Sunday, October 31, 2010

Elections: The Day After (the need for radical thinking) - Election coke or pepsi?

November 2 is going to be a big day in our political lives.

But November 3 will be far more important.

On mid-term Election Day, voters will choose between candidates with different positions on health-care insurance, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and CO2 levels that drive global warming. The politicians we send to the legislatures and executive offices will make -- or avoid making -- important decisions. Our votes matter.

But Election Day is far from the most important moment in our political lives. The radical changes necessary to produce a just and sustainable society are not on the table for politicians in the Republican or Democratic parties, which means we citizens have to commit to ongoing radical political activity after the election.

Getting off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity - Robert Jensen Book

Does porn make the man?

Pornography is big business, a thriving multi-billion dollar industry so powerful it drives the direction of much media technology. It also makes for complicated politics. Anti-pornography arguments are frequently dismissed as patently “anti-sex”—and ultimately "anti-feminist"—silencing at the gate a critical discussion of pornography's relationship to violence against women and even what it means to be a "real man."
In his most personal and difficult book to date, Robert Jensen launches a powerful critique of mainstream pornography that promises to reignite one of the fiercest debates in contemporary feminism. At once alarming and thought-provoking, Getting Off asks tough but crucial questions about pornography, manhood, and paths toward genuine social justice. 

All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice

Robert Jensen, a longtime activist fighting for women's rights, racial equality, and global justice, reveals with this book the emotional journey that brought him back to the church after an entire adulthood of religious indifference.

Our world is perched on the verge of chaos, he warns. As political, economic, cultural, and ecological crises peak, the decisions we make are likely to have permanent consequences for our future and for the fate of our planet. In our nation, what underlies this chaos is a spiritual unrest, a stubborn conflict that has gotten in the way of understanding and slowed theological progress to a glacial crawl.

A history of tragedy and farce

It was Karl Marx who said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

I have never really been sure what he meant. But as the recent history of US-Pakistan relations churns onward through multiple repetitive cycles, the results, while perhaps verging at times on black farce, have been clearly and consistently tragic. More tragic still, history seems poised to deliver yet more of the same.

“Media Subdues The Public. It’s So In India, Certainly” - Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has a veritable cult following among those who are sceptical about views the liberal media espouses and government propaganda machinery spawns to suit their often overlapping agendas. Compelling is his criticism, breathtaking is his knowledge, persuasive is his voice, and deep runs his humanity. This 82-year-old Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, has written over 100 books and is considered the doyen of modern linguistics. To the world outside the academia, though, he’s more famous as America’s leading dissident intellectual whose instinct it is to expose the hypocrisy of the powerful. His awesome credentials inspired The New York Times to describe him as “arguably the most important intellectual alive”.
On the 15th anniversary of Outlook, Ajaz Ashraf and Anuradha Raman talked to Chomsky over the phone on aspects of the crisis plaguing the media. These included the questions you readers have often wondered about: Is the media really free? Or is it the handmaiden of the elites, the state? And how does one distinguish propaganda from news? Speaking with the candour and brilliance typical of his writing, Chomsky says the crisis in the media is not a result of its declining revenues as much as its intellectual dishonesty. He also sprang a few surprises—for instance, he finds the media in Pakistan more vibrant than it is in India. Excerpts:

American Socrates on an Upbeat - Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, after all these years, retains the power to shock — in the bright title of his new collection, Hopes and Prospects, and with what sounds like good news in this conversation.

It’s Professor Chomsky’s cheerful conviction, drawing on his own trials in the Vietnam War resistance, that anti-war understanding and feeling run much deeper and stronger today in a freer, more humane America. It’s because of that popular war opposition today — inarticulate and ill-led, perhaps, but nonetheless verifiable — that the US assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan have not incuded the saturation bombing and chemical warfare that were standard fare in Vietnam and Cambodia.

He is sure that the anti-incumbent rage reported in the Tea Party overlaps substantially with his own chronic dismay at elite manipulations and moral corruption in our politics. The larger part of the Tea Party, he says, is built on real grievances in longer hours, shorter pay, ever-rising job insecurity.

