Category Archives: human rights

Olbermann: If the Tea Party wins, America loses

As you know, if I see or read something that makes so much sense that I have to share it – I will.  This comes from Keith Olberman on MSNBC’s Countdown.  It is about the Tea Party and its agenda for America. Please read it, think about it, and check the facts contained within it – then decide for yourself if the Tea Party is something that you truly feel is good for this country.  Don’t decide solely because of this Special Comment from Mr. Olberman, but look around and educate yourself from the myriad of reports and analysis that draw the same conclusions.  These are important times my friends…get smarter.  I now yield the remainder of my time and my blog to Mr. Olberman. Read the rest of this entry

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How Intellectuals Betrayed the Poor

Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.

Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.

This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com.  I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.

READ, WATCH, GET SMARTER

Transcript of interview:

Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?

Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.

And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.

Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?

Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.

But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.

Question: How can we strengthen the demos?

Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.

Recorded on: November 3, 2009

100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com.  Just thought you needed to see it.

Dan Savage and The Truth

Dan Savage writes for The Stranger in Seattle, WA,  His article is titled Savage Love.  This is a letter sent to him and his reply.  Read it and really think about yourself.

In Your Image

October 14, 2010

By Dan Savage

I heard an interview with you about your It Gets Better campaign. I was saddened and frustrated with your comments regarding people of faith and their perpetuation of bullying. As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage, I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man who took his own life.

If your message is that we should not judge people based on their sexual preference, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man.

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are all imperfect, fallible, and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people.

Please consider your viewpoint, and please be more careful with your words in the future.

L.R.

I’m sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments.

No, wait. I’m not. Gay kids are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings.

A question: Do you “support” atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there’s no “Christian” movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or people divorcing and remarrying. Why the hell not?

Sorry, L.R., but so long as you support the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, it’s clear that you do believe that some people—straight people—are “better or more worthy” than others.

And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children. The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not “sinners.” Gay and lesbian children.

Try to keep up: The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of “faithful Christians,” and the lies about us that vomit out from the pulpits of churches that “faithful Christians” drag their kids to on Sundays, give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your children—having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools. You don’t have to explicitly “encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we’re seeing the fruits of it: dead children.

Oh, and those same dehumanizing bigotries that fill your straight children with hate? They fill your gay children with suicidal despair. And you have the nerve to ask me to be more careful with my words?

Did that hurt to hear? Good. But it couldn’t have hurt nearly as much as what was said and done to Asher Brown and Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas and Cody Barker and Seth Walsh—day in, day out for years—at schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God, but in the image of the hateful and false “followers of Christ” they call Mom and Dad.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=5135029

Pay Day Loans and The Circle of Poverty

There are those “people” in this world that take advantage of people (any retail establishment, insurance company, or mortgage broker)  and then there are those that take advantage of the people who legitimately have no other viable recourse left and are grabbing at any straw they can to survive.  These predators are the worst people in this world.  I read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler recently.  That book has taught me more about poverty than anything else I have ever read.  The American experience of working, not one, but two full time jobs and still existing under the poverty line is an unacceptable, yet a REAL facet of many American’s lives.  The book speaks about the “circle of poverty” and how one act a poverty stricken family takes leads to the next act that keeps them in poverty.  It is truly sad.  When I read this article and had to share it with you.  Read, Think, Get Smarter

Legal Usury

The skeevy business of payday loans.

By Timothy Noah

Roughly 20 years ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, I wrote a news article for the Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s plans (later codified in legislation during the Clinton administration) to distribute food stamps and other government benefits electronically. Poor people would have debit cards and could have immediate access to the funds they needed. This was a more novel idea than it sounds today, because speedy, point-of-sale credit card terminals still lay in the future. In those distant days, when you went to the supermarket, you had to bring cash or write a check.

The Bush appointee I interviewed was very excited about the new scheme for one simple reason: It was going to put check-cashing companies out of business. This was an industry despised even by Republicans for exploiting society’s least advantaged by charging them outrageously high fees. Instant access to cash would eliminate this market. I don’t remember exactly what the Bush appointee said, but his overall message was loud and clear: Good riddance to a sleazy and predatory business.

Two decades later, check-cashing companies are still around and a thriving new sleazy and predatory business, the payday-loan industry, has grown up beside them. Payday loans replace check-cashers’ outrageously high fees with usurious interest rates. What neither the Bush appointee nor I anticipated was that the same technology that sent welfare moms and retirees their government benefits in the blink of an eye could give a new kind of predatory lender instant access to unwary customers’ bank accounts. Electronic banking giveth and electronic banking taketh away.

