Think about it! Please help us elect better leaders!

Think about it!

Please help us elect better leaders!

Ted Folkert

October 20, 2014

Considerations before we go to the polls to mark our ballots:

  • A leader who tried to be honest and forthright:

“Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, five star general, commander of the Allied Forces on June 6, 1944 – D-Day in WWII, and president of the United States from 1952 to 1960.

  • A well-respected editorialist:

It’s hard to make sense of these tragic encounters in which healthy young people, not much older than children, are lost for reasons that, at best, remain obscure.” Bob Herbert, former NY Times editorialist and author.

  • Example of senseless loss of lives and unnecessary devastation:

By 2014 nearly 6,800 hundred American service men and women had been killed in the 2 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and tens of thousands had been wounded, physically or mentally. More than half of the 1.5 million troops that have been discharged have received medical treatment at VA facilities and have been granted benefits for the rest of their lives at an estimated cost of $600-900 billion. The costs of these wars will probably exceed $5 trillion.

  • Lesson learned by most and ignored by some:

Madison, Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, and Reagan-all insisted on wartime tax increases-George W Bush insisted on tax reductions and excessive spending. Tom DeLay, former majority whip for the Republican controlled House of Representatives, insisted that “nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes.” (DeLay was later convicted and sentenced for money laundering)

  • Thumbing one’s nose at the lower and middle class:

To a crowd of wealthy supporters: “this is an impressive crowd of the haves and the have-mores.” George W Bush.

  • Example of speaking the truth and ignoring the consequences:

“People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged.” Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator.

  • Considering our progress as a society:

The image we claim to project as a prosperous middle-class society with the highest standard of living in the world is an attempt to hide the fact that one third of our 300 million people are at or below the poverty level. One in five of American children are poor, as are one in three of black children.

The Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 5 million Americans live in households designated as “food insecure”.

The stories of the difficulty of high school and college graduates in finding careers with compensation sufficient to support a family are endless and saddening. The enormous student loan burden that most of our children end up with after graduation is a lifetime burden. The result of all this is young people staying or returning to the homes of their parents, forgoing marriage, and forgoing child bearing. These debts cannot even been dismissed in bankruptcy, a law handed to the greedy banksters by our fearless leaders. All of the major corporations can be relieved of their debts through bankruptcy without any stockholder being held responsible but our students who have been defrauded by greedy lenders cannot dispose of their debts and get on with their lives. Unbelievable!

And all the while the well-off are enjoying the luxury and opulence awarded them by privilege and favorable taxation, willingly basking in their lawful avoidance of paying their fair share of the cost of providing the services required for maintaining a just and prosperous society.

  • The brunt of the problem:

We desperately need to be dealt a better hand. We need to shuffle the deck of cards, vote the dishonest card shufflers out of office, change the deck, and make everyone play by the same rules.

Since the Great Recession, brought on by the avaricious Wall Street swindlers and their accommodating elected officials from Bill Clinton to the present day, 95 percent of all income gains have gone to the top one percent of Americans. Our leaders chose to sleep with the banksters and abandon the working class. This situation is devastating for our economy and is preventing creation of jobs for the working class, those of us who actually make the economy work efficiently. The game is rigged. Elizabeth Warren is right. The game is rigged. We need to unrig it. We need to shuffle the deck.

Although those who are willing to go to any possible measures, no matter how harmful, to gain power, we must determine, among those running for office, who will support our needs in protecting our economy from additional harm. And we need to help them get elected. We need to identify those self-serving lackeys who support the rich and powerful in their quest for an aristocratic government and we must help them be removed from office before they can complete their objectives. Otherwise, there will be no improvement of conditions for the poor or for the middle class and the movement to aristocracy will become complete, leaving the masses with no opportunity to achieve a rewarding life.

  • The challenge we must accept and pursue:

Let’s focus on improving our U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with candidates who will support policies that will improve our economy and future opportunities for all citizens. This means tax laws that enhance progressive taxation that will provide funds necessary to rebuild the decaying infrastructure of our country while creating the jobs to rebuild our stagnant and recessionary economy.

And it means electing those who will support the only path to creating election laws that will allow the voices of ordinary people to be heard – as someone called – “the very essence of a true democracy.” That path we must take is a constitutional amendment to prevent the Supreme Court from handing all of the power to govern and control our nation to the rich and powerful individuals and corporations. They have done serious damage to our republic and we must stop them in the only way we can. Previous presidents stacked the court with corporatists and we need to stem the tide.

