November 26, 2006

Class Struggle

Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, whose race was so close that had his Republican candidate refused to acknowledge defeat could have resulted in recounts that would still be going on today, whose race was ultimately the decider as to whether the Senate would be split 50/50 or would be Democratic, had a few choice words for the American people that he’s vowed to serve, and published them in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.

He returned to a common campaign issue of his during the election season; the fact that many Americans, not just Virginians, are tired of the broad gap in socioeconomic inequality in America; they’re completely tired of working harder and harder all of their lives for companies that can write multi-million dollar checks to their CEOs for bonuses alone, but complain publicly about the high cost of health care and shuffle more and more of those costs down to the employees that work to make their CEOs richer. They feel the disconnect between the upper and middle classes sharply, and are disgusted when its rubbed in their faces with things like tax cuts for the rich, the wealthiest Americans arguing for the repeal of one of the few taxes they can’t get out of paying (read: the Estate tax), union breaking by large companies, airline and auto executives who claim that “the way forward” is to lay off thousands of workers while depositing huge dividend checks, and so on.

Webb says;

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic’s range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

[ Class Struggle: American workers have a chance to be heard ]
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Dems Want to See Pentagon’s Citizen-Monitoring Database

From the “good news” department, which I sense has been somewhat revived thanks to the results of last month’s political power shift, it appears that the Pentagon’s much-hated database of anti-war activists that it collected in the name of “national security” is being challenged by the upcoming Congressional leadership. The Democrats, coming into their own power, are quick to bring Congress back to its duty of policy oversight, and is asking the Pentagon to see the database it’s collected, presumably to ensure that the data being collected is being collected with respect for the privacy of Americans and respect for their rights to gather and dissent, and that the data is not being kept or used in an inappropriate manner.

Naturally the Pentagon is resisting, and I’m sure the reasons why have something to do with what I just said about how the data was collected and how it is currently being used, but regardless, it’s important that the Democrats, as they rise to power in Congress, continue the pressure to bring our constitutional rights back to the mainstream and defend them from the halls of power. Part of the reason that the Democrats were elected in such large numbers-and I believe they know this-is because many Americans were deathly afraid of and tired of their individual rights being trampled on by a conservative government whose interests are not shared with the American people.

[ Dems Want to See Pentagon’s Citizen-Monitoring Database ]
Source: MSNBC

Why Bill Cosby Is Wrong

Bill has the best intentions, he really does. And in many ways, his reflections on the degredation of black culture and the black community are spot on, and are harsh words that the black community should reflect on as much as they may be angering, and consider for their truth aside from their outright disappointment over the condition of our communities, our schools, and more importantly, the condition of our struggle for equality.

However, when Bill says that the roots of racial inequality, especially social and economic inequality, lay at the feet of the black community, he’s sadly mistaken. He may make some credible points, but overall, he neglects the over-arching spectre of white privilege and a reinforced socioeconomic structure that not only excludes black people, but isolates them entirely, leaving many at times close enough to put their ears to the doors of success, but remain simply unable to open them because they don’t know the secret knock.

Algernon Austin and Jared Bernstein, the former of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC and the latter of the Theora Institute, explain that Cosby’s railings are misguided at best (as I believe them to be) and destructive at worst (as they fear), and explain in so many words:

One key to the success of the cultural argument is the omission of inconvenient facts about social and economic trends. For example, people arguing that African-Americans are suffering from a culture of poverty stress that blacks are much more likely to be poor than whites. True, but this fact misses the most important development about black poverty in recent years: Its steep decline during the 1990s.

Black poverty fell 10.6 percentage points from 1993 to 2000 (from 33.1 to 22.5 percent) to reach its lowest level on record. Black child poverty fell an unprecedented 10.7 percentage points in five years (from 41.9 percent in 1995 to 31.2 percent in 2000).

The “culture of poverty” argument cannot explain these trends. Poor black people did not develop a “culture of success” in 1993 and then abandon it for a “culture of failure” in 2001.

