeline comes ever nearer to completion so that wealthy companies can destroy the country’s resources in order to sell oil out of the country. The self-appointed militia is still terrorizing people in Nevada. And every minute the income inequality grows.

With the loss of income inequality comes the loss of rights—freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, voting rights, access to the internet.

May 1, celebrated last week, has many different meanings. It was originally a pagan celebration of spring and then commemorated the working class. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions declared that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” Employers who refused could be faced with strikes and demonstrations. On that date, over 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses walked off their jobs.

Frightened by a celebration of labor and bolstered by prejudice, the GOP declared May 1 as “Americanization Day” by 1921. In 1958, Eisenhower named May 1 as “Law Day,” and the Congress then changed “Americanization Day” to “Loyalty Day” when people are to affirm “loyalty to the United States.” The changes were meant to “suppress the celebration of May Day.” Adding to the multitude of “celebrations” this year is that the “National Day of Prayer,” designated on the first Thursday of May, also fell on May 1.

I live in one of the few towns that still celebrates “Loyalty Days” with a royal court, parade, and carnival. Last weekend I looked out my window at heavy wind and rain that may have ruined a bit of the “loyalty” fun and thought about the people who sacrificed their jobs and lives so that the middle class and the poor of the United States could have better lives. They deserved better from their efforts than the condition of the United States today. Thomas Piketty’s book on the growing income equality of the country may bring people closer to the tipping point where they refuse to accept the status quo of oligarchy.

May 4, 2014

GOP Moves U.S. toward Theocracy

Last Thursday, the fundamentalist Christians got their chance to strut their stuff on Capital Hill as James Dodson, founder of the Focus on the Family, repeatedly called President Obama “the abortion president” during the ceremony on the National Day of Prayer. Part of his rationale, as he explained to Megyn Kelly on Fox network, is that he believes contraception to be equal to abortion. Two years ago, the Dodsons used the National Day of Prayer Task Force, established by George W. Bush, to pray that President Obama would lose the election.

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) called Dodson’s speech a “10- or 15-minute rant against President Obama.” Fed up with his statements, she told him that his speech was “completely inappropriate for this day.” and walked out. Hahn is the co-chair of the weekly congressional prayer breakfast.

Four of Iowa’s GOP candidates for U.S. Senate all want only judges—and that includes on the federal level—with a “biblical view” of justice, according to a debate organized by The Family Leader, a far-right religious group. One judge who follows the biblical directive can be found in Alabama. Only Christians are protected by the Constitution, according to Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore at the Pastors for Life Luncheon:

“Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship. Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

Moore gave custody of a child to an abusive man instead of the mother because she is a lesbian. He has already been removed from this position for using tax-payer money to install a 2.5 ton monument of the Ten Commandments outside the state’s supreme court building. Moore said that the monument should remind people “that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.’” It was removed only after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled a fee of $5,000 every day until Moore complied. The other judges decided not to spend the money and had it taken down.


SatanA seven-foot statue of Satan in Oklahoma is still in limbo as the legislature can’t figure out what to do. Insisting on putting up a Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in 2012, lawmakers had to agree that other religious monuments could also be placed there. The Satanic group has raised $30,000 and released a mock-up of the final statue.

Women have had the right to vote for fewer than 100 years in the United States, but history-revisionist David Barton thinks they don’t deserve the right. The Christian conservative who founded Wallbuilders, the organization to destroy separation of church and state, claims that society and culture is destroyed by women voting. His rationale is that husband and wife are “considered one” which means that they have only one vote—naturally by the husband. Could his reason be that women tend to lean toward the pro-family Democrats who support education, domestic violence/sexual assault laws, healthcare, equal pay, family planning, etc.?

One candidate for president has a good idea—capping CEOs’ and sports’ coaches’ pay at $300,000 a year, but his plans go south from there. Darrell Trigg also wants to form a new political party, the Christian Party, because it is God’s will that he will “be the next President of the United States of America.” In that way he can take the country back to Christian principles and lead millions to a personal relationship with God. Obviously that would require getting rid of the separation of Church and State and make Christianity the official religion. His platform includes forcing schools to teach the Bible and have prayer at the beginning and ending of every school day. Other controls over people are subject matter of TV shows and Internet content.

Oklahoma may have that curriculum even without Trigg. Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby, has provided an elective curriculum to the state’s Mustang School District this coming fall. Those public schools will teach “Museum of the Bible Curriculum”; Green hopes that his curriculum will be in hundreds of schools by 2016 and thousands by 2017. The Supreme Court thinks that the curriculum is just fine, according to Abington School District v. Schempp. Someday, Green said, teaching the Bible in high school “should be mandated.”