Peddling politics in America

Midterm contributions soar to record levels in 2010, a sign that the US campaign finance system is tainted as ever.

Our country is in economic distress. Millions are out of work, and cutbacks in public services are pervasive at the city and state levels.

The 'great recession' is deep and could go deeper. Most families are tightening their belts and in some cases are at breaking point because their benefits have run out.

Money is hard to find, perhaps, for the people but, curiously, not for their political representatives - nominal public servants. Despite the fact that popularity for politicians, especially members of Congress, is at an all-time low, campaign contributions are at an all time high.

The Washington Post reports that House and Senate candidates are "on their way to surpassing $2 billion in spending for the first time … the equivalent of about $4 million for every congressional seat up for grabs".

The Rally to Restore Sanity

Jayaprakash Narayan (JP): the prophet of people's power

The welfare of the common people constituted the leitmotif of his philosophy and exercise. In democracy he placed `demos' above everything else and this concern for `demos' had its fructification in his concept of `Total Revolution'. An anatomy of this concept would reveal that Total Revolution is the logical culmination of Gandhi's concept of village self-rule. A complete overhaul of the social structure was its aim, because the system, in his opinion, was touching the cesspool of degradation and a moral and egalitarian society could not be formed without throwing out the existing system completely. JP served the country without any desire for return

By Sudhanshu Ranjan

October 11, 2002, marks the 100th birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly called JP, who is described as the second Gandhi for liberating people from the tyranny of their own government. A hero of the 1942 Quit India movement, JP emerged as the Loknayak in 1974, when he assumed the leadership of the Bihar movement to extirpate corruption. Today the people at the helm of affairs in the Government of India as well as in the Bihar Government owe their allegiance to JP, but have completely forgotten the leitmotif of his ideology— State power must be subservient to people's power.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

US Life Expectancy Falls to 49th: hows are food?

A new study says life expectancy in the United States has plunged over the last decade. According to Health Affairs, the US now ranks forty-ninth in the world in life expectancy, down from twenty-fourth place in 1999. The study authors cited what they called the United States’ "uniquely inefficient" healthcare system as the primary cause.

No only is legislation not for the public, its not even made by them. -- Prison corporations and immigration law

Report: Prison Industry Helped Draft Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law

A new investigation has found the private prison industry played a key role in the drafting and passage of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law. According to National Public Radio, the bill was formulated at a Washington, DC meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, last December. The group brings together state legislators and major corporations, including the nation’s largest private prison firm, the Correction Corporation of America, CCA. Attendees helped write the bill, gave it a name, and then voted to approve it. The bill’s eventual sponsor, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, then brought it back to his home state. The ensuing months saw a frenzy of lobbying to enact the bill. According to NPR, thirty of the measure’s thirty-six co-sponsors received campaign donations from lobbyists working for CCA and two other major private prison companies. In an internal document last year, the CCA predicted that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement would bring in "a significant portion of our revenues."

Poll: Latinos See Widespread Discrimination

A new poll shows nearly two-thirds of Latinos in the United States think they experience discrimination fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number jumps to 70 percent for Latinos born abroad. Half of respondents say the US has become less welcoming to immigrants in the last five years, and over half say they’re worried they or their family members could be deported.

US Intelligence Spending Tops $80.1B

The Obama administration has disclosed US intelligence agencies spent some $80.1 billion during the previous fiscal year. It’s the first time in over a decade the US government has disclosed its intelligence budget. In a statement, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said intelligence spending has reached an "unacceptable level."

Nothing better to spend money on than ensureing the the dominace of your empire, huh America?

.....Audit: US Can’t Account for $17.7B in Afghan Spending

A new government audit shows the US can’t account for nearly $18 billion earmarked for the Afghan war. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says the government doesn’t know how some $17.7 billion obligated to over 7,000 contractors has been disbursed.