Think about it!

Help us elect better leaders, please!

Whatever happened to our old friend Harry?

Whatever happened to our old friend Harry?

Ted Folkert

October 13, 2014

Remember the song that ended something like: “…. Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he’s gone? I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill, with Abraham, Martin and John ….”

It makes me want to sing about our old friend Harry ……. the guy who said that accepting money for speaking would be unbecoming in his post-presidential years. The guy who said about the $1,000 per plate fund raising dinner for John Kennedy – “there goes democracy.”

Boy how things have changed since the days when Harry Truman left office without even a presidential pension. He spoke for free, even at my high school – and mowed his own lawn, much to the chagrin of his wife Bess.

But, like so many of Truman’s statements, he was right about “there goes democracy.” Democracy has been going downhill ever since. Harry didn’t suffer fools well and he didn’t like crooked politicians, including Richard Nixon. He didn’t mince his words either. Like some Missourian said: “He calls ‘em like he sees ‘em.”

Having the pleasure of reading the editorial by Steve Paul in the Kansas City Star recently triggered some historical thoughts about democracy and what we used to think it was. In Paul’s article, “For David McCullough, History is Always Human”, he speaks about his interview with David McCollough, historian and biographer, who reminds us of the importance of history, both written and photographic.

Read the article by Steve Paul: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/steve-paul/article2664697.html.

The thing the song reminds us of about Abraham, Martin, John, and Bobby, all who were assassinated, is that they were all heavily involved in movements or political events that were crucial in reducing inequality in the effort to enable a more just and enduring freedom. An objective that seems to have gotten lost in “there goes democracy.” An objective that is talked about by everyone seeking public office but quickly forgotten after the election, either because it wasn’t meant in the beginning or the distraction of raising money for reelection becomes too overwhelming.

Truman was right on, democracy ended with the $1,000 per plate fund raiser.

It is unlikely that it will return to the forefront until the $1,000 per plate dinner, which has become a $60,000 per plate dinner, comes to an end and becomes unlawful.

That is exactly why we desperately need a constitutional amendment that will make everyone’s vote count the same and everyone’s interest count the same.

Think about it!

Convince someone today to help us elect better leaders!

 

Dark money – close to $1 billion

Dark money – close to $1 billion

Is this what we call democracy? I don’t think so. It sounds more like those words that we, the working class, fear the most – “aristocracy” and ”oligarchy”.

Ted Folkert

October 9, 2014

Quotes from Leah McGrath Goodman, Newsweek:

“….. the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that dark money expenditures could reach “upwards of $730 million, or, if the rate seen in the last midterm holds, edge close to $1 billion.” Quote from the Newsweek article by Leah McGrath Goodman, “As Dark Money Floods U.S. Elections, Regulators Turn a Blind Eye.”

“While the partisan battle rages over whether such anonymous and unlimited political spending should even be allowed, a more immediate concern is the unwillingness, or inability, of regulators to get involved and enforce the existing rules—for dark money and for campaign spending in general.”

“This year, the greatest amount of dark money, more than $50 million, has been spent on boosting Republicans and defeating Democrats. Outside of the realm of dark money, it’s the reverse: The majority of funds—more than $100 million—have been spent on defeating Republicans, with pro-Democrat TV ads dominating top Senate races in the first two weeks of September.”

End of quotations.

Continuing in our quest for a constitutional amendment to move us closer to democratic elections, this article makes some salient points in exposing the real danger done to the electoral process by the five angry men in black dresses. The problem is real and the outcome can render us defenseless against any progress in gaining strength as a democratic society.

If the Republicans gain control of both houses of congress nothing will happen in the next two years to move us forward legislatively. If they just maintain control of the House the same is likely true. Losing the Senate will exacerbate the problem and make even operating the government difficult to impossible.

Without Democratic control of both houses, any progress seems unlikely, as exemplified explicitly over the last four years. Our government has become the laughing stock of the industrialized world and the source of limitless material for all of the comedians in the Western world. We are the gift that just keeps on giving for the comedy industry. And we simultaneously consider ourselves the world leader, the financial center of the world, the epitome of democracy? What a stretch!

