Shame, disgrace, inhumanity, injustice – murder!

Shame, disgrace, inhumanity, injustice – murder!

Ted Folkert

December 9, 2014

It all started here in this great free country of ours in the early 1600s with the slave trade. We will never know how many lost their lives during the despicable transport of slaves here in the holds of ships. We will never know how many lost their lives at the hands of plantation owners and other slave holders. We will never know how many lost their lives simply due to racial prejudice, without committing a crime, without injuring anyone, just because of their color, their perceived non-humanness.

It is difficult for most to even imagine how such a practice, such inhumane conditions could exist even then, let alone today.

It was universally ignored for century after century – decade after decade – the killings unreported and unprosecuted. Disappearances never solved – murderers uncharged, untried, unpunished – even unmentioned.

Trayvon Martin brought it to light a couple of years ago. He was murdered in cold blood by this cowardly creep who walked after being found not guilty of murder. If it had been the other around, Martin wouldn’t have seen daylight for the rest of his life. As it turned out he never saw daylight again at the hands of a cold-blooded murderer.

Just some examples of improper policing and injustice that have been publicized recently include: Michael Brown, the unarmed jaywalker in Ferguson, Missouri, shot many times by the frightened police officer, an officer trained to deal with such situations – by calling for support or using other methods of subduing a suspect; Eric Garner, the unarmed guy selling loose cigarettes on the sidewalk in Staten Island, confronted by police officers, disgusted with their continual harassment, subdued by numerous officers, died from a heart attack after pleading for relief from an illegal chokehold – by police officers who were trained for such encounters and had other means of subduing him; Bernard Bailey, unarmed, who came to town hall in Orangeburg County, South Carolina to protest a charge of a broken taillight, and was accosted and killed by a the police chief, who had followed Bailey to his truck; Akai Gurley, unarmed, killed by a police officer in New York City as he and his girlfriend opened a door into a stairway as the officer was patrolling the stairway.

We could write these stories for days and never mention a fraction of cases that went unpublicized, uncharged, unpunished – even ignored as a despicable practice of law enforcement has been allowed to prevail.

As Matt Tiabbi writes in the Rolling Stone:

“Nobody’s willing to say it yet. But after Ferguson, and especially after the Eric Garner case that exploded in New York yesterday after yet another non-indictment following a minority death-in-custody, the police suddenly have a legitimacy problem in this country.”

“This policy of constantly badgering people for trifles generates bloodcurdling anger in “hot spot” neighborhoods with industrial efficiency. And then something like the Garner case happens and it all comes into relief. Six armed police officers tackling and killing a man for selling a 75-cent cigarette.”

“That was economic regulation turned lethal, a situation made all the more ridiculous by the fact that we no longer prosecute the countless serious economic crimes committed in this same city. A ferry ride away from Staten Island, on Wall Street, the pure unmolested freedom to fleece whoever you want is considered the sacred birthright of every rake with a briefcase.”

“If Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon had come up with the concept of selling loosies, they’d go to their graves defending it as free economic expression that “creates liquidity” and should never be regulated.”

“Taking it one step further, if Eric Garner had been selling naked credit default swaps instead of cigarettes – if in other words he’d set up a bookmaking operation in which passersby could bet on whether people made their home mortgage payments or companies paid off their bonds – the police by virtue of a federal law called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act would have been barred from even approaching him.”

“There were more cops surrounding Eric Garner on a Staten Island street this past July 17th then there were surrounding all of AIG during the period when the company was making the toxic bets that nearly destroyed the world economy years ago. Back then AIG’s regulator, the OTS, had just one insurance expert on staff, policing a company with over 180,000 employees.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-police-in-america-are-becoming-illegitimate-20141205#ixzz3LS8pO9Vl

As Matt Taibbi says, police officers have a dangerous job.

But let’s face it, the police officers are confronted sometimes with the ills and attitudes of people who have been discriminated against, deprived of equal opportunities, deprived of equal standards of living and educational opportunities – who have continually been treated as second class citizens – unimportant to society, harassed by law enforcement for pettiness.

It is time we acknowledged what they are saying: “Our lives are important too, give us a break, treat us the same as you would treat us if we were white, we have loved ones, we have ambition, we are seeking a good life – a life with opportunities for becoming educated, working hard, raising our kids, and looking forward to a better future – we aren’t asking for special treatment, we are asking for equal treatment.”