Binayak Sen: redefining health care in an unjust society. "health care is always Political"

On May 14, 2007, Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chattisgarh police under sections of the Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (2004) for alleged links with the banned Maoist groups (1). His arrest was the upshot of his attempts to raise issues of human rights violation in government-sponsored violence, both within and outside Chattisgarh, in his capacity as the General Secretary, Chattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

What makes this event of particular interest to the readers of IJME is that Binayak Sen is a practising doctor who sees his activism as intrinsic to his work as a health professional.

Binayak is a graduate of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, an elite institution known for its exceptional teaching. One of the top students of his batch, Binayak completed his post graduation in paediatrics in the early 1970s. For most of the years since then, he has devoted his life to health care in poor communities. For this, in 2004, he was conferred the college’s prestigious Paul Harrison award “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to society”, as stated on the citation presented with the award. His contribution was not seen so much in his capacity as a physician, but (as the citation notes), for having “... redefined the possible role of the doctor in a broken and unjust society, holding the cause much more precious than personal safety”.

Tehelka Interview w/ Arundhati Roy Regarding Sedition Charges.

As a section of the political class and the media bays for her blood, author Arundhati Roy tells SHOMA CHAUDHURY why her opinions do not amount to sedition.
Speaking her mind Arundhati Roy’s views on the Kashmir issue have invited brickbats from all possible quarters
Speaking her mind Arundhati Roy’s views on the Kashmir issue have invited brickbats from all possible quarters
The State has been contemplating charges of sedition against you for your speeches in Delhi and Kashmir. How do you understand sedition? Did you see yourself as being seditious? What was your intention in speaking from those two platforms in Delhi and Srinagar under the rubric — Azadi: The only way.

Sedition is an archaic, obsolete idea revived for us by Times Now, a channel that seems to have hysterically dedicated itself to hunting me down and putting me in the way of mob anger. Who am I anyway? Small fry for a whole TV channel. It’s not hard to get a writer lynched in this climate, and that’s what it seems to want to do. It is literally stalking me. I almost sense psychosis here. If I was the Government of India I would take a step back from the chess board of this recent morass and ask how a TV channel managed to whip up this frenzy using moth-eaten, discredited old ideas, and goad everybody into a blind alley of international embarrassment. All this has gone a long way towards internationalising the ‘Kashmir issue’, something the Indian government was trying to avoid.
One of the reasons it happened was because the BJP desperately needed to divert attention from the chargesheeting of Indresh Kumar, a key RSS leader in the Ajmer blast. This was a perfect opportunity, the media, forever in search of sensation, led by Times Now, obliged. It never occurred to me that I was being seditious. I had agreed to speak at the seminar in Delhi way before it was titled “Azadi: The only way”. The title was provocative, I guess, to people who are longing to be provoked. I don’t think it is such a big deal frankly, given what has been going on in Kashmir for more than half a century.
The Srinagar seminar was called ‘Whither Kashmir? Enslavement or Freedom?’ It was really meant for young Kashmiris to deepen the debate on what they meant by and what they wanted from azadi. Contrary to the idea that it was some fire-breathing call to arms, it was really the opposite — it was about contemplation, about deepening the debate, about asking uncomfortable questions.

I Pity The Nation That Needs To Jail Those Who Ask For Justice-- Arundhati Roy

For her talk on Kashmir (videos to the right), writer Arundhati Roy has come under the threat of “sedition” charges in India. These speeches are currently being analyzed by Delhi police. Her response to the threat is below and was issued from Srinagar:

I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer's husband and Asiya's brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get 'insaf'—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

In the papers some have accused me of giving 'hate-speeches', of wanting 
India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.