The evidence is overwhelming, the jury is in, the answer is apparent, the challenge is insurmountable without a constitutional amendment to create election laws that assure fair and just elections by registered voters undeterred by nefarious self- interest groups whose goal is to wrest complete control of government and continue the movement to aristocracy, a failing system and a path to a downward spiral in the economic future of the U.S.

Read the article: http://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/10/dark-money-floods-us-elections-regulators-turn-blind-eye-273951.html

Think about it!

Majority Rule – People or Money?

Majority Rule – People or Money?

Ted Folkert

October 5, 2014

Listen to all of our leaders and would-be leaders. They all tell us that they are for democracy – that only they can make our country more democratic. Of course, democracy suggests majority rule – you know – one person, one vote, which is not the definition that many of them understand while they pretend to lead.

The thing they don’t tell us is which majority rule they are following, the majority of the people or the majority of the money. It appears that money has won out here, especially since the five angry men in black dresses have declared it so, by deciding for us that anyone can spend as much as they want on political contributions in one way or another.

Democracy and majority rule really defines the essence of government for the common good, the primary subject that we discuss here.

History provides substantial evidence that a democracy cannot prevail in an autocratic, aristocratic, or oligarchic government. Leading economists provide substantial evidence that the level of inequality of wealth and income we now experience leads to an inheritance society, an inheritance society leads to an aristocracy, which leads to an oligarchy, which leads to anarchy, which leads to an autocracy. A vicious circle of failure to govern and failure to sustain a viable nation that provides equal opportunities for all, which our constitution implies to be essential to a free people – all of which implies a failure of our leaders to lead.

In order to approach the most important common-good subject of the day, perhaps we could employ some simple logic, even though that would be adverse to the manner in which our government actually operates.

Simple logic:

Premise: Democracy should include all of the people.

Premise: All votes should have the same value in an election.

Premise: Some people have more money than others.

Conclusion: Money should not be allowed to vote in elections.

Premise: Candidates for election like to spend money to convince voters to elect them.

Premise: Some people stand to prosper more from the outcome of elections than others.

Premise: Some people have more money to contribute to political campaigns than others.

Conclusion:  People should not be allowed to spend money in political campaigns.

Premise: The Constitution of the United States has been interpreted by the five angry men in black dresses to allow money to vote in political campaigns.

Premise: In order to overcome the interpretation of the five angry men in black dresses we must amend the Constitution of the United States.

Premise: An amendment requires two-thirds of both houses of congress to approve an amendment, which then must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures – or – two-thirds of state legislatures are required for proposing an amendment, which would then require ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures – either of which is a substantial challenge.

Premise: The US Senate is unable to obtain two-thirds and the House of Representatives is totally dysfunctional and would not even take up a vote.

Conclusion:  We the people must take the action necessary to accomplish this challenge, the most important challenge one can imagine for the future of the nation.

Premise: There is considerable grassroots action now taking place for promoting an amendment to the constitution to correct our election laws. The political organization, Public Citizen, is very active in such an endeavor.

Premise: The Senate received a majority vote for the Democracy for All Amendment that was recently proposed, without any Republican votes, but the House will not take it up.

Premise: There are efforts going on across the country with 16 states and 550 cities indicating support for such an amendment.

Premise: Polls have shown that 3-1 of those polled oppose the Citizens United decision from the five angry men in black dresses, including 2-1 of Republicans who also are in opposition.

Premise: A majority of 6-1 are unfavorable of spending of special interest groups and lobbyists in campaigns. Yes, six to one!

Conclusion: We the people must take the action necessary to accomplish this challenge, the most important challenge one can imagine for the future of the nation. To accomplish that, we must tax capital (wealth) and increase taxation of excessive income. A subject for considerable debate, but one that the working-class would generally agree with, along with many of our leading economists. The condition of inequality over time creates a class of inheritance which, without effective taxation, continues to grow until a society of aristocracy exists and eventually becomes an oligarchy, control of government by a few wealthy individuals or families.

To accomplish effective taxation and control inequality, we must eliminate control of our electoral process by the rich and powerful individuals and corporations. A large majority of the people agree, Republican and Democratic.

