It starts like an itch. Something happens in our lives that causes us to question what we know and our understanding of it. We open our eyes, our minds in order to seek the truth we can not see. The more we discover, the hungrier we are for a deeper reckoning. But the world isn’t perfect, humans less so, and there is a lot of pain, suffering and deception going on. We have the burning desire to do more to stop the pain. We read, a lot. We start protesting, questioning. Our families labels us as being too sensitive, too negative, our friends start to pull away, our families and spouses reject us and our way of thinking. We are labeled as hippies, anarchists, angry kids, conspiracy theorists and terrorists. We are beaten by the police and mocked for our caring by the media in the news. Yet we can’t help ourselves, we are the cursed liberals the world warns about, those town criers who have become obsessed with spreading the truth. It becomes a very solitary journey for many are not obligated to participate and you don’t get an invite to this way of life, you can’t train for it, you see wrong hurt and automatically step up as life calls upon you from somewhere within your soul and the rough ride stays with you until your last breath feeling that with all you gave it still wasn’t enough to stop the pain and wishing for one more moment to step and say; Hey, What The Fuck Are You Doing, Stop That! You can’t do that…
ASKING NOT WHAT OUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR US, BUT WHAT WE CAN DO FOR OUR COUNTRY!
We are not against Capitalism and profit, but against its potential for abuse.
We are not against any religion, but against its manipulative use as a political weapon.
We are not against democracy, but declarations of not being patriotic when we disagree.
We are not against the democratic process unless the corporate world uses it against us.
We are not against the American Dream, but tired of being excluded from it.
We are not against those who have obtained wealth, but against those who would keep us from joining them.
We are not against defending this most grand country of ours, but the use of our military for corporate interests and most assuredly, against private armies.
We are not against national defense, we’re against spending on weapons of destruction, when our children need education, our infrastructure is falling apart and the quality of life in America deteriorates.
We are not against our beautiful America, but against the lost of the American ideal and dream that other countries in existence much longer have yet to achieve.
We are not against a strong America, we don’t believe that it can exist without respect for all who are American.
We are not against anyone making profits, but against making profits at the expense of and the detriment to, the health and well-being of American families no matter the composition.
We are not weak. We are not traitors. We are not unpatriotic. We are not elitist.
We are Democrats by way of the political process by choice.
We are proudly Liberals because we were taught caring for each other is an American ideal.
We are fiercely Progressive not for those came before, but all of those in the future yet to come this way.
This is our America as well and we will fight just as fiercely because we love America too!
© 2014 – 2015, agentleman.
Reposted From FaceBook post by Molly Swipas.
Teach them well and let them learn:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
© 2010 – 2015, agentleman.
- 3210 Quotes From a Sioux Indian Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society BY STEVEN BANCARZ Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of life of the Indigenous people…
San Francisco Is First Major City To Boycott Indiana Over LGBT Discrimination Law
By Lydia O’Connor
San Francisco will not use taxpayer money to fund any city employees’ trips to Indiana in light of the state’s new law allowing discrimination against the LGBT community.
In a statement released Thursday, Mayor Ed Lee (D) objected to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) that same day and allows businesses in the state to cite religious beliefs as a legal defense. Many opponents of the measure fear it could offer legal protection for businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Lee’s statement reads:
We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana’s new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety. San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana.
San Francisco, the U.S. metro area with the highest LGBT-identifying population per capita, is joined by many of the region’s powerful technology companies in its objections to the law.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff canceled the company’s events in Indiana, saying Thursday he would not require his employees or customers to travel to a state where they could face discrimination. Even before Pence signed the bill, Benioff had announced Wednesday that the company would reduce its investment in Indiana due to outrage over the bill.
Tim Cook, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Apple, tweeted Friday that the company is “deeply disappointed” in the new law and is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) to veto a similar measure on his desk.
San Francisco-based Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, also released a statement Thursday suggesting the crowdsourced review site would back out of Indiana.
“It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large,” he wrote. “Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.”
The NCAA, which is scheduled to hold the Final Four games of its March Madness men’s basketball tournament in the state’s capital next week, said it is concerned about how the bill may affect its student-athletes and employees and will consider the law when choosing locations for NCAA events in the future.
“Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said.
© 2015, agentleman.
Historic Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum
A comprehensive bill introduced in the House of Representatives Tuesday aims to deal a significant blow to the federal government’s long-running war on medical marijuana.
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), is a House companion bill to identical Senate legislation from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced earlier this month. Each bill seeks to drastically reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs and aims to encourage more research into the plant.
The historic Senate version of the bill has also gained traction with two new sponsors since its introduction: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
“The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I — with heroin and LSD — is ludicrous,” Cohen said in a statement Tuesday. “I am pleased to join with Congressman Don Young in introducing this important bill to bring the federal government in line with the science and the American people, respect states’ rights, remove the threat of federal prosecution in states with medical marijuana, and help our citizens access the treatments they need.”
Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group, told The Huffington Post that the House version of the bill was introduced because “momentum is so strong” for the bipartisan CARERS Act.