Arundhati Roy
October 26 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chicago Parents Occupy Elementary School Building to Bring Library to Children

Fmr. Argentine President Kirchner Dies of Heart Attack, his last thoughts on Bus

And Argentina has declared three days of national mourning following the death of former President Nestor Kirchner. The sixty-year-old Kirchner died from a heart attack Wednesday after being hospitalized with chest pains. He had been expected to seek another presidential term to replace his wife, Argentine President Cristina Fernández, next year. Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in front of Argentina’s national palace in Buenos Aires after the news broke. Kirchner headed Argentina from 2003 to 2007 as it struggled to recover from a crippling financial meltdown. In an interview with the filmmaker Oliver Stone last year, Kirchner recounted a conversation he had with then-President George W. Bush on war and the economy.
Oliver Stone: "Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?"
Nestor Kirchner: "I say it’s not necessary to kneel before power. Nor do you need to be rude to say the things you have to say to those who oppose our actions. We had a discussion in Monterey. I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. And he got angry. He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats. He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war."
Oliver Stone: "War. He said that?"
Nestor Kirchner: "He said that. Those were his exact words."
Oliver Stone: "Was he suggesting that South America go to war?"
Nestor Kirchner: "Well, he was talking about the United States. The Democrats had been wrong. All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. President Bush is—well, he’s only got six days left, right?"
Oliver Stone: "Yes."
Nestor Kirchner: "Thank God."

Arkansas School Official Facebook Post Urges Gay Youths to Commit Suicide

A member of a northern Arkansas school board is facing calls to resign after ridiculing the recent suicides of bullied gay and lesbian youths. Posting on his Facebook account, Clint McCance said he would follow a call to wear purple clothing to show solidarity with gay and lesbian teens only "if they all commit suicide." McCance continued: "We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed [themselves] because of their sin."

Should we really have nuces?

Computer Malfunction Knocked US Nukes Offline

The Pentagon has acknowledged a computer glitch took fifty nuclear missiles offline for about an hour last weekend. Military officials say they lost contact with the missiles but would have still been able to launch them from a separate platform. The fifty missiles comprise one-ninth of the US land-based nuclear arsenal.

Muslims arrested for Terror charges, entrapment?

A Virginia resident has been indicted in connection with an alleged plot to bomb several Metro stations in Washington, DC. Farooque Ahmed, a US citizen originally from Pakistan, was arrested Wednesday after a six-month undercover sting. But as with other recent cases alleging terrorist plots, questions are being raised over whether Ahmed was subjected to government entrapment. He discussed the alleged plot with agents posing as Islamic militants, and US officials say the public was never in real danger. Defendants in other cases nationwide have accused government informants and agents of devising the plots for which they were accused.

Obama Issues Waiver to Send Military Aid to Countries Using Child Soldiers

President Obama has issued a waiver allowing continued US military aid to four African countries even though they use child soldiers. This week, President Obama waived sections of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to prevent a cutoff of military assistance to Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen.

Obama Issues Waiver to Send Military Aid to Countries Using Child Soldiers

President Obama has issued a waiver allowing continued US military aid to four African countries even though they use child soldiers. This week, President Obama waived sections of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to prevent a cutoff of military assistance to Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen.

Wells Fargo to Modify 55,000 Foreclosure Documents

The banking giant Wells Fargo has announced plans to modify some 55,000 documents that were improperly filed to carry out foreclosures. The move follows weeks of assurances from Wells Fargo that its procedures are accurate as it rejected calls to halt foreclosures.

Angle Criticized for Anti-Immigrant TV Ad

In Nevada, Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle is under criticism for a campaign ad targeting opponent Harry Reid’s stance on immigration. The ad warns of undocumented immigrants threatening US families as it shows Latino-looking men in prison and gang attire juxtaposed with white schoolchildren.
Narrator: "Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear. And what’s Harry Reid doing about it? Voting to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits, tax breaks and college tuition, voting against declaring English our national language twice, and even siding with Obama and the president of Mexico to block Arizona’s tough new immigration law. Harry Reid: it’s clear whose side he’s on, and it’s not yours."
Several immigrant rights groups have aired Spanish-language response ads urging voters to reject Angle.

Report: Election Spending to Hit Record $4B

A new report says spending for next week’s elections will break the previous record for a midterm vote by around $1 billion. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, total spending could reach as much as $4 billion this year. The report also says right-wing groups are spending more than double on advertisements than liberal organizations.