The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee has passed a measure mandating the teaching of creationism and sent it to the State Board of Education.

The way to get around the Constitutional block on teaching Christianity in public school is to get rid of them. That’s Ray Moore’s idea. The GOP candidate for South Carolina’s lieutenant governor wants all the state’s public schools replaced with those run by churches. His reason is that the Bible doesn’t advocate for public school education. According to Moore, public high schools are “the Pharaoh’s schools”; putting 25 to 35 percent of the public school children into the church-run schools would force South Carolina to dump its public education system.

Average cost for religious private school education is about $8,549 a year, but that issue didn’t enter into Moore’s plans. Ray Moore has company in Texas. The GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick thinks that public schools there specialize in left-wing indoctrination.

After Georgia passed a law allowing guns anywhere except in the state Capitol, there is one place where people can be safe from weapons—Catholic and Episcopal churches. The law allows religious leaders to determine whether guns can be permitted in churches. These two denominations have decided that their churches are not the places for guns.

Most of the time, the disappearing veil between church and state benefits evangelical Christians who want to force the United States into become a theocracy. More sensible religious groups have argued that the First Amendment also protects religion in the U.S. When North Carolina passed Amendment 1 in 2012, one of the provisions was to fine ministers and put them in jail if they married anyone without a legal state marriage license.

North Carolina is the first state in the nation to criminalize clergy for their choices in expressing their religious faith. The law is so vague that even blessing a marriage could be considered a criminal act. The United Church of Christ (UCC) church, founded in North Carolina in 1748 and with over 150 congregations in the state, is suing for its religious rights. Three UCC ministers have been joined by two Unitarian Universalist clergy, one Lutheran pastor, one Baptist minister, and one rabbi as plaintiffs in the case that includes eight couples they seek to marry.

sarah palin

In an act once thought to be impossible, Sarah Palin has gone too far in her vicious rhetoric. She was rewarded by a cheering crowd at the NRA/NRAAM annual meeting when she said, “If I were in charge, they would know that water-boarding is how we baptize terrorists.” However, Faithful America, an organization founded to combat the hatred and violence from far-right Christians, started a petition in opposition to Palin’s message:

“This is what we’ve come to in America: A former candidate for vice-president can equate torture and Holy Baptism, and one of the nation’s most powerful political lobbies erupts into cheers and applause. As usual, Palin’s remarks are already making international headlines, once again portraying Christianity as a religion of hatred and violence. But this time, let’s show just how many Christians are appalled by Palin’s twisted misrepresentation of our faith.”

Even conservative Christians are shocked—shocked, I tell you—that a Christian would endorse torture as a Christian method of punishment. They skipped the chapters in history about Christians burning heretics and Jews during the Inquisition, destroying Native American religion, and whipping slaves to evangelize them in not-so-long past in the South.

I guess we’re lucky that Sarah Palin isn’t in charge. And let’s do something before the country becomes the United States of a Vengeful Christian God. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt citied four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom to worship as the person prefers; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. Let’s regain these freedoms.

May 3, 2014

Bundy’s Militia Takes Away Freedom, Liberty

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:39 PM
Tags: , , ,

Freedom and liberty—that’s what gun lovers who want to curl up with cold metal at night call unfettered gun ownership. These are the same people—mostly men—who want to leave their guns readily available for children to kill their siblings so that they feel safe from the imaginary intruders. The same ones who accidentally drop their guns in coffeehouses so that other people are accidentally injured. The same people who pull out their guns at any offense in someplace like a pizza place or outside a 7-11 so that they can shoot, and sometimes kill, anyone who they perceive as insulting them.

Recent events in Nevada show serious problems from uncontrolled gun ownership. After federal officials rounded up some of rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle on public property because he refused to pay his grazing fees for the past 20 years and lost at least two court cases in connection with his theft, the Wild West standoff continues. Bundy’s cry for help from self-appointed militia on the sympathetic Fox network brought over 1,000 heavily armed far-right extremists to his aid. The BLM agents backed off to avoid violence, and the gun-totin’ folk proudly claimed a victory. Yet they won’t leave.

Conservative media and political leaders also claimed victory—until the 68-year-old rancher opened his mouth. His opinions about black people extended to the claim that they were better off in picking cotton in slavery. Former supporters such as Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Paul (R-KY), who had called Bundy a “patriot,” decided they had better fish to fry and let their spokespersons bail them out of the mess. Sean Hannity now avoids any mention of the man who was prominently featured on his program for several days.