“This has become one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans can agree on,” Piper told HuffPost in an email. “The tide is quickly turning against marijuana prohibition, and the war on drugs in general; it’s only a question of when, not if, reform will happen.”
The bill calls for six major policy changes. Here’s what it aims to accomplish:
Allow patients, doctors and businesses to participate in their states’ medical marijuana programs without fear of being prosecuted by the federal government.
Under this legislation, the Controlled Substances Act would be amended so that states could set their own medical marijuana policies. It would clarify much of the legal ambiguity that currently exists between federal guidance, congressional intent and state laws on medical marijuana — not by forcing states to legalize medical marijuana, but by protecting the states that choose to do so.
The sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law. The states that have legalized the drug in some form or another have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.
To date, 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana and 12 others have legalized the limited use of low-THC marijuana for medical purposes. All such state laws, and the people who act in compliance with them, would be protected by this bill.
Reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance, moving it from Schedule I to Schedule II.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. has five categories for drugs and drug ingredients. Schedule I is reserved for substances that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers to have no medical value and the highest potential for abuse. Marijuana has been classified as Schedule I for decades, alongside substances like heroin and LSD.
This legislation would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug — a category for less dangerous drugs that have an accepted medical use. Rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t make the drug legal under federal law, but such a move would essentially mark the federal government’s first-ever acknowledgement that the plant has any medical benefits.
Give veterans easier access to medical marijuana.
Currently, doctors who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs are prohibited from helping patients acquire medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal.
This legislation would lift that ban and would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients suffering from certain conditions, where permitted by state law.
Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2012 VA report. Some research has suggested that marijuana may help with PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. A recent study found that PTSD symptoms in patients who used cannabis were reduced by an average of 75 percent.
Eliminate barriers to marijuana research.
Getting the federal government to sign off on a marijuana study is exceedingly difficult — but two of the most prohibitive federal barriers to marijuana research would be lifted under this new legislation.
Currently, all marijuana research must go through a Public Health Service review, a process established in 1999 by the federal government after a 1998 Institute of Medicine report called for more scientific research into the medical value of marijuana. No other Schedule I substance is subject to this process. That extra step would be removed entirely under the CARERS Act.
Secondly, federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance. The DEA has also been accused of not acting quickly enough when petitioned to reschedule marijuana and of obstructing research into the drug.
Currently, the federal government is the only institution authorized to grow research-grade cannabis. The CARERS Act would allow for no fewer than three additional licensed growers, a move that would end the federal monopoly on marijuana research and potentially hasten the discovery of new medical applications for the plant.
Remove low-THC strains of marijuana from the controlled substances list.
The strength of a strain of marijuana is generally measured by its percentage of THC, the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient. There are multiple strains of marijuana that have little to no THC, but high levels of CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound that has medical value but does not produce the “high” sensation associated with THC.
While nearly two dozen states have broad medical marijuana laws that allow for the cultivation, production and distribution of medical marijuana, another 12 states only make provisions for low-THC strains, and those only under certain circumstances. Because those states generally don’t allow for the regulated sale or cultivation of marijuana, patients are forced to seek out the plant on the black market, or from another state with more relaxed laws that allow out-of-state patients to purchase medical marijuana. Even so, transporting marijuana across state lines remains illegal, leaving patients in a bind.
The CARERS Act would remove marijuana with less than 0.3 percent THC from the CSA’s schedules altogether, allowing states to import low-THC/high-CBD strains for patients who need it.
Open up banking for marijuana businesses.
The legislation would expand banking access for medical marijuana businesses, enabling them to function more or less like traditional businesses.
Legal marijuana is already a billion-dollar industry. But because of banks’ fears of being implicated as money launderers, marijuana-related businesses are often forced to be cash-only, putting retailers’ safety at risk and creating problems with taxes and employee payroll. Despite Treasury Department guidance that supporters hoped would ease interactions, most banks are still extremely wary of working with marijuana businesses since the plant remains illegal under federal law.
© 2015, agentleman.
- 43The Neocon Recipe For Iraq -- How to Completely Ruin a Country in 13 Years When are we going to do in Iraq what we did in Europe after war destroyed that continent? By Thom Hartmann As war-hawk Republicans hit the airwaves blaming President Obama for the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and the Congress…
- 426 Craziest Right-Wing Judges in America Roy Moore is only one of the worst judges out there. By Evan McMurry Wacky congressman and eccentric state legislators may get most of the Internet ink for the outlandish things they say and do, but judges hold just as much power over the laws of the…
- 41You're Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham Libertarians believe they're rebels, but they are really political children who scream through tears. By David Masciotra Libertarians believe themselves controversial and cool. They're desperate to package themselves as dangerous rebels, but in reality they are champions of conformity. Their irreverence…
- 41'You Calling ME a Racist?' Why It's So Hard for Whites to Confront Their Own Failings A look at history illustrates a clear and disturbing pattern of institutionalized advantages for whites. By Frank Joyce Statement: Racism is deeply embedded in our system. Response: Don’t you dare call me a racist! One of the…
- 40The Republicans Are Ruthless and Relentless in Their Drive to Push Down Wages Right-to-work-for-less laws ensure the cheap labor conservatives have sought for generations. By Thom Hartmann From the Gilded Age to the Great Depression to today, the economic agenda of conservatives has been easily summarized in two words: "cheap labor." Nowhere is…
14 ways Republicans have declared war on the middle class
Poll after poll shows Americans strongly oppose almost every facet of the new GOP budget proposal STEVEN ROSENFELD
14 ways Republicans have declared war on the middle class
If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it wants do to the federal government—via the 2016 budget—because if Republicans get even a fraction of what they have proposed, your living standards will start sliding downhill.