How much would it cost to give children re-hydration packets to prevent diarrhea deaths? See hunger durty and ecology

Conservative Violence

Earlier this week, Tim Profitt, who was at the time the Bourbon County campaign coordinator for KeEntucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul, stomped on a female activist's head outside a debate between Paul and his Democratic opponent Jack Conway. Profitt threw the activist, Lauren Valle, to the ground and then
 smashed her head to the pavement with his foot. Valle was taken to the hospital where she was treated for a concussion and a sprained arm. Conway supporter Michael Grossman said a Paul supporter also assaulted him at the same event. Despite recently touting Profitt's endorsement, Paul distanced himself from the incident but refused to return Profitt's $2,000 campaign donation. Just two weeks prior, private security guards for Alaska GOP U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller physically restrained a local blogger who was trying to ask Miller questions during a campaign event. While this incident did not mirror the brutality of Profitt's attack, it -- along with the incident outside the Paul-Conway debate -- is emblematic of a wider pattern of violence coming from the right wing, or threats of violence, scattered throughout the past two years. Indeed, as progressive blogger Digby noted on Daily Kos, "The average American is frightened and confused while the rightwing is excited and overstimulated. The toxic combination of Bircerism, big money, xenophobia and social conservatism that defines the Tea Party is happening at a moment of maximum danger."

(the guy is an idiot)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The State and Repression - Mumia Abu Jamal

For those of us active in social movements, I'm often surprised at our surprise when the State acts in a repressive or oppressive fashion. It teaches us that the cloudy dreams of Western liberalism have pierced and permeated consciousness, often against our own stated perceptions or ideological persuasion.

We have seemingly forgotten, it seems, the fundamental nature of the state, as held by Marx and Engels over 100 years ago in The Communist Manifesto, where the state is described as but “the executive committee” of the bourgeoisie.

As such, there are hardly limits to the repression it will utilize to serve the rulers, especially in the stark absence of an effective counter-force. That force must be—must be—an organized, resistant people, who will fight for another way; a way out of the trap of the state — as presently conceived.

Golds Gym CEO gives 2million to anti- LGBT group, bay area Franchise splits off

Gold's Gym is facing a backlash from LGBT activists over its CEO's $2 million donation to American Crossroads, the conservative political group affiliated with former Bush adviser Karl Rove, and its four franchises in the San Francisco Bay Area are now leaving the brand over the controversy.
On Monday, Don Dickerson, the director of operations for Gold's Gym Bay Area, distributed a message through its Facebook page saying that it will be leaving the Gold's Gym brand:

We were as surprised by [CEO] Mr. [Robert] Rowling's action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:
1: Our contractual obligation with Gold's Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold's Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold's Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.
2: For every dollar we pay Gold's Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold's Gym can be severed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Rich Getting Richer The Class War at Home (not the one the rich are paying for)

The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class.  They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share.  But the deception cannot last – facts say otherwise.

Yes, there is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class – and the rich are winning.  That war has been going on for years.  Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.

Let Glen Beck go on about socialists descending on Washington.  Allow Rush Limbaugh to rail about “class warfare for a leftist agenda that will destroy our society.”  They are well compensated false prophets for the rich.   