Many of our leading scholars, economists, and progressive politicians, who have struggled with this enormous objective, have concluded that this cannot be achieved without a constitutional amendment that would establish an electoral process that eliminates big money from controlling the election of our leaders. An amendment that eliminates the declawing actions of an activist Supreme Court, that group of nine appointed individuals who hold our democracy in their hands and create decisions that force their political beliefs on the people.

A democracy, which we all believe we either have or at least desire, requires majority rule. Not the majority of the money, but the majority of the people. Just because one person controls more wealth than another does not justify the wealthier person to have more influence on the electoral process, thereby reaffirming the right to continue the advantage in income and wealth. People of lesser wealth should have an equal vote in the election of our leaders and the enactment and enforcement of our laws.

Conclusion: : We the people must take the action necessary to accomplish this challenge, the most important challenge one can imagine for the future of the nation.

Think about it!

Our Dedicated Secret Service

Our Dedicated Secret Service

Ted Folkert

October 5, 2014

With a 1.6 billion dollar budget, why can’t we protect the president of the United States from potential harm? Of course the job is enormous. But the budget is also enormous. With all of the brilliant, highly educated, professionally trained, law enforcement specialists in this country, the country with supposedly the finest military in the world, why can’t we keep the president safe, at least in his home or on an elevator? One would think that in his home or on an elevator anywhere in the world, the president would be the best protected. A grade school kid could devise a plan to keep intruders out of the White House or off of an elevator.

Come on. This is pathetic.

Did you know that there have been 20 attempts to kill presidents of the U.S.? Did you know that 4 presidents have been assassinated while in office (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy)? Did you know that 2 other presidents were injured in assassination attempts (Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan)? Did you know that every president since John F. Kennedy has been threatened with assassination?

Do you think our Secret Service is aware of these facts?

Maureen Dowd takes up the subject in her New York Times article today.

Read the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-the-fall-of-julia-pierson.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Ted Folkert

September 25, 2014

Do you remember what Lily Tomlin used to say when she did her comedy gig as a telephone operator? Those were the days when we still had telephone operators. I think her appearance was on “Laugh-In”. She would dial someone and ask them: “Is this the party to whom I am speaking?” And then go on messing with them in an insulting manner. She was hilarious as she talked and snickered through her nose. The reality of her comedic gig kind of reminds me of political conversations we encounter today with those who don’t read or listen, except that these conversations aren’t funny and aren’t intended to be. They are primarily repeated sound bites heard at some bar or water fountain by the uninformed or misinformed, the self-appointed-spokespersons-for-responsible-government. (I think a more accurate name would be irresponsible government.)

Lily Tomlin always made funny conversations, which was her job. The self-appointed-spokespersons-for-responsible-government made disappointing conversations for the most part, which was the best they could do without any real insight on their subject or basis for their opinion.

But what we need to talk about now is what Pat Hininger calls “your-vote-is-your-voice-as-an-American-citizen.” We need to talk about it because now is the time we need to exercise this responsibility as an American citizen. Citizenship comes with responsibility. Its survival requires participation. Citizenship requires that you and I keep informed about the issues that affect our lives and our country. It requires that we express our opinions at the polls when called upon to do so. That is the price we all should have to pay in order to remain citizens of this great country.

It always amazes many of us at the low turnout of citizens who exercise their right to vote. The distressing realization amongst our neighbors and associates is that those who do not stay informed on the issues, those who do not vote, are just as vocal, if not more so, about the actions of government as anyone else. Their expressions are uninformed sound bites that they hear from other uninformed citizens, but they repeat them just the same. They complain about President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, the US Senate, the US House of Representatives. Those they don’t complain about, who are the worst culprits of all, are the 15,000 lobbyists, who tell the elected officials how to vote on the issues, and the rich and powerful individuals and corporations, who finance our irresponsible government with their campaign contributions and invisible personal rewards, during and after serving in public office.

I repeat – those they don’t complain about, who are the worst culprits of all, are the 15,000 lobbyists, who tell the elected officials how to vote on the issues, and the rich and powerful individuals and corporations, who finance our irresponsible government with their campaign contributions and invisible personal rewards, during and after serving in public office.

Therein lies the problem. Therein lies the most important reason that we need to be informed and to vote in the upcoming elections. The only way we can ever effectively change the control of our government, return the control of our government back to the people, is to change the constitution with an amendment to circumvent the ability of the five-brain-dead-men-in-black-dresses from handing all of the electoral power to the rich and powerful individuals and corporations.