What really happened was that in the 1990s, the job market finally tightened up to the point where less-advantaged workers had a bit of bargaining clout. The full-employment economy offered all comers opportunities conspicuously absent before or since. Since 2000, black employment rates have fallen much faster, and poverty rates have risen faster, than the average.

What this episode reveals is how we squander our human resources when slack in the economy yields too few decent employment opportunities for those who want to work.

Black poverty is only the most visible example. The “bad black culture” argument also overlooks positive trends in critical areas such as education, crime and teen pregnancy (pregnancy and birth rates among black teenagers are down 40 percent since 1990).

Those same critics are too dismissive of anti-black discrimination in the labor market. Mr. Cosby says black people use charges of discrimination to avoid dealing with their cultural failings. The Manhattan Institute’s John H. McWhorter claims they “spit in the eye of [their] grandparents” when they say their lives are limited by racism. Journalist Juan Williams argues that poor black people are squandering opportunities opened up by the civil rights movement.

Yes, there are far more opportunities available to black Americans today, but the conclusion that racial discrimination is no longer a serious issue is simply not supported by the evidence.

In two recent studies, Princeton University sociologist Devah Pager showed that young black men who have played by the rules and have no criminal record are much less likely to be offered a job than similar white men. In fact, white men with criminal records had an equal or better chance of being hired than did young black men with no records. Contrary to Mr. McWhorter’s assertion, ignoring this racial discrimination is “spitting in the eye” of everyone, black and white, who struggled for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wholeheartedly agreed.

[ Why Bill Cosby is Wrong ]
Source: TomPaine.com

November 21, 2006

Michael Richards and the True Face of Hatred

I wouldn’t normally think twice about Michael Richard’s little tirade, another star, brimming with hatred-a has-been whose true colors shine brightly through when faced with his own ineptitude and ignorance staring him right in the face. Mel Gibson, Trent Lott, he’s no different than the rest-I’m sure he’ll issue his own non-apology apology in a few days, claiming that it was a bad situation and that he didn’t mean it as a wholesale statement or something ridiculously similar. Of course he did. He just showed the world who he really is, and the worst part about that is that there are so many more people out there like him.

As proven by, at least in one sense, a large number of the comments to the video of his tirade posted on YouTube. Comments on most popular sites like YouTube, Digg, and MySpace make my eyes hurt, simply by the sheer moronity, ignorance, and hatred on all manner of topic, but this particular breed of comment was not just hate-filled, but out and out racist, ignorant, nonsensical spouting-it makes me seriously sad.

Some of these comments, and especially the responses coming from completely ignorant (assumedly white) people who know nothing about American history, nothing about racism, nothing about their own white privilege (especially about their privilege-the folks bringing up the same tired “you don’t see white entertainment television”(because EVERY CHANNEL is white entertainment television) or “white history month”(because EVERY MONTH is white history month) and “they call themselves the word”(doesn’t make it right) and “well they say crackers”(wake me when “cracker” is used as a reason to not hire someone) and nothing about the real America outside their own privileged living rooms makes me really really sad for the state of America. These folks really have some learning to do, and it makes me wonder where along the line our education system failed them, but then I remember that it’s not just them that said system has failed.

For those folks who might be so inclined as to get their acts together, I’d suggest with a wonderful essay called “The Invisible Backpack.”

Next time someone wants definitive proof that racism, ignorance, and bigotry in America is alive and well, and still needs to be fought against, the defenders in that thread have given us all a shining example. This is some of the most disgusting hate I’ve seen in a very very long time, and reading some of it makes me brim on the edge of tears. Regardless, I have to thank them all, for the reminder of how much those of us who fight for justice and equality have to do, and how much education is necessary for all of us, especially the privileged.

[ Michael Richards Goes Crazy ]
Source: YouTube
(note: I’m specifically not displaying the video in-page. It’s explicit, and not everyone should have to see it. However the comments, if you opt to see the hateful words dancing there on your own screen, is just a click away.)

update: I’ve learned that ons Letterman last night, Richards came on all weepy-eyed and gave the world his non-apology apology, claiming he’s all torn up about it and that he’s sorry, as though we should feel sorry for him, or believe him. I expected as much.