This is the takeaway from economists and experts who know how to ignore the right wing’s ridiculous rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, and instead see exactly who will be hurt, and how that will unfold—if the GOP rips the floor out of virtually every federal social safety net, as they propose, and also raises taxes on already struggling lower wage earners, which they also propose.
“The simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer,” wrote Paul Krugman, The New York Times’columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist. “We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.”
The GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets not only drastically cut spending on education, retirement, environment, road and bridges, climate change, immigration, job creation, Obamacare, food stamps, and other social welfare programs; but it gives the Pentagon a blank check, and includes tax cuts for the rich and corporations while raising taxes for lower-income Americans. That’s the analysis by the National Priorities Project (NPP), not just Krugman, and they make an even more disturbing point.
In almost every one of these budget areas, nationwide polls show that a majority of Americans strongly oppose what the GOP is proposing. In other words, the Republicans are not delivering the kind of federal government that Americans want; they are declaring economic war on average Americans by reshaping government to serve the upper classes and biggest businesses.
What follows is a summary of the NPP’s analysis, with its documentation, showing that Repubicans are brazenly ignoring public opinion and national needs—which isn’t just anti-democratic but reveals how deeply corrupt the modern GOP has become.
1. Bleed domestic programs to death.The budget is broken down into various areas that are reviewed separately, starting with domestic discretionary spending. This includes education, energy, environment, housing, job training and more. The White House wants modest increases in these areas in 2016. Polls show that Americans want more investment in infrastructure, climate change, the economy, immigration, and support higher tax revenues for these priorities. The GOP propose to freeze current spending or cut it back by hundreds of billions of dollars starting next fall, adding up to $5 trillion in cuts over the next decade.
2. Who needs new or better jobs? Two-thirds of Americans say improving job prospects is a key issue facing Washington. Obama wants to spend about half a trillion dollars over the next six years on road and bridge upgrades, research and development, and give tax credits to new manufacturers. The House and Senate budgets propose “no new funding” in these areas, NPP said, with the Senate saying that “reduced spending and regulation will indirectly lead to job creation.”
3. Who needs a good education? The same-size majority that wants to see more and better jobs, also wants to see Congress improve access to education. The White House wants to expand federal subsidies from pre-school through high school, and spend $60 billion to provide two years of community college for free over the next decade. Republicans propose the opposite. The House wants to cap federal Pell grants, which are awarded to low-income people for college and graduate school. That means “financial aid to fewer families,” NPP said. It also wants “substantial cuts” to discretionary education programs. The Senate is as bad. NPP said its budget has “no new funding for education,” and “unspecified cuts to domestic discretionary spending could mean cuts to education.”
4. Who needs healthcare anyway?Obamacare may have its problems because it relies on private insurers to be middlemen, but since its inception11.7 million people have gained access to healthcare and millions have subsidized premiums. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks healthcare trends, reports that 56 percent of Americans want Congress to expand, improve and implement the law. Obama wants “small tweaks” in 2016, NPP said, whereas the House and Senate still obsess with repealing it entirely.
5. Next on the chopping block: Social Security. Here, too, even cautious pollsters like the Pew Research Center, report that 66 percent of Americans want to strengthen the program—which, contrary to GOP rhetoric, isn’t an “entitlement,” but the government acting as a retirement bank for decades of payroll deductions. Both chambers have already begun to attack a small part of Social Security that helps people with disabilties, saying they want to weed out fraud and cut payments. Meanwhile, the House wants a commission created to “study the program’s problems,” as NPP put it. The GOP agenda is not expanding payments to make life easier, but cutting senior benefits while allowing young people to give their payroll deductions to Wall Street.
6. Privatize Medicare, health care for seniors. Medicare is the federal government health plan for people age 65 and older. It is not free, but costs significantly less than private health insurance. Pew reported that 61 percent of Americans want this system fortified and improved. Obama wants to raise premiums for wealthy retirees, start co-payments for home health care, and allow the federal government to negotiate for lower drug costs, NPP said. The House GOP would also raise premiums for wealthier people, but starting in 2024 if would offer people a lump-sum payment to end their coverage, so they could theoretically buy private insurance. They also would ban the government from negotiating lower drug prices. Both of those proposals are giveaways that take money out of seniors’ pockets and give it to corporations. The Senate GOP simply says it wants to cut about half a trillion dollars from Medicare over the next decade, but doesn’t say how or where those cuts would be. That’s pretending no one would be hurt.