Every police department must be retrained to deal with these situations in a reasonable manner, with some compassion, some understanding, some patience, and some willingness to use the least harmful law enforcement necessary to control situations of perceived law violations. Cases with questionable conduct by law enforcement should be decided by a court of law, not a hand-picked grand jury. Our laws call for a jury of our peers, not a white jury or a white grand jury in a black community.

Whatever happened to common sense? Did it get eliminated along with government for the common good?

Think about it!

Every thing isn’t going to be all right?

Every thing isn’t going to be all right?

Ted Folkert

December 4, 2014

My old handball buddy Bill Sharp used to jokingly say “Don’t worry, nothings gonna be all right.”

Bob Marley used to sing to us, in his inimitable way: “Don’t you worry – About a thing – Every little things – Gonna be all right”

Well, he knew that wasn’t so. He knew every little thing wasn’t going to be all right because he had lived the life he was born into. He lived the life of racial discrimination, the life of disenfranchisement, the life of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair that was impossible for most of his people to overcome – even though they sang their song of hope – “We shall overcome.” Although Bob Marley tried to make it better, he left too soon, before the job was done. And the job is still a long way from being done.

The most recent perfect examples of racial prejudice and disenfranchisement have been dominating the news recently, not because the noise media truly believes the real impact of this reminder of second class citizenship that we make evident each and every day for the disenfranchised, but because it gets viewers so they can sell advertising.

Ferguson, Missouri and New York City have made it loud and clear once again. In Ferguson a frightened police officer shot Michael Brown to death. It seems apparent that Michael Brown was a bully, but it certainly seems that the officer could have backed off somewhat, could have taken other measures to arrest or subdue him. He wasn’t wanted for any serious crime at the time but was merely jaywalking. Although I would sympathize with the officer somewhat, he didn’t want to get hurt and Brown was much bigger that he, but a case could be made that he used excessive force, which may have warranted legal resolution for the sake of justice and closure for family members for what was perhaps a wrongful death. Instead there was a decision not to charge and not to have a public court hearing.

And even before this case has cooled off, in New York City several police officers subdued and unintentionally killed Eric Garner for allegedly selling cigarettes, obviously using a chokehold on him, which is prohibited for the use of police officers, and then ignoring Garner’s pleas for relief until he was dead. Could they have backed off? Could they have taken other action? Could they have let him go and arrested him later? Was he harming anyone? The answers are yes, yes, yes, and no. Nothing that could be reasonably construed as warranting such drastic action seemed to have occurred. He was a big man but there were several officers and Garner was not armed.

So, putting yourself in their place, would you be infuriated by these two incidents? Would these incidents remind you of discriminatory policies that have been festering for several hundred years? Discriminatory policies which have been a way of life for blacks, unequal to the treatment of others, harsher enforcement, harsher surveillance, harsher treatment, harsher penalties. Combine this with extreme disadvantage in employment opportunities, living conditions, educational opportunities, and health care and you get the idea of what the impact must be on these second class citizens.

These are just two isolated incidents that became prevalent in our minds recently. The facts of unequal justice are overwhelming.

Check out these numbers:

From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people.

African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population

African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites

Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population

According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%

One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime

1 in 100 African American women are in prison

Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug

5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites

African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites.

If you want more of these facts they are readily available.

Bill Sharp thought he was kidding when he said nothing is going to be all right.

Bob Marley knew everything wasn’t going to be all right

We need drastic changes in law enforcement hiring, training, practice, and control of police officers. They have a tough job but they have options in dealing with unarmed suspects and incidents like we have been shaking our heads over recently make it imperative that something be done now – before all hell breaks loose – and before another victim of improper law enforcement results in mass violence against discrimination.

Everything isn’t all right!

Think about!

 

 

Obama acts wisely on immigration

Obama acts wisely on immigration

Raul Reyes, Member – USA Today Board of Contributors, gives us the outline of President Obama’s executive action on immigration in his article: President’s executive action represents sound, thoughtful policy – November 20, 2014 – USA Today.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/11/20/obama-immigration-raul-reyes/70037974/

“His plan expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and creates a new program for undocumented parents with citizen children. The president said that his administration’s deportation priorities will be “felons, not families,” and “criminals, not children.”’

“The president’s plan is a significant step that will provide relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.”

“The president’s plan will ease the requirements for young people to be eligible for Deferred Action. These are immigrants who have been educated here at taxpayer expense, and can now attend college, serve in the military or work without fear of deportation.”

“It will also free up law enforcement resources to focus on traffickers, drug dealers and terrorist threats.”