The only way that can be accomplished is by electing better leaders. The only ones who can accomplish it are you and me. We can elect better leaders. We can help to expose those who are fraudulent, those who are lap dogs for the powerful, those who care not about their constituents, those who are merely self-centered and avaricious imposters who yearn for the power to select who succeeds and who doesn’t in this country, who gets to dole out the rewards, the good life.

The unscrupulous leaders of whom we speak care not about education unless it is controlled by private industry, those who finance political campaigns. They care not about rebuilding the infrastructure of our country so that it will serve the needs of our kids and our kids’ kids unless it is controlled by private industry, those who finance political campaigns. They care not about solving the environmental problems created by human behavior unless it is controlled by private industry, those who contribute to political campaigns. They care not about health care for all Americans. They care not about Social Security, only pensions for retired legislators like themselves. They care not about early childhood education. They care not about safety nets for those who are unemployed or those who are ill or those who are handicapped or those who are single parents who need help. None of these matter unless they are tied to getting reelected.

Well, we can make them tied to reelection if we change the constitution to eliminate political contributions. If we do that, we can change the whole concept. We can get leaders who care about these essential and fundamental issues that will sustain the nation and make it more democratic, more like a democracy, more like a democratic republic, less like an aristocracy, less like an oligarchy.

We must do it for the sake of the nation. If we don’t America will likely become a monarchy or oligarchy in future generations. This is not a frivolous statement. The path is already established. The inequality of income and wealth is already creating a nation of inheritance and it is getting steadily worse. Such a trend is extremely dangerous and is hard to turn around until an oligarchy is fully established and entrenched. It is all downhill from there. Then it fails and the country suffers decades of decline.

Think about it!

Study the issues. Form your own opinions. Vote for responsible government.

GO VOTE! Please!

 

Democracy or Plutocracy? – We have a choice

Democracy or Plutocracy? – We have a choice

Ted Folkert

September 22, 2014

In a few weeks we will be called upon to participate in the electoral process. The process wherein we get to decide what is best for us. Now we must review the issues and the candidates to determine the people and the policies that we feel will best serve the country.

Those who identify with the Democratic platform would generally follow the conclusion that Eleanor Roosevelt may have explained as “it’s better for everybody if it’s better for everybody.” That is the policy that prevailed in the FDR administration with Eleanor as the head cheerleader – one of the most critical times in recent history, a policy which unarguably helped us recover as a nation when the economy was so devastated that we were on the brink of failure as a democratic republic.

Such a choice would favor those candidates and policies that require a big, strong government capable of enacting and enforcing rules and regulations that would support an outcome of equality of opportunity for all of our citizens and curtail actions that work in the contrary.

The Republican platform, as it was in 2008, 2010, 2012 and all the years before would of course focus on tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of our financial system, repeal of healthcare for all of us, elimination of Social Security, unemployment compensation, and Medicare. Eliminate all possibilities for collective bargaining, curtail unemployment benefits and educational opportunities.

The question their beliefs and principals doesn’t provide an answer for is, how do we assure that all citizens have a clear path to a good education, employment opportunities, and an equal chance to contribute to society as law abiding citizens?

How do we assure that all citizens receive the basics of human subsistence – food, shelter, and clothing?

How do we assure that there are equal opportunities for all of our citizens to compete for jobs or business ventures?

How do we control monopolistic obstacles to competition, barriers of entry that prevent competition?

How do we assure transparency in business, government, finance, education, media, healthcare – to expose those that lie – cheat – steal – mislead – deceive – defraud – bilk – misrepresent. And those that would use nondisclosure – smoke and mirrors – sleight of hand – trickery – ponzi schemes – scams – pyramids – false advertising – false claims, in order to gain undeserved monetary advantage.

How do we provide a system to resolve disputes, to assure the rule of law, protection of property, contract rights?

How do we provide a system of finance for consumers and business? One that actually provides the needed function instead of what we have now, a system of finance that nearly steered us into the deep chasm of financial ruin, one that drains the accounts of all of the unsuspecting citizens in order to fill the pockets of the few unscrupulous and avaricious fraudsters?

How do we assure that all of the most basic common services are provided without interruption – military defense, police protection, fire protection, health care, education, transportation, flood control, public utilities, disaster assistance, and welfare for those who cannot exist without it?