7. Kick 7 Million Poor People Off Medicaid. Medicaid is the state-run health program for low-income people. Under Obamacare, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states don’t have to implement this part of the law, the federal government planned to give every state grants to allow all poor people to get coverage through Medicaid. Even though almost all red states have not helped millions of residents this way, 7 million Americans have gotten access to health care through this Obamacare reform. Sixty-two percent of Americans believethat this Medicaid expansion should continue.
The White House wants to keep it that way and start a project where Medicaid recipients would be able to access new long-term care options, which comes into play when people no longer can take care of themselves. The House GOP doesn’t just want to repeal Obamacare, kicking millions off this health plan, NPP reports, but it would cut overall Medicaid spending and turn the program—along with SCHIP (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program)—into one block grant. That scenario all-but ensures that health care for poorer families will shrink. The Senate GOP, as with Medicare, says trillions must be cut, “but does not specify how,” NPP reports.
8. Our century’s version of “Let Them Eat Cake.” Those infamous words were attributed to France’s queen in the late 1700s, when commenting about impoverished countrymen. Today, in America, the food stamp program (SNAP) tries to ensure that nobody goes hungry, and is supported by 70 percent of the public. The White House wants to continue it and make applying easier for seniors, NPP reports. The House GOP, in contrast, would make “deep cuts to SNAP” and turn it into a grant to states, where legislators might not even use the funds for food aid. The Senate GOP merely says food stamps should be on the list of programs that will yield $4.3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
9. But give the Pentagon more blank checks. Sixty-three percent of Americans say the Pentagon spends the “right amount or too much on national security,” NPP reported, citing a Gallup poll. The White House wants to increase the defense budget by more than half a trillion dollars in 2016, which NPP said would make it “the highest base budget in history.” The House Republican budget writers say that’s not enough, however, and seek to use loopholes in war funding laws to add several hundred billion more over the next decade. The Senate GOP essentially rubber stamps that approach, offering no specifics.
10. And use the excuse of endless war to do it.Even though 85 percent of the public is afraid that getting involved in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq will be long and costly, the White House wants $51 billion in additional wartime funding in 2016, and another $5.3 billion to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). Not to outdone by Obama, the House GOP proposes spending an additional $90 billion next year, NPP reports, while Senate GOP wants about $60 billion more on top of the baseline Pentagon budget.
11. Corporate taxes are still too high, right? That’s not what 66 percent of Americans told the Gallup poll, which the White House sort of acknowledges. Obama, trying to reach some deal with Republicans on tax reform, would lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, and 25 percent for domestic manufacturing, NPP reports. But the White House also would impose fees on Wall Street speculators to raise “$112 billion over 10 years,” close loopholes that let companies park billions overseas tax-free, and impose a 14 percent tax on that cash. House Republicans, in contrast, have only proposed lower rates for corporations and small businesses, NPP said, and nothing to recapture outsized wealth. The Senate GOP hasn’t proposed any corporate tax changes.
12. And the rich can’t afford to pay, either? In January, 68 percent of Americans polled said wealthy households aren’t paying a fair share in taxes. Obama’s budget would try to rebalance that by raising the capital gains tax—on investment income—to 28 percent, and close loopholes that only the wealthiest Ameicans can exploit, such as avoiding inheritance taxes, which would raise $208 billion in a decade, NPP reports. Obama also would implement a minimum tax rate for the richest people, and close a big loophole for Wall St. hedge fund managers, which would raise an additional $17.6 billion over a decade.
The House GOP, in contrast, only wants to lower tax rates “for individuals and familes,” NPP said, and eliminate the “Alternative Minimum Tax that sets a minimum tax for the wealthy.” The Senate GOP, as is the case with corporate taxes, hasn’t proposed any tax changes for the wealthy individuals, suggesting that the status quo works fine for them.
13. But working class and poor must pay more. In a January poll, 91 percent of Americans said that middle-class households paid enough or too much in taxes, and 79 percent said the same for low-income households. Obama’s response to these sentiments is to increase tax credits for all poor people—with and without children—and give a tax credit to students to help pay for college.
Both House and Senate GOP go in the opposite direction, phasing out two tax credits that now lower taxes for 13 million families, NPP reported. Their budgets allow “the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) to expire in 2017, raising taxes on more than 13 million working families.” In other words, the GOP won’t touch taxes for the rich, but will raise them on the poor.
