War Crime

War Crime

Ted Folkert

June 24, 2015

People keep asking me questions about war. I haven’t even been in one, so questions such as these are hard to answer.

What is this term “war crime”? Is this an entendre? An oxymoron? Or a double negative? – Would it be the opposite of a war legality, a peace crime, a peace offering?

Would it be on the order of an “illegal robbery” or a “dishonest scam” or an “intentional murder” or an “accidental fumble” or a “painful ache”?

Would it be like a “rule of war” being similar to a “legality of murder” or a “right of assassination”.

What are the rules of war? Do you have to get the war approved by the War Mongers Association? Or can you just contact Dark Chimney or Gorge W. Shrub and request the right terminology to make it sound like you are just going to spank an errant child?

What are the penalties if you violate a rule of war? Do you get a fifteen yard penalty for being off-sides? Suspended for one battle because you killed the enemy before the starting gunshot? Evicted from the war for unsportsmanlike conduct? Give up free-throws of grenades for fouling the enemy?

How about participants? Can you choose them from a pool of would-be warriors, like the football draft? Can you trade warriors with other participants? Is the pay universal, or can you offer a wicked warrior more money to fight for your team?

What would constitute a war crime? Killing the enemy too harshly? Taking captives who have already surrendered? Sneaking up on the enemy without warning? Intercepting enemy communication? Spying on the enemy? Taking too much territory is any given battle? Dropping too much napalm, too many bombs, destroying water supplies, destroying cities, homes, roads, railroads, communication? How about unnecessary killing of women and children? How about beheading a captive troop or hostage? Would dropping 10,000 bombs from 1000 bombers on civilians be a war crime? Would it be covered by a rule of war?

How do you go about proving a war crime? Where are the rules of war written down? Are they written down somewhere and sworn to by all participants who agree to abide by the rules of the war or just understood amongst warring countries such as ours, which has had lots of war experience? If you commit too many war crimes can your enemy be declared the winner by the War Mongers Association?

Can you change a rule of war? Who decides? Do you get together with the enemy and negotiate the rules before the war or stop and negotiate changes to the rules during the war? Surely you wouldn’t just want to walk away and refuse to fight because you disagreed with a rule violation.

Taking it a step further, how do you decide who wins? Does someone have to throw in the towel? Can the referee call the fight and declare a victory if he or she decides one side is beaten badly and cannot survive? Or do you have to kill all of the enemy participants and destroy their habitat such that it would be unlivable?

Do they have officials who count the killings and injuries and, according to their severity, award points to the opponents and keep it posted on the score board? They must, otherwise you wouldn’t know if you were winning or losing. And then you might not know when the war was over.

In so far as being a legal participant in wars, do you have to qualify by being in previous wars? Do you have to have a favorable win/loss record in order to keep getting matched up with an enemy? Can you pick your own enemies, or are they assigned by the war officials? Are the various battles seeded like a tennis match according to your record in previous wars?

After fully considering all these unanswered questions, reading the Bible and the world history books and considering the record of human behavior over the last 3,000 years, and all of the war mongers’ imperatives to do God’s work with a sword, and all of the self-imposed leaders’ imperatives to take over more territory, more resources and more riches, it would seem like there were rules to go by somewhere along the line, otherwise everyone would just keep killing each other and if they lose just declare rule-of-war violations, and then just have to start the war all over again.

Boy am I glad we got all of this settled many years ago and now we all just get along. The world is pretty much at peace now, with the possible exception of a few dozen countries that may still have some unresolved disputes and are murdering each other. Fortunately, we are only involved in a couple of dozen of them, so – “peace be with you.”

Now that things have settled down, I guess I don’t have to try to answer all of these questions. It seems unlikely that we will have any more wars anyway.

Peace!

Walk away and think it over

Walk away and think it over

Ted Folkert

June 19, 2015

Stacey, one of my favorite daughters, sent me the article about the State of Kansas passing the law to allow concealed-carry of firearms without even a permit. This, of course, comes at the same time that the nation is grieving over the heinous crime committed in South Carolina, wherein nine people were sadly and needlessly murdered while worshiping in their church, by a racist, angry, mentally-disturbed young man with a concealed firearm that he recently acquired. This would not have happened if he hadn’t had the firearm.

This Kansas legislation is just another perfect example of pathetic governance by self-interested and politically-owned leaders who cater to their donors and ignore the best interest of the common good – you know, me and you. I suppose these misguided legislators were elected because Kansans either were influenced by adverse advertising financed by political contributions from the likes of the Kook Brothers or they ignored their civic responsibility to be aware of the character, intelligence, and intentions of those they elect to run their state.

It is hard to imagine who can be helped by a law that permits anyone to carry a concealed firearm. They should at least have to expose them on their gun belts like Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp did. Then they could turn around, take ten paces, and draw – like the OK Corral. Where is Doc Holiday when we need him?

Those who are inclined to carry guns are usually cowards, bullies or criminals. So where is the benefit for the average law-abiding adult citizen or for the children who we would not want carrying a loaded weapon? Just another example of laws passed for the benefit of the wrong people or the manufacturers of these weapons – weapons that we don’t need on the street. (Or the hunters who kill helpless animals for pleasure – humans are the only animals that kill for pleasure, you know)

Now, back to the murderer in South Carolina. This young man is obviously mentally deranged. He says he wanted to start a race war. He has confessed and is unrepentant. It is easy to say that he should be killed, but one could also have sorrow for him along with sorrow for the loved ones of those he murdered. He, like all of us inhabitants of this planet, is a victim of a character with mental demons which probably were formed by circumstances and influences that were beyond his control. Perhaps bullying, perhaps brainwashing by misinformed racists, perhaps by listening to the wrong blabbermouth on the radio. He, of course, must be removed from our free society so he can’t do it again.

But this is only one incident of many, this is only one incident among millions of inexplicable examples of sick and sad human behavior yesterday and today and tomorrow, around the world. There are actual wars going on in dozens of countries as we speak, with millions of people being injured, murdered, or displaced from their homes and countries, entire communities destroyed, infrastructure destroyed. There are thousands of examples of unjust actions by abusive rulers, political tyrants, human vultures, power mongers, all of them criminals, going on as we speak.

So, we can’t solve this by distributing more weapons to everyone? More killing hasn’t seemed to work – just read the Bible or any other book with historical information – or read any newspaper in the world – more weapons creates more killing, not less.

Neither more weapons nor more liberal use of weapons is going to solve this problem, a problem which becomes more prevalent as our population grows and our leaders continue to be unable to achieve a more equal distribution of education, opportunity, resources and living standards.

We don’t need to build and distribute more weapons, we need to build and distribute more education -from the young to the old. Education is the only thing that has made life better thus far and it is the only thing that can enable us to sustain a livable planet in the future. We need more education about racism, bullying, empathy, sympathy, helping those in need, dispute resolution – or in Biblical terms, loving thy neighbor.

We need more of what most of our leaders profess and less of what some of them try to enforce upon each other – with weapons, explosives, starvation, impoverishment and exploitation. We need more of what those of us who practice passion for good government and compassion for treating each other with respect and less of what the cowards, bullies, and mentally disturbed now have access to – weapons and explosives.

Our brave and diligent police officers have a tough job of protecting us from harm. They do a great job of it. With more weapons on the streets it only makes their jobs that much tougher. We have had several incidents recently where officers killed or injured those they were apprehending. Maybe some of them made a mistake, we don’t know for sure. But think about doing their job. They want to go home to their families every night just like you and I do. Think how much tougher their decision-making is as the number of weapons on the street continues to increase. Think about how much tougher their job will become with everyone carrying a concealed weapon. Talk about trigger-happy. They would have to be trigger-happy.

It is so easy to pull out a weapon and use it in a rage – and so easy to walk away and think it over – if there is no weapon.

Think about it!

 

 

Racism, mental illness and guns = murder

June 18, 2015

Ted Folkert

Murdered while expressing their religious beliefs in their place of worship.

Another example of gun violence which will be ignored.

Racism, mental illness, and guns – a deadly mixture. We have heard all of the arguments from the gun lovers, gun manufacturers, and the National Rifle Association, but the fact remains – this never happens in countries who have gun ownership laws. It has happened here two dozen times in the last few years and quickly forgotten each time.

This tragic occurrence would not have happened without a gun. This young man was given a gun a few months ago for his 21st birthday. Now nine live are destroyed and hundreds of people are affected by their loss, senselessly, needlessly, sadly.

Guns give courage to cowards, cause violence which would not occur otherwise, and empower the mentally ill.

While we are amending the constitution to get the money out of politics, we should eliminate private ownership of guns.

Guns kill innocent people and helpless animals. Both of which we could live better without.

The Invisible Price of War

The Invisible Price of War

Ted Folkert

June 13, 2015

We just had another Veteran’s Day, the day each year that we honor those who served us to keep our country free and to fight the wars and other military conflicts declared necessary by our fearless leaders, most of whom never served in the military or never faced the enemy. It seems that in the last century or two our wars have been encouraged and started by the rich and powerful and fought primarily by the poor, and that the huge benefits have been enjoyed by the defense contractors who provide the weapons and other supplies and service that military action necessitates. I suppose wars were always started by the rich, fought by the poor, and enjoyed by the manufacturers who prosper from them.

We talk about the price of war as the troops, the training, the facilities, the equipment, the munitions, the damage and destruction, the injuries, the deaths. The U.S. defense budget is $1 trillion – wars or no wars. Our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has cost more than $2 trillion and we don’t know what was accomplished. The cost of WWII is probably incalculable. David Nasaw, in his article in The Nation, “The Fruits of War”, tells us World War II resulted in 10 million prisoners of war in Germany alone, 40 million Europeans perished, 20 million Germans left homeless, 70,000 villages destroyed, 32,000 factories and 40,000 miles of track destroyed, 25 million deaths and 25 million left homeless in the Soviet Union, 6 million Jews killed, 420,000 American military deaths. The total cost in dollars is probably incalculable with the total devastation of Europe, Japan, and other Pacific countries.

The saddest part of the costs of war that are seldom talked about are the human costs that continue for decades thereafter – the costs that seem to fade from memory and reality. The costs that seem to become invisible just like the victims, those who served in the military, who carry the physical and mental scars from witnessing and participating in the killing and destruction, the thought of being killed or maimed, being severely injured, watching one’s comrades killed or injured, watching innocent people, civilians, killed or injured, personally killing or injuring civilians who got in the way. These are the demons our veterans of wars carry with them forever. These are their obstacles to living a normal, productive life in our world, the world where we remained safe from all the grief, where we can’t understand their sacrifice and the price they have to pay, their reliance of alcohol or drugs to carry on and which renders them unemployable and reliant upon veteran benefits or often upon a life of crime.

Although we don’t see these “wounded warriors”, they are quite visible if you look around. They are walking the streets of all the major cities, they can be seen in all of the skid row areas around the country. You can see them at the entrance to freeways, in every downtown area, hanging around popular attractions like Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach – in most any busy area you want to look. If you drive around early in the morning you will see them sleeping on the sidewalks, in doorways, behind anything they can find, seeking shelter or protection of some sort.

It doesn’t seem like a way to thank them for the sacrifice they made – a life of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. Let’s look at the statistics – they tell us that the suicide rate of veterans is about one per hour. That is correct, one commits suicide every hour of every day. It is believed that the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder is the culprit – the demons in the brain that they can’t get over. It prevents them from operating successfully in society and leads to hopelessness and despair and ultimately, too often, to suicide. I suppose some of them wish they hadn’t made it back, like some of their comrades in battle. They can’t deal with the invisible battle scars.

The Department of Veterans Affairs works at it diligently but they are always in need of more funds. The suicide rates are less for those working within the VA system, so their efforts are somewhat successful. But, how can they provide housing for these victims of society without the funds to build housing, provide counseling, retrain for employment – hold their hand and help them get on their feet and function in society, all of which seems so easy for those of us who never had to pay the price.

In Los Angeles the VA is building housing units for veterans on the grounds owned by the VA hospital. This was the culmination of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of homeless veterans. They had to sue the VA for not doing their job, probably because our fearless leaders wouldn’t give them the money. They plan to transform this campus area into a vibrant community of permanent housing and to end veteran’s homelessness by the end of the year. They just last week opened a structure of supportive housing with medical and mental assistance for some homeless vets. Keith Hudson, a previously homeless vet, is pictured in the Los Angeles Times in his new apartment with shiny counters and bedroom, living room, dining room areas, with a TV on the wall and wifi in the unit. He now has a home, a job and a future. He said “when I walked in it was like one of those movies when you walk through a cloud.” It is hard to look at his picture in the paper without a lump in your throat. Of course, the saddest part is that we can see him now but we couldn’t see him before. He was invisible you know!

They tell us that we have 4,300 homeless veterans sleeping on the streets every night in Los Angeles County and they will end that soon. Those of us who have watched this for so long have a hard time believing their schedule, but we all agree that it obviously won’t come too soon!

What are they doing in New York, Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, Little Rock, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh? How about Washington D.C.?

And the trillion dollar question – What the heck took us so long?

 Think about it!

 

Robots building robots to build robots

Robots building robots to build robots

Ted Folkert

June 3, 2015

My friend Burt Steiger told me that he went to Bank of America the other day and was shocked when he saw that all of the tellers except one had been replaced with automatic teller machines. ATMs have been available outside many banks and in many other locations for years, but this is the first I had heard of them replacing tellers in the bank lobby where we all feel like we can get personal service. But, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, it seems to be commonplace everywhere else we go for routine services. The savings by eliminating employees is too good for business owners to pass up as long as the business can prosper without them. And many of them are incurred in order to make the business prosper better. And, as some of us entrepreneurs understand, if you don’t compete, you don’t survive in business. If your industry pays the minimum wage, you either follow suit or you lose out to your competitors.

Some of us are old enough to remember when automatic car washes replaced many hand car washes and when self-service gas stations replaced gas service stations which actually pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield, checked your oil level and your tire pressure – all for a couple of dollars purchase of gasoline. Now the food markets, pharmaceutical stores, home repair stores and many others are converting some of their checkout lanes to self-service.

These changes didn’t just happen. I remember in the 1980s having automatic, numerically-controlled machines in the metal fabrication business that replaced fulltime machine operators. They not only replaced them, they were more reliable, more efficient, and produced precision parts of a higher quality. This doesn’t mean the employees were not good, they just couldn’t provide the precision repetitive function that a machine could accomplish.

Credit cards now open doors, close sales, eliminate the need for cash, and expand credit enormously. The real question is, where does this end? I read a book recently by Jaron Lanier, “Who Owns the Future”. Lanier is a bright computer scientist who does special projects for the likes of Microsoft. He created the term “virtual reality”. In his book he talks about a future of home robots that will soon make home robots that make dresses from patterns online. I suppose after that we will have robots that make robots that make robots. So, will the only jobs left be for software engineers who design programs for machines to make things that people used to make? Will we eventually be down to one person or one software program that directs the activities of computers that plan and control everything?

Jaren Lanier also mentioned Kodak, the company that employed 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion, and now they are bankrupt. The new face in digital photography is Instagram, who sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012 and had 13 employees. The rise in digital networking is enriching a relative few while enjoying the value from millions of users who contribute enormously to the value without being paid for it.

I just read an article about a company that operates 500 truck stops nationwide. They had 80 people working a total of 3,200 hours per week paying bills for the goods they buy regularly. They now have it done automatically online with 10 people working a total of 400 hours weekly. Robots have taken over many financial functions for corporate offices. Since 2004 these jobs have been reduced by 40%. That is correct – 40%. For every 100 people who used to do that kind of work, 60 of them no longer are employed in those jobs.

Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, doesn’t think that robots are taking our jobs. He says, if they were we should have many more applications for hi-tech jobs than unskilled positions, which is not the case, and that if technology were rapidly displacing workers then productivity growth should be very high, however, for the last decade it has been limping along at 1% or so. He also believes that if technology were causing inequality, that there should be more demand for high-skilled jobs than less-skilled, which is not the case.

So, I guess the story doesn’t end there. We don’t know what the future may bring in the job market, we just know it is not going to be the same. Change is inevitable.

So, Burt, be nice to the robot that greets you in the bank lobby. That may be as close as we get to personal service in the near future.

Think about!

Bill Moyers on the challenge of Journalism

May 29, 2015

Excerpts from the great journalist, and best friend of the common good, Bill Moyers, from his speech before the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The speech was titled: The Challenge of Journalism Is to Survive in the Pressure Cooker of Plutocracy

http://billmoyers.com/2015/05/27/bill-moyers-speech-challenge-journalism-survive-plutocracy/

“How can strong independent journalism thrive when independent outlets can’t afford to pay reporters, writers or producers a living wage; or when websites ask them to post four or five items a day; or when they leave journalism school and take jobs logging algorithms at Facebook (what does that even mean?). What happens to a society fed a diet of rushed, re-purposed, thinly reported “content?” Or “branded content” that is really merchandising — propaganda — posing as journalism?

So who will be left to report on what is happening in the statehouse or at the town hall? In the backrooms of Congress, the board rooms of banks and corporations, or even the open and shameless bazaar of K Street where the mercenaries of crony capitalism uncork bottles of champagne paid for by “dark money” from oligarchs and PACs? What happens when our elections are insider-driven charades conducted for profit by professional operatives whose spending on advertising mainly enriches themselves and the cable and television stations in cahoots with them? We know the answer, we know that a shortage of substantial reporting means corruption remains hidden, candidates we know little about and even less about who is funding them and what policy outcomes they are buying.

A free press, you see, doesn’t operate for free at all. Fearless journalism requires a steady stream of independent income. Allow me to speak from personal experience. After I left government in 1967 — including a stint as White House press secretary — it took me a while to get my footing back in journalism. I can assure you: I found the job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. Unless you’re willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work for nuts going over every last detail again and again to make certain you’ve got it right, and then take hit after hit accusing you of “bias,” there’s no use even trying. You have to love it, and I have. And still do.

Once upon a time the networks supported muscular investigative reporting into betrayals of the public trust. But democratic values lost out to corporate values when media giants merged news and entertainment and opened the throttle on what Edward R. Murrow called their “money-making machine.” Mind you, there was no “golden age” of broadcasting at any network, but there were enough breakthrough moments that we could imagine a future in which subjects treated in the books being honored here this evening — subjects that extend the moral reach of journalism — might be staples in the schedule.

It wasn’t to be. And the challenge of journalism today is to survive in the pressure cooker of plutocracy. Where, in this mighty conglomeration of wealth and power, when for all practical purposes government and rich interests are two sides of the corporate state — where is the moral center of the commonwealth? How does journalism serve the endangered ideals of democracy? Can we find the audience that will dive deep — the audience that rebels against being treated as a branded market identified by the price tag on it? How do we report on the creeping dystopia of a cynically frivolous society with a political class that has made an ideology of ignorance, demoralizes workers and disdains the future? Can journalists be both patriotic and subversive — will we cover those who seek to disrupt the workings of a dominant and ruthless over-class with the attention and enthusiasm we accord the powers that be — by whom so many journalists appear mesmerized?

In an oligarchic era, you can be quickly marginalized by a corporate media and political class so comfortable in the extravagantly blended world of money, politics and celebrity that they don’t bark at the burglars of democracy, much less bite the hand that feeds them.

But we need more than money to sustain independent journalism. We need laws to ensure that reporters can protect their sources. We need to hound government at every level to respond to public records requests. We need stronger reporting requirements for corporations so that they can be held accountable.”

Read the article: http://billmoyers.com/2015/05/27/bill-moyers-speech-challenge-journalism-survive-plutocracy/

No place to hide

No place to hide

Ted Folkert

May 22, 2015

All of the sabre-rattling lately from some of the disgruntled leaders around the world brings to mind the question of the likelihood of us blowing each other out of existence. North Korea, with their “loose-cannon” of a leader, threatens to attack everyone in sight. Of course, we see that as like the smallest kid in the class taunting the big bully, who isn’t going to ruin his reputation on some little twerp. And, Vladimir Putin keeps reminding his adversaries that Russia is a nuclear country. And are they ever. They have more nuclear warheads than any other country.

The latest count seems to be as follows: Russia – 8,500, U.S. – 7,500, France – 300, China – 250, UK – 225, Israel – 200. Other countries for which we have no count are: North Korea, Pakistan, India, and Germany. Iran is continuously accused of trying to enrich uranium in order to make nuclear warheads but is believed to not have them as yet.

So with 17,000 counted and another unknown of a few thousand, we could probably safely estimate a total in excess of 20,000. The two bombs we dropped on Japan caused more than 100,000 deaths. It is believed that the warheads now available are more powerful than the earlier creations. So, if they are twice as powerful and we now have 20,000, which could each cause 100,000 deaths, we could possibly eliminate 2 billion people once a nuclear war got underway. That should pretty much take care of all of the major cities around the globe. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration the other damage done in the process, which would be devastating throughout the world in terms of food supply and transportation.

Considering all of the conflicts that are underway presently and the unlikelihood of any resolution in the near future, what is the likelihood of a nuclear warhead becoming involved. Once that happens, all hell could break loose. So, who goes first, who responds, who calls for a truce? We don’t know. The way ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever, is marauding around the Middle East, how soon will they get their hands on a nuclear weapon? We don’t know, but the danger exists. How long can we keep Israel at bay against Iran? It seems that they would like to invade them at any time. Actually, Israel, on a square footage and population basis, may be the best armed country on the planet. If war breaks out, will a nuclear weapon by involved? We don’t know.

What we do know is that we need to reexamine the need for an effective united police force to adjudicate and resolve conflicts before they become a threat to our very existence. If a nuclear war among the various nuclear countries ever becomes a reality, we will surely have no place to hide and we could ultimately end civilization as we know it and render this planet unable to support human life or any life whatsoever.

Think about it!

We have no place to hide!

No place to sleep

No place to sleep

Ted Folkert

May 14, 2015

Did you ever wake up and realize you were sleeping on the sidewalk, in a doorway, in an alley, in the street, in someone’s yard, in a parking lot, in a vacant lot, under a bridge, behind a building, or on a park bench? If you did, did you wonder where you were going next, where you would get a drink of water, where you would get some food, where you would use a toilet, where you could clean up, where you could change clothes, where you would find shelter, warmth, or security?

If you did, did you wonder how your family was or when you would see them? Did you feel helpless, desolate, depressed, desperate, ashamed, disgusted, or despondent? Did you feel ready to give up, maybe end it all?

If you lived like this, did you ever get rousted out by the property owner, a shop keeper, or the police? Did you wonder where you could go then? Did the police person tell you to go to a homeless shelter about 10 miles away, too far to walk with all your belongings on your back, especially not knowing if you would be admitted?

Did you ever keep all of your belongings in life in your backpack, luggage, or a shopping cart? Did you have to guard them day and night to prevent them disappearing and leaving you with nothing again?

Did you ever feel that you were invisible, that people looked through you and not at you, walked around you and avoided you and cast dispersions upon you with their looks of annoyance and disgust?

These are the experiences and feelings that we hear that homelessness engenders. These are the feelings that we can read on the faces of the homeless – feelings of helplessness and despair, shame and depression, disgust and anger – total surrender to realizing any normal way of life or any chance of a healthy survival or enjoyment of life – just a constant struggle to get through another day and another night.

That sounds miserable doesn’t it? Can you even imagine such a feeling of despair? Well, some of us live that life every day. Some have succumbed to addiction, mental illness, depression, joblessness, and just plain old hard-times. Many are veterans of wars that they were sent to fight the wars started by the rich and powerful, and came back damaged either mentally or physically, and can’t seem to survive in our winner-take-all economy.

Los Angeles has more than 40,000 homeless every night, 40,000 without any place to sleep, 40,000 without any place to eat, to bath, to rest comfortably, to have security, shelter and warmth. You can drive around Los Angeles and count the motor homes and camping trailers parked by the curb in areas that seem safe and where overnight parking seems permissible. These aren’t recreational vehicles for the most part, they are peoples’ homes.

You can go to Downtown or Venice or Hollywood and count them all night long each and every night. They move around as they are forced to by the property owners or law enforcement, but they are still there.

The cost of housing in Los Angeles has been hiked by the rentiers to the point that the homeless population is continually on the increase. Only 1 in 4 homes on the market in Los Angeles is affordable to the typical millennial household, according to the Zillow real estate website. You can pick up the LA Times and read about all of the amazing homes for sale each week for millions of dollars, some a hundred million dollars, but little if any homes are available at a price for which a working-class wage-earner could qualify. One of Zillow’s economists stated that the reason was, high home prices and low incomes. Wow, what a profound statement – who would have thought it?

Quoting a recent article in the LA Times by Gale Hollard and Souyma Karlamangla, “the homeless population jumped 12% in the last two years in both the city and the county of Los Angeles, driven by soaring rents, low wages, and stubbornly high unemployment ….. The number of tents, makeshift encampments and vehicles occupied by homeless people soared 85%, to 9,535, according to figures from Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority….Los Angeles has the nation’s largest concentration of homeless veterans.”

Quoting Steve Lopez, LA Times, “you see them behind bushes and in parks, in ragged tents and beat-up vans, on beaches and along arroyos, under bridges, in alleys and on sidewalks. It’s mostly men, a few women and some children. Enough is enough. We have heard all the soundbites before but it is getting worse.”

Quoting Christine Marglotte, head of Home for Good, a public-private homeless service, “In 2013, three veterans were becoming homeless each day – now, we recognize 10 become homeless each day.”

Quoting a LA Times editorial. “To be sure, ending homelessness is no easy task, the harsh realities: the lagging effects of the recession, a severe shortage of affordable housing, a drying up of federal stimulus money, gentrification downtown and elsewhere in the city. But the numbers also constitute a devastating indictment of city and county politicians … all of whom failed to correct the housing shortage countywide.”

So, there you have it. The rich and powerful individuals and behemoth corporations have hiked the rents up to the point that the young are forced to stay at home or room together, the older adults are stuck where they are, and the less fortunate are on the street with no hope in sight.

There are many efforts underway to resolve this crisis. Los Angeles is building residential units for homeless veterans in conjunction with the VA Medical Center. More than 400 mayors, 7 governors and others have signed on to the Obama administration’s challenge to end the veteran homelessness by 2016. New Orleans became the first to declare success. These sound encouraging but 2016 is just around the corner and so is 2017 and 2018. We need action, immediate action. This is a crisis which can be resolved and it should be resolved without delay.

Quoting Michael Antonovich, Los Angeles Supervisor: “…solutions are red herrings that will have little impact unless we effectively address the primary causes of homelessness: mental illness and substance abuse. … Reforms are needed to streamline court processes,establish realistic standards allowing judges to refer the severely ill to treatment, and allow families to have greater access in the treatment process … fully implement Laura’s Law, a compassionate, cost-effective program that provides court-ordered, intensive mental health treatment to the homeless, many of whom are incapable of consenting to treatment due to the nature of their disease.”

As far as the economic causes of homelessness, which are becoming more and more prevalent, it is time to take the advice of Thomas Piketty, French economist, and tax capital. If we tax the stored capital, excess capital of the rich and powerful, capital that they were able to accumulate as a result of the infrastructure and economy we provided for them, and initiate rebuilding the infrastructure of our cities, states and country – repair roads and bridge, build new schools, new hospitals, new housing for veterans, and hundreds of other worthwhile projects such as these, we will create millions of jobs, which will put billions of dollars directly into the economy, which will enable the construction of affordable housing for all classes, and which will pay dividends for generations to come.

If we don’t do it for any other reason, at least we could do it for the homeless, the desperate, those who have hit the wall and have nowhere to turn for help, who are living on our streets in deplorable conditions, while our economy prospers for those of us with privilege or better circumstance.

The above examples of homelessness in Los Angeles are exemplified throughout the US in most of the major cities, such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia and many others. Homelessness may be somewhat more common on the West coast due to the favorable climate for sleeping outdoors, but the evidence is everywhere, throughout the country, that it is a systemic problem and that the efforts to treat those who are the victims is seriously lacking.

Have we no shame, no compassion, no sense of responsibility to our people, all of our people, including the poor? The playing field of comfort and luxury has been tilted against the proletariat for too long now. Now we need to tilt it in the direction of those with no place to sleep.

Think about it!

Think about them!

 

 

 

 

 

The best new scam – government sanctioned

The best new scam – government sanctioned

Private colleges scam students – Wall Street loves it – they never saw a scam they didn’t like.

Ted Folkert

May 5, 2015

I think we can quote PT Barnum again here, “there is a sucker born every minute”. Well, our benevolent Wall Street financiers must have paid attention to him, AGAIN.

Jim Hightower of Hightower Lowdown always has the courage of his convictions when it comes to exposing the scam artists in our society. And more often than not the scam artists turn out to be those who own us already, the rich and powerful individuals and corporations, along with the aid of their well-paid lobbyists who know which buttons to push in Washington DC to grease the skids and deliver the rewards.

In his recent expose regarding the for-profit college system which has flourished for the past few decades, he refers to it as “Screw U”.  http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/debtstrike#.VUknTZNs_Kg

These degree programs are considered mediocre or worse, predatory loan scams the hustle students into deep debt. This is a practice sanctioned by our federal government and most state governments and loved by college CEOs, Wall Street financiers, and debt collectors. Instead of considering education a common good, they consider it a commodity just like corn and soybeans. (Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware)

Check out these facts about private colleges, paraphrased from writings by Jim Hightower:

$1.3 trillion is owed by students, more than for credit cards or auto loans.

Tuition is 20% to 400% higher than public or community schools.

96% of private college students take loans, for public or community schools, 13% to 48%

The loans provide them $32 billion a year in revenue

88% of their students leave saddled with debt averaging $39,950

Interest rates, penalties, and collection fees can double the cost

The cost can end up double the cost of a Harvard education

They spend 17% of their budget on teaching, 19% on corporate profits and 23% on marketing

CEOs at the corporate schools average pay is $7.3 million

72% on those who graduate are in jobs that average less pay than high school dropouts

A well-known senator stated that “they own every lobbyist in town”. Their lobbyists include former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Democratic House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, obviously paid co-conspirators.

Their campaign dollars amounted to $3 million in last year’s congressional races and $4.4 million in the 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns, with 70% going to GOP candidates.

On their convention stages they prance out people like Colin Powell, George W Bush, General Wesley Clark, and Jeb Bush.

The scam artists’ TV personalities are people like Suzy Orman and Steve Harvey, who apparently are paid co-conspirators.

Wall Street owns 34% to 100% of the eight largest for-profit college corporations.

Jim Hightower says his education at the University of North Texas in the 1960s cost about $800 per year, about $6,000 in present dollars. I had similar experience at Kansas City Junior College and the University of Missouri at Kansas City. The highest fees were $12 per credit hour, so the total cost was probably $1,500, about $12,000 in present dollars, total cost for a bachelor’s degree.

Have our leaders no shame, no compassion, no interest in educating our youngsters? Education – the only salvation for sustenance of our way of life for future generations, the only way of a rewarding life for our present generation of youngsters as they pursue the globalized employment market which is ever-increasingly competing with robots, which are owned by the rich and powerful, for low-wage jobs.

We need to get down and dirty with these inconsiderate vultures – down and dirty with the Hightower Lowdown and Jim Hightower.

Read the article: http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/debtstrike#.VUknTZNs_Kg

Think about!