“It’s worth noting that the president’s plan will not offer any incentive for people to enter the U.S. illegally. In fact, recent arrivals will be prioritized for deportation, sending the message to other countries that we do not have “open borders” or “amnesty.”’

“President Obama is offering undocumented immigrants historic, compassionate relief from deportation. Until Congress decides to act, this represents a move towards a more consistent immigration system. His executive action is welcome and necessary.”

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

Read the article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/11/20/obama-immigration-raul-reyes/70037974/

Our disgusting network TV channels

Our disgusting network TV channels

Mike Folkert

November 21, 2014

I feel disgusted and ashamed to be a citizen of a country in which the network television channels choose not to air a speech by the President of the United States regarding our countries immigration issues.

It was a very wonderful and moving dialog about the issue, one that every American should agree with, that is every one except those who suffer from bigotry and prejudice.

I encourage anyone who has not seen it to watch it on Youtube – just search for “the President Speaks on Fixing America’s Broken Immigration System”.

Tax Fairness vs Walmart

As my old friend Skip Sleyster used to say in the Kansas City Star every Sunday, “One moment of your time please”.

Please take a moment to read about all of the wonderful benefits we get from shopping at Walmart and taking advantage of all the savings they so benevolently bestow upon us.

Quoted from Americans for Tax Fairness as they explain it loud and clear:

“Americans for Tax Fairness is a diverse coalition of 425 national and state organizations that collectively represent tens of millions of members. The organization was formed on the belief that the country needs comprehensive, progressive tax reform that results in greater revenue to meet our growing needs. ATF is playing a central role in Washington and in the states on federal tax-reform issues.

Americans for Tax Fairness, 1726 M Street NW Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20036

www.AmericansForTaxFairness.org

KEY FINDINGS:

WALMART DODGES $1 BILLION A YEAR IN U.S. TAXES, ON AVERAGE, THROUGH TAX LOOPHOLES.

The U.S. statutory corporate tax rate – the amount corporations are supposed to pay – is 35 percent.

But Walmart used tax loopholes to reduce its effective tax rate – what it actually pays – to an average of 29.1 percent from 2008 to 2012. This allowed the company to cut its tax bill by

$5.1 billion over those five years – a tax savings of $1 billion a year, on average.

WALMART MIGHT AVOID ANOTHER $720 MILLION A YEAR IN TAXES – AND $7 BILLION OVER A DECADE –IF CORPORATE TAX RATES ARE LOWERED TO 25 PERCENT.

If Walmart lowered the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, its tax rate might drop from its average of 29.1 percent from 2008 to 2012 to 25 percent. Based on Walmart’s $87 billion in profits over those years, the company would have paid $3.6 billion less in taxes or million a year.

TAXPAYERS ALREADY SPEND AN ESTIMATED $6.2 BILLION A YEAR SUBSIDIZING WALMART’S LOW PAY AND MEAGER BENEFITS.

That’s because Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps,

Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded programs.

WALMART IS AVOIDING PAYING U.S. TAXES ON $21.4 BILLION IN OFFSHORE PROFITS.

Walmart reports that the profits it makes offshore and on which it is not paying U.S. taxes have doubled in recent years, growing from $10.5 billion in 2008 to $21.4 billion in 2013. Because corporations can indefinitely postpone paying U.S. taxes on offshore profits that have not been brought to America, Walmart has paid nothing to the U.S. Treasury on those earnings.

Meanwhile,

Walmart’s international capital spending remained steady over the same period that these untaxed offshore profits doubled suggesting that Walmart is piling up cash overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on the earnings, rather than using the profits for offshore investments.

WALMART COULD DODGE BILLIONS MORE IN TAXES UNDER A TERRITORIAL TAX SYSTEM.

A territorial tax system would eliminate all U.S. taxation of offshore profits. Any profits Walmart and its suppliers earn abroad would be taxed solely by the country in which they are earned. If a country has a lower tax rate than the U.S. – which many countries where Walmart operates do – Walmart would immediately cut its tax bill. A territorial tax system also would provide even more incentives for corporations to shift production and profits offshore to low-tax jurisdictions. One study has estimated that such a system would encourage U.S. corporations to create 800,000 jobs in low-tax countries rather than here at home.

WALMART PLAYS A LEADING ROLE IN EFFORTS TO REDUCE CORPORATE TAXES.