The truth is that for the several decades the rich in the US have been getting richer and the poor and middle class have been getting poorer.  Look at the facts then make up your own mind.
The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years.  The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor.  Source: US Census Bureau.
One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed.  This “real” unemployment rate is over 17 per cent.   There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 per cent.  Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 per cent are unemployed.  Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months.  Source:  US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.
The median household income for whites in the US is $51,861; for Asians it is $65,469; for African Americans it is $32,584; for Latinos it is $38,039.  Source: US Census Bureau. 
Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance.  Source: US Census Bureau. 
Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries.  African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.  Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.
About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US.  Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Outside Atlanta, 33,000 people showed up to seek applications for low cost subsidized housing in August 2010.  When Detroit offered emergency utility and housing assistance to help people facing evictions, more than 50,000 people showed up for the 3,000 vouchers. Source: News reports.
There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help.  Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year.  This is the highest level since statistics have been kept.  Source:  US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
Middle Class Going Backward: Facts
One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income.  Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life.  Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years.  The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries.  In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52 per cent of all income.  In 1998, it was down to 47 per cent.  The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20 per cent seeing their share rise.
A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007.  In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes.  Sources: Reuters and RealtyTrac. 
Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth.  Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.  
For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning.  Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating.  This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then.  Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.
Rich Getting Richer: Facts
The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8 per cent in the last year to $1.37 trillion.  Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010, 
The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year.  The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million.  Source: Business Insider.  “Meet the top 10 earning hedge fund managers of 2009.”
Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s.  From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1 per cent more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10 per cent to 23 per cent.  The richest 1 per cent have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million.  For the last 25 years, over 90 per cent of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10 per cent earners – leaving 9 per cent of all income to be shared by the bottom 90 per cent. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.   
In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1.  Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.
Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8 per cent to 16.62 per cent.  Source: US Internal Revenue Service.
The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years.  The World Factbook, published by the CIA, includes an international ranking of the inequality among families inside of each country, called the Gini Index.  The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivorie.   The highest inequality can be found in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Haiti and Guatemala.  The US ranking of 45 compares poorly to Japan (38), India (36), New Zealand, UK (34), Greece (33), Spain (32), Canada (32), France (32), South Korea (31), Netherlands (30), Ireland (30), Australia (30), Germany (27), Norway (25), and Sweden (23).  Source: CIA The World Factbook:
Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US.  Naturally, gross inequality has consequences in terms of health, exposure to unhealthy working conditions, nutrition and lifestyle.  In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off.  As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap.  In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years.  In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years.  Source: Elise Gould, “Growing disparities in life expectancy,” Economic Policy Institute.
These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.
Thomas Jefferson once observed that the systematic restructuring of society to benefit the rich over the poor and middle class is a natural appetite of the rich. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to…the general prey of the rich on the poor.”  But Jefferson also knew that justice can only be delayed so long when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
The rich talk about the rise of socialism to divert attention from the fact that they are devouring the basics of the poor and everyone else.  Many of those crying socialism the loudest are doing it to enrich or empower themselves.  They are right about one thing – there is a class war going on in the US.  The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back for economic justice. 
Bill Quigley is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. You can reach him


Your not Alone: Solidarity and Commonality in war torn regions Afghanistan and Gaza

A week ago, at the small guest house where friends and I stayed while visiting Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) in Bamiyan, eight of us huddled around one cell phone to participate in a conference call organized by Fellowship of Reconciliation members in the United States.  The call was part of an ongoing effort to foster a connection between the AYPV and volunteers at the Rachel Corrie Center in Gaza.  The Gazan center was started by Cindy and Craig Corrie, whose daughter, Rachel, had tried to stop an Israeli bulldozer driver from destroying the home of a Gazan family that had befriended her.  The bulldozer driver crushed her to death.
I had asked the call planners to notify a close friend of mine who volunteers at the Center, hoping he might be included in the call.  My friend -- I’ll call him Firas – had extended courageous hospitality to Audrey Stewart and me when we crossed into Gaza during the last four days of the Israeli Operation Cast Lead assault which was waged against Gazans for 22 days, beginning in December 2009.

The Arms Sale Economy Ominous Signs of Improvement

The trumpet’s loud clangor
Excites us to arms.

John Dryden, "A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day"

It is time for an update on arms sales and the economy and happily, the news in 2010 could not be better. Not about the economy but about arms sales of which the economy is an incidental beneficiary. It has been distressing for observers of such things to see how badly both the economy and arms sales have gone in the last couple of years.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, 2009 was not a good year for the United States and other countries that pride themselves on being arms suppliers. Although a decline in arms sales might be considered a harbinger of peace and thus be welcome by the few who count that as a laudable goal, it is in fact nothing more than an indication of a lousy economy since developing nations like buying arms and when they’re not buying, it’s not because they have become pacific but because of the economy.