I thought about all this on Oct. 4, when the Federal Trade Commission announced that the co-founder of Swish Marketing Inc. paid $850,000 to settle charges that he allegedly debited customers’ bank accounts without their knowledge. According to the FTC, Swish operated Web sites that guided consumers to payday lender sites. (One of them piously named “Christian Faith Financial“; never mind Matthew 21:12.) To get the loan, you filled out a form giving the lender access to your bank account. That’s a bad idea, but standard practice for payday lenders, and perfectly legal. The illegal part (according to the FTC) was what followed. When you submitted your application, you were automatically sent to a Web page with a button that said “Finish matching me with a payday loan provider!” (example here). This Web page also happened to offer consumers the chance to acquire four additional items. Three of these offers were pre-clicked “No,” but a fourth was pre-clicked “Yes,” which was easy to miss. This fourth offer was for the purchase of a debit card on which you could load $2,500, in the unlikely event that you happened to have $2,500. (If you had $2,500 why would you be applying for a payday loan?) Just to purchase the empty debit card cost $54.95. Some sites billed the debit card as a “bonus offer” and revealed the $55 charge only in tiny type. In any event, it was very easy for the borrower to miss entirely the fact that in applying for a payday loan, he or she was also letting a separate company reach into his or her bank account to extract $55 to pay for an unrelated product that he or she almost certainly didn’t need.

The attorney for alleged perp Jason Strober said in a press release, “We are confident that [he] would have prevailed in court.” Strober settled only because “it became too expensive to continue fighting.” Strober, meanwhile, has created a blog, Prosmallbusiness.org, whose first entry states that the FTC’s “power to destroy businesses they don’t like is truly scary.”

It may or may not give Strober solace to learn that under the recently-passed Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the FTC will yield jurisdiction over payday loans to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose overseer, Elizabeth Warren, really, really hates payday loans. In a 2008 paper coauthored by Oren Bar-Gill of New York University Law School, Warren offered payday loans as a key example of “a credit product that can impose substantial costs on imperfectly informed and imperfectly rational borrowers.” Typically, she explained, you pay a $30 fee for a two-week cash advance on a $200 paycheck, which amounts to an annualized interest rate of 400 percent. That’s not particularly high for this type of loan; some of them go up to 780 percent. Thirty bucks “is unlikely to bankrupt any consumer,” Warren conceded, but the payday lender is counting on the likelihood that many customers will roll the loan over for another two weeks, and then another. Ninety percent of the industry’s profits come from suckers who do this five times or more over the course of a year. “This is very expensive credit,” Jean Ann Fox of Consumer Federation of America told me.

Indeed, interest rates don’t get more insanely high than this. That raises the question: Isn’t usury illegal? It turns out the federal government imposes no statutory maximum on interest rates. Many states do, and some states (for instance, New York) ban payday loans altogether. But under federal law, payday lenders who don’t commit outright fraud may operate with impunity. Well, almost. The Pentagon got fed up with its recruits getting ripped off by payday lenders and in 2007 got Congress to make it illegal to extend such loans to members of the military. But civilians remain fair game.

Indeed, one of the sketchier provisions in Dodd-Frank affirmatively prohibits Warren’s new agency from setting a maximum interest rate on payday loans. This was inserted at the behest of Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. (The payday-loan business was reportedly born in Corker’s home state and continues to thrive there.) You might think the banking industry would pressure Congress to shut down payday lenders because they give lending a bad name. But a recent report by National People’s Action, a network of community activist groups, and the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative revealed that big banks extend $2.5 to $3 billion in financing to payday-loan companies. Wells Fargo is in especially deep.

“The payday industry WELCOMES regulation,” according to Payday Loan Industry Blog, operated by Trihouse Enterprises, which owns 16 payday-loan stores. “It helps the industry legitimize their industry, it manages the few unscrupulous payday loan operators that exist in all industries, and it creates a level playing field for consumers.” Implicit in this assertion is the confident belief that no regulator would dare put them out of business. The authors don’t seem terribly worried that Warren will prove that assumption wrong. Do they know something we don’t?

…sadly I say “Yes, it is.”

In my attempts to bring you good writing on important issues, I give you  Nicholas Kristof.  He is an OpEd columnist for the New York Times.  There are links to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter at the bottom of the post.  Click one and tell him “thank you” for writing this piece.  Open your brain and read.

Is This America?

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Orson Beck and the “Big Lie”

Dana Milbank writes for the Washington Post and I enjoy his work.

So now you can too.

Civil rights’ new ‘owner’: Glenn Beck

by: Dana Milbank

Sunday, August 29, 2010

There is a telling anecdote in Glenn Beck’s 2003 memoir about how the cable news host was influenced by the great fantasist Orson Welles. To travel between performances in Manhattan, Beck recounts, Welles hired an ambulance, sirens blaring, to ferry him around town — not because Welles was ill but because he wanted to avoid traffic.