Walmart is working to influence tax legislation in three ways – through lobbying, campaign contributions and issue advocacy via major corporate coalitions. Walmart employs 74 lobbyists

80 percent of whom have previously served in government – and it has spent $32.6 million lobbying on tax and other issues over the past five years. Tax issues have been by far Walmart’s top lobbying focus. Its PAC has contributed $6.1 million to federal candidates, committees and political parties since 2009. And Walmart is the only major discount retail company that is a member of three major business coalitions trying to lower corporate tax rates – the RATE Coalition, Alliance for Competitive Taxation (ACT) and the Business Roundtable (BRT) – two of which (ACT and BRT) are advocating for a territorial tax system.”

Think about it!

The map of House districts

Republican and Democratic House of Representative districts following the recent midterm election. Sad but true. A reflection of the country which has now been bought and paid for by special interests, the rich and powerful corporations. For the sake of the nation this needs to change.

It’s All Obama’s Fault?

It’s All Obama’s Fault?

Ted Folkert

November 12, 2014

Waiting for the smoke to clear. That’s what seemed like the right thing to do by most of the media pundits that we read or listen to. The outcome of the election was no shock. It was widely predicted by the pundits, and probably exacerbated by all of the pollsters, which projected the negative outcome for the Democrats, which fed shock-value fodder for the noise media to attract viewers and listeners. They aggressively quoted each other about Obama’s “plunging” approval ratings, which weren’t really plunging at all, they declined by about 2 points, like from 42% to 40%. Of course it was blasted by the noise media like it was a rejection of Obama, who was maligned throughout the campaign as the culprit of all of the country’s ills. Everything was Obama’s fault, even those things that happened long before he took office and those things that happened or didn’t happen because of the obstructionist House majority and the legislation-blocking Senate minority, a totally dysfunctional Congress, the least productive House of Representatives in the history of the country. Some seem to think that Obama’s biggest shortcoming is “PWB”, being president while black.

Charles Blow summed it up in his NY Times article: “The Obama Opposition”, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/10/opinion/charles-blow-the-obama-opposition.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0 .

Jeff Schweitzer summed it up in his blistering article in the Huffington Post: “The Price of Failure and Rise of Extremism: How Democrats Blew It”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schweitzer/the-price-of-failure-and_b_6099752.html.

We all have our likes and dislikes for the actions and non-actions of the Obama administration, beginning with his uninformed and disastrous decision to surround himself with Clinton cronies, all Wall Street swindlers, all of the banker-friendly guys who promoted the deregulation that enabled the banksters to pick our pockets one more time, like they have throughout our history for the last hundred years. The Big Six have changed names and faces over the years, but they still rule the world.

We all overlook the good decisions and beneficial actions that he was able to bring forth before the complete blockage of progress by the regressive House of Representatives majority and the filibuster-prone Senate minority. And we overlook the Affordable Care Act and other beneficial programs he continues to promote during his short time in office.

If he could be elected now, after receiving this on-the-job-training of the last six years, he could probably become a very good president, if there is such a person. Unfortunately, there is no training program for president of the United States. There certainly should be. One of the most important positions in the world, not only for us but for most countries, should have some prerequisites, some training requirements.

Life is strange. In order to drive a car you must have training, learn the rules of the road, and pass a written and driving test. Likewise for flying an airplane or being an attorney or a real estate agent. You have to pass a test. But becoming president of the US is just like becoming a parent, no training required, no test required, you just jump in there and start doing it, learning as you go and hoping not to destroy the target before achieving the objective. We need to rethink this policy and whenever it gets bad enough for the populace to rise up and change the electoral system, so that the people can once more have some control of government, we should create a training system for presidential candidates commensurate with the importance of the job and protective of the potential damage to society that can occur due to the lack of essential skills and knowledge of the consequences of inappropriate actions. Perhaps we should have a presidential panel instead of one person having so much power, like the Supreme Court, except that the panelists should require election by the voters, with term limits and a provision for removal from office by the people.

Think about it!

Our American War Heroes

Our American War Heroes

Ted Folkert

November 12, 2014

It was a sad event on a sad day. Maybe it was his way of emphasizing his mission of antiwar activism. He died yesterday, on Veteran’s Day. What better example of the result of unnecessary war than by calling the nation’s attention to the sacrifice of a vibrant young man, excited by the attack on his country, seized by patriotism, and willing to lay his life on the line in defense of his country – volunteering for military action two days after September 11, 2001, going through necessary training, becoming assigned to enter the war in Iraq, arriving on the scene, and a few days later becoming a victim of Bush’s war, hit by a sniper’s bullet, maimed for life, living ten years as an invalid, paralyzed from the chest down, and now dead at the ripe young age of thirty-four.

The bravery, patriotism, and ultimate sacrifice by Tomas Young, a Kansas City resident, who, at the age of 21 stepped up to the line and said, “take me, I’ll go, I’ll fight for my country”, didn’t work out so well for Tomas. After suffering tremendously from his injuries and then deciding that he wanted to go on living so that he could convince other young men to avoid the temptation to enter the military, he met Ralph Nader and Phil Donahue, who did a film about him, “Body of War.” He protested with Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in the war. She is the activist who asked President Bush to explain the “just and noble cause” that her son died for, an explanation that she never received.

Cathy Smith, mother of Tomas Young, and Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, are just two examples of loved ones who lost their sons or daughters in the Bush/Cheney wars. Of course Bush and Cheney were not involved, they had more important things to do, so they sent our sons and daughters, our moms and dads, our loved ones over there – and for what? There isn’t a thread of evidence of any good that came from it all, except for the defense contractors and wartime service companies who cleaned up handsomely. They completely destroyed two countries, devastated the citizenry and murdered hundreds of thousands of their people for some “just and noble cause” that they are unable to identify.

May Tomas Young and Casey Sheehan, and all of the others who lost their lives, rest in peace, knowing that they loved their country, had great courage, and died for some just cause, not militarily but as examples of the unjust wars of hubris, started by power mongers and fought by patriotic young people who thought they were doing the right thing. They are true war heroes.

Think about it!

Shelter for Homeless Vets

Shelter for Homeless Vets

Ted Folkert

November 11, 2014

I wonder what took us so long.

Today, Veteran’s Day, the Los Angeles Times featured an article about a 32 unit housing building for homeless veterans and some of those who are inhabiting the units. Many are Vietnam veterans who have lived on the streets for many years as we passed them by and ignored them. They are invisible you know.

Thirty two units – what a generous offering for the thousands who need lodging, health care, psychological help, food and clothing. Many more have died on the streets, unable to seek help or continue to exist with the addictions that controlled their lives, their only respite from the evils of warfare that caused their downward spiral into oblivion.

They were treated like unlawful aggressors and murderers when they returned home, those who returned home. They were cajoled, insulted, and slandered by the antiwar protesters, although all they were guilty of was following orders from their superiors in the chain of command, the primary principle of the military that enables the military function.

They didn’t start the war, they didn’t vote for it, they just ended up there, most of them drafted against their will. They killed and maimed millions of Vietnamese because they were ordered to, because they had to in order to survive themselves. If they had deserted we would have killed or incarcerated them, they had no choice.

But when they came home, we deserted them, we ignored them, we refused to hire them, we punished them for a war that was unnecessary, started by sabre rattlers exercising hubris and ignorance, power mongers who should have been the first ones on the battlefield but never showed up for the war.

May those who followed their orders and never came back rest in peace. They are true heroes. May those 32 for whom we finally provided housing rest in comfort as they reflect on the lifetime that our fearless leaders destroyed for them, the fearless leaders who never showed up for the war, they just beat the drums and strutted like brave heroes but in true cowardice. It is easy and painless to start a fight if you don’t have to compete in it. Having to actually compete should be the first requirement of starting a fight or a war.

The leader who declares a war or starts a fight should lead the troops. When that happens the likelihood of necessity is much greater and the decision to resist the temptation is much greater.

Think about it!

Hurray for our military members, past and present. I don’t know what we would do without them and I don’t know why we don’t do more for them.

The strange thing about this national holiday, although it is certainly more worthy than most, is that it is difficult to say “happy veterans day”. It isn’t a happy day.

State for sale to the highest bidder.

State for sale to the highest bidder.

Ted Folkert

Big money floods MO. Race

Matt Pearce of the L.A. Times tells us about this national group that pours hundreds of thousands of dollars into a Cole County, Missouri judicial candidate’s campaign. Cole is a rural county of 50,000 registered voters, but it includes the state government of Jefferson City.

In the only contested judicial race in Missouri, Brian Stumpe, the Republican candidate, is running to unseat 20 year Democratic incumbent Pat Joyce. It seems that one of Joyce’s rulings two years ago effectively stamped out a 2012 statewide ballot initiative backed by conservatives that aimed to replace income tax with sales taxes.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a conservative political nonprofit, recently donated $100,000 to Stumpe after spending $150,000 on more than 100 television ads on opposition to his opponent.

Now this is a perfect, real life, example of that worn out phrase of “the best judge money can buy.”

Just one more reason to vote Democratic!

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. Louis Brandeis