The only way to provide these essential, basic services that are imperative for a country of 300 million to survive and prosper, is with big government. There is no other way.

Arguments to the contrary are never supported by any reasonable explanation that can withstand the time proven facts and examples from history since the beginning of civilization. There are no examples to the contrary of any civilization that has existed on this scale for any long period. They all failed sooner or later. Even relatively recent history is replete with examples of the failure of countries that did not provide these essential basic human services. Only sparsely populated, primitive, “hunt and gather” societies have survived for any length of time, never those with advanced populations and industrial societies … those with millions to feed every day.

How can we ever hope to survive and prosper with a government that follows the ideals of those who propose less government, or no government, or “old west” solutions to law enforcement, or “pioneer age” solutions to transportation, or a military without modern weapons or advanced technologies, or without a public school system, or without a healthcare system that provides care for all the citizens, or without a system to administer a foreign policy that maintains relationships with the rest of the world for peaceful coexistence and fair trade relations, or protection of our environment for the survival of future generations?

How do we survive without a system to regulate intrastate and interstate commerce and foreign commerce, or without a system that supports and controls modern transportation to allow us to move about our communities and our states and our country and around the world in a safe and efficient manner?

The Republication platform proposes “shrinking the government and paying off the national debt.” But during the Bush administration, government spending increased from 18 percent of GDP to 20 percent, the national debt doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion, and the annual budget exploded from a $128 billion surplus to a $1.4 trillion deficit. Where were the GOP’s convictions about small government and fiscal responsibility during the Bush administration’s spending spree?

And they want to phase out Social Security and Medicare, two of the most successful programs ever created. The programs that we have dutifully contributed part of our paychecks to all of our lives … and disproportionately to our ability to pay, I might add.

Well, obviously, their platform is not about “shrinking the government and paying off the national debt.” But that is their story while they are raising millions from the corporations and the rich and powerful so they can gain total power and control of the largess of the federal budget and all of the hidden benefits to be derived therefrom.

It is all a game, a casino … like Wall Street, a game that cannot be won unless you lie, cheat and steal … a zero sum game … winner take all … like the poker games on TV that enthrall many of us who are looking for a piece of the prize that is so difficult to attain through hard work and perseverance. A piece of the prize that is difficult to attain through honesty, truth, fair dealing, integrity, selflessness, egalitarianism and all of the other terms that would be used in a discussion of “government for the common good”.

These are the discussions that we need to have with ourselves before we go to the polls to cast our vote.

Think about it!

Convince someone today to help us elect better leaders. Please!

 

 

 

A sad farewell to Wendell Brown – war hero

A sad farewell to a war hero

Wendell Brown, a homeless man, suffered from depression following his service in Vietnam, but won the hearts of the people in Brentwood with his upbeat poems. He was another one of those victims of collateral damage, the term the war mongers like to use when we commit mass murder on innocent bystanders and do lifetime damage to those chosen the inflict the damage on others and witness the suffering first hand. Brown, a sergeant in the US Army in Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam, was being pursued by the Viet Cong and a woman hid him in her hut. The Viet Cong soldiers stabbed her to death and he then killed the soldiers and their officer. His lingering visions and nightmares made life difficult for him ever since. We have a name for that now. It is called PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I didn’t know him or know about him. I was just struck by one of his little poems:

“Ballad of a Bushman”

Some clustered bushes shelter me,

In loneliness and misery,

They shield me from the wind and cold,

And help keep what hopes I hold.

Wendell McKelvey Brown – he served us well, better than we cared for him – may he rest in peace.

 

 

Raul Reyes discusses law enforcement brutality

Raul Reyes, a New York attorney and contributor for USA Today and MSNBC, discusses the shooting of Michael Brown as it relates to similar experiences in the Latino communities around the US, particularly to the incident in 1970 when three were killed by police, including the prominent journalist, Ruben Salazar. In both cases there was alleged law enforcement brutality in minority communities.

Reyes states that “Like blacks, Latinos are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated” and that “Latino communities have too many of their own Michael Browns.”

He mentions several cases that are being investigated at the present time and that “the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers stretch across the country – from California to Oklahoma to New York.”

Read the article:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/08/27/raul-reyes-ferguson-brown-hispanics-court-border-column/14630171/

Brown case should resonate with Latinos: Column

Raul Reyes – August 28, 2014

Ferguson, Mo., shooting is not unlike similar incidents in Hispanic communities.