Still, John McWhorter, commenter for NPR news, says it much better than I do, although admittedly he’s a bit less angry about it than I am. I only wish I could find his sense of peace with the escapade-to him it’s more like water off a duck’s back-to me, it’s a bit more than that. He’s lucky that he’s able to rise above it so easy; I envy him.

[ Do We Really Care What Kramer Thinks? ]
Source: NPR News

November 17, 2006

President Bush Assigns Anti-Choicer, Anti-Birth Control, Anti-Woman Conservative to “Family Planning” Post

In a presidential appointment that doesn’t require congressional approva, President Bush appointed Dr. Eric Keroack to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Keroack has been known to say such things as birth control is “insulting” to women, which is odd for a man who’s just been appointed to the post that ensures that low-income women have access to birth control, and heads up the nations family planning initiative-making sure that every child is a wanted child and a sustainable child. Odd, considering his hard-right ideology.

That might be an odd fit for Keroack. He is medical director of five Boston-area “crisis pregnancy centers” that use ultrasounds to convince women not to have abortions. The centers, called A Woman’s Concern, also emphasize abstinence and are participating in a campaign for the “Sanctity of Human Life Month.” Keroack is also on the medical advisory council of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.

There apparently are just going to be more and more rats to run out of their holes when this admnistration turns over, apparently.

[ I Don’t Have Any More Political Capital, And I Intend To Spend It ]
Source: MSNBC Talk Newsweek

PS – it looks like The National Organization for Women has started a petition to urge HHS Secretary Levitt to reconsider Keroack’s appointment:

[ Sign the Sack Keroack! Petition ]
Source: National Organization for Women

November 12, 2006

Progressive Caucus Rising

The pundits are already trying to muddy up the election results by saying that a large number of Democrats elected were “blue dogs,” meaning Dems who had to run on conservative principles in order to win traditionally red votes. All that chatter is about registered Republicans who voted democrat to make their voices heard for change.

But there’s one problem. While some of the candidates were temptingly conservative for Democrats, a great number of those candidates were full-on progressives, and the people of America chose full well to elect progressive candidates for public office, not “centrists” trying to play both sides of the line. Democrats didn’t so much move right as they did hold their ground and offer a solid alternative to the corruption, stagnation, and the abundance of political bile in Washington and lack of legislation to address the issues facing the people.

The American people are tired of watching the political discourse go nowhere; they instead are interested in actual progress, movement towards a better America, progress to the people’s problems, and a return to a civil discourse, and the progressive candidates that won on Tuesday promised all of those things, and if the performance of their losing opposition is any indication, they’ll do just fine in delivering them.

[ Progressive Caucus Rising ]
Source: In These Times

Beyond South Dakota

The voters of South Dakota proudly and honorably struck down the most prohibitive and intrusive ban on abortion in American history-the ban that showed no regard for the lives of women, men, children, or entire families, the ban that aimed only to legalize the morality of the minority and impose it on the majority. The people of South Dakota spoke loud and clear on the issue, and decided that the state government, regardless of their intentions, had no right to steer, control, and manage the lives of the citizens of South Dakota. It was a resounding defeat for Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals as well as conservatives not just in the state of South Dakota, but around the country-all of whom had been pouring money and resources into South Dakota in an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the citizens there and influence their vote.

The people of South Dakota decided that not only did they deserve better, they knew better, and they spoke with their votes.

Progressives and pro-choice activists around the country, emboldened by the win, could take a lesson. This battle isn’t just for choice, isn’t just for women’s rights and reproductive rights, it’s also about human rights and the basic right of all people to decide when and how they’re going to have children and raise a family, it’s about keeping the meddling of the government out of the most private lives and decisions of individuals, it’s about the pinnacle of individual rights.

Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has quite a few tips for future activists in their continued struggles against authoritarian control over individual rights around the country, and progressives would do well to sit up and take notice; pro-choice activists will have more battles to fight, because even with a significant victory in South Dakota, anti-choice fundamentalists will surely try to make inroads to our individual rights again.