Range Showdown

intimidating Bundy called for the militia, and the people living near Bunkerville are left with the mess. The militia set up checkpoints on public land and demanded IDs, requiring proof that people live in the area before they pass through. The armed militia members roam along highways and roads as well as churches and schools. Afraid of them, the people of the community have asked their U.S. representative, Steven Horsford, for help because they don’t feel safe.

In fighting among the different armed groups is also causing danger. The Oath Keepers, a radical right-wing group, reported being afraid of the Bundy security guard who said they’d shoot deserters in the back. At the same time, Oath Keeper member Mike Vanderboegh, also leader of the militia group Three Percenters, warned that the country is “staring a civil war in its bloody face.” As he held up a skull, he told a story about an Alabama woman who killed federal agents who supposedly murdered her family during the post-Reconstruction era and used their skulls as a soap dish. Vanderboegh then said that he would give the skull to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as the “2014 Award for Incitement to Civil War” and added, “Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off.” Reid had accurately called the militia “domestic terrorists.”

The small town of Mesquite, nearby, isn’t safe from the militia either. Hotels report that they have lost over $100,000 in business because of their presence, and the city police is investigating death threats to hotel staffers after a bomb threat. Militia callers told workers at the Holiday Inn Express that it wouldn’t be standing in the morning if the BLM rangers were allowed to stay in the hotel. One Mesquite hotel worker, afraid of being seen on camera, said he was told that he would be “dragged out in the parking lot and shot.”

The militia poured lighter fluid around news trucks after blocking reporters from access on public roads. Clark County Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo said that the law enforcement were afraid for their lives. Talking about facing the militia, Metro Sgt. Tom Jenkins said, “You are standing there going, ‘I just hope it doesn’t hurt when it comes. That it’s quick,’ and it was real for us.” He said that he thought he could die there.

On the day of the confrontation, Bundy ordered Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie to disarm every federal official and report back to Bundy in an hour.  The arms were to be put in his compound. He also ordered them to bulldoze down the entrance places “where they ticket us and where they—ah–entrance and make us citizens pay their fees.”

In a meeting with area leaders, Horsford said, “We are not a playground for armed militias.” As of last Tuesday, the militia stated that they don’t plan to leave the area. Militia group spokesman Ryan Payne denied that they were setting up checkpoints and that they wouldn’t “pull over civilians, without, you know, reasonable cause.” Militias have no legal rights to pull over anyone with any reason.

Because of the prevalence of the country’s gun culture, people can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free. Sitting down at a peaceful Occupy protest, such as the one on the campus of UC Davis in California, results in the police spraying Mace in the peaceful protesters faces. The policeman who did this got $38,000 in compensation for “anxiety and depression.”

At least one of the government-hating militia members, Mike Vanderboegh, was receiving $1,300 each month in Social Security disability payments as of 2010. His health insurance came from his wife’s employment. The question is how many other members of the militia disturbing community life in southeast Nevada are also living on government “handouts.”

Great Britain has a much different approach toward gun ownership and lacks the violence shown in Nevada. The country controls the sale of firearms although it still allows people in the country to have shotgun licenses or .22 rifles for killing small animals. Since 1997, only police and military are allowed to carry automatic weapons, and most people like it that way. As Simon Crump wrote, “ There are plenty of other people around who can’t be trusted with a gun, and I want it to be as difficult as possible for them to buy guns. I would be uncomfortable if it were made easier to buy firearms.”

He continued:

“If the burglar knows I might have a gun, he’s more likely to have one, too. He’s also probably a lot more comfortable about pointing it at someone than I am. And for that, I would have to accept the responsibility of owning a gun and storing it safely where my children and visitors can’t get at it….  An argument put forward by the gun lobby is that criminals will always be able to source guns from somewhere, so strict gun control only serves to put us good guys at a disadvantage by preventing us from defending ourselves. The problem with this is that we do not live in a world solely made up of good guys and bad guys. Most of us are normal people who occasionally get drunk or angry and make mistakes, and when those mistakes involve guns, the consequences are much worse.”

Almost two years ago, Fox network and other conservative media raised an alarm because two men, calling themselves “The New Black Panthers” stood outside a voting area. They had no guns, and they didn’t approach or intimidate anyone: they just stood there. If over 1,000 black and Hispanic men with AR-15s and AK-47s paraded around land in Nevada and pointed guns at federal agents, conservative media would certainly have a different approach than they have with the current white militia. If a white militia member were shot by a federal agent, he would be described as a heroic martyr. A black militiaman shot would be retribution by the police saving the people.

What if Bundy’s “patriots” are part of a movement to take over a town, or city, or region? Right now Nevada looks like Ukraine without the masks. Unfettered gun control can create this situation across the entire country. We can thank the NRA and the gun industry for the loss of freedom and liberty across the United States.

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