Peaceful protesters under siege by armed officers. A minority community roiled by issues of race and social justice. Allegations of law enforcement misconduct, conspiracies and cover-ups. These circumstances could all apply to the recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Sadly, they go back as far as Aug. 29, 1970.

Forty-four years ago Friday, a huge crowd turned out for a march through East Los Angeles to protest the number of Mexican Americans dying in the Vietnam War. Although the gathering was largely peaceful, a few scattered reports of looting led the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to move in with tear gas, and the march degenerated into a melee. Scores of people were arrested, and three were killed.

Among them was Ruben Salazar, 42, the most prominent Latino journalist of his day. Salazar died after a sheriff’s deputy fired a tear gas projectile into a bar, striking him in the head and killing him. An inquest was later held, but the deputy who killed Salazar was never charged. Even today, there are lingering questions about his death.

Although they occurred more than a generation apart, the deaths of Ruben Salazar and Michael Brown are linked together by the common thread of alleged law enforcement brutality in minority communities.

That’s what makes the results of a new Pew Study troubling. Pew looked at the response to the Ferguson police shooting among whites, African Americans and Hispanics. African Americans were about twice as likely as whites to say that Brown’s shooting raised important issues of race that need to be discussed. A majority of Latinos agreed that Brown’s killing raised important racial issues. But only 18% of Latinos said that they were following the Ferguson news closely.

Yet Latinos should be following the Brown case closely. Like African Americans, Latinos are disproportionately policed and incarcerated. What’s more, Latino communities have too many of our own Michael Browns. Los Angeles police are investigating the death of Omar Abrego, 37, after he died in an altercation with two sergeants. Andy Lopez, 13, was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in Northern California because he apparently was carrying a pellet gun. Manuel Diaz, 25, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police in Anaheim, Calif. in 2012. In fact, the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers literally stretch across the country – from California to Oklahoma to New York City.

To their credit, a coalition of 39 leading Hispanic advocacy organizations issued a statement condemning the excessive use of force by police in Ferguson. The League of United Latin American Citizens, National Council of La Raza and the Hispanic Federation were among the groups expressing their solidarity with the Brown family, and calling for a full investigation into their son’s death. As Marisa Franco of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network wrote at MSNBC.com, “When Latino and immigrant constituencies see the case of Michael Brown, we should recognize this problem well.”She’s right. Hispanics, along with African Americans, share the struggle for full equality under the law.

Decades ago, Ruben Salazar wrote, “Mexican Americans … are on the lowest rung scholastically, economically, socially and politically. Chicanos feel cheated. They want to effect change. Now.” Switch out the words “Mexican Americans” and Chicanos” for “African Americans” and “Blacks” and Salazar could have been writing about the tensions in Ferguson. So there is no better way to honor his legacy than to continue the struggle against the discrimination, police brutality, and profiling that still plagues minority communities today.

Hispanics ought not to ignore the Michael Brown case. Latinos have a stake in Ferguson because we have a stake in ensuring justice for all.

Raul Reyes is an attorney in New York and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

 

“Capital” – Thomas Piketty’s economic revival

“Capital” – Thomas Piketty’s economic revival

Ted Folkert

September 10, 2014

“So many books, so little time” (quoting Lonnie Shalton) – a statement so sad and yet so true. Some of us who used to frequent public libraries and book stores (when they were still popular, before the advent of digital downloads) can remember the feeling of euphoria, even goose bumps, when we walked in amongst those thousands of books written over thousands of years, of which we only have time to read a small fraction in a lifetime. We avid and voracious readers seem to bask in a sea of fiction, non-fiction, non-fiction disguised as fiction, fiction disguised as non-fiction – all entertaining to some degree, some enlightening, some a waste of time – but we continue to read on, in search of meaning, resolve, order, confirmation of our personal beliefs – answers to life’s persistent questions – you know, like Guy Noir, the famous private eye from Lake Woe-Be-Gone, a la Prairie Home Companion.

Thomas Piketty, in his recently published tome, “Capital in the Twentieth Century”, has been acclaimed as having produced an important historical and analytical review of economic maladies of the economies of the UK, France, Germany, and the US, and mathematically and factually supported economic prognostications and recommendations for the current century.