[ Beyond South Dakota ]
Source: TomPaine.com

The Terrorists Who Aren’t in the News

Alternet has revived a story that I find incredibly timely and was originally published in Newsday; a story about the real “homegrown terrorists” in America, the terrorists that don’t make it to the top of the FBI most wanted list, and that don’t wind up on the evening news. They’re anti-choice “activists” who, in the name of their own sense of twisted morality, threaten those who disagree with injury, bombings, even the murder of themselves or their family and friends. It seems that anti-choice thugs would be more than happy to kill doctors, nurses, and anyone else who might happen to get in their way in order to oppress entire communities and force their own theocratic morality on everyone-those who agree and those who don’t. It’s not a significant step from controlling bodies and minds and bringing their own sense of right and wrong into the consultation rooms of women and their doctors to total authoritarian control over people, so it’s not hard to see how these extremists and fundamentalists think.

Regardless, it’s still so difficult to watch this terrorist tragedy unfold here at home, especially when it gets so little public and media attention. For example, referring to the “holy war” that these Christian fundamentalists believe they’re fighting:

Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalists and members of Congress.

After 9/11, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups received 554 envelopes containing white powder and messages like: “You have been exposed to anthrax. … We are going to kill all of you.” They were signed by the Army of God, a group that hosts Scripture-filled web pages for “Anti-Abortion Heroes of the Faith,” including minister Paul Hill, Michael Griffin and James Kopp, all convicted of murdering abortion providers, and a convicted clinic bomber, the Rev. Michael Bray. Another of their “martyrs,” Clayton Waagner, mailed anthrax letters while a fugitive on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list for anti-abortion related crimes.

“I am a terrorist,” Waagner declared on the Army of God’s web site. Boasting that God “freed me to make war on his enemy,” he claimed he knew where 42 Planned Parenthood workers lived. “It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist, I’m going to kill you.”

That’s textbook terrorism, defined by the USA Patriot Act as dangerous criminal acts that “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

There’s a real terrorist threat out there that deserves our focus, and its not from some far away place where the people look differently and speak a different language-the threat is from here at home, people who proudly state their hatred from both the halls of government and from out front of medical clinics, and hide their hate behind the shield of their misinterpretation and perversion of Christianity. It’s about time that terrorist threat garnered some attention and resources.

[ The Terrorists Who Aren’t in the News ]
Source: Newsday (courtesy of Alternet)

Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Move to Canada?

Huffington Post blogger Bill Scher brings progressives back to our worries right after the 2004 elections. Tounge-in-cheek as usual, Scher explains that there is a lot of reason for optimism here in America, and that apparently, much to the dismay of the conservative base, not all of the progressives moved to Canada for brighter shores after the 2004 election-we vowed to stay and fight on and continue America’s tradition of progress and progressive causes.

Scher lists about six good reasons to be optmistic about the future of America after the elections, and he penned his article literally moments after discovering that the Democrats had won the House of Representatives, and that all fingers were pointing to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi becoming the next Speaker of The House. He also points out that there is a lot more work to do before we truly win back America, but this is no time to rest on our laurels-the real work begins now, now that the American people have placed their trust in the progressive candidates.

[ Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Move to Canada? ]
Source: The Huffington Post

Goodbye to ‘Eco-Nightmare’ Dick Pombo

Yet another reason to cheer after this week’s elections is that one of the House of Representatives’ most environmentally dangerous members, perhaps one of the Republicans that most embodies the corruption of the Republican party, Richard “Dick” Pombo is no more. Voted out on the same wave of anti-corruption sentiment that brought a number of Republicans to their knees and made them start packing up their offices, Pombo, who routinely voted to weaken the endangered species act and drill in the Arctic National Wildife Refuge, was handily kicked out of office by the people of California’s 11th district, who chose Democrat Jerry McNerney to represent their interests in Washington instead.

Now while we can only hope this is the end of Pombo and the time and energy spent deflecting his attacks at socially responsible environmental policies are over, Alternet put together a list of Pombo all-star moments, to remember why we should be so glad that Pombo is gone, gone gone. Yet another reason to rejoice.

[ Goodbye to ‘Eco-Nightmare’ Dick Pombo ]
Source: Alternet