Most of us would regard this as dishonest, a ploy by the self-confessed charlatan that Welles was. Beck saw it as a model to be emulated. “Welles,” he writes, “inspired me to believe that I can create anything that I can see or imagine.”

I was reminded of Beck’s affection for deception as he hyped his march on Washington — an event scheduled for the same date (Aug. 28) and on the same spot (the Lincoln Memorial) as Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic march 47 years ago. Beck claimed it was pure coincidence, but then he made every effort to appropriate the mantle of the great civil rights leader.

Beck as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream? And you thought “War of the Worlds” was frightening.

It’s been just over a year since Beck famously called the first African American president a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” And now, accused of racial pot-stirring, he apparently has determined that the best defense is to be patently offensive.

“Blacks don’t own Martin Luther King,” he tells us, any more than whites own Lincoln or Washington. “The left” doesn’t own King, either, he says.

No, Beck owns King. “This is the moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement,” he said this spring. “We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement because we are the people that did it in the first place.”

We are? Let’s review Beck’s history as a civil rights pioneer, a history I’ve studied while writing a book about Beck.

When Beck was a radio host in Connecticut in the 1990s, his station apologized for an on-air skit in which Beck and his partner mocked an Asian American caller and used their version of an Asian accent. As a CNN host a couple of years ago, Beck interviewed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, and challenged him to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

President Obama, who Beck says was elected because he isn’t white, is “moving all of us quickly in slavery,” Beck has asserted. On his radio show, he declared that “you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. . . . You take the name Barack to identify with . . . the heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical.” He accused Obama of seeking “reparations” from white America, seeking to “settle old racial scores.”

Beck has spoken on air about “radical black nationalism” in the White House and “Marxist black liberation theology” influencing Obama. He has further determined that the New Black Panthers have “ties to the White House in a myriad of ways” and are part of Obama’s “army of thugs.”

This is not quite the ideal background for a man who would claim to be King’s heir — and that’s where Orson Welles comes in.

First, Beck employed the hand of God in justifying his decision to co-opt King. He said he chose the date without knowing it was the anniversary of King’s march, claiming it happened because of “divine providence.”

Second, he invoked some selective history, using his Fox News show to deliver a three-part series updating the history of the civil rights movement. “How has the Democratic Party assumed the mantle of defender of minorities, if you know their early history?” he asked. “Dating to Andrew Jackson — this is the 17th century . . . .”

Seventeenth century, 19th century, whatever. He informed viewers that “it was the GOP that took the lead on the civil rights” cause.

Finally, Beck updated the meaning of the civil rights movement so that it is no longer about black people; it is about protecting anti-tax conservatives from liberals. Civil rights leaders, he said, “purposely distorted Martin Luther King’s ideas.” Over the past century, Beck reasons, “no man has been free, because we’ve been progressive.” To his followers, he says: “We are the people of the civil rights movement.”

All that is left is for Beck to drive around town by ambulance.

danamilbank@washpost.com

Dana Milbank’s book, “Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America,” will be published Oct. 5.

HERE IS A LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Dehumanization on the radio!

Oh my. Inés V. just let us know about a contest on WTVN, a conservative talk radio station in Ohio (reader Scapino clarifies that the conservative tone is mostly due to syndication of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not really the local DJs). Just…see for yourself:

Inés says,

This campaign is a response to Columbus mayor Michael Coleman who boycotted AZ by banning all city-funded travel after SB1070, and the mayor is depicted as a holder of a green card [that’s him shown on the ID card].

It’s an astounding example of dehumanizing undocumented immigrants — being a proud American is linked to “illegals” (a term that somehow seems more stigmatizing than terms like “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” even — a linguistic erasure of personhood altogether) being scared, presumably of all the proud Americans they encounter, and the lucky winner gets to go “spend a weekend chasing aliens”. It’s like you’re getting to go on a safari.

Groups in Columbus have organized a response and will be delivering letters to the station this afternoon, before the contest ends, in protest.

I’d add more commentary, but what can you really say?

Original

News Flash: Republican’s hate the Poor (and minorities)

What a novel thought...

Below is an article written by Sam Stein, a political blogger.  You can read the original posting here.  I am not going to expound on what this article expresses until you read it for yourself.  I will let you draw your own conclusions and my comments will follow.  However, I will highlight my favorite parts of it, so you can easily predict what is currently pissing me off. (HINT: RED = BAD )

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The most important article I have ever re-posted

I think this is the most important article I have ever re-posted.  It touches on several important topics: patriotism, hate, and religious fervor.  These aspects of life combined with a ever widening chasm between conservatives and liberals spell misery in the coming years for our country.  I am angry and sad that this is happening all over our country.  I felt you, dear readers, should see this.

The New Army of Hate

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