Piketty, a French economist who lived, studied, and taught in the US for years, produced, with his collaborators, 570 pages of economic history supported with facts, figures, graphs, illustrations, and references to support his findings – a meaningful, thought provoking, product which could be a textbook for advanced economics courses (if they continue to use books in higher education). He provides empirical evidence refuting some economic theories and supporting others by comparing economic trends over centuries and illustrating the values of egalitarian economic policies and the devastation of in-egalitarian principles of oligarchic and aristocratic societies.

Some people wouldn’t find the book engaging enough to stay with to the end simply because much of the content is specific to economic theory and is primarily written in the jargon of economists.

So, although the book is highly recommended, for those who would prefer not to toil through 570 pages, allow me to summarize a bit:

Piketty believes that inequality occurs when the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth over an extended period of time. In other words, if capital commands a rate of return of 5% and the growth rate is 1%, wealth accumulation is highly concentrated with typically 90% of capital owned by the top 10% and 50% owned by the top 1%. This proved to be true throughout history right up to WWI. When this occurs, inheritance dominates over saving, wealth from the past grows more rapidly than savings from work, “the past tends to devour the future.”

The two world wars, and the public policies that they necessitated, played a large role in reducing inequalities in the 20th century until the 1970s and 1980s and then they started rising quickly thereafter.

The US is now at a record level of inequality of income from labor, probably an all-time high. The increase reflects an unprecedented explosion of elevated incomes from labor for top managers of large firms which creates a separation from the rest of the population.

The inequality in the distribution of income peaked in 1929 with 50% going to the top 10%, dropped to 45% by 1940, dropped to 30-35% by the mid 1940s, remained there until 1980, then started up, peaking at 50% in 2007-2008. The bulk of the growth was realized by the top 1%, who went from 9% of national income in 1970 to 20% in 2000-2010.

(Well, we know what happened from 1980 until 2008 – Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush – all corporatists and trickle-down theorists, all sleeping with the bankers of Wall Street. (My words, not Piketty’s).

Piketty states that, if the trend continues, the top 10% will be raking in 60% of national income by 2030. (That is not a misprint, 60% of income to 10% of the people)

Piketty states that “there is no ineluctable force standing in the way of a return to extreme concentration of wealth and no guarantee that the distribution of inherited capital will not ultimately become as inegalitarian in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. The idea that unrestricted competition will put an end to inheritance and move toward a more meritocratic world is a dangerous illusion.”

“No one denies that it is important for society to have entrepreneurs, inventions, and innovations. The problem is that the entrepreneurial argument cannot justify all inequalities of wealth, no matter how extreme, no matter how justified inequalities of wealth may be initially, fortunes can grow and perpetuate themselves beyond all reasonable limits and beyond all possible rational justification in terms of social utility. This is the main justification for a progressive tax on the largest fortunes worldwide.”

Piketty suggests a tax rate in the US of 80% on incomes over $500,000 to $1 million and perhaps 50% to 60% for incomes over $200,000 in order to invest more in health and education and reduce the federal deficit.

He suggests a tax on capital, a flat tax of 15% on private wealth would yield enough to reimburse all of the public debt.

The purpose of the tax is not to finance the social state but to regulate capitalism and to stop the indefinite increase in inequality of wealth and to regulate the banking system to avoid crisis.

Piketty has no particular liking for public debt and states that it is a backhanded redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Private wealth rests on public poverty.

This superficial summary in no way gives justice to the enormity of knowledge provided by this work, it is just a smattering, a teaser, for those who have interest in the subject and the patience to focus on his message. His message is loud and clear and one that we should pay attention to now rather later.

He thinks inequality of income and wealth is unhealthy to say the least and an obstacle to maintaining a viable economy, free from oligarchy and aristocracy, two structures of society which have never prevailed for any appreciable period of time. This isn’t the exact way that he stated it, but the way it appeared to this reader.

It is impossible to begin to explain the value of Piketty’s message in a few paragraphs. It would be presumptuous and misleading to even attempt. This is just a taste of the message, a small taste. He has received much acclaim from those in his profession, all of whom are qualified to speak on the subject. He doesn’t even claim to be right in his assumptions, expressing the fact that all of the evidence of the past isn’t available and none of the future is available or predictable.

Think about it!

Convince someone today to help us elect better leaders, please!