14. Why Krugman called all of this a “con game.”In politics, there’s always a publicly given reason why something is proposed and the real motive, which is not stated. The GOP’s public rationale for these devastating cuts is their sanctimonious obsession with lowering the federal deficit, which makes them pretend to be responsible stewards. About two-thirds of the public say that reducing federal borrowing is a good idea. Obama has cut annual deficits bymore than 50 percent since he took office, fact checkers have found. Obama’s 2016 budget would continue this, cutting about half a trillion next year, and $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
But deficit reduction is not what is going on here. The House and Senate Republican budgets actually would cut less money from next year’s deficit—about $350 billion—than Obama, NPP said, and then decrease domestic spending by more than $5 trillion dollars over the next decade to “balance” the budget. What’s going on is the GOP wants to cut back the federal government to roughly where it was before the Progressive era began a century ago, when government helped the rich get richer and there were no safety nets.
“Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements,” Krugman wrote. “What you’re left with us huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, would would see big tax cuts.”
Krugman said this wasn’t Republican extremism as usual, but a declaration of economic warfare on behalf of wealthy Americans at the expense of everyday Americans who want, and expect, more from federal government.
“Look, I know that it’s hard to keep up with the outrage after so many years of fiscal fraudulence,” he concluded. “But please try. We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.”
The National Priorities Project’s budget analysis underscores that the GOP’s proposals aren’t just corrupt—a vast giveaway to the wealthy people and interests who fund their campaigns—but are fundamentally anti-democratic. Poll after poll report that a majority of Americans want Congress to invest in education, road and bridges, jobs, climate change, immigration, healthcare reform, retirement security, safety nets for the poor and vulnerable, and raise taxes on those who can easily afford to pay a fairer share.
Astoundingly, congressional Republicans not only oppose every one of those goals, but their budget proposals, if enacted, would undeniably make life harder for average Americans, millions of whom would slide down the economic ladder toward poverty.
© 2015, agentleman.
- 5214 Reasons Why House and Senate Republicans Have Declared Economic War On Average Americans Poll after poll finds Americans want the exact opposite of what the GOP proposes. If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it…
- 38What Change Sounds Like By E.J. Dionne, Jr. When he opened the 114th Congress, House Speaker John Boehner declared that “too many are working harder only to lose ground to stagnant wages and rising costs.” Jeb Bush called the fundraising arm of his presidential exploration “The Right to Rise PAC,” a nice play…
Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Since the day President Obama took office, he has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects — an official government program conceived and carried out in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed.
Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.
Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”
These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture.
So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.
In July 2002, C.I.A. lawyers told the Justice Department that the agency needed to use “more aggressive methods” of interrogation that would “otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.” They asked the department to promise not to prosecute those who used these methods. When the department refused, they shopped around for the answer they wanted. They got it from the ideologically driven lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods. Government officials now rely on the memos as proof that they sought and received legal clearance for their actions. But the report changes the game: We now know that this reliance was not made in good faith.
No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch are to give Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. a letter Monday calling for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate what appears increasingly to be “a vast criminal conspiracy, under color of law, to commit torture and other serious crimes.”
The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.
But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”
Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.
© 2015, agentleman.
- 55The Neocon Recipe For Iraq -- How to Completely Ruin a Country in 13 Years When are we going to do in Iraq what we did in Europe after war destroyed that continent? By Thom Hartmann As war-hawk Republicans hit the airwaves blaming President Obama for the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and the Congress…
- 55Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation How a classified manuscript became an extraordinary book Mohamedou Ould Slahi remains in Guantánamo despite having never been charged with a crime. Spencer Ackerman in New York and Ian…
- 50Race, History, a President, a Bridge Obama and Selma: The Meaning of ‘Bloody Sunday’ As our van in the presidential motorcade reached the crest of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., and began the descent toward the thousands of waiting faces and waving arms of those who had come to commemorate the 50th anniversary…
- 49Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism By GEORGE YANCY and NOAM CHOMSKY The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. This is the eighth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s…
- 46You're Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham Libertarians believe they're rebels, but they are really political children who scream through tears. By David Masciotra Libertarians believe themselves controversial and cool. They're desperate to package themselves as dangerous rebels, but in reality they are champions of conformity. Their irreverence…
Why This Woman Kept Silent About Being Sexually Abused by Bill Cosby—Until Now
As Jewel Allison puts it, “I let race trump rape.” By Terrell Jermaine Starr
Jewel Allison is one of many women to come forward with allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her. But what distinguishes her story is that her initial reluctance to share what happened to her has as much to do with race as the assault itself.
In a piece for the Washington Post, Allison, an African-American woman, explains that she was scared to come forward about the abuse she says she suffered at Cosby’s hands because of how her story would hurt black America.
“When I first heard Andrea Constand and Tamara Green publicly tell their stories about being drugged and assaulted by Cosby, I wasn’t relieved; I was terrified. I knew these women weren’t fabricating stories and conspiring to destroy America’s favorite dad, but I did not want to see yet another African American man vilified in the media. As I debated whether to come forward, I struggled with where my allegiances should lie—with the women who were sexually victimized or with black America, which had been systematically victimized. I called several friends for advice. While some encouraged me to speak out, others were cautious—even angry. One friend, an African American man, insisted I should stay quiet: ‘You will be eaten alive, and for what? The black community is not going to support you.’ It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I think it was his way of protecting me.”
Allison went on to share the encounters she has had with black men and women who have expressed doubt over claims that “America’s favorite dad” could do such a thing. One black man asked her, “Sister, is it true?” She says the tone of his question was as if their father had died. “I’m sorry, brother, but it is true,” she replied. “Do not let this weaken you in any way.”
His words are ironic, given that when black men come forward with claims of police abuse, black women have always believed them. The brother she spoke with needs to scan through photos of Michael Brown and Eric Garner protests to see who is leading them: black women. I’m sure they didn’t ask themselves “Brother, is it true?” as they took tear gas to the face while marching in honor of Brown and Garner.
That Allison felt the need to protect a TV character is a sign of how black women are constantly underprotected from sexual assault and doubted when they talk about it. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, black women experience sexual assault at twice the rate of white women. Black Women’s Blueprint, a Brooklyn-based non-profit, reports that black women have a history of being sexually abused by police and state authorit that dates back to slavery.
We don’t have to look any further back than last year. Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, who is currently facing 32 counts of various charges for sexually assaulting at least 13 black women, was charged in August 2014. His story has since faded from mainstream coverage, but something tells me that if this officer raped 13 white women, we’d still be hearing about it.
The only real difference between Holtzclaw and Cosby is that the cop used his badge to abuse women, while Cosby used his celebrity to prey on women. I believe the women who accused Holtzclaw of sexually assaulting them, just as I believe Jewek Allison and the other women who say Cosby raped them. They are a vocal, visible minority of the tens of thousands of women who will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Sixty-eight percent of women don’t report the sexual assault they endured and 98 percent of their assailants will never spend a day in jail. Given how crudely women are treated when they do speak up, it is unfortunately understandable why this is the case.
My heart goes out to all of the women, regardless of race, who have said Cosby sexually assaulted them, but I am especially troubled that Allison felt coming forward would let black America down. I’m sorry she felt pressure by so many in the black community not to speak her truth.
In doing so, we actually let her down.
Terrell Jermaine Starr
© 2015, agentleman.
- 81Letter to My Rapist, Jailed for Raping Women Who Are More Respectable Than I Am I'm writing to you to tell you that we're both human. By Tara Burns I used to think about you every day, every hour. I used to agonize over why you did it. Now I think I know why: Because…
- 80Powerful New Film About Campus Rape Reveals Shocking New Insights About Male Behavior The film looks at how colleges and universities silence survivors of sexual assaults on campus. By Kali Holloway In one of the many troubling and eye-opening scenes in director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering’s new documentary, "The Hunting Ground," we…
- 80New Delhi Gang Rape Convict Blames Victim For Attack: 'She Shouldn't Have Fought Back' By By ASHOK SHARMA NEW DELHI (AP) — One of the men sentenced to death for raping and killing a woman in a brutal 2012 gang attack on a New Delhi bus says in a TV documentary that if…
- 69Cosby: 'Trust Me.' Cindra Ladd In 1969 I met Bill Cosby while working in New York for the late film producer Ray Stark. I was a 21-year-old single woman in the world's most exciting city. He was a 32-year-old internationally known comedian and television star, one of the most likeable and popular entertainers in the…
- 57Here Are Five Surprising Ways Iran Is Better Than Israel By Juan Cole This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page. I think I’m one of the few Americans who has been to both Iran and Israel. I like both countries and have a lot in common with thinkers in both. I…
The Six Most Evil Presidents in U.S. History
If evil is as evil does, then these guys wreaked some serious havoc. Evil, like beauty, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
By Larry Schwartz
It is difficult to distinguish an evil act from an evil person. Few people, for example, would argue that Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and Josef Stalin were not evil men. But if killing lots of people is the criteria, Abraham Lincoln was a pretty evil guy, too; he just happened to be on the right side of history. As the saying goes, history is written by the winners and, it seems, the winners get to decide who is evil. For a long time, we Americans have thought of ourselves as a shining beacon of goodness. Ronald Reagan stoked that mood with his “Morning in America” administration. Meanwhile, those bad guys over there in the Soviet “Evil Empire” were wreaking their havoc. Only, the rest of the world does not quite see it that way. Distrust of America is growing and we are seen as one of the biggest perpetrators of evil and bloodshed, the“Great Satan” to some. This confuses Americans because that’s not what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror, and through the lens of American exceptionalism.
The point is, objective truths are hard to pin down, and subjective truths are many and contradictory. Adolph Hitler was evil because he killed people out of spite and a bankrupt and hate-filled ideology (although he also probably didn’t see himself as evil when he looked in the mirror.) Lincoln was not evil because he was forced into the position of killing people for the preservation of the country. But many Germans worshipped Hitler, and many in the Confederacy despised Lincoln.
No one sets out to do evil, U.S. Presidents included. Our most murderous, warmongering presidents did not intend to become killers, but they did end up committing acts that are considered evil. Here are six of the most evil Presidents in our history (followed by a healthy list of runner-ups.)
1. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory, our seventh president, was beloved by the common people of the United States. He was a populist who railed against the federal banking system, a man who grew up poor and climbed the ladder to ultimate power, a war hero, a romantic who pined for his wife who passed away only days after he won the presidency. He was a slave owner who believed in the morality of owning human chattel (although many of our early presidents owned slaves and felt similarly). What set Jackson apart, and places him high in the “Evil President” ranks was his actions against Native Americans. Simply put, Andrew Jackson never met an Indian he liked or felt obliged to respect. Appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to wage war on the Creek and Cherokee tribes in order to gain their territory, Jackson was a brutal Indian killer whose nickname Sharp Knife was well earned. At his command, his troops killed not only vast numbers of male Native Americans, but also women and children. Millions of acres of land was stolen from the tribes during his campaigns. In 1818 Jackson and his men invaded Spanish Florida and incited the First Seminole War, killing Seminoles and capturing escaped slaves who lived among them. As he illegally swept through Florida, he, “violated nearly every standard of justice,” wrote historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown. Long before ethnic cleansing became a term to describe the terrible war crime, Jackson perfected the practice. Supporting and signing, as President, the Indian Removal Act in 1830, over 46,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and lands east of the Mississippi River and marched to reservations in the western territories. In one such forced march, which occurred after Jackson left office, 4000 Cherokees died during the infamous Trail of Tears. Millions of acres of Indian land was seized and handed over to the white slave aristocracy. Old Hickory carried his actions against Native Americans out despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” cried Jackson.
2. Harry Truman
Famous for the sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here”, Harry ”Give ‘Em Hell” Truman never shied away from his decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan. Debate has raged ever since. In1945, Truman ordered the U.S. military to drop atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was his action, which literally incinerated many thousands of civilian men, women, and children, and crippled and mutilated many thousands more, justified in order to end World War Two and save the lives of a million American soldiers, who would have had to invade mainland Japan otherwise? That is the argument in favor of the decision, but that turns out to be disingenuous. Japan was willing to surrender to the United States in July of 1945 with one condition, that the Japanese Emperor Hirohito not be tried as a war criminal. The truth was that Japan was virtually helpless by this time, its military in a shambles, its cities bombed, and its people starving. Truman ignored the offer, and in August ordered the bombs dropped. Since the U.S. ultimately granted that condition anyway, the dropping of the bombs was unnecessary, and the horrific death and destruction that resulted was also unnecessary.
3. William McKinley
When most people think of William McKinley, our 25th President, they are most likely to think of America’s fattest president. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, McKinley was a mountain of a man. He also was a man with blood on his hands, the blood of hundreds of thousands of Filipino people. At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which the United States defeated Spain, McKinley found himself with the question of what to do about the Philippines. The Filipino people had expected to be given their independence, which they had fought with Spain over prior to the war. Instead, McKinley decided, “that we could not leave them to themselves – they were unfit for self-government – and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was; and…that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.” Thus, under McKinley’ mandate, the U.S. brutally put down the Filipino insurrection in a war that lasted until 1902. “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,” said one of McKinley’s generals, General Jacob H. Smith. Tens of thousands died in direct combat in the guerrilla war, and hundreds of thousands more from disease transmitted in the concentration camps where Filipino prisoners were herded.
4. Ronald Reagan
Today’s Republican Party may remember The Gipper as a saintly figure, but it is doubtful that many in the gay community share the sentiment. In the 1980s, an unidentified disease began decimating the gay community, and in 1981 it was identified as AIDS. While not specifically a gay disease, it was the homosexual community (as well as intravenous drug users) that was primarily infected with it in the United States at first. Reagan’s attitude towards homosexuals was well known. While campaigning for President in 1980, Reagan referred to gay civil rights: “My criticism is that [the gay movement] isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I.” His beliefs carried over into his administration, and he virtually ignored the AIDS crisis for the several years as it ravaged and killed thousands of infected people. Even his old Hollywood friend Rock Hudson’s death from the disease did not sway him from his indifference to the suffering. Reagan’s Surgeon General, C. Edward Koop was specifically prevented from speaking out about the ways to minimize contracting AIDS. When he did speak about it, The Great Communicator actually served to inflame the crisis. Despite the Centers for Disease Control issuing a report that casual contact did not pose a threat to contract AIDS, parents in many parts of the country spoke out against allowing children with AIDS (who mostly contracted AIDS through blood transfusions) to attend school. Rather than soothing these fears, Reagan stoked them. “…medicine has not come forth unequivocally and said, This we know for a fact, that it is safe. And until they do, I think we just have to do the best we can with this problem.” It was only after organizations like ACT UP, and celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, began pressuring Reagan to acknowledge the crisis that he allowed Koop to issue a report in 1986, a full five years after the disease was identified. Even then, his Administration was ultimately at odds with Koop, as the report went way beyond what Reagan wanted, rejecting AIDS testing and urging use of condoms and sex education.
5. Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, was just not a worthy successor to Abraham Lincoln. Maybe anyone succeeding The Great Emancipator would suffer in comparison, but Johnson energetically earned his incompetence with deeds that the African Americans in the former Confederacy could truly consider evil. Considering the fact that Johnson was a fervent racist, and pre-Civil War slave owner, who believed in the inferiority of African Americans, it was no surprise that the Reconstruction of the South, post-Civil War, did not go as Lincoln would have liked. “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men,” wrote Johnson in a letter to the governor of Missouri. In 1867, in his message to Congress, he said, “…wherever they [black people] have been left to their own devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse into barbarism.” In order to minimize the influence of newly freed slaves, and to prevent the redistribution of land to them, he pardoned all but the most egregious Confederates, and they quickly began grabbing the seats of government. Soon after, they began passing “Black Codes”, laws that, while granting some rights, effectively made African Americans second-class citizens. Radical Republicans in the Congress passed a civil rights bill, which Johnson promptly vetoed, claiming the bill unfairly favored people of color over whites (the veto was overturned). In response, the Congress created the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, giving African Americans equal protection under the law. Johnson vehemently campaigned against the amendment.
6. James Buchanan
There’s a lot not to like about our 15th President, James Buchanan, not the least of which is that he fiddled while Rome burned, i.e., he allowed the country to slide to the brink of civil war, which it did shortly after his successor, Abraham Lincoln, took office. The issue that the American Civil War revolved around was, of course, slavery. During Buchanan’s administration, the debate in the air was whether slavery would be legal in U.S. territories, or would only be decided once statehood was imminent. Northern interests leaned towards territorial decision, where the decision could be made before significant numbers of slave owners arrived. The South preferred that states make the decision, believing that at that point, slave owners could flood the soon-to-be state and vote it pro-slavery. Buchanan sided with the southern states on the issue, and saw an opportunity to have the courts decide the matter. On the Supreme Court docket was a case involving a slave, Dred Scott. Scott sued for his freedom, based on the claim that he had lived for a period of time with his owner in Illinois and Wisconsin (at the time, part of Minnesota), both free under the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which had limited slavery primarily to Southern states and had diffused the issue for several years). There were five southern justices on the Court, but they let Buchanan know they were inclined to allow an earlier lower court ruling stand and not make new federal law. However, Buchanan was informed that if northern judge Robert Cooper Grier could be persuaded to side with the Southerners, the Court would agree to rule on the matter. Improperly infringing on judicial territory, Buchanan proceeded to write Grier and request that he side with the Southerners, which Grier agreed to do. The resulting Dred Scott decision declared that slaves were not citizens and could not therefore sue. Secondly, it said that slaves were property, not people, and were therefore protected by the Constitution in all territories and could not be prohibited there. The decision invalidated the Missouri Compromise. The President of the United States, James Buchanan, colluded with the Supreme Court to eliminate territorial barriers to slavery, opened the door to the expansion of the “peculiar institution”, and ultimately set the stage for the Civil War.
Some Evil Runner-ups
George W. Bush: For invading Iraq under false pretenses (“Weapons of Mass Destruction”), resulting in the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens.
James Polk: For starting a war with Mexico under the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” (the belief that the United States was destined to expand and acquire land), resulting in the deaths of 25,000 Mexicans and the theft of most of southwest North America.
Franklin Roosevelt: For the imprisonment of over 100,000 Japanese American citizens for the crime of looking Asian.
Lyndon Johnson: For expansion of the Vietnam War while lying to the American people about both the reasons for the war and the prospects for victory.
Richard Nixon: For further expanding the Vietnam War after promising a secret plan to end it, and illegally spying on American citizens perceived as political enemies.
Dwight Eisenhower: For authorizing the overthrow of the Iranian government via the CIA, resulting in the coronation of the Shah, countless subsequent political murders, and ultimately the rise of Muslim extremism.
© 2015, agentleman.
- 5912 Worst Ideas Religion Has Unleashed on the World These dubious concepts advocate conflict, cruelty and suffering. By Valerie Tarico Some of humanity’s technological innovations are things we would have been better off without: the medieval rack, the atomic bomb and powdered lead potions come to mind. Religions tend to invent ideas or concepts rather than…
- 49Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation How a classified manuscript became an extraordinary book Mohamedou Ould Slahi remains in Guantánamo despite having never been charged with a crime. Spencer Ackerman in New York and Ian…
- 48Netanyahu's Takeover Bid David Bromwich The speech that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, will deliver to Congress on March 3rd aims to scuttle an agreement on nuclear inspections and technology between Iran and the United States. Netanyahu would like to sow a suspicion between these countries so fraught and durable that it will…
- 4614 Reasons Why House and Senate Republicans Have Declared Economic War On Average Americans Poll after poll finds Americans want the exact opposite of what the GOP proposes. If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it…
- 44The Neocon Recipe For Iraq -- How to Completely Ruin a Country in 13 Years When are we going to do in Iraq what we did in Europe after war destroyed that continent? By Thom Hartmann As war-hawk Republicans hit the airwaves blaming President Obama for the